Speaking for the establishment

Party notes

The launch of the Glasgow Scotland Forward campaign was an interesting event which brought together about 150 people from a variety of political backgrounds. In microcosm it displayed the paralysis of major sections of the left in the face of the establishment-orchestrated campaign for a double ‘yes’ vote in Blair’s referendum. At the same time however, the official Scotland Forward speakers evidenced a real nervousness, a sense that what they were attempting to foist onto the Scottish people falls short of their real expectations.

First the left. Apart from ourselves, most visible on the night was the local SWP branch. These comrades busied themselves distributing a leaflet headlined - characteristically - “Vote ‘yes’ in the referendum, but fight for a real change”.

This promises Blair that “socialists are for a double ‘yes’ vote in the referendum”, as “any other position is to line up with the ... most reactionary section of the British ruling class”.

Having got that off its chest, the rest of the leaflet concentrates on the real stuff of politics, for “extra teachers in our schools, increased pensions, and a decent minimum wage” and the like. With an almost criminal complacency the SWP attempts to shoo away a mass political sentiment for democracy with the bland observation that: “Whether we live on either side of the border, we face the same class enemy, we are in the same unions and we have fought side by side in the past and will fight side by side in the future.” So that’s all right then ...

This low-level economism was easily countered by the platform at the Glasgow SF launch. This narrowly focused establishment campaign encompasses the churches, the unions, community organisations, media personalities and even, as Bill Spiers of the Scottish TUC assured SWP members, “class warriors” such as themselves.

Having failed to draw any sort of independent class line on the key democratic question of self-determination, the SWP’s lame economistic observation that ‘workers are the same all over’ falls very flat. Its correct criticisms of SF - its establishment nature, the anti-working class record of its leaders - can only therefore be carping. The SWP has already ceded to SF the leading role in the fight for democracy and promised a ‘yes, yes’ to Blair. SF leaders thus treat the SWP with undisguised contempt - one can hardly blame them.

Scottish Militant Labour is painfully aware of the same dilemma of course. This is presumably why the one leading SMLer who attended the meeting - Allan McCombes - arrived late, sat silently throughout and did not even have any copies of Scottish Socialist Voice to sell. Clearly the logic of supporting ‘yes, yes’ - that is, entering a junior partnership with large sections of the anti-working class establishment in Scotland - is causing SML acute embarrassment. No wonder it has refused via its Scottish Socialist Alliance majority to organise a systematic debate on this key question despite - or rather because of - the deep rift in its own ranks (see Weekly Worker June 19).

The speakers for SF were at pains to emphasise the limited remit of the campaign - “If you want a debate,” SF national organiser, Paulo Vestri, told dissenters in the audience, “you’re in the wrong place.”

Thus SWP speakers were tolerated ... just about. There was a clear attempt to freeze out identified CPGB comrades however. One comrade complained vociferously about this and called for a genuine discussion. Paulo Vestri jumped to his feet as the defender of the meeting’s right not to have any democracy - “You were in the Dundee launch,” he thundered accusingly at our comrade. “Yes, so were you,” our comrade helpfully pointed out.

There was a palpable touchiness from SF apparatchiks, when challenged from the left on the real terrain of the debate: the right of the Scottish people to self-determination. This presents our organisation with a huge opportunity. The people have consistently shown that they actually want far more than is on offer from Labour. It is criminal that SML and sections of the left are helping to defuse these expectations through their support for ‘yes, yes’.

The Party has the opportunity to step forward as the genuine tribune of the democratic aspirations of the people. We speak for the masses - SF and its critical left hangers-on are speaking for the establishment.

Mark Fischer
national organiser