|Scottish Socialist Party Executive Committee members unveil fresh new banner at meeting in Glasgow yesterday|
Sunday, 20 September 2015
‘Jeremy Corbyn is a thoroughly decent man. Everyone who has met him would describe him this way’ said the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis interviewed on Channel Four News this week. Asked if he saw any similarities between the new Labour leader’s election and Syriza’s victory in the Greek General Election in January he said he saw the same elation but warned ‘this exuberance has to be channelled into a strong political defence in the face of an establishment onslaught.’ There are important warnings for Corbyn in Syriza’s subsequent u-turn politically too in the way Alexis Tsipras gave up confronting international capitalism and ended up managing it in Greece. Syriza, like Labour, is a coalition where the socialist left is very weak. Whilst Jeremy Corbyns’ victory was cheered across Scotland, not least for the ‘drubbing’ he handed out to his Blairite opponents, it was achieved with little support from within the Scottish Labour Party. Scotland’s sole Labour MP Ian Murray did not vote for him. Neither did Scottish leader Kesia Dugdale or most of the constituency parties here. And the weakness of his ‘Campaign for Socialism’ group in the party was again demonstrated when he had to staff his Shadow Cabinet with MP’s who do not support him politically. He has very few allies in the Parliamentary Labour Party as was again demonstrated by the cool reception he received at his first meeting as leader. This does not augur well for Corbyn’s leadership. So despite the overwhelming scale of his victory the fact is he faces huge opposition within his party. And it remains to be seen how many of those who spent £3 to vote for him will join the Party to help strengthen his position in the teeth of considerable enmity from the party machine that do not want him there. Reports suggest he and his deputy Tom Watson intend to spend one day a month in Scotland to 'rebuild Labour’s support'. He will have his work cut out for him. Since he does not support self-determination for Scotland he is not in touch with progressive opinion here far less the pro-independence left looking for a political home. In trying to reposition his party to the left of the SNP [as he must] he faces widespread disdain for Labour and wide illusions in Nicola Sturgeon. And as if to illustrate how ridiculously irrational those illusions have become a mural unveiled this week at the Edinburgh South Yes Café depicted the diminutive First Minister as Che Guevara - together with black beret and a yellow SNP logo! Fortunately not everyone in Scotland has taken such leave of their senses. The Scottish Socialist Party realises the challenges Corbynmania an Nicolamania pose but we also recognise that support for the SNP will not remain at this level as the contradictions within its neo-liberal economic programme and social democratic rhetoric are exposed. That’s why we were instrumental in launching ‘Rise: Scotland’s Left Alliance’ last month to present a more effective alternative to Labour and the SNP. RISE is the most important left unity project in Scotland since the launch of the SSP’s predecessor the Scottish Socialist Alliance twenty years ago. Local branches or circles are now being established throughout Scotland. RISE [Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmental Justice] aims to win seats in next years Holyrood elections and present a bold socialist programme favouring a second referendum. This issue features prominently in Jim Sillars’ new book ‘In Place of Failure’ [reviewed elsewhere in this newspaper]. The former MP and Deputy Leader of the SNP makes the case for a second referendum, a new electoral mandate in 2016 and for a ‘floating date’ chosen when the polls clearly indicate victory is likely. With the anniversary of the 2014 Referendum falling this week many seem to think victory in a second vote is a foregone conclusion. They are mistaken. The Independence movement cannot afford such complacency because the lessons of last year’s defeat have not yet been learned as Jim Sillars book makes clear. Moreover David Cameron only agreed to the last Referendum because he was confident he would win [as indeed he did], he will not be so amenable next time if the polls show Independence is supported by a majority. The political stalemate in Catalonia illustrates the case. The Spanish Government refuses to allow the Catalans an independence referendum because it knows it would lose. Building a mass movement for an independent socialist Scotland remains the key task for the left. And the first part of that challenge involves winning seats at Holyrood next year.