Scotland: Fight Against Austerity, Against Established Politics

People in Scotland need to organise themselves on social issues and transcend the political status quo – not join the SNP – argues Catherine Milligan, a socialist and community activist on the Castlemilk housing scheme in Glasgow.  Her article featured in People And Nature.

Where do we go from here, after the Scottish independence referendum? The essence of the “Yes” campaign, for independence, was a drive against the status quo, against established politics. It was a fight against unfairness, inequality and poverty.

Demonstrating against the bedroom tax, Glasgow, September 2013

It brought to light the very undemocratic way our country is run. It created a vehicle, via the referendum, for ideas on how to change it – ideas such as the nationalisation of the banks and oil industry; the promotion of renewable energy, with wealth redistributed by the creation of jobs, for example by reinvesting into the building of houses; support for the NHS; and fairer representation of our communities in the political arena. These were some of ideas that were being advocated.

After the referendum decided against independence, why step back and advocate for the Scottish National Party (SNP)? This is a downright travesty – a road to frustration and heartache.

Those advocating a vote for the SNP lack vision, and only serve to tie the working class further into the status quo. A vote for the SNP is no way forward for the independence movement. The SNP are already implementing cuts. Just the other day, the SNP-controlled Dundee council anounced a further £8 million worth of public service cuts. Remember: it’s not what they say, it’s what they do that actually matters.

I see the movement building on the fight against austerity – against the status quo, against the political establishment who put profiteering before people, and at any cost (via war and destruction). There are many movements building throughout the world to combat this and fight for a more human society. The time could never be better: every day there are more and more truths being revealed about the corruption of governments as the capitalist economic crisis deepens throughout the world and people are uniting together and fighting for change. And these voices are being heard, despite the being ignored by established media outlets.

In the area in which I live, there is already an established anti-bedroom tax movement, which has successfully campaigned against this unfair tax and united people who have been affected. They have done this through mobilising local people, getting out in the streets, targeting and involving housing associations and trade unions, and putting pressure on local MPs, MSPs and councillors.

This movement is not going away, because the bedroom tax still exists, and so does austerity. In Scotland, the SNP have only mitigated the tax [i.e. used Scottish budget money to protect people from paying] for one year up to March 2015. People are still owing money for the previous year. I believe that the SNP only did this because of the growing campaign against the tax – a united campaign that highlighted the impact it was having on the most vulnerable people in our society: people who are already struggling to make ends meet to survive and the majority of whom have a disabilty.

Remember that there was no political representation for many of the people under attack – people who are forced to live in abject poverty and with a media that labelled them as “scum” and “scroungers”. So where did the political representation come from? Not MPs, MSPs or councillors. The Labour Party and SNP both said, in effect, “you are fighting a losing battle, you’re going to have to accept this social policy”. The community activists and the people affected united together to challenge this and give a voice to and hope over the fear that is/was impacting on them as individuals.

So things can and will be changed, but only through the mobilisation of the people themselves.

The point is that established politics had no answer or offers of help for people under the cosh. They had to organise themselves and, in doing so, drew attention to how unfair our political and economic system is and how biased our media is. These are lessons that the movement has learned very sharply.

It is issues such as the bedroom tax – along with zero hour contracts, workfare slavery, a £2.30/hour slave wage for our young people, benefit sanctions, wars, dismantling of the NHS and public services, lack of social housing, to name but a few – that continue to mobilise and galvanise people to take action for themselves.

I see the movement linking to, and supporting, people throughout Britain, Europe and the world, to counteract the destruction of society.

We support the struggle of Focus E15 mums who are taking on the the establishment in London and fighting for social housing and against social cleansing: it’s the same fight and it’s the same enemy. It’s this kind of fight that I will be endorsing – and certainly not advocating any support for the SNP as a route to challenge the establishment and the elite.

We aim to produce a newsletter and an online blog to make sure the voices of the real people at the forefront of these struggles is heard, and as a way to counteract media bias.

As for the SNP, I spoke to a woman who has recently left it. Her reason was that, while she agreed with their aim of independence, she found their social policies too right wing for her to continue to be a member. I couldn’t agree with her more. I would call on the movement to continue to fight austerity and fight for real change and people power.

Don’t let the SNP hijack our movement. They have no answers to these issues that concern us. The power is ours to take; let’s take it. 10 October 2014.

See also:

Scotland: ‘this movement is learning fast, growing arms and legs’

John Maclean: the accuser of capitalism

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