DISBELIEF BROUGHT MANY PEOPLE ONTO THE STREETS as Donald Trump secured his election as President of the United States. Although incredulity was evident among activists and non-activists alike, the immediate demonstrations of resistance in Scotland left no doubt a Trump presidency would be met with an organised and vocal opposition.
Alongside many towns and cities around the globe, demonstrations took place in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh on the day of the inauguration, with a Women’s March in Edinburgh on January 21st, in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington. A feature of these demonstrations was the leading presence of women activists and organisers.
Scotland’s response continued as Trump’s anti-Muslim Executive Order 13769 (EO) was confirmed across our screens, airwaves and social media platforms on January 27th. On that day two demonstrations took place in Glasgow, another in Dundee, and yet others in Edinburgh and St Andrews. To the well-attended demonstration at Glasgow’s Donald Dewar statue, Helen Martin, Assistant Secretary of the Scottish TUC, sent a letter of support while speakers from a wide array of organisations voiced their solidarity with the people of the US, raising the alarm at the election of a President explicitly committed to a divisive, racially charged tenure in office.
An equally well attended demonstration arranged by Scotland against Trump took place at Glasgow’s George Square. At each, speakers and attendees expressed outrage at the transparent anti- Islamic sentiment of Trump’s EO which targeted a number of Muslim countries, while demonising Muslims in the US and the wider world. Louise Irvine, a member of Glasgow Buddhist Centre, remarked, “We must send a message of solidarity...it is not a time for silence.” Diana Ellis, a member of Global Justice Now (Glasgow), stated, “Impeachment won’t occur with protests in UK, but people have to see solidarity.” Head of Scottish campaigns for Global Justice Now, Liz Murray, commented, “We’re pleased to support the emerging anti-Trump campaign here in Scotland - spread the word about marches and demonstrations in Scotland as they happen.”
Celia Gonzalez, a post-grad student from Pennsylvania, although feeling a sense of helplessness at the presidential result, was galvanised by the EO to start a Facebook page, March against Muslim Ban, with the aim of organising a protest in Edinburgh. Those efforts culminated in a noisy, bustling and good natured protest on February 4th, rallying at the Holyrood Parliament’s public space. Protests continued in Scotland with Scotland against Trump organising a demonstration in Edinburgh’s Meadows on February 11th.
The Scottish Labour left, organised around CFS/Momentum, must now meet the task of channelling this wonderful, spontaneous surge in anger and resistance in a direction which confronts the wider issues of poverty, systemic racism, class power and inequality. We must do so with sensitivity and care. The young protesters swelling the streets of Scotland are unlikely to be easily persuaded of the merits of a socialist response to this latest crisis of international politics. Many have developed a jaundiced view of the left, and particularly of an ultra-left whose myopic focus on party building is alien to the galvanised activists whose experience of class based campaigns are understandably limited. The confident, assertive response to the elevation of a misogynist to the most powerful political office in the world must not be allowed to fade.
The Scottish Labour left is well placed to reach out to the various campaigns around these initiatives. Our experience, analysis and resources must be placed at the service of these young, driven activists, a majority of whom are women horrified at the apparent electoral normalisation of sexual assault and racism. They will only be convinced of the broader causes and implications of Trump’s victory if they are respectfully and sensitively engaged with.
The days of the socialist left assuming a vanguard role over every outbreak of militancy are over. Influence and leadership have to be earned. If successful, such alliances, directly informed by class politics, could offer up fresh roads to socialism. With the world seemingly teetering on the precipice of barbarism, there is too much at stake to settle for old habits history has not been kind to. But to have a fighting chance, socialists may have to seek out new ways of placing class politics at the forefront of these new, embryonic movements.