Saturday, 26 August 2017


As Jeremy Corbyn gathers crowds on his whistle-stop tour of Scotland, socialists, trade unionists and young people need to wrestle with whether Scottish Labour is about to be transformed into the vehicle for radical, socialist change.

It would appear most of the events Jeremy is addressing lack much opportunity for friendly debate; in fact, mostly none at all. But that’s precisely what’s needed, (in addition to the indispensable role of campaigning rallies) if the people who are drawn to Corbyn’s message “for the many, not the few” are to clarify how best to win far-reaching and irreversible change in our society. Socialist change in favour of the many millions, unashamedly at the expense of the few millionaires – in Scotland’s case, broadly for the 5.3 million, not the 10 billionaires!

Is it really wise for socialists to invest their time and talent in Scottish Labour on the coat-tails of Jeremy Corbyn's impact on working class and young voters in the recent general election - specifically in England? Should they ignore the profound differences in the political landscape of Scotland compared to England, or the baleful history of Scottish Labour? 

Scotland has an already-existing socialist party in the form of the SSP, founded in September 1998, and it has never once flinched from socialist principles and working-class solidarity. 
The SSP welcomes the boost to public debate around anti-austerity, anti-war, left-wing ideas that Jeremy Corbyn's leadership has triggered. 
Jeremy’s honesty and decency - with policies to the left of anything Labour has offered for years – has attracted large numbers to the message "for the many, not the few”. Although, it has to be added, the crowds attracted in Scotland bear no resemblance to the mass upsurge and outpouring of adulation for Jeremy at events in England; a reminder of the very different political forces on the field of struggle for allegiances north of the border.

Capitalist and Blairite Sabotage
The sabotage and onslaught from the capitalists, their media, and Labour's right-wing enemies of socialism is a warning that halfway measures won’t succeed in winning a transformation of lives for the working-class majority. 
Even the very modest reforms promised by Jeremy would require full-blooded socialist measures to succeed. In fact, measures advocated by the SSP, but NOT included in Corbyn’s manifesto! 
To use one simple illustration, the SSP stands for outright, complete, democratic public ownership of the entire railway system - not the partial, gradualist, potentially chaotic Labour plan to take over each separate rail franchise as it expires, years apart from each other. 

Labour Civil War - or United Socialist Party? 
Leadership is critical in any struggle, whether in a workplace, local community, national campaign on a specific issue, or more especially in the grandiose task of changing the system of political economy we live in. But whilst the role of an individual can be of enormous consequence to the outcome of such struggles, no one person can change society. That requires the collective.
Winning welcome reforms - like a £10 minimum wage, abolition of Zero Hours Contracts and expansion of education - will require a determined, united, socialist party, rooted in the workplaces, communities and colleges, committed to democratic public ownership, and prepared to lead mass struggles. 
Not a Labour Party riven by civil war, with MPs utterly opposed to Corbyn and socialism, biding their time to knife their own elected leader.

Scottish Labour bears no resemblance to Corbyn’s ideals.

Its key leaders (including Kezia Dugdale and Ian Murray MP) are sworn enemies of Corbyn; they helped stage failed coups against him.
In the words of Labour’s own Campaign for Socialism group, “In Scotland, we looked more like Jim Murphy’s Labour Party than Jeremy Corbyn’s”. (BBC, 21 July 2017)

Beware of False New Friends 
And as I've observed at the initial events addressed by Corbyn on his current whirlwind visit to SNP/Labour marginal seats, there is little in life that's more nauseating than right-wing Labour hacks, MPs and MSPs pushing aside anyone in their path to grab a selfie with Jezz, like a bunch of besotted teenagers. These include Labour politicians who wouldn't have spat on Jeremy if he was on fire six months ago, and pointedly refused to attend his election rallies, or even allow any mention of him on their election literature. 

How can Corbyn - or more to the point, working class people seeking radical change through Corbyn - have any faith in such superficial, latter-day converts, who echoed the Tories' and media's vitriolic abuse against Corbyn and his policies mere months ago? With new-found friends like that, Corbyn doesn't need the open, right-wing enemies that still control the Labour Party machine, at both Scottish and UK level. 

Scottish Labour's Real Record 
Since our formation in 1998, the SSP has fearlessly, persistently defended socialism - whilst Scottish Labour has acted as thinly-disguised Tories, abandoning the aims of Keir Hardie and other pioneers. 
Imposing the bedroom tax just like they did the poll tax; slashing council jobs and services; shutting schools to cut spending; keeping all the Tory anti-union laws; threatening to jail workers who dared strike against Glasgow Labour’s municipal butchery; spurning numerous opportunities to extend public ownership, or reduce inequality – including during coalition with the LibDems at Holyrood.

Judge by Deeds, not Press Releases! 
People genuinely wanting a society ‘for the many, not the few’ have a duty to judge parties by their deeds - not just the words in their latest press release. Let’s glance at a few case histories that illustrate this; contrasting the principled track record of the SSP with Scottish Labour's deeds, as opposed to any recent words they've discovered! 

The SSP pioneered the battle to abolish NHS prescription charges, in the streets, communities, unions, and Scottish parliament - only to be voted down by Labour MSPs.

The SSP has campaigned for No Cuts budgets, in defiance of Tory austerity - and frequently led fellow-workers in strikes; communities in protests and sit-ins… against Labour council closures of schools, community facilities and their slaughter of jobs and services. 
Not one single group of Scottish Labour councillors has ever voted to stop ALL cuts, and unfortunately Jeremy’s leadership has never once made a clarion call for Labour councillors to do so.

The SSP has campaigned since 1998 for abolition of the Council Tax. For a replacement Scottish Service Tax, based on income, with over 77% of households paying less, but the rich coughing up; DOUBLING income for local jobs and services (from £2bn to £4.1bn in 2015 figures).

For years, Scottish Labour relentlessly defended the Council Tax. Even since their extremely belated conversion (in August 2016) to the SSP’s mantra "abolish the unfair council tax”, Scottish Labour still refuses to call for an income-based, progressive replacement, based on ability to pay. And UK Labour’s ‘For the Many’ manifesto merely pledges to “review the council tax to make it fairer” – incidentally, the same position as the SNP!

£10 Now! - Not in 2020
The SSP has fought for 3 years, since September 2014, for an immediate £10 minimum wage for all over 16, with equal pay for women - in contrast to the welcome, but feeble, recent pledge by Corbyn's Labour of £10 by 2020 - and then only for workers over 18. 
In a nutshell, there's a 6-year gap between the SSP and Corbyn's Labour on the issue of a £10 minimum wage, plus a 2-year gap between us when it comes to eliminating age wage discrimination. 

And as I've written in a previous blog (and before that in Break the Chains), if Labour is serious about fighting for a £10 minimum, why don't they immediately use their positions as councillors and MSPs to demand a voluntary £10 Living Wage in the forthcoming budgets in Scotland's 32 local councils and Scottish government? That would overnight transform the livelihoods of many of the 500,000 workers employed by these bodies. 

War and WMDs 
The SSP has never wavered in its opposition to war and nuclear weapons.
Alongside SCND, we initiated the Scottish Coalition for a Justice not War, within days of the 9/11 atrocity - and subsequently mobilized 100,000 on the streets of Glasgow against the invasion of Iraq... as implemented by Labour's Tony Blair! Of course we were on the same side of that momentous movement as Jeremy Corbyn. 

The SSP has protested with others against renewal of Trident, demanding the £200bn squandered on weapons of mass annihilation be spent instead on the NHS; green energy schemes; schools; public housing and transport. 
We have always – in common with SCND and the STUC – advocated jobs diversification, to peaceful, socially productive use of workers’ skills… schemes that would vastly expand jobs, not threaten them.
Under Jeremy’s leadership, Labour’s ‘For the Many’ manifesto commits a Labour government to renewal of Trident. An incredible abandonment of the struggle to stop £200bn being squandered on weapons of mass murder.

Appeasing the Blairite Enemy 
Since this stance contradicts Corbyn’s lifelong opposition to nuclear weapons, it can only be seen as yet another attempt to appease and pacify the Blairites who still infest Labour’s ranks - especially amongst its MPs and Scottish leadership. 
One of many such futile concessions by Corbyn’s leadership to the pro-capitalist, anti-socialist Blairites in the past two years. All in vain; they are still busy plotting to undermine and overthrow Jeremy, emboldened by the capitalists and their media.

The Democratic Right to Self-government 
In the Scottish Referendum, Scottish Labour alienated hundreds of thousands of workers and young people by their shameless collaboration with the reviled Tories in Better Together. 
That Tory-funded, Labour-fronted lie machine confused enough people to ensure we now suffer several more years of ruthless Tory rule from Westminster.
In stark contrast, the SSP championed the aim of an independent socialist Scotland - a different vision entirely from the pro-capitalist aims of the SNP.

In the 2017 general election, Labour focused all its fire on the SNP, relentlessly denouncing independence – letting the Tories off scot free for their crucifying assaults on ‘the many’. Scottish Labour leaders advocated tactical voting against the SNP… which meant voting Tory in some areas! 
This concrete expression of Labour’s denial of the democratic right to self-determination for the Scottish people helped the Scottish Tory vote leap 5,500 per seat. Scottish Labour only gained 1%. It helped May cling onto power. 

Labour continues to deny the Scottish people the right to self-determination - unfortunately not only Dugdale and the Blairities, but also Corbyn and his allies. In Corbyn Labour's recent 'For the Many' manifesto, there is no room left for doubt: "we will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK." 
Left-wingers in Scottish Labour who wax lyrical about the right to self-determination for other nations and nationalities across the globe deny that democratic right to the people of Scotland. 

Who are Labour's Chief Enemies?
Even Jeremy's chosen itinerary for his current speaking tour of Scotland - clearly putting Labour on an election footing in case the enfeebled Tory government falters - is very telling. He and Labour have decided to make a pitch in SNP marginal seats, but not gone near a single one of the Tory marginals in Scotland.
You don't have to be an apologist for the SNP (and I'm certainly not one!) to point out that surely the priority should be to drive the Tories out - by popularizing socialist arguments and mobilizing working class voters - in order to defend working class conditions, rather than continue to turn Labour's guns on the SNP? 
This speaking tour is a softened version of the Labour focus of attacking the SNP rather than the Tories in the recent general election campaign. And meantime, the hapless Kezia Dugdale only seems to become animated in the media when she blasts the idea of Scottish independence, at every given (or invented) opportunity. 

Independence and Socialism 
Failure to call for independence - but give it a distinctive socialist content, for an independent SOCIALIST Scotland, for the millions, not the millionaires - is the Achilles heel of Labour, even if Jeremy’s influence spreads to Scotland. 
It alienates people attracted to Corbyn's social and economic policies, all too often driving them into the arms of the SNP, a party committed to the continuation of rule by profiteering big business, with its track record on privatisation of ferries, hospitals and the business wing of Scottish Water as living examples of this capitalist ideology. 

As one woman expressed it at a recent Scottish Socialist Voice forum on socialism and independence, she and other SNP members "suffer cognitive dissonance, because I'm a socialist attracted to Corbyn's ideals, find the SNP too right wing on economic policies, but want independence". And as I responded at the time, there's a ready-made cure for that condition: the unequivocal socialism AND pro-independence stance of the SSP! 

The Hand of Solidarity in Action 
The SSP offers the hand of friendship and solidarity in action to those looking to Corbyn for change. We appeal to Corbyn supporters to arrange meetings with the SSP to discuss serious battle plans around our common aims - £10 minimum wage; abolition of zero hours contracts; rail renationalisation, etc.
But we also appeal to 'Corbynistas' to look ahead at the harsh choices that loom

Labour Civil War 
Scottish Labour faces an existential crisis that spells prolonged strife, civil war, and subsequent diminished electoral prospects.
The Scottish leadership will not cease to wage civil war against Corbyn and his left ideals.

They will be backed and boosted in their treacherous sabotage by a capitalist class and media terrified at the thought of a left-leaning Prime Minister, and the expectations and demands for radical change which that would unleash amongst workers and young people.
These forces of capitalist backwardness have no intention of reversing the transformation of Labour into the reliable agency for billionaires and bankers - the bastion against socialism - it was moulded into by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Brutal Choices 
So Corbyn supporters face brutal choices. Purge Labour of its capitalist wing (including deselection of MPs, MSPs and councillors) to begin to construct the embryo of a socialist party. Or continue retreat after retreat in a vain attempt to appease the right - as unfortunately Jeremy has tried for two years. 

The other critical choice confronting 'Corbynistas' is this: continue to alienate huge swathes of the Scottish people by opposing self-government. Or join with the SSP campaigning for an independent socialist Scotland, as part of an alliance of socialist democracies across Europe. 
Thereby uphold democratic and socialist principles, but also win over radicalized workers and youth to the socialist banner, instead of them being fooled by the fake radicalism of the SNP leadership.

Scottish Labour a Million Miles from Socialism
The central problem facing those mobilized by Jeremy's laudable, left-wing aims is that Scottish Labour is a million miles removed from being a socialist party.
To begin to transform it into one would require naked, full-scale civil war in the party.

Why devote time and talent to what may well be a fruitless attempt to oust Labour's pro-capitalist right wing, or spend years trying to fashion genuine socialist policies in a Labour party which, historically, has never in government pursued comprehensive socialist measures anyway? 

No Westminster Road to Socialism 
Experience proves there is no Westminster road to socialism; it's one of many institutions designed to block socialist change. 
You only have to examine the history of Labour in government - even its most left-wing variants - to see the truth of that. And any reforms, such the NHS, that were won through Westminster Labour governments, were the result not of parliamentary debate but of mass struggles outside parliament. 
In the aftermath of the conscious demolition of most of the nationalized industries of the past, and the removal of any substantial influence for workers' unions in the decision-making structures of Labour, there is far less prospect of radical change through that Westminster route than at any time in modern history. 

Exclusions of Socialists 
Labour's history is littered with unfulfilled promises, anti-working class measures - and expulsions of socialists for being socialists, including many of us now in the leadership of the SSP! 
Even since the extremely welcome election (twice over) of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader - as an expression of an uprising against austerity, a similar phenomenon to the mass Yes movement in Scotland in 2012-14 - the Labour machine is still busy expelling and excluding socialists. And even some of the pro-Corbyn Momentum grouping are implicated in these maneuvers - hardly a harbinger of the outright socialist transformation of the Labour Party, let alone of society! 

Join With the SSP... and Join the SSP! 
My appeal to those in Scotland attracted by Corbyn is two-fold. 

Combine with Scotland's existing socialist party, the SSP, in joint campaigns on immediate priority issues such as a £10 minimum now; democratic public ownership of rail and transport; opposition to all cuts at council or national level; and for an independent socialist Scotland.

And consider joining Scotland's already existing socialist party, the SSP, with already existing socialist policies (which you can also influence and shape at our annual conferences), and an annually elected socialist leadership.

Scottish Labour not Socialist - and Wrong in Opposing Self-government 
The time, talent and hopes of large numbers whose sights have been raised by Jeremy Corbyn will be dashed on the rocks of brutal civil war inside Scottish Labour if they imagine it is on the brink of morphing itself from watered-down Toryism to the vehicle of socialist change. 
And whilst it's a radical breath of fresh air compared with the stale, capitalist dogma of past Labour leaders and manifestos, Jeremy's 'For the Many' manifesto is still very modest, gradualist, and lacking in the full-blown plans for socialist change that this exploitative, unequal society screams out for. 
On top of which it is simply wrong and alienating for vast hordes of the Scottish people in its crude, unbending opposition to independence - not even upholding the right to self-government, let alone recognizing that in modern Scotland, socialism and independence go hand in hand. 

Scotland needs Socialism - not Labour Civil War 
Jeremy Corbyn has revived interest in socialist ideas for masses of people. But the natural home for people inspired by his message is NOT Scottish Labour. Far better to add to the existing socialist forces organised in the party with 20 years of unstinting dedication to socialism in Scotland, the SSP. 

Why throw yourself into naked civil war to try and overcome Scottish Labour's entrenched, anti-socialist machine - with no guarantees of success, as they've alienated so many of the most radical workers and young people, making it harder to recruit fresh left-wing fighters? 
Why not instead throw your energy and ideas into building the strength of a party whose entire membership and leadership are already unashamedly socialist? 

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