Sunday, 14 December 2014

Time for Fresh Thinking

 The announcement of Jim Murphy as new Leader of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party will be covered from all angles over the next few days. While I have no doubt that the mainstream media will attempt to steady the capsizing ship HMS SLab the final nail in the coffin of a once proud party has already been set in place. 

Yesterdays announcement will be for many a realisation that this party no longer reflects the ideals and beliefs upon which it was founded. Neither does it represent the working class of Scotland which it was created to speak on behalf of. My realisation of this came about at the referendum, which I felt was the last opportunity to return the party to it’s roots. For those who backed a Neil Findlay and Katy Clark they must now see that the progressive left within the party is now the minority. That the opportunity for fresh thinking and a revitalisation of the socialistic tendencies within the party are now mere fantasy. 

The question for the left and those who are now feeling lost within the Labour Party is how best we go from here? We have an opportunity for a strong progressive left to take the initiative in a nation, post referendum which is more politically attuned than it has been for generations. 

This will be done through policy forums such as the Common Weal, discussion platforms provided by the Scottish Left Project and new media platforms like independence live, the national and The Scottish Independent. In the main of this must be electoral and campaign efforts united under the banner of the Scottish Socialist Party. 

Since the referendum the SSP has been renewed in our vigour to create a mass political party of the left. I along with a great many others have been welcomed into the party and given avenues to debate and contribute to the growth of the party. 

Part of that journey is to not only create new ideas but also to present them in a language that is accessible to the masses. For most of our recent political history, socialist theory is far too often based on the teachings of Marx and Engels. While theses teachings are important as are the subsequent models of their theory in gaining an understanding in our cultural and political history as socialists it is important to remember that the Scotland we live in today is far different to the German state which Marx was writing about in the 1850’s. Climate change, fuel poverty, the threat of nuclear weapons, drug abuse and cyber crime are just some of the issues which were not reflective in the thinking of the time. Yet these and many other issues now must be prevalent in our thinking.

As is the fact that we live in a globalised world and as such must consider the implications this brings to our progressive visions of how we implement a fairer and more equal society. This requires new thinking and new ideas. 

In light of this I would like to present 3 proposals over three articles which would have lasting benefit economically, socially and culturally for Scotland should they be implemented. The purpose of these proposals here is to stimulate debate and discussion which may lead to further ideas and development occurring. 

Working life

In addition to any academic stigma we have, there is also a employment stigma which prevails in our society. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, and bankers are seen as having a higher value in comparison with someone in the manufacturing or service industry. Yet these positions play an important role in the creation and sustainability of a society. The only way for a society to see as much value in all areas of work is through financial re-enumeration matching the value we place on our workforce. 

The creation of a £10 an hour living wage is vital not only for creating a thriving economy, but also a confident, proud workforce. One of they key features of socialist thinking is individual and collective responsibility. In order for citizens to become responsible they must also feel valued. 

One of the criticisms of a Nordic Scotland would be the need to pay higher tax. Yet this does not address the full issue. By creating a society in which full employment and a living wage is definitive, we can see the true measure of what Scotland could really achieve.

The cost of supporting small businesses in the inception of this policy would be to provide government subsidy to ensure that businesses are able to be maintained until the influx of additional personal finance is floated into the economy. This would be afforded by increasing the top rate of tax to 50%. 

Studies have shown that the majority in Scotland do not object to paying the current level of taxation or higher levels if it delivers high quality public services. Today the UK is the 4th most unequal in the world. The only sure way to decrease inequality is to have a well-paid workforce with dignity and pride in their position of employment. 

Working Hours

Since the service industry has became such dominant force within the Scottish working industry; working life, home life and social life has never before been so indistinguishable. Today people wonder how they will survive Christmas Day without a visit to Asda or Tesco. This has led to 12-hour shifts for minimum wage the night before Christmas, Sunday shifts with no double time. A consistent shift from family time to families living as one-parent families, arranging shift patterns to avoid paying for childcare their low wages cannot afford. This is nothing in comparison to the single parent families losing family contact to provide for their family. 

A successful Scotland not only requires a strong vibrant economy, a wage for workers equal to the cost of living, but also include the value of social and family values intrinsic to building communities, and on that a more inclusive and socially responsible nation.    

 That is why the relationship between Scotland’s working life and social/family life needs to be re-addressed. Indeed it addresses the very core principles of what the socialism is all about; society over profit. 

That is why I propose we support a mandatory day of rest on a Sunday for all non-essential workers. Those who must work on Sundays must be appropriately compensated financially and in family leave recompense. 

Much like Germany, Sunday, regardless of religious association will become a day for social/family relaxation. One day of the week in which every member of a family, relationship or brethren can share. This will build stronger basis of home and communal life further increasing life profit over GDP. 

At the heart of this is to be that there will be a larger focus on family/ leisure time than on a continual working environment.

I hope this will be taken in the spirit for which it is intended and create debate throughout the not only political circles, but also people at home engaging in new ideas. One of the most positive aspects of the referendum campaign was to raise the bar in terms of political debate I hope we can continue this. As Labour and the no parties dwindle, let it be the left who unite together raising new ideas to create a new platform for politics of the working class.