Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance is standing as for the Executive of the Left Unity Party. Steve spoke, along with Bernadette McAliskey and Mary McGregor (RCN) at the 4 Nations After the UK session at the Radical Independence Campaign conference in Glasgow on 23rd November. This is the statement he has produced for the election.
Sisters and brothers, comrades and friends, I am standing for one of the fifteen directly elected national council members to represent a republican socialist perspective for Left Unity. I am in the Southwark branch of Left Unity. I am an active trade unionist in UCU. I am also a member of the Republican Socialist Alliance and the International Socialist Network.
In September the Scottish referendum presents a major danger for the British ruling class. Hence the leaders of all three major parties are united in favour of a ‘No’ vote. Cameron and Co. are currently mobilising all their economic and political forces and threatening financial sanctions, ejection from the EU and flight of capital if Scotland does not vote the ‘right’ way.
If there is a ‘Yes’ majority the Tories will face a crisis. The credibility of the Prime Minister ‘who lost Scotland’ will diminish, perhaps fatally, not least in the City. We cannot predict whether Cameron would resign, or the Coalition break up, or an early general election be called. But it will give a real boost to all those resisting the City-driven austerity policies of this Tory government.
As Cameron said in his Olympic Park speech, it is vital that the rest of the country, especially England, where the vast majority of the working class live and work, support the Tories, Lib Dems, Labour and UKIP in defending the Union. But if the ship of state is holed below the water line the powers of the Crown, the Treasury, and the Bank of England are undermined. This poses risks for the City of London and the major corporations like Shell and BP.
Few have noticed the revolutionary implications of Scotland’s exit. Over three hundred years the Crown, the City of London and the Tories have been the hegemonic power. This will not be surrendered without a fight. But outside the ruling class and Scotland everybody seems pacified by the SNP selling itself as a safe pair of hands, ready to kneel before the Queen and Bank of England. Neither a post-independence SNP government, nor a Tory government in the rest of the country, will stop the impetus for constitutional change waking the sleeping giant in England and Wales.
It would be a major failure if Left Unity sat on its hands or sat on the fence. Left Unity has to give active support in England and Wales to the Scottish socialist left calling for a ‘Yes’ vote. In particular, we must actively support republican-internationalists in the Radical Independence Conference aiming for a democratic, social and secular republic and the support of the working class in England and Wales.
Left Unity has a major opportunity to put itself on the political map. This will require us to attach much more importance to democratic questions. The left in England has been notoriously ‘economist’. It is largely ignorant of and uninterested in democratic political and constitutional questions. With one or two exceptions (such as Tony Benn’s Commonwealth of Britain Bill) the Labour left and the revolutionary left have been otherwise engaged.
Left Unity defines itself as a radical socialist party. There is a question mark here, first articulated at the founding conference in the call for a republican socialist party. For radicals the goal is to resurrect the spirit of 1945 which created the Social Monarchy. Republicans on the other hand want to revive the spirit of 1649 which, as the Commonwealth, held out the possibility of a Social Republic. The first was the outcome of a world war and the second the achievement of a democratic revolution.
Radical socialists see their ideal in trying to copy the electoralism of the Labour Party. Republican socialists want a different kind of party, like the Chartist party in the 1840s. The focus here is not primarily elections, but the organisation of a mass democratic movement aiming to establish a democratic constitution. Standing candidates is a means of building this movement and an expression of, not a substitute for, it.
The crisis of democracy is imminent in the crisis of capitalism. People are battling against austerity policies, squeezing living standards and creating more poverty. Some turn in desperation to right wing parties and authoritarian leaders. The organised working class is in the forefront of resisting austerity. But working people need more than simply defending themselves. They are hungry for a real democracy which gives them the power to change the future. If Scotland takes one step in that direction it is for us in England and Wales to take two or three.
Therefore I am standing to advance these ideas, which with your support will shape the direction of Left Unity in 2014-15. I have solid contacts with the Scottish left. Republican socialists are still a minority. But it is a minority that should have a voice on the national committee. For all the above reasons I am asking for your support and vote, in tune with the democratic spirit of the age.