The Radical Independence Conference (, being held this Saturday, 24th November in Glasgow, is likely to be the biggest gathering of the Left in Scotland for many years. The RCN has been covering this event since the first open organising meeting in June. We have produced a special issue of our magazine, Emancipation & Liberation, no, 21, for this conference. Anyone attending, who would like a free copy, just collect it from our stall.

Below, can be found the list of the magazine’s contents and the Editorial which outlines our hopes for this Conference.

Image from front cover of Emancipation & Liberation, no. 21


For An Independent Scottish Socialist Republic

The Declaration of Calton Hill

For a Socialist and Feminist Republican Scotland: Gender Equality and Beyond – Susan Dorazio

Imagining Radical Independence; Learning from the Venezuelan Experience – Ewan Robertson

The Slippery Slope – Murdo Ritchie

Ireland and the broader consequences of the 2014 Scottish Referendum – Jim Slaven

What is happening in Greece and why – Lina Christou

Republican Communist Network: What We Stand For – From Theory to Practice

Michael Marra – A Tribute – Mary McGregor

The front cover montage has been made by Patricia Kirk and John Lanigan


The Radical Independence Conference represents the biggest gathering organised by the Left, so far, around the issue of Scottish independence. For Socialists the political issue we confront is that of self-determination. This is a broad democratic concept. It involves our collective and individual attempts to overcome the exploitation, oppression and the alienation we feel under capitalism. Genuine self-determination is part of the broader struggle for emancipation and liberation. It is about gaining control and creating a society “where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

The very idea of self-determination sits uneasily with ‘Rule Britannia’ and our subject status within the UK. The Labour/Tory/Lib-Dems’ Better Together campaign shows us that upholding the UK and ‘Britishness’ can not be separated from support for Empire, Union and the Crown Powers; or from jingoistic triumphalism and forelock-tugging subservience in a class-divided society.

The UK is a profoundly undemocratic state, with an arsenal of repressive measures sanctioned under the Crown Powers, as political activists, particularly in Northern Ireland, know only too well. The UK plays a key role in propping up the global corporate order as a junior partner to US imperialism. Therefore, Socialists should welcome the chance provided by the 2014 referendum to challenge this.

However, we need to be quite clear that the SNP leadership’s notion of self-determination is also very limited. Indeed, in practical terms, it does not extend beyond the ‘self-determination’, or the narrow class interest, of a wannabe Scottish ruling class. We are meant to be satisfied with the pious aims of ‘Yes’ Scotland, and with vague SNP social democratic election ‘promises’. Yet, these are soon withdrawn when the SNP’s business backers demand it, or when their first priority is paying the tribute demanded by the banksters.

This is why the SNP leadership’s ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals keep the British monarchy, and hence those anti-democratic Crown Powers. This why they want to keep sterling, giving the City of London, along with its Edinburgh outriders, a controlling role over the economy. This is why they now support NATO, and back continued Scottish military participation in imperial wars. Ditching opposition to Trident bases will almost certainly follow the latest SNP climb-down.

Far from opposing the current economic and military imperial order, the SNP leadership seeks no more than a junior management buy-out of the UK’s Scotland branch, with permission to rebrand it with saltires – and then to continue with business as usual. They want an increased slice of the corporate imperial cake for their business backers, with only crumbs remaining for us.

What would a vote for the SNP’s independence proposals amount to? Salmond has recently claimed victory in negotiations with Westminster, now that Holyrood can draft and conduct the 2014 referendum. However, by accepting the limited constitutional arrangements permitted under the Crown Powers, any ‘Yes’ vote will not lead to the setting up of an independent Constituent Assembly, drawing its mandate from the people of Scotland in the making of a new democratic constitution. Instead, Salmond accepts that his mandate comes from holding office in the UK’s devolved Holyrood parliament. He sees his Scottish government as the inheritor of Westminster’s powers.

So, a ‘Yes’ vote can only lead to negotiations between the SNP and the Con-Dem (if still in office) governments. ‘Independence-Lite’ forms the opening negotiating gambit. A whole host of decidedly unsavoury practices would be hardwired into any ‘Scottish Free State’. And this is before any further concessions are imposed, as undoubtedly they would be – either openly or secretly. Salmond has shown a considerable penchant for secrecy.

The wider Scottish Left does not enter this contested field from a position of political strength. ‘Tommygate’ has ensured that. Yet, as recently as the 2004 Holyrood election, the then recently unified Scottish Socialist Party was able to take members, votes and seats from both Labour and the SNP. Furthermore, with the SNP already making its first serious moves to the Right under John Swinney, the SSP was able to win considerable support for its openly declared, republican, Declaration of Calton Hill, based on the principles of genuine Scottish self-determination. It was able to organise a well-supported demonstration in protest at the royal opening of the new Holyrood building.

Events can still quickly change the political climate. The 2014 referendum is two years away. To the credit of the RIC organisers, they have been able to bring together many on the Left – some of whom had become disillusioned, whilst others had retreated into various sectarian ghettoes. The RCN has outlined elsewhere the political conditions needed to bring about principled socialist unity once more[1]THE RCN CALL FOR SOCIALIST/COMMUNIST REGROUPMENT IN SCOTLAND.

This process can only begin, if we come together on a genuinely open and democratic basis, not only within our own organisations, but also in those wider coalitions such as the RIC. We must get beyond those shadowy behind-the-scenes controlling bodies. We need to build a coalition with accountable and democratic national structures, and with functioning and democratic local branches.

Can the RIC seek to build a real coalition designed to unite a variety of political groups, trade unionists, community and cultural activists; or will it end up as a front for another Left group attempting to put a radical gloss on the official ‘Yes’ campaign? Can participants in such a campaign resist the urge to impose their views on others, or to try to hide their real political colours? Debating political differences should make a valuable contribution to arriving at an agreed shared higher practice. Fundamental disagreements may still emerge, but these should be highlighted through their working out in particular courses of action, when greater numbers can appreciate their direct consequences.

The undoubted political precondition, for achieving such unity, is a commitment to taking the leadership of the campaign for Scottish self-determination out of the hands of the SNP leadership. SNP and Labour members, who support this should be welcomed in such a campaign. The recent resignations of prominent SNP representatives and the formation of ‘Labour for Independence’ highlight the possibilities.

The SNP leadership is in the process of abandoning any meaningful concept of Scottish self-determination. This provides Socialists with the opportunity to champion genuine self-determination. And this can only be achieved in the context of supporting every struggle against exploitation and oppression, and for popular cultural celebration, whether or not it results in conflict where the SNP holds office, nationally or locally. It also means Socialists being prepared to advocate our alternative vision to transform the existing crisis-ridden capitalist society, within a new Radical Independence coalition.

Furthermore, just as the British ruling class, and the SNP with its wannabe Scottish ruling class backers, have their own international links, both above our heads and behind our backs (e.g. Murdoch and Trump!), so Socialists need to seek out wider class allies in England, Wales and Ireland, as well as in Europe and beyond. This should be done on a socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ basis.

If the Radical Independence Conference organises itself on open and democratic principles, and adopts such a course of action, then Socialists will be able to place ourselves at the very centre of the struggle for genuine Scottish self-determination. This could help us to contribute to opening up the door for the transformation of society we so desperately need.

RCN Editorial Board, 29th October 2012

For other contributions on the Radical Independence Conference on the Emancipation & Liberation website see:-

Paper prepared for Workshop 2 – The Scottish Republic: What Is Real Democracy?

1. Genuine Self-Determination Means acting as Republicans Now – Allan Armstrong

2. Scottish Independence – Real or Sham? – Eric Chester

3. The Myth of Real Independence, Murdo Richie

4. The Radical Independence ConferenceWhich Way Forward? – Murdo Richie

5. ‘Britain Must Break’ to defend ‘Real Labour’ or ‘The Break-up of the UK’ to advance Republican Socialism? – Allan Armstrong

6. The ‘Independence-Lite’ Referendum and the Tale of Two Campaigns – Allan Armstrong



  • At first I thought this was going to be meaningful revolutionary organisation which would stand up to the status quo and offer a bold socialist alternative to the capitalist crisis. However, after reading the so called ” Radical” Independence Convention conference report where there was no mention of socialism in your aims to make a better society I am of the opinion you are no more than a left reformist group with illusions in the broad popular front of people of differing reformist views to a serious challenge the capitalist system. You will go the way of all such Menshevik inspired groups before your 57 shades of opinion will argue with each another and then break up. Thank goodness I was too late in getting a ticket for the conference. Radical you are not!

  • Strange – the Republican Communist Network hasn’t made any report of the Radical Independence Conference! But wait and we will provide our view on this blog.

    However, the Editorial to which Ricky has appended his comment – “there was no mention of scocialism in your aims to make a better society” – makes the following points:-

    It also means SOCIALISTS being prepared to advocate OUR ALTERNATIVE VISION TO TRANSFORM THE EXISTING CRISIS-RIDDEN SOCIETY within a new Radical Independence coalition.

    Furthermore, just as the British ruling class, and the SNP with its wannabe Scottish ruling class backers, have their own international links, both above our heads and behind our backs (e.g. Murdoch and Trump!), so Socialists need to seek out wider class allies in England, Wales and Ireland, as well as in Europe and beyond. THIS SHOULD BE DONE ON A SOCIALIST REPUBLICAN ‘INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW’ BASIS

    If the Radical Independence Conference organises itself on open and democratic principles, and adopts such a course of action, then Socialists will be able to place ourselves at the very centre of the struggle for genuine Scottish self-determination. THIS COULD HELP US CONTRIBUTE TO OPENING THE DOOR FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF SOCIETY WE SO DESPERATELY NEED.

    Furthermore 400 copies of our magazine were distributed at the Conference plus 500 leaflets, both of which included the following text:-

    “The Republican Communist Network supports the creation of an independent Scottish Socialist Republic as a significant step towards communism. We look to and would support a Federation of European Socialist States.

    Our support is for a genuinely independent Republic, not a sham façade that presents a Scottish nationalism that settles for symbols, not substance. A politically independent Scotland cannot be won primarily through a vote, but rather by building a mass movement that takes its demands to the streets, and creates genuinely democratic institutions by the people and for the people.

    A fully independent Scotland is one that is not subject to the UK’s Crown Powers and does not recognise the monarchy; a fully independent Scotland would have a banking system controlled by the people and not the Bank of England or the European Central Bank. A fully independent Scotland is one free of all foreign military bases, including the Faslane Naval Base; one that is outside of NATO, because this is an imperialist alliance dominated by the United States of America and supported by British imperialism. A fully independent Scotland would reject the bankers’ top-down internationalism, because this drives the EU’s current austerity agenda in Europe.

    We need a new European unity based on internationalism from below.

    Our vision of an independent Scotland is very different from the ‘independence” advocated by the SNP. In the two years until the referendum, we hope to work with others who share our vision of an independent Scottish Republic and are not willing to hand the SNP a blank cheque. We know that Alex Salmond is already bargaining behind closed doors, reassuring the ruling class, here and abroad, that the SNP can deliver an ‘independent’ Scotland subservient to business interests.

    When the time comes, we will determine how we will vote, given the options presented, but for now our role is to organize around a Socialist vision of independence. Help to achieve this!”

    We have also posted a well-visited article providing a critique of the ISG organisers for not going beyond radicalism in their own proposals and include the need for a socialist transformation of society. This can be found at:-

    Lastly, we have given considerable space on our blog to the consideration of a transition to communism, in which socialism represents a transitional phase. These can be found at:-

    However, if Ricky can provide his own understanding of what constitutes socialism and how that can be linked in a practical way to current struggles then we can move this discussion forward in a more fruitful manner.