Action on people’s priorities can drive real change

Photo: Craig Maclean

by Ken Ferguson · Even political junkies must be reeling by now at the dizzying pace of Brexit crisis following Brexit crisis and the saturation media discussion of it on what feels like a 24/7 basis.

As the Westminster seesaw tilts from historic defeat one week to historic breakthrough the next, the evidence suggests that the public mood swings between anger and disbelief; a trend which potentially boosts the menace of right wing populism.

We aren’t quite there yet but the words of Cromwell dispersing the Rump parliament could sum up much of the mood:

“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” (April 1653).

What lies at the heart of the growing public mood of a plague on all their houses is not difficult to discover.

The Brexit imbroglio has been conducted by a chauffeur-driven cosseted minority living in a bubble of elite power, public school privilege buttressed by bountiful bank balances.

The manifest concerns of Jo and Joe Public exist several galaxies away from this platinum plated planet, and concerns far more real matters than fine visions of an imperial future, or the supposed gain of taking back control.

Dismissed concerns
In the pages of this Voice, as in many others, we refuse to play this game which, with the open connivance of the BBC, Fleet Street and a raft of supposed experts, ignores a raft of concerns and issues facing millions.

Those who airily dismiss such concerns about the worst fall in workers’ living standards since Napoleon, or the grinding poverty of precarious work, soaring rents and the war on claimants spearheaded by Universal Credit as somehow not high policy couldn’t be more wrong.

A politics which puts all its eggs in the Brexit or Indyref 2 baskets will risk a public reaction which, at best, sees them regarded as divorced from the very real concerns facing working class people.

That is why the Voice, like the Scottish Socialist Party, vigorously campaigns on key issues such as ending zero hours, demanding the right to a minimum 16 hours contract, £10 an hour pay for all and so forth.

Alongside these key demands aimed at winning immediate progress for Scotland’s working class, we also work to extend international solidarity to, for example, Venezuela, fashion a red/green politics with measures such as free public transport and extend public ownership of vital services such as railways.

Faced with the enormous power of the billionaires, such demands are of course going to need hard, collective, militant struggle if they are to succeed.

It is this context that socialists need to seriously consider the way forward, most likely to open a route to serious change capable of delivering both social justice and halting environmental catastrophe.

The election as Labour leader of left winger Jeremy Corbyn and his better than predicted general election was held up by many as clear evidence that progressive change could be led, despite the evidence, by a renewed Labour Party.

This even led some socialist Yes supporters to vote Labour while still trying to suggest this was compatible with backing a Yes vote.

Sadly, the reality is that far from challenging for power and evicting the Tories at Westminster, Labour is in crisis with the news that 100-plus MPs are conspiring to set up an alternative “centre” party. They are, even amidst the Brexit chaos, still trailing May’s Tories in UK polls.

In Scotland, the picture is even more dire with Labour outpolled by the once detested Scottish Tories and faced with a plunging membership. All this suggests that the idea of a British Road to Socialism remains for Scots voters a high-risk gamble at best or a direct route to Tory rule from Westminster at worst.

Clearly, the Voice is in the camp that sees the winning of Scottish independence as the best available way to open up the prospect of a renewed socialist future.

However, as we report elsewhere in this paper, much hard thinking and campaigning will be necessary is such a change is to be won.

Centrally, the common beliefs that the working class is already won to Yes and that the campaign has a solid 45 per cent vote in the bag, must be debunked.

Radical break necessary
Despite the growing campaign by the right of the SNP, to sell the idea that independence can be won and progress made based on neoliberal market ideas which have failed across the world, only a radical break with such ideas will win.

There is no contradiction in campaigning against austerity, opposing council cuts, pressing for stable work and living wages and campaigning for an independent socialist Scottish republic, capable of building a new, just society that meets the needs of both people and planet.

As one famous revolutionary said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Taking that step is ever more urgent.

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