Apr 14 2014

SCOTLAND: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM VENEZUELA

 Ewan Robertson, an RCN member and a Scots born journalist living in Venezuela, is touring Scotland.  He will be addressing the following meetings:-

  • Monday April 14, STUC: Joint Scottish Venezuela Solidarity Campaign & others lunchtime Latin America fringe meeting for delegates with speakers including Ewan Robertson, 12.30-1.45pm, Caird Hall, Dundee.
  • Tuesday April 15, Aberdeen: Public Meeting with Ewan Robertson, 6.00pm, Unite Offices, 44 King Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5TJ
  • Thursday April 17, Glasgow: Ewan Roberston to speak at 7pm showing of the film Revolutionary Doctors, organised by the Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign  & supported by SVSC at the STUC, 333 Woodlands Road Glasgow G3 6NG.
  • Thursday April 24, Edinburgh: Open eyewitness meeting with Ewan Roberston, 7.30pm, Augustine Church, 42 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH1 1EL.

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In the article below Ewan contrasts the experience of the Bolivarian revolution with the aspirations of the people of Scotland in relation to the question of Self Determination.

 

 

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With months to go until the SNP puts an independence referendum to the Scottish people, the likelihood appears that the form of independence on offer will look more like devolution-max; ditching any policy that would either prove unacceptable to ruling elites across the UK and further afield, or would bring meaningful sovereignty and political participation to an independent Scotland.

In this context, it is worth considering what examples of radical independence exist in the world today, and how much it’s possible to achieve given the right conditions and political will. In this article, I invite you to imagine what a radical independent Scotland would look

like if it took some influence from Venezuela’s ‘Bolivarian revolution’, and to consider just how meek is the proposal for independence we currently have on the table compared to the Venezuelan experience.

 

Important lessons to be learned

First, let’s consider the foundation of a new democratic republic. Following from mass disenchantment with the elitism, corruption and exclusion of Venezuela’s two party system (1958-1998), plus the effects of the implementation of an IMF structural adjustment policy in 1989, the repression of subsequent protests, and further privatisations in the 1990s, Hugo Chavez was elected Venezuelan president, in 1998, at the head of the Fifth Republic Movement. The election of an outside force broke open Venezuela’s political system and allowed for the country to be re-founded as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with a new constitution passed in a national referendum.

If this process were to be repeated in Scotland, what kind of independent state would be formed and how would it be founded? Rather than agreeing to become Scotland PLC, with the monarchy, the pound, economic control by the Bank of England or the European Commission, and membership of NATO all still intact, we would elect a constituent assembly to draw up the constitution for a Scottish republic. That assembly would also have grassroots input, with the final product being offered to the country to be debated and passed in a national referendum, creating a truly democratic and sovereign Scottish republic.

What could such a constitution include? If we were to adopt some articles of Venezuela’s 1999 constitution, we could set the foundations for a republic based on participatory politics, social justice, respect for human development, and full control over our economic and foreign

policy. The Venezuelan constitution, for example, states that any issue of national importance can be subject to a national referendum, which can be initiated by elected bodies or by the people if 10% of the electoral register supports such a move. In addition, all elected positions can be revoked in a referendum by the constituency that first elected them, once an official has served more than half their term.

This was put into practice in 2004 when the Venezuela opposition subjected Hugo Chavez to a recall referendum, which he then went on to win with 59% support. One wonders what would happen to Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats after joining with the Conservatives in 2010 and voting to increase university tuition fees if such a democratic measure was in place in the UK.

 

Land of peace

Constitutional articles on social rights would make education, and access to healthcare and social security, basic human rights to be guaranteed by the state. The privatisation of such services would be against the constitution of the Scottish republic. Other articles, in the name of economic sovereignty would likewise make Scotland’s resources such as oil, water, and forests, public property, as well as any industries considered strategic to national development. Finally, such a constitution, as in Venezuela’s, would declare Scotland to be a land of peace in which all foreign military bases or installations with military purposes would be banned from our soil. This would not only mean no more Trident nuclear submarines, but also necessarily withdrawing from NATO.

Economically, Scotland could also take a lesson or two from the Venezuela’s re-founded republic. With control over Scotland’s resources and a redistributive taxation system, we could set people’s budgets that focused spending on social investment rather than on

tackling debt and slashing public spending. As has happened in Venezuela, far greater social spending on health, education, housing, and other areas would reduce poverty and inequality while improving health indicators and providing access to employment and educational opportunities across Scotland.

 

Participatory democracy

Politically, a radical independence for Scotland could also lay the basis for a participatory democracy with the people’s right to recall representatives and call national or local referendums. Participation could also be deepened by promoting the formation of communal

councils and community media collectives throughout Scotland. Imagine an independent Scotland in which the self-organisation of communities was actively supported, with people’s councils springing up in Wester Hailes, Maryhill, Tillydrone and Whitfield.

In Venezuela communal councils receive budgets and can commission public works in their area among other activities. Community media outlets in Venezuela, which are supported with favourable legislation and funding, act to challenge the existing hegemony over information. Do we really want to continue, in Scotland, being dominated only by the likes of the BBC and Sky?

 

Sovereignty in international affairs

Independence for Scotland would mean sovereignty in international affairs, such as the ability to choose our own alliances based on humanitarian values and international solidarity. The shift in Venezuelan foreign policy away from being subservient to US interests following Chavez’s election in 1998 has borne interesting results. Venezuela has become a key country in the move to Latin American integration, helping to found the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which do not have the US or Canada as members. Venezuela has also become an outspoken critic of US foreign policy, including siding with Palestine against the US and Israel.

 

Time to be bold

What has happened in Venezuela since 1998 reminds us that examples exist in the world today of independence on a far more radical basis that what the SNP is proposing for Scotland. Therefore it is time to be bold in arguing for radical independence, one that can build a Scotland that guarantees meaningful political participation and sovereignty for its people. We should argue for a people’s republic, not the SNP’s elite-guided Independence-Lite.

 

This is an abridged version. The full article, first published Oct, 2013, can be seen on Ewan’s blog or at republicancommunistnetwork.org

 

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