“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!” – The Communist Manifesto
2024 will be a year of advancing class struggle. After a year of continuous scandals and upsets among the ruling class, and timidity and cowardice among the reformists, a powerful revolutionary tide is preparing to come in.
Bonfire Night came to a rebellious end as young people clashed with the Police in parts of Scotland. Police Scotland reported 8 minor injuries to officers and 2 damaged vehicles after clashes in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, with fireworks and petrol bombs thrown at riot police.
Looking up towards the Salisbury Crags that protrude below Arthur’s Seat in the capital, a path around the bottom known as the Radical Road can be seen from most of the city centre. Few, however, know the origin of its name and the story of the workers who built it.
The Radical Road was built by the defeated workers of, arguably, the one of the world’s first proletarian insurrections: the Radical War of 1820. These events struck fear into the ruling classes across the central belt and further afield.
For the week of the 26th of June, the Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) branch at Edinburgh College were on strike. They were out in solidarity with one of their comrades, Kevin Scally, who has been subject to a brutal campaign of bullying from college management, resulting in him being made redundant.
For the past week, the world has been treated to a macabre piece of theatre: an international, multi-million-dollar operation to save the lives of five crewmen of the Titan submersible, who — it now turns out — were almost certainly known to have died from the start. Life is sacred: who could object to any expense to save just a single soul? But if all life is indeed sacred, then some lives are clearly more sacred than others.
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.
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!
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