Ninety, not out

At the risk of sounding ageist, we’d like to proclaim we’re 90 editions not out – rather than say we’re 90 editions young. Publications and organisations like ours exist and operate on very little in the way of money and bodily resources. Printing, postage and website costs have increased. We have not made a financial appeal in many years. So please consider making a one off or regular donation – take out or give someone a subscription to the magazine as a Christmas gift.

The where, when and how can be found on our website at https://scottishleftreview.scot/join-us/ and https://scottishleftreview.scot/shop/ . Of course, we still accept cheques by ‘snail mail’ – send to 741 Shields Road, Glasgow G41 4PL.

Okay financial appeal over, let’s get down to the politics. Are the wheels coming off the SNP bandwagon or are the gripes just really those of the chattering classes so that next May the SNP will steamroller Labour again? Property deals and difficulties over education and health especially have started to take the shine off the SNP’s lustre while many of its 56 MPs have sunk into near oblivion in the public mind.

Yet if the general mood of the public is the Tory Westminster government is the rightful bogeyman then the SNP would still seem to be best placed – in this majority public mind – to fight the Tories. The corollary is that Labour in both Scotland and Britain is still not the opponent it needs to be to change this calculation. But the rub is that the SNP is better at talking the talk than fighting the fight. Yet talking the talk is better than nothing in this mind set. How long will that mind set last?

If the SNP wanted to do more than this, it would need to see itself as more than a centralised parliamentary party. With over 100,000 members (and their families and friends) as well as its modern, high-tech campaigning organisation, could it not think about mobilising these masses to oppose a whole number of Tory acts, ranging from welfare cuts, the Trade Union Bill and letting the steel industry perish? This would supplement any fine speeches in the debating chambers of Edinburgh and London.

Although Nicola Sturgeon was still at school at the time, she should ask the old lags of Alex Salmond, Jim Sillars and Roseanna Cunningham what the ‘Group of 79’ was all about given that it sought to organise the ‘Scottish resistance’ to Thatcher and the Tories, advocating direct action and industrial action to mount that resistance.

An occupation or work-in would be a good start and be more than merely saying that the Scottish government was thinking about nationalisation or forlornly seeking in Westminster for Scotland to be exempted from the Trade Union Bill. But even if this seems a bit farfetched the SNP Scottish Government could be bolder and more radical using existing and new powers, including EU directives to oppose, to delay and mitigate much of the Tories attacks on families and workers.

Scottish Labour’s conference in Perth has just taken place as this editorial is penned. After a less than successful British conference on the Trident issue, the advance in Perth is being contested. As the themed articles in this edition attest to, Corbyn has much potential to transform Labour but also much challenge (especially from factions within Labour, especially the Parliamentary Labour Party). Momentum – the new organisation of Corbyn supporters – has its work cut out to help Corbyn and McDonnell get Labour in shape for fighting the 2016 elections on a successful and radical basis.

There have certainly been a few teething problems for Corbyn and McDonnell so far. All of these will be easily forgotten if they not only do better in responding to the Tories but even more critically take their own policy initiatives and start mobilising their supporters outside parliament into a visible fighting force. Of course, Momentum has a role to play here but it is not the meetings it has or its behind-closed-door actions that will count. Rather it will be the campaigns, the numbers attracted to them and what leverage they develop that will be critical in overturning austerity.

Corbyn and McDonnell need to get their skates on – let’s see what comes out of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity in London in mid-November. But surely, there are no shortages of ideas given Corbyn’s leadership campaign itself, the deployment of radical tax expert, Richard Murphy, and the move of Andrew Fisher from head of policy at the PCS union to head of policy for Corbyn. Indeed, Murphy is a voluminous writer and Fisher recently published the book, The Failed Experiment: And How to Build an Economy That Works.

To use former US president, Lyndon Baines Johnson’s, salty phrase, they need become quickly well versed ‘in farting and chewing gum at the same time’ in terms of taking initiatives to counter-balance the obvious reactions they have to make to government policies and actions (as well as the attacks on them).

Here in Scotland, Dugdale seems to have sensed the way the wind is blowing so she is more likely to have to move towards Corbyn than vice-versa. Time will tell whether it will be enough though but trying to reluctantly follow Corbyn will not be sufficient as that will lack the killer instinct needed to take on the SNP.

What does all this mean for the rest of the left? The battle for next May is a peach coloured fight for sure. The Greens, RISE, Solidarity and maybe assorted others will all battle to say give us your second vote as it will be wasted on the SNP given the D’Hondt method used (where parties winning more constituency seats are precluded from winning so many of the list seats). Voters decided to do this in 2003, resulting in the ‘rainbow’ parliament. It seems the Greens are best placed to benefit from this while others still face the challenge of brand recognition and political credibility. The ripples from Greece (Syriza’s capitulation) and Spain (Podemo’s waning star) do not augur well.

Our on-theme articles consider many of these issues while our off-theme ones look at a variety of hardy perennials from class and nation to workers’ rights and modern apprenticeship.

Pen-ultimately, we are delighted that the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is to give the third annual Jimmy Reid Foundation lecture at the University of Glasgow (see p15 of this edition). She will address the issue of workers’ rights as human rights which takes on added importance with the third reading of the Trade Union Bill just beforehand. The lecture is already overbooked but there may be some return of tickets. There will also be a livestream of the lecture to the STUC headquarters with a debate following this. Please visit the Jimmy Reid Foundation website (http://reidfoundation.org/ ) for the details of these.

We wish all our readers/supporters a good festive break when it comes and we’ll see you again early next year.