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Vote Labour, Kick out the Tories, Support the Left Platform!

24th April 2015

Vote Labour, Kick out the Tories, Support the Left Platform!
The View from Scotland

In ‘We are the Giant,’ a recent documentary revisiting the Arab Spring from its various vantage points across the region, a woman recalls a question put to her as a child by her father, a veteran Bahraini human rights activist; why, he would ask, when we are so many and they so few, do we allow them to wield such power over us? It is the type of question unlikely to be put to politicians during the tightly managed media spectacle of a General Election campaign, but it is a question worth asking all the same. Why, as the crimes of austerity multiply and its victims cry out for justice, do its prescriptions remain almost beyond challenge, while those who seek to confront its logic are condemned for demanding the impossible?

Throughout the campaign and up until May 7th, the CfS will be calling on every progressive voter to defer all sentiment, to eschew all tribal loyalties and vote Labour in the General Election. If the enduring responsibility of socialists is to identify and secure the best possible material and political gains attainable from circumstances as they present themselves, then voting for a majority Labour government committed to a programme significantly more radical than all other mainstream parties should not trouble a sober minded left committed to beginning the political rolling back of austerity economics. However, as the campaign thus far has demonstrated, much of the Scottish left, and many previously progressive voters in general, seem reluctant to kick the habit of nationalism they acquired a taste for late last year. Calling for a vote for the identity politics of the SNP represents one of the more perverse turns in Scottish left history (and let’s face it, it’s a competitive field). It demands of its supporters a wilful ignorance of current Labour and Nationalist policy commitments, some of which are contrasted in these pages. It is proposed that the more SNP MPs who are elected the more constitutional powers Scotland will gain as a result. These variables will then magically alchemise into a uniquely post-election Scottish settlement to the left of what the Labour Party manifesto proposes. In fact, the SNP have no intention of confronting capital with redistributive commitments of any kind. Privatisation in the Scottish NHS, SNP MSPs without exception crossing Holyrood PCS picket lines, rock bottom corporation tax, outsourcing of public sector contracts to known blacklisters of trade union activists, a refusal to countenance the living wage for commercially tendered public services and draconian austerity cuts to further education; these examples should caution against a retreat into the resentments of identity and national caste, never mind the fantastical belief that SNP MPs would offer left ballast to a minority Labour administration .

There is no doubt that Scottish Labour – in slavishly accommodating to some of the worst excesses of neo-liberalism and in its suicide pact with austerity Tories during the Better Together Campaign – is the primary author of its present electoral misfortunes. In relinquishing its hard won ground on the Scottish left it ceded a political vacuum into which a canny and opportunistic SNP has gratefully slid. Ordinary voters can hardly be blamed for locating a possible resolution to their discontents at everything from Iraq, establishment scandal and the low wage economy in the burnished spin of the Nationalists. But in seeking to validate those illusions, the nationalist left only contributes to the possibility of a Tory government returning to office with a self-ordained mandate to dismantle all that our movement has fought for and maintained over the last 100 years.
Ignorance of the sharp distinctions between Labour and Tory manifesto ambitions is no excuse. The CfS and its supporters have been to the fore in noting the limitations of Labour Party policy and analysis, and of arguing for a more radical programme capable of rolling back the losses of the last 40 years. However, in composing ourselves at junctures such as these, it is clear that the Party has developed a series of pledges – the ending of non-dom tax status and zero hours contracts, the mansion and bank bonus taxes, an end to NHS privatisation and a rhetoric seeking to articulate a vision beyond the shibboleths of austerity – which signal a breach with New Labour thinking. This is a fissure everyone on the left should be doing everything in their power to leverage ever wider. The policies fall far short of what is required to offer a fundamental challenge to economic orthodoxy, but abstaining as the Party shows signs of a pulse will only embolden neo liberal ideologues on the Right, as well as those Blairites in the Party anxious to caricature Milliband’s tenure as a failed experiment in left politics.

Jim Murphy in particular may bemoan Scottish inequalities through gritted teeth. In John McTernan he has employed a sage vocally well-disposed to the consequences of the Thatcherite onslaught. But when political shifts are in play only those who have supplanted the politics of class for the parochial resentments of national identity choose such a time to step back from the fray.

The Scottish Party must take courage from its first tentative steps beyond the suffocating ideology of the ‘public debt’, or it will continue its descent into a grave of its own digging. Whatever circumstances await us on May 7th, the CfS will be required to take a cold hard look at the post- election ground. Our numbers are swelling, and Left Platform MPs may well hold a significant balance of power in a minority Labour government. The influence of Katy Clark and Kenneth Selbie alone would eclipse the constitutional carping of SNP legislators likely to be more ‘on-message’ than a North Korean CP Central Committee day out. Whatever the future holds for Greece and Spain, both Syriza and Podemos have shown us that it is possible to build effective, electorally popular anti-austerity coalitions.

‘They come with iron and fire, but they are weaker than straw.’ The Yemeni poet Al- Baradouni speaks for all those confronting the terrorism of poverty and injustice across the globe. We urge each and every voter determined not to accept business as usual after May 7th to vote Labour, but before the dust has settled, to continue the task of rebuilding a Party willing to lead a movement of giants.

This is the editorial from the current issue of ‘Citizen’, the magazine of our sister organisation in Scotland, the Campaign for Socialism

If you would like to find out more about Campaign for Socialism please contact:  info@campaignforsocialism, or if you would like to join CfS please visit:

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