The stunning realisation of another planned five years of savage Tory austerity is quickly giving way to an upsurge of anger. We need to build a movement of the organised and the unorganised that can defeat the attacks the working class collectively face.
Despite their electoral victory, the Tories have little or no mandate for their policy of ‘planned poverty’. With a single seat in Scotland and the lowest share of the vote since 1865, the Cameron government will be seen as illegitimate.
Across the UK, only 24.2% of the registered electorate voted Tory – the lowest share ever for a Conservative government. Moreover, it will be a weak administration prone to splits and divisions over issues like Europe. As well as the inherent likelihood of ‘overreach’; launching one attack too many and repeating the fatal mistake of Thatcher who was brought down by mass non-payment of the poll tax.
The twin arms of our movement, the political and the industrial, must be organised to their full capacity to ensure this government of millionaires is defeated. First and foremost this means calling a ‘council of war’ of the unions to prepare mass, coordinated strike action.
The union movement must meet the threat of a new round of brutal anti-union legislation – which includes an anti-democratic onslaught on the right to strike – with urgent preparations for a 24-hour general strike. Its collective power should be mobilised to the full. That means the type of coordinated ballots and then strike action we saw on November 30 2011.
Except this time, the action cannot be called off after firing the first shot. We need a sustained campaign of ongoing and escalating action until the austerity onslaught and attacks on the right to strike are defeated. There will also be struggles on a range of other issues, in particular over benefit sanctions and the new round of savage welfare cuts. It’s vitally important the union movement makes common cause with all those fighting back, both employed and unemployed.
The SNP has emerged from the election with a colossal mandate to oppose all further cuts. Its historic victory was driven by a huge anti-austerity mood and a determination to hit back at the political establishment. It was indeed, for many, round 2 following the indyref of last year.
However, what will the SNP leadership do now? Will it continue with the grotesque game of pass-the-parcel and impose the Westminster cuts in Scotland for the next five years, or will it refuse to implement a penny more of Tory austerity? By using its majority at Holyrood to set a ‘no cuts’ budget in the autumn and helping to build a mass campaign of defiance, it would fulfil its mandate.
Socialist Party Scotland and the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) are demanding that this is exactly what the SNP must do. If it fails to do so, and this is likely, the need for an alternative to the left of the pro-capitalist SNP leadership will grow even further.
The decimation of Scottish Labour, an event long in the preparation, is an historic turning point. It marks the culmination of decades of Blairite, anti-working class and pro-war polices. With the cracks and fissures clearly visible, the indyref shattered what was left of Scottish Labour. It will not be possible to remake what has been broken. Labour no longer has a social base of support among the working class in Scotland that can sustain it, even in the medium term.
There will now be a period of debate and discussion in the affiliated unions on the way forward. But underpinning all of these discussions must be the unavoidable need for the unions and the wider anti-austerity movement to build a new 100% anti-austerity political party to represent their interests and fight for a socialist solution.
This idea lies at the heart of the strategy of the TUSC. It stood the largest block of socialist candidates in Scotland and received the highest votes on the left – albeit modest given the electoral tsunami towards the SNP. TUSC, supported by the RMT, also stood in 127 seats in England and Wales on a platform of opposition to all cuts and privatisation and for public ownership and socialism.
We have called a conference for Saturday June 27 in Glasgow to begin discussions and preparation for a 100% anti-austerity and socialist challenge for the 2016 Scottish election. We invite all organisations, trade unionists and individuals who are interested in such a platform to attend the conference. It will be taking place from 1pm in the Blysthwood Hall, Renfield St Stephens Centre on Bath Street.
Jim McFarlane is a member of Socialist Party Scotland and is also the branch secretary of Dundee City Unison. Jim was the Scottish TUSC candidate for Dundee West at the general election.