Friday, 3 October 2014

I am a Socialist... Reflections of a Referendum

As a newly qualified primary school teacher one of the key aspects of our teaching is now focussed on becoming reflective practitioners. To engage in what went well. What we could have changed to improve and what we learned about ourselves. There could be many articles written about the experiences I had as Co-Convenor for Labour for Independence during this campaign. Those are for another time, the pain of the battle lost is perhaps too raw for that. In terms of what I learned about myself is something that I would like to explore.

Throughout the campaign I had the honour of sharing a platform with many incredible speakers and personalities. Yet throughout the two and a half years, 2 comments from other speakers really stood out. The first was by Jim Sillars, he said that throughout this campaign we are all on a learning journey, you(the audience) hopefully learn from us and we (the speakers) also learn from you and each other. To make this statement stand out might make me seem arrogant, it wasn’t the case. I knew personally that I was learning from audiences and fellow speakers, Yet only through reflection did I realise how much my political psyche was changing.

My beliefs in what is fair and what is right haven't changed in these last two and a half years, I still believe in social justice, equality, in the theories of justice set out by John Rawls; yet there are two major factors which have been altered.

(i) How I project my beliefs.
(ii) How I come to regard myself.

(i) How I project my beliefs.

Throughout the campaign I was asked to speak throughout Scotland. Initially in many areas such as Dundee, Clydebank and Glasgow I was comfortable in making the ‘Real Labour’ case for independence. In other parts of Scotland, Angus, Borders, Highlands I held back my own beliefs to promote the reasons why the majority of people in that area should vote yes. Often I would use lines such as; The Scottish Government has said...  I did so not to mislead voters but rather to project the wider Yes message to constituents who would be dismissive of the type of independence I and a great many others in this nation would wish to see. Undoubtedly this was an easier time for my fellow panel members from Yes Scotland HQ and the SNP., but it didn’t hold true to my own ambitions for what this country could achieve.

Throughout the course of the referendum I learned to be true to my own values, I learned that while people in Auchterarder might not like my vision for Scotland, at least they would know the truth. There is nothing worse than hearing people talk of things that they don’t believe themselves. During the campaign I learned to be truer to my convictions and be frank that whichever way the public voted there would be differences of opinion in how to move forward. Sometimes this had unexpected results. In my home town of Carnoustie, no bastion of socialism, I recalled a speech from Simon Bolivar to wide applause, in other areas it met stony silence. Regardless I felt the audience respected me more for giving my honest opinion than a set Yes line.

Perhaps the reason this springs to mind is that in a meeting I attended this week the issue was raised as to whether the Scottish Government should have mitigated the effects of the bedroom tax, that perhaps the public would have voted yes had it been further subjected to the brutality of Westminster.

This is perhaps an argument for another day, but were we to abandon our political ideals and human decency for the ultimate objective? Was independence worth seeing the poorest in our society suffer more? I believe the SNP made the right choice there. I can say that as the Labour for Independence Executive Committee called for it 3 months before Scottish New Labour did.

It raises the point however, that we must keep our own beliefs and principles throughout. That we must not give in to sacrificing any in our nation for the purpose of the greater good. I am glad I learned the importance of remaining true to myself through this campaign and believe I made better arguments for yes because of it.

(ii) How I come to regard myself.

I was brought up in a traditional (or as I have likened it ‘Real Labour’) household. I have been steeped in Labour since a very early age. Yet from an early age I have no real knowledge of real Labour in power. My first political act at the age of 8 was to campaign for Labour in the 92 General Election. But the leader I was supporting paved the way for radical centre/centre right reform of the Labour Party.The difference at that time was that there were ‘Real Labour’ politicians still within the throngs of power. It can be argued that the saving of the Labour Party, at least for a while was losing that election and the election of a Real Labour man as leader in John Smith.

Whether we would have seen a true Labour Government had Smith lived to be elected, we will never know, but the fact is by the time I was old enough to join the party New Labour were in their second term. The reality was that I joined the party based on the ideals of the past than the evidence of the current.

Most of my adult life I regarded myself as something I am not. I fell into the trap set by New Labour, UK Governments and the United States to believe that the tag I am closest defined by, does not fit me at all. The ‘S’ word. Something that is only okay to use if you add Democrat at the end.

It is not only within the Labour Party that this terminology became common. Chomsky stated that the term socialist had been ‘bastardised’ by both America in their capitalist agenda that socialism equated to Communism and by the Soviet Union that Socialism was the cover for a totalitarian regime.

In truth socialism is the pursuit to ensure the betterment of lives of the many rather than the few. This was the ideals of the Labour party in it’s creation. It is shameful Labour have moved so far away from this.

I mentioned two speakers at the beginning of this post. The second was Jeane Freeman. She said that we do not owe political parties anything. What we have to do is to be able to look into the mirror everyday and say that I live by the beliefs and ideology that I believe in.

It was this statement more than any other which permeated my thinking in the aftermath of September 18th and was a major reason why I resigned from the Labour Party.

I am a socialist. I have learned throughout this campaign that I am proud to say so. I have learned that socialism is not dictated by Marxism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, these terms are only reproduced by the neo-liberals who seek to split the power of the people in creating a fairer and more equal society.

Through reflecting on this referendum campaign my thoughts are this. If you are a socialist, embrace that. This campaign has taught us we can unite for common goals without losing our own ideals. We believe in a better Scotland but disagree in how to achieve it.

My point is this; If you are a socialist don’t give yourself up to fear by holding on to something you don’t believe in. Since the referendum all Yes Parties have gained support. The SNP more than most. I know a great deal of socialists who have joined the SNP... But I ask, with no disrespect meant to the SNP.. Why? The SNP aren’t socialists, they have never claimed to be. Don’t let the notion of a greater good disregard your own views or the betterment of your nation.

Reflecting on this campaign, I know I have learned a great deal. I have met many great people from all walks of the political spectrum. More importantly I have learned to embrace who I am.

I have accepted and embraced these past two years that I am not Labour... Not in the current vein.. I am Real Labour, a position lost within the Labour Party. I am a socialist.. We must embrace the lessons learned in this campaign. Whether for me this means joining a socialist party, waiting for something new, or walking alone within politics true to my own beliefs. That remain to be seen.

But for those within the Labour Party who thought a no vote would kill the revolution of social justice and socialist thought on the wider left and within the party... They will be in  for a stark shock.

We will have our independence, but we cannot let those who suffer most be the sacrifice to that goal.

No comments:

Post a Comment