Oct 21 2014

The 18th Edinburgh Radical Book Fair, 22nd-26th October

 

The 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair   –  the alternative international book festival – organized by Word Power Books, (http://www.word-power.co.uk) will take place from Wednesday 22 to Sunday 26 October 2014 in Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 30-38 Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh, EH6 8RG, Scotland, UK. Doors open on Wednesday 22 October 2014 at 6.00pm. There will be at least 70 publishers displaying their books for you to purchase and many events for you to attend.  There will be a cafe and a bar open during course the five days of the Book Fair. Admission is free but a monetary donation would be appreciated!

 

Edinburgh Radical Book Fair in the Out of the Blue centre

Edinburgh Radical Book Fair in the Out of the Blue centre

 

Writers and activists coming to the Book Fair include:

 

OWEN JONES, CATRIONA MACIVER, OLIVER MAYES, NINA FEDENCZUK, JULIA MACINTOSH, ROB SEWELL, MURRAY ARMSTRONG, CAT BOYD, ALASTAIR MCINTOSH, LESLEY RIDDOCH, CATRIONA MACIVER, OLIVER MAYES, PENNY COLE, LEE BUNCE, JAMIE MCKENZIE HAMILTON, DAVE SHERRY, RYAN RODRICK BEILER, DERVLA MURPHY, RAJA SHEHADEH, IAN CROFTON, SARAH BROWNE, ESTHER BREITENBACH, RYAN NICODEMUS, JOSHUA FIELDS MILLBURN, JAMES MEEK, ROBIN MCALPINE, DOMINIC HINDE, VONNY MOYES, CHRISTOPHER SILVER, JOHN BARKER, MIKE SMALL, SATNAM VIRDEE, NEIL DAVIDSON, JOANNA DOBSON, JENNY MOLLISON, JUDY WILKINSON, RONA WILKINSON, KATHLEEN JAMIE, MANDY HAGGITH, ESTHER WOOLFSON, and others. Further, two films will be shown: Scotland Yet: A Film About Independence by JACK FOSTER and CHRISTOPHER SILVER, and The Anarchist Rabbi by ADAM KOSSOFF.  Scroll down to see details of individual events.

 

 Photographic Exhibition  

There will be a photographic exhibition by ActiveStills, Shooting the Occupation: The Palestinian Villages of Popular Resistance, throughout the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair.

 

Events 

OWEN JONES, author of Chavs, opens the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair, and discusses his latest book, The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It

22/10/2014 19:00

 

CATRIONA MACIVER and OLIVER MAYES of Tara Books present a Visit the Bhil Carnival Pop-Up Workshop for School Pupils, at at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

23/10/2014 10:30

NINA FEDENCZUK and JULIA MACINTOSH of Personal Wealth discuss Conversations That Matter in Workplace Unions, at at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

23/10/2014 14:30

ROB SEWELL discusses his latest book, Germany: From Revolution to Counter Revolution, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

23/10/2014 17:30

 

MURRAY ARMSTRONG launches his book, The Liberty Tree: The Stirring Story of Thomas Muir and Scotland’s First Fight for Democracy, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

23/10/2014 18:30

 

CAT BOYD, ALASTAIR MCINTOSH and LESLEY RIDDOCH discuss the past, present and future of Scotland, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

23/10/2014 19:30

 

CATRIONA MACIVER and OLIVER MAYES of Tara Books present a Visit the Bhil Carnival Pop-Up Workshop for School Pupils, at at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

24/10/2014 10:30

 

PENNY COLE, LEE BUNCE and JAMIE MCKENZIE HAMILTON discuss the dangers of fracking in Scotland and beyond, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

24/10/2014 12:30

 

Film screening of Scotland Yet: A Film About Independence by Jack Foster and Christopher Silver, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

24/10/2014 15:30

 

DAVE SHERRY discusses his latest book, Empire and Revolution: A Socialist History of the First World War, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

24/10/2014 17:30

 

RYAN RODRICK BEILER discusses the exhibition, Shooting the Occupation: The Palestinian Villages of Popular Resistance, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

24/10/2014 18:30

 

DERVLA MURPHY, author of A Month by the Sea, and RAJA SHEHADEH, author of Occupation Diaries, discuss Palestine, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

24/10/2014 19:30

 

IAN CROFTON discusses his latest book, Walking the Border: A Journey Between Scotland and England, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

25/10/2014 10:30

 

SARAH BROWNE launches her book, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Scotland, in discussion with ESTHER BREITENBACH, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

25/10/2014 11:45

 

RYAN NICODEMUS and JOSHUA FIELDS MILLBURN, the Minimalists, discuss Everything That Remains, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

25/10/2014 13:00

 

JAMES MEEK discusses his latest book, Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

25/10/2014 14:30

 

ROBIN MCALPINE, DOMINIC HINDE, VONNY MOYES, and CHRISTOPHER SILVER discuss Changing Scotland’s Media, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

25/10/2014 16:15

 

JOHN BARKER launches his new novel, Futures, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

25/10/2014 17:30

Film Screening of The Anarchist Rabbi at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

25/10/2014 18:30

 

MIKE SMALL, editor of Bella Caledonia, showcases the best of media in a multimedia talk, followed by Indy cabaret, song, poetry and music, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

25/10/2014 20:00

 

SATNAM VIRDEE and NEIL DAVIDSON launch their latest books and discuss Race and Nation in Scotland and England, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

26/10/2014 10:45

 

JOANNA DOBSON, JENNY MOLLISON, JUDY WILKINSON and RONA WILKINSON discuss Raising Spirits: Allotments, Well-Being and Community, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

26/10/2014 12:00

 

KATHLEEN JAMIE, MANDY HAGGITH and ESTHER WOOLFSON discuss Women, Nature and Wilderness, at the 18th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

26/10/2014 15:30

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Oct 20 2014

MORE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE RCN’S ‘WHAT WE STAND FOR’

The RCN will be debating new amendments to our ‘What We Stand For’ on our annual weekend away being  held on November 8th. The first set of amendments proposed by Allan Armstrong were posted at:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/08/09/proposed-amendments-to-the-rcns-what-we-stand-for/. Eric Chester has proposed another set of amendments,which are posted below.

 

Add to point 5: We call for the immediate withdrawal from NATO and the European Union. We will work toward the formation of a federation of European states.

New paragraph, perhaps to be a new point 1: Capitalism is in terminal decline. It will either take all of us down with it or the working class will build a new, socialist society arising out of its demise. A new society can not be created through a series of incremental reforms. Furthermore, fundamental change does not occur by electing socialists to a parliament. Only a revolutionary transformation can provide the basis for a radical change in society, a revolution that will emerge from a movement that organizes strikes across industries, workplace occupations and mass demonstrations and occupations.

New paragraph: Secularism is one of our core beliefs. We stand for a secular society in which no one gains an advantage or suffers a disadvantage from being a believer in a specific religion, or none at all. One step toward a secular society would be the dissolution of private schools into a state funded and publicly controlled school system that does not promote any religious belief. We will join with others in promoting a secular society here as we work in solidarity with those in other countries who oppose theocratic states, whether they be based on Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or any other religious creed.

Replace point 7: The existing business unions are not fit for purpose. They can not be  made into effective working class organizations by electing a different set of officials to office. Unions with a very different structure and purpose need to be built, ones that avoid the top-down bureaucracies of the current unions by greatly limiting the pay, number and power of full-time officials while stressing the critical role of activists at the workplace. As a first step, we will work with union militants to create a network of activists that can organise actions independently of the official union structure.

New paragraph: Capitalism is destroying the planet. The complete disregard for the environment that is inherent in an economic system based on personal greed is already producing disastrous consequences. A socialist society will need to devote significant resources to developing technological advances that permit everyone to enjoy a standard of living that meets their needs without destroying the environment. As first steps, we call for a phasing out of fossil fuels, the banning of fracking, closing nuclear power plants, providing free mass transit while discouraging the use of cars, and vastly increasing the production of energy from sustainable sources.

Replace point 9: We do not believe that a political organization can encompass the entire Scottish Left. The differences in fundamental perspectives are too great to make this a viable project. Instead, we will explore the potential for an organisation that can bring together anti-authoritarian socialists in general agreement with our basic principles as put forward in this document. Should such an organisation opt to stand candidates, it would do so not to win elections but to present an explicitly socialist program in complete independence from all of the mainstream parties, including both the SNP and the Labour Party.

Add to point 6: We will continue to work toward a truly independent Scotland, one that is republican, secular and democratic and that does not rely on a currency controlled by either the Bank of England or the European Central Bank. We are not interested in promoting a nominally ‘independent’ Scotland in which little or nothing has changed but merely exchanges the union jack for the saltire.

 

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Oct 11 2014

AFTER THE SEPTEMBER 18th REFERENDUM VOTE – A socialist republican response

In the aftermath of the September 18th Scottish independence referendum, Allan Armstrong (RCN) updates his earlier piece (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/03/up-to-and-beyond-the-september-18th-independence-referendum-a-socialist-republican-perspective/).

 

A Movement-in-the-making

The campaign for Scottish independence has been the largest movement for popular democracy seen in these islands since the Irish War of Independence. In terms of electoral participation it was unprecedented. Voter registration was 97% and voter turnout was 85%.

The ‘Yes’ alliance faced the biggest ruling class offensive, backed by the UK state, since the Miners’ Strike. Only this time it brought together the combined Tory/Lib-Dem/Labour ‘Better Together’ ‘No’ alliance, UKIP, Ulster unionists, the Orange Order, other Loyalists, British fascists, the BBC, the Pope and the Free Presbyterian Church, and the US and Chinese governments!

The ‘Yes’ alliance still won 45% of the vote, and badly rattled the British ruling class in the last two weeks before September 18th. Cameron had only conceded the referendum, and signed the Edinburgh Agreement back in 2012, because he thought the prospect of any alternative to the ‘Westminster way’ would be trounced – “There is no alternative”. We showed that “Another Scotland is possible”. Furthermore, since September 18th the mood of anger and defiance has continued. Therefore a key issue is how do Socialists address this unpredicted situation.

th-10First, we have to understand what we are witnessing. This grassroots ‘Yes’ campaign represents an embryonic Movement. Sunday Herald correspondent Paul Hutcheon has chronicled how, in many areas, the official ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign slipped out of the hands of the SNP officials running it at the national level [1]. The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), with its platform of internationalist anti-imperialism and republican anti-unionism, and its anti-neo-liberal social and ecological vision, was formed to provide an alternative the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals [2]. RIC concentrated its efforts upon registering  people in those working class housing schemes, where voter participation had fallen to historically low  levels.

At a national level, the SNP’s ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign was modelled on Barack Obama’s 2008 ‘Yes We Can’ presidential campaign. In a similar manner, if there had been a ‘Yes’ victory on September 18th, this campaign would have been closed down and the conduct of politics handed back to the ‘suits’. In contrast, RIC would have launched a grassroots campaign seeking to involve the tens of thousands already mobilised, as well as those enthused by the new possibilities. The aim would have been to create an entirely new Scottish republican constitution, with a massive popular input. RIC devoted its May 17th Glasgow National Forum to addressing  such issues, with agreed proposals coming from the Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh branches.

However, instead of a majority ‘Yes’ vote, we gained 45% support. Most would have thought this to be a major setback, knocking back the issue of Scottish independence possibly “for a generation”. Yet, it was Labour Party members, fronting the ‘No’ campaign in Scotland, who seemed particularly tetchy and somewhat less than magnanimous after their ‘victory’. Glasgow, Dundee, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire had ‘seceded from the union’!

Since September 18th the Scottish Labour Party has gone into deeper crisis. Throughout their ‘Better Together’ campaign, Labour, alongside the Conservatives and Lib-Dems, had relentlessly transmitted the diktats of the City of London, the CBI, the US State Department, selected Euro-bureaucrats and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. They had called their campaign ‘Project Fear’ [3]!

Therefore, it was not surprising that neither the Red Paper Collective [4], nor George ‘Just Say Naw’ Galloway [5], failed to organise any follow-up marches, or other public events celebrating the great display of ‘British working class unity’ represented by the 55% ‘No’ vote. Instead, it was an alliance of Loyalists and British fascists who went on the rampage, stirred up by the pro-union, pro-monarchy, pro-war and Union Jack waving onslaught, which accompanied the mainstream ‘No’ campaign. The Loyalists, British fascists and other deeply reactionary forces get their succour from the worst elements of the Unionist state set-up and its imperial history.

‘One Nation’ Labour (‘Tory-Lite’ for the concerned middle class) and ‘Blue Labour’ (‘UKIP-Lite’ for the British working class) both accommodate to this reactionary legacy. In the pre-‘One Nation’ days, when they were New Labour, Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer pledged, “Whatever it takes”, for the conduct of the notorious Iraq War in 2003. Then, sounding like an old League of Empire Loyalist, he said, “The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial past are over”.  Brown also took up the call for “British jobs for British workers”, long a favourite slogan of the British far Right. And now we hear Jack Straw’s call for a new Westminster law making the UK “indissoluble” – more Franco than Farage!

From September 19th, the day after the referendum, and despite all the illusions and contradictions involved, tens of thousands joined the SNP, with several more thousands signing up to the Greens and SSP. RIC branches have had the largest attendances they have ever seen. RIC’s forthcoming national conference in Glasgow on November 22nd will be the biggest yet. This is in marked contrast to the ‘No’ camp, where the only growing political force seems to be UKIP.

We could be witnessing something  with even  greater potential than the large campaigns formed by the autonomous ‘Yes’ groups and RIC. Campaigns can ebb and flow like CND or the Anti-War movement. Instead, what we could be looking at is a potential republican Movement that could unite struggles in the economic, social, cultural and political/democratic arenas, and provide an inspiration beyond Scotland. And by republican, this does not mean merely having an aspiration for a future monarchy-free Scotland, but making the democratic affirmation, in the here and now, that sovereignty lies with the people, not with Westminster [6]. Laws imposed on us, under the UK’s anti-democratic  Crown in Parliament  formula, can be resisted when they undermine our economic, social, cultural and political rights. The Anti-Poll Tax campaign, triggered off in Scotland, was a good example of this.

Nevertheless, the idea of RIC developing further as a new republican Movement will need to be defended against those who would divert it behind largely electoral schemes. These would most likely end up providing support for the SNP leadership’s project of gaining complete hegemony over the movement for Scottish self-determination. Their interests lie in building up a new Scottish ruling class through pro-business policies and the incremental reform of the existing UK state.

To counter this prospect, we need a republican Movement that can sustain itself through its participants’ increased awareness of the nature of the UK state; and their better understanding of the role of the US/UK imperial alliance in underpinning the current global corporate order. We need a Movement that addresses the needs of the exploited and oppressed. This will inevitably have to challenge, not only Westminster and Labour, but also the Holyrood government and the SNP, and those local councils they run or help to run, as they continue to attack vital services in working class communities and their employees’ jobs, pay and conditions.

A sustainable Movement certainly needs to have a clear political analysis of the situation and the obstacles we face. It has to develop a longer-term strategy. However, it also needs to build its own independent base of support. This can not be done by depending on the very institutions it hopes to replace, even if it may be necessary to participate in these for a time. Nor can it be done jumping into every fleeting campaign or flash mob event. These tend to draw their support from the angry and perplexed. In their frustration, they often look to any means to hit back. Yet some of these activities can be counter-productive, e.g. “We are the 45%” so, in effect, everyone else, “Stuff You”!

 

And then they started to take it allback again!

And then they started to take it all back again!

 The relationship between Movement and Party

A Party is the best political vehicle for promoting more soundly grounded courses of action. However, many individuals’ experiences of existing parties issuch that they often reject the idea of a Party altogether. This has contributed instead to a worship of movements, whether expressed in Anarchist, libertarian, radical, populist or just ‘movementist’ terms.

Yet those movements, which are sometimes idealised in such thinking, e.g. Occupy, tend to be episodic and initially well-supported campaigns, triggered by a reaction to something specific, e.g. the 2008 Financial Crash. Since they make a political virtue out of spontaneity, they are unable to undertake a deeper political analysis, or provide a longer-term strategy, which can sustain them. They do not develop into a wider Movement that can unite every aspect of the struggle.

We have certainly seen the political decay of once well-supported Parties, e.g. the Labour Party, and the one-time official Communist Parties (stronger on the continent than over here). They drew much of their strength from being at the centre of real Movements, e.g. the Labour Movement with its own political party, trade unions, cooperative societies, workers educational associations, etc. However, as the Labour Party has declined, so have all their affiliated Labour Movement bodies. There is a dialectical relationship between Movement and Party. They are linked and tend to rise and fall together.

 

Attempts to divert our Movement into support for the SNP 

So, what sort of new Party could become the political expression of a new Movement? First, we have to recognise the distinctive political situation we currently face in Scotland, after the fall of the Scottish Socialist Party, the most recent attempt to create a new post-Labour Party. The acrimonious break-up has fragmented Socialists and further increased feelings of cynicism about the possibilities of creating a new Party. Others, after seeing the unprecedented rush to join already established parties, think another party, untarnished by the past, can just be declared.

One inadequate response to the post September 19th situation has been the Gadarene rush to become involved in the 2015 Westminster or 2016 Holyrood elections without any deeper idea of strategy; any real understanding of nature of what we are up against, either from the UK state or the SNP government; or any real analysis of why earlier projects like the SSP (never mind all the Marxist-Leninist-{Trotskyist} sect-parties) faltered or failed.

It has been suggested that a new Left Party could be created in Scotland, which rapidly becomes a ‘player’ making deals with other ‘Independistas’. Such a Left Party could look for allies amongst all those newly recruited SNP members, who now form the majority in that Party and who will surely dictate its policies. However, these new members will come up against a leadership that has created the ‘New SNP’, controlled from the top by the ‘suits’, and moulded to meet the interests of business. The SNP leadership has not wasted all those years creating the ‘New SNP’ to represent the interest of a wannabe Scottish ruling class, so that this can just be set aside.

SNP leaders know when to turn on the populist rhetoric and, after the September 18th catharsis, this will become more necessary for a while. We will see this at the forthcoming SNP conference. Competing populist pitches will be made to appear more ‘nationalist than thou’, by supporting the earliest date possible for the next independence referendum – 2015, 2016 or 2020. There could be some debate about whether the SNP would allow a few token individuals from the  ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign to stand in selected seats in the 2015 Westminster election.  Two of the SNP vice-presidential candidates have proposed this. However, the quid pro quo would be supporting SNP candidates in all the other seats, and having little or no influence on any post-election deals that would be made by the SNP leadership with the newly incumbent Westminster government.

There is unlikely to be a recognition that any likely future UK government, led by the existing Unionist parties, will ever concede another referendum. That would take the SNP leadership into territory it does not want to go – organising a Catalan style referendum [7], or even considering a Citizens’ Initiative referendum [8], in defiance of the UK state and government.

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Alex Salmond votes for NATO at the 2012 SNP AGM

It is worth remembering that we got plenty of populist rhetoric from the SNP government during the referendum campaign about the need to create a fairer and more just Scotland, with verbal overtures to Common Weal and the ‘Nordic’ model. However, the only real change during the period of the campaign was the SNP’s acceptance of NATO, at the heavy prompting of its leadership, whilst the catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Libya have both been supported.

Most of the SNP’s MEPs, MPs, and MSPs, as well as their paid officials backed NATO – including  Nicola Sturgeon. Her much-vaunted ‘Left’ credentials lack any real substance, although certainly she can certainly outbid Labour’s Johann Lamont in the contemporary Scottish social democratic stakes.  To their credit, MSPs John Finnie and Jean Urquhart resigned from the SNP, and to the membership’s credit the vote was much closer than anticipated by the leadership. However, the further resignation, after the independence referendum, of MSP John Wilson over this issue, shows he does not believe that the incoming members will be able to do much to alter the SNP’s current pro-imperialist course.

The SNP’s recent Westminster ‘revolt’ over UK participation in the third Iraq war was more of a political triangulation exercise, all the more so, when led by Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster party leader and Defence spokesperson. He is firmly on the Party’s Right wing and is a vigorous supporter of NATO and its military bases in Scotland, as well as its wars in Afghanistan and Libya.

During the period of the referendum campaign, the SNP government also appeased maverick tycoons like Trump, Murdoch and Ratcliff. Anti-union, tax-dodging Amazon has been courted. Scottish Enterprise Chief Executive, Lena Wilson, was allowed to moonlight in the private sector whilst holding well-paid public sector job. The SNP government wanted to send out a signal that the ambitions of anyone from the business world can be accommodated, at public expense, in an SNP-run Scotland. Building up a new wannabe Scottish ruling class involves the recruitment of key individuals to the party, as well as the phased handing down of powers from Westminster and the wider UK state.

The SNP government also created a centralised Scottish police force which immediately began to throw its weight around, arming officers on the streets, making record numbers of unwarranted searches, and implementing an Offensive Behaviour Act, designed more to suppress overt expressions of Irish republicanism, than address the real nature of the divide we see in Scotland [9].

 

Lessons still to be learned from the SSP – the last Left Party initiative in Scotland

How do people see any new alternative Left Party coming about? Both recalling and misrepresenting the SSP experience, some on the Scottish Left have said that a new Left Party can be still built, provided we all ‘forgive and forget’. Claims are also being made that any new Left Party must also dilute its politics to gain a new inflow of members united against ‘bad things’ and supportive of ‘good things’, or who just hate Labour. In the face of such illusions, the SSP experience can provide some useful lessons, provided that we are prepared to ‘listen and learn’ before moving on [10].

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Tommy Sheridan – a Left populist Scottish nationalist

The SSP’s most obvious failure was its inability to get beyond the constant public promotion of Tommy Sheridan, who increasingly relished his role as a celebrity Left politician. Beyond any effective political accountability, Sheridan went on to promote the ‘Tommy and Gail Travelling Theatre’. However, when this particular road show became subjected to criticism, both from the Right and Left, Sheridan went to inordinate lengths to defend the show’s image, wildly attacking anyone who was not prepared to go along with the illusion [11]. When the majority of the SSP leadership very belatedly showed their own concern, Tommy broke away to form his own entirely reliable fan club – Solidarity. He has plans to resurrect this once more, but in more overtly Scottish nationalist terms.

Furthermore, just as it is obvious that George Galloway, with all his Left unionist bluster, desperately wants to readmitted into the Labour Party, so it is becoming increasingly clear that Sheridan’s strident Left nationalism is designed to win his acceptance by the SNP. What we are seeing here is not Socialist but Left populist politics. The aim is to tailend the SNP, despite any face-saving caveats such as only supporting ‘anti-austerity’ candidates. It is easier to be ‘anti-austerity’ in words than in deeds. And, how about a commitment to publicly oppose NATO too, and not just the latest war in Iraq/Syria. The SNP government still supports ‘our Scottish regiments’ and their UK state/NATO enforced role in Afghanistan.

Now, the tensions between those who wanted to develop a socialist republican approach to Scottish politics, and those who wanted to tail the SNP were already there in 2003, in the SSP’s heyday. Tommy’s loyal supporter, Hugh Kerr, ex-Labour, but increasingly Scottish nationalist, wanted the SSP to stand down in first-past-the post elections to Holyrood, the better to make way for a future SNP government dependent upon support from SSP list MSPs. The SSP’s increasingly parliamentary focus, after winning six MSPs in 2003, would have strengthened this Left nationalism at leadership level, if it had not been overwhelmed by ‘Tommygate’ [12].

This overwhelmingly parliamentary focus prefigured the sort of thinking we are hearing today about the SNP holding the balance of power after the next Westminster election. If this were to happen though, the SNP would most likely follow the course adopted by the conservative Catalan Convergence Party (CiU) in the Spanish Parliament. The CiU seeks small devolutionary concessions for Catalunya in return for propping up Spanish governments, including those of the Right.

During the internal SSP dispute, both sides looked to the courts, and were not averse to unprincipled resort to the bourgeois media. This could only undermine working class confidence in the possibility of any alternative. If you have to go to their courts to sort out your own problems, what chance have you got of challenging their social order!

 

The wider failures of the Left and how to they can be overcome

Trotskyism clinging on to the shell of older Movements

Trotskyism clinging on to the shell of older Movements

The SSP experience has been examined, and some of the lessons to be drawn from it. But the SSP also inherited some of the problems of a wider British Left, including those from a Trotskyist background – whether orthodox or dissident. The 2008 Crash demonstrated their continued dependency on the state. They could not present a coherent societal alternative to a capitalism facing a multi-faceted crisis, but fell back instead on half-baked neo-Keynesian national state ‘solutions’. These would not be able stand up to the pressures of today’s global capitalism.

Only if people believe there is a real possible alternative to capitalism will they be prepared for the mounting struggles needed to transcend the current crisis-ridden order. But how do we get over the problem of people seeing socialism/communism as being merely abstract propaganda or an unrealisable utopia?

Promoting independent class organisations is the way this can be achieved. We need such organisations in every area of struggle – political, economic, social and cultural. Once more we can see the link between Party and Movement. Together, these can provide us with the direct experience of self-determination in its widest sense. This then prepares us for the take-over and the running of the whole of society, in other words a revolutionary transformation.

However, most of the Left, trapped in sect-parties and their own sect-front campaigns have been unable to promote wider independent class organisation. This is why they have never developed any new Movement. Instead they promoted a Broad Leftism, which clings to the shell of an older Movement. In the trade unions, they have sought the replacement of Right officials and office bearers by those on the Left. This has led to continuous institutional adaptation and sometimes corruption. This why new Broad Left challengers are often up against old Broad Left incumbents! This deficiency arises from placing sovereignty in the hands of the officials in their union HQs, rather than amongst the members in their workplaces and branches, i.e. ‘industrial republicanism’.

At the wider UK state level, we can see an analogous process amongst an ever-shrinking Left Labour, as they go along with the UK state and its sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament, even arguing that this provides the best framework to unite the British working class! The republican notions of the sovereignty of the people, meaningful self-determination and independent working class organisation and are alien to such thinking.

Then there is the profoundly sectarian and undemocratic behaviour of Labour, Communist and Trotskyist organisations. These also mirror the practices of existing states, highlighted by the Labour Party’s uber-unionist campaign in the independence referendum, with Gorgeous George’s ‘Just Say Naw’ own road show acting as a bizarre parody.

The resort to ‘party’-front organisations, by the Trotskyist SP and SWP, e,g. the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and Unite the Resistance, provide other examples. These emulate the state’s behind-the-scenes manipulation of organisations.

However, it goes even deeper than that. Other aspects of today’s capitalist social order have become internalised on the Left. There has been a persistent pattern of sexism and sexual abuse, highlighted by the rape allegations in the SWP [13] and the sexist abuse allegations in the RMT [14]. Both organisations failed to address these issues properly. The SWP was prepared to expel or drive away whole swathes of its membership for even questioning the leadership’s handling of the issue.

This is why it is vitally important that any new Party is avowedly communist/socialist in its aims [15]; is committed to promoting independent class organisation in every sphere of struggle – economic, social, cultural and political; is thoroughly democratic and comradely in its behaviour towards others [16]. It needs a Party like this to politically sustain new Movement. However, such a Party can not be just be pronounced or developed in isolation from a new Movement, but can only be created as part of a process of developing wider independence class organisation. This will involve both political engagement and the promotion of a genuine democratic culture.

 

The link between the international and the national

Members of a new Party should also understand the multi-faceted crisis of the global capitalist order we live in. Its rulers can only promote more austerity, wars and environmental degradation, and further deepen class, sexist and ethnic divisions. Therefore, this Party’s approach must be profoundly internationalist, providing support to the struggles of the exploited and oppressed throughout the world.

It is also important for a new Party that it has an understanding of the nature of the state we actually live in. That state is the UK – a declining imperial power, that needs the support of another larger, but now also faltering imperial power, the USA, to sustain it in the face of growing inter-imperialist conflict. In Scotland, this also means recognising the real role of SNP leadership. They seek no more than a junior managerial buy-out of local branch of UK Ltd, and wish to make their own deals with the Global Megacorp.

The SNP’s own ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals accept the monarchy and hence the UK state’s Crown Powers; the pound and hence economic subordination to the City of London; participation in the British High Command and NATO and hence a continued commitment to imperial wars; and the continuation of the Protestant establishment and hence institutionalised sectarianism (which nowadays mainly takes the form of anti-Irish racism in Scotland [17]).

In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, Salmond offered the prospect of a ’Team Scotland’ consisting of the SNP government and representatives from all the Holyrood unionist parties entering into negotiations with Westminster. Any ‘Yes’ vote would have been reduced to a negotiating ploy. The SNP sees its real mandate as coming from being the elected government of Westminster’s devolved parliament at Holyrood. Any Movement which based itself on the sovereignty of the people expressed on September 18th, and which promoted a new Constituent Assembly with popular involvement, would have been strongly opposed by the SNP government.

Now though, after the ‘No’ vote we confront a different ‘Team Scotland’. This one is led by the British unionist parties, recently allied together as ‘Better

Lord Smith with friend

Lord Smith with friend

Together’. The SNP government has now joined this other ‘Team Scotland’. John Swinney, its Right wing Holyrood Finance Minister, has been assigned to cooperate with Lord Smith’s Commission. The mainstream unionist parties have called upon Lord Smith to outline further possible devolution options. His lordship is very much part of UK state’s Crown-in-Parliament set-up  – his title is a bit of a giveaway! Any demands for meaningful change in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the UK will only be answered by small-scale administrative reforms, which do not address genuine popular concerns.

The continuing rise of UKIP, which, in alliance with Ulster unionists, wants to undermine the current British ruling class-backed ‘New Unionist’ settlement – ‘Devolution-all-round’- will further contribute to the abandonment of all those “vows” – Gordon Brown’s federalism and Alistair Darling’s ‘Devo-Max’- opting instead for a ‘pocket money parliament’, firmly under the control of the UK state and Westminster, and bowing to the every demand of the City of London.

Therefore, the SNP government, which accepts so much of the existing UK state set-up and the current global corporate order, will undermine any real Movement for genuine Scottish self-determination, the better to sidle up to the mainstream unionist ‘reformers’. To do this, they will demand those involved in the wider Movement fall in behind a campaign to win the maximum number of SNP MPs at Westminster in 2015 to “hold the unionists’ feet to the fire” and deliver on their “vows”. Electoral votes and the number of MPs are the chess pieces to be played on the Westminster chessboard.

Meanwhile most of the things which will affect our lives, will be arranged elsewhere, hidden from any democratic scrutiny by the UK state’s Crown Powers. Furthermore, neither of the two SNP MEPs opposed the draconian new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Initiative, designed to subordinate public interests to those of the corporations. This is partly because the SNP leadership supports global corporate capital, and partly because they largely accept the anti-democratic and bureaucratic nature of the current EU set-up. They just want a seat at the top table.

Therefore, one of the most important jobs for a new Party in Scotland will be to struggle relentlessly against any attempts by the SNP leadership to derail a new Movement. At the front of the Movement’s defence should be RIC.

 

The need for a socialist republican and ‘internationalism from below’ approach

RIC also has a keen interest in what happens in England, Wales and the whole of Ireland. This is why the new job facing us cannot be confined to backing the SNP government in its support for the mainstream unionist parties against the rising Right populist unionist parties – UKIP and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) [18].

UKIP already has an influence on the Tory Right and increasingly on Labour  too [19]. Loyalist street demonstrators and TUV are pushing the dominant Stormont coalition partner, the DUP still further Right. The mainstream British unionist parties all defend the reactionary UK state and Crown in Parliament set-up, which provides succour to the reserve forces of reaction, be they UKIP or the Loyalists. Opposing this effectively means making links with organisations that understand the need to challenge the UK state, and the British unionist parties that defend the current constitutional order.

Alex Salmond has tentatively suggested that his ‘Independence-Lite’ Scotland could push the rUK into wider capitalist modernisation. When the SNP government looks beyond Scotland’s borders for possible support, it mainly looks to the Labour-led cities in the North of England, to Westminster’s devolved Cardiff Bay and Stormont assemblies, and to the Troika and City of London puppet Irish government.

This capitalist modernisation would still accept the existing global corporate order, highlighted by SNP policy to cut corporate taxes for transnational companies. The SNP may have developed a slightly more critical attitude towards the City of London, than in the pre-2008 Crash days, when it fawned before the Royal Bank and Bank of Scotland. However, the role of the EU Central Bank (backed by the EU Commission, the IMF) in also imposing austerity upon the weakest, has made going for the euro no more attractive than staying with sterling. The referendum campaign revealed the lengths the SNP government was prepared to go, rather than opt for a currency option independent of either sterling or the euro.

The SNP’s wider capitalist modernisation proposals would also still leave the rUK intact. It would still act as the domineering power in these islands. And rUK would continue in its junior partner role to US imperialism. An SNP government would provide continued NATO bases in Scotland and operational support in the event of future wars, as now happens in Ireland, which is not even in NATO!

'London Says Yes' rally

‘London Says Yes’ rally

It was only towards the end of referendum campaign that RIC was able to win some support in England, Wales and Ireland. Individuals like Tariq Ali, Bernadette McAliskey [20] and Leanne Wood [21] (President of Plaid Cymru and a Welsh republican) publicly gave their support and also spoke in Scotland. Members within the new Left Unity Party organised debates in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham. Cat Boyd and Pete Ramand spoke at a meeting in the Westminster parliament on June 26th organised by opendemocracy and Red Pepper [22] Allan Armstrong spoke at a meeting in Dublin, and another in Belfast, alongside Tommy McKearney; and again at a ‘London Says Yes’ rally on September 6th [23], alongside Bernadette McAliskey. A ‘Go For It Scotland’ rally was held in Cardiff on September 13th which Leanne Wood addressed [24]. People came from England, Wales and Ireland to Scotland to support the ‘Yes’ campaign, and RIC in particular.

The ‘Better Together’ campaign was able to build on the pre-existing British institutional and mainstream unionist party support for the UK. They were able to organise larger rallies. And certainly, the engrained Left unionism of much of the British Left, or their disregard for the particularly reactionary nature of UK state [25], held back a bigger Left response in England.

However, one of the results of the surprisingly large ‘Yes’ vote, and the last minute panic it provoked amongst the unionist politicians across the UK, is that there are now more people in England, Wales and Ireland, who understand the need for a break with the whole UK state legacy. They can see the importance of the Movement in Scotland for genuine self-determination. They can be reached by going beyond the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’ accommodation to the UK state and to Conservative/Lib-Dem/Labour constitutional tinkering.

Denying that there can be a more radical alternative, leaves the opposition in the hands of reaction, as the continued the rise of UKIP shows. UKIP plays to ‘Little Englander’ nationalism in England, whilst also finding niche markets in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which draw their sustenance from the UK state’s most reactionary features.

In Scotland, we are lucky to be living at the time of a huge popular clamour for democracy. Therefore, the socialist republican and ‘internationalism from below’ arguments outlined above can already strike a chord. These two clear principles need to be upheld against both Left unionists and the Left nationalists. They want try to divert our new Movement into more ‘reliable’ institutional channels. The still embryonic Movement and a yet to be formed socialist republican Party could be an inspiration to similar Movements and Parties in England, Wales and Ireland, all united on an ‘internationalism from below’ basis.

 

Allan Armstrong, Republican Communist Network, 10.10.14 (slightly amended 18.10.14)

 

[1]           http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/it-failed-to-win- independence-but-yes-transformed-politics-in-scotland-  and-.25385088

[2]          http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/06/20/the-independence-lite-referendum-and-a-tale-of-two-campaign/

+              http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/12/20/radisson-blu-or-post-radisson-red/

[3]           http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/08/02/beyond-the-unionists-project-fear-the-uk-state-mask-slips/

[4]           The Red Paper Collective is a Scottish Labour/CPB Left unionist alliance, which takes its name from Gordon Brown’s 1975 Red Paper. For a   critique of their politics see:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/03/15/on-how-the-vetigialleft-is-failing-to-understand-the-political-life-of-scotland-today/

+              http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/10/08/scottish-self-determination-and-the-actually-existing-labour-movement-2/

[5]           http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/02/11/just-say-naw-to-galloways-sectarian-british-unionism/

[6]           see Republicanism, Socialism and Democracy by Bob Goupillot at:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/06/16/republican-socialists-and-the-diamond-jubilee/

[7]           http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/12/10/6374/

[8]           This approach for uniting Ireland was advocated by Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society at the Edinburgh RIC branch meeting on 14.4.14. The following branch meeting, 28.4.14,gave its support to this 1916 Societies initiative.

[9]           This stems from the Irish/British political divide, backed by the UK state and underpinned by the post-Good Friday Agreement, with constitutionally entrenches a the Unionist/Nationalist split at Stormont. This political/ethnic divide has knock-on effects over here. Also see

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/05/22/offensive-behaviour-and-the-independence-referendum/

[10]           http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2011/12/23/beyond-the-ssp-and-solidarity-forgive-and-forget-or-listen-learn-and-then-move-on/

[11]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2006/10/03/a-critique-and-exposure-of-tommy-sheridan/

[12]         Nor was such accommodation to the existing institutions of the state, including parliament unique to Scotland, as the disastrous decision of Comunista Rifondaziona in Italy to join a pro-capitalist coalition government showed, when they were wiped out in the subsequent general election.

[13]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/04/16/feminism-and-the-crisis-in-the-british-socialist-workers-party/

[14]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/08/26/sexist-abuse-in-the-trade- union-movement-a-case-requiting-a-proper-response/

[15]         Some of the RCN’s own contributions to the promotion of a communist/socialist alternative can be seen at:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/08/05/is-communism-possible/

+               http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/04/16/debating-the-possibility-of-communism/

[16]         Although definitely not a Party, the RCN endeavours to follow these two principles, both within our organisation and whilst working alongside others.  See:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/02/26/comradely-conduct- policy/

+          http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/05/01/the-republican-communist-network-and-the-radical-independence-campaign/

[17]         At the all-UK level it mainly takes the form of anti-Islamicism. British fascists are trying to extend the anti-Irish racism of Scottish and Northern Irish Loyalists to cover anti-Islamicism. Britain First has been prominent in this. In the 1930’s Oswald Mosley faced problems trying to introduce the British           Union of Fascists’ anti-Semitism to Scottish Loyalists, who preferred to stick to their anti-Catholicism and anti Irish racism.

[18]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/06/26/making-plans-for-nigel/

[19]        There is also a relationship between the furthest Right elements of UKIP and the TUV, with hard line Loyalist and neo-fascist organisations like Britain First          and the PUP ( which for years fronted the UVF, a Loyalist death squad).   Also see:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/12/better-together-ukip-the-orange-order-and-the-uk-state-what-they-have-in-common/ 

[20]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/11/25/2nd-ric-conference-after-the- uk-the-future-of-4-nations/

[21]          http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/08/15/wales-and-scottish-independence-leanne-wood-president-of-plaid-cymru/

[22]          https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ourkingdom/event-hear-radical-case-for-scottish-independence-in-heart-of-westminster

[23]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/10/to-scotland-with-love-a-report-from-the-london-says-yes-rally-on-september-6th/

[24]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/19/message-from-edinburgh-ric-to-the-go-for-it-scotland-rally-in-cardiff-on-september-13th/

[25]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/06/24/labour-and-the-far-left-unionism-and-the-scottish-independence-debate/

 

____

also see:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/24/letter-to-the-momentarily-disheartened/

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Oct 04 2014

AFTER THE REFERENDUM – TWO VIEWS FROM ENGLAND

The Radical Independence Campaign pit the struggle for Scottish self-determination in an international context. RIC sent speakers to England, Ireland and Catalunya, and invited speakers from England, Wales, Ireland, Catalunya, Euskadi, France and Greece.In England members of both the Left Unity Party (LUP) and the Republican Socialist Alliance organised meetings in London, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

In the aftermath of the September 18th, Steve Freeman (RSA and LUP/Scottish Republic Yes Tendency) and Paul Feldman (RSA and World to Win) provide their analysis of the campaign and its political consequences.

 

 1.  AFTER SEPTEMBER 18th by Steve Freeman

th-3

Elizabrit “purrs with delight” over the ‘No’ result

 

England – nationalism versus republicanism

 On Thursday 18 September Scotland stood on the brink of making an historic change by ending the 1707 Act of Union. But when the votes were counted a majority of Scottish people voted no by 55% to 45%. This “averted the biggest constitutional crisis in the nation’s history”. (Mick Brown Daily Telegraph 20 September 2014). Instead of Scotland’s democratic future passing into the hands of the people, the no victory handed the power back to Cameron, the Coalition government, the Whitehall machine and the Westminster parliament.

The power had already drained away from Scotland as Cameron emerged from Downing Street the following morning to tell us what would happen next. Scotland would be handed down more powers. Then he seized the opportunity to torpedo the Labour Party and undermine UKIP with the slogan of “English votes for English laws”. He played the card of reactionary English nationalism. He had ‘saved’ the country from predatory Scottish nationalists. He had seen off Alex Salmond. Now he would make England an offer it could not refuse and harvest the votes in the general election.

Later that day the ‘no’ victory was crowned by Her Majesty. With victory in the bag, she emerged from behind the scenes to address the nation. This was reported on the front page of the Daily Telegraph. The headline proudly proclaimed “The Queen’s pledge to help reunite the Kingdom”. This was above a regal photo of the monarch standing beside Gelder Burn on the Balmoral Estate wearing the robes of the “Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle” (Daily Telegraph 20 September 2014). She called on her subjects to respect the outcome and appealed for a “coming together again in a spirit of mutual respect and support”.

The ‘no’ victory gave new heart to the hard right. On the same evening Loyalist and fascist gangs turned up in George Square, Glasgow, singing “Rule Britannia”, “God save the Queen”, giving Nazi salutes, shouting abuse and threatening peaceful Yes supporters with violence. Fighting ensued. The ‘Britain First’ party, set up by ex BNP members with links to Northern Ireland, was identified with supporting if not organising these attacks.

 

Defeat

The referendum result was a defeat for the democratic movement in Scotland. We have to face this fact if we are to work out the next steps. Viewed from England the campaign in Scotland seems to have been very successful in mobilising working class support. The campaign had a mountain to climb. It nearly reached the summit which is very commendable given the powerful forces trying to block the path.

There has to be a discussion on the politics of ‘Independence under the Crown’. This was the offer put by the SNP in the referendum and it was this that failed. The Republican option was not on the ballot paper. Full sovereignty was not put to the people nor was it rejected. As far as another referendum is concerned, republicans are not bound to some morality that says the idea of a Scottish republic was defeated and cannot come back for a ‘generation’. There are many reasons to think the time for another campaign will not be too distant. But it does not mean that the SNP’s idea of a Scottish ‘Free state’ should be revived.

In a defeated movement divisions will surely open up between those who settle for Devo-Max as a new stage towards a ‘Free State’, and those who want to dump the ‘Free State’ idea for a republic. Scottish republicans must work to put this option on the agenda for the Scottish people. This cannot be done unless there is a republican party. RIC can claim to have represented a republican alternative. However RIC is not a party and simply converting into a registered ‘party’ might create problems and divisions. Building a republican party must be the link between this referendum and the next opportunity for self determination. A referendum is not the only route for democracy.

There is a much bigger problem to be addressed and this is England. Eighty five percent of the UK population lives in England. London has a larger population than Scotland. The largest section of the working class is in England. England carries massive social and economic weight in determining the political future. Public opinion and public action supports, strengthens and encourages the yes campaign or it acts as a conservative dead weight weakening the democratic movement and holding it back. Both sides of this dilemma exist in the politics of England.

 

England’s contradictions

Thatcher understood that to defeat the miners in 1984 it was necessary to try and keep the rest of the trade union movement out of the struggle. Cameron knew that to defeat the yes campaign either England must actively support no or simply be neutralised. This is what the Labour Party could deliver through its trade union links. The trade unions would sit this one out and concentrate on economic issues like pay and the NHS. All of this was reflected in and reinforced by those organisations which claimed to oppose Labour such as the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), Left Unity and the Communist Party of Great Britain. England’s new left parties, TSUC and Left Unity, encouraged by Weekly Worker adopted abstention positions and sat on the fence watching the democratic movement go down to defeat.

The Labour Party is a Unionist and monarchist party whose prospects for government are tied to the Union and its arcane constitutional arrangements. Leaders, past and present, rallied to the British flag in the name of the Welfare state and in the language of ‘proletarian internationalism’. Defending the Union in the name of ‘internationalism’ was of course a sham. It came from the same ‘internationalist’ and ‘democratic’ stables as Blair justifying the Iraq war. It was even more disgusting to see the ultra left version of ‘no’ peddled by the Communist Party of Britain, the Alliance for Workers Liberty and Workers Power.

The Labour party machine serves up a demoralised working class at the dinner tables of the rich and powerful. The trade union movement is the transmission belt between working class people and the Crown state. The Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) was the only trade union which balloted members and came out for ‘yes’. The exception proves the rule. In England the trade unions maintained neutrality and kept out of it. The best that Cameron could hope for is that the working class in England would sit on the fence.

Hence an important factor in the defeat of the democratic movement in Scotland was the passivity of the working class in England. The English working class movement took no part in the struggle to end the Union. There were no mass protest actions or petitions. There were no political strikes or solidarity demonstrations. In England, Labour‘s conservatism, combined with passivity and neutrality, leaves Scottish democracy isolated from its natural allies south of the border.

The gap in political consciousness between the two countries has long been identified. Whereas the Tories have most of their support in England, especially the South East, Labour has been more strongly supported in Scotland. Scotland has a long tradition of trade union membership and activity. After the defeat of the miners Thatcher’s attempt to impose the poll tax on Scotland produced mass resistance. The struggle against the poll tax fed directly into popular support to re-establish a Scottish parliament in 1998.

The Scottish working class has become much more conscious of the need and importance of political change and political reforms. England is imprisoned by the sloth of economism. This gap is not permanent and neither is it an ethnic dimension. The gap can narrow and England could even overtake Scotland. The class struggle and the political consciousness it generates is not fixed for ever. However the referendum campaign has widened the gap. The activity and politicisation of the Scottish working class stands in sharp contrast to the passivity of the working class in England.

The widening gap is very dangerous. It opens up more space for right wing and reactionary politics. UKIP has exploited this space to draw people to a reactionary form of English nationalism. Although UKIP stands for Unionism or British nationalism, beneath its cover lurks an English nationalism which is feeding, and feeding on, resentment against Scotland. On the present course Scotland is on a left trajectory and England is lurching to the right. The defeat in the referendum will add some rocket power to the process.

 

Scottish Republic Yes

It is not be all doom and gloom about England. There were signs of opposition and solidarity. In Left Unity there was a significant minority that raised the slogan “Scottish Republic Yes”. They called on workers in England to support a ‘yes’ vote and argue for a Scottish Republic. This is an example ‘critical support’ for a yes vote. It supports yes but contains an implicit criticism of the Scottish SNP government’s proposal for a Scottish Free State (or Independence under the Crown). This slogan was the most advanced slogan to appear in the English left during the referendum.

It was a democratic not a socialist slogan. It recognised the national question as a democratic issue and proposed an independent democratic demand. It contested the SNP’s constitutional proposals on the same terrain of democracy by demanding full sovereignty for the Scottish people. It did not make an abstract call for world socialism nor promote the idea of national socialism. However as Lenin emphasised democratic demands and advances do not divert or delay the struggle for socialism. They bring socialism closer.

The ‘Scottish Republic Yes’ as a slogan in England is an internationalist slogan. At first it might seem odd that the working class in England should support a Scottish Republic. Yet with a moments consideration we can see a link between greater democracy in Scotland and England. The working class in England have much to gain from acting in solidarity with the democratic demands of the advanced part of the Scottish working class. It is an internationalist slogan because it tells Scottish workers that there are people in English who are not English nationalists thinking only of English ‘interests’.

The ‘Scottish Republic Yes’ was not simply about voting. If there was a yes victory it points to the next step – the fight for a Scottish Republic. Behind this is the idea of ‘permanent revolution’. The revolution does not stand still. It must move on from one phase to another. A yes vote majority is not the end of the road. It is the beginning of a new stage in Scotland’s peaceful revolution. The call for a Scottish republic is ahead of the current situation but not too far. It proposes a discernable ‘line of march’.

 

English Republic Yes

The ‘no’ majority means that Scotland’s democratic movement has hit the buffers. This is not the end of the struggle – far from it. It is time to reflect and re-organise. The ‘Scottish Republic Yes Tendency’ has come to its natural end. Attention is now switching to the constitutional future of England. The right will try to build up resentments that England is left behind and encourage chauvinism against Scotland. The left will try to counter this by building support for democratic change and closer links with the left in Scotland.

On 19 September when Cameron promised “English votes for English laws”, he triggered more constitutional speculation over English regionalism, an English parliament and federalism. It was a smart or opportunistic move. It put Labour on the back foot. Labour and Gordon Brown helped save Cameron and the Tory government from a humiliating defeat. Cameron then stabbed them in the back.

It was an irony that Labour supporters in England opposed Scottish independence because they would no longer have Scottish Labour MPs. Now after a no vote Cameron was threatening the same. If Cameron presses on, he will use the resentments caused by the absence of a parliament in England as the way of mobilising English votes in the 2015 general election. On this Cameron and the Tories are well positioned to make the running with the slogan “English votes for English laws”. The call for an English parliament is now being heard.

UKIP is not going to be out-flanked by Cameron appealing to English nationalism. Immediately a ‘pro-England’ publicity stunt began with Farage posting letters to Scottish MPs which called on them not to vote on ‘English’ issues. The same theme was taken up in the UKIP conference. David Coburn told delegates he wanted to see a Scottish government “behaving responsibly with the money they raise”. He called on First Minister, Alex Salmond, to accept the result of the referendum. He added “it doesn’t pay for Mr Salmond to abuse the English…..that is not the way to treat Scotland’s largest trading partner and oldest best friend”. (Huffington Post 27 September 2014).

If political struggle is turning to England, then Scottish republicans should not be stuck north of the border. Perhaps the next stage in Scotland’s march to sovereignty is buried in England. If so it is time to dig for the ‘English Republic Yes’. Narrowing the gap between progressive democratic forces in both countries is now very important.

also see:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/17/scottish-referendum-the-crown-versus-the-people-englands-case-for-voting-yes/

 http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/10/to-scotland-with-love-a-report-from-the-london-says-yes-rally-on-september-6th/

 http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/06/26/7269/

 http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/06/10/letter-from-england/

 http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/04/01/internationalism-from-below-in-action-at-the-left-unity-conference-and-the-radical-independence-campaign-national-forum/

____________

2. DESPITE A ‘NO’ VOTE, SCOTTISH REFERENDUM ADVANCES THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY by Paul Feldman

Forget that wimp, Jim Murphy. Throw an egg at me and I’ll deck you!

The momentum of Scotland’s independence movement, although thwarted on this occasion by an unholy ConDemLab alliance and its corporate-financial sponsors, has nevertheless driven the UK state into a profound constitutional crisis.

There is a clear potential for rapid and explosive change around the UK – both in a dangerous, nationalist direction and in a positive way, creating opportunities for revolutionary, democratic change.

We should reject the emphasis on process that the Tories and Labour prefer. Rearranging the deckchairs on the SS Westminster simply won’t do. It’s not how we are governed but why we are ruled by an undemocratic corporatocracy, where real power lies and how it can be transferred into the hands of ordinary people that are the real issues.

A roadmap to real democracy needs to be drawn up by assemblies and meetings throughout the UK, building on the gains of the Scottish referendum campaign. The political system has lost the right to rule over us because it has no democratic legitimacy. There is a global crisis of existing state systems, which the referendum reflected. This can and should be made to work to our advantage.

The 1707 union of Scotland and England is effectively a dead duck despite the “No” vote, while leading Tory commentators say David Cameron’s proposals to limit the power of Scottish MPs at Westminster rips up the constitutional settlement of 1688, which is a keystone of the present state system.

Naturally, the Tories and Labour want to keep real people away from constitutional change while they manoeuvre for narrow party advantage in the run-up to the 2015 general election. But the Scottish experience shows that the genie is out of the bottle.

The 45% Yes vote was made in spite of massive intimidation by the media and the state broadcaster, aka the BBC, big business, banks, the military, the Spanish prime minister, president Obama and the UK political establishment. A massive, last-minute ConDemLab bribe offering greater devolution was needed to swing the vote.

In some ways the wholesale effort to ensure the No vote has turned into its opposite; now people in England are expecting the very promises offered to the Scots, rashly made and impossible to keep. The defeat for the Scots may well turn out to be a victory for all. Clearly, the future of democracy in both countries is inter-related as never before.

The phenomenal 84.5% turnout, the largest in the UK since universal suffrage in 1918, reflected the thousands of meetings, small and large, up and down Scotland where ordinary people found their voice which they are denied by conventional politics.

People are not at all indifferent to being politically active when they feel that the result will affect them and that they have a role to play. This was especially true among younger voters., In fact, virtually every age group up to 55 voted Yes. As a result, Scotland will never be the same – and nor will England, Wales and the north of Ireland where there are calls for a referendum on a united Ireland.

Robin McAlpine,  director of Common Weal, has described how the political class was shocked at the content and conduct of local meetings where ordinary people set the agenda:

Simple rage at the sense society is not being run in their interests dominates these meetings. A woman with osteoporosis forced to work over 100 hours a week, a housing estate whose community centre and park are being sold to housing developers, a village without a single public transport link, a woman in her early 30s incandescent that she feels forced to choose between her career and children because of the cost of childcare.

As to the plan for greater devolution, McAlpine is dismissive, declaring:

Trust has fundamentally broken down and the elite will not give the masses what they want – which is real power. In my opinion, the clock is now ticking on an even angrier reaction from the Scottish people.

If a majority for independence was lost, it was the responsibility of Labour principally together with the SNP’s inability to answer key questions because of its own commitment to a Scottish version of the UK’s market economy.

Labour came out against self-determination for Scotland because, ultimately, it is a party of the UK state that puts the “defence of the realm” ahead of democracy. Labour is no threat to the ruling classes and they know it. Naturally, another consideration was the large body of Labour MPs who come to Westminster from Scottish constituencies which would have ended with independence.

British loyalists and fascists in Glasgow sing 'Rule Britannia after 'No' vote

British loyalists and fascists in Glasgow sing ‘Rule Britannia’ after ‘No’ vote

Labourites would rather identify with Ukip, the Orange Lodge and the Tory Party who constitute a far more poisonous form of nationalism than that expressed by the SNP, infected as they are with an imperial past and the global corporate present. One result was the Unionist-led violence in Glasgow after the referendum.

Despite the No vote, Labour’s grip on Scottish workers is doomed. Forty per cent of Labour’s traditional voters crossed to the Yes camp. Glasgow and Dundee both had Yes majorities. The party itself effectively spit. Labour for Independence gathered substantial support and meets as a campaign next month to consider its future and could well go its own way.

Labour in Scotland, as shown by Glasgow City Council, is predominantly right wing and its MPs have consistently been to the right of those in England. Scotland’s Labour MPs helped Tony Blair win the tight vote on the introduction of foundation trusts, which then paved the way for privatisation within the NHS. What will be the point in sending them down to London in future? Good question!

What was on offer from the SNP was a watered down self-determination, still keeping NATO and the monarchy intact, plus terminal confusion over currency. If Yes had boldly stated opposition to the kind of banks that were threatening to leave Scotland, and offered a Scottish currency, it might have been a different story – then at least we would have been having the right conversation.

The truth is that the SNP were trying to tell Scots that everything would be OK in an independent capitalist Scotland at a time of global recession and the renewed threat of a further financial meltdown.

Cameron has launched a high-risk plan to save his own political future and appease the right wing in his own party by outflanking both Labour and Ukip. As the astute Tory commentator Peter Osborne notes:

So the Prime Minister has saved his skin. But he has only done so by ripping up the British Constitution, which is a very unconservative thing to do. Yesterday’s announcement raises some massive questions. Will there be an English First minister to match the Scottish First Minister? If so, what is the role of the Prime Minister? What is the role of the House of Lords? Will it be possible to govern Britain with two classes of MP? What about the English regions? Can a Scottish politician be British Chancellor? Mr Cameron’s reforms amount to the most profound change to the British Constitution since the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

But Oborne is also wise enough to know that some in-house Westminster manoeuvres will not work, admitting:

The success of the SNP campaign has proved yet again that our traditional political structures are failing and that ancient forms of authority no longer prevail. We need to discover a new kind of public language and political architecture.

He acknowledges that Cameron fears a wider involvement in the process because “it would spiral far out of their control”. Exactly the point, which is reinforced by Helena Kennedy QC  who chaired the Power inquiry. That exposed deep disaffection with the political system. She says:

My fear is that the establishment will use constitutional change simply to fix the status quo. The fix that the masters of the universe and many of our politicians want is one that leaves the same people in charge to do the same things. 

There is no need for some long and deadly, great and good royal commission, but if you want people to really consider the consequences of changes you need to give them a genuine opportunity to participate. You can do that with deliberative polls, where people meet and hear the arguments and express their views. You can do it with people’s juries, where there are challenging questions and alternatives and a commitment to following through on the results. People should be able to organise around the issues in their own communities.

Instead, we are back to top-down control. This is not about doing things differently but about Westminster designing change to head off at the pass something deeper and more democratic. In the bars at party conferences they will be asking themselves: how can we control this and get the outcome we want?

Kennedy is right in more ways than one. What has emerged in Scotland and is finding its way into the rest of the UK, is actually a struggle for power between the people and the present state rulers, a desire for a democratic form of politics in place of the existing, shambolic excuse of a democracy.

This cannot be reconciled by a process-driven exercise which essentially leaves the status quo intact. A bit of home rule for Scotland and a little extra for England will not even begin to solve the issues raised by the referendum. The mainstream parties will never get this because they are an integral part of state rule. They are beyond convincing and the state itself is beyond reform, subsumed into corporate-driven globalisation.

Power, real decision-making power and control over resources, is either left in the hands of the present state that is capitalist and undemocratic by nature or there is a concerted struggle for its transfer. That will involve creating entirely new forms of democratic rule that take us beyond the self-apparent limits of parliamentary representation.

The original 'An Agreement of the People' drawn up by the Levellers in 1647

The original ‘An Agreement of the People’ drawn up by the Levellers in 1647

In other words, we need a fundamentally new constitutional settlement that is republican and revolutionary, that enshrines social as well as individual rights, that extends democracy into the workplace, respects our place in nature, and is the foundation for an end to the profit system.

Agreements of the People, in the spirit of the draft constitution set out by the Levellers in 1647, drawn up in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland should be our aim.

How could we achieve this transformation? Certainly not without dismantling the present state system and putting something far more democratic in its place. How can we mobilise people independently of the state to take change into their own hands? Not without direct participation of every section of the population in the process.

The Agreement of the People campaign  is launching an initiative which could take up where Scotland has, for the moment, left off. It is proposing Assemblies for Democracy in different parts of the UK are organised to discuss what kind of democratic future we should aspire to and how to achieve it.

These could lead to people-led Conventions on the Constitution that draw up detailed proposals for a real democracy. Instead of submitting the proposals to state politicians and institutions who have lost legitimacy in the eyes of many, they would become the basis of mobilising ordinary people to make the change for themselves.

If we do that, the momentum that we saw in the Scottish referendum campaign can be sustained and carried forward.

 

This was first posted on The World to Win website at:-

http://aworldtowin.net/blog/Scottish-referendum-advances-struggle-for-real-democracy.html

 

 

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Oct 03 2014

‘THE STORY OF SANDY BELLS: EDINBURGH’S WORLD FAMOUS BAR’ – A review

Allan Armstrong (RCN) writes a review of Gillian Ferguson’s new book, The Story of Sandy Bells: Edinburgh’s World Famous Bar.

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Sandy Bells on Forrest Road is “Edinburgh’s World famous Folk Bar”, as the subtitle to Gillian Ferguson’s informative and entertaining new book, The Story of Sandy Bells, tells us.

Gillian is not exaggerating. Traditional and folk music enthusiasts do come from all over the world to visit Sandy Bells. “The traditional music department at Tokyo University recommends Sandy Bells to students visiting Scotland.” In 1977 Sandy Bells

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Sep 25 2014

WHAT NOW FOR THE RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN?

Allan Armstrong (RCN) has written the following article for the September RCN Radical Independence Campaign Special Bulletin, which will be distributed at the RIC National Forum in Glasgow on September 27th.

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Nobody could have anticipated the rise of the Radical Independence Campaign, nor the form it would take. It has been moulded by the largest movement for popular democracy seen in these isles since the Irish War of Independence, and by a new clamouring for political participation and far-reaching changes, not only in Scotland, but across the globe. RIC has been a big success, despite displaying some of the political and organisational weaknesses found in works-in-progress.

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Sep 25 2014

TWO ARTICLES ON NORTHERN IRELAND

Category: Against Unionism,IrelandRCN @ 2:34 pm

 We are printing two articles from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website examining aspects of politics in Northern Ireland:- 

1. Peter Robinson repudiates peace deal. Another step towards the abyss.

2. Paisley, the chief bigot is dead. The sectarian state lives on.

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1. PETER ROBINSON REPUDIATES THE PEACE DEAL. ANOTHER STEP TOWARDS THE ABYSS

Peter Robinson shows his wholehearted support for the Peace Process!

Peter Robinson shows his wholehearted support for the Peace Process!

 

The statement by the North’s first minister Peter Robinson that the local administration is “not fit for purpose” and that the St. Andrew ‘s agreement, on which the current settlement rests, must be renegotiated has brought cries of horror from the press and from London and Dublin governments who have been accommodating an accelerating slide to the right by unionism.

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Sep 24 2014

LETTER TO THE MOMENTARILY DISHEARTENED

Murdo Ritchie (RCN) gives his take on the situation we face immediately after the referendum. This was first posted on Murdo’s blog at http://murdoritchie.blog.co.uk/2014/09/23/letter-to-the-momentarily-disheartened-19453755/

 
It IS a wonderful campaign. David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown are deluding themselves if they really believe the Prime Minister’s press statement that, “now the debate has been settled for a generation or as Alex Salmond has said for a lifetime.”

I’ve met a number of people from the Yes campaign who appear depressed, but I doubt this will last. I never believed it would come near fifty per cent, so I’ve never been disappointed. Indeed I’m amazed that forty-five per cent of a high turnout were prepared to abandon their primary legal national identity to create a fairer Scotland. That’s a big number; that’s a big 1.6 million strong army.

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Sep 19 2014

MESSAGE FROM EDINBURGH RIC TO THE ‘GO FOR IT SCOTLAND’ RALLY IN CARDIFF ON SEPTEMBER 13th

The Radical Independence Campaign was asked to send a message to the ‘Go For It Scotland’ Rally in Cardiff on September 13th. Edinburgh RIC took on the responsibility for this, and the following statement was agreed at the Edinburgh RIC branch on September 8th.

 

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Leanne Wood addressing ‘Scotland Go For It’ rally in Cardiff

Thanks and greetings to the organisers and those attending this Welsh rally for Scottish independence. People from Wales have already been up to Scotland to help the ‘Yes’ campaign. On July 22nd, Leanne Wood made very stirring speech of solidarity to a Radical Independence Campaign meeting in Glasgow.

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Sep 17 2014

SCOTTISH REFERENDUM: The Crown versus the People – England’s case for voting ‘Yes’

This pamphlet, written by Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance, provides the reasons why the people of England should support a ‘Yes’ vote in the Scottish referendum of September 18th.

 

Thepamphlet is a summary of arguments used over the summer of 2014 in the run up to the Scottish referendum. The context was the attempt by Left Unity members to persuade the new party to support a yes vote. When the yes position narrowly lost at conference a few comrades set up the ‘Scottish Republic Yes Tendency’. The case here was made briefly at the “London Says Yes” rally on September 6th which is the cut off date for rapidly moving events. We wait to see what the Scottish people decide.

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