Lift your eyes from the enchanting orb of party politics and government and you will see an unsettled Scotland. It is a country of workers moved to strike against bosses struggling to hold down wages. A country where asylum seekers are detained in hotels while fascists chant outside their windows. A country where sexual health clinics are targeted by reactionary preachers and their disciples. But challenging the heartless can be heartening work.
In the words of Lorna Proudfoot, who writes about one of the countless picket lines drawn across workplaces this year: movements of solidarity are nourished by love. In this magazine, you will not find fantasies of a new progressive Scotland, but field reports from a movement that is managing to overcome what Roz Foyer calls ‘the mythical separation between workers and the public’. There is Coll McCail’s review of the resurging student movement and Lara’s reflections as a school pupil on the lessons learned from watching teachers strike. There are words by Olivia Crook and by Paula Dickson describing soulful, songful pickets; and a poem by Alison Kerper and a perspective piece by Amber Ward that speak of the physical strain of standing united through Scotland’s winter. And there are letters from Peter Frase and Paul Malgrati on working class resistance in the US and in France.
Beyond the strikes, later pages give space to the people who take the side of everyone who seeks to be at home in Scotland. Emma Ór describes a fascist counter-demo, and Pinar Aksu reports from migrant rights campaigns, with images that are cause for sorrow and for inspiration. Quân Nguyen explains his discomfort with Scotland’s self-congratulatory efforts to welcome migrants. Iryna Zamuruieva reflects in Scottish terms on the devastation of war in her homeland. Henry Maitles writes of the fate of anti-fascists eighty years ago in a tribute to victims of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Sean Sheehan reviews a history of the British earls and bombs that reshaped the Middle East.
At this issue’s heart sits a trio of histories exploring how the workers of Dundee have resisted the efforts of bosses to define, dominate, and debilitate them. STUC Congress this year takes place in the Caird Hall, the concert venue at the heart of the city. James Barrowman considers how the collective identity of Dundee’s workers was forged every time they passed through the gates of the jute mills and factories. Later, it was in newspaper offices that the everyday radicalism remembered by Ellie McDonald was sustained, despite, or perhaps because of the dominance, described by Charlotte Lauder, of D. C. Thomson’s printing presses spouting conservative doctrines across the North-East.
Rosalind Sanderson’s beautiful cover captures the dynamism of this city’s radical ground. Every city and community in Scotland has squares and corners where you find the Left. Esmond Sage describes a hearth for radicals in Aberdeen that welcomed trade unionists during last year’s Congress. Dundee is not short of socialist spots, some of them tended by STUC President Mike Arnott, whose fire and warmth are well known. During a previous Congress, Mike took a small delegation from Caird Hall to a bit of ground that will always be a kind of hearth for socialists. It is a stone that speaks of those who could say: ‘all my life and all my strength were given to the finest cause in the world – the fight for the liberation of mankind’. The words seem solemn and grand, as they ought to be, for they are set in a memorial to Dundee members of the International Brigade killed in Spain fighting fascism.
James Connolly said of Ireland, what could be applied to any country, including Scotland, the country of his birth, that anyone bubbling with enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’ who can witness all the wrong and degradation wrought on the people by others in their nation without burning to end it, is ‘a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements which he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’.’ There has been much concern recently that Nicola Sturgeon’s departure, and the appearance of a candidate who pays tribute to the oily wealth-creation fountain, and whose principles Vladimir McTavish reckons would be reactionary even in 1950s Dingwall, is damaging the social-minded self-image of progressive Scotland. Of course, the idea that Sturgeon presided over a society to be proud of is fiction familiar to the Left. Many people prefer to believe that things are better than they are, and would rather not to see the struggles of strangers. The Scottish Left is good at taking this dinnae-think-abootery to task. Yet, in the post-Sturgeon gap, any kind of wait-and-see approach risks fueling apathy. Sceptics say the fundamental problem Scotland faces is that none of us can be bothered. But as journalist and anarchist Dorothy Day said: ‘No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.’ Writing is part of that work, and it is work that every reader is invited to do. So, scrieve a letter, review a book or gig, report on a protest or meeting, describe a pilgrimage, draft an essay with friends, and send them to the magazine. Share your energy to make this journal a living source of socialism. Think of us as a radical hearth of the Scottish Left
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