The SNP’s problems only seem to go from bad to worse, with the party now caught up in a police investigation surrounding former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell. In a matter of months, the political authority of Scotland’s once-unassailable governing party has plummeted.
“We are the party of the future, and the future belongs to the youth. We are a party of innovators, and it is always the youth that most eagerly follows the innovators. We are a party that is waging a self-sacrificing struggle against the old rottenness, and youth is always the first to undertake a self-sacrificing struggle.” — Lenin
Across the world, a whole generation of youth are entering the road of class struggle. In response to a lifetime of capitalist crises, young people are increasingly turning to the only progressive solution to humanity’s problems: revolutionary communism.
According to one recent poll, for example, 29% of 18-34 year-olds in Britain believe that communism is the ‘ideal economic system’. In America and Australia, the equivalent figure from the same survey is 20%.
And the youth have been at the forefront of countless international struggles and mass movements in recent years: from Black Lives Matter; to ‘Fridays for Future’; to the explosive events in Iran.
This movement has been responsible for some of the largest youthful revolutionary mobilisations in recent decades. On just one day in January this year, the MS marched 7000 through the streets of Bilbao and Pamplona “to confront the bourgeois offensive” against the working class.
The Socialist Movement represents a radical current that has developed from the ‘Abertzale’ Basque nationalist left. It groups together several organisations led by the Gazte Koordinadora Sozialista (GKS, Young Socialist Organisation).
GKS defines itself as communist, proletarian, “against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie” and avowedly internationalist.
It emerged from a split in the main Abertzale youth and student organisations, with the majority levying criticism against the left-nationalist EH Bildu party.
This revolutionary tendency demanded that the failures of the old leadership of the Basque national liberation movement be recognised — rejecting EH Bildu’s reformism and its support for the PSOE (Socialist Party) government in Madrid.
In opposition to this dead-end of reformism, GKS calls for the independent organisation of the working class, and the struggle for the establishment of a socialist state in the Basque Country.
The movement has organised mass demonstrations under slogans that condemn the bourgeoisie and capitalism in the clearest terms, and which call on the working class to fight back. Connecting the crisis in workers’ living standards with the decay of the capitalist system, the struggle for socialism is put front-and-centre by the Mugimendu Sozialista.
For abandoning some of the traditional nationalist symbolism and slogans, MS has been spurned as ‘unpatriotic’ by the ‘official’ Abertzale leadership.
But the movement’s supporters defend the class basis of their organisation, proudly flying the red flag of international socialism on demonstrations, above all others.
This unashamedly revolutionary stance has drawn sympathetic interest from across Spain. Notably, similar tendencies are developing amongst the Catalan youth, and in nationalist movements in other regions.
And MS has reached out to these groups, actively promoting its bold revolutionary agitation and model of ‘socialist councils’ (kontseilu sozialistak), recognising the need for a united movement across the Spanish state.
Basing itself also on an international perspective, MS has also sought links with revolutionary organisations in the ‘near-abroad’ of the Basque Country.
The spectacular rise of the Mugimendu Sozialista is a sure sign of growing radicalisation among the working class youth of the Basque country. But the same process is taking place in all countries.
The details may differ, but the overall trend is clear. A wave of young people, seeing the impasse of capitalism, reformism, identity politics, and bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalism are turning towards the ideas of Marxism, internationalism, and communism en masse.
A whole generation has grown up in the post-2008 landscape, knowing only social, political, and economic turmoil on one side, and witnessing the bankruptcy of the traditional reformist parties — as well as new popular formations like Syriza and Podemos — on the other.
In Britain, young people were pivotal in the rise of the Corbyn movement. But unfortunately, the weakness of the left leaders was equally pivotal in its fall.
Similarly, the youth were the driving force behind the Independence movement. But now, under the leadership of the SNP, it has run out of steam. And it is clear that these bourgeois nationalist leaders, unwilling and unable to mobilise workers and youth, have no strategy for breaking the deadlock with Westminster.
In place of these old leaders and parties, young people are seeking the most advanced ideas — and reaching for the most radical methods — from the history of the class struggle.
In turn, many are discovering the red thread of communism: the highest expression of the emancipation of the working class.
There is the potential for something like Mugimendu Sozialista in every country. The MS shows the way forward for young people everywhere who have grown disillusioned with reformism and left nationalism: turn to the path of communism and class struggle!
Millions are now looking towards these ideas, and to the struggle of the working class, as the only force capable of changing society; of addressing the multitude of economic, social and ecological crises that are inflicting misery upon workers and youth.
Unburdened by the defeats of the past, working-class youth will lead the way in this fight for the revolutionary transformation of society. It is we who are bearing the brunt of capitalism’s crisis — and we who have the most to gain from the overthrow of this rotten system.
The class struggle is unfolding before our eyes: on every strike and demonstration; in the trade unions and in our workplaces.
As Marx and Engels outlined in the Communist Manifesto, it is the task of communists to be the most determined and militant section of these struggles – guided by the most advanced ideas and by a clear revolutionary programme.
That means steeling ourselves in the genuine ideas of scientific socialism, i.e. Marxism, as represented by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky in their lifetimes, and by the International Marxist Tendency today.
Young communists must learn, study, and get organised. Join the struggle for the future of humanity! Join the fight for communism! Join the IMT!
Nationalist left bare their teeth as communist youth surge forward
— Khaled Malachi & Laida López
Since the emergence of the Gazte Koordinadora Sozialista (GKS), the official leadership of the nationalist left (EH Bildu) in the Basque Country has treated them as a nuisance; maintaining an official appearance of ignoring them.
Last year, Arkaitz Rodríguez, the general secretary of Sortu (the largest party in the EH Bildu coalition) described the group as ‘reactionary’. But in the next breath, he claimed that GKS is a mere fly in the ointment, and that the leadership had not dedicated “even half a minute” to their developments.
While this boastful claim seems rather unlikely, it is now clear that the nationalist left are paying full attention. In February, Sortu sent a circular to their members in which they aimed to politically clarify their position regarding GKS. This amounted to peddling the lies that the Basque media have propagated (depicting GKS militants as ‘thuggish’ and ‘violent’); and most strikingly, using identity politics to tar the communist youth.
Sortu’s ‘clarification’ was a thinly veiled attack; a conscious acknowledgement that their approach so far has failed. Though claiming that GKS “weaken transformative projects”, the timing of Sortu publicly breaking its silence is rather telling.
Indeed, the circular followed another magnificent mobilisation of 7,000 people organised by GKS in Bilbao and Iruña on 28 January. The demonstration rang with militancy – with slogans including “let’s face the bourgeois offensive” and “the workers’ revenge: socialist revolution”.
Though the size was the same as last year, it was clear that the bold, communist messaging is garnering support from swathes of the Basque youth.
The circular states that behind GKS’s “revolutionary and radical rhetoric” we find an “inability to influence society and change things”. But far from a flash in the pan, GKS and the wider Socialist Movement is a force the nationalist left must reckon with.
They counterpose the reformism and paltry offerings of the nationalist left with revolutionary agitation and propaganda. It is no surprise that they have become a reference point — in the Basque country and beyond.
GKS emerged from a debate within the nationalist left, with the explicit aim of exposing the ‘historic failure’ of the strategy used to bring about Basque independence, as well as criticising their subordinate role to the government in Madrid. This is something Sortu cannot tolerate, especially with their pitiful record in parliament.
EH Bildu is part of the government majority whose vote is necessary for the PSOE-UP coalition to stay in power in Madrid. There have been many written agreements between Bildu and PSOE. And so the track record of this government — one which has defended the interests of the ruling class on all decisive questions — reflects back onto themselves.
There have been a handful of instances, for example, of backtracking on election promises since the shaky coalition came to power.
There was a written agreement between PSOE and Bildu about the repeal of the right-wing Popular Party’s labour counter-reform. When it came to putting this agreement in practice, the PSOE refused to implement it, passing only a partial reform of the PP legislation, whilst leaving intact the most reactionary elements. Bildu protested, presenting its own alternative proposal — but in the end, stayed as a loyal partner to the PSOE-UP government.
The same was the case with the reactionary Ley Mordaza (Gag Law), also introduced by the PP government in order to limit democratic rights. The PSOE-UP government had promised to repeal it. Then they settled for amending it slightly. Bildu protested, refused to vote for it – but continued its support for the government.
Moreover, it would be wrong to think that EH Bildu simply protests against the government, and then falls silent. They have voted in favour of the reform of the penal code (Codigo Penal), which increases the repression on those who struggle against injustice.
Just to give another example of the kind of government the nationalist left is supporting in Madrid: recently, an officer involved in the torture and extra-judicial killing of Mikel Zabalza in 1985, a Basque bus driver, has been promoted in the Spanish state to the leadership of the Civil Guard. This is the reality of playing second fiddle to the regime in Madrid.
With elections approaching, they are falling over themselves to promise the world in order to secure their seats. But just like the rest of their ‘resistance’, this amounts to nothing more than words, words, words.
Though EH Bildu feigns a mixture of shock and disappointment at the government, it continues to give crucial support to that very same government.
Moreover, their ‘constitutional path’ to independence is a mirage. National liberation in the Basque country is not one centimetre closer since EH Bildu ingratiated themselves with PSOE in Madrid and in the Navarre parliament.
The facts speak clearly: the PSOE-UP government in Madrid, despite its pretence of being “the most progressive government in history”, is firmly committed to managing the crisis of capitalism in the interest of the bosses. They are loyally servile to US imperialism when it comes to foreign policy, including support for NATO in its war with Russia in Ukraine.
EH Bildu’s support shows the Basque youth where their allegiances lie. They are a completely pacified and politically bankrupt force. In truth, these petty-bourgeois nationalists were only ever concerned with having a seat at the table.
Their record at home is no better. In the Basque country, they engage in the Stalinist tactics of smear campaigns, chiming in with the attacks mounting daily in the bourgeois press against the Socialist Movement. They have attempted financial strangulation of GKS; expelling the communists from the txosnas, which is an instrumental way of raising money for their projects.
We might ask: with comrades like these, who needs enemies?
In their circular, Sortu lambasts the “reactionary” GKS for “the most harmful practices that have been seen on the left”. Irony is perhaps lost on them. The leadership of the nationalist left should hold up a mirror to themselves.
With nothing to offer the workers and youth but more of the status quo, Sortu has dressed itself up in the language of identity politics. As they write:
“On the road to a unified, independent, socialist, feminist and Basque-speaking Basque Country, GKS does not contribute anything. On the contrary. In addition, there is no possibility of collaboration, because we have different projects and strategies, because they reject that possibility and, above all, because they act in an exclusive and aggressive way.”
One part of that paragraph is actually true: there can be no collaboration between the opposing projects and strategies. But that is precisely because the Socialist Movement stands against capitalism and for socialism, while the leaders of Sortu stand firmly for a reformist strategy of managing the crisis of the system within the narrow limits of capitalism.
The circular continues by arguing that GKS feels “uncomfortable” with struggles of the LGBT community, feminism, etc. For example, they slander Itaia, the women’s coordinating group of GKS. In a customarily patronising manner, they claim this group corrupts the minds of young women militants.
With these broad strokes, Sortu aims to paint GKS as a single-minded group that is against social justice – completely aloof from anything other than communism.
This is a red herring. The struggle of genuine communists aims to connect all the various struggles. Revolutionaries must seek to unite the oppressed and exploited strata in society, and channel these collective energies into building a revolutionary party capable of overthrowing capitalism.
Paying close attention to all the injustices of capitalism and agitating against them is a prerequisite to building. And only on this basis, can we uproot all discrimination and prejudice that plagues society.
After all, it is the system that Sortu defends through their reformism that relies on these divisions to rule. And so it is little surprise that they fall back on the arguments of identity politics.
Identity politics claims that the main division in society is one of subjective identity. It separates the struggle for women’s liberation from the struggle against the capitalist system, pandering to trendy ideas that serve to confuse and disorientate the youth.
It is no surprise that this emaciated reformist party speaks in such language. Being the torchbearer of social justice in mere words is the cheapest of all reforms.
These attacks are cynical and self-serving. Once again, we see the genuine oppression faced by women being weaponised by a party that has no serious interest in fighting against it in the first place. GKS have rebuffed this nonsense.
Sortu stands in a long line of reformist parties that fall back on radical-sounding language to keep up appearances. We see this in Scotland also, where the SNP has profited from being more ‘progressive’ than the rabid Tory Party, while still standing firmly within the limits of the capitalist system.
In all cases, if you scratch the surface, you will find reformist politics that offer no route forward for the masses.
In truth, the focus on ‘identity’, ‘nationality’, etc. – and the relegation of the importance of class independence and methods – has disastrous consequences.
Lenin once commented that the national question is at root a question of bread. That is absolutely correct. In a period characterised by cuts and counter-reforms, the problems of housing, security, jobs will continue to fester. There is no way of solving the national question on the basis of capitalism.
We note that it is from a position of weakness, not strength, that Sortu has attacked GKS militants. This will serve a dual purpose. With elections later this year, Sortu is aiming to deflect attention away from its failures. They will also be aiming to firm up their youth group, Ernai, who have been left behind in the wake of this explosion of militancy.
For all of the bombast of GKS being “against Basque national liberation” in their circular, it has not dawned on the leadership that the youth are pushing beyond the limits of nationalism — with resounding success.
This is occurring not just in the Basque country. There are other such promising developments in Catalonia with the formation of Socialist Horizon (Horitzó Socialista).
Across the world we see a layer of working-class youth – radicalised by the experience of capitalist crisis, the threat to the climate, war and destruction – turning towards the ideas of radical change, rejecting this rotten system, and turning towards the ideas of communism.
GKS is undoubtedly the most advanced example of this to date. But the potential for developments like this exist all across the globe. Internationalism must be the lifeblood of the communist movement in order for us to succeed in the tasks we set ourselves.
GKS have shown the way forward for the youth disillusioned with reformism and nationalism. The path forward is class struggle and communism.
We commend the efforts of GKS in the example they have set. And we stand in full solidarity with them against the attacks and slanders which they continue to face.
The sterile politics and strategies of the reformist parties have been put to the test. They have been found wanting.
The role of communists is to expose the weaknesses of these woolly, institutional politics, and to educate ourselves in the ideas of scientific socialism. Marxism is our sharpest weapon — the key to understanding the world in order to transform it. With further crises impending, we haven’t a minute to waste.
On Sunday the 30th of April comrades of Revolution will host a day of Marxist political education discussions at Teviot Row House in Edinburgh.
The past year has brought an enormous growth in class consciousness amongst masses of people, in Scotland and across the world. Capitalism is in a state of terminal decay, eroding the rights and living standards of working people while hoarding massive wealth at the very top of society.
People are turning to radical and revolutionary ideas to find a way out of this nightmarish system that only promises increasing poverty, misery and war. There is a growing will to fight back, and renewed interest in the most advanced ideas of class struggle: communism.
The International Marxist Tendency is building the prerequisite forces of communist revolution around the world. We invite you to our Sunday School to learn what we are all about, and inspire you to join the struggle for a Scottish Workers’ Republic and World Socialist Revolution!
12:00pm – 1:30pm Workers Rise Up: Strikes and Class Struggle
1:30pm – 2:10pm Break (40 min.)
2:10pm – 3:40pm The Crisis of Scottish Nationalism
3:40pm – 4:00pm Break (20 min.)
4:00pm – 5:30pm Why We Need a Revolutionary Party
5:30pm – 6:00pm Concluding remarks
The Study, Teviot Row House 13 Bristo Place Edinburgh EH8 9AJ
This is a Edinburgh University Students Association building but all are welcome.
Car parking is available nearby at Nicholson Square Car Park (cash only) or Q-Park Quartermile. There may also be on-street parking around George Square Gardens.
There are cafés in Teviot Row House and in the surrounding area.
Books, magazines and other publications will be on sale during the breaks.
This event is not ticketed, but we will ask for donations at the end to contribute towards the IMT fighting fund.
Humza Yousaf has been elected leader of the SNP, and will be Scotland’s next First Minister after securing a narrow victory in the party’s messy leadership election.
Yousaf narrowly beat Kate Forbes in the final vote, 52% to 48%. Despite the controversy surrounding Forbes’ socially conservative views, and the de facto ‘continuity candidate’ status of Yousaf, the race was much closer than anticipated.
This leadership contest sparked turmoil in the party after Sturgeon’s sudden exit. The idea that the party would then democratically decide its future backfired immensely, revealing the divisions within the SNP and the bankruptcy of its leading politicians.
Throughout the short two-week campaign, a palpable anxiety among SNP members was rising. A trio of mediocre politicians had stepped forwards to offer platitudes and hollow promises to the public, while sniping at each other and recklessly raising criticisms of their own government.
Then the party HQ was engulfed in the scandal, as the party boss Peter Murrell resigned over his attempt to conceal the party membership figure. Murrell has been responsible for several irregularities while heading the party bureaucracy. His interim replacement Mike Russell candidly described the situation in the party as a “mess”.
Sturgeon was compelled to deny this was the case, calling the crisis “growing pains”. As the membership figures finally revealed, however, quite the opposite is true! Since the last Westminster General Election in 2019, the SNP membership has declined by 43%.
This represents a significant drop from the party’s peak popularity, and a possible hollowing out of the party ranks. The SNP may still be the largest party in Scotland by a big margin, but there is clearly a rapidly diminishing enthusiasm for the party.
Overall, the contest has underlined the crisis in Scottish nationalism. The cause of independence has been led into a dead end by Sturgeon and the previous leadership clique that is now departing. The SNP leaders’ ‘strategy’ — if you could call it that — to pressure the Tories in Westminster into granting a second independence referendum has failed.
These constitutional methods were always bound to fail, dependent as they were on the consent of the ruling class and their Tory representatives.
This impasse has demoralised many in the movement. Local groups such as Airdrie for Independence have withered over the years despite continued SNP election victories. They now see an independent Scotland as far away as it was in 2014, and see pressing issues like the cost of living cutting across the independence question.
Humza Yousaf does not offer much hope. While in his victory speech he appealed to ‘no more hollow promises’, he still felt obliged to claim “we will be the generation” to achieve independence for Scotland. His only proposal to make this happen, however, is to continue on the same path that has led nowhere.
This cynicism and dishonesty is just the start. As well as claiming the mantle of leading the independence movement, Yousaf will also have to wield the austerity axe. Already the Scottish Government has announced over £1.2 billion in cuts at Holyrood, while local councils across the country follow suit with cuts to budgets and jobs.
In the past period, the SNP could afford to hide their austerity measures to a certain degree by pushing minor reforms like the baby box scheme, increases to certain benefits, eliminating prescription fees etc. This policy is no longer possible, as the economy shrinks and the narrow margins of Holyrood’s budget get even narrower.
The SNP is coming up against the limits of its reformism, which are the very real limits of capitalism in an epoch of crisis. Tory-style austerity cuts, counter-reforms and battles with the working class are on the horizon. Already the Scottish Government has been beset by strikes and potential industrial action, as it imposes derisory pay offers on some of the lowest paid.
The SNP’s petty-bourgeois leaders will not be able to govern as before, channelling a certain amount of discontent against the status quo into their own support base as they did in the past with Tory austerity, Brexit, and of course independence. Increasingly the class anger rising in Scotland will be directed against them, and they will have to contend with it.
More and more workers and young people are realising that they should not put any trust in the likes of Nicola Sturgeon or Humza Yousaf — either to fight for the democratic right of self-determination, or for the interests of the working class in Scotland.
Instead, we must fight on our own terms and with our own programme: for a Scottish Workers’ Republic and world socialist revolution!
The contest for Scotland’s next First Minister and SNP leader is well under way, with three candidates vying for the top spot. Approximately 80,000 SNP members have begun voting to determine the who will lead the Scottish Government through a period of crisis and class struggle.
Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation has left the party unprepared, with no obvious successor lined up to replace her. Nor is there much enthusiasm amongst workers and youth for any of those who have stepped forward to fill her shoes.
There has been no seamless changing of the guard, as there was from Salmond to Sturgeon. Instead, a vacuum has opened up.
This has left many SNP members desperate to hear serious proposals for the future of the party, and for the independence movement. In early polls, over two-thirds of SNP supporters were undecided about who should take over.
Despite all the hustings and media coverage, it has only revealed the superficiality of Holyrood politics and the bankruptcy of the SNP leadership clique.
From the outset, the various leadership campaigns have been a disappointment, to say the least. At first, the race was dominated by the controversy surrounding initial frontrunner Kate Forbes, the Scottish Finance Secretary.
MSPs who had endorsed Forbes rapidly withdrew their support, after she stated that — given the opportunity — she would have voted against gay marriage legislation owing to her Christian beliefs. Forbes also opposes the recent Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
This sparked a rather ugly, intense focus in the media on Forbes’ religious views, as a member of the Free Church of Scotland (the ‘Wee Frees’) — a roughly 8,000-member Protestant denomination known for its fundamentalist beliefs.
This then spilled over into journalists questioning Health Secretary Humza Yousaf whether, as a devout Muslim, he is sincere in his support for LGBT people. Naturally, many people found this whole debacle to be offensive and divisive.
There can be no defending Forbes’ reactionary views. These are clearly a source of embarrassment for most of the SNP. But the attention given to them is a distraction from the real class questions that Scottish workers need answers to.
In a poll by Opinion Matters, only 5% of SNP voters said that the candidates’ religious beliefs were important. This compared to 58% who said that priority is to have a plan to help people with the cost-of-living crisis. Similarly, 53% said that the next SNP leader should be focussed on improving the NHS, education, and public services.
On these essential questions, however, there is nothing that really separates the candidates apart. All are practically committed to the programme of austerity that the Scottish Government has planned, with public services facing ‘four difficult years’ ahead.
In the various hustings, all candidates could only make ‘wishy-washy’ promises in order to win the approval of those immediately in the room.
2023 will likely be the worst financial year for Holyrood in its history, with billions in budget cuts and thousands of jobs on the chopping block.
Nor have there been any fresh answers to the problem of where the campaign for independence is going.
The short notice of the leadership contest has ensured that the planned March conference has been postponed indefinitely. And neither Forbes nor Yousaf have really said much about what the movement should do next, apart from continuing to “make the case” for independence.
Despite essentially being a stand-in for arch-anti-Sturgeonite MP Joanna Cherry, Ash Regan is the only candidate defending the outgoing First Minister’s proposal for a ‘de facto referendum’ at the next UK general election.
Much of the SNP hierarchy have backed-off from the de facto referendum idea altogether. Their plan now is to essentially do nothing, while continuing to ask nicely that Westminster grants a referendum.
Regan may be speaking up against this, but even she has no clue how to actually fight Westminster’s veto, as shown in a string of embarrassing interviews and hustings appearances.
One can almost feel the negative mood building up around the SNP, brought on by this surprise leadership contest which has shown us anything but the ‘talented politicians’ Sturgeon predicted would succeed her. Instead, the party looks like a train coming off the rails.
The first STV televised debate was particularly tense, with the three candidates raising their criticisms of each other frankly, and highlighting each others’ shortcomings without much explanation for their own. For those watching, the arguments just ran in circles.
For supporters of the Scottish Government, it appeared as though several high-profile Ministers had only bad things to say about their own Government. Moreover, the very existence of the current pro-independence coalition with the Scottish Greens seems to be in doubt if either Regan or Forbes win.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney, one of Nicola Sturgeon’s closest allies, has announced that he is also retiring from frontline politics once the new SNP leader is chosen — the timing is no coincidence. With Swinney and former depute leader Angus Robertson ruling themselves out of the leadership contest very early on, and party boss Peter Murrell under pressure to retire along with his wife (Nicola Sturgeon), it looks like the First Minister’s resignation will really mark a turning point.
A new generation of politicians are rising to the top in the SNP: those who have only ever known the party to be in power in Scotland, and with the (false) promise of a second indyref within touching distance.
The situation they will inherit is a dire one, however: economic crisis, austerity, sharpening class struggle, and a dead-end for the independence movement.
This moment must provoke some serious re-evaluation among independence supporters — the majority of whom are workers and youth.
The bourgeois methods of the SNP leaders has led to an utter impasse. The only way forward is through militant class struggle, in the fight for a Scottish Workers’ Republic!
As a primary school teacher and a rep, I have had the honour of standing shoulder to shoulder with teachers across Scotland these past months, fighting for a fair wage and proper funding for education.
The picket lines outside schools grew in number and in size with every strike day, as the majority of teachers like me took part in their first strike action. I have seen our union branches come together, not only to discuss the current struggle for fair wages, but to begin thinking about the underfunding and workload issues which plague our schools and the changes needed so that we have an education system which is fit for purpose for our students.
Every day the industrial action grew in strength and momentum, despite efforts by the Scottish Government and the media to pit parents and other workers against us. We had visits from binmen, posties, parents, nurses, builders, and lecturers on my picket line — all who braved the cold early morning weather to offer their solidarity and support to our struggle. There is a strong feeling in our schools and in our communities that no worker should be forced to take a pay cut, and we all have a duty to support those on strike.
That is why it was disappointing on Friday evening to hear that strike action was cancelled in light of a new offer which is apparently only 0.5% better than the last rejected proposal. In fact, when we take into account the new deal would be over a longer time scale, it is equivalent to the last one EIS rejected: 11.5% over 24 months is 0.48% per month, while 13.5% over 28 months is also just 0.48% per month. Instead of a real pay rise, this is already a 6% pay cut, and means in the long-term teacher pay will have declined by 30% since 2008.
This doesn’t even account for the fact that this deal locks us in for 2.5 years, and in this time period we have no idea what might happen with inflation. The world economy is in an extremely volatile state at the moment, with the entire capitalist system mired in crisis. It is highly probable that inflation could spike once again, threatening many teachers with a precarious financial situation.
In the long run, if pay continues to fall this will create a massive teacher recruitment and retention crisis, leading to staff shortages and huge class sizes.
Another issue with this offer is that it moves future pay negotiations to August instead of April. The union argues that this is a positive change because it moves our pay negotiations to a different time from other public sector workers’. Does this mean we should see other workers as competitors for pay?
Instead of trying to separate ourselves we should be linking up with nurses, cleaners, social workers, and civil servants. Through uniting and taking joint strike action we can fight the government’s attempts to suppress wages and ensure that all public sector workers get at least an inflation-value pay rise, this year and in the future. This movement could combine with unions in the private sector to fight for the interests of all working class people.
The Scottish Government and COSLA have told us this is the best offer we are going to get, that there is no money left. Have they not been saying this since February last year when they offered us a measly 2%? Obviously, it was a lie. Since then more money has been magically ‘found’ and more money can and will be ‘found’ if we are willing to fight for it.
Nor should we forget that Britain is one of the richest countries in the world, and there is no reason why teachers should be underpaid or schools underfunded in Scotland. While public sector workers have come under attack, the energy companies have been given free rein to line their pockets with bumper profits. In 2022 alone BP made £23 billion and Shell made £32 billion in profit.
This fortune is almost equal to Holyrood’s entire budget! Or, about 2% of it could be used to fill the £1 billion ‘black hole’ in council budgets across Scotland. The point is, it would be more than enough money to fund a significant pay rise for all public sector workers, as well as provide a huge injection of cash that schools, hospitals, and the social care sector desperately need.
The money is there, hoarded by the rich. Yet the government have clearly shown that they would rather attack workers than expropriate the big businesses which rob us of the wealth we have created.
We shouldn’t just accept this. Teachers have shown this year that we are willing and able to fight; that we won’t see our wages cut and the quality of education driven into the ground; and that when we stand together, we are strong.
Our union needs to be led with the same determination, by class fighters prepared to unite our struggles with those of all workers against capitalist austerity — and for a socialist programme to expropriate the billionaires and put the needs of people first.
I believe that we can win a real pay rise if we continue to fight. That is why I am voting to reject the current offer.
Yesterday, in a bombshell speech, Nicola Sturgeon announced that she will be stepping down as SNP leader and Scottish First Minister.
Sturgeon’s resignation comes at a time when her party and government are looking increasingly rudderless: battered by a litany of failures and false starts, and now facing a stormy period of strikes, austerity, and crisis.
Many are now asking ‘where next?’ for Scotland’s governing party and the leadership of the independence cause. This has been left as an open question, to be resolved in only a matter of weeks at the SNP’s special March conference.
End of the road
The First Minister had telegraphed her intentions to retire for months previous to Wednesday’s news. On several occasions, she has publicly pondered her legacy and potential for a life after Scottish politics. Some have even rumoured that she has her eyes on a job at the United Nations.
Nevertheless, the suddenness of the announcement still came as a shock. Many expected Sturgeon to lead the party into the next Holyrood election.
In her speech, Sturgeon rejected speculation that her decision was made off the back of controversy surrounding the Scottish parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. A ‘culture war’ has been whipped up by the right-wing press over this issue in recent months, much of which has been directed at her personally.
This, and other “short-term” issues were not the reason for her resignation, Sturgeon said. Rather, she had come to believe that her tenure as SNP leader had naturally come to an end.
She apologised to her supporters for such a dramatic exit, and lamented about the “brutality” and polarisation of politics (one senses that a dreadful self-indulgent memoir may be in the works already).
Notably, the First Minister confessed frankly how she felt personally defeated over the independence question and her mixed record as head of the Scottish government.
By her own admission, Nicola Sturgeon is not the person to lead the indy movement forward. All the bold pronouncements about ‘Scottish democracy’ and the possibility of a second independence referendum have come to nought.
Throughout her eight years at the top, Sturgeon has presided over several stalled attempts to move the independence campaign forwards.
She has deployed combative language to fire up the troops, and even announced dates for referenda, only to then order a return to the barracks and postpone the decisive battle – which never comes.
This has demobilised, disorientated, and demoralised many in the rank and file of the independence movement, who feel they have been led up and down the hill too many times.
Last year saw defeat for Sturgeon in the UK Supreme Court, with judges denying Holyrood the authority to call a new referendum without approval from Westminster. This was never a serious strategy.
This setback has been followed by yet another disorderly retreat over the plan to use the next UK general election as a de facto indyref.
Sturgeon says that she stands by this proposal, which will be the central issue at the special conference in March. But it is clear that doubts over this ploy are solidifying within the upper ranks of the SNP.
Sturgeon will defend the idea of a de facto referendum it seems, but only from the Holyrood backbenches. Meanwhile, the SNP national executive has opened the door to this plan being scrapped altogether.
Between now and then, the carefully-concealed divisions within the SNP’s leadership clique could come to light as a new leader is chosen. Leaving no obvious successor, speculation has already begun over who will be the next First Minister. And importantly, will they have any new ideas about how to advance the independence movement?
Whoever follows Sturgeon will inherit a worsening situation for the Scottish government. The outgoing SNP leader is personally popular. And she has keenly defended the reforms achieved in her time: expansion of free childcare; greater access to higher education for pupils from deprived backgrounds; baby boxes; newly-devolved powers, etc. Scotland now, according to her, is “fairer”, at the very least.
All of this has been achieved by working within the narrow margins of devolution, and by emphasising the contrasts between the Scottish government’s priorities and those of the Tories in Westminster.
This approach has produced eight election victories for the SNP since 2014, which has helped to keep the independence question high on the agenda.
For most of the past ten years the SNP have been unbeatable – muddling their way through Brexit, the pandemic, political scandals, and other controversies with broad support from the electorate.
The foundations of this regime now face a dramatic collapse, however. With the whole of the UK going through a deep crisis of rampant inflation and looming recession, worse than the rest of Europe and the G7, the room for Holyrood to manoeuvre on economic issues is getting tighter and tighter.
The Scottish government is already locked in battle with striking workers, who are fighting to defend their living standards. Furthermore, Holyrood is preparing to impose eye-watering austerity on public services that are already stretched to the brink.
Acting finance secretary John Swinney, one of Sturgeon’s closest allies, has made no bones about it: Scotland faces “four very difficult years” of austerity ahead, with cuts to public sector spending and jobs on the cards.
Similarly, despite facing the worst crisis in its history, the Scottish NHS is set to see attacks on nurses, hospitals, and patients. And schools will be hard-pressed to deliver even the legally required minimum standards of education, as resources are cut back and teachers are pushed to breaking point.
Far from offering a contrast, the same austerity policies approved by the Tories in Westminster are also being prepared by the Scottish government. There is nowhere for them to hide.
They will throw up their hands and say that there is nothing that can be done. But all this does is underline the pro-capitalist character of the SNP leaders – proving that the working class cannot rely on them to genuinely fight against the Tories.
Not even crumbs
While the axe looms overhead, the reality of the past period – of the SNP’s reformist agenda, with rhetoric about “social justice” and a “fairer Scotland” – is now coming into plain view.
Speaking at Bute House, Sturgeon could not avoid questions over the “regrets” and outright failures of the past decade.
This includes her government’s failure to close the educational attainment gap between rich and poor students. This landmark reform was once Sturgeon’s absolute priority. But it was later quietly abandoned after making little headway.
There is a similar story for reducing child poverty, which now stands at its highest level ever (24%); reducing deaths from drug and alcohol addiction (the highest in the EU); fuel poverty (affecting over 600,000 households); or homelessness and housing insecurity (the highest since 2002), etc.
Councils have lost £2 billion in funds through council tax freezes and falling budgets from Holyrood. This has created a black hole for local services and workers. The largest share of this burden falls on just one council: Glasgow, with a deficit of £500 million.
Even targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions have been consistently missed, despite the growth in renewable energy supplies.
It is increasingly clear that, behind the warm liberal façade, the SNP governs in the interests of the capitalist class, with crumbs thrown to the rest of us. Now, we will not even get the crumbs.
Crisis of reformism
This is the real situation facing our class. And no doubt it is the reason Sturgeon has decided to throw in the towel at this time.
The Scottish government faces intractable problems. Holyrood is unable to deliver any meaningful reforms. In fact, Swinney has pronounced that they are now considering counter-reforms aimed at boosting the ‘efficiency’ of public services – a direct result of the limits of capitalism closing in around them.
The SNP leadership also cannot point a way forward for the independence movement, since they are unwilling to challenge the ruling class’ denial of Scottish self-determination with anything but hollow words.
The formula of SNP dominance in Scotland has always been based around these variables. But now they are trending towards zero, and the SNP machine is threatened with a catastrophic breakdown.
All else remaining equal, the majority of the working class in Scotland will continue to lend their support to the SNP. But they will do so less enthusiastically, holding their noses.
This is similar to the position that the Labour Party found itself in after generations of betrayal. And it only took one opportunity – the 2014 referendum – for the anger against Scottish Labour to be expressed; for workers and youth to move in the direction of independence; and for the party’s support to crumble overnight.
At root, this reflects the crisis of reformism; the inability to solve the problems facing the working class within the confines of capitalism.
For a Scottish Workers’ Republic!
On announcing her resignation, Nicola Sturgeon offered many “reflections” on her time as First Minister. No doubt there will be many others writing glowing or critical political obituaries of her. As an individual politician, she accumulated enormous personal authority and responsibility. Both her supporters and her detractors labelled her the ‘Queen of Scotland’. But the forces that shape society are much bigger than her, or her party.
Capitalism – in Britain and globally – is in a deep crisis. The class struggle is in full swing. This is pushing the working class and the bourgeois SNP leaders into direct conflict with one another.
This conflict sat below the surface for many years. And for a while, appeals to national unity in the cause of independence helped to paper over the cracks and class contradictions within the SNP. But now this is becoming untenable, as many in the wider movement are rapidly realising.
“As the immediacy of a referendum moves further away, people are more inclined to focus on what is up close and personal,” writes Jim Cassidy in the National, on behalf of Airdrie for Independence.
“Jobs, pay, working conditions, energy prices, fuel and food costs are all uppermost in peoples minds right now,” Cassidy continues, “and we run the very real danger of losing support as people grasp for the quickest solution over the best solution.”
The mass independence movement must base itself on this struggle of the working class. This means establishing a fighting programme to secure self-determination for Scotland.
Our goal is not to achieve the capitalist independence proposed by the SNP tops, which will change nothing, but to establish working-class power and socialism.
Only by relying on the collective strength of our own class, and preparing for a determined revolutionary struggle of workers and youth, can we overcome the current impasse, and push aside those forces who stand in our way.
Such a programme must be based on the call for a Scottish Workers’ Republic and world socialist revolution. This is the slogan that we, the Marxists, will raise in the battles ahead: on the picket lines, in our neighbourhoods, and in the independence movement.
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