Mary MacCallum Sullivan starts with an apology to SLR: I wish I’d met you earlier
I regret the delay. I have now read – very thoroughly – two issues, so please consider me repentant. In the last issue, the editorial pointed to the big issues presented by the pandemic, three of which were what the crisis says about capitalist society, what’s happening to the workers’ movement, and what the crisis says about viable alternatives to capitalism.
It emphasised the fragility of the ‘progressive’ left and worried that workers have an immediate vested interest in a rapid return to ‘normality’. In addition to the weakness of the ground on which ‘ordinary working people’ stand, the editorial could have pointed to the capture of Britain’s and international wealth by the 0.01% of the corporate class, the oligarchy. In this deplorable state, we face the economic and environmental challenges. The capacity of the radical and revolutionary, as well as the social democratic left, the editorial concluded, to address all of this, is at a very low ebb. Add to that the scale of the challenge of a Tory Westminster government with a large majority, and a narrative that Labour itself is at a level of minimal influence or credibility.
There’s the challenge to the Scottish left. The last issue’s content directly addressed the coronavirus crisis itself in the various accounts and explanations. The desired ‘new normal’ was called for in respect of the required revolutions in housing, transport, health and the like. It is not enough. I have observed this scene, from far and near, for more than fifty years now, and, like the editorial, I am not yet hopeful.
The scale of the crisis faced is global and existential – not just of humanity but of the living earth. We understand the dynamic systems of this planet so little that we cannot know where the tipping points are. We are told that we have a mere decade to preserve the stability, at least, of our only habitat, its very ‘habitability’. Yet we stand in mortal danger of allowing that 0.01% to derail the efforts and energies of the rest of us. The usual terminology does not suffice; ‘left’ and ‘right’ are past their sell-by date. Yet a revolution is called for, even by ‘rightist’ think-tanks and the Financial Times.
What will enable and power the necessary change? We start from where we are. An ‘independent’ Scotland is only the beginning. And, only in an independent Scotland will the Scottish left find its new place in the time after the SNP. It’s the only possible scenario that will generate the political and cultural energy required to fuel radical and fundamental change.
For no nation is truly independent – the pandemic has reinforced that. We are all interdependent, and must embrace inter-national co-operation as the only way to begin to address the people’s and planet’s ills. Such a challenge makes the Scottish polity look wee, and a bit stupid, if it fails to stand up against the scandalously incompetent English-dominated Conservative party which has held the British state in its thrall for shamefully long. Brexit will never benefit Scotland – the Conservative party would have to change its whole current delusional ideology before it could begin to find any answers to the challenges facing the nation and the world. So that’s my response to the editorial’s first point: capitalism has been demonstrated not to work for the 99.9%.
For the workers’ movement, Marius Ostrowski has just published a Manifesto for a Progressive Alliance (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020), calling for a ‘rainbow coalition’, unity across classes, the ‘radical middle’, all to join in a united open left to create the minimum heft needed to begin to shift those rusted levers of power. Prepare now; be serious about gaining power; start with Holyrood 2021, take a deep breath and vote for an independent Scotland as the starting-point for a radical re-orientation of democracy; it’s the only thing that will start an unstoppable process of change across Britain.
For the editorial’s third point – what the crisis says about viable alternatives to capitalism – we have a clear idea about the essentials of the ‘Good Society’ and the Green New Deal now set before us by a range of actors. Are any or all of these ‘viable’? Is this ‘socialism’?
Whatever we call the way forward, we must take action; there must be alliances, there must be a plurality and a diversity in our action, to attempt new ways, reformulate tried and tested ways, invest resources in people, meaningful work and ‘well-being’, locally-driven, nationally-directed, internationally co-ordinated. A radical courage is now called for, an openness to local and community initiatives and the major de-centralisation of power.
It is a moral challenge such as we have never faced before. Can we, as a people, raise ourselves to our full height, losing the ‘Scottish cringe’ in the process? Can we, as a species, take up and acknowledge our responsibility for the destruction we have wrought on the planet and its living systems, and pledge the local, national and international will and resources to work towards global repair and the realisation of a just transition to a safer and more equitable future? Make no mistake: this will not be easy. Revolution must be joined; nothing less will do.
Mary MacCallum Sullivan is a psychotherapist and educator with an interest in a more meaningful local and ethical politics.
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