Jeremy Corbyn’s feet are hardly under the table and the UK media has already started a full scale onslaught on the Labour party. Democratic socialism cannot be allowed in the UK. It’s an insanity, cry those who believed in WMDs that didn’t exist and took the country to war on lies and tall tales. Madness, tut those who claim that austerity creates growth despite all the evidence to the contrary. Ridiculous, decry the voices which only believe in printing money to pay for bankers’ bonuses. Now the proper monstering has begun. The monstering before the leadership vote was announced was just the warm up act, the pet lizard to the full scale dragon. The English left is now discovering what it feels like to be a supporter of Scottish independence. The UK media asylum is roaring.
Corbyn supporters call on supporters of Scottish independence to show solidarity with them and their project. There’s no denying it’s a worthwhile project. There’s no denying it’s worthwhile and that it deserves our solidarity and sympathy. It makes sense for us to work together to counter the Tories and their assault on civil liberties, their destruction of social security and the shredding of the safety net that protects us all. It is good tactics to work together to resist the renewal of the obscenity of Trident. These are goals worth achieving, aims worth working together to achieve.
But what I’m not going to do is to give up on the goal of Scottish independence because some English leftists have suddenly had an epiphany on the road to Islington North. The underlying issues with the British state remain exactly as they were before. Turning the head of the behemoth to the left won’t necessarily change its course however much we hope it might. The momentum of the British state remains just as it has always been, headed straight off an austerity cliff.
The harsh but true reality is that more capable politicians than Jeremy Corbyn, with a more united party and under a more favourable set of political circumstances, have in the past tried to drag the United Kingdom kicking and screaming towards social justice and a more left wing consensus. And they failed. Let’s be honest here, the signs are not good.
Yet if you listen to some on the UK orientated left, all these issues must be ignored and we’ve all got to get behind Jezza. They come to us and demand solidarity with threats and insults. It will be our fault if their project fails, it’s the fault of Scotland that the English left is unable to succeed. So Scotland must abandon its hopes and aspirations and follow meekly behind the politicians in London who are so much bigger than we are, who see further than we poor benighted provincials are able to, whose British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all – and make no mistake it’s a national project because they’re not calling for a world government and the end of borders.
Sorry, but no. We’ve been here before.
Solidarity is not submission. Solidarity is not subordination. Solidarity is not surrender. True solidarity means that we all work together on our own terms in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding. True solidarity would not demand that we drop all the projects and plans that the Scottish left has been working on for decades because all of a sudden someone in the Labour party thinks they’ve found a shortcut on the British Parliamentary Road to Socialism. We’ve all been down that road before and it always ends in tears, so forgive us if we refuse to suspend our disbelief just yet.
Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters might have forgotten, or more likely never noticed, that when push came to shove the Labour party in Scotland stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories against the working class communities that gave birth to the party, but we haven’t forgotten. So don’t dare preach to us about solidarity. We remember the image of Johann Lamont outside a supermarket grinning at the news that its directors had claimed food prices would rise after independence – because Davie Cameron had leaned on them to say so. During that campaign the Labour party lost all right to stand with working class people and to articulate their demands and desires. It’s the Labour party which has to prove itself, not the Scottish independence movement. So we’ll give the Corbyn supporters solidarity – but it will be on mutually agreeable terms, not because it’s demanded of us as the entitlement of the Labour party.
In Scotland we have built a self-sustaining movement. Its steel has been tempered in the forge of political campaigns, it’s able to withstand the rocks and barbs of the UK media. We are building our own media networks, our groups, our communications. We have years of expertise in organisation and planning from the ground up. And we do all this in the teeth of mainstream media opposition, we do all this and we grow and we thrive.
And that brings us to the bottom line – we don’t need the Corbyn movement. We can continue on the road to achieving our goals without it. We can continue to strive for social democracy in an independent Scotland. And we will win. We don’t need Corbynism, it needs us. We don’t need Jezza’s support, he needs ours. Ours is not the movement which is reeling in an attempt to recover from an unexpected defeat. Ours is not the movement that fears it may never achieve its goals. That would be the Labour party. It’s the Labour party who are the supplicants here, not the Scottish independence movement.
And with that in mind it’s the Corbyn project and its supporters who must approach the Scottish independence campaign with a damn sight more humility than some of them have shown so far. They can learn from us, because we have much to teach them. We can teach them how to organise, how to maintain momentum, how to thrive when the media hate machine is blasting against you.
But the Corbyn project has no right to demand that we surrender anything at all because if it wants us to give up on our goals and aims, to walk away from all that we have achieved over these past few years, then it’s up to them to prove that they are better than the alternatives that we’re creating for ourselves. They won’t do that by insulting us. They won’t do that with an arrogant and lazy assumption of superiority. They won’t do it by refusing to listen to the demands of the Scottish people.
They can start by getting serious about home rule.
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