Since the referendum last year there has been talk of taking forward the incredible awakening of a social movement against the current status quo. The environment of radical change precipitated by groups such as Radical Independence, Labour for Independence and the resurgence of the Scottish Socialist Party was only heightened by the defeat in last Septembers vote.
With the instant rush to the SNP post September 18th last year, the left have been playing catch up. Unprepared for an aftermath of the vote could be seen as a critique but for me it highlights the dedication and commitment to the yes campaign that meant we did not have time to consider the after event. Following the vote a fluid discussion began to take place, of where to go for those who felt the SNP were not a new divine home.
For myself as a Labour member who through the campaign had embraced the word outlawed under New Labour, I felt finally able to leave behind the faux democratic socialism to join the Scottish Socialist Party. Since joining I have felt incredibly at home, witnessing for the first time a political party having actual political discussion and local activism which is a far cry from the stay at home- they will vote for us anyway- activism of the Labour Party.
Soon after joining the party the proposition of a new left alliance was created in the Scottish Left Project. In the following months I had several conversations with those involved sharing my hopes and concerns with the founders of the project throughout the winter and spring. After careful consideration, I spoke out against SSP participation in the project at our annual conference in May. For me there were too many unanswered questions, and a genuine concern for the growth of the party I had joined and remain loyal to.
Since that conference there has been may discussions and debates, some private, some less so regarding the benefits of a left alliance in this current form. As a member of the Executive Committee of the SSP I was part of a frank and full discussion of the leadership in which we set forth a motion to our members of the type and level of involvement we would have in the soon to be renamed Left Project. What has followed this past week has been our members overwhelming approval that we will become an affiliate member of the (soon renamed) SLP.
I want to first say that I voted for the motion myself despite my reticence as I believe in the democratic values of the party, that the will of the majority of the SSP members were that we are a part of this project. Secondly it is important to recognise that the level of debate and discussion of this issue highlights the strength we have as a party to debate issues in a civil and democratic manner. We have now been given a mandate by our members to affiliate to a left project which we must ensure will become an electoral force in 2016. This can only occur if the experience and vast array of talent and ability of the SSP is put to the forefront.
The question now arises as to how to make this project a success. Already in the works is a major launch event at the Marriot Hotel in Glasgow. International speakers have already been announced with more to follow. I have no doubt that the event will be a success in terms of turnout and these speakers will give fine speeches cementing good faith and wishes from our international comrades. But unless the agenda moves quickly from workshops and policy primaries into communities and work places then I fear we may do little to impact the public consensus in time for 2016.
The activism of Radical Independence and other groups during the referendum showed just how effective our message of fairness and equality can be. The SSP have shown the way in campaigning against council cuts, placing key areas such as transport and energy back into public hands, of community ownership, a living wage of £10 an hour. We need to embrace this and get out into communities to ensure that the Left Project in whatever guise it will be renamed will be in their thoughts when they go to the polling stations;- that we are an alternative to austerity, a hope for families trying to put food on the table, to workers struggling to make ends meet.
Yes media is important, as is word of mouth but the current media strategy isn’t intended to appeal to the people who need this project, instead it appeals to Merchant City Marxists who have the spare £10 an hour to attend workshops such as this.
This is why I will not be attending the launch event. Instead I will spend the day campaigning in my local area, talking with real people, trying to find real solutions to the struggles we are all facing.
I will do what I can to support and work towards making this left project successful, The SSP will put our considerable experience and talents to good use in our affiliation with them for this election. But the only way it can work is if those making the moves get their heads out the clouds and on the streets where we should be.