Issue 22 Editorial: Class Struggle Begins to Thaw

The July/August Revolution is out now. Subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your door. Articles on the Growth Commission Report, the move to the left in USDAW, left opposition within the SNP, John  Maclean, Israel and Palestine and more. Read here the editorial written by Ross Walker of the Edinburgh IMT branch. If you like our analysis and aims, do not hesitate to contact us and join.

by Ross Walker

You can’t read the news anymore without a reminder of dire situation the world crisis of capitalism has brought us into. Governments and establishments which in the past seemed invincible are taking a right battering. We write this days after Prime Minster Rajoy lost a vote of no confidence in Spain and a week after the Catholic Church received a serious blow in Ireland through the Repeal the 8th vote.

In Britain, the Tory party are being hit by shame after shame. The Windrush scandal was just one more recent of a long list of disgraces that expose the British establishment and its Tory party for what they are. Meanwhile, the party’s internal pro-Europe and Brexiteer wings tear each other to shreds. The only thing holding them together is the fear of a Corbyn government.

Poverty, corruption, war and alienation are fuelling the anger that builds in the minds of the working classes and youth throughout the world, which finds expression in explosive mass movements. In the recent years, mass movements such as that behind Corbyn and the movement for independence in Scotland have expressed working class rage and determination, and have in their own ways shaken the establishment. Both have the potential to go much further.

In Scotland, the economic crisis which pushed millions of hopeful working people towards the cause of independence continues to get worse. According to the Scottish Fiscal Commission, finances are to face a £1.7bn black hole over the next 5 years and growth is likely to lag behind the rest of the UK, with a slump in wages likely to cause a tax shortfall.

Factories such as Pinney’s in Annan and Two Sisters in Cambuslang are planned to close. Construction firm Crummock, another PFI failure has announced over 200 job losses in Midlothian and BT have also predicted 10,000 job losses in Scotland over several years. Threatened cuts, closures and mergers in the retail sector loom over workers in M&S, Watt Brothers, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, House of Fraser and more.

Scotland’s working classes have been suffering from high levels of poverty, unemployment, underemployment and alienation for decades, particularly since de-industrialisation. Communities continue to endure the crisis whilst social housing and education suffer council cuts, the NHS experiences record long waiting times and neighbourhoods are devastated by gentrification.

The unions have an opportunity to fight against all this. They could boldly lead a campaign against unemployment, PFI and outsourcing and for the nationalisation of companies like Pinney’s, Youngs, Crummock, First Bus, M&S, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and any other company threatening job losses and closures, under workers control. However, the union leaders are currently determined that capitalism can be reformed rather than be overthrown and are unwilling to lead such a fight.

Yet, at rank and file level a more radical mood is developing. Workers at Prestwick Airport showed they were willing to strike over an insufficient wage rise, despite being led by the typically conservative union Prospect. STV3 workers walked out after the announcement that the station was closing. Scotrail workers, Aberdeen bus drivers and Dunbartonshire teachers have also been threatening strike action against cuts, wages and working conditions. As time goes on rank and file pressure on union leaders, will further push them to take action.

The biggest and most militant industrial action in recent months was UCU pension strike which crossed the England-Scotland border and brought a new generation of trade unionists and student activists into activity in universities. The shop workers union USDAW has seen a shift to the left, signifying that the looming cuts and job losses in retail will not happen without a fight back.

On the political front, there are signs that the relative calmness in Scotland is coming to an end. After several years of quietude, the Yes movement with the organisation “All Under One Banner” in Glasgow, held the biggest demo in Scotland since the anti-G8 protests in 2005. Several weeks later in Dumfries, a town of 50,000, they then held a march of 10,000.

The SNP government has held on for over ten years and is more stable than other neighbouring governments. For years their strategy has been to appeal to right and left, to the ruling class and the working class, to be “anti-austerity” whilst implementing austerity. To get around these contradictions they put all blame for austerity onto Westminster with the implication that if you trust in the SNP leaders, they’ll achieve independence and austerity will be no more. However, this could only ever be a temporary excuse and one which is wearing thin.

They face pressure from the left by the unions, the Greens, the left of the Yes movement, their own membership and Labour. They face hysterical unionist pressure from the media, the Tories and – absurdly – Labour. The reputation of the Holyrood government has also faced a series of setbacks, albeit not as dramatic as that for the UK Government. Their recent falling-out with Police Scotland over political interference represents a significant division in the Scottish establishment which can widen as time goes on. The SNP’s notoriously unpopular Offensive Behaviour at Football Act has finally been repealed and the government also faces a law suit by Ineos after legislation was introduced to ban fracking.

Scottish Labour has recently moved to the left, demonstrated by the election of Leonard as Leader and the youth conference passing a raft of left motions. Labour often make correct left criticisms of the SNP. However, the criticism still lacks credibility in the eyes of the working classes who remember years of right-wing policies implemented by Labour governments at Westminster and Holyrood, and of course the party’s role in Better Together. It has not shed itself of its reactionary unionism, neither in its image or even its composition.  Yet, a snap British General Election could give Scottish Labour a boost, particularly if Corbyn strengthens his position.

However, for the time being the main game in town is still the independence movement. The fall-out between Holyrood and Westminster over the transfer of 24 repatriated devolved powers to Westminster actually united Labour and the SNP, who correctly saw the deal as an attack on democratic rights. Whilst it is unlikely to be an issue that would rally masses of people, it does provide a constant source of dispute between Holyrood and Westminster and it could be enough to provide a spark for a new referendum. As in 2014, this could see masses of workers and youth taking the movement by the scruff of the neck and giving it a radical working class character, regardless of what tame pro-capitalist campaign the SNP bureaucracy are planning.

The release of the Growth Commission report with its blueprint for an independent capitalist Scotland has led many to question the SNP leaders, inside and outside the party. It is an opportunity for the left of the movement to put forward socialism as an alternative. The report has already seen harsh left criticism from RIC, Common Weal, the SSP, The Greens and many characters within the SNP. A series of left-wing motions on a public infrastructure company and a maximum wage, along with the sprouting of various left-wing groups like Autonomy and Neutral Scotland will further pressure the SNP leaders from within the party.

The tribal conflict between the Corbyn-led Labour Party and the Yes movement must cease and the pro-capitalist elements within each movement who thrive off such divisions must be ideologically defeated. A united front against the British ruling class and establishment is needed. We call for a Scottish Workers Republic as opposed to the Growth Commission’s programme of Scottish capitalism. Such a Republic would be a stepping stone to wider international revolution and hence would be completely internationalist in character. A call would be made to the workers of the world, starting with England and Wales to over throw their rulers.

To achieve this, we need a strong organised Marxist tendency in the workplaces, unions, neighbourhoods, campuses and streets than can win the masses over to such ideas and prepare for the revolutionary upheavals that are inherent in this crisis of capitalism. If you want to help us build this organisation we invite you to join the International Marxist Tendency.

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