Can Westminster poll open the way for revitalised Scottish left?

george square 1919by Jonathon Shafi Much has been made in recent months about the depth of the crisis of the British state. The UK state is used to crisis of course. It has withstood wars, domestic unrest, general strikes and it has experienced serious economic crises.

During the general strike of 1926, the government sent war ships to Tyneside to quell dissent. In the past, troops, police and tanks confronted workers in George Square. In the 1970s, trade union organisation and militancy was such that it threatened to bring the commanding heights of the economy into workers control.

In recent years we saw millions march against a war that stretched legitimacy in the state to breaking point, a mass student rebellion which physically rocked London, and of course that most intense period of crisis, the independence referendum.

It is often said that people in the UK are indifferent to political and social regressions, and don’t resist. In actual fact there is in many senses a very healthy history of resistance.

The chartists, the suffragettes, the anti-apartheid movement and the defeating of the Poll Tax are just some examples to add to the great miners strike, the UCS work in and so on. In fact, when you think about it, we have resisted the system with tenacity over the decades.

Across these islands, working people have fought back against exploitation as they have world wide. This is the bedrock of internationalism; the understanding that since the system is global, so too are the imperatives that drive movements of opposition.

So there is a history of crisis, war and resistance which surrounds the British state. But there is something more profound than usual about the present crisis in Britain. There is a reason why the political atmosphere is so fraught. In short, this is because the crisis is multi-dimensional.

We are not talking about a stand off battle with a particular Prime Minster. We are talking about the long decline of every single institution in the British polity. Not just the government of the day, but the media, the financial institutions, national political structures and local councils.

Every level of authority is being questioned. In addition, it is hugely underplayed the degree to which the concentration of wealth in modern Britain amongst a tiny elite is exacerbating frustrations, bubbling away, ready to form the next social explosion.

At Prime Ministers Questions they may bawl and guffaw, but in the bars of the elite there is serious concern. The concern is punctuated in particular by the situation in Scotland. And that is what adds a further dimension to the crisis of the parties of the ‘extreme centre’ as Tariq Ali refers to.

This is a long crisis. That means it is one which proceeds at steady pace as the contradictions in the political framework of the British state fail to resolve themselves over a period of time, until it becomes untenable to sustain.

They have strategies to combat the crisis. For one thing the privatisation agenda continues at a fast pace, though this builds its own problems into the situation. If you think the economic crisis has been bad, the next one stands a chance of being much worse as the shallow recovery built on sand becomes undone.

For us in Scotland the recent and historic political awakening means that there is massive radical potential. Historically there have been two primary barriers to the development of the movement of the working class: the Labour Party, and the British State.

Now, both of these institutions are in rapid decline, and the general political conditions under which their decline is taking place have been furnished by the radical left throughout the referendum.

That means, despite the surge to the SNP, that the situation remains fluid. It means that there is an opening that will develop more visibly after the General Election for socialists to draw up a framework through which we can deliver mass radical politics not just in the movement, but at elections.

That is the moment where the left can set out its stall and start a mass process of replacing the Labour Party as the official opposition in Scottish politics.

Not only will this revitalise the possibility of genuine working class representation in parliament, it will intensify the unstoppable movement to independence, and open a left front in Northern Europe which can relate to and stand with the development of Podemos and Syriza in Southern Europe.

Make no mistake—if we work together to achieve this—we can do it.

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  1. Westminster Cannot Contain Britain's Historical Crisis | Scottish Left Project

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