Lewis Akers writes about something very important. Why socialists should be able and willing to learn - from events, from history and from each other.
Being a socialist is not a walk in the park. You don't join a socialist party just to pay your dues, sit on your hands and do nothing; you should join knowing that being a socialist comes with a lot of responsibility. This responsibility is not always easy to fulfil. Being a socialist means going up against forces much stronger than ours. This is why as socialists we need to be disciplined and seek to learn.
We each need a grounding in present day events and learn about our working class heritage and tradition. This is hard in the face of a ruling class's anti-socialist ideology that in deeply rooted in every crevice of society. For example my history teacher two weeks ago tried to claim the Marxist term "the dictatorship of the proletariat" meant an authoritarian dictatorship like fascism. Now as a socialist in moments like these I sometimes think I may have to just ignore such errors. But instead I argued against him by saying that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" refers to the fact workers are in the majority; it means workers’ power, workers’ control, workers’ democracy. Without an understanding of basic Marxist theory I would never have been able to defend my socialist ideas against an anti-socialist syllabus.
Socialists who dismiss reading, discussion,n and learning as "middle class intellectualism" do themselves a disservice. The class war is nothing unless it is a battle of ideas. They display what Lenin calls "workerism" were people try to dismiss education and learning and study as 'un-working class'.
This is nonsense.
Millions of educated workers in the past would do long hours in coal mines and factories and then come home and under candle light read authors such a Dickens and Darwin, Burns and Shelley. Self education is one of the most important issues we must address as socialists. Our working class history is completely written off by mainstream education in return for their so called 'liberal democratic' history.
James Connolly and John MacLean never dismissed socialist self education. Indeed Maclean use to teach Marxist economics to classes of hundreds in Glasgow in the period after WW1. The old mantra "Agitate, Educate, Organise" is as applicable to the left today as ever. But what many forget is that without education we cannot agitate. No one listens to someone who speaks nonsense. No one respects the opinions of someone who cannot rationally explain their world view. We as socialists have a unique worldview - one which cannot be put across in a half arsed manner that does more harm than good to our movement.
Our learning does not have to be reading alone. As someone who is dyslexic I know the struggles of reading. (And writing) The best way to learn is to discuss and debate with others. Marx once famously said 'Out of conflict comes clarity'. In other words discussing with those you do not agree with initially can be the most illuminating learning process. There are many ways of learning today than there ever has been. For members of socialist organisations the most important place to learn should be at your fortnightly branch meeting.
The most important type of education is learning from each other. We preach solidarity in every walk of life and we should learn from each other. The world is ours for the taking. But only armed with the facts can we ever achieve our goal. As Lenin said "There can be no revolutionary movement, without revolutionary theory." Education matters.
We should be aiming to have 150,000 members like the SNP. But in the meantime a hundred talented and well trained socialist cadres are more valuable than a thousand ill informed inactive members. Marx once said "philosophers have interpreted the world, the point however is to change it" but that can only be done if we are armed with knowledge and power.
Lewis Akers is a 16 year old member of The Scottish Socialist Party and RISE. He is a Rise Youth Network Coordinator, the Young Scottish Socialists Organiser and is serving as a Member of Scottish Youth Parliament for Dunfermline.
Point Editor Steve Arnott replies to the Tom Hunter documentary on improving Scottish Education
Tom Hunter’s education special on BBC Scotland was hailed as an investigation into the attainment gap in Scotland, and how it might be overcome. While I don’t for a moment doubt that Tom Hunter’s concerns are genuine, they are no more genuine or real or necessarily well founded than hundreds of thousands of other Scots who didn’t have the good fortune to ‘get into trainers and shell-suits’ at the right time. So as an equally concerned citizen, here's my tuppence worth.
Let me say at the outset that I found the businessman’s conclusions and the program’s approach shallow, simplistic, and not a little ideologically driven – even if a little of Tom Hunter’s thrust was in the right direction.
If only our schools were opened up to the innovation, drive and leadership of private enterprise and business and saved from the dead hand of bureaucratic councils then all things in the education garden might be rosier, according to shellsuit Tam, inthis highly publicised prime time documentary.
Mr. Hunter (sorry, no ‘Sirs’ on this page) showed examples of an undoubtedly high achieving ‘free’ academy in London, and the example of the independent Newlands Academy led by Jim McColl which takes struggling pupils from state schools and readies them for work or further education.
‘Leadership’ and ‘inspirational’ teachers were the other factors held up as solutions to the problems of Scottish education.
Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson would have been nodding their heads off in hearty approval
The shallowness of this Beeb investigation into the ills of Scottish Education was also rather revealed by this selective approach, however.
It is worth pointing out that the success of these free, private company run or charitable institutions relies on large sums of public money being diverted from the rest of the educational budget to these projects, the involvement of individuals and or/companies with their own specific agendas, and a degree of selectivity. If every school had the same resources thrown at them as ‘free’ schools and academies in England have done, or the kind of resources that were made available for the London Challenge – all to prove ideological points – then undoubtedly every school in the country would show massive improvements.
That kind of money for every school is not available, however – at least not in a Tory austerity economy hell bent on spending £187 billion on new Trident nuclear weapons and subsidising tax cuts for the wealthy and tax avoidance for multinational corporations. Within a fixed education budget the success of ‘free’schools relies on robbing comprehensive Peters’ to pay for academy Pauls’. It’s a Tory trick and it’s ethically unacceptable.
The second piece of illogical nonsense was the oft repeated drivel about leadership and ‘inspirational’ teachers. I’m sure every teacher aspires to be a ‘good’ teacher – but the idea that every teacher can be Robin Williams out of Dead Poet’s Society or Minnie Driver out of Hunky Dory is a bit like expecting every professional footballer to be Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo.
When tens of thousands of teachers are required for our primary and secondary schools the Bell Curve (or perhaps, more correctly, Curves) of abilities will inevitably come into play, as it does in any statistically measurable population. The answer lies not in seeking perfection from teachers but in ensuring teachers are trained in the best age appropraite teaching methods that can be empirically verified by neuro-science and best practice across the world.
Armed with the best teaching methods, and adequately paid, valued and resourced, and with reasonable class sizes, even ‘average’ teachers will produce surprisingly good results.
Unfortunately there was no analysis of either the successes or failures of the Curriculum for Excellence in this program, nor any examination of which teaching methods work best. The issue of falling standards in literacy and arithmetic of those children who have gone through primary under CfE, and increasing anecdotal evidence from teachers of poorer concentration levels of that tranche of pupils coming less than prepared to secondary education was not engaged with, not the increased levels of basic remedial work having to be done with young people going to university.
Nor did the program deal with the massive increase in tick box bureaucracy and non-teaching time that CfE has generated for teachers dealt with. I recently asked a teacher how many hours of actual teaching time they had lost as a result of the bureaucracy generated by CfE. Ten hours a week was the somewhat terrifying, but frank and disillusioned answer.
Hunter’s report was good and strong on one issue – and he deserves some praise for this – in insisting that education was more than about qualifications and higher success statisitics, and that we need wider measures of what constitutes success. A good apprenticeship might be as important an outcome for a young person as five Highers and entrance to university might be for another, he correctly pointed out.
And, he said, nothing beats a good, well-paid job. Of course, what these points in themselves show is that education can’t be separated out from society as a whole: at the end of the day education will frustrate if it only leads to unemployment or low paid insecure precariat jobs.
What socialists and progressives should support is a wholly comprehensive, single and secular system of Scottish education that is fully publicly funded from general taxation, delivered free at the point of need, resourced by central government, democratically administered by local government and which operates on independently verifiable best teaching practice. The involvement of business, charity or religion should be tangential at best.
It should be an education system which aims to produce whole and rounded individual fit for life, and not just university or employer fodder. It should produce people able and confident to engage in society and with the basic skill sets we all need. It should be capable of satisfying the needs of the general population and those of more gifted and able children. Parent’s financial clout or social status or religion should play no role whatsoever in what school children go to.
The aim should be that all schools are ‘good’ schools and that therefore you go to your local comprehensive.
That’s my vision, Tom Hunter, of a world class education system in an independent Scotland
What is needed immediately is to realise – whatever the good intentions of its promoters – that CfE is not working in certain aspects and that it needs to be looked at again. Bureaucracy for teachers needs to be cut. Professionals have to be treated like professionals and teachers allowed to teach without being micro-managed from a bureaucratic and largely social science trained centre that is thirty years behind in its thinking on brain development and largely operates on an outdated uber social constructivist model of human development.
Once that is done we can turn to the bigger questions and create a truly world class education system for ALL Scots citizens.
By Bill Mair
Saturday 6 February saw Solidarity candidates and members converge on Glasgow from across Scotland for the party's national conference.
The event was held to finalise manifesto points in advance of the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May.
Policies debated include:
• Repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act – unanimously approved
• Solidarity statement in support of the Palestinian people and against the illegal occupation and dispossession by Zionist Israel. Against all arms sales to the rogue state of Israel - unanimously approved
• Solidarity statement on refugees: Refugees ARE welcome here, we should throw open our borders and welcome as many as seek safety in Scotland – unanimously approved
• Europe: Solidarity is for a socialist and trade union-led campaign for withdrawal from the bureaucratic and undemocratic bosses' EU in favour of a People's Europe – unanimously approved
• Dying with dignity: calling for legalisation of assisted suicide under strict guidelines – approved by majority, following debate.
• Education: class sizes of max 20 for P1 to P4; free school meals; breakfast clubs in every school; free education from cradle to grave; no return of National Tests; reinstate student grants – approved by majority, following debate.
• Solidarity opposes the Named Person Scheme as: it infringes civil liberties and Health Visitors do not have sufficient time to adequately assess each family. Solidarity proposes investing in more posts and better training for all those working with children - approved by narrow majority, following detailed debate.
• Decriminalisation of drugs – remitted to Executive Committee for further discussion
• Solidarity MSPs to accept only the average wage of a skilled worker – approved and remitted to Executive Committee for further discussion on the detail
These are now added to the pre-existing policies on:
• Scottish Service Tax – as moved by Tommy Sheridan in the Scottish Parliament in 2006 – an income-based alternative to the regressive Council Tax
• Anti-austerity: not just verbal opposition to Tory austerity cuts but defiance. Councils must set needs-based budgets. Defiance not compliance.
• Second Independence referendum by 2018
• Democracy and Accountability Bill for MSPs: Right of Recall, Reduction in all MSPs salaries to average wage of skilled worker in Scotland; Oath of allegiance to the people of Scotland; Legally enforceable job description
• Bairns not bombs – unilateral nuclear disarmament
• No to Fracking – outright ban, not a mealy-mouthed moratorium
• Publicly-owned pharmaceutical industry: nobody should profit from ill health
Delegates also heard from guest speakers from the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, Mohammed Asif and father and son Dr Nadir Shah & Ferooz Khan, who have cycled 5,000 miles from Afghanistan to promote peace in Afghanistan and to raise awareness that the British intervention in the country has worsened conditions and allowed bandits and terrorist groups such as DAESH and Al Qaeda to flourish.
Trish Buchan from Scotland Against Fracking also spoke, praising Solidarity for continued support of the campaign, right from the very start.
Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne, as Co-convenors, said in a joint statement:
"Yesterday's conference was a very successful day. We are now positioned to campaign on a full agenda of policies for an independent, nuclear-free, Socialist Scotland. A Scotland where all are welcome, all are free and all are equal. We will build a society where the poor get richer, the rich get poorer: where people come before profit."
Pic shows, from left: Mohamed Asif, Tommy Sheridan, Rosemary Byrne, Trish Buchan
The Point has very much concentrated on asking for a 1st vote for the SNP and a 2nd vote for Rise, Solidarity or the Greens for the forthcoming May elections. But there are other pro-independence socialist forces who will be standing in some constituencies rather than the list, notably TUSC, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition. In the interests of fairness, comradeship and future left unity, we have invited TUSC member, Sean Robertson, to explain why.
Scottish TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) will be contesting seats across Scotland in May on a central policy of defiance of Tory austerity. Since TUSC’s formation in 2010, we have consistently called for politicians to use every legal method and means at their disposal to fight back against the ideologically driven Tory attacks on standards of living, jobs, benefits and public services.
The underlying blame for austerity lies firmly at the door of the Westminster government. First the Con-Dem coalition and now the Tories have used the threat of economic hardship and the financial crash as a stick to beat the working class with, punishing the poor and middle classes for the crimes of a tiny minority of super rich individuals and corporations.
It is eight years since the financial system went into meltdown, and no recovery is in sight. Austerity is the norm in 21st century Britain. Yet 100’s of billions of pounds of tax remain uncollected, and wars can be fought- as well as nuclear weapons bought- at the drop of a hat. Clearly, we are not ‘all in in it together’.
During the Westminster elections last year, much was made of the SNP’s anti-austerity credentials. Yet the party have been in power in Scotland since 2007, and austerity has carried on pretty much unabated; the Scottish government and councils controlled by SNP, Labour or whoever play an elaborate game of pass the parcel with cuts, claiming they can’t do anything to fight back as the Scottish Parliament is powerless to do so.
Working-class communities in Scotland are facing unprecedented cuts and attacks on workers' rights. Over the next two years more than £1 billion is planned to be axed from council jobs and services that will have a devastating impact. The Tory austerity offensive on welfare, the attacks on trade union rights, the drive to war and the need to combat racism in all its forms necessitates a socialist and 100% anti-austerity political alternative.
We know that austerity is set to continue for years to come. Scotland's politicians have a choice: they either stand up and refuse to implement the Tory cuts or they continue to be the main delivery mechanism for the systematic destruction of the jobs, incomes and services that millions of us rely on.
Scottish TUSC is clear. The mass anti-austerity mood that was so evident in the independence referendum, the sweeping gains made by the SNP in 2015 and the support for Jeremy Corbyn's election as UK Labour leader, all prove that the mood for a defiant alternative to cuts and failing capitalism is overwhelming.
If SNP and Labour MSPs, MPs and councillors were prepared to stand-up and actively oppose the cuts by refusing to implement Tory austerity, Scottish TUSC would not be standing in this election.
However, we know that this is not the case. For this reason the building of a socialist alternative to cuts, privatisation and poverty is essential.
TUSC has accepted from its inception that there will be some candidates of other parties who share our socialist aspirations and will be prepared to support measures that challenge the austerity consensus of the establishment politicians. But we are also committed to standing candidates or supporting others if that is the only way a working class anti-austerity socialist alternative can be articulated at election time.
Our coalition of trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists is united on the need for mass resistance to the ruling class offensive, and for an alternative programme of socialist policies to help inspire the building of a fight back.
Scottish TUSC will be standing candidates in the parliamentary constituencies for Holyrood. Particularly in those areas in which we have been leading the fight back against cuts. For example, TUSC supporters have been involved in the fight against cuts in Glasgow where a Labour administration wields the axe, and in Dundee where the SNP have their hands on the purse strings but claim to be impotent in the face of the Tory onslaught.
The council trades unions in Dundee and Glasgow have proposed the use of all legal measures - such as renegotiation of debt, and financial measures like capitalisation to allow councils to set legal no-cuts budgets as an initial step towards building a mass grassroots campaign to win back the billions stolen from Scotland since the financial crisis.
Several prominent trade unionists will be standing for Scottish TUSC in May. They include Jim McFarlane who is the branch secretary of Dundee City Unison and Brian Smith who is secretary of Glasgow City Unison. TUSC has been involved in supporting several high profile industrial actions in recent years including the Ninewells and Victoria porters in Dundee and the Homelessness caseworkers in Glasgow.
We are standing in the constituencies in these areas and across Scotland as part of our campaign to end austerity. We will consider the manifestos of those other socialist and left organisations who are standing on the regional lists before deciding whether we can recommend a vote for them. We will never advocate a vote for a party or a candidate who will vote for cuts budgets.
Scottish TUSC candidates will stand for election pledging to live on the average wage of a skilled worker.
Scottish TUSC candidates for the 2016 Holyrood elections will:
● Oppose all austerity cuts implemented by whichever party, or parties, form the next Scottish government
● Demand that the Scottish government and Scottish local authorities refuse to pass on cuts from Westminster and instead use their powers to set no-cuts budgets that defend jobs and public services in Scotland.
● Actively seek to build a mass campaign of opposition to cuts. Demand a return of the over £3 billion stolen from public services since 2010 to allow the reversing of the effects of austerity.
The participating organisations of Scottish TUSC – Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union in Scotland, Socialist Party Scotland and the Socialist Workers Party - all supported a Yes vote in the 2014 independence referendum. In addition, leading trade unionists who support TUSC in Scotland also backed a Yes vote. The massive support that was and is being given to independence, in particular by young people, was a clear indication that the public is sick of austerity and desperate for change. A concerted fightback against austerity would be well supported by yes supporters and could make independence more likely.
Scottish TUSC supports the immediate transfer of the powers of Devo Max to the Scottish parliament, including full powers in areas such as the minimum wage, all welfare benefits and pensions, employment, corporation tax, anti-union legislation and powers over the economy, which would allow the Scottish parliament to bring key sectors of the economy into public ownership and also campaigns for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Adrian Cruden reviews “Economics After Capitalism: A Guide To The Ruins And A Road To The Future” by Derek Wall, 2015 Pluto Press (ISBN 978-0-7453-3507-0); 174 pages
In the days before the Green Party of England & Wales decided to have a leader, we elected Principal Speakers instead. Dr Derek Wall was one of them. Now the Party’s International Co-ordinator, he teaches political economy at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has emerged as a key thinker in the global ecosocialist movement – a growing body of thinking that combines socialism and ecology, holding that a fair society is impossible without environmental sustainability and that justice is not only for this generation and our species, but for all epochs and all the creatures that share our world. True to its democratic objectives, ecosocialism is purposefully anarchic, organic and constantly evolving, anticipating and responding to the ever new challenges our world faces, yet consistently underpinned by positive values of inclusion, equity - and even optimism. If it can be argued to be an ideology, it is of a distinctly non-dogmatic form.
Wall captured the emergence of this proactive philosophy in his 2010 book, “The Rise of the Green Left”, which tracked the development of the ecosocialist movement’s thinking and action. He drew on writings such as Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom’s work, and the 2009 Belem Declaration, of which Wall was a signatory, and which sets out the broad objectives of the ecosocialist movement. Alongside this, he documented on the ground campaigning and implementation of its ideas, often by indigenous communities. Latin America in particular was and remains a centre of ecosocialist practice, especially in the rejection of multinational “investment” pitched at despoiling natural resources and displacing long established communities and ways of life. More recently, inspired by the social ecology of American radical Murray Bookchin and echoing the anarcho-syndicalist initiatives during the Spanish Civil War, the Syrian Kurds have boldly adopted a form of ecosocialism termed “democratic confederalism” for their nascent state of Rojava, on the very frontline of the Syrian conflict.
Ecosocialist thinking can be traced back to the dawn of the industrial age. Even then, many writers including Goethe in his Faust identified the threat of industrial capitalism to people and planet, while radicals in the Romanticist movement and the utopian socialists often referenced the essential indivisibility of humans from a wider, all-embracing Natural World. But perhaps less well known is Karl Marx’s commitment to socialism with a distinctly green hue, and this is one important foundation point in Wall’s new book, “Economics After Capitalism: A Guide To The Ruins And a Road to the Future”, published late last year.
While Rise was a comprehensive cataloguing of ecosocialist responses to the growing socio-environmental crises around the world, Economics is a deeper, structured analysis of the crisis of capitalist economics and a mapping out of potential alternatives. It begins with a tour from Bretton Woods onwards of the damage caused by capitalism, particularly in its neoliberal form, to so many aspects of our world, and reviews the rise of the corporatocracy that has come to dominate both politics and economics. Wall draws on a wide range of sources, from Adam Smith to Frank Knight (effectively the founder of neoliberalism through the notorious “Chicago School” of economists), from Keynes to Piketty, to examine the proponents and opponents of the neoliberal adventure, and to tackle the apologists such as Soros and Stiglitz who talk up the idea of a “kinder capitalism” if only it can be saved from itself.
He goes on to expose the impact of the current dominant ideology. The increasingly obscene levels of socio-economic inequality are looked at through the prism of a system set so that those who own assets see their income rise inevitably much more rapidly than those without. The crude mechanism of GDP/GNP as an indicator of wealth and prosperity is useless in determining the true value of economics to human well-being: for poverty can and often does increase alongside rises in GDP/GNP simply because of the inequality inherent in the capitalist system.
To illustrate, the marketisation of the USSR post-1991 demonstrates the human cost this mechanism extracts – an estimated 27 million decrease in population has followed in the brave new world of free markets. Ironically, while the excesses of the Russian oligarchs are often sneered at by the Western media, it is perhaps a case more of indignation at the brazenness of the arriviste nouveau riche than a rejection of what they represent – for if anything is an honest example of naked corporate capitalism, it is surely post-Soviet Russia.
Just as bad is the impact of the privatisation and deregulation that neoliberal institutions such as the IMF and World Bank have exacted from poorer states around the world in return for expensive loans and grudging admission to world trade. Food subsidies to some of the poorest inhabitants of our planet have been required to be abolished and community assets such as land and water alienated and sold off to pay the speculators in London, Paris and New York. As globalisation creates a homogenised world society, everything and everyone becomes degraded – even in a sense the capitalist class itself. Standards are lowered everywhere, lifecycles of products are shortened, waste increases, the environment grows polluted and resources become scarce so that, for our way of life to be sustainable, we would now require at least four planet Earths.
Wall reviews a number of the responses to this crisis, from the Occupy Movement, Positive Money groups, Social Credit advocates and anti-corporate activists such as Naomi Klein to “insider” critics such as billionaire George Soros, whose clever playing of global money markets created a significant amount of the chaos and damage he then put (some of) his money into countering through his Foundation. Above all, Wall questions whether markets of any sort can ever be efficient in any worthwhile sense, especially where we now have “split second trading” by computer algorithms with processes all of their own, far removed from any real link with the fortunes of the companies whose shares are being traded, or any concern with any genuine human need or environmental impact.
But while neoliberalism is only one particular form of capitalist thinking, and some such as Keynes argued for a more humane, regulated form with vaguely defined social objectives, Wall’s argument is somewhat more fundamental – a system based on the potential commodification and the maximum exploitation of anything and everything in pursuit of the highest level of private profit will always ultimately point in the same unjust and unsustainable direction.
In exposing the myth that capitalism might somehow sprout green shoots, stick on a kaftan and learn to love everyone, he goes back to one of the people many ecosocialists look to for many of our founding analysis and arguments – Karl Marx.
Perhaps owing to the corruption of Communism by Stalin, or by Britain’s non-Marxist Labour Movement’s inevitable interconnection with industrialism, Marx has often been seen solely as a proponent of productivist industrialisation. The capitalist phase made possible by technological and industrial advance was, after all, central to his argument about the progress of society and economics towards realising a communist society of abundance and freedom from scarcity. Yet this overlooks much of what he was concerned about.
In the very first chapter of Capital, Marx outlined the difference between exchange and use values of commodities. And it is moving from capitalism’s focus on the former to positioning the latter at the heart of our economics that is central to ecosocialist thinking; so too is a focus on common as opposed to private ownership. Wall traces this from Marx’s own writings and the utopian socialists who preceded him through more recent thinkers such as John Bellamy Foster and Joel Kovel. Productivist Marxism is only half of the story: green Marxism is the other part where Marx can be found declaring; “The view of nature which has grown up under the regime of private property and of money is an actual contempt for and practical degradation of nature… All living things must become free.”
Similarly, the idea of a metabolic interaction between humanity and the rest of nature, articulated by Marx, is vital to ecosocialism’s search for new, sustainable forms of society and economics. And it is to this that Wall turns in his final chapters, considering both writings and practical examples from around the world up to the present day. The need for capitalism to create and endlessly recreate desire in order to keep markets functioning is firmly located at the heart of the ecological crisis which is putting humanity’s whole future at risk, alongside countless other species (It’s worth noting that greens are not trying any so hubristic as saving the planet. It will long outlive us all – we’re actually trying to save ourselves, our own species’ future.)
Ownership and value are central to the debate. Citing the 15th century Hutterites’ phrase “Property is the enemy of love”, Wall argues for a redefining of economics to emphasise reclaiming and even extending the Commons – a concept he has often cited, partly drawing on the arguments of the late Elinor Ostrom – and use value: that is the social utility of something as opposed to how much it could be sold for to a prospective owner. Feminist concepts around flexibility and the innate value of life as opposed to patriarchal control and ownership of things are examined as principles needing incorporation into economic practice.
In such a world, markets and profits would no longer fit with the new economic paradigm: in their place would come self-governing communities with common/public ownership of their resources; and democratic decision-making would replace private control. Once capitalist accumulation and ownership cease to be the overarching purpose of economics, longer lasting and shared social goals come into focus instead. While there would still be personal property and money would have some purpose in aiding individual decisions, much more would be shared or borrowed, fewer resources used and greater sustainability achieved. Social inequality would be tackled as would other forms of injustice – for example, Ostrom pointed to intersectionality as being central to a fairer society – and Wall concludes with a rousing call for a better world.
It is a tightly written book that takes the reader through several centuries of thinking on sustainable alternatives to capitalism. It has a huge sweep, ranging from Plato and the Diggers to Kropotkin and Bookchin, and examines a plethora of socialist, anarchist, feminist and ecologist ideas - in this it is a vital primer for further reading from across the left and green movements. Derek Wall has provided a fantastic roadmap for any on the Left who want to find ways to a world which is not only more equitable, but which will last for many, many aeons to come.
“Private ownership of the globe by individuals will appear quite absurd… Even a whole society, a nation, or even all societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuries, and they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.”
- Karl Marx
The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration (on the Climate & Capitalism site)
Derek Wall’s blog, Another Green World http://another-green-world.blogspot.co.uk/
Review of Rise of the Green Left on Viridis Lumen blog
Stories of Tomorrow: Ecosocialism and the World To Come (Adrian Cruden, Viridis Lumen blog)
Martin O’Beirne’s Blog http://www.martinobeirne.co.uk/blog
Ecosocialist Horizons http://ecosocialisthorizons.com/
Murray Bookchin Archive http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bookchin/Bookchinarchive.html
Ecosocialism Group (on Facebook) https://www.facebook.com/groups/ecosocialism/
London Green Left Blog http://londongreenleft.blogspot.co.uk/
Derek MacPherson, Clydebank Yesser, Australian citizen, and Babelfish blogger attempts a 3 part answer to the biggest question of the day.
Seriously. We're all asking ourselves one, or both, of these questions, aren't we? How exactly did a group we'd never heard of a few short years ago, a group we can't even decide what to call (I'm going to use 'Daesh' because apparently it annoys them), become, in such a short time, such a massive headache for, well, most of the world? And what can we possibly do about it that won't just make matters worse. These are serious questions. Deadly serious we might say. I will attempt to give answers to both of them, but first there's a bit of housekeeping we need to take care of. I had, as the title suggests, intended this piece to be about the past and the future. But the present elephant in the room can't be ignored. Recently David Cameron finally got his wish, got the vote through the Commons and started bombing in Syria. And now I have to talk about that before I can go on to talk about how we got into this mess in the first place, and how I, as opposed to David Camoron (mis-spelling entirely intentional), think we should proceed from this point on. It's not a good point to be at, but unfortunately this is the only reality we've got. That's going to be the really interesting bit, for me to write anyway. But first, Cameron and his approach (to call it a strategy would be a gross abuse of the language).
So, things we need to consider about current government policy, in no particular order. Cameron's stated reasons for doing it, his arguments – laughably irrational. It will make us safer. How, exactly, and in what possible universe could it make us safer? All logic and all experience tell us the opposite. Every time, every single time, we get involved we make matters worse, we make more enemies, now and in the future, as a generation of children grows up with horrific memories and missing parents, brothers, sisters. And every single time we end up more at risk. There are a lot of reasons why we continually intervene and continually screw up, but that's what parts 2 and 3 are about. For now let's just take it, because I think it's pretty self-evident, that that's what we do. So will we be safer? Not remotely. We just drew a big target on our backs. C'mon, admit it, you've had that thought too, haven't you?
We have to defend our friends and allies, pull our weight, do our bit. Well sure, but does that still apply if your friends and allies are making a serious mistake? Wouldn't it be better to be honest with them? A bit like the way you'd take your friend's car keys off them if they were drunkenly brandishing them and telling you to get in? Now I'm not suggesting our elected representatives are drunk at the wheel, although when you look at the quality of their decision making, and the size of the Westminster bar tab, you do sometimes wonder. But in this case, as with every other time they've intervened in the Middle East, they clearly don't know what the hell they're doing. They've got no goals, they've got no contingency plans, they've got no exit strategy. What they have got is the unholy trinity of bad reasons for doing anything. 1) Somebody had to do something. 2) We had to be seen to be doing something, and 3) It seemed like a good idea at the time.
So what are we/they doing? They are waging an air campaign. Now, you'll possibly have heard a lot of phrases about air things. Air defence. Air support. Air cover. Air superiority, even air supremacy. Here's one you've never heard though: air victory. There's a reason for that. There's no such thing. Nobody ever won a war, or even a battle, with air power alone. You can check. It's never happened. And yet so many people seem to think, as some of them did in 2011, that it's better to do something rather than nothing, even if you have little or no idea what the results will be. It's not! I was thinking about this earlier, and I remembered an interview I saw many years ago with the captain of a British Airways 747 which unexpectedly flew into a cloud of very fine particles of volcanic ash somewhere in the neighbourhood of Indonesia. At first the crew were transfixed by the eerily beautiful light show created by the tiny particles hitting the nose and windscreens of the aircraft. They had no idea what was causing it as none of them had ever seen anything like it before, but as they were discussing it one by one, but in quick succession, the engines started to shut down. Now as the captain explained, a quadruple engine failure at cruising altitude is a very rare thing indeed, but the first thing you do, if it should ever happen to you, according to the training he'd received, is this: sit on your hands. The thing is going to glide, and when you're six or seven thousand feet higher than the peak of Mount Everest it's going to glide for a while. What you absolutely must not do is to panic, and react before you've had a chance to consider the situation and to make some sort of a plan. To do so might very well make matters worse, maybe even catastrophically worse.
So the other thing we need to get out of the way is what, in the situation we find ourselves in, we don't do. What we must not do. This will be quicker and easier than answering my two questions, but it does have to be done. The simple answer is that you never do what your opponent is trying to provoke you into doing. Now there are a number of things which fall into this category. I'm going to make a short list.
Be afraid. We cannot allow ourselves to be afraid. Remember who we are. Since when were we afraid of anybody? They are terrorists. The clue's in the name. Their objective is to create terror. As soon as you're afraid of them, they win.
Let it affect our lives in any way. As soon as we do that, perhaps by asking ourselves should we really go to that match, that rally in the square, because there's a remote chance there might be a terrorist attack (and by the way, you're still far more likely to be struck by lightning, and you don't go around worrying about that), they win again.
Let it affect our attitudes to refugees. It shouldn't need saying, but it does. The Syrian refugees in particular are the people who are fleeing Daesh. Seven million people have been displaced by that conflict. Hundreds of thousands have already arrived in Europe, soon it will be a couple of million. And people are worrying, no they are actually saying they are afraid, because one or two of them might be terrorists. One in a million! If you are seriously saying that, if you are really that fearful, then this next bit's just for you. See item 1, drink a cup of concrete and harden the fuck up! Think this through. If we turn our backs on these refugees, what lesson are they supposed to take away from that? "Hey, Daesh were right! These people are complete bastards! And they hate us!" And what are we going to do with them anyway? No, you haven't thought that one through either, have you? Is it just going to be Somebody Else's Problem? Whatever country they happen to be in at the moment, that's their tough luck? Or are you suggesting we drive them all back into the sea? Or perhaps you think we should keep them in camps? Millions of people, in Europe, in concentration camps. Ringing any bells yet? Win number 3 for the terrorists!
Let it affect our attitudes to our own Muslim community. That would be disastrous. And disgraceful. In Scotland we have not experienced the same social problems that have plagued England, and France, the US, Australia, or any one of a number of western countries. We haven't had hundreds of young people running off to Syria to join Daesh. Why not? Because we haven't, so far, made young people of Muslim background feel alienated in the way those other countries have. Forty years ago, when I was growing up in Clydebank, the first migrants from Pakistan were just beginning to arrive, and yet we already had a distressing level of toxic sectarianism. You know what I'm talking about – competing groups of Christian extremists. Now hang on (I can already hear the Christians protesting), that really had nothing to do with religion, it was more akin to some form of tribalism and a whole bunch of teenage boys bursting with testosterone and spoiling for a fight. To which I respond, "Your point being?" Because isn't that exactly what is fuelling the present Daesh phenomenon? Now we like to believe, with I think some justification, that we've moved on from those days, that things have got better. We may well be just about the only country that over that period of time has acquired a Muslim minority and yet seen the level of religious conflict decline. We have always enjoyed good relations at both the personal and community level. This is something we've got right that those other countries have not, and not just recently either, something we got right 30 or 40 years ago. Here's a radical idea - let's keep it that way! Otherwise the terrorists win again!
Lash out ineffectually and indiscriminately, because we had to do something. Like by launching air strikes for instance. It's an incredibly bad, no worse than that, a spectacularly stupid idea. For a number of important reasons. The first, and unarguably most important reason, is that airstrikes are not, can never be, 'surgical.' That is a myth put about to make us feel better about ourselves, to allow us to look the other way as our governments slaughter many, many times more civilians, more children, more innocents than any terrorist group could ever hope to. Because that's what's really happening down there, on the ground. Let's not kid ourselves. The very term 'terrorism' was coined to describe aerial bombing of civilian populations. Real people are really dying down there, because of our pathetic, hand-wringing cries that we 'have to do something!' Which brings us to the second reason – it doesn't work. You'd think it would, wouldn't you? Think about bombs falling everywhere around you. It must be terrifying. And yet, it doesn't terrorise people, it just pisses them off. As I mentioned, I'm from Clydebank. The Blitz is a big part of our history, our mythology. We were bombed more heavily than any other place in Scotland, second worst in the UK, after Coventry. Did we all become advocates of surrender to Germany? We did not. Certainly it must have been a terrifying experience for those who went through it, but once it was over those feelings very quickly began to turn to anger. A cold, hard anger, and a steely determination to fight back. If that's the effect it had on us, then why would we imagine for one moment that it would provoke a different reaction amongst a different bunch of people?
Thirdly, you can't defeat a terrorist group by conventional military means. That's why it's such an effective strategy (and we will discuss alternative ways it can be countered in Part 3). Terrorists don't tend to wear uniforms and they blend in with the civilian population. If you use conventional military means against them you're pretty much bound to kill more civilians than combatants, thereby committing a war crime. Especially when you're using an instrument as blunt as air power. But as they say, when all you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail, so our leaders go ahead and do it anyway, and invent the myth of 'precision' bombing and 'surgical' strikes, to deny their shame. But ok, let's say you manage to get some of the people you're actually aiming at. The question remains: is the number of enemies you manage to take out greater than or equal to the number you create as a result of your bombing? Well, the evidence is in, because Western governments have been doing this for quite a while now, well over 20 years at least. What do you think? Are we safer? Do we have fewer enemies? Are there fewer terrorists and potential/wannabe terrorists in the world today than there were a quarter of a Century ago? Are we in the West better-liked, more respected, thought of more favourably in the countries of the Middle East, or in Muslim countries in general, than we used to be? Have you had enough rhetorical questions yet? Because I think my point is made. We are doing exactly, exactly what Daesh were hoping we would do. As Frankie Boyle put it in his own inimitable style, in his recent article for the Guardian, 'ISIS wants an insane, medieval race war – and we've decided to give them one.'
So, now that we've got that out of the way, what should we be doing? Well the detail will have to wait for Part 3, however that may be no bad thing. For the time being, we need to accept that doing something is not necessarily better than doing nothing, not when you don't know what you're doing! We need to learn from that 747 captain (who, incidentally, was subsequently able to restart his engines, make an emergency landing, and save every single life onboard) and sit on our hands. And of course, as the picture at the top says in large, friendly letters (and it's good advice at any time), Don't Panic!
Part 2 follows shortly.
Saturday 5th December saw just under 300 people attend one of the largest conferences of it's type for the Scottish left in many years. The first National Democratic Conference for RISE – Scotland's Left Alliance took place in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with much hype around the event, more so as The National carried a front page the day before with Jim Sillars explaining why he will be giving his list vote to RISE.
The days events began with co-founder of the Radial Independence Campaign, Jonathon Shafi, announcing that after only 3 months RISE currently has 300+ members, excluding members of affiliate organisations such as the SSP and RCN. He also explained "Today is not a showcase, it's not for the media. It's for us to work out radical policies for 2016" and some radical motions were passed.
First section of motions debated were that of the structures of the organisation, a section which was facilitated by former SSP MSP Francis Curran. It was passed that all RISE elected MSP's will take a workers wage which is something that the SSP has long advocated, MSP's will also only be able to serve a maximum of 2 consecutive terms. The first real debate took place over a motion moved by Motherwell and Wishaw Circle which looked to see Circles have the autonomy to stand candidates on the candidate section if they so wish. Craig Paterson, a key RISE organiser argued against the motion stating "First Past The Post is an undemocratic system. It gives power to the Tory party and something we should not advocate by standing in it".
One of the most radical motions passed within the Structures section was that there will be plural leadership bodies. Five "Action Teams" (Secretarial, Finance, Media, International, Women) will form the "Leadership". People are elected onto these teams, can be recalled and are held to account by the National Conference. They will also be accountable to the monthly National Assemblies in which delegates from all RISE Circles can attend, delegates from each Circle must be gender balanced. RISE already currently have a Women's Network and a Trade Union Network however motions were passed to see a Youth Network and a LGBTI+ Network.
After a break up for lunch in order to give those at the conference an opportunity to attend the anti-war rally in which Colin Fox spoke, Kevin McVey facilitated the next section on Draft Policy Programme. During this section there was much passed, some of this included a pledge to build 100,000 council homes, put companies handing out zero-hour contracts on a "Shame" list, radical land reform which would see a cap on the amount of land any person or organisation could hold, a Landlord tax, a pledge to oppose all forms of Fracking, scrapping Council Tax in favour of more progressive taxation, policies on anti-racism and immigration, disability rights and care, public ownership, Land Value Tax, minimum wage for apprentices, Living Wage for all carers and much more.
We were joined by a member of the Catalan radical left party (CUP) who stated in their speech "We will work together with RISE for independence and socialism across Europe". Jordan Daly, co-founder of the TIE campaign(Time for Inclusive Education) put forward a motion on stopping the discrimination of LGBTI+ groups when it comes to giving blood, he argued "All blood donations are screened. There is no reason for LGBTI+ people to be banned from donating". This motion was passed along with another which sees RISE officially affiliate to the TIE campaign, this seen the conference break into a loud round of applause yet again.
After a long day of debate and discussion, Pinar Aksu, Colin Fox, Jean Urquhart MSP and Cat Boyd closed out the day. Colin Fox, co-spokesperson of the SSP stated in a impassioned speech "RISE offers working class people opportunities that no one else can.... So proud our parliamentarians will take a workers wage. They will be incorruptible." Pinar Aksu who spent time in Dungavel Detention Centre and has campaigned for it's end ever since said "People should not have to die in the seas around Europe. We should be sending help to Syria, not bombs". She also ended her speech calling for a welcoming, socialist Scotland. Jean Urquhart MSP spoke of the need to make RISE a national movement that reaches people from the Highlands and Islands to the boarders. "We need a radical alliance from the countryside to the towns". The last speaker was another co-founder of the Radical Independence Campaign, Cat Boyd who gave a speech that captured everyone in the room "Our society is ruled by a corporate and political class. We will not stop until we have taken it back for the people... We have got 5 months to win Scotland. We will do it street by street, door by door... Today is a testament to our strength. Let us rise".
At the end of Cat's speech, there was a standing ovation. It may have been directly after the speech but it felt like it was an applause for the whole day and what was achieved, radical policies which genuinely look to put the people first and fight for a more equal Scotland. There is a long way to go for RISE, but the future looks promising.
The Benefits of Doubt
Whilst the media focuses on benefit scroungers, each year in the UK billions of pounds of benefits go unclaimed by those who need them most. Graeme McIver examines a system which is confusing, complex and daunting and arrives at the conclusion that it is deliberately so in order to save the Government money regardless of the personal and social consequences to those who desperately require money to which they are entitled.
A cursory glance at television listings any night of the week highlights that a new type of reality programme has muscled its way onto our schedules. Alongside the poverty porn of Jeremy Kyle you can easily find Benefit Busters, Benefits Britain, Benefits Street, Can’t Pay We’ll Take it Away, Skint and On Benefits and Proud each night as you flick through the myriad of channels available. It makes one pine for those halcyon days when tornadoes, sharks and Nazis dominated TV listings.
These programmes, allied to a right wing assault in the tabloid press and cyber space paint a picture of the UK economy crumbling under the weight of benefit scroungers, dole cheats and fraudsters that threaten to bring the country to its knees. Radio phone in’s, discussion programmes and Parliamentary questions follow in their wake as the benefits culture is thrust under a spotlight afforded to few other political issues.
The Government has expended vast sums of money on advertising benefit fraud hotlines where you can shop a neighbour or work colleague who you believe is guilty. There are no consequences to anyone making spurious or false claims.
It's time to boycott tax dodgers Amazon, argues Solidarity's Bill Mair
"It's a steal!" In a twist on the phrase often used to emphasise the perceived value of a supposed bargain, Solidarity, Scotland's Socialist Movement, has used it as an accusation against Amazon, and has called for a blanket boycott.
The online retailer is often used for Christmas shopping, as it promises a wide range of goods at cheap prices. However, research reveals the many tricks and ruses employed by the multinational company to avoid a level playing field when competing with more ethical organisations.
First up, tax avoidance: that murky, grey area at the fringes of legality. According to business watchdog Ethical Consumer, in 2014, Amazon's UK subsidiary paid £11.9m in corporate taxes on sales of £5.3bn - a rate of less than 0.3%(1). The company pledged in 2014 to voluntarily pay more tax, but the total amount paid since has been little better(2).
There have also been many stories(3,4) in the media recently about poor pay and dreadful working conditions at the company's UK distribution plants. Scotland's main distribution centre, in Dunfermline was itself the subject of a recent exposé of harsh working conditions, with allegations that staff, on zero-hour contracts and minimum wage, were "intimidated and treated like cattle"(5,6).
Amazon staff are non-unionised and the company strenuously resists efforts to introduce union recognition agreements.
So, while it may appear at first glance that goods are cheaper from Amazon, once you factor in that they are paying little to no tax on the billions they make, you realise the false economy. It's a wee bit like the story of the couple whose house is broken into and their television taken, only for them to spot it the following weekend at a street market, on sale for half the price they paid for it. That's not really a bargain if it was stolen from them in the first place. So it is with Amazon: if they are dodging tax, they are stealing from us with one hand and offering us cheap goods with the other.
Solidarity is urging consumers to find alternatives to Amazon for presents this Christmas. The Ethical Consumer website (1) displays lists of reputable online retailers to assist the shopper with a conscience.
Tommy Sheridan, co-convenor of Solidarity, and list candidate for Glasgow, said:
"We must boycott Amazon and other companies which don't pay their tax, but the government could make this problem go away overnight by closing loopholes in tax legislation. Why don't they? Because the big political parties are in the pockets of the big corporations. Solidarity is not funded by corporate donations so we are the independent voice of the working class. We have no impediment to speaking out against shady business practice.
"In an independent Socialist Scotland Amazon and the like could pay up or get out. For the moment we will name and shame them and keep our money out of their hands."
Of course, it is not just Amazon who are guilty of these ugly practices when filing their annual corporation tax returns. Big names such as Apple, Boots, Cadbury, Caffe Nero, Ebay, Google, Ikea, Johnnie Walker, Starbucks, TopShop, Vodafone and Zavvi are all exposed by 38 Degrees in their Guide for Spotting Tax Dodgers (7). It's a big problem."
According to Tax Research UK, which quotes a 2014 report by PCS, the union for most staff at HMRC, £19 billion is owed to HMRC (that is you and me and everyone in the country) in tax avoided(8). Worse, openly illegal tax evasion cost us £82.1bn in 2013/14 (8).
By comparison, the Department of Work and Pension's own official figures show that just 0.7% of total benefit expenditure was overpaid due to fraud(9). This totalled £1.2bn: 1/16th of the tax avoidance bill or 1/68th of tax evasion. Nevertheless, we are bombarded with television and radio adverts, bus-shelter adverts, billboards, letters and Facebook ads, urging us to snoop on our working-class comrades and shop them to the HMRC benefit fraud hotline.
We see very little evidence of the tax authorities cracking down on the more lucrative targets of multinational corporations.
What can we do, as individuals? This takes me back to my opening proposition: boycott Amazon. It's easier to do that than may at first appear. Consumers may choose to buy at local shops, which is an excellent way to support the local town centre economy. Determined cyber-shoppers could use the Ethical Consumer website, mentioned above, but there is an even more subversive option available. As a result of Amazon's shady reputation I rarely shop online at all nowadays but when I do, I browse Amazon for the products I want and then note the suppliers listed under "Other sellers on Amazon." I choose a supplier, note their name and then proceed direct to their website to buy. It gives me a quiet sense of satisfaction to think that I am using Amazon's system against them.
Whatever you do this Christmas for gifts, if indeed you submit to the pressure of buying any at all, please consider doing your bit for us all and avoid the tax avoiders.
Bill Mair is the parliamentary candidate for Solidarity, Scotland's Socialist Movement in the Mid-Scotland & Fife region, which takes in the main Scotland Amazon distribution centre, in Dunfermline.
Alongside hundreds of others I attended the launch of Rise in Glasgow on Saturday. Rise stands for 'respect', 'independence', 'socialism' and 'environmentalism'. Effectively an alliance between the SSP and the organisers of the Radical Independence Campaign, Rise's launch on Saturday was billed as the most important left unity initiative in a generation. Of course, in a context in which the SNP has pitched its tent firmly on social democratic ground, and Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership looks increasingly likely, it may sound counter-intuitive to launch yet another left wing initiative. This may well turn out to be the case, but I say this; Scotland is in the midst of an unprecedented period in its modern political history, and simply put, anything is possible.
In regards to Labour, most of the people I spoke with on Saturday were supportive of Jeremy Corbyn but they understand that winning the Labour leadership is the easy part. Once elected Corbyn faces an organised backlash from the Labour right, who will undermine his leadership from day one. The Blairites will be as loyal to Corbyn as he was to them and the emerging civil war will not be a pretty sight. In Scotland, Kezia Dugdale fails to convince; from what I have seen she is cut from the same political cloth as say Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper, and in a time when Jeremy Corbyn has put ideological politics back on the agenda, managerialists like Dugdale are literally struggling for air.
Rise's relationship with the SNP is more problematic. Rise activists differ from the SNP leadership on a range of issues; the monarchy, NATO, and industrial policy. But from what I heard on Saturday, if there is a dividing line running through the independence movement it is likely to be found on the question of public sector cuts. Many of those present on Saturday have witnessed the impact of cuts first-hand; community campaigners spoke of seeing libraries, day centres and community centres close. Many trades unionists spoke of their fight to save jobs and judging by the fact that over 50 thousand jobs have been lost in local government it is a fight that is being lost. The bulk of the anger is directed at the Tories, but it is also directed at MSPs and councillors, SNP ones included, who have passed on the cuts. For many people, the narrative that 'we must wait until independence' is just not good enough. One young activist said to me that 'David Cameron couldn't give a damn if the SNP are opposed to austerity, so long as the policy is carried out'. I thought it was an astute point.
Yet, I understand the SNPs dilemma, and political activists must always be wary of the thin line which exists between principled opposition and cynical opportunism. There was fighting talk on Saturday demanding that SNP Councils set 'needs budgets', in effect deficit budgets, although how this demand translates into actual practice was never explained. Sloganeering is easy when not in power. Furthermore, rather than being 'neoliberals with a heart', the modern political experience suggests that social democrats find it very difficult to avoid being in government without some form of collaboration with neoliberal practices. Just ask Alexis Tsipras? The great French cultural theorist Pierre Bourdieu understood this only too well when he wrote that 'the strength of neoliberalism is to be put into application...by people who call themselves socialists'. However, there has always been a strand of left wing thought which finds it more comforting to talk about betrayal than it does to confront the nature of power and rule in modern society.
But Rise is correct to raise these issues and they are correct to scrutinise the relationship between the SNPs rhetoric and its actual performance. The biggest challenge facing Rise is to spell out its vision with a set of detailed policies which they are capable of delivering on. Electoral politics is not everything, but without electoral representation, a group's politics, however well-intentioned, lack credibility. The Rise leadership also faces the daunting challenge of keeping the alliance together. From what I saw on Saturday, there is a new politics of the left emerging. A discursive shift, for anyone who pays attention to these things, can be detected. For example, in an age where ideology is problematic, socialism has given way to that ubiquitous of terms, radicalism. Moreover, the obsession with 'the working classes' is less profound, hinting that the left is beginning to find a language which recognises the fragmentary and contradictory nature of people's social existence. In addition to this, loose networks based around computerised connectivity have replaced the political party, which is often constructed by modern activists as an outdated organisational form.
The way forward for Scotland's radicals will not be easy. Anyone familiar with electoral politics will tell you that it requires discipline, organisation and clarity. Endless consultations, workshops and participatory exercises, however well-intentioned, must also be married to a coherent strategy which provides leadership and direction. And whilst social movements are important, it is also the case that thinking of the world only in terms of movements, all too often leads to a lifestyle politics trapped in a never ending echo-chamber which is disconnected from the lives of 'real people' the movements claim to represent. Election results can be a cruel reminder of this reality.
And it is with elections in mind that I finish this article. The voice of groups like Rise ought to be heard in Scotland's parliament. Those who say that it's bad for the SNP, betray the fact that the dominance of one party in the yes campaign was a weakness not a strength. But there is one problem. There was an elephant in the room which was ignored on Saturday. The problem is this; the Scottish left is sleepwalking into an election where radical left groups are going to end up competing against one another on the regional lists. To borrow a phrase from the Cold War, the outcome of this scenario is 'mad' – mutually assured destruction. The desire to be MSPs should always be tempered with a consideration of what's in the best interest of the cause. It may not be possible in every region, but I do hope that activists on the ground can put pressure on their respective organisations to consider the case for not splitting the radical vote. Failure to do so may result in the squandering of the best opportunity in a decade for the radical left to gain parliamentary representation.