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Who are the Tartan Trots?

Twitter followers under the age of 40 probably had not a clue what the Labour MP Michael McCann was on about when he tweeted about the Radical Independence Conference (RIC) “Trot Convention” in Glasgow at the weekend.

“Trot” is a term rarely heard outside Labour party circles any more and refers to followers of the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. He was murdered in Mexico in 1940 by an agent of Joseph Stalin’s Comintern using an ice pick. The incident was celebrated in the Stranglers single, No More Heroes. But, come to think of it, Twitter followers under 40 probably will not know what that is either because it was a hit in 1977.

Anyway, nominally Trotskyite groups such as the International Marxist Group and Militant Tendency tried to infiltrate Labour in the 1970s and 80s until Neil Kinnock expelled them. Now Labour has been playing hunt-the-Trot in the RIC, which held its third conference in the Clyde Auditorium on Saturday. The conference gathered 3,000 people in the venue, only yards from the Hydro where Nicola Sturgeon and 12,000 audited ticket holders were raising the roof on the First Minister’s tour.

Never have so many independence supporters been gathered together in one place: 15,000 of them, which is more than four times the entire official membership of the Scottish Labour Party. Labour MPs are right to be worried. There are members of the far Left involved in the Radical Independence Campaign. One of its leading lights, Jonathon Shafi, is in the International Socialist Group, which is descended from the Socialist Workers Party.

The former MSP Colin Fox, of the Scottish Socialist Party, is also one of the RIC organisers. Then again, so is Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Green Party, Robin McAlpine of the Commonweal, plus people from anti-nuclear and women’s groups.

But most of those who attended the conference were former Labour Party voters. They feel left behind, not by the Trots, but the Blairites who infiltrated their party much more successfully than the Left ever did and eradicated socialism from within. The campaign seems to owe more to environmentalism than Marxism. The “People’s Vow” read by the playwright, Alan Bissett, which has provoked some derision on the internet, promised to “multiply the dreaming power of the ordinary Scottish citizen” and protect “the infinite beauty of the natural world”.

The Vow did not even mention capitalism, let alone class struggle or smashing the state or seizing the means of production, though it talked of renationalising some utilities. It also supported land reform and opposed austerity, fracking, nuclear weapons, TTIP trade agreements and the Queen. But the only hint of revolutionary violence was the vow to “punish politicians” who do not accept that “50/50 representation for men and women is a minimum”, although it did not make clear what a maximum would be.

Across the road, Nicola Sturgeon was congratulating herself on delivering minimum 50/50 gender balance in the Scottish Government, so presumably she escapes punishment. Some were disappointed at the lack of obvious crossover between the two massive rallies. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement they would be better off speaking to their own constituencies.

The idea of a pan-nationalist Yes Alliance at the 2015 General Election has also been dropped, as has talk of a new Left wing party on the lines of Syriza, in Greece, or Podemos, in Spain. The view in Radical Independence seems to be it is best to let the SNP lead the battle against the Westminster Establishment, which does raise questions about what the campaign is for.

The SNP is also against Trident and privatisation and supports green energy and land reform, which does not leave much left for the radicals. Radical Independence are best at going into working-class constituencies and talking to discontented Labour voters about the possibilities presented by independence.

They played a major role in boosting voter registration in Labour areas during the referendum, which is presumably why MPs such as Michael McCann are worried about them. Yes, the truth is out. The Trots are really Tartan Tories in disguise. Now there’s a slogan for Labour in 2015.

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About iain2macwhirter

Writer and journalist.

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