Editorial: The Power of Pride

Salvador Allende’s inaugural speech as the President of Chile pulsed with pride, not in his own success, but in the achievement of the parties and movements of the Chilean Left. Young and old, women and men, urban and rural had acted in concert to bring socialism to power. Allende also saw that pride in the election victory would pale against people’s pride once they had turned Chile upside down. Revolution takes time. It involves heaving down institutions to rebuild others in their place. It means winning a tug of war against those who use all their power to pull right. ‘Socialism is not a free gift’, Allende said. ‘Neither is the liberation that accompanies it. Attaining it means postponing some present possibilities in exchange for a more humane, richer and more just society for the future’. Sacrifice is hard for anyone, let alone a nation, but its reward is the deepest kind of collective pride.

In two years the government had nationalised copper, banks, healthcare, textiles, and other industries. It had introduced redistributive taxation, created beach resorts for working people, and provided milk for children. But its economic veins were cut by capitalist countries, and it was not long before the US supported outside and inside forces to assassinate the president and put Augusto Pinochet in his place. Thousands were murdered and many more exiled. That was a half-century ago this year. In these pages, Oscar Mendoza, a veteran of that coup, treats this anniversary as a moment to remember the dream of creating a country that people could be proud of. Chris Dolan recalls the gifts bestowed to the left in Scotland and the world by the Chilean socialist movement. Victor Jara’s poetry reminds us that a good harvest comes from hard work, and liberation from reaching out our hands to others.

logo of 50 years since allende

Fifty years since Allende’s death is also twenty five years since the Act that established the Scottish Parliament. After just two years, Chilean people had much to be proud of in their institutional reform. After a quarter-century, can the people of Scotland be proud of how our country has changed under the direction of the popular vote? Are our institutions built to promote the freedom and justice of all, opening up the avenues, in Allende’s words, where free people walk to build a better society? This issue suggests that his call to the people of Chile must still stand as a lesson to the left in Scotland:

What prevents the realisation of our ideas is the organisation of society, the nature of the interests which have so far dominated, the obstacles which dependent nations face. We must concentrate our attention on these structures and on these institutional requirements.

The first section of this issue focuses attention on the obstacles and oppressions that are embedded in Scotland’s institutions. Rohit Rao exposes the racist origins and operation of our school system, Sher Kahlid-Ali demonstrates how college cuts are closing opportunities for working class people, and Francesca Sella shows the implications of the UK Government’s new migration bill for Scotland’s commitments to children and their rights. Police Scotland’s couthy community profile is rubbed away to reveal its punitive and power-hungry sneer, and Beth Ansell considers how the capitalist prison complex, hardwired into our system of justice, might gradually be abolished. While these stiff and often cruel structures and institutions leave Scotland with little to be proud of, Peter McColl and Gilbert Ramsay demonstrate the pitiable state of Scotland’s capacity to make and manage projects. All of which risks leading us into a kind of cynicism that draws us away from the ambition to turn Scotland upside down. But it is the right place to start a discussion as to how to put education, justice, policing, and governance into the hands of the people, and make a society of which we can be proud.

It is worth being careful about the notion of pride. It has plenty of selfish, self-serving varieties, and can breed all kinds of exclusive politics and principles. There is good reason then to draw lessons from those who have forged it into a term of freedom, unity, and inclusion. The LGBTQ+ movement has developed Pride into a cultural phenomenon that brings queer people from the margins of society into the struggle for liberation. Through its long history, the queer movement, striving for a different world, has faced the constant rightwards tug that always hinders an uncompromising commitment to collective liberation. Pride should communise, not compromise. Jen Bell tells this story through the work of Magnus Hirschfeld in Weimar Germany, who pioneered queer research and gender-affirming care but chose conservative deals over communist tactics. It is part of the story of Fossil Fuel Pride, who campaign to prevent the co-option of Pride by oil companies who see it as a way of pinkwashing their destructive power. Dan Glass sets out an alternative story: one of unconditional acceptance, community and love. When communities are excluded, however, resistance and defiance provide inspiration for the struggle. Catherine MacPhee reviews a riotous play by Daniel Cullen co-produced by Skye’s Iomairt an Eilein (Listen to Us), while C. R. Hourigan applauds the urgency of Ballet Black’s production of Mthuthuzeli November’s Nina: By Whatever Means. The radical potential of festivals like the Fringe, says Mim Black, is in work that takes to the stage in celebratory, emancipatory glory.

Allende looked forward to the hard work that people would do in Chile and around the world, when all their energies were directed towards the realisation of freedom. His pride was never self-satisfied. He did not rest on his laurels. Whether you are engaged in the work of institutional reform, movement building, cultural creation, or the AEIOU of community organising, the activity you get up to in your corner of the UK is a world away from the nation-building project of Allende. But we are lucky that we get to share this world with people who contributed to that cause. We can be proud of them and carry on our struggle in Scotland inspired by the beauty of their socialist dream. As Victor Jara wrote:

I can’t remember that a glorious harvest

has ever descended from heaven