By Jason Michael

The new left, a type of late developer student politicking that doesn’t know its arse from its elbow, is assuming ownership of the independence movement. It’s time to put it back in its box.

“I consider myself to be on the ‘hard left,’” J. said to me as he tucked into his afternoon tapas of seedless stuffed olives marinated in extra virgin olive oil from a Marks & Spencer jar. At university I met K., an undergraduate who fancied himself a “revolutionary leftist,” who asked me who Karl Marx was during a beer fuelled discussion on politics. Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism are real political ideologies, each with their own rich tapestry of intellectual thought, but we can’t help but think that belonging to “the left” – in 2018 – has become something of a poorly researched and ill-considered fashion choice for its millennial recruits.

Eugene McCartan, the General Secretary of the Irish Communist Party, is a man I have known for many years in Dublin. He knows his onions. Marx, Connolly, Lenin, Gramsci, you name it; he’s read it. He’s a revolutionary, he knows why he’s a revolutionary, and he knows why revolution is necessary. McCartan, along with many like him across the spectrum of the political left, represents the old guard of a movement – tested through strike action and armed conflict – which is being appropriated by what some old socialists have come to know as the “political correctness brigade.”

Those of us tired of the new left’s groupthink, identity politics, and trigger warnings are increasingly making the effort to disassociate ourselves from “the left.” Back in 2012 I joined the campaign for Scottish independence a proud socialist. Now, however, I seldom use that massively devalued nomenclature when it comes to defining who I am politically. While my politics have not much changed, the language I once used to describe it has become almost meaningless.

Being on the left today, thanks to it being co-opted by student politicians, hipsters, and gentrifiers, demands that we sign up to a package of rights-based political bandwagons.  Membership of the club requires that we subscribe to a set of popular causes from which dissent is not tolerated, and the focus of these “left-wing” crusades is becoming ever more identitarian and fringe. Driven largely by the champagne socialism of the educated middle class, this new socialism – in all its guises – has all but abandoned the core socialist ideas of worker solidarity and class struggle in favour of the safe causes of the “social justice warrior” that will do anything but upend society.

During the independence campaign in Scotland we have seen numerous attempts to transform the Yes movement into yet another “radical left” popular cause, with self-proclaimed leftists trying to subvert and commandeer what is in essence a national project. Every opportunity they have had we have seen and read them condemning the “flag-waving nationalism” of independentistas from every part of the Scottish political rainbow, and we have to put an end to this.

In the past few days this so-called radical element has been blasting the Growth Commission as not radical enough, a Neoliberal blueprint for Scotland “George Osborne wouldn’t quibble with.” But who said an independent Scotland had to be “progressive” or “radical” in the way this millennial leftism defines and understands these terms? Considering the success of groups like RISE at the polls, it seems fairly obvious that following their lead in how we envisage an independent Scotland would quickly kill the entire independence movement. “Radicals” don’t get elected.

Admittedly, personally I agree with these latte-sipping revolutionaries on this point. Few in the independence movement want independence to be a Neoliberal state grab. But we know the new left hasn’t won the control it desires over the movement, and so will never be the engine of Yes. There are almost as many political divisions in the pro-independence camp as there are members, but this is no bad thing. We’re not here to leap on bandwagons. We are here, together, in a single cause.

Socialism, as Marx explains, does not happen overnight. There will never be a moment when we go to sleep at night in a Neoliberal hellhole and wake in the morning to a glorious Communist utopia. Socialism is progressive. It comes about by social and political progression through various stages towards the better society it imagines. In this we can see our push to independence as such a stage; winning Scotland does not require that we change the world. Independence, to the real socialist, can be sought in isolation as a step in the right direction. Demanding the two at once will only have the effect of putting those who don’t want a “socialist” Scotland off.

The independence movement is not a socialist movement; it is a movement of people from all political backgrounds and none. There are small c conservatives, environmentalists, liberals, nationalists, socialists, and more in this movement, and we have to protect it from any one group claiming it as its own. We have to protect it from falling into the hands of fashionable radical leftism, a rootless game of let’s play politics that’s as likely to go running after Jeremy Corbyn as it is to find something else more fashionable and trendy.


Champagne Socialist Hypocrites

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2 thoughts on “The Leftists Do Not Own Independence

  1. The big problem for the radical left, Loki, RISE, et al. Is that Scotland just isn’t that radical, at least not in the way they define radical. Scotland is quite happy being a left of centre country with a social conscience.
    Happily this is just as big a problem for the Colonel Ruth Davidson party and the radical right.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Good article, though I think people have a tendency to over inflate the importance of the “radical” (usually middle class) lefties in terms of their voting significance. What was the RISE vote last time round? And even that was artificially boosted – probably by about 200 votes – by the suckers who fell for the “lend us your vote cos SNP’s going to win anyway” schtick.


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