RISE held a national members’ meeting in Glasgow on saturday 3rd December. The leaflet ‘Building an alliance between RISE and Left Unity’ was circulated. Steve Freeman and Allan Armstrong (of the Republican Socialist Alliance – RSA) addressed the meeting. Steve has subsequently written a report for Left Unity. These two anti-Unionist alliance items have been posted below.
This is followed by links to articles on this blog which have argued for greater unity, on an anti-unionist basis, between the RSA , the Radical Independence Campaign, the Left Unity Party and RISE.
1. BUILDING AN ALLIANCE BETWEEN RISE AND LEFT UNITY
Left Unity was set up in 2013 to organise a party standing in opposition to neo-liberalism and the politics of New Labour. The party aimed to unite democratic socialists and communists into one party to resist austerity politics. The majority of LU members were in England with a small membership in Scotland and Wales. Left Unity had no policy on the national question until the Scottish referendum in 2014 when the party voted to take an abstention position.
RISE emerged out of the RIC campaign during the 2014 Scottish referendum. After the referendum many socialists on the left wing of RIC decided to form a political alliance of pro-independence socialists to stand candidates in election for the Scottish parliament. RISE was set up as an alliance not a party and is supported by the SSP.
Since the foundation of LU and RISE there have been a number of significant political events such as the major growth and electoral victories of the SNP in 2015 and 2016, the election of Corbyn as Labour leader, the growth of Labour and Momentum, the votes to leave the EU and recently the victory of Trump in the US Presidential election. These changing political conditions have made it necessary for LU and RISE to assess how they can relate to the new conditions.
At the October 2016 Left Unity conference passed a series of resolutions on the relations between the people of England and Scotland and between socialists in both countries. LU voted to oppose the 1707 Act of Union in England, and support Scottish socialists in their campaign for independence.
The Labour Party is a British Unionist party committed to the UK. This has not been changed by the Corbyn leadership or Momentum. Whilst there is overlap between policies of ‘Corbyn-Momentum’ and RISE and LU, for example in opposition to austerity cuts and Trident, there are significant differences over the political future of the United Kingdom. Although possibilities exist for a pragmatic Labour-SNP Westminster alliance neither party is prepared to challenge the UK’s anti-democratic Crown Powers or continued membership of NATO. It is now possible and advantageous for RISE and LU to seek closer co-operation over a joint anti-Unionist challenge to the UK state.
An anti-Unionist alliance between RISE and LU cannot simply be declared. It will be developed over time through practical co-operation. It has to be shown there are practical gains to be made by both organisations co-operating and working together wherever that is possible or necessary. The starting point should be informal talks between RISE and LU to explore possible co-operation and report back to their next respective national councils.
The political basis for co-operation
Any future alliance must not be based on opportunism. It must be grounded on clear and transparent politics and policies. We will need a policy statement to be drafted and agreed by the members of RISE and LU.
Possible areas of co-operation
a) Official representatives invited to attend national meetings such as annual conferences
b) LU members in Scotland will be encouraged to join RISE and vice versa.
c) Exchange of information on policies and activities – for example on Europe and Trident
d) Issue joint leaflets were appropriate
Allan Armstrong (Edinburgh Rise)
Steve Freeman (Rise London)
Left Unity’s new policy (2016) on the Scotland and the EU
At the 2016 LU conference the party adopted some resolutions on Scotland and the EU. These are produced below. It should be noted that LU passed other resolutions on the EU but here are those or parts of those which reference the position of Scotland.
1. For democratic exit not Brexit
Left Unity recognises the result of the EU referendum and agrees to promote a democratic exit from the EU consistent with the closest possible unity with the European working class. (i.e. internationalism). In promoting a democratic exit we will recognise:
a) That England and Wales voted to leave the EU, and Scotland and Northern Ire-land voted to remain.
b) That as well as 17 million voting to leave and 16 mil-lion to remain there were 13 million abstentions (non-voting)
c) That EU citizens resident in the UK were discriminated against by being denied a vote (except Irish, Maltese and Cypriots)
d) That unlike the Scottish referendum, all 16-18 year olds were denied a vote.
e) That the 16 million remain minority voters (called “the 48%”) have a right to be heard and their views should be taken into account consistent with the majority decision.
f) That working class internationalists must defend the interests of the European working class (i.e. including workers in the UK), including the rights established in the European Union such as those in the Working Time Directive, and the free movement of workers across the EU.
In promoting a democratic exit, LU recognises that different classes have different aims. We note that the plan promoted by the Financial and Business classes is for “Brexit” which means that all parts of the UK leave the EU whilst maintaining free trade and the free movement of capital with the EU. We recognise that the capitalist press promote this as a ‘common sense’ solution.
In defence of the working class we will support that majority vote in England and Wales to leave the EU but with an exit consistent with maintaining the free movement of people (including workers). Consequently we will call for:
i) Northern Ireland and Scotland to be allowed to remain in the EU
ii) England and Wales to leave the EU whilst maintaining the free movement of people*
*NB. This is consistent with England and Wales leaving the EU but remaining in the European Economic Area. The resolution continues…..
2. Relations with the democratic and socialist movement in Scotland
Politics has evolved in Scotland since the referendum in 2014. The vast majority of progressive Scots now support independence whereas the Unionist parties consist of the Tories, Liberal Democrats and the Right of the Labour Party. Left Unity must support the progressive movement for an independent socialist Scotland.
Left Unity agrees to support the campaign for Scottish independence and to forge links with those progressive and socialist forces involved with the campaign in Scotland
3. Anti-Unionism and self determination
1. We note the LU Manifesto called for the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords but took no view on the Union which binds England with Northern Ireland, Scot-land and Wales.
2. This conference calls for the abolition of the 1707 Act of Union and the end of all jurisdictions by the British Crown over the sovereign nations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
3. By ending the Union, the people of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will be able to freely choose their future relations with the people of England, whether as independent nations, or in some form of voluntary federal relationship or within the European Union or in whatever form they decide.
4. Scotland after the UK vote to leave the EU.
1. Left Unity notes:
1.1. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU
1.2 In the 2014 Scottish referendum one of the main arguments from the Unionist (No) campaign was that if Scotland left the UK it would be excluded from the EU.
1.3 The majority votes for Brexit in England and Wales and the subsequent Tory government’s commitment to leave the EU changes the position. Scotland cannot remain in the UK and the EU as supporters of the British Union claimed in 2014
1.4 Under the 1707 Act of Union (including subsequent amendments) the Scottish people have no right to self determination. There is no right to a self determination referendum (i.e. no right to a vote on secession.) It depends on ‘sovereignty of the ‘Crown-in-Parliament’ as exercised by the British Prime Minister.
2. Left Unity recognises the right of the Scottish people to self determination and in particular the right to remain in the EU given the majority vote in Scotland to remain.
3. Left Unity will fully support the call for a ‘self determination’ referendum to enable the Scottish people to decide to leave the UK and seek to remain in the EU.
4. Left Unity calls for the Labour Party to support such a referendum and commit a future Labour government to guarantee Scotland’s right to referendum on the EU or on other issues.
5. In the event that a Scottish referendum is held before the next general election, LU will promotes activities to encourage the working class movement to support Scottish exit from the UK to implement the decision of the Scottish people to seek to remain in the EU.
2. REPORT TO LEFT UNITY ON RISE NATIONAL MEMBERS’ MEETING
I attended the Rise national meeting in Glasgow 3 December 2016. A number of important items were on the agenda including future political strategy and a request from Edinburgh that I speak about the situation in England with Left Unity. Unfortunately the West Coast rail system ‘crashed’ and instead of being an hour early I was three hours late. I missed the strategy session.
All was not lost because some of the issues I wanted to raise were already discussed and there was general support for closer links between Rise and Left Unity including proposing RISE would see about sending/inviting representatives to each other’s national conferences. [All subject of course to official Left Unity agreement]. In addition the chair made a space for me to briefly address the meeting after I arrived.
I told the meeting that I had briefly met with the LU national secretary and spoken informally about the forthcoming meeting. I said LU national secretary, Kate Hudson, had sent comradely greetings from LU to this meeting and the rest of RISE members across Scotland.
I informed them that LU still had nearly a thousand members, mainly in England. I explained that “still” was because we had lost many members to the powerful pull of Corbyn and Momentum. However at our recent conference in October there was a determined mood and the beginning of examining our policies in the light of changing circumstances such as post-Brexit.
I explained that LU had passed three resolutions which were a significant shift in the party’s standpoint and made LU the first anti-Unionist party based in England. [This goes beyond simply supporting ‘Yes’ in the 2014 referendum as a strategic not merely a tactical position] Left Unity now opposed the 1707 Act of Union as a barrier to the sovereignty of the Scottish people and self determination. Second LU agreed to support those in Scotland campaigning for an independent socialist Scotland. Third although LU had campaigned for Remain, in the face of the Tory referendum result we were now supporting a ‘Democratic Exit’ not a ‘British Exit’ whereby Northern Ireland and Scotland should be able to remain in the EU. This would mean we are supporting Scotland’s right to hold a referendum to exit the UK.
I said I was in favour of an Anti-Unionist alliance between RISE and Left Unity but this was not Left Unity policy. However I felt we should and could begin a dialogue and explore possible areas of co-operation. That was down to LU official policy decisions.
It was reported that Cat Boyd had already indicated to the meeting that a Working Group was being formed to consider relationships with socialists in England (and elsewhere). Allan Armstrong, who had spoken at Yes solidarity meetings in London and Ireland, would be on the committee and it was agreed to invite LUP to have two members.
Both RISE and LU are due to hold conferences in Spring 2017. Rise wanted to have some official informal talks to see what could be done. Of course the next step is to report back to LU for consideration. As far as I am concerned as a member of both organisations this is good for both RISE and Left Unity because we will need good allies in the choppy times ahead.
Former Bermondsey candidate for Republican Socialism.
- ARTICLES FORM OUR BLOG ON THE CAMPAIGN TO SEEK UNITY ON AN ANTI-UNIONIST BASIS