Smoke and spin no answer to real challenges facing people

by Ken Ferguson • If history repeats itself as Marx claimed first as tragedy and then farce nobody seems to have told Labour deputy leader Tom Watson. Right wing Watson got into his time machine this week travelling back 30 years to the era of party purges of Militant members and boldly pronounced it was all happening again as the “hard left” flooded into Labour.

Of course this is in reality simply recycling the usual tired old response from the Labour right to any leftward movement in their party and—unless there have been 500,000 hidden Trotskyists nobody knew—simply a desperate attempt to derail the Corbyn leadership.

However it appears that when Watson boarded his Tardis he was not on his own but was, perhaps predictably, joined by a clutch of anti-union Tory journalists who promptly not only spotlighted his dubious claims but found some more.

In a string of stories which had older Voice readers revisiting their youth the fevered scribblers focused on that other old chestnut of hard hearted trade unionists “holding the public to ransom” by daring to refuse to roll over to bosses demands.

Firmly in the cross hairs of the Tory press was the RMT which was guilty of doing what unions are supposed to do—defending their members at ScotRail, Southern Rail, Eurostar and others after ballot votes for action on a range of issues.

The anti-union menu was reheated—still rancid—and union officials were shown on holiday, union funds pored over and “neutral” Tory ministers read the RMT lessons on their bad behaviour and a general campaign to demonise rail workers was set in motion.

Only the terminally naive would not realise that the Watson “revelation” and the anti-RMT guff are part of a piece aimed both at weakening the Corbyn leadership and more widely any attempts by workers to resist bosses diktats.

This simply adds to the earlier damage done by the staged MP resignations, vote of no confidence and an constant campaign by Labour “moderates” to undermine Corbyn and it is increasingly hard to see a resolution to this civil war that is of any service to working class voters.

Given that Labour has already been trounced in Scotland the struggle for the party’s direction is however only part of the challenge facing socialists here.

As the Voice goes to press, the upsurge of pressure for a second independence referendum and the response of politicians and policy makers to it remains at the heart of Scotland’s politics.

However that is not the same thing as saying the choices are straightforward or guaranteed to have a progressive outcome. Initially we were led to believe that the Brexit vote would be the detonator that would trigger a second indy ref and a Yes outcome.

The EU was equated, by both SNP and Green politicians with a rejection of the uglier right wing face of Brexit and this morphed into the perception that the EU was a wholly progressive body ignoring its rabidly pro market neoliberal politics such as those that crushed Greece.

Now however the path ahead looks increasingly more complex. First of all it grows clearer that finding any deal to keep Scotland in the EU post a UK exit is a best very complex and more probably impossible leaving only the option of an application from an independent Scotland.

And it is the hard reality which is increasingly apparent that while the Brexit vote has caused a wave of anger it is not of itself anything like sufficient to deliver the opinion shift needed to win a Yes vote. That was the core, for example, of the remarks by former SNP Health Minister Alex Neil in his Holyrood magazine warning of the formidable obstacles that need to be overcome.

The SSP has support for independence in its DNA as a founding principle but that is not the same as believing that independence of itself answers the multiple social, economic and ecological challenges we face.

Any second referendum must be fought around not just issues of sovereignty but also the sharp issues of poverty and inequality which were at the centre of the pro-independence left’s 2014 campaign and played a key role in delivering working class Yes votes.

In this context, calls by leading SNP politicians such as George Kerevan for five years of cuts after independence to placate the banks or SNP effectively siding with employers in the ScotRail dispute are unlikely make much headway among working class voters.

The urgent need for progressive Yes supporters is to address the key weakness of the 2014 campaign based around a Scottish Government White Paper which basically offered a centrist “UK lite” vision.

Independence is hugely radical demand and winning it will require a vision not just of independence but one which convincingly demonstrates that it offers a much better future than that posed by our unionist opponents.

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