The following two articles are from the Emancipation & Liberation bulletin distributed at the RIC National Forum in Dundee on November 1st.
LORD SMITH – A PILLAR OF THE BRITISH ESTABLISHMENT
If there had been a ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th, the current SNP government was going to use its electoral mandate, under the UK state’s devolved Holyrood rules, to bring Scottish unionist MSPs into its negotiations with Westminster. Meanwhile, the drawing up of any new Scottish constitution would have been left to the ‘unco guid’. In practical terms the SNP government acknowledges the anti-democratic principle of the sovereignty of Crown-in-Westminster, accentuated by their support for the monarchy, and hence the long arm of the state’s Crown Powers.
The May 17th RIC National Forum agreed that a ‘Yes’ vote would have confirmed the republican principle of the sovereignty of the people. This would provide a mandate to begin organising a popular campaign for a new Scottish constitution, culminating in a Constituent Assembly.
One consequence of the 55% ‘No’ vote, though, is that politics are now much more firmly focussed upon Westminster. Any new political proposals for Scotland will be shaped neither by the sovereign people nor by the ‘unco guid’. They will initially come down from the Crown, in the person of Lord Smith. His commission forms one of Westminster’s many mechanisms for neutering political challenges. Furthermore, in contrast to the September 18th referendum, Smith’s deliberations will not be subject to any popular approval, but solely to whatever unionist government happens to be in office at Westminster after the 2015 General Election.
Who is Lord Smith of Kelvin? As well as being an unelected life peer, he is the landlord owning Inchmarnock, a one-time governor of the BBC (the first initial explains a lot!), and a former director or chair of Network Rail, MSI, Stakis and Weirs, many banks and financial institutions, including both RBoS and BoS. He is currently a leading figure in the expansion of fracking in Scotland.
Given this background, and his appointment by David Cameron, we can safely assume he will get on with the job expected of him – upholding the power of the UK state, the interests of the British ruling class, and particularly the City of London and the major corporations. He is also likely to go along with the shared concern of Conservatives, Lib-Dems and Labour, that any new political proposals for Scotland should concentrate their main attention upon devolving the austerity axe.
Submissions to the Smith Commission may be made by some groups to educate the wider public. However, any that fall outside the mainstream unionist parties’ concerns will just gather dust in Westminster’s archives. This is why pursuing a political strategy to hold the unionists’ “feet to the fire”, will far more likely lead to the freezing of any real campaign to develop and assert genuine Scottish self-determination. It will lead to a misguided concentration on seeking the support of the existing liberal unionists. They are already a rapidly retreating political force, both north and south of the border. Offering them even limited support will only reinforce right wing unionism, now gathering strength, not only in the UKIP, but also within the mainstream unionist parties. They draw their succour from the most reactionary features of the UK state and its British imperial history.
In the lead-up to September 18th, our unprecedented campaign for democracy in Scotland began to spill over into England, Wales and Ireland. We can find allies there, who also support the republican principle of the sovereignty of the people, and who are committed to an ‘internationalism from below’ approach. Then we can go beyond the SNP government’s own local junior managerial buyout proposals, and campaign for the break up of the whole of the UK and its alliance with the USA. This is the best way to end Scotland’s participation in NATO’s never-ending wars. RIC can then begin to meet the aspirations of all those who believe that, in struggling for Scottish self-determination, both ‘Another Scotland’ and ‘Another World’ are possible.
Allan Armstrong (RCN)
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION – BEING PREPARED TO LISTEN AND LEARN
At today’s RIC National Forum we will be discussing the Options Analysis – RICS constitution, produced by the Working Group formed after our last National Forum. This document draws upon the experience of RIC nationally and in Dumfries & Galloway, Dundee and Edinburgh. It is framed in a way that allows delegates to consider the different options.
The RCN favours RIC moving to becoming an individual membership based organisation. Without an agreed membership there can be no effective democracy, nor accountability, particularly at a national level. At the September National Forum there seemed to be general agreement that RIC is a Movement, and not a Party nor Party-in-the-making. Therefore, the criteria for membership should be basic – support for the modified 5 RIC principles agreed at the September National Forum, payment of a minimal fee and an acceptance of the Safer Spaces Policy.
Having an individual membership base does not preclude the involvement of others in the local branches/groups, particularly their burgeoning working parties; or the ability to co-opt non-members to any national working groups. It just means that whenever office bearers are elected, or it becomes necessary to take votes, these decisions are made by members. It makes clear to whom who elected office bearers are accountable. It also provides some protection against sudden outside hostile interventions. Beyond these basic principles, RCN delegates will also be listening to the arguments made by delegates today as to how such principles can best be applied.
Edinburgh RCN members put forward a motion to our RIC branch meeting on October 27th to stimulate discussion about the future of the RIC. Our branch’s own working group had made proposals, which form part of the today’s Options Analysis paper. After a good discussion, this motion and our original working group proposals were amended. A majority wanted to maintain the present open-to-all, rather than a membership approach. Today, Edinburgh branch delegates will vote accordingly. The minority, including the RCN, were not persuaded and would still like to move to individual membership. We hope there is wider support for this amongst other delegates.
However, there was another part of the original RCN initiated motion, which Edinburgh RIC supporters thought was ambiguous. They wanted the application of RIC’s founding principles to be undertaken by the relevant new working groups, rather than centrally like a party. The RCN movers agreed that this was indeed better approach and withdrew this section. Edinburgh RIC did not come up with an alternative wording but decided to come back to this later. A majority agreed with the other proposals in the motion. The amended Edinburgh motion is before delegates today.
So, RCN members found ourselves in a position where we formed a minority over one proposal; where we were convinced by others’ arguments that there was a better approach on two other linked proposals, and where the majority agreed with us over the rest of the proposals. Today’s motion from Edinburgh RIC reflects this debate. We can all benefit from listening and learning. This is how to put the best democratic practice into action.
Allan Armstrong & Bob Goupillot (Edinburgh RCN)
Motion discussed at Edinburgh RIC branch. The sections in italics were deleted.
The Radical Independence Campaign recognises that the outcome of Scotland’s Independence Referendum shows how strongly the UK state resists democratic change. It reveals that demands for meaningful change in Scotland, England, Wales and elsewhere in the UK will only be answered by small-scale administrative concessions that do not address genuine popular concerns;
The Yes vote mobilised a massive number of citizens who were prepared to abandon their primary legal national identity to build a new, better Scotland. The No vote mobilised subjects who were often comfortable, contented and/or frightened. This important qualitative difference between the two groups will have enormous consequences for the future;
RIC recognises that the retention of the Crown-in-Parliament aka parliamentary sovereignty is a serious barrier to the establishment of democratic national and regional governments in all parts of the UK;
It recognises that the anti-democratic and reactionary mobilisation that occurred in the final weeks of the campaign could establish dangerous precedents for influencing the outcomes of other democratic contests;
Therefore we must:-
(1) initiate a process of developing RIC as a permanent, organisation with individual membership, properly constituted branches, affiliated groups and other appropriate structures, all organised at the highest level of democracy.
(2) clarify what it is that is “Radical” about RIC in order to evaluate our role in the wider movement.
(3) develop a radical, social, cultural, political, ecological and economic programme.
(4) identify and engage with groups who felt threatened by any proposed national independence project, e.g. pensioners and migrants
(5) strengthen the our links we have made with sister organisations in England, Wales and Ireland and develop these to form a united front against the UK state
(6) strengthen our links with European anti-austerity movements and the grassroots movements fighting for self-determination in Catalunya and Euskadi, and with anti-imperialist struggles worldwide, e.g. through our support for the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
For earlier Emancipation & Liberation RIC Special Bulletins see:-