by Seàn Baillie
Waking up this morning dozens of miles East of Norwich out in the North Sea as close to Amsterdam as East Anglia, I thought back to being stuck out here during a different referendum. Like many thousands of other activists I had invested so much of my own personal hopes and aspirations into the Scottish Independence referendum.
Nearly two years ago, on the 18th September 2014, I was holed up a few hundred miles north of where I am today – stuck offshore nervy, agitated, sickly and helpless at being away from the last rush and push – and the land is ours. I must have been unbearable to work with. My postal vote had been sorted weeks in advance. I had been out on mass canvasses, street stalls, voter registration drives and had debated every point to the last with everyone in the local pub half a dozen times. But at that point, it was out my hands. To mix my maritime metaphors – I was cast adrift, literally, stuck out at sea.
Waking up early to catch the results, I rolled over on my bunk picked up my phone only to see a message saying “don’t get up, you won’t like it”. Bleary-eyed and heartbroken I walked into the TV room to an absolute ribbing from a few of the big English scaffolders. I tried to take the good-natured slagging on the chin so I could escape the feeling of despair, heartbreak and the dark cloud of doom that hung moodily over the platform. I don’t remember saying more than two words to anyone the full day.
I had gotten myself so wrapped up in hope, opportunity and heartbreak – I quit work that day and booked a one way flight to continental Europe. From the German pubs and quaint cobbled street towns along the Rhine, the beer houses of Munich and the horrors of Dacua (the original Nazi concentration camp). To the tangible spirit and resilience of the people in Tuzla and Sarajevo with ultimate tragedy and war still within living memory, the red carpet treatment received in Kocani, visiting an old work colleague in Macedonia, and all the wonderful people and places inbetween.
Skint and shattered I eventually came home with a renewed vigour for working class politics and a determination to try make a difference. I joined the SSP and promised to fight for a better system.
The deposit I had spent years saving to buy a house long gone and employment next to impossible to come by, it wasn’t easy. but the people I met and the lessons learned changed a massive part of me and my outlook on the wider world. I was extremely lucky, fortunate (and daft) to be able to up sticks and run away from the problems we all face. It was an opportunity, and I’m grateful for it.
I had seen a glimpse of what Europe could be as a power of unity and good. There is no doubt that the EU is corrupt and undemocratic. How we can even begin to fight to change and influence one of the worlds largest body’s of greed and cronyism is a debate that I couldn’t ever begin to play out here.
But we must. We, the people of Europe are facing the biggest challenge of a generation, as it falls to every generation, it is our turn to stand up and face the obstacles and institutions that stand as foreboding shadows preventing the growth of a better world.
Shall we continue to be divided and conquered or shall we unite and overcome?
One big difference between the EU referendum and the Scottish one, amongst many was that if we voted Yes we would be confident of electing a Left of centre government post referendum. Not an ideologically bereft, self-centred, class-ignorant grouping of Tory moon units.
Whatever way you vote, whatever the result is. The struggle and fight in front of us will remain as hard as it ever was. This isn’t the end but only the beginning. Unite, organise, occupy.
Sean Baillie is newly elected to serve on the executive of the Scottish Socialist Party.