Beyond Austerity Unionism
Thatchers funeral was a gathering of the ruling class. All of the corrupt ‘sirs’, proven war criminals like Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger and the millionaire Tory cabinet together in mourning. No doubt the plush receptions that followed would see the exchange of stories of Thatchers greatness, and of the golden years of free-market capitalism. But the conversations will be tinged with concern, and frustration. The bankers – their friends – are reviled by society at large. Their system – free markets without regulation – has failed utterly. Their way of life is intact, but there is a stirring in society which can only be unnerving for those in power.
Looking at the attendees of the funeral you couldn’t help but think, that despite the aggressive austerity agenda, and regardless of the weakness of the fight back up to now, that their world is coming to an end. They look like relics. The level to which they are disconnected from the lives of ordinary people is so extreme, that it is a situation that simply can’t hold. Social explosions are coming. There is only so much that people can take. The bedroom tax is the icing on the austerity cake. It shows beyond any doubt that the attacks are nothing to do with economics and everything to do with an ideological war on ordinary people. This is what the Tories have always done, and this is the real legacy of Thatcher.
Economically, austerity is a disaster. Politically, Westminster is corrupt to the core. Democracy doesn’t exist because it is an impossibility without there being genuine political representation. We live in a sham system, and a sham democracy. And the truth is that despite a high level of apathy, most people at least accept these truths as self evident.
We live in momentous times. Take a long view and it becomes obvious that the way our society is run is coming to an end. However, agency is important. Strategy is necessary. To really bring about the social change necessary to prevent the destruction of the environment, to provide people with dignity and real jobs and to prevent the drive to war, there will be social upheavals along the way.
Think about it. Writing as a 26 year old I have seen only the effects of Thatcherism, neo-liberalism and war from Tony Blair, and a brutal austerity package from David Cameron. Our generation must rise up and seize independence as an opportunity to break from all of that. Nothing is certain apart from one thing. Staying with Westminster is not an option. It will lead us only to more war, more neo-liberalism and less opportunity. When we are told we are Better Together, the argument goes that we have a higher capacity to build a better society UK wide. But we don’t. Geographically staying in the UK is bigger, but politically it is narrower. We have the Tories now, and we have seen what Labour do with 13 years of power. Labour are so wedded to neo-liberalism that they will follow the exact same path as the Tories plus or minus one or two sound bite differences.
Relying on Labour is not an option. When I say ‘not an option’ I mean it literally. Peoples lives are being destroyed right now by austerity. Right now the infrastructure that provides any good in society is being decimated – at best. If you don’t stand up now, you never will. Labour have not stood up, and they never again will. That doesn’t mean there are not good activists in the Labour party – but it does mean that as far as political representation goes – its over and has been for a long time.
In Scotland we have a government which on fees, war and trident is to the left of the Labour Party. We have a PR system which can allow smaller parties to engage with the mainstream. We have elected only one Tory MP. Here we have an exponentially higher chance of developing a progressive political and economic system than we do tied to Westminster. Its indisputable. We can rely on one thing: the capacity for ordinary people to organise collectively to demand a better way of life. But we won’t be building it just for the sake of Scots. We will build it to expose the powerful in Westminster. It will create a tension that is unbearable for those in power. People will say ‘how come they have an NHS in a small country like Scotland but we can’t have one here,’ and so on. An argument is one thing, but proving something in practice is what really changes the world around us.
Hopefully our ears and eyes will be given a break from the Thatcher coverage now the funeral is over. But there will be no such break from this Tory government. And unlike 1997 there will be no joy if Labour is elected. They are elected only to keep the Tories out. That’s not the politics of inspiration, but of desperation. We can inspire a nation, we can be part of an international movement that rejects austerity and nuclear arms. Independence is about so much more that the SNP. It is about a population making a decision that rejects the way things have been run in the past and looks forward to a dignified, secure and more democratic future. That is why today should be a wake up call to anyone not yet engaged with the movement. Thatcher was buried today, but we have a chance to bury Thatcherism for good. We have to make this count.