There are lessons that can be drawn from the recent referendum in Scotland, manifestly, an event that shook the British establishment to its foundations.
When we look closely at the result of this independence referendum, we find that is was, in fact, a rebellion against the widespread impoverishment caused by the present economic system.
It is no coincidence that areas like the biggest city, Glasgow, in which the majority voted Yes to independence, were mainly working-class in composition. They were places that have suffered the most deprivation since the years of Thatcherite de-industrialization and are in desperate need of change.
London-based Advocate columnist Gwynne Dyer writes on Sept. 16:
“The real grievance that fuels Scotland’s independence movement is the fact that Britain keeps electing governments that are either explicitly Conservative or (like Tony Blair’s three terms in office) conservative in all but name. They take Britain into stupid foreign wars and they impose austerity on ordinary British people while looking after the rich.”
Despite the immense relief experienced by the British establishment at the No vote, this is not the end of their problems. On the contrary, it is merely the beginning.
Millions of people from 16-year-old first-time voters to workers who had been alienated for years by the lack of a real alternative turned out in record numbers to vote.
This demonstrates to leaders of the labour movement, in Canada as well as in Britain, that the majority, the ordinary working people will vote in large numbers when there is something to vote for, something that inspires hope for the future.
There has been a political awakening in Scotland with discussions in pubs, in shops, at bus stops and on street corners. This gigantic passionate debate signals the opening of a new historic chapter for a people who are now fueled by the knowledge that they have the ability to change society.
The fallout from this referendum will not be limited to Scotland because the same deteriorating conditions for working people exist not only in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and also increasingly across the ocean in Canada.
Canadians have been watching the debate with great interest while making comparisons between their own falling living standards and having the same type of inept politicians.
Austerity is badly affecting the lives of workers right across Canada and in particular east of the Prairies, where, despite the lowering of corporate tax rates, traditional heavy industries are being run down by lack of investment.
The lowering of corporate taxes was paid for by reducing things such as transfer payments to the provinces for health care and once again the working class loses out.
The affect that cuts have on the lives of working people is demonstrated by the storming of Montreal City Hall on Aug. 18. This action was provoked by a serious threat to cut the hard-earned pensions of the police, firefighters, transit and other municipal workers.
Events of this nature are an indication of the pressures that already exist in our society.
When the world economy was booming, only just over 80 per cent of the existing industrial capacity was being used and now during the slump it is less than 70 per cent.
The political leadership of the labour movement must offer new horizons in the form of a genuine socialist alternative, a planned economy that will liberate the existing productive capacity and transform our society.
Keith Norman Wyatt