A reply on socialists, Labour and the SNP


While I enjoyed Anne Field’s polemic in the open letter to a socialist voting SNP, I can’t help but feel it was addressed to one tendency in the Scottish left while missing a much broader swathe of leftish opinion in Scotland and elsewhere.

There is a loose grouping of ex Trotskyists and Stalinoid Trotskyists whose long march away from class politics had led them into being be the left wing auxiliaries of the SNP. Tommy Sheridan is the most obvious example of this. On the way they have shed nearly all of what working class internationalism they ever had but retain the sectarianism and fondness for heresy hunting learnt from old organisations. This is the tendency Anne Field is addressing.

However there is a much wider, larger group of politically healthier people attracted to support for the SNP, or people in England and Wales hoping they do well. This was who Nicola Sturgeon was addressing in the leaders’ debate. Often they will be desperate for an end to austerity and UKIP-driven anti migrant racism. Whilst the SNP’s nationalism doesn’t convince them, its current rhetoric of an anti austerity government does. As does the talk of scrapping Trident and Nicola Sturgeon not joining in the anti immigrant bidding war. I don’t think Anne’s letter would convince these people who are considering a SNP vote from anti austerity desperation rather then separatism.

The point of SCLV and working class socialists in general should be to win people to independent working class politics, the idea of the working class majority the world over striking politically and economically in their own class interest but also fighting for the emancipation of humanity.

A start is to get the organs of working class resistance such as they exist; The unions and in this country the party they are linked with, Labour, to begin to act to some degree as a tool of working class power.

That is a tall order, and can seem utopian. However if a divided battered socialist movement staggering under the weight of defeats and the legacy of Stalinism, could manage to win arguments on social control of the banks, transport, energy and for heavily progressive taxes on the rich, we can make a start on winning people to the arguments for a workers government.

But to do that need to point out that the anti austerity government proffered by Sturgeon is a mirage. Not only as Anne Field pointed out the SNP are imposing austerity and privatisation now in Scotland, but because the SNPs separatism and its nationalism undermines the unity and solidarity of a working class that alone had the power to end austerity and go much further.

The SNP will always be a party that thinks the interests of a multi millionaire anti union boss like Brian Souter who happens to be Scottish is more important then the struggles of student’s or workers who happen to be English. The labour party by contrast is still linked to a united labour movement of millions across Britain. They unions provide most of the money, many of the activists and many of the voters Labour relies on. It can be transformed into a true mass workers party. The SNP may sway left or right depending on the political mood but it will never be a working class party. We need to persuade people made desperate by austerity to spurn the dust to win the prize.

• Dave Kirk is a socialist, Labour and Unite the Union activist in Leeds.