Here in Scotland, despite the SNP Westminster landslide, we face a growing assault from a government rejected by Scottish voters but determined to impose its neoliberal will on behalf of the bankers and speculators at the expense of workers, communities and benefit claimants.
In this context, the newly elected SNP MPs will face an early test if they are to face down and help defeat the sweeping attacks now on the agenda from the class war tories. Without diminishing their achievement, the hard truth is that they cannot defeat the assault simply in the division lobbies of the House of Commons.
During the long night of Thatcherism when Scottish industry was destroyed, unions shackled and social destruction imposed, Labour had a dominant number of Scottish MPs, failed to even blunt the tory attacks and earned the derisory title of the “feeble fifty”.
This ‘parliamentary only’ opposition approach was cruelly exposed when it failed to stop the detested Poll Tax which was then swept away in the tide of a mass non-payment campaign which culminated not only with its defeat but also the downfall of Thatcher herself.
With the decision—backed by the unholy three-party Better Together ‘No’ alliance—to stay within the UK, the people of Scotland were delivered into the hands of a Tory minority government imposed by the UK electorate irrespective of how they voted. And so it has proved, and the choice now posed to all those opposing the appalling assaults planned by Cameron and co is simply this—fight or flight?
If opposition is to stand any chance of victory, it will have to spread well beyond the hemicycle of Holyrood or the green benches of Westminster to the streets, workplaces, communities and housing schemes of Scotland and encompass demonstrations, lobbies, occupations, strikes and other tactics of peaceful civil disobedience.
Such action should not be seen as opposed to the work of MPs, MSPs and councillors but as intertwined with their opposition to construct a united movement which can harness the tide of anger, seen at the recent election, to ensure that the plans of the Tory axe persons are stopped in their tracks.
An early opportunity to build such a movement is the STUC’s Scotland United Against Austerity demonstration on 20 June in Glasgow, and this needs to be the opening shot in a determined drive to reject the entirely false idea that misery and cuts are needed to ‘balance the books’, rather than a direct transfer of vast wealth from the majority to the Bullingdon Club-style elite.
It has to be underlined that 20 June must be the start of the opposition and not just a token event.
The Scottish Socialist Party—which played a significant role in building the development of a growing left movement during the indyref campaign and in the period since—will be working with other campaigners to ensure that just such a movement is built and that the euphoria around the demise of the Westminster parties at the election is built on.
In particular, the left needs to go beyond the austerity-lite on offer from the SNP, and pose a set of ideas that go beyond defending inadequate jobs and services towards a society transformed in the interests of the majority.
Such an approach would scrap anti-trade union laws, raise pay with an immediate £10-an-hour minimum wage, a massive social housebuilding programme and public ownership of key industries.
Fashioning both such a programme and movement which can deliver it has been at the heart of the SSP’s call for a common programme of the left. It will be hard and difficult work but the decision of the SSP conference to work with others on the left to win such an advance including socialist representation in Holyrood is an important step towards it.
For the near 40 years since the Thatcher counter-revolution, the left has been largely on the defensive, and for the sake of both people and planet, this has to end and the power of money to impose misery across Scotland and the planet broken.