Neither Sturgeon or Corbyn have the answer

nicola guevara crop

ENOUGHMANIA: Scotland wants real change, not independence for its own sake, not for a kinder way to run today’s deeply unequal country, but to introduce sweeping change which meets the needs of both people and planet

by Ken Ferguson There is an old saying “nothing is new under the sun” and nowhere is this more clearly the case as in the world of politics. With the demands and the pressures of a 24/7 news cycle and a mushrooming of social media combined with a major decline in serious journalism (examined elsewhere in this Voice) there is a ready market for “manias” of all kinds and politics is no exception.

So with today’s politics where two “manias” are competing for the attention of Scots voters from Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP and Jeremy Corbyn’s newly “socialist” Labour Party.

Both have, on first look, much that is attractive to Scotland’s left of centre politics. Both are anti-austerity and committed to social justice, collective provision and a generally progressive politics. Both have generated popular followings which make them look more like pop stars than elected politicians.

With the SNP there is no doubt that Sturgeon is a major beneficiary of the engagement and energy generated by the broad Yes movement last year. Indeed many thousands have simply taken off their Yes badges and replaced them with SNP ones and joined the party as a sort of continuity Yes campaign.

This is a major gain for the SNP as we run up to next year’s Holyrood elections, giving them a potential pool of new campaigners. But it also has its downside. The constraints of austerity will increasingly place unpalatable choices on their government, as we have already seen in local council cuts.

All the signs are that, irrespective of May’s anti-austerity pitch, the offer made to voters next May is likely to be pragmatic, based on the record of supposed success in government, and designed to defend the SNP’s majority, much of it based on No voting areas in rural Scotland.

Independence will be downplayed as an aspiration for later on and, as is already happening, the Yes movement quietly run down.

This danger is already apparent with shrill cries from some parts of the SNP telling independence supporters in other parties not to stand in elections short of independence!

Such an approach can only damage the campaign both to gain and win a second referendum and runs counter to al the positive experiences of the recent Yes campaign.

Pro-independence voters need to be offered more than just SNP business as usual Holyrood management, and challengers such as RISE, Scotland’s Left Alliance, will provide it.

For Scottish Labour, the challenge of translating Corbynmania into a modest recovery, never mind power, is massive and centres not just on the dire, right wing record of years of entrenched power resembling Soviet-era Eastern Europe but much more fundamentally an incomprehension of, shading towards hostility to, Scottish opinion.

Corbyn’s project is already under challenge from the right wing machine with the nauseating spectacle of trade unions combining with nuke-backing MPs to block opposition to Trident renewal at the Brighton conference providing a salutary lesson on who is in power in the party.

This was followed by a major climb down by long standing hard left Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell as he parked demands for radical socialist change in area after area in a welter of consultations and expert groups postponing change to another day. Labour is to vote for Osborne’s spending charter which justifies Tory cuts.

However the key problem facing Scottish Labour was spotlighted in Corbyn’s conference speech and his trumpeting of his British values. Simply put, Corbyn is a unionist, leading a unionist party that opposes not just independence and a second referendum but further powers for Holyrood.

He goes out of his way to stress his British values. Yet in Scotland, the majority of the left and key working class areas such as Glasgow and Dundee back independence and reject the idea that the British state—particularly after Better Together’s lies—has much to offer by way of progressive solutions.

Scotland is beset by poverty, low pay, insecure work, cuts in services and lives under the shadow of Trident missiles. All this is imposed by a Tory party reduced to a rump in Scotland and, in many areas, supported by Labour.

Scotland is crying out for real change, not independence for its own sake, not for a kinder way to run today’s deeply unequal country, but to introduce sweeping change which meets the needs of both people and planet.

That was what the thousands who campaigned for Yes last year wanted and that awakening and energy must not be allowed to wither away.

The task of the pro-independence left is to build on that base with campaigning for RISE, Scotland’s Left Alliance, which raises the issues and, in alliance with other social movements and campaigns offers real change.

Scotland is ready for change and the pro-independence left organised in RISE has a central role to play in winning real democracy and social change.

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