Ahead of the Communist Party's Scottish Conference next week TOM MORRISON writes on the challenges ahead. SCOTTISH Communists prepare for their congress next week in good heart with the party’s cadre force growing in numbers and experience.

Our party in Scotland, along with an active and expanding Young Communist League, has sought to keep the focus of the labour movement on class politics during a difficult and challenging period.

The siren voices of those who call for “partnership working,” for classless nationalism and for securing a benevolent EU protector have diverted energies at a time when our movement most needs strength and unity to stop the pillage of our country.

Mergers, rationalisation and a big business investment strike have left Scotland’s economy more vulnerable than at any time since the 1930s.

For Communists the national question is not about “identity” but what class owns and controls a nation’s resources and how these can be liberated for the benefit of its people.

In Scotland today, like the other nations of Britain, these resources are controlled by investment managers working on behalf of the very rich, both in Scotland and outside, and protected by the combined institutions of the British state, the EU and international trade treaties.

The question is how we change this in the interest of our class? For that Communists argue that we need a mobilised working class in Scotland and unity with workers across Britain exploited by way of the same institutions.

Immediately, we need to define practical objectives that can win unity here, to tackle inequality with redistributive taxation by extending public ownership and creating a Scottish state investment bank with public pension savings having a controlling interest in key sectors.

Local government has been decimated under the SNP with tens of thousands jobs lost. Yet it is key to providing services, constructing housing and infrastructure directly.

We need a redevelopment of local democracy with elected members consulting and paying heed to their constituents and workforce — not senior council officials happy to implement the austerity agenda.

Public procurement should be used to provide support for local producers. For this to happen, we need a much stronger trade union movement along with mandatory collective bargaining which would give trade unions a direct say in policy.

The Labour Party 2017 manifesto represents a major step forward. Though limited, it poses a real a challenge to capital. In Scotland Richard Leonard should be supported for Scottish Labour leader.

He has for many years been a principled socialist in the labour movement and has consistently supported the Jeremy Corbyn agenda.

If elected, both Corbyn and Leonard will face the hostility of the ruling class and the post-election period will be the start of the real fight.

As the congress political statement declares, “today, more than ever, Scotland needs left-wing policies and a powerful working-class movement.”

Yet our movement and class, under attack from the forces of reaction, lacks cohesion and political direction because of the ideological challenges. We need to rebuild, as in the 1970s, a politically educated working-class movement in the workplace and the communities.

Ideologically three challenges exist. First is the classless populist nationalism which gained traction in working-class areas during government austerity imposed by both Labour and the Tories.

Labour’s blunder to work with Tories in the Better Together was just that — a blunder that fed the nationalist claims that Labour was no longer the party of the working class.

An understanding of the national question on class lines and linking it to the nature of the state at British level has been lacking.

Second is the support for the EU and the illusion that a social Europe and membership of the Single Market can protect working people.

The SNP and the Labour right are seeking to make Scotland the spearhead to reverse the referendum. We need to demonstrate that the result would be to nullify key progressive elements in Labour’s election manifesto on public ownership, reversing privatisation and rebuilding industry.

The third is the continuing neoliberal, right-wing orientation of Scottish Labour. Although Scottish Labour won more seats at the recent general election, the percentage swing was only 2.6.

Labour could have won far more if left-wing candidates had received support from the party centrally and from constituency parties still controlled by the right. The Labour Party will continue to be an arena of struggle.

The Communist Party congress document maintains the need for left unity, for a mass, locally based working-class movement that brings together trade union councils, local trade union branches, Labour constituency parties that take up issues and develop mass struggle locally.

The Morning Star‘s role is crucial and the paper’s Readers and Supporters groups should become the focal point for political education and discussion, turning that into action.

Scottish Communists will continue to work with left allies in key areas of the broad movement: assisting our youth and student comrades to develop into all rounded communists and working for intergenerational solidarity, seeking to win more women to the Communist Party, helping and encouraging them to play a full role in the broad progressive movement and supporting LGBT equality in the movement and society at large.

Internationalism remains central to communist work and we need a strengthening of the peace movement to take the arguments on arms diversification into the workplace.

Above all, we need to work in the trade unions, seeking to build a militant and politically motivated movement that can take the fight to the employers, in the first instance building a wage offensive.

We will intensify our Marxist-Leninist education programme, open to friends outside the party, to enable our cadres and other activists to project Marxist ideas into our movement. We will produce and make available the necessary literature to make this possible.

A left mass movement outside Parliament is required to propel Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street and to retain him there.

The Communist Party will be doing all in its power to build such a movement in Scotland.

Tom Morrison is Scottish secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.