2016 has been somewhat of a disaster for the left despite relative successes. We have seen Sanders and Corbyn rise in popularity which has brought left wing ideals back into the mainstream in the UK and US. Yet, on the other hand we have seen a huge increase of support for right wing politics. The election of Trump as US President, the Tories solidifying their position in the polls and a massive surge in far right groups across Europe. There are many reasons for socialists to feel disheartened and even disillusioned with it all, particularly after the dismal showing in the Scottish elections for socialist groups. However, there is a small glimmer of hope. However small it may be, it is there and it will grow.
I am a firm believer of changing things from the bottom up. Starting in our local areas, find something which will connect and resonate with local people then build. It is not about simply shouting socialist ideals in the faces of people on the local high street, it begins by opening dialogue within communities, towns and regions then growing cooperation and relationships. One tactic will not work for every region, it is our duty as activists to identify what could work in our areas and build upon that.
In the Highlands something somewhat exciting is happening. A handful of activists identified a tactic which could work up here and we have gone for it. Saturday 5th November saw the first meeting of the reorganised Highland Socialist Alliance take place. The HSA is not a new idea - we had some success spearheading campaigns such as HighlandsNo2BedroomTax in the past - but this time we could do so much more. The Highlands has long been removed from sectarian politics of the central belt. Groups have cooperated and joined campaigns together regardless of party. Following from the poor Scottish Election results, it was decided that once again we should reorganise the HSA. This time however, we will make sure that it is done properly.
Within a few days we had agreement from RISE, SSP and Solidarity Highland branches to come together to form a campaigning alliance. While each individual groups numbers are small, we have agreed that together we can make a considerable change to the politics in the Highlands. From campaigning on national and international issues, we will be fighting against the massive cuts soon to be implemented by the Highland Council. This is not an electoral alliance by any means, we have simply identified that we can campaign more efficiently together than we can apart.
Of course we are not only restricted to members of these three groups, socialists of all groups and none are encouraged to join our alliance. We agreed that we will put out a hand to all socialists who may be interested in campaigning for socialism in the region. After lengthy discussion we also agreed on the following; That every meeting must be followed by an action in order to prevent constant meetings with no actual activism. That every group can use and share HSA materials on their individual stalls and that each group can have their own materials on HSA stalls. There was also a consensus that we should try to focus our stalls and campaigns on single issues each time such as council cuts for instance. Between now and new year each member was also tasked with thinking of how we can put forward real alternatives towards council cuts coming to the Highlands without simply falling into the old trap of shouting "No Cuts".
We have set out small but important guidelines on how to go forward and how we will instil change. Within the next couple of weeks we are hoping to be out on the street together – united - talking to people and taking capitalism head on from the bottom-up. We hope we can be a beacon of light and show the way for socialists across Scotland.