UNFORTUNATELY, family reasons meant I was unable to attend either the All Under One Banner pro-independence demo on Saturday, or the traditional labour and trade union movement May Day march yesterday. I’d have liked to have been at both because I don’t see them as rival events, although I’d suggest it might be an idea to try to avoid a clash in future to make it easier for pro-independence socialists to attend both.

Not so long ago, the respective turnouts at the marches would have been almost unthinkable. Within living memory, tens of thousands of people would pour on to the streets of Glasgow every year on the first Sunday in May to celebrate International Workers’ Day, with thousands more lining the streets to support the parade. In contrast, a pro-independence march in the city might have been expected to mobilise no more than a few hundred diehards.

Yet on Saturday up to 80,000 people from all kinds of backgrounds took to the streets to display their support for an independent Scotland. The following day, while there were reports of a “great turnout”, the numbers marching were visibly more modest. I would hope that there are some in positions of influence within the Scottish Labour and trade union movement with the strategic intelligence to retrace their steps, throw off their hostility to independence and perhaps start to align themselves with – and even influence – this progressive mass movement for social and constitutional change that shows no signs of weakening.

I’ve never bought into the idea of the British Road to Socialism, though I have many friends who walked that route for many years before coming to the conclusion that it’s a dead end. The rising popularity of Jeremy Corbyn over the past year did seem to confound the sceptics and raise the possibility at least of a genuinely left-wing government at Westminster challenging the establishment from within. But, in the aftermath of last week’s council elections in England and Wales, even the most starry-eyed socialist optimists must be wondering whether they’ve witnessed another false dawn.

Although falling short of its own expectations, Labour’s performance in London was the strongest for a generation. Far more worrying for Corbyn’s strategists were the results outside the capital, where despite everything that’s gone on these past few months, there was a swing of three per cent to the Tories. The town of Swindon for example – which despite its non-city status is the size of Aberdeen – was a key target. According to the Tories, Labour “threw the kitchen sink” at what is seen as a bellwether town because it reflects national trends. Two days before the election, the leader of the Labour group on the local council told The Guardian: “If Labour are ever going to form a national government, we will need to win places like Swindon.” Albeit narrowly, the Tories held on.

According to the Edinburgh Labour MP Ian Murray, his party’s results last Thursday were an “unmitigated disaster”. Personally, I think that’s putting it too strongly but therein lies one of the biggest obstacles standing in Corbyn’s path – his own Westminster colleagues in the House of Commons and House of Lords, that huge bloc of hundreds of influential MPs and peers, and other non-elected high-profile figures attached to the labour movement whose hostility to Corbyn eclipses any antipathy they feel towards Theresa May.

Many, I suspect, were celebrating behind the scenes as the results rolled in on Friday. For that vast army of unreconstructed Blairites, Corbyn is an upstart who could be tolerated as rebel backbencher, but is a dinosaur who deserves to be driven to extinction along with the rest of his species. They undermined him repeatedly during the build-up to these elections, exploiting what may have been genuine concerns over anti-Semitism and Brexit to force the Labour leader on to the back foot daily. And no sooner had the ballot papers been counted than the knives were being sharpened.

Chuka Umunna told Sky News the party should hold “a proper post-mortem”. Alastair Campbell, told the BBC: “Frankly, if we cannot beat this shambles of a Tory Party, we don’t deserve to be in the game.”

An ermine procession of Labour peers denounced Corbyn’s “paralysis and cowardice” for failing to take a harder line against Brexit. And just to even things up, prominent right-wing Labour Leaver Kate Hoey attacked him for failing to take a stronger pro-Brexit line, allowing the Tories to mop up the former Ukip vote. Lord Blunkett was even more explicit. In a full-page article in the Mail on Sunday, he called for a new alternative leadership group to be formed and said: “Corbynism is doomed to failure … a renewed form of moderate New Labour needs to return.”

Expect more of the same in the months ahead from powerful Labour figures who would happily see Corbyn crash and burn at the next General Election in order to pave the way for New Labour Mark 2.

Corbyn may have the support of most of the party’s grassroots members, but his enemies within are big and powerful. And they have unlimited access to the mass-circulation press and the broadcast media. They have the capacity and the motivation to wreck Labour’s electoral prospects.

It’s true that the next General Election could be a long way off, and everything could change before then. A disastrous Brexit could cause the Tories to implode, leading to a guaranteed pro-independence majority at Holyrood in 2021, followed by the disintegration of the Tory majority in Westminster the following year.

But in the meantime, we have to convince at least a section of Labour voters to avoid the mistakes of the 1980s, when we were told over and over again to be patient and wait till the next election when we would be delivered from Toryism. By the 1990s, nothing had changed, and somewhere along the line, Labour had its heart and soul ripped out.

History never repeats itself exactly, but I fear that if we fail to move towards independence in the near future, we could be left with another right-wing Tory government running the show at Westminster, with the Labour Party ruptured and marginalised for a long time to come.