The General Election in Scotland and The Fight for Socialism

This General election has been the most dramatic for decades. The capitalist class are scared and they’re not hiding it. On Monday, when Labour’s John McDonnell outlined what the Labour government would do in its first 100 days, the billionaire founder of Phones 4U John Caudwell responded in a very telling way. 

By Ross Walker, IMT Edinburgh

“When I hear words like, or phrases like, ‘nobody deserves to be a billionaire’ and phrases like ‘we’re going to tax high technology companies’, it frightens the living daylights out of me”. In a face-to-face meeting between the two he said “nearly every wealthy person I know is thinking of leaving the UK, including me, if Labour get in.” These dramatic words are a reflection of the current mindset of Caudwell’s class.

Throughout England and Wales, Labour have mobilised masses of workers and youth in mass canvassing sessions and it is this more than anything else which scares the ruling class. Politicians can be bought out or removed, but mass left wing movements are another story.

In Scotland, the Labour Party has had some mobilisation, particularly around left wing candidates but has been significantly less energised. This is not because people don’t support left wing policies or even because they dislike Corbyn but rather because the working classes, since the 2014 independence referendum have generally been much more supportive of the SNP and mistrusting of Labour. The SNP are on course to win overwhelmingly with some polls predicting over 50 (out of 59) Scottish seats. 

However this is not guaranteed. In 2017, the SNP lost 19 seats in Scotland, partly as a result of their complacent and uninspiring campaign and it seems this year, they may not have learned their lesson.  Whilst Labour have generally focussed on class issues, the SNP have focused more on stopping Brexit. As has been seen by the decline in support for the Lib Dems, this is not an inspiring tactic. They do call for another Scottish referendum which is obviously popular among their supporters. However there are many unresolved issues on this topic, in particular that of the Growth Commission, the pro capitalist vision for an independent Scotland which has not been popular among their support base.

The lack of an inspiring campaign could aid Labour, particularly with younger voters who don’t have the memory of Blairism. However, it could also lead to more abstention and aid the Tories or the Lib Dems (yellow Tories). This isn’t lost amongst many class conscious workers and youth in Scotland, many of whom would like to see a Corbyn government but will vote tactically for the SNP, particularly giving the increased talks of a deal between the two parties.

A recent survey showed that 83% of Labour members would be in favour of such a deal. Nicola Sturgeon has said she would offer SNP support to a Labour minority government only if it accepted the principle that it is for Holyrood to decide the timing of the second referendum. Several weeks ago, this lead to a clash between Sturgeon and Corbyn, where Corbyn then accused Sturgeon of having a stance that would allow the Tories back in to Downing street.

Corbyn was correct to make the criticism but it did highlight Corbyn’s wrong approach to the national question. It is disgraceful that the SNP leadership would put up such a red line and they should be called out for it. However Labour should allow the referendum as a basic democratic right and also reach out to the SNP members and supporters to pressure the party to support a Corbyn government. By doing this they would allow their left wing programme to gain authority in Scotland and put pressure on the SNP.

A survey carried out in July revealed that 4 in 10 Labour members in England support Scottish independence and almost all members think Scotland should at least have a referendum if and when Holyrood so chooses. There is clearly an instinctive class solidarity which crosses the border. The rank and file of the Labour party and the independence movement must build on this.

Last week, SNP Westminster Leader, Ian Blackford said that Labour must back SNP plans to protect freedom of movement and oppose Trident nuclear weapons system. The SNP are correct on these points and a deal would be an opportunity for the Labour Party to reverse these positions.

As we’ve explained before, the SNP is a party filled with class contradictions. Its leadership tend to be pro capitalist and have a lot in common in terms of background and politics to the Blairite right wing of the Labour Party. Marxists place no trust in these politicians. However the membership and supporters of the party is overwhelmingly on the left. 

In recent conferences, the membership have pushed the leaders to adopt a more radical position on land reform as well as developing public banks and infrastructure. Many other left wing motions, for example to change the party’s commitment to NATO, have been rejected by the party’s notoriously undemocratic structures. On top of this there’s a constant battle around the Growth Commision plans for an independent Scotland. This vision, developed by SNP bureaucrats and city financiers, has proven to be very unpopular among the membership and the wider independence movement, leading to the leadership being defeated on the currency debate at the April conference.

Over time, the class contradictions evident in the independence movement will widen. A Labour government, particularly if it relied on SNP support, would draw more SNP and wider independence supporters to explicitly anti-capitalist conclusions.

If Labour win, the working class throughout these islands would demand the reversal of austerity, and a repeal of anti trade union laws. Such a government would come under immense pressure from the capitalist class and their lackeys in the media, the House of Lords and the courts, and last but not least the Blairite wing of the Labour Party, who are determined to destroy a Corbyn government. This pressure will be felt by SNP MPs.

Blairites, Lib Dems and pro-EU Tories have been using the question of the EU to rally SNP MPs against Corbyn and will continue to do so. This will be a test for the SNP MPs, who would lose authority if they made any alliance with the very same clique of Westminster politicians who led a very dirty campaign five years ago to prevent independence. If elected Corbyn would have an opportunity to put these MPs on the spot and call on independence supporters to defend a Labour government and hold the SNP politicians to account.

Labour’s programme is far from perfect. Its reliance on taxing the rich and borrowing money to spend on public services will be met with flights of capital and sabotage, as happened when Syriza came to power on a similar programme in Greece. This can only be fought by taking on the capitalist system itself, starting with the nationalisation of banks and big employers under workers’ control.

However, there is no doubt that a Corbyn-led government will be a big step forward for class struggle throughout these islands and will inspire many more into political activity. The victory of explicitly left wing ideas like these would give a boost for left wingers within the YES movement born out of the mass, class conscious 2014 independence campaign, who see the fight for Scottish self-determination as inseparable from the fight against capitalism.

This election is a huge opportunity to kick the Tories out and to form a Labour government and we call on our readers to do this. However, this is just one phase of class struggle. Regardless of the result, a new phase will begin on Friday. The task is to prepare for this new phase by building a mass Marxist tendency than can eventually lead our class to ultimate victory in the future.