Where do we go from here?

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By James McEnaney

How the potential of the Scottish Left can be realised in a new movement for the 21st Century

The feeling of shock amongst the Scottish Left is almost palpable right now. Despite the apparent strength of the progressive movement and the wave of widespread public support for our ideals we have suffered two hammer-blows in less than a year. Firstly, in losing the Independence referendum, the radical transformation of our nation proved to be beyond our reach (at least for now). Having regrouped, our attention turned to the General Election campaign during which many of us backed the SNP hoping that something could be salvaged from the wreckage of 2014 – and then the Conservatives won a parliamentary majority. Our only consolation has been the successful rejection of a red-rosetted elite which had corrupted so much of what we stand for, but this huge shift has raised an enormous and pressing question: where does the Scottish Left go from here?

Throughout the campaign Nicola Sturgeon made clear – again and again – that the General Election was not about taking Scotland out of the UK, but about making sure our voice was heard within it; it was on this platform that the SNP took 95% of Scottish constituencies, brutally demolishing the remnants of the Labour Party in the process. This was, without doubt, an extraordinary achievement, and SNP members are entitled to a (brief) period of triumphalism, but Scotland’s new voice in Westminster must not be allowed to forget that it owes a significant debt to those on the Left who, to paraphrase the SSP, held their noses and voted for the nationalists.

Left-wing support for the SNP was born out of necessity rather than conviction, with the glaring failures of the FPTP voting system pushing us towards a tactical vote for the party which was best positioned to assist the agenda for radical change in Scotland. Next time – the 2016 Holyrood election – the game changes, and the Left must change with it.

The SNP will never be our party. Even if they can make good on their promises, and even if their new members can pull them gradually leftwards, a genuinely radical, socialist opposition to an almost certain nationalist Holyrood majority is crucial to the continued advancement of progressive Scottish politics. Monopolies on power are never good for those casting the votes and should be resisted for both practical and philosophical reasons.

And of course our historical home, literally built by the blood, sweat and tears of our parents and grandparents, is gone. Accepting this has not been easy, but from the ashes has come the realisation that when Labour abandoned the people of Scotland they were the ones left behind, not us. One day the Labour Party might find a way to rediscover itself and avoid the political irrelevance which seems to beckon: it might split from the UK party and cease to be a branch office; it might refocus its energies on fighting inequality and injustice rather than the SNP; it might recognise that a party of the people cannot also be a party of the powerful elite whose interests are contrary to ours. Equally, it might not. Either way, we cannot afford to wait for them.

There is now an opportunity for the Left to take its place at the heart of Scottish politics. In November last year the Radical Independence Campaign drew 3000 people to a conference on the banks of the Clyde; Common Weal currently has more than 50 local groups operating throughout Scotland and has launched CommonSpace to challenge the complacent mainstream media; the SSP and Greens have seen their membership rise and their profile grow beyond all expectations. The Scottish Left is more vocal, more vibrant and has more potential than at any time in recent history, a consequence of its role in the independence referendum. The appropriately Scottish ‘glorious failure’ that was the Yes campaign provided the vital spark, but now it is up to all of us to fan the flames.

Just think: what if all that anger, all that energy, all that potential could be harnessed? What if the Left really could transform itself from the perpetually fragmented voice of protest into a positive campaign which gives a platform to people up and down the country abandoned by neo-liberal, me-first politics. What if genuine participative democracy replaced the shattered complacency of voting Labour every five years and expecting life to get better.  A new movement, truly rooted in communities across the length and breadth of our diverse nation, with its policies sourced directly from the very people it seeks to represent, could change all of that. It could change everything.

If this is to happen then the networks built by organisations like RIC and Common Weal must be fully activated and their potential exploited. We must engage honestly with those in Scotland who are about to come under attack from an emboldened Conservative Party keen to drive home it’s slender advantage before it begins to dissolve. Sometimes our role will be to educate citizens, sometimes it will be to campaign alongside other organisations, sometimes it will be to support and protect communities, but it will always be to listen.

The Left can offer so much to Scotland: a replacement for a Labour Party in near-terminal decline; a defence against the illiberal policies of the Conservatives (and the SNP); a voice which always puts social justice at the core of its narrative; an ‘all of us first’ policy platform which puts the good of people and the environment ahead of neo-liberal demands for short-term profits. It is also only from the Left that a serious challenge to the utterly discredited austerity agenda (demolished by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman who described it as ‘intellectually bankrupt’ and having been “laughed out of the discourse” almost everywhere but Britain) can emerge. The changes which will improve the lives of the poor, the powerless, the discarded and the disenfranchised are not radical, they are necessary; empathy as the core value of a political philosophy is not extreme, it is human.

The time has come for the Left bury its many hatchets and unite under one powerful banner, but a new vehicle must not exist purely to act as a parliamentary voice for the unions or a nostalgic – but ultimately futile – attempt to resuscitate a depleted left-wing radicalism which lost the battle with conservative ideology in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. Clinging to the idea of trade unions as the primary political voice of the working class, or to the fundamentalist belief that ‘the market’ is inherently evil in all conceivable contexts, will see us achieve nothing but irrelevance. This is not to say that we should not fight the impending Tory assaults on the – vital – trade union movement, or that we should abandon the case for the nationalisation of the aspects of our society deemed ‘too important to fail’; rather, it is an acceptance that the past is, indeed, a foreign country and that, in our 21st Century nation, we too must do things differently.

If we are to achieve our goals we must construct a core framework around which the broader Left movement – in all it’s diversity – can coalesce and develop over the coming years as we move, I believe inexorably, towards independence. Organisations like the SSP, RIC, Common Weal, trade unions, faith groups and the Greens will not always agree, but we do have a common cause – let us resolve to seek it together. Let us transform our passion and potential into genuine progress.

With this in mind we must turn our attention to the 2016 Holyrood election, for it is in this arena that true mandates from the Scottish people can be won. In many ways the recent flourishing of the Scottish Left is rooted in the restoration of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. On the Canongate Wall of that institution are twenty-six quotations carved into stone and set in concrete. Through these deeply symbolic mini-monuments the voices of Scotland’s past talk to its present and its future. There, on a brilliant piece of Iona marble, the words of Alasdair Gray (or, more accurately, a quotation favoured by the great man) radiate: “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.” When we – as individuals, as a movement, and as a nation – look in the mirror, whether it be in five, ten or fifty years, those words must reflect our actions. The work must start now.

The road ahead will not be easy, and there will be further losses along the way, but the journey is vital and the prize worth the fight, for it is nothing less than a better nation where all of us will come first.

 

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Comments (41)

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  1. Stone-circle says:

    Another very good article. I strongly agree with what has been said here.

    I went along to the common weal event in Edinburgh on Wednesday, firstly, it was very good and I enjoyed being part of the large group who turned out. Secondly, as someone who has always shown an interest in politics, I have always been somewhat disengaged from actively participating in many ways (up until a political awakening which shook us all in the build up to the indyref), And have not had much experience with ‘left’ politics (or those who consider themselves left wing or socialist.

    What was strikingly evident about the event, and in what the speakers were saying is not dissimilar to the content of this article, the left seems to be completely fragmented and in great need of some forward pulling force which will unite everyone, regardless of what seperates them.

    This is vitally important (not that anyone needs someone like me to come along and point out the obvious)!

    Ive always been an SNP voter/supporter, it seems to me that due to the shift in our political landscape the SNP have been pulled furtger to the left, a huge amount of credit must go to the people, including the many socialists and left wing people/groups who backed SNP as the vehicle for change. Credit must also go to the SNP for listening. I dont think this will be a temporary shift, the SNP must realise where a lot of support has come from in recent times and would have to be terribly stupid to miss read the terrain. In my opinion (mind this is only my opinion, and not an entirely politically clued up one), the SNP may be carried by the tide of a political Tsunami which has procedded their own on May 7th, the people created that and I think it will be tge people who truly shape the SNP as well as the politics if Scotland.

    I also agree there must still be opposition to the Snp in Holyrood etc, balance is very important, in future I will continue to vote Snp, until a time where I feel I no longer need to, but in that time I will also be lending my vote to other parties on the left who I feel best represent the interests of the people. After all, a huge majority done so in May, it would be rude not to return the favour.

    In conclusion, id love to see a new united, defragmented movement/party/option emerge from the left, one which promotes and practices unity and replaces a now totally obselete Labour party.

  2. Donald Mitchell says:

    Us Scots like to pretend we’re just a wee bit radical, but usually we vote for moderate social democrats, like the SNP and before that McConnell/Brown’s Labour. Nicola’s sussed us out, talk left, act right; keeps everyone happy!

  3. bringiton says:

    Firstly,we have to rive the powers we need away from Westminster and that is going to be a huge task,especially with a Tory government hell bent on centralising all powers at Westminster.

    1. ColinD says:

      With their ‘Northern Powerhouse’ strategy, the Tories are decentralising power to English regions because;
      a) they realise the economy can’t be so reliant on the City and
      b) they want to shore up their support in England in anticipation of Scottish (and N Irish and Welsh) independence (or quasi independence).
      This is their strategy to remain dominant in England for the next few decades.

  4. Big Jock says:

    I don’t agree. The SNP won Holywood twice because they understand what Scots really want. They want moderate social democratic policies.

  5. Big Jock says:

    That should have been Holyrood… Damn spell checker!

  6. Neil says:

    The Left needs to stop ‘holding its nose’ and start holding the SNP to account. Also, if people in the RIC intend to vote SNP until Scottish independence (for the next 10 years? 20 years? Longer?); seriously – you need to forget about the RIC and join the SNP as you believe in them instead of any particularly radical party like the Greens, or the SSP (or the BNP – the left doesn’t own the term ‘radical’).

    People can ignore my comment, if they want, but I would point out that the only reason UKIP has influenced the establishment is because they have managed to get a considerable amount of people to vote for UKIP, not because they managed to get a considerable amount of people to vote for some other party.

    1. ColinD says:

      It is a fact that a significant number of those who voted No in Sep 2014 voted SNP in GE2015. Why was that? It’s because the SNP were a credible anti-austerity party. UKIP may have got 12.6% of the votes but they only have 1 MP out of 650! In the FPTP system, the SNP secured 56 seats on 50% of the Scottish vote (4.7% of UK). Lending your vote clearly works. The majority (?) of the Scottish electorate see the SNP as being a trustworthy means to a different ending. It’s nothing personal.

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        I don’t think it is a fact at all that “no voters” supported the SNP in numbers in the 2015 GE. The SNP got the support broadly that the YES vote got in the referendum because YES voters were motivated to vote – look at the difference in turnout in Scotland between us and the UK and between the Scottish turnout in 2015 and previously. YES voters voted SNP whilst a proportion of no voters went back to not voting.

    2. Topher Dawson says:

      Marx was a pillock and all his jargon puts people off. The Greens have a surprisingly radical agenda, look it up, it’s not all tree hugging. They are the place for left votes next May in the Holyrood regional vote. Because of the voting system a second vote for Green will be very effective and we will have an opposition to the SNP not predicated on blind naysaying like the present opposition. Greens support independence, oppose Trident, have intelligent policies on equality and are aware that the oil will not last forever. No Labour or Trotskyist baggage. What’s not to like?

  7. leavergirl says:

    Sorry but this design has gotten worse. Those tripple pics are soooo annoying! And no white space, no sense of making it beautiful for the human eye. Please convene a discussion about the design. Some systematic feedback surely is needed.

    Tell us what it is you are aiming for, and give us a chance to have a hand in what happens. Please.

    P.S. I do like the way to comments to comments stack. I don’t like the light gray font.

    1. Alex Wright says:

      The new layout does seem bland and a wee bit insipid. Sorry.

  8. CJK says:

    Do we need a new vehicle? I think many will be tempted to respond to the recogniseable further left than the SNP position of the greens. They provide a contemporary understanding of left field politics that is not hung up on the old Marxist / Trotskyist / whateverist factioning of the old left. I will be very interested and supportive of a new cohesive left wing form of representation but the greens will almost certainly get the popular majority of the left list vote for Holyrood 2016!

  9. One Baw Shaw says:

    “The time has come for the Left bury its many hatchets and unite under one powerful banner”

    I imagine you’ll end up here:

    1. JBS says:

      Thank you for your illuminating contribution to the debate, Corporatist Hell.

      Your views on the possibility of Manchester becoming part of Scotland?

    2. JGedd says:

      Instead of your usual (deliberately) unhelpful comments, Corporatist Hell, why not – in light of your new alias, One Baw – write a piece on monotesticularity and its role in right-wing politics?

      1. Lesley Docksey says:

        “monotesticularity”

        Is this part of the new language we’re seeking?

  10. James Dow says:

    Left, right, middle. Just be Scottish, a people renowned as social warriors, despisers of injustice, respected all around the world for their predictable favourable traits, particularly integrity. If SLab cannot be reconstituted then the best way to influence Scottish political outcomes is to become a force within the SNP. It is of no consequence if Scotland becomes a one party nation, if the nation is the beneficiary.

    1. Patrick Hogg, Biographer of Robert Burns says:

      Well said James. Too often people use the word LEFT in politics and dont define it. And the word SOCIALIST in the same clumsy way. The SSP did not hold their nose, they stupidly put people up against the SNP in a few constituencies. KLet me hit with one major truth of my life, We in Scotland will never have proper equality until our people have real democracy and neither will occur until our country is free of post-colonial claptrap pomp and title. I am sick to death of people who say they are on the LEFT having a go at people like myself in the SNP and branding so many of us as NATIONALISTS. Please stop this rubbish – setting up a straw man to knock us down. I am not a Nationalist, i am an internationalist who wants equality and democracy and one follows the other if we have real democrats in charge. Nicola is far more principled than some Socialists whose views are ideological from the top down ie dictatorship of the proles! Time to ditch that comic strip joke language. The left might be the real force to STOP the SNP getting a majority and therefore the LEFT will kill the chance of another referendum!”! Think about that before anyone in the LEFT start to preen themselves for jobs in Edinburgh……..ye might get what oor enemies want most!

  11. John Moss says:

    I’m a Scot and I am sovereign.

    Left, middle or right is just rubbish.

    We Scots know who we are because as Celts are the only human beings who fight for our identities and that’s what separates us from other humans.

    Socialism…a modern ideological construct that does us no service. How dare anyone justify my right to self-determination in terms of socialism!

    We exist, we are. Deal with it.

    1. Saor Alba says:

      Absolutely correct John Dow and John Moss.
      I couldn’t agree more and could not have expressed it any better than you both.

      I am not interested in ideology, but in a party that shows it has integrity and values.
      The SNP have governed extremely well in the last 8 years or so, despite the constraints put on it. They are most certainly excellent on the very big issues and also on self-determination. They have leaders who show that they understand the Scottish people and that can reach out widely to represent all sections of our society. They also clearly recognise that the people drive the agenda, NOT the state
      Of course, they need good, but adult opposition in Holyrood, but in my opinion, the Greens (with their excellent leadership and values) will provide this, together with other progressive groups which may evolve. The Tories, Labour and Democrats have let us all down badly.

      Andrea’s comments are also excellent. There is no place for ideology and dogma.

      The SNP is the Scottish National Party, NOT the Scottish nationalist party.
      The clue is in the name. It is a party for our nation.

      1. Patrick Hogg, Biographer of Robert Burns says:

        Weel said! Utterly perfect! Lets get the LEFT to wake up to the reality that we dont need top down slogans from some daft ideological bank of slogans to suit our 21st Century Scotland. Scottish Solutions to Scottish problems. We need equality in our country and that will only come when we jettison the Neo-Feudal elite of Westminster (the yin percent) and hae oor ain country back in oor ain haunds. From proper democracy ie freedom will come equality. Is that not what the so-called Left want? I left behind the old construct of the LEFT long long ago. It has had its day. All it does is fester class hatred esp undefined classes! Is my pensioner friend in a decent hoose middle class cos he worked a his days? Should he be the enemy of the poor he wants to help? No he is a friend of the People! Remember from whence we came and remember Thomas MUIR – we in the SNP are the MODERN FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE. I didnt do all my research on the radical Burns and Thomas Muir to let SCotland fall back into class based drudgery. All of us First and the Commonweal (an ancient republican ideal for which there used to be a monthly magazine called The Commonweal). End the class stuff now before we stop an SNP majority next year!

    2. Jim Bennett says:

      “Celts are the only human beings who fight for our identities and that’s what separates us from other humans”.
      I’m writing this from Tehran at the moment. I’ve just spent they day listening to local telling me that Persians are the only human beings who’ve fought for their identities for 5000 years and that’s what separates them from other human beings.
      Perhaps you should get out of Scotland more, John Moss!

      Oh and btw, before you accuse me of being a troll, I first delivered leaflets for the SNP in the second 1974 GE!

    3. Harry says:

      “We Scots know who we are because as Celts are the only human beings who fight for our identities and that’s what separates us from other humans.”

      Do I need to comment on this?

    4. Patrick Hogg, Biographer of Robert Burns says:

      Perefct.Was Thomas Muir on the left right or middle? No he was for the collective majority of his people; us, the Scots!

  12. douglas clark says:

    I think that the left has to re-establish around something other than the Labour Party.

    I have been genuinely energised by articles here. My vote, post independence, is up for grabs although the thoughtful article by Cat Boyd might suggest a way forward post independence.

    Contrary to Neil, above, I will continue to vote SNP until they either win our independence or a better option – to achive that primary objective – comes on line.

    Neil is a ‘splittist’, and that I can’t abide.

    1. Andrea says:

      Well said Douglas.
      The point that is being missed here is that this is a movement with a life of it’s own. It’s history in the making. It’s new, with all the uncertainties that come with dramatic shifts and change. It’s being driven by desperation, poverty and survival. Not the desperation, poverty and survival issues of our parents, although it does have a similar feel to post war regeneration in Glasgow in the fifties. That also might have appeared to have been historically ‘ideology driven’ but it was actually arising out of the post traumatic stress of having survived bombings, evacuated children, austerity and rationing, terrible social distress and infant mortality rates at third world standards. Similarly, the rise of socialism and the Labour party in the 1900’s was a response to the Industrial revolution – where Glasgow and Dundee were central to those movements.
      It is a mistake to focus and pontificate on ideology as a driver for change. And bicker about political parties. You’ll be unfocussed and somewhat useless to the Independence movement. Still clinging to past allegiances and old ideas. How can anyone associate the SNP with the ‘tartan tory’ label – when it has just in the last 12 months it has quadrupled? 100,000 plus members and fifty brand new spanking bums on Westminster seats – itching to walk out, goading the Tories to push Scotland too far. That is regeneration of the type than such a movement needs. Ideologies are formed in relative comfort – however political awakening and societal movement, dramatic shifts like now arise from pain and discomfort.
      Nursing ideologies at this time is no different to the paradigm of the politicians – Bickering and moaning blaming each other, telling US what they’ll give us what we all need – and the people to respond to that power . It exposes all the arrogance about who has power and who hasn’t that makes people disenfranchised because they know it isn’t them. This election, the giants of the Labour Party were toppled in the most spectacular fashion – amongst the people who have been most affected by austerity, failures of the government to create jobs and the shame and blame tactics of the neoliberals. They are not doing it out of nationalist fervour, or an ideological stance – they voted as the only source of hope they have left. And whether die hard lefties like it or not – the people have already chosen who will drive political vehicle for the next 5 years.
      In doing so they have taken back the power where the people say what THEY want and politics responds.
      Scotland is actually in a much better position now than they were at the referendum and pre- election stage where everyone was speculating on hung parliaments and how much power might the SNP really have.
      However now it is well and truly in the hands of the people – their choices are crystal clear and well defined, with no ideological crap muddying the waters and confusing the issues.
      UK, Neoliberalism, Austerity, a decade (at least) of Tory and no real representation, or
      Scotland, self-determination, social justice and change. The die hard Labour supporters who might have voted for independence have no pro- UK Scottish MP’s to pontificate on and make them feel solid and safe from their fear of change. Those battling with ‘heart VS head’ don’t have to consider that they might be better staying where they are, when 80% of them wouldn’t vote Tory in a blue fit..
      The first past the post system has delivered Scotland it’s best ever opportunity for independence by removing the pseudo left shysters from the power equation. It’s taken us right to the edge of the cliff. Will we stay with what we’ve been presented with – or will we finally jump.
      Scotland has a good five years to take up an opportunity to make a united leap unhindered by past loyalties – just so long as the ‘ideology clans’ don’t cling to their comfort zones, in house bickering and moaning about the spoils of war – control of the people.
      That’s just more of the same.

  13. ian says:

    This whole left thing is all fine and well but in my fifty plus years the left has done little to improve the lot of the ordinary person in Scotland.They seem to have spent the majority of the time infighting and moving further to the right, its just what they have always done and i dont see that changing.I would be happy if this utopia of the left was possible and actually works but i have my doubts.

  14. john young says:

    Remember the auld adage “convince a man against his will that man remains a doubter still” we would do well to adhere to this,we have to show those that do not have the forethought that a better fairer society is there for all of us left/right/centre.

  15. Bob says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m getting on in years, if so there are many, many like me. But I really hate the new website layout. I find it muddled, messy, confusing. In fact, as soon as I’ve submitted this comment I will be removing Bella Caledonia from my bookmarks.

  16. john young says:

    Bob it is for me more about “content” than presentation “window dressing” isn,t that what we are against?.

  17. Maggie Chetty says:

    I think this is a very exciting time initiated by the SNP ‘s two governments. the magnificent Yes Campaign that has taken us in many directions reflected the many strands of the left and diverse positive elements of Scottish politics.Of course the left toiled away for decades underpinning what happens now.
    I think it is inaccurate and disrespectful to say that the SNP is not really part of the left -but its political actions have come about through through opportunism!My goodness, we had political careerists using the Labour Party.Trade unions and The Communist Party for decades.Nobody owns the left and it is constantly evolving beyond our grasp beyond everyone!Uniting the left is a very complicated process because the left is diverse and fragmented.But one thing is sure-the SNP have demonstrated by their actions that their commitment to the Scottish people runs deep and in my view the old adage is useful-‘Actions speak louder than words’

  18. Lesley Docksey says:

    Perhaps it is time to get rid of the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’. We need something new. Down in England when I hear people on the left, of which I suppose I am one, I can feel that we are still in the 1930s. Scotland’s done so much to change our political landscape in the last few months – we need a new language to go with it!

    And like some other commentator, I am not enamoured by this new look for the Comments box. Life’s grey enough with the Tories in power. We need some colour in our lives.

  19. douglas clark says:

    Lesley Docksey,

    If I can riff off your post?

    We are probably the most informed electorate you could shake a stick at. Not only are we informed we are energised. It is a quite remarkable time to be alive.

    Everyone engages, whether pro or anti SNP, Independence, Ayn Rand, you name it, people have opinions on it. And it seems to me that it is their opinions, not an inherited baggage from a 20th c idealisation of the 19th c as the absolute peak of human endevour, where the map was pink, etc, etc. It is what they have worked out, for themselves. There are ‘lazy thinkers’, still, among us, but their bought in attitudes are seen for what they are. Recieved wisdom.

    I never expected to live in a time when people living in Scotland were, on the whole, this informed, this interested.

    It is, frankly, a second Scottish enlightenment. One not restricted to the Hume’s and the Smith’s of this world, but available to all. Sites like this show us our potential, allow discussion and we move ever onwards and, hopefully, upwards.

    I bloody love it and I hope it never fades.

    1. Lesley Docksey says:

      “I bloody love it and I hope it never fades.”
      So do I love it. And more and more of us English (I’m not sure what THAT means any more – I just know I’m English) are all fascinated and inspired by your ‘enlightenment’. I just keep on referring friends and acquaintances to Bella Caledonia and asking them to explore other sites like Common Weal.
      Slowly, slowly catchee monkey, or in this case, slowly, slowly catchee freedom from Westminster.

      1. Patrick Hogg, Biographer of Robert Burns says:

        Well said Lesley. Read up on Thomas Muir and the Friends of the People and the way forward is obvious. Principle first and equality and democracy. These are the mountains we need to climb.

  20. Douglas says:

    What I would like to see is a broad and inclusive Republican indie party which deals in doubts and trades in questions rather than one which affirms certainties and gets indignant on platforms in George Square.

    The structure is the circle, not the pyramid…not a party with a traditional party structure but a fluid one, grassroots based, involved with the community at the local level, with more women involved than has often been the case. A new politics,. a liquid politics, where young people play a vital role.

    What is required is intellectual honesty and a certain capacity for curiosity. We don´t really know how to take on the unfettered market and globalization, that is the truth. Nobody has done it really. We need to find our way there. The language of the left was formulated mainly by Marx and Engels – and when you think of their contribution to language alone, then if only for that reason, they are two remarkable individuals – and it was formulated 150 years ago. The conditions which gave rise to that language have ceased to exist to a great extent. We´re not fighting capitalism – oh blessed capitalism – we are fighting monopoly, turbo charged financial neo-liberalism and the political oligarchy which represents those interest.

    By naming things, you identify them, you suddenly see them, and you raise awareness and consciousness. There was no “class struggle” until somebody identified the concept of social class (Who? I don´t know. Google it later).

    Language, a pair of specs for short-sighted human beings to see the world…

    There are certain things which seem fairly obvious to me that the new left could do – and I agree with the poster above who would like a new word for progressive politics other than “the left” – like land reform where a lot more could be done. But in the environment there are loads of things to be done too. And widening the circle of human rights so that it includes affordable housing and a universal living wage would seem very tangible goals.

    Then, there is culture and spiritual side of life (I don´t mean religious necessarily). Human is a spiritual animal. What are the politics which further the spiritual side of life? Certainly not materialism, whether it historical materialism or the consumer society.

    I think you have to ditch the old politics and formulate the language of a new humane society….

    1. Lesley Docksey says:

      “We don´t really know how to take on the unfettered market and globalization, that is the truth. Nobody has done it really.”

      Have a good look at Costa Rica – they don’t mind taking on the big boys. This was their reaction to the oil giants wanting to drill in their waters:
      http://www.conserveturtles.org/velador.php?page=velart37
      Naturally the companies tried to sue them, as did a Canadian gold mining company because they refused permission for mining. And guess what – they got rid of their army years ago.

      The ‘left’ issue: one of the difficulties of naming things is that each person has a different view of what the name means. Also, naming something can often give a sense of ownership, sometimes rightly and sometimes not. We do not own our language anymore so it is used against us, to demean or insult. Look at what’s come out of Westminster in the past few months! We do need a new language for who and what we are, whichever side of the border we live.

      1. Douglas says:

        Thanks Lesley,

        Aye, I was going to say if any part of the world has made progress against the psychopathic instincts of the corporations and monopolies which run the world, it is Latin America.

        The terms left and right, if I remember correctly, date back to the French revolution, is that not right? It was to do with which party sat on which side of the House. That´s how old it is.

        We need to be ready for when the next crash comes, which it will do. The neo-liberal model just failed spectacularly, a car crash. The Left did not have a vision of society, a discourse, to offer a meaningful alternative which people can grasp….so people got out to march against “cuts” or whatever – the energy was there – but there was no compelling alternative in sight: no party, no leadership (the RIC initiative is great, but still small and not a party) The neo-liberal elite got away with murder, we´ve all just been majorly shafted. Socialism for the rich, the free market for the rest of us. And they got away with it….nothing happened….the rich got richer, the poor got poorer…

        It has to be an international movement. Which is why Scotland is so well placed, because we speak the international language (or at least, we write in it).

        Anyway, I´d like to see other people´s reading lists. Ten books to change the world….

  21. Douglas says:

    I mean when you stop and think about it….they just threw hundreds and thousands of people on benefits out of their homes – the Bedroom Tax – at the same time as they handed out millions of pounds of bonuses to the bankers working for banks owned by the State….the same banks which we all just baled out…We´re fucking idiots… we deserve everything we get….the biggest swindle of the people since Enclosure.

    Where was the Left? Nowhere to be seen…how is that possible?

  22. Patrick Hogg, Biographer of Robert Burns says:

    James this is a fine piece of writing and very genuinely written. However, I saw this coming as the plan of the ‘Left’ in Scotland. Yes all inclusive, so the narrow class base is dropped. Good move. But you exaggerate the so-called Left support within the YES movement. Id say most of it was people who are now in the SNP and while the SSP and Greens played a part (Greens more so) the ideological puritans of the LEFT are the experts of cats-in-a-bag fights and I am afraid that all top down ideologically driven groups will fail as their ears hearts and minds are not tuned in to the people’s views, values and needs. The Yes Movement was tuned and allowed the people of Scotland a voice. Ivan Mackie wants what we want. I want equality. How do we get there? We must have freedom from London. We are still a post-colonial possession of England’s empire where inequality is their key to oppression. Real democracy needs principled leaders and we have a gem in Nicola. I want to help make the SNP the modern Friends of the People in the ilk of Thomas Muir and Robert Burns. Back to first principles. Yes all of us first and a Commonweal which means the end to class war politics in oor ain country, despite the class warrior elite we face (the yin percent). A rush for jobs by the Left nest year in Holyrood might just stop the SNP getting the majority mandate for a new Referendum!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are among our guid Scots Left a few people who see themselves as FIRSTS AMONG EQUALS. I read from some ‘experts’ on here now and them who are elevated to the status of political guru and put simply they write tripe and are out for themselves. Mike Small tho is worth his weight in gold. No some other substance of greater value………I am judged as on the left by some people, but I am NOT on the LEFT. I look at issues on an issue by issue basis and examine the evidence, then judge each situation based on my values. At core my politics are determined by a deep-seated indignant sense of injustice at the wrongs of the world I want to see righted. ‘ In the cause of Right engaged, Wrongs injurious to redress…………..Time to see the SNP as the People’s party and the Friends of the Scottish People. NOt narrow minded Nationalists!!!! cos we are NOT!

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