By Amy Dean, Glasgow Marxists
We publish here the editorial for issue 20 of Revolution, the Scottish paper of The International Marxist Tendency. This issue includes articles on abolishing the monarchy, the battle for Bifab, Corbyn, the SNP and The national question, the Holyrood budget, bitcoin and supporting Syria’s Kurds against Turkish invasion. If you’d like a copy, please let us know. Minimum price is £1 plus postage but extra solidarity donations are always welcome. If you agree with our ideas get in contact and join us in fighting for a Scottish Worker’s republic and a World Socialist Revolution.
Looking ahead at the beginning of a new year it seems clear that 2018 will be yet another year of political unrest and upheaval. Every one of the last few years has been marked by political events and crises across the globe that would have previously been unimaginable. These include the Arab Spring, the election of far-left Syriza in Greece, the closely fought Scottish Independence referendum, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as the president of the USA.
These events all stem from the global financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent social and political crisis that has been unleashed by capitalism’s inability to sustain itself and provide decent living standards for the masses of the world’s population. In every country the establishment and the elite have come under scrutiny and are no longer trusted, which is why everywhere we are seeing examples of profound political change as people look for some form of an alternative. It seems that from both the left and the right almost all politicians are claiming to be “anti establishment”, against the elite and offering something different.
Against this backdrop 2017 was another year of instability for the UK. Following the Brexit vote in 2016, which has cast its shadow over the Tory government and British politics more widely, Theresa May called an early election in June 2017 in an attempt to strengthen her position. At the time she was more than 20 points ahead of Corbyn’s Labour in the polls and she clearly felt this was an opportunity to shore up support and stabilise her government, particularly as her party remains bitterly divided over Brexit. Needless to say her plan failed spectacularly as Corbyn, with a raft of left-wing policies aimed at young people and workers who have suffered under the Tory government, saw a surge in support. In the end rather than strengthening her position, May was hugely weakened as her party lost its majority and now has to rely on support from the extremely right-wing DUP.
In Scotland things have not appeared to move along at the same pace, there has not been the same coalescence around a left-wing figure as there has been in the rest of the UK around Corbyn. At the election the SNP remained the biggest party but lost a substantial 21 seats, putting plans for a second independence referendum very much on the back burner. Whilst Labour did see something of a recovery as they climbed from one to seven seats, it was the Tories who made the biggest gains. They pushed Labour into third place as they won 13 seats, their best performance in Scotland since 1983.
Looking forward though, the picture is not one of doom and gloom. The SNP’s losses can be seen as a reflection of voters starting to lose patience with a party that has promised big but in many ways delivered little. It is also an early sign that the SNP’s attempt to balance class issues and appeal to all classes across Scotland is starting to falter. With the election of Corbyn supporting Richard Leonard as the new Scottish Labour leader pressure is likely to come that could push the party further to the left. Some small signs of this are already appearing in terms of the income tax rise and end to the public sector pay freeze, thought it must be said that these were very much half measures.
Fundamentally, none of the conditions that led to a swathe of left-wing support around the Yes campaign have changed. Living standards have fallen and and wealth inequality is rampant, there is no end in sight to austerity, and workers face more precarious conditions than any time in living memory. These are all a result of the crisis of capitalism, a system built on the pursuit of profit that is incapable of providing for all. This means that whilst there has been an ebb in the class struggle in Scotland, with a lack of movements and figures through which anger can be channelled, it has not been resolved.
In the coming months there is every possibility and likelihood that this could be revitalised, particularly given the changing frame of Scottish politics. A more left-wing Labour party will likely put pressure on the SNP to move left, which could lead to more division within the party between the right and left elements. The same could be said of Scottish Labour where, despite Leonard’s victory, Blairite elements remain strong. In the event of another election, which seems very likely, more Yes voters may be inspired to come behind Corbyn, as some were in 2017. Outside of party politics there is also the industrial struggle. This paper includes an article on the successful BiFab occupations and Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, has also stated that it is prepared to carry out industrial action if the government’s offer a 2% pay increase is not improved upon.
All in all, looking ahead, 2018 will be another momentous year as the economic, political and social crises of capitalism continue to rage on. In Scotland it seems there may well be more channels through which young people and workers can express their frustrations with a sick and decaying system. As Marxists we don’t simply sit back and observe such struggles, rather we must get involved and take the opportunity to win more people over to our ideas and build a revolutionary base in Scotland