THE story of the brief banning of The Specials on social media just about sums up everything that’s wrong with our times. Amid rising tensions over racism, Facebook removed the band from its site for a short while. The social network – usually quite content for users to stir up hatred – apparently thought the ska band was linked to extremist skinheads.

For those who don’t remember the 1970s and 80s, The Specials were the voice of anti-racism. Their record label, 2 Tone, was quite literally all about black and white coming together. The 2 Tone founder, Jerry Dammers, wrote the protest song Free Nelson Mandela – probably the greatest indictment of apartheid in musical history.

Banning The Specials for racism is a bit like banning Jesus for devil worship.

READ MORE: Neil Mackay: It's time to stand up for journalism

The Specials and 2 Tone woke young people like me up in the 1980s. Their message was that ordinary folk – whether black, white, gay, trans, straight, male, female – are all in this together. The odds are stacked against us and we need to unite to change a rotten, unequal society. To a kid in 1982, that was revolutionary, intoxicating. Their message stays with me.

Today, instead of revolution, we’ve got a culture war. Instead of ordinary people coming together regardless of race or sexuality, we see folk who should be on the same side now split and divided, casting hate against each other when it should be the enemies of equality in their sights.

When I use the word "revolution", I don’t mean blood and violence. When I think of a revolution – a real revolution that changed things, not just swapped around the leaders at the top who tell the rest of us what to do – I think of 1945, and the birth of the welfare state. That was a revolution of the mind. It changed how we saw the world and each other and it changed people’s lives for the better. That’s what I mean when I say revolution.

The other day, I saw a spat on social media which seemed to encapsulate where my side – the left – is today, and what’s gone wrong with us. It involved two journalist colleagues – Iain Macwhirter who writes for this paper, and Laura Waddell who writes for The Scotsman.

Iain had written an article headlined No Society is Free from Racism but Scotland’s Record isn’t Bad. Laura replied to his post on Twitter about the column saying: “Iain, why are you such a c**t about race?’

READ MORE: Neil Mackay: Are we inventing a post-covid Scotland that’s stripped of all humanity?

I must point out that I know both writers – and I’ve respected much of their work. I apologise in advance to both of them if I’m being presumptuous about their views, but I’d always thought they were politically pretty similar to myself. I consider them what you’d broadly term ‘liberal lefties’ – pro-equality, anti-discrimination, no friend of the right. When it comes to politics, I’d want people like both of them on my side. But there now seems to be a wall of division between folk who should, in my view at least, be on the same side.

A culture war is what happens when a society hollows out and dies politically. And a culture war destroys the left and liberals. The right – especially the far right – thrives on culture wars. The left doesn’t, the left splits, and as a result loses. Often the left spends more time hating itself than it does the right. We seem to prefer purity purges to taking power and changing the world.

In many left and liberal circles people are denounced – quite literally – for being either too left or not left enough. You’re either super-woke, or still asleep. We see it in all the totemic issues of today – trans rights, monuments, Brexit, independence. The left divides in a quest for ideologically perfection, while the right unites and beats us, putting any divisions they may have to one side. I, for one, am sick of it. Each time, we behave like this – and in my 50 years I’ve seen the pattern repeat and repeat across the western world – we lose and the right wins. That means ordinary people – black, white, gay, straight, trans, male, female – we all end up remaining in our unequal world, while the rich and powerful get more rich and more powerful.

Think of the power we’d have if we worked together. We’re arguing amongst each other when we should be arguing about the fact that the system has been playing us all for fools for years no matter what our race or sexuality.

READ MORE: Neil Mackay: Let’s do something good, something that matters – let’s build a monument to the victims of coronavirus

That’s not to say that battles about racism or sexual equality need to stop – far from it. They have to keep going and get louder because we need change desperately – but campaigners in all these disparate battles need to work together as part of one unifying fight for equality for all. If we divide, we’re beaten; if we unite, we win.

At the heart of our problems lies economics – there will never be racial or sexual equality unless there’s economic equality. Economics, race and sexuality need to be seen as part of the same political fight – to make this country fairer for millions, and to rein in the power and privilege of a few thousand con artists who’ve been ruling over us, and dividing us, for generations.

The way the left fights battles today is like trying to treat an illness symptom by symptom. Today, we worry about a high temperature – or race; tomorrow, it’s pain – or sexuality; the next day, it’s weight loss – or poverty. We need to radically intervene on the whole illness if we ever hope to get the patient well.

There are neo-Nazis on the street, but we argue amongst each other if Fawlty Towers should be cancelled. The far right can’t even spell Britain. Need I mention the sight of a police officer’s memorial being urinated beside?

The left bickered amongst itself while the right created the financial system that crashed the economy, and then imposed austerity on all of us. And what was that austerity for? To save their system that failed in the first place.

We need to wise up. We need to stop fighting each other and turn our ire on those who deserve it. Those in power.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.