The 115th congress of the Scottish TUC provides the Scottish labour movement with a timely opportunity to set out not just what we are against but what we are for.
For we will protest in the weeks and months ahead, just as we have in the weeks and months past, but we are not merely a protest movement. We are a social movement with a cause, and a worldwide one at that.
Of course we represent our members, those who sell their labour, on the question of wages.
But we fail them if we do not also represent them on the question of peace - peace in the world as well as on the shop floor.
We fail them if we do not also represent them on the question of the ecological as well as the economic crisis.
We fail them if we do not also represent them on the question of what kind of society we live in and what kind of society we want to live in. That's why these important questions will be debated at the congress in Inverness this week.
We need a vision of the kind of Scotland we want to build. Our goal must be greater than simply a Keynesian reflation of the old order, and our vision must be bigger than the Beveridge doctrine of taking the tears out of capitalism.
That vision must instead be to radically change society and the economy to their very foundations, so that we develop not just alternatives within the system but alternatives to the system too.
So in the STUC's Better Way campaign, developed by the whole Scottish labour movement, we argue for jobs and full employment, progressive taxation and fair taxation, a living wage and equal pay, and for investment not cuts in public services.
Because to our friends in the political wing of this movement our advice is clear. You will never win the argument with the Tories by saying they are going in the right direction but too far and too fast. You will win it by tackling Tory ideas head on and arguing for a radically different course.
That also means at a local level there must be a firm rejection of the encroachment of naked market forces and a summary dismissal of the policy of outsourcing which is seeping in right across the public sector.
Even in lifeline statutory services like home care for the elderly, the rule of competition law and the market are in evidence.
And that is in a Scotland where devolution allows policies quite different from those of the Tory coalition.
What we need is a campaign which builds on the excellent Edinburgh initiative Our City's Not For Sale, which has stopped in its tracks attempts by the Lib Dem/SNP-run council to privatise many of the city's services.
Multinational corporations should not be allowed to take over our schools and hospitals to make big profits at the expense of local people.
It means attacking the managerialist culture we see in too many local councils and in too many local councillors who style themselves as administrators of cuts, not champions of local communities.
In particular it means resisting cuts in terms and conditions of employment in a war which is often waged most heavily against the lowest-paid workers in local and central government.
It means challenging too the centralising tendencies of the SNP administration which has to all intents and purposes denuded Scottish local government of its democratic mandate to set the council tax.
All this requires a campaign that instils confidence among working people that change is indeed possible.
It is a campaign that must be spearheaded by the trade union movement in alliance with service users and community groups where we challenge injustice in the workplace and in the community.
Where we make the case for democratically accountable publicly run, publicly funded public services.
And where we show that there is an alternative future to a decade of austerity.
Before giving support to Labour candidates in this year's local elections GMB Scotland has asked them to give an undertaking that they will support the living wage, oppose redundancies and cuts in the terms and conditions of council workers, and block outsourcing and private finance initiative and public-private-partnership capital finance routes.
They are also asked to endorse GMB's rulebook which clearly states that we will help candidates for public office who promote our policies and the interests of members providing that they are "pledged to collective ownership, under democratic control, of the means of production, distribution and exchange."
We should not be apologetic about our commitment to democratic socialism but proud of it.
At the very first Scottish Trades Union Congress, held in Berkeley Hall, Glasgow, in 1897, 70 delegates passed a resolution proposed by John Wilson of the miners who asserted that "the workers cannot obtain the full value of their labour and strikes be avoided, until the land, mines, railways, machinery and industrial capital are owned and controlled by the state for the people."
A view readily echoed by Keir Hardie from the platform at the same congress. The STUC was socialistic at its birth.
It is that pioneering spirit and that compelling vision, backed up by strong united organisation, which the movement needs to reignite this week.
Richard Leonard is GMB's Scotland political officer