Welcome to The Point, the magazine formerly called the Democratic Green Socialist (DGS). We have been offline for six months now but we are back and with a new look magazine and a new name to boot. We felt that it was time for a change. The website needed improved and DGS always felt more like the name of a political party than the name of a magazine. Yet despite the obvious changes, The Point, like the DGS, will continue to create a space where socialists and progressives can come together and share ideas.
There is an old saying by Karl Marx, appropriately displayed on the homepage for this issue, that the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it. When you see the effects of the current neo-liberal crisis, few would dispute Marx’s point that a system which breeds so much misery and despair is in need of radical change. But change the system to what, that is the question facing the left today. To use the old cliché, we know what we are against but what is it we stand for? ‘Socialism’ might seem an obvious answer but socialism and socialist strategies need to be rethought and redefined in order to make sense in today’s modern world. We live in difficult, indeed dangerous times. Sometimes it feels like the only certainty is uncertainty. In this milieu only the dogmatists or the naïve can genuinely claim to have all of the solutions to all of the world’s problems. The Point does not offer one narrative but narratives. We want to encourage a dialogue with progressives in Scotland and beyond, a dialogue framed on what it means to be on the left today.
However, we do take a position. We are pro-public sector and we believe passionately in public ownership and wealth re-distribution. We also support Scottish independence and it is this issue that forms the basis of our first editorial as The Point.
In time we will explore the independence question in greater detail, and in the spirit of encouraging dialogue with others who do not share our position, we invite the sceptics to put forward their arguments. But first let’s us touch on some of the basics as to why The Point supports an independent Scotland.
For us, independence for Scotland has nothing to do with nationalism and everything to do with democracy. To put it simply, we believe in bringing decision making closer to the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland should be governed in Scotland, by those they elect, not a bunch of out of touch millionaire toffs imposed on us by an inbuilt Tory majority in South-East England.
Importantly, we believe that independence is the key to creating a new egalitarian politics in Scotland today. Now that the Labour Party has abandoned any pretence of being socialist, and in the absence of socialism from below in any mass sense, we believe that independence can re-ignite the egalitarian imagination in Scotland. Our small country has a historic opportunity to engage in a discussion about type of nation we would like to be and the left must be part of that dialogue. That means not standing on the sidelines arguing yes to independence but only socialist independence, or yes to independence but only republican independence – these alternatives will not be on the ballot in 2014 - but fully participating in the pro-independence campaign, and outlining in a positive way the possibilities inherent for the left in a radical Scotland, freed from the yoke of Westminster politics
If we want to create an egalitarian society, where the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes, where our key utilities and industries are publicly owned, where workers are given a decent wage, where nuclear weapons are abolished and where foreign wars are a thing of the past, then the Scottish Parliament must be given full sovereign power. Only then can the Scottish people choose a path other than neo-liberalism.
Some say that unless there is socialism independence itself changes nothing. We disagree. Scottish independence changes everything. We are confident in this position because we believe that there exists in Scotland a progressive left of centre consensus and political parties win or lose elections in Scotland when they abandon the centre left position. Let’s face it, the SNP for all their shortfalls, and there are many, are not in power because they are to the right of Labour.
Even within the severe limitations of devolution the Scottish Parliament has introduced a raft of social democratic measures, from the abolition of prescription charges to free personal care for the elderly. Meanwhile, our NHS, although far from unscratched, has thus far avoided the severity of the neo-liberal assault experienced in England. Meanwhile, David Cameron’s Big Society experiment, in reality an ideological assault on the state, is less profound in Scotland where we remain stubbornly social democratic. We could do so much more if we had real control over our economy.
Critics of Scottish independence, on both the left and right of the spectrum, often make similar arguments. They argue that in a globalised world independence is meaningless. Yet this argument ignores the fact that nation states are essential to the process of democratising the juggernaut of global capitalism. The countries that are best weathering the economic storm are the ones where the footprint of the nation state is visible. These same critics argue that independence is meaningless in the context of the EU. Yet whilst the EU places limitations on Scotland it does not mean that Scotland is without choices. An independent Scotland could still develop radical strategies for tackling poverty and stay part of the EU, if it so chose. Moreover, the politics of Europe are not static and EU laws are not written in tablets of stone never to be questioned or even broken. The reality is not a ‘bosses club’ as hard left critics often proclaim but a situation that is more fluid. There is evidence that a shift to the left is taking place. One only has to look to France and especially Greece to see this. And who is to say that the political climate cannot change in Germany?
Left critics of independence often say that independence fractures the unity of the British working class. This is a red, white and blue herring. There is nothing to suggest that trade union co-operation could not exist should Scotland decide to go its own way. Yet we must also acknowledge the limitations inherent within such one-sided arguments. Many workers, particularly those in the private sector are non-unionised and people’s identity cannot simply be reduced to what they do for a living. The working class has moved on and sections of the left need to catch up. Undoubtedly, the working class is still with us, but it is more fragmented and its consciousness disjointed. Moreover, its sense of community and place is no longer constructed by heavy industry and the discourse of work. In this changing environment we need to think of new ways of engaging with the citizens of Scotland. We are not prepared to be hypnotised into waiting for world socialism. The fight starts now and, while maintaining a position of internationalism, it starts within the nation state. For The Point our nation state is Scotland. The politics of class need to fuse with the politics of civic national identity. The premise of this argument is that the nation state is a democratic construct, not an ethnic one.
As noted earlier, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage in a discussion about the type of Scotland we want to create. We believe passionately that, at this unique juncture in Scottish and UK history, independence is the foundation upon which all other progressive policies rest.
We hope you enjoy reading our new look magazine and we encourage people to write for it and take part in the debates.
Welcome to The Point.