Sketches from a small world

Eurig Scandrett reflects on the big, and sometimes also the small, issues of the day

Regulars > Small World

1 April 2020

Eurig Scandrett is an environmental activist and member of Democratic Left Scotland

Radical, Feminist, Green

THERE has never been a more important time for Democratic Left Scotland and its politics of Radical, Feminist and Green.

Green, because of the climate emergency, highlighted by the popular mobilisation by school students, militant nonviolent direct action by Extinction Rebellion and the alliance-building work of trade unions and environmental NGOs in the Just Transition Partnership. The CoP26 in Glasgow in November will bring such groups together with community campaigns against fracking, the global climate justice movement and others to demand the action necessary to decarbonise our economy urgently, to avoid the crisis point of temperatures exceeding 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. And to do so in a way that at the same time promotes social and economic justice. To accomplish this, steps must be taken to dismantle the corporations and their addiction to extracting profit from fossil fuels. In other words, the oil corporations that have dominated the global economic order since the middle of the 20th Century will need to break up and a new economic order constructed from below, with decentralised control and public investment. The question should be whether this takes the form of a Green New Deal - state intervention in a social democracy to channel economic growth into forms of production with low ecological impact – or de-growth – replacing economic growth as we know it with an economic system based on quality of life, sufficiency and sustainability. Radical Green analysis is essential.

Feminist, because whilst there has been some progress in efforts to tackle violence against women as a result of persistent campaigning, the achievements of the women’s movement are under threat from multiple angles. As the principle of women’s equality has been mainstreamed, the practice has also been corporatised. International Women’s Day, initiated by socialists, is now often a branded celebration of elite women. At the same time hard-won gains of grassroots feminism are being undermined by a trans-activism which is damaging the interests of women, mobilising around Gender Recognition legislation. There is a legitimate debate between social movements, concerning how to defend the interests of people who, for whatever reasons, do not conform to binary and stable biological sex or struggle with engaging with the social constructions of gender, without undermining the achievements of the women’s movement, and indeed of lesbians and gay men. The extent to which trans-women share the same material interests as women as soon as they proclaim that they are no longer a man; whether biological sex can be a question of individual identity; or whether gender is a lifestyle choice that can be opted out of, rather than a social relation which structures power between men and women: these are arguments which can be engaged with and challenged, potentially to achieve a better analysis. However, the most damaging aspect of this controversy is that the debate is being shut down by militants (many of whom are not trans) through silencing, no-platforming, bullying and character assassination, and the uncritical mantra that “trans women are women”. Radical Feminist analysis is essential.

Radical analysis underlies all our politics, which demands a deep critique of the historical process that brought us to where we are, and where we are going. Radical politics does not resort to “progressive patriotism”, whether of a British or Scottish variety, but rather seeks to democratise our societies and economies. Hopefully, Indyref 2 will unite those who advocate radical federalism with those who seek Scottish independence – both share the goal of dismantling the centralised post-imperial United Kingdom, aspiring to internationalist solidarities, and bringing decision-making closer to the people, whilst celebrating the achievements that have been made by progressive politics in the respective nations and also across Britain, including the welfare state and the NHS. Radical politics stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their historic struggle against Zionist settler colonialism, whilst also challenging the very real rise of racism against Jews, Muslims and all other racialised groups, mobilised by an increasingly influential Far Right. There were many exciting aspects of radical politics in the 2019 manifesto of the Labour Party, which of course was defeated for a variety of reasons (and for somewhat different reasons in Scotland and England). At the time of writing, the trajectory of any of the progressive parties in Scotland is unclear following the Johnson victory and Brexit. It is a time of uncertainty, in which Radical analysis is essential.