Politics of fear can be beaten
by Ken Ferguson • Seldom has radical socialist change been more urgently needed but apparently more difficult to achieve than today.
In Scotland, tens of thousands exist on poverty pay, languish in queues for decent homes, face decades of austerity and service cuts and the atrocities of benefit starvation sanctions see food banks mushroom.
Across the planet the story is the same as the domination of a super rich minority sees four countries officially facing famine, massive flows of refugees fleeing poverty and war and rapidly escalating climate change menacing the actual survival of many nations.
Bubbling up from this toxic soup comes—in a chilling echo of the 1930s—a brand of right wing populism laced with racism which, like its fascist predecessors, poses as the saviour of the workers and promises the return of prosperity.
Of course Trump is the most striking example of this but he is far from alone with soulmates in the Netherlands, Greece, Germany and France all singing the same unsavoury song.
However for Voice readers the most immediately dangerous of this gang is the fake “workers friend” Tory Prime Minister Theresa May who spins a tale of concern for those suffering the consequences of Tory policies while working flat out to intensify them.
According to the house-trained media, May is mistress of all she surveys and is pioneering yet another version of “caring conservatism,” while in fact she is in the vanguard of policies aimed at constructing a country fit for fat cats and speculators.
In Scotland, the UK and across the planet, this prescription is a dead end for the needs and aspirations of the vast majority who are not part of this pampered elite.
Faced with this determined bosses’ power grab, the question for socialists must turn on how to defeat it and then construct a politics based on meeting the needs of both people and planet which creates economic security and protects the menaced environment of the only planet we have.
For a large part of the last 100 years the answer to this question was seen as returning a Labour government, allied to powerful mass trade unions which would use the power of the state to impose a more equal society.
However this approach was abandoned by Blair and Clinton when they endorsed neoliberal market economics and it this abandonment which has created both Labour’s crisis and led to the rise of Trump in the US.
Thirty years of this corrosion has seen the once all-powerful Scottish Labour humbled and the UK party trailing behind May’s class warrior Tories and challenged by the pals of Trump in UKIP’s racists.
Centrally however, this poses the urgent question of how socialists can act to defeat the Tory class assault and open the way to a real, permanent shift of power to the working class majority.
Here in Scotland the Voice and the Scottish Socialist Party have consistently argued that breaking with the British state dominated by City speculators and operating on behalf of a rich elite is an essential first step towards that essential shift in power.
Faced with the gathering prospect of a second independence referendum which can offer the prospects for change, the Voice both welcomes that development but raises serious issues about the content on a second campaign to win a Yes vote.
Despite Scottish Labour’s disarray, they remain firmly in the No camp which will this time be dominated by the Tories who’ll use all their power to keep Scotland in a Tory-dominated UK.
The Voice does not share the view that this will be an easy fight, needing only to build on the 45 per cent from 2014. Rather we say that the unionists will fight even more bitterly to save the unity of their post-Brexit state and this will a tougher fight than ever.
In particular, there needs to be great caution with the assumption that because Scotland voted Remain last year, the pro-EU case will automatically deliver a Yes vote this time. This belief simply ignores the hard lessons of 2014 and in particular the work of the left in that campaign.
Key to winning the Yes majority in working class cities like Dundee and Glasgow was the creation of a belief that, in supporting independence, voters were opening the way to radical change which would dramatically improve their lives in real issues such as jobs, housing, health and ending austerity.
The danger of the current focus, particularly but not exclusively by the SNP, on independence as an answer to Brexit rather than a vital change capable of opening the way to policies meeting the needs of Scotland’s working class majority, is very real.
While the democratic deficit highlighted by the Brexit vote is important, we do not believe it will be anything like sufficient to win a Yes vote. Indeed it would ignore the fact that Scotland, inside the EU at present, is a deeply unequal country dominated by the wealthy elite.
If independence is to be won, then any campaign must offer an alternative vision which shows how the powers of independence can effect real change in better jobs and wages, providing high quality rented housing, evicting profiteers—including SNP-backer Brian Souter—from our buses and trains.
In campaigning for independence, we are seeking a massive change in the direction of Scotland and the power structures which control it.
Such a radical vision will only be won with a real vision of change rather than one of Westminster transferred to Edinburgh.
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