Hope is coming – Scotland’s left needs to be part of it

cm-jonathon shafi-ric 2014

JONATHON SHAFI: ‘In the longer term, the radical left should be looking to form the official opposition to the SNP...’ (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Jonathon Shafi Hope has returned to Europe. After years of brutal austerity measures, the people of Greece have delivered a body blow to the bankers and technocrats. The Syriza victory is then is not just a victory for the movement in Greece, but for people fighting for a social alternative to austerity internationally. Days after the election of Syriza, social reforms were enacted. Alongside immediate domestic changes, Syriza also stated its plan to give a ‘gift to Europe’ by vetoing, and thereby derailing, the corporate stitch up that is TTIP. In the week that followed, the rebellion taking place in the European south spread to Spain, where a Podemos rally saw over two hundred thousand people in attendance.

Podemos are looking to win the Spanish elections later in the year. This of course will be difficult, but the point is that in Spain the radical left are aiming to take power. Things are changing—in favour of the left—and fast.

Syriza and Podemos have opened up an anti-austerity front in Europe. In these countries the austerity agenda has been particularly harsh.

From mass youth unemployment to struggling to get the basics to survive (300,000 household in Greece have been cut off from electricity supply), the people have been through an exhausting period of harsh and unjust rapidly declining living standards.

Of course, the rich have done very well from these circumstances, capitalising on a downward market to make even more money than they were before 2008.

Despite there being distinctive circumstances, and different political histories in Greece and Spain which have led to particular forms of resistance, the ideas of the radical left are at a premium across Western Europe as well.

The collapse of social democracy and the nature of the neoliberal consensus has led to a questioning not only of austerity, but of the system that breeds the mass inequality and the privatisation of the goods and services we rely on.

As the system creeks under multiple crises- economic, political, and institutional—there is a huge opportunity for a left to put forward a socialist agenda for radical social change.

Here in Scotland, the ideas of the left were central to the referendum, a credit to forces like the Radical Independence Campaign and the SSP.

We put class, austerity, imperialism and corporate power at the centre of the debate. As a result of this and the association with a Yes vote and social progress, the Labour party have seen the rapid erosion of their electoral base.

The vast bulk of this has gone to the SNP. The reality though, is that the SNP is in essence a social-neoliberal party, with a highly centralistic mode of organisation.

That is not to say that there are not thousands of leftists and socialists who have joined, and a continuing and respectful dialogue and debate around this issue is necessary.

But with Labour in disarray, the best way to pull Scottish politics to the left electorally, is the presentation of a mass alternative to neoliberalism at the 2016 elections.

The Left Project is an attempt to open a discussion about how we can best coordinate a mass campaign to win socialist representation in the parliament which can work hand in hand with social movements and community struggles.

In the longer term, the radical left should be looking to form the official opposition to the SNP, but the steps we take now will be vitally important for the future.

Hope is coming. That is the slogan of Syriza, and the mood which is permeating the resistance to austerity as a result of their win. We live in an era where the ideas of the powerful are becoming decoupled from peoples lived experiences.

The richest 1 per cent now own more than 50 per cent of the world’s wealth. This situation cannot hold, and more and more people are beginning to realise it.

The solutions to the multitude of crises currently gripping the world are tied up with a necessary opposition to the system which produces them in the first place.

Our solidarity with those who are successfully building a challenge is not a one way process, because only a truly internationalised array of radical forces can bring about the positive changes we want to see.

In that sense, while we cannot create carbon copies of Syriza, we must work in the spirit of Syriza as we move forward.

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