UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Scotland after socialism?

Beneath the EU’s affront to democracy in Greece there is still the debate about whether Syriza reflects a shift to the left or whether it is just a singular reaction to a single issue which unites elements of left, right, middle and non-aligned. There is a mirror of this in Scotland as the debate around austerity always seems to end up as a debate about the constitution or national identity, as opposed to politics.
    The contradictions couldn't be more obvious. The words say: 'fight austerity, stop privatisation' and the actions bring privatisation upon privatisation and decimation of local government. Many are willing to excuse that as the result of failing to 'grasp independence' or because 'Labour did it before'. More worrying are those who actually support the service cuts, privatisations, tax freezes and business tax cuts as legitimate while still trumpeting an anti-austerity front.
   It makes for a difficult job for trade unions challenging these issues. Elements - sadly sometimes on the left - continue to try to characterise trade unions as part of the problem (the 'old order' or 'red tories') rather than the only realistic resistance we have to a mainstream political consensus that backs at least some level of austerity.
    In light of this, our attention was recently brought to a three paragraph blog from writer Ken Mcleod  which deserves wider distribution and will no doubt provoke some controversy but hopefully an interesting debate:

“In 1979, the French radical intellectual Régis Debray tossed a tear-gas cannister into the complacent, cross-class nostalgia for May 1968. He saw the significance of les événements not as a failed overthrow of French capitalism, but a convulsive convergence with the wider West, saying (if memory serves) that 'We had to imagine ourselves as Chinese, in order to become Californians.' (We are told it was in fact "Was it necessary to fancy ourselves Maoist to become American?" but you get the point)

“I can't match his gloomy verve, but I'll make a similar suggestion about the lesser upheaval of 2015 in Scotland. This is a country that never took to New Labour, but has suffered and enjoyed all the changes in class composition and identity to which New Labour was a reaction. And yet we've cherished our self-image as keepers of the flame. Our refrain has been: 'We didn't leave Labour, Labour left us.'

“Now, in the name of Old Labour values, we've overwhelmingly elected a party that stands on almost all issues to the right of even the present Labour Party, let alone that of Donald Dewar and John Smith. The SNP is a party with a fresh, charismatic leader who appeals to all classes and who proclaims a business-friendly programme in social-democratic language. In doing this she has enabled us to at last catch up with the post-socialist world, without losing face or backing down. We had to imagine ourselves as Venezuelans, in order to become Blairites.”