Over the years many people have identified themselves with a particular type of socialism; Marxism; Leninism; Libertarianism; Trotskyism; Stalinism and so on. For me, we must have a united front to achieve greater outcomes for everyone in society. Martin Luther King said:
You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.
To achieve socialism, we must first promote the ideals of socialism within our democratic system. I believe that we will win the next independence referendum by appealing to what I see as an overwhelming majority of people in Scotland who have a contemporary, cultural or historic connection to the aims and values of socialism.
Therefore, we must do more now to promote socialist policies at the heart of the SNP because as the party of government, people look to us and look at what we are doing with a view to whether or not they would support independence in the future.
Key polices on issues: a democratically elected head of state; more progressive taxation; a living wage for all as a bare minimum; fairer workers’ rights and the most progressive labour laws in Europe are just some of the key areas I wish to see us debate in the near future.
As a party we have moved from in the region of 24,000 members to well over 120,000 members in under two years. I think it is naïve to assume automatically that the policies of old truly reflect the hopes and aspirations of the membership of today. Therefore that is just one mandate I am asking members to give to me, to use their vote to make it clear that the mass membership of our party that should set our political direction, not follow it.
The greatest change we can make to our country is by supporting and improving communities across Scotland for the better. As a local councillor – the only councillor – in this contest we have a unique opportunity to show that we want to do politics differently in Scotland. The next step in the march to independence is not winning a UK election, or a Scottish parliament election or an EU referendum across Scotland as we have done that.
The next step on the march to independence is winning control of local authorities in town halls across Scotland. The SNP depute leadership election allows us as a party to show to Scotland just how important that is to us by electing a member of local government as the next depute leader of the SNP.
James Connolly once questioned the whole point of independence if you simply wished to mirror the institutions you wished to gain independence from. Independence allows us to set our own destiny. Granted, there may be things that stay the same but that will be our own choice. However, I want Scotland to become an independent country because I believe there is a better way and we can reject the neoliberal raison d’être of Britain.
Some people warn that higher taxation for better public services is radical. That involving unions in shaping better working relationships between workers and employers is radical. That pursuing a socially just and progressive modus operandi is radical. That is the legacy that successive Thatcher and Blair governments left.
The gap between the richest and the poorest has increased regardless of the colour of Westminster governments. That is the reason people say that policies that aim to make the country a fairer and more equal society are radical, because those at the top don’t want to pay to help make it that way.
Next year we have an opportunity to change town halls across Scotland for the better. For too long they’ve been old boys’ networks. We can and we must change this. The 2011 SNP Scottish Parliament landslide was not replicated in the 2012 local elections. The time to put local government front and centre of everything we do is now. Local councils are on the frontier of delivering the services people in Scotland rely on.
I don’t want to see power devolved to the Scottish Government just to stay there. I want to see it devolved to councils across Scotland. Then on the back of success in next year’s election we can get on with the job of delivering more progress policies in communities across the country.
Chris McEleny is a councillor for Inverclyde