Corbyn and Independence

CorbynSo, Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t support Scottish Independence, specifically he doesn’t support the idea of another referendum any time soon.  He made these remarks in Dundee on Thursday night, though he has said previously that the issue is a matter to be decided by the Scottish people.

The phenomenon that is Corbynmania has two faces.  One is what is actually happening on the ground with meetings of hundreds and thousands the length and breadth of the British Isles and a wave of grass roots activism that has been absent in this scale for some time.

The second is the attempt by the media to reduce it to the sort of slogans and soundbites politics they are comfortable with. Thus Corbyn is either hero or villain, everything or nothing, presented in a binary form to love or hate.  This is old-style party politics where you sign up for everything or not at all.

If you view Scottish Independence solely through the prism of SNP dominance then you’re missing the point of the Yes movement.  It was its diversity encompassing people of many parties and none that got us as far as we did. It was the idea that independence was the vehicle, not the destination that allowed the sense of common purpose to unite people, and, most importantly, show that politics itself could be different.

It is against this that any measure of Corbyn has to be judged. So, let’s get back to the main question here. Is Corbyn’s opposition / indifference / misunderstanding of Scottish Independence a reason not to welcome the movement that is growing around him? To equate a movement with one individual and one individual’s views on one subject is flawed. At the heart of this, and Corbyn has said this himself, is to get away from a situation where policies are handed down from on high and merely rubber stamped by the party at large.

The potential here is therefore not about a rebuilt Labour Party as we currently know it but something fundamentally different. Where do Corbyn’s personal views on Scottish independence sit within this movement? I would argue that in a culture that is bottom up, active opposition to independence is an unlikely priority.

But what of Scottish Labour? As Cailean Gallagher said in an article on Common Space recently, “The remnants of Scottish Labour are more New Labourite than ever”. Any hopes of Scottish Labour rediscovering itself are misplaced. That boat sailed some time ago and was ultimately sunk by the Referendum and its aftermath.

The Left in Scotland are currently scattered.  Some are in the SNP, others in the Greens, SSP and other left parties.  Many are simply not members of anything, though they may be active in non-party politics. That latter category includes me.

As for what happen following the Labour leadership result, there are a number of scenarios. A strong possibility has to be a split. The genie is out of the bottle as to what might be.

As we move forward with the Scottish Left Project, not seeing the potential for allies within a reinvigorated Labour movement south of the border would be folly. That is not to say that it will be easy but it will be a debate worth having.

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To those about to be elected, some advice and a warning, should it be required

Common Weal Fife

For they still prefer sheep to thinking men
Ah, but men who think like sheep are even better
(Brian McNeill)

You are about to take part in an election like no other in recent memory. You should be aware that many of the old rules don’t apply. You should be aware that we are watching you, watching you because we are awake, watching you because the power you may gain will be on loan from us, and you had better take heed.

We are on a journey, one that didn’t end on the day of 45%. We did not go back to our homes, our mind-numbing TV or our breakfast cereal and forget. We did not resign ourselves to second best and give up. In our homes, our organisations and communities the dream and the reason for it drives us even stronger.  As the morning after dawns and the numbers…

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My Journey Back to Activism

Some time back in the 1980s I joined the Labour Party and the Militant Tendency within it.  Thus begun my political life.  My activism went through cycles from then until the late 1990s, seeing me through the Anti-Poll Tax campaign, the Timex Strike, the formation of the Scottish Socialist Alliance (later Party). By the later 1990s, following the death of my parents and a decision to get back into education, I dropped into inactivity, though I did resurface from time to time such as marching against the Iraq war. I still considered myself a socialist and declared myself as such.  I just wasn’t actively involved.

This inactive period also coincided with the spectacular series of events which engulfed my former party, the SSP. From the outside looking in I saw friends and others whose opinions I respected taking diametrically opposed positions and I could make no sense of it. They couldn’t all be right, nor could they all have hopped on some opportunistic bandwagon, so what was going on. Unfortunately I was unable to resolve this and, even when I felt the urge to become active again, I was faced with an unfathomable clash of loyalties. Not wanting to make that choice, I stayed largely inactive. This period also saw me get married and have children and divert a lot of my energies accordingly.

Then along came indyref.  I was committed to the idea of an independent Scotland as a route to a socialist Scotland and therefore to voting Yes, so became very focused on what was happening, particularly on social media.  I had been commenting on political stuff on Facebook and Twitter for some time but usually discussing with friends and family and not much beyond.  What indyref did for me was to open things up for me, presenting me with a significantly wider group of people to engage with. Available time did not allow me to do much beyond online activity but the breadth of what I was engaging with and the quality and perceptiveness of what I was seeing online gave me an entirely new perspective on what I might do next. Still I wasn’t coming to any conclusions.

The aftermath of referendum day itself posed a new urgency and I felt I had to do something.  With a huge number of groups in existence and emerging there were certainly some options beyond trying to simply return to where I’d been before. Common Weal, RIC, National Collective (though my artistic abilities are not great), the new Scottish Left Project, along with ideas of a Yes Alliance which must involve all or some of them.

But what of the SSP and the parties that split off it or were formerly part of it? I still don’t know.  At an individual level, the people within these parties in large have a lot to contribute.  The struggles that gave rise to the SSP shape the modern political landscape in Scotland and provide lessons in both success and failure. Then there is the figure of Tommy Sheridan, someone who still evokes strong opinions. I do not want to provoke these on either side by saying something specific here – at any rate I still don’t know, or at least am not firmly on one side or the other and in some respects I’m glad.

For me, any issue of personality politics being used as a shortcut has been overtaken by events.  Indyref has thrust loads of new people to the fore as part of the grassroots movement and that’s just as it should be. Real or perceived mistakes from the past are lessons to inform us but the dynamic has changed. If socialism in Scotland was ever confused with one individual, it is not now.  The mainstream media now has a growing counterbalance in activist-journalism and won’t be able to play these old games.  Parties too have to embrace this scale and get stuck in, not preach from some socially-pure high ground. Their perspectives maybe correct but if they sit outside what is actually happening on the ground, they will get left behind.

So, I’m off to dip my toe into as much as possible of what’s happening. I attended Hope over Fear rally in Glasgow one weekend. The next weekend it was the STUC rally, also in Glasgow. I have my tickets to the RIC conference later this month and I’m involved with my local Common Weal group. Closer to home, I’m in contact with folk in the local SSP branch and I’m still having conversations with friends in the Socialist Party in my old hometown of Dundee. I’ve also added my name to the Scottish Left Project and we’ll see how that develops.

The left is redefining itself, and about time too. Socialism is too important to be constantly the victim of competing socialists.

Hello

Welcome to my new blog. Oh, you’re wondering about the name.  You might recognise it or perhaps not.  I took it from the opening lines of Hamish Henderson’s  Freedom Come All Ye.

Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawnin’

It is a song of change, looking to a better, fairer Scotland as part of a better, fairer world.