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Monday, 15 February 2016

1916, Militant Liverpool, 2003, the #indyref and May 2016...

In my opinion, there is very little that divides the generations in Scottish Independence politics, that is, the politics of "Yes." I do think there are false divisions being thrown up on the left, in the SSP, Rise and through the platform these organisations have in RIC, though. And rather than it being a revolutionary new generation that is taking politics forward, on the contrary, it is the old, Scottish Parliament 2003 generation in control. They are calling the shots. They are creating the playing field that the new generation of radicals are being fenced in.

What unites Scottish independence politics across the generations at present is what divided it during the "revolutionary period" in Irish politics in the early 20th Century. There is a conservatism- a reformism - a total concentration on parliamentary and constitutional means to our goal of independence. The left; the politics of protest are very much centred around speeches on George Square and the Radisson Blu. And we all await the SNP to tell us when to jump into action; into their campaign.

This was where  "official nationalism" was in late 19th, early 20th century Ireland, awaiting the nationalists to say they had reached an accommodation, they, the leaders, were satisfied with. And many nationalist MP's did. Their independence campaign was all but over because of the concessions they had managed to drag from the Tories and Liberals.

But a new generation of more radical, leftists and feminists brought the Irish revolution forward through agitation, education, moves toward socialism and violent revolution (only to be recaptured and caged by the catholic conservatism of De Valera and those around him after 1921).

Of course, I would not agree with an "Easter Rising" type scenario here in 21st Century Scotland, that would just be idiocy; but I do think insurrection/ open protest against cuts at local level should be encouraged, supported and indeed, built from the ground up. Our councils, whether they be SNP, Labour or Labour/Tory controlled are all cutting our services to the marrow.

The total upside down concentration on the May Scottish Parliament by the radical left and not on the huge budgets and power wielded  by Councils shows who is really in control of the present generation of left idealists- those who, quite by chance ("chance" being the circumstances at the time- a new Parliament, the shifting Scottish sands caused by Blairism and war etc) gained MSP's in 2003.

In my opinion, real radicalism will centre on Council budgets in the way that generation won victories in Liverpool in the 80's against Thatcherism; against her poll tax; against her dreadful housing policies etc. That is where our fire power should be concentrated. Not leafletting for list candidates in a now, totally pointless waste of activist effort.

The Liverpool Lefties of the eighties should be our inspiration that will pull Scottish Politics left. Not some distant, wasting  drive to May 2016, which will amount to nothing more than newly radicalised young people feeling totally at a loss as to why their efforts crashed and burned.

The party of independence- and constitutional revolutions - is in power in Scotland, and driving THAT narrative. The left's narrative should come from below- from the wreckage caused by the death of local services. From the education budgets that are being slashed. From the job losses and pay freezes. From the service users and those suffering from the smashing of the services they need, by the Tories and those balancing Tory budgets.

The old generation who made the gains that seeped through to Scotland from Liverpool and its Militant Councillors, have forgotten how they built up here, or at least that kind of building a movement has been set aside instead for them too build their betrayed "legacy" and their reliving a chance to regain what they feel they lost because of the fight with their creation, Tommy Sheridan.  They are trying desperately to use the new generation to unsully their legacy from the muck of the Sheridan affair.

 The present wasting of effort on the Scottish Parliament should be their swan song in my opinion and the new generation should analyse properly the mistakes of the period after the independence referendum (and what they have learned and can use far more effectively than any generation before them- ie the new media etc).

Next years Council elections, because of the coup within the left in the past year by an older way of thinking- a constitutionalism and conservatism- will be yet another wasted opportunity. Many of us knew that if we did not get our Yes, that September 18th 2014 could be our Easter Rising- a tragedy in the making that would render the SNP all powerful, the Labour Party and Libs dead and the Left, if not clever about it, swimming in the wake of the socially left SNP and the out and out right wing unionism of the triumphant Tories (their triumph will come here in May).

And the left, led by the eighties "vanguard," and their chosen new cadre, did not play it clever. They believed the hype they created in the minuscule and official "Yes campaign" dependent Radical Independence Campaign. They steered a very different path from the Greens, who made all the same gains the left had through Yes and RIC, but knew to regroup, solidify and channel those gains. We went down a channel that thought RIC was something more than an amalgamation of lefty/radical people from the SNP, the Greens etc and actually believed thousands would join a rebrand with the speech makers and place keepers the independence movement saw as mere "hingers oan." Those who quite obviously, to most of us, had carved out careers on the back of a movement that allowed them "to be," in order to pretend the organisations they created were unrelated colourful butterflies.

Some of the "failed" "butterflies" should have shown us that only SNP approved organisations and people were really allowed. TUFI, a group organised by real lefty Union radicals was replaced by SNP friendly Trades Unionists for Yes. RIC had enough SNP people on board (and potential for new SNP members) for those truly in control of Yes to allow it to use their offices etc. The post Indyref love in for the radicals and the parties of Yes, has been replaced by a huge gain of members for the SNP, a respect for the Greens and the SSP, but a distrust of those who led the "leaderless" RIC who have said they were going to "take the fight to the SNP," a slogan so misplaced and so far from a real analysis of the current left in Scotland as you can possibly get.

With two months to go, no gains in percentage points (in fact trailing previous  SSP %'age figures), the cobbled together sectarian (why not JOIN the revitalised SSP?) socialist/left vehicle has shown nothing more than an ability to get articles in unionist controlled newspapers who are keen to split the independence vote (or totally destroy it!). They have built decent websites and held launch and conference after launch and conference with less and less people outside the sectarian groups interested. But the newly radicalised young people have expectations raised and are convinced that what they are doing is revolutionary and radical. It is neither of these things. It is nothing more than chasing on the tail of the liberals in the Greens who will make less of a gain than they think -but will receive many times more votes than the radical left because they stayed true to themselves (or at least seemed to have from those looking on from the outside).

Back in 2006, I recorded Richie Venton, a founder of the SSP and Liverpool Militant Labour veteran,  speak about the SSP taking the Councils. This was before that generation of socialists were completely overwhelmed by their Sheridan catastrophe. I fully believed back then, had the left seen sense and dropped any connection to him, we could well have more than our lone councillor Jim Bollan - a man and a group of socialists in West Dunbartonshire who worked hard away from the Parliament chasers and constitutional reformers. Jim's legacy will be much more fundamental, yet less glamorous than the six MSPs in 2003. And if anywhere will vote socialist post Yes, it won't be Glasgow or Edinburgh (where most of the current effort is being drained), it'll be in and around Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven.

If the previous  generation of Scottish socialists are the "Vanguard"  who seek places in the Scottish Parliament as anything other than SNP in the present political circumstances, in the paraphrased words of Pearse in his 1915 poem, "Ghosts," "There has been nothing more terrible in [the socialist Scottish independence movement] than the failure of the last generation."

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