by Ken Ferguson • At Westminster and Holyrood, ‘crisis’ is the political word of the moment. In Edinburgh, the snowballing crisis sparked by the sex allegations against former First Minister Alex Salmond is increasingly spilling over into the simmering divisions in the SNP around indyref 2.
For the avoidance of doubts, the Voice fully supports the right of anyone claiming sexual harassment by anyone to a full and impartial hearing in all circumstances.
Whatever the final outcome, the days of Nicolamania and SNP full-spectrum dominance are fading fast amidst general election setbacks and indyref zig-zagging, posing serious questions not just for the SNP but also the wider Yes movement.
Meanwhile, at UK-level, both Labour and Tory turmoil continues, sparking a further rounds of speculation about leadership challenges and—first predicted by the Voice as long ago as February—a new centre party.
In this dizzying political atmosphere, the words of Lenin come to mind: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
We are clearly in the latter position and this in turn places heavy responsibilities and serious tasks on the Yes movement in general and the left of that movement in particular.
Basically, three separate crises are running in parallel: Brexit, anti-semitism and, for shorthand, Salmondgate.
Taking the two UK-wide crises in, Labour and the Tories both have major issues not just impacting their respective parties but also the stability of UK politics.
For Labour, as we go to press, after months of relentless pressure, will adopt the international definition on anti-semitism, in a desperate attempt to avoid a split.
However, well sourced stories increasingly suggest that we are in for a further bout of anti-Corbyn MPs’ rebellion, with the added prospect of an actual breakaway, for which Frank Field may well prove an outrider.
As all eyes focus on hardline Brexit Tories such as Rees Mogg, whose politics PM May struggles to contain, the more muted pro-EU Tories might, in the scenario favoured by right wing Labour rebel MPs, join a putative centre party.
Such a scenario is probably still an outsider but a Brexit deadlock or ‘no deal’ could be a catalyst for it, and open the way to a “national” government.
Under the Parliament Act, this could block a majority for a fresh election, and marginalise both the hard Brexiteers and the Corbyn left, replacing May with a centrist government in what would amount to a parliamentary coup.
Whatever the outcome of the backstabbing in the smoke-free rooms of the Palace of Westminster however, the lesson for Scotland is stark and clear—British politics are a dead end for those here seeking radical change.
Against the Corbyn clamour, the Voice has for the last few years warned that the legendary flexibility of the British state will be used to thwart progressive change and that, by extension, voters—particularly Yes supporters who backed Corbyn—are likely to face disappointment.
We warned that the much-hyped Corbynmania, with its reliance on a British road to socialism, federalism instead of independence, and a broad-based but shallow politics was dead a end.
Events now unfolding are set to bear this view out and at the same time confirm the case for an independent socialist Scotland.
However, as the tides of crises in the British state strengthen the tensions in the SNP—simmering before the Salmond issue broke—are set to grow, as tensions around indyref timing and tactics polarise and potentially divide Yes opinion.
Again, this was why the Voice warned of the dangers of Nicolamania in general and the real problems posed by the conversion of a broad, mass Yes movement into a party.
If a successful independence campaign is to be fought and won, the re-creation of a mass base for Yes, focused on Scotland’s working class majority, is an absolute necessity.
That’s why the Voice is running a forum in Edinburgh, exploring the urgent need for an alternative to the SNP’s neoliberal growth commission and its austerity politics.
And it is why Scottish Socialist Party members have consistently linked meeting the immediate needs of Scotland’s working class majority for an end to poverty pay, with a £10 hourly rate for all, end to zero hours, with a 16-hour minimum contract, and so forth, with an independent Scotland as the key to change.
The fact is that it was the mass movement in working class centres such as Glasgow and Dundee that took the Yes vote to within sight of victory in 2014.
A policy based on the austerity politics of the growth commission runs the real risk of driving that working class vote into the No camp—but a Yes pitch, based on clear working class demands, can be the key to victory.