Alex Salmond’s recent call for a new referendum on Scottish independence as an ‘inevitable’ demand of the Scottish people underlines some of the problems facing the Left in Scotland. It also highlights the need to address the issue of populist nationalism, writes CP Scotland secretary, Tommy Morrison.
To a large extent the Yes vote in 2014 was indeed motivated by anger at austerity - with Scotland’s poorest areas voting most heavily for independence. Today big sections of the population, desperate to escape from the politics of Cameron and Osborne, still see an “independent” Scotland as the only way forward.
But, as was pointed out in 2014, the independence put forward by the SNP would have delivered Scotland straight into the hands of the EU Troika. Scotland’s deficit, on the basis of oil at 2014 prices, would have been twice that permitted under the obligatory EU Fiscal Compact – and monetary policy would still have been controlled from London. Since then oil prices have collapsed and the size of the independence deficit doubled.
The SNP leadership has yet never squared up to these basic contradictions – of populist promises to end austerity combined with post-independence commitments that combine EU membership, sterling as a currency and economic growth still based on cutting taxes on business.
It is to be hoped that the broadening of the SNP’s membership base and the increased activity of the SNP’s Trade Union Group will bring forward such a debate.
Even on the Left of the SNP there is little recognition of the role of the EU as a major driver of privatisation. Progressives in the SNP have to address these contradictions in policy and develop a clear position against the EU, neo-liberal economics TTIP, and NATO.
Meantime, it has to be recognised that populist nationalism is having a deadening effect on class politics in Scotland – at a time when the Tory government’s double attack on the Welfare State and the organisation of the trade union movement makes the redevelopment of class politics urgent.
Anti-austerity demonstrations in Scotland have been smaller than elsewhere in Britain. Nationalist banners have been prominent combined with a significant amount of verbal attack directed at those who voted NO: ‘you voted for austerity, you are to blame.’
The Labour Party is presented as the big enemy – not the Tories, with the sarcastic taunt of “Red Tory” ever present.
The work of rebuilding class organisation on the ground, of linking unions and communities in resistance to the cuts, is always difficult and challenging .
But it is doubly challenging in face of the belief that all that is needed to end austerity is independence. Talk of a second referendum from Alex Salmond will stir even greater disunity in the trade union movement and working class communities - still to recover from the fall out of the last one.
In these circumstances the response of the Labour Party in Scotland will be crucial. It has to speak clearly against the cuts agenda and against neo-liberalism. Labour’s election manifesto was actually somewhat more anti-austerity than the SNP– yet this was not how it was projected. Labour’s election campaign failed to make a clear break with neo liberal politics and didn’t challenge the Tories on the deficit.
Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature has now shifted the whole Labour Party leadership debate to the left and shaken the Blairites to the core. For the first time in many years the debate in the mass media has revolved around class politics.
tam morrisonIn Scotland this need to redevelop class politics is even more urgent if all those genuinely against austerity, Labour, SNP and neither, are to rebuild the class organisations needed if Corbyn was indeed to win.
Under his leadership the Labour Party would need a mass movement outside Parliament, on the streets, in the unions and in the communities, to counter the vicious right wing backlash that he will face. Hence the importance of building the People’s Assembly on the ground projecting class politics and building unity between the trade unions and working class communities. Communists will work hard to build this movement.
These are the politics that are needed to defeat the Tories. Calling for a Yes vote in another referendum simply take us down the road to classless politics. Drawing a line on a map will not defeat capitalist state power, based on finance capital and transnational corporations.
We do indeed need new constitutional arrangements that can strengthen the democratic rights now under such fierce attack. That is why Communists call for a federal republic based on national parliaments with powers to advance economic democracy and public ownership against the power of big business.
But only the redevelopment of working class politics led by an organised, combatant, militant, and political trade union movement will do that.