On August 29th people from all over Scotland will come together to launch a new coalition of the left. One of the events taking place that day is an international plenary session with participants taking part from across Europe and beyond. Internationalism is fundamentally about recognising and bringing together our shared values and our common struggles, regardless of borders and nations.
The event will welcome speakers from left parties like Die Linke in Germany, Partia Razem the Polish Left Party, Quebec Solidaire and our other international guests from Greece and Spain. Their contribution to the launch of a new left alliance in Scotland should not be underestimated. Central to Syriza’s difficulty in combating the Troika and the European elites was the absence and weakness of strong left wing forces and voices across Northern Europe. We will always be out manoeuvred by the powers that be unless we create a platform for a united left internationally. This is a long process but a process that we in Scotland should be part of shaping.
The involvement of Alicia Garza, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter, signals a commitment to stand with all oppressed groups and against all forms of state brutality. Of course the events unfolding in the U.S this past year differ from our own experiences in Britain but there are always parallels that we can draw. Our civil liberties are consistently being undermined and stripped back. People from across Scotland will have a lot to say about the role of the police in their communities. We know that if you come from an ethnic minority background you are more likely to be stopped and searched and know only too well about the number of people who have died in police custody.
Having powerful voices discussing racism and the need for strong anti racist policies goes hand in hand with our battle to challenge anti-immigrant racism. Immigration is an issue the Left must be prepared to tackle head on. We need to highlight the fact that racism is allowed to fester because we lead increasingly isolated lives. Cuts to local services and community hubs ensures that people are kept apart. The global capitalist system is built in such a way that it wants to smash the idea of collectivism, of solidarity, of spending time in our communities and having face to face dialogue with those who live next door to us. We need to create a space in our communities whereby migrants aren’t treated with suspicion, in which the colour of your skin doesn’t make you different and where people come together and recognise that we actually have more in common than we were ever led to believe by the government and the far right who want to sow division. The international plenary with representatives from Poland, Germany, Spain and Greece allows us to highlight the disgraceful treatment of migrants at Calais.
There has always been a red thread of internationalism that has run through the struggles of the Scottish working class. Whether it was John Mclean’s anti-war agitation on Clydeside against British imperialism during WWI; the disproportionately large number of Scots who joined the international brigades that went over to Spain to fight fascism in the mid-1930’s; the engineers in East-Kilbride who refused to repair and kept under lock and key one of Pinochet’s bombers used to bomb the socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende in the 1973 coup; the massive anti-apartheid movement in Glasgow in the 1980’s which saw Nelson Mandela give a special thanks to Glasgow on his release; or more recently the huge protests against the Iraq war which was vital to many people beginning to question the virtue of the Labour party in Scotland, the Scottish working class has never had a parochial attitude towards the world.
If we are to be successful in growing this left coalition into a serious force in Scotland we need to learn from our partners across Europe and beyond about what works and what doesn’t. But more than that – socialist politics in one country is not socialist politics at all – we need an international agenda and a coordinated European wide strategy. Scotland, given everything we have been through in recent years, can play a key role in this process. You can too by taking part in the 29th.