In the aftermath of the September 18th Scottish independence referendum, Allan Armstrong (RCN) updates his  earlier piece (


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!

We 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 to the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals [2]. RIC concentrated much of its efforts on 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 many 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 even 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.

‘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 their 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”!


But then New Labour started to take it all back again!
But then New Labour helped them 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 is such 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), which drew much of their strength from being at the centre of real Movements. The Labour Movement, with its own political party, trade unions, cooperative societies, workers educational associations, etc, provides the best known example in the UK.  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 18th situation has been the rush to become involved in the 2015 Westminster or 2016 Holyrood elections without any deeper idea of strategy; any real understanding of the 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 non-SNP 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.

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 Ratcliffe. 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].

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. 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!

Tommy has plans to resurrect himself once more, only  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.


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 arena 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 have 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 and  meaningful self-determination and the socialist republican independent notion of 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.

Lord Smith with friend
Lord Smith with friend

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 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 concessions, 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 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 in the European Parliament. These are 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’  largely cosmetic reforms of the Union against the rising Right populist unionist parties – UKIP and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) [18], which want to turn the clock back. The half hearted nature of the mainstream unionist parties’ proposed reforms, and their complete unwillingness to tackle the underlying anti-democratic features of the UK, provides active encouragement to reaction.

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 provide 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 to the Irish government, a puppet of the Troika (the EU Commission, European Central Bank and IMF) and the City of London.

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 Troika 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 dominant 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, Shipley 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 in England. 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)






[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:-



[6]           see Republicanism, Socialism and Democracy by Bob Goupillot at:-


[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



[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.


[14] 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:-


[16]         Although definitely not a Party, the RCN endeavours to follow these two principles, both within our organisation and whilst working alongside others.  See:- policy/


[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.


[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:- 









also see:-