Marxists are used to being told that the youth are too apathetic and the working class too conservative for revolution. However this idea is being challenged in every continent. In recent months we’ve seen revolutionary situations develop in, Sudan and Puerto Rico, as well as one that could develop into a revolutionary situation in Hong Kong, as masses of people are rising against their corrupt and often oppressive rulers and the capitalist class that these rulers represent.
Ross Walker, IMT Edinburgh
A mood of radicalism is developing and leaving no country untouched. This year, youth led climate strikes have mobilised millions around the world. Recently, even in Switzerland, a country known for its wealth and stability, a 500,000 strong strike in opposition to the gender based violence, misogyny and inequality was carried out.
Students and young workers have been playing a leading role in all these situations and this is no coincidence. After ten years of crisis, capitalism can offer today’s youth very little. Nowadays young people spend around a quarter of their income on rent compared to 8% in the 1960s. Degrees are no longer a steadfast way out of poverty with 40% of non graduate jobs filled with university graduates and home ownership is becoming more and more a perk of the past. Increasing poverty, alienation and exploitation has lead to anger which expresses itself in a variety of ways.
Five years ago, masses of previously “apolitical” workers and youth were mobilised In Scotland, when the three hundred year old United Kingdom was almost broken up by a powerful movement for independence. This campaign was fuelled by a desire to rid Scotland of Westminster corruption, imperialism, bigotry and austerity and install a fairer and more inclusive state in Holyrood. After a general lull, this movement appears to be waking up. In recent months estimates of up to 100,000 marched in Glasgow whilst 13,000 marched in Ayr (a town of less than 50,000). October’s Edinburgh YES March is predicted to be even bigger. Despite the attempts of SNP leaders to bureaucratise and suffocate this movement, it remains a sleeping giant that could be awoken any moment by a Brexit crisis and a very incompetent prime minister.
On the trade union front, we’ve seen an increase in successful votes to strike. Edinburgh narrowly avoided a bus strike at the beginning of the fringe. The bosses, clearly scared at this prospect, gave some concessions but had the Unite leaders led with the steel that the members wanted, this could have been the beginning of massive campaign against bullying, exploitation and harassment that the Scottish tourism industry relies on to make over £10bn profit every year.
In Dundee, council workers voted overwhelmingly to strike over job losses and pay. This threat was enough to scare the council into conceding to the demands for now. Airport workers all around Scotland have struck against low pay and strikes over pay, conditions and safety look likely amongst Coatbridge teachers, Caledonian Sleeper service rail workers and Diageo manufacturing workers in Fife and Glasgow.
More widely there’s been a notable increase among precarious workers taking action in the private sector worldwide, with strikes occurring at companies such as Amazon, Weatherspoons, McDonalds and more recently Uber. It’s clear that after 11 years of capitalist crisis, workers are beginning to fight back against the attempts of the bosses to squeeze the working class for every penny.
Such struggles have the potential to unite and form a massive movement against low pay, exploitation and austerity. However union leaders are lagging behind consciousness. Instead of inspiring workers to develop confidence in their own strength through strike action, they’re settling for weak deals in order to prevent strikes. Closures at Havelock furniture factory in Fife or Springburn Rail Depot in Glasgow could have been prevented if the working class had a fighting leadership armed with a socialist programme and prepared to occupy the workplaces.
In 2018, University staff went on strike over plans to rob them of their pensions. This was one of the longest and most militant strikes in decades with students playing a key role. Unfortunately the leadership of the University and College Union (UCU) settled for a bad deal and squandered all this militancy. However with the union electing left winger Joe Brady to lead the union and a looming ballot over pay and pensions, we could see a resurgence of this radical mood on campus this year.
The appointment of Boris Johnstone as prime minister led to immediate and very militant protests, including in Scotland when he visited. The Uxbridge Labour Party members are already planning to unseat him when the inevitable general election happens. Down south, workers and youth are gradually grabbing the Labour Party machine off the Blairite hijackers and making it their own again.
The autumn conference will debate motions on the nationalisation of housing conglomerates, a socialist environmental policy and even the re-implementation of Clause Four, which would commit the party to common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. A new General election will release the potential of this movement on a mass scale.
At the same time, divisions are opening up within the SNP and the wider YES movement over issues such as currency, the environment, oil and NATO. Whilst supporting independence, Marxists welcome these divisions. We must expose the pro-capitalist ideas of the SNP leadership and the financiers they collude with. On the eve of a potential no deal Brexit, financiers such as Michael O’Sullivan from Credit Suisse are looking for Scotland to provide a stable base within the EU so they can keep on making obscene profits. Such influences must be boldly opposed. The only way independence can be successful and sustainable is if it is carried out on a socialist and internationalist basis.
Socialists in Scotland must build connections between the overwhelmingly left wing rank and file of both the Labour Party and the YES movement. This will be helped by McDonnell’s recent announcement that they would allow Holyrood to decide on when to hold a referendum. The Labour leadership must not cave in to right wing unionist pressure. If the Labour leadership oppose Trident renewal, defend migrants rights and the right for Scotland to hold another referendum, they would leave SNP leaders with no ground to attack Labour. In power, Corbyn could then call on the SNP to back his programme. This would either force SNP MPs to become anti-austerity in practice as well as speech, or expose those who don’t.
There’s no shortage of self sacrificing workers and youth who strive for a better world. What we need is an organized Marxist tendency that can be a political home for this radicalism. Only this way can the upcoming revolutionary situations be used to their full potential to overthrow capitalism and provide a new soicalist world that we all need and deserve.