The left-leaning Scottish National Party, who advocate secession from the UK, just scored a major upset in a Glasgow East election, taking a once safe Labour Party seat. This is the third time in nine weeks the Labour Party has been stomped at the polls.
The impact in Scottish politics is much greater. As Nicola Sturgeon said on TV last night, this is the first by-election in history where two governments have been running against each other. And in a safe Labour seat, the voters preferred the record of the Scottish National Party.
Mac Uaid reminds us that SNP is a bourgeois party that has positioned itself to the left of Labour “albeit one that is picking up lot of working class support including from the SSP [Scottish Socialist Party] and Solidarity.”
Lenin’s Tomb on how the Left should deal with the collapse of Labour
But an alternative to Labourism cannot be built from above by a loose association of ‘ecosocialists’ and Eurocommunists who flee under the Labour umbrella when there is the slightest of sign of precipitation. It has to come from below, and to that extent it has to come from the ongoing revival of trade union militancy, particularly from the fightback against Brown’s government by the very working class who can no longer stand to vote for that shower. As these strike waves become more frequent and longer, as they are sure to do, the question that has dogged previous trade union conferences – why are we funding these bastards? – will return with force.
Maybe unions are stronger in England than here, but shouldn’t the fight-back come from all sectors, not just the unionized working class? Here in the States, the boundaries of class are fuzzy and permeable. I’ve never understood the Marxist orthodoxy that if you don’t own the means of production, then you are working class. This leads to absurdities like categorizing an MD who makes $150k a year working for an HMO as working class because he doesn’t own the hospitals. Nor, for that matter, do hospitals produce anything (in the classic Marxist sense of factories.)
The hardcore of Labour left hangers-on will have to look increasingly outward, toward alignments beyond the party that it is kicking them. Of course, no alternative that could conceivably be built would be a ‘pure’ working class movement, or from the old left. It would embrace all the diverse campaigns that the Left has thrown itself into, including defending council housing, defending asylum seekers, fighting the BNP, resisting the war, and so on.
Exhortations that change need to come solely from a mythical working class (whatever that is) often work against the possibility of working with all sorts of people who want change. Besides, history shows that leaders of revolutions generally come from the upper middle class, not the working class. Big tents are a good thing.
And it sure looks like the Labour tent is getting smaller and smaller while the Left tent grows.