THE CASE FOR A REPUBLICAN INTERNATIONALIST COALITION FOR SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE
a. The Radical Independence Campaign
An examination of the wording of the initials and principles of the Radical Independence Campaign is instructive.
R = Radical, I = Independence, C = Campaign
Each one of these terms is ambiguous.
Radical can refer to Left or Right, but its ambiguity here was meant to offer a number of interpretations, stretching from support for a more social (anti-austerity) and environmentally friendly Scotland, to being more committed to grass roots campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote than the SNP leadership.
Independence is also ambiguous. Does it mean support for an independent Scotland that has broken from the UK state and its imperialist alliances, or did it mean pushing harder than the SNP leadership for a ‘Yes’ for its Indy-Lite proposals?
Campaign could suggest a longer-term struggle, as in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), or only a very immediate campaign to maximise the ‘Yes’ vote.
RIC’s 5 principles are as follows:-
1) For a social alternative to austerity and privatisation
2) Green and environmentally sustainable
3) A modern republic for real democracy
4) Committed to equality and opposition to discrimination on grounds of gender, race, disability, sexuality or age
5) Internationalist and opposed to war, NATO and Trident
Four of these principles (1, 2, 3, and 5) did inform activities on RIC supported demonstrations (e.g. over housing and strike solidarity, pro-Palestine, pro the ‘Oxi’ voting Greek people, anti-Farage). However, for many in RIC, support for 4) “a modern republic for real democracy” was a bit like Labour’s old Clause 4 socialism – something to be relegated to a more distant future.
b) The political highpoints for RIC – its republicanism and its ‘internationalism from below’
The highpoint of RIC’s republicanism was shown in the–Edinburgh motion passed at the in the Glasgow National Forum on 17.5.14. This republicanism is based on ‘the sovereignty of the people’.
Organisation after September 18th
1. A ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th represents an expression of ‘the sovereignty of the people’. Political arrangements based under the Westminster principle of the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament are no longer valid.
2. The official ‘Yes’ campaign will be ended after September 18th. RIC should aim to bring people together soon as possible after this date. The aim would be a bigger convention than the last two RIC conferences.
3. Suggested organisations to be involved could include existing local ‘Yes’ groups, other ‘Yes’ campaigning organisations, organisations which had not been able to take a ‘Yes’ position but may now want to become involved in the making of a new Scotland, e.g. trade unions, community organisations, specific campaigns, e.g. disability.
4. On this basis regular wider forums (people assemblies) would be held in as many areas as possible to influence the negotiating and constitution-making processes.
However, this was never put to the test, since there was a ‘No’ vote on September 18th.
Another highpoint of RIC’s campaigning was its ‘internationalism from below’ basis. RIC adopted the slogan Another Scotland Is Possible to place it within the recent Another World Is Possible legacy. This followed from the massive resistance to corporate globalisation shown in the 1994 Zapatista revolt against NAFTA, the 1999 Battle of Seattle against the WTO conference, and the follow up World Social Forums. Furthermore, RIC’s ‘internationalism from below’ approach meant that it took its campaign to England, Wales and Ireland, and to Catalunya, Euskadi, Quebec and Greece.
RIC supported the Greek people against the Troika, the EU Commission, the ECB. RIC supported the struggles for Catalan and Basque self-determination. This support made many aware that Another Europe Is Possible, beyond an EU made up of existing states, which did not recognise the right of national self-determination within their territories.
But RIC supporters also invited speakers and joined demonstrations in favour of Palestinian and Kurdish self-determination.
Thus, by the end of the IndyRef1 campaign, RIC banners proclaimed:-
Another Scotland Is Possible
Another Europe Is Possible
Another World Is Possible
c) The UK’s official constitutional basis for IndyRef1 disguised the reasons why this was conceded
However, although RIC’s post-IndyRef1 aspirational republicanism was never tested, neither was the need for a republican approach obvious in the IndyRef1 campaign itself. The overt clash with the UK state and its Crown Powers was avoided, because the constitutional basis for an independence referendum was granted by a UK Tory government (still in liberal unionist mode after it backed the 2011 Welsh devolution referendum), backed by Labour and the Lib-Dems. This was because the polling showed that a ‘Yes’ vote would be trounced. The referendum was seen as an opportunity to put the SNP in its place and stymie any further self-determination not initiated by the unionist parties. A referendum was eagerly seized upon by the three mainstream unionist parties, or as Labour’s Wendy Alexander had said earlier – “Bring It On”!
Although ‘Yes’ supporters became increasingly angry over the bias shown by one particular state institution, the BBC, there was no wider public use of the UK state’s Crown Powers to suppress the ‘Yes’ campaign. (The Crown Powers were used, but behind the scenes, e.g. the plans to create a ‘British North West Nukeland’ or ‘Guantanamac Bay’ and remove Faslane from any Scottish government control in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote.) This was in marked contrast to the UK state’s behaviour in Northern Ireland, where civil rights campaigners in 1969 had received a sharp lesson in republicanism, as they came up against her majesty’s regiments, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and internment at her majesty’s pleasure.
The effect of there being an apparent constitutional road to the SNP’s ‘Indy-Lite’ proposals, made in their White Paper, meant even many RIC supporters did not see the relevance of an immediate republican approach, which contested the UK state’s anti-democratic Crown Powers.
d) The politics of Movementism undermines RIC
Looking back to RIC from 2015 it can be seen that the national leadership abandoned the campaign leaving it to a few of the local RIC groups. The prime reason for this is that the politics of Movementism dominated the Glasgow RIC group, from which the national leaders came. The leaders were members of the International Socialist Group (ISG), a dissident breakaway from the SWP.
The SWP had adopted a Movementist course, ever since it was forced to drop its ‘Downturn Theory’ in 1999. This politically debilitating theory had represented the Left face of Labour’s New Realism accommodation to Thatcher (and had led to some SWP members scabbing in the Anti-Poll Tax campaign). But boosted by the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle (following the Zapatista anti-NAFTA revolt), the SWP threw itself into the movements against corporate globalisation.
The SWP revived an old tactic and created ‘party’ sect fronts, e.g. Globalise Resistance and Unite Against Fascism. These had no democratic structures and their main activities remained at the whim of the SWP central committee. Their primary purpose was to provide the appearance of SWP support for a currently popular movement, by largely going along with its ambiguous politics and to win recruits to the SWP.
The ISG broke away from the SWP in 2011, at the height of short-lived International Revolutionary Wave that year. However, it inherited the SWP’s Movementism, but ditched its support for a separate ‘party’-sect. Failing in its initial attempt to create a Broad Left, trade unionist front, the Coalition of Resistance, in an already crowded field (with the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition and the National Shop Stewards Movement), ISG took the political initiative which led to the launch of the Radical Independence Campaign in November 2012. This conference was attended by 800, and the following ones in 2013 by 1200 and in 2014 by 3000 people. This was undoubtedly impressive, not least in bringing together a Left in Scotland that had been shattered by ‘Tommygate’.
RIC proved to be the most dynamic part of the IndyRef1 campaign beyond the control of the official, SNP dominated ‘Yes’ campaign. RIC also had a wider influence on many of the autonomous ‘Yes’ campaigns, which in turn impacted on RIC. Furthermore, in initiating the voter registration campaign, enthusiastically taken up by local ‘Yes’ groups, RIC contributed to the ‘democratic revolution’ which led to both the highest registration rate and level of voter participation in the history of UK politics.
As an indication of their commitment to a Movementist approach, the ISG dissolved itself into RIC. However, ISG’s former leading members remained prominent, but not in the form of a ‘party’ sect central committee acting behind the scenes. They became national officers, but not ones who were based on regularly convened, democratic local groups, but individuals, with undoubted organising skills, who attended RIC national forums.
After the September 18th, 2014 referendum vote there was still an understandable belief that, despite the ‘No’ vote, RIC could continue, not only on the same scale as between 2012-14, but step up its activities. A new constitution based on Movementist principles, promoted by Aberdeen Anarchists (whose Movementism is of a different kind) and former Glasgow ISG members was agreed at the 2015 annual conference. However, one of the worrying features of this constitution was that there was no national membership, it was left to local groups, which in practice meant whoever dominated these.
Despite reservations about the lack of a national membership, Edinburgh RIC amended its own practice and put this new Movementist constitution into operation locally. This led to the joint Aberdeen/Edinburgh organised fourth RIC conference in 2015. At a local level, Edinburgh RIC also implemented the constitution’s Working Group proposals, The Economics Working Group published Myths, Lies and Austerity. The Living Rent Campaign was also initiated by Edinburgh RIC members, along with others.
Edinburgh RIC has also hosted two Scottish Radical History events in 2015 and 2016 and supported and provided a speaker for the Edinburgh People’s Festival Life and Legacy of Antonio Gramsci event in 2017. However, finding that other city RIC groups had ceased public activity, Edinburgh RIC hosted the 2018 Spring conference inviting others to attend.[iv]
How has Edinburgh been able to sustain itself, when those who based themselves on Movementism haven’t. A key feature of Edinburgh RIC politics has been its linking of various campaigns and issues with the need for a new Democratic, Secular, Inclusive, (environmentally) Sustainable, Social, Scottish Republic. There was also a recognition of the need to challenge the UK’s anti-democratic Crown Powers and the British unionist parties which use these to deny ‘the sovereignty of the people’. This also meant challenging the SNP leadership, trapped in its constitutional nationalist dead-end.
Edinburgh RIC’s practical involvement in a whole series of campaigns, local, national and international, has been linked with its educational function at regular local assemblies and the conferences it has hosted. Vital to this, has been Edinburgh RIC’s commitment to having speakers from the full range of politics which the RIC coalition (united front in Left talk) is meant to be based upon. Sometimes others were also invited, e.g. Labour candidates during RIC organised election hustings. The Edinburgh group has taken the coalition aspect of RIC seriously. It encourages contributors to express their own political views. This is not seen a threat, but a means hopefully to develop a higher degree agreement, but where this is not possible to create a genuine democratic culture based on respect for others’ views. But the basis upon which Edinburgh RIC has sustained its activity could be termed republican, internationalist and acting as a coalition.
It is possible to compare the effectiveness of the Movementist and republican, internationalist coalition approaches by going to the RIC national website. Of the two groups following a Movementist approach, Glasgow RIC has no postings of local activity at all, although individual ex-ISG members continued to attend national forums. Aberdeen RIC has no postings of local activity after December 12th, 2015. In contrast, Edinburgh with its republican, internationalist coalition approach has sustained meetings and activities from 1.4.13 up to the present day.
Before the special RIC National Forum in Perth on 7.12.19, a few groups sustained themselves largely on a Localist basis – Dundee RIC reporting activity up until 30.6.15 and Dumfries & Galloway RIC reporting until 13.1.18. Inverness RIC has also met but not reported, whilst Angus & Mearns RIC has met throughout the period but reports its activities to others by e-mail. Localist groups have their own individual characteristics, a reflection of a combination of local conditions and the sometimes a dominant political group or even particular individuals. A broad-based RIC should reflect the diverse local conditions throughout Scotland, but in the absence of regular national activity, local groups will either become more insular, or take their lead from other national bodies, e.g. the SNP or All Under One Banner.
However, a major reason for the loss of other local RIC groups has been the Movementists’ insistence that there be no national membership. 16 of the local groups listed on the national RIC website have folded. This is sometimes because the local leading lights either dropped out or moved on to other activities. This has left their members without any way of maintaining contact with RIC nationally. This problem became clear when people registered or often reregistered (having lost contact through their now lapsed local RIC groups) at the RIC national conference, held in Glasgow on 26.10.19.
d) The political situation today in these islands – the UK as a whole, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic
The Scottish Independence Movement has reached an impasse. When the IndyRef1 campaign mobilised significant forces, organisationally and sometimes politically independent of the SNP leadership, the British ruling class panicked. They resorted to a conservative unionist defence of the status quo, with ‘Better Together’ becoming ‘Project Fear’. Although a ‘Yes’ vote was defeated on September 18th, this was a pyrrhic victory for the British ruling class. And their original purpose for granting a referendum was badly shaken by the unprecedented SNP electoral victory in the 2015 Westminster general election.
But it wasn’t only the British ruling class which wanted to roll back the ‘democratic revolution’. A major part of the IndyRef1 campaign had been organised beyond official SNP auspices. After the referendum was over, the SNP leadership moved to try and sweep up as many of these people into the party as possible in a major membership drive. The anointment of the new leader, ‘St. Nicola’ took place at meeting attended by 12,000, adjacent to the RIC conference of 3,000. Many of the SNP’s new members were considerably more radical than the leadership. Tensions soon emerged over fracking (and later over the Sustainable Growth Commission).
However, the SNP has the most centralist and bureaucratic internal regime of any major UK party. This goes considerably further than the bureaucratic Labour Party, which does permit organised platforms, e.g. Momentum (Left), Progress (Right). This gives the senior SNP officials, whose first loyalty is to the inner leadership, considerable powers when it comes to policing the membership. This is probably why Commonweal, whose Scandinavian-style social democratic policies are attractive to many rank and file SNP members, has taken on the characteristics of an external faction of the party.
After the 2014 referendum, though, the British ruling class was now concerned that conservative unionist stonewalling might not be enough to hold back a growing groundswell for Scottish independence. However, the 2016 EU referendum provided the opportunity for its, up till then, minority Right populist and reactionary unionist wing to throw itself behind the Brexit campaign. They wanted “to take back control”, i.e. to reinforce and centralise the most reactionary elements of the UK state. This was in preparation for an attack on workers’, consumers’ and environmental protection and for the introduction of even harsher immigration controls. But they also wanted the Crown Powers upgraded, by rolling back the subordinate democratic elements of the UK state set-up – the House of Commons, Local Councils and ‘Devolution-all-round’.
The SNP leadership’s long-term strategy for winning ‘Indy-Lite’ (under the Crown, City of London and British High Command) depended on the patronage that controlling the Scottish parliament and key local councils (e.g. Glasgow) provided them with. They wanted to use this to persuade and bribe Scottish business leaders, reassuring them that the SNP’s ‘Indy-Lite’ proposals were drawn up with them in mind; and that any social democratic style reforms to benefit the majority would be kept to an absolute minimum (with Scottish Labour having already set a very low bar and continuing to lower it further).
Corbyn’s (and much of the British Left, including the SWP and its breakaways and the SP) inability to appreciate the nature either of the UK state or the British ruling class’s changing politics, unwittingly helped May and Johnson at every stage of their Brexit offensive. This paved the way for the Right populist and reactionary unionist victory in the December 12th, 2019 Westminster general election.
From 2012 to 2019, the SNP’s political strategy for achieving ‘Indy-Lite’ had been dependent on coming to some arrangement with a liberal unionist UK government. But even Labour, both under Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn, abandoned liberal for conservative unionism, whilst the Tories moved further Right on to reactionary unionist ground. They have made open and tacit alliances with UKIP, the DUP and Scottish Loyalists (and this began under the social liberal, Ruth Davidson and her publicity photo shot with the bigoted and racist Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation). The December 12th election result cemented reactionary unionist control of the UK state and sealed off what was already a very unlikely constitutional road to Scotland’s political independence.
Thus, the SNP’s election victory in Scotland, coinciding with Johnson’s UK wide victory, merely highlighted the leadership’s inability to advance the independence cause by one jot. In some ways the SNP leadership strategy is like that of Keir Starmer. He is trying to reassure the British ruling class that Labour represents a safe pair of hands, ready to step in whenever Johnson’s Tories falter. Sturgeon has tried to do the same to persuade Scottish business that their interests will be prioritised, if they begin to feel the need the need to change their relationship with a crisis ridden UK. This represents a return to the pre-2008 strategy of Alex Salmond, with his attempts, closely linked to his promotion of the Royal Bank of Scotland, to promote a neo-liberal Celtic Tiger economy. This was linked to the defence of certain social democratic policies, which the Labour Party was in the process of abandoning.
In 2018 the SNP leadership commissioned Andrew Wilson and other Scottish business figures to produce the report of Sustainable Growth Commission (SGC). This locates a future ‘Indy-Lite’ Scotland within a global neo-liberal order, despite this having been in crisis since 2008. However, the SGC faced considerable opposition both within the party and the wider Independence Movement. But the Covid-19 crisis has given Sturgeon the opportunity to revamp the SGC approach through the Scottish government’s Advisory Report on Economic Recovery, headed by ex-banker and Buccleugh Estates chair, Benny Higgins. This time a token trade union official was added. Furthermore, Covid-19 has given Sturgeon the opportunity (not available to Starmer) of appearing to be a responsible leader compared to Johnson, enabling her to widen support for the SNP led government.
Unlike Starmer, who comes from a very deep-rooted Labour tradition, which does not challenge the institutions of the UK state, both the Right populist Johnson and the constitutional nationalist Sturgeon link their different economic and social policies to constitutional change – greater UK state centralisation (‘Make Britain Great Again’) and ‘Indy-Lite’. The first represents a continued roll back of the limited democracy that exists under the UK state; the second represents a limited extension of democracy. These two are bound to clash, but at the moment Johnson’s government holds the whip hand.
The Tory government now has full control of the UK state with all its anti-democratic Crown Powers. It enjoys the support of Donald Trump, the leader of the world’s powerful state, the USA. The Tory government is attempting to pursue a Right populist, ‘America First’/‘Britain Second’ strategy to defend shared imperial and corporate interests in the world. With such backing Johnson is confident in pursuing a common an all-islands strategy. The key elements of this are the rolling back of devolution in Scotland and Wales, maintaining Northern Ireland as a semi-detached upholder of the Union, and undermining the EU in the Irish Republic.
In Wales, after the general election, Labour still remains the largest party, although considerably reduced (down 8% of the vote and 6 MPs). Unlike in Scotland, the majority in the leadership of Labour Party remain liberal unionist, wanting more devolution. However, the surge in the combined Tory and Brexit Party vote (up 8%) and in Tory MPs (up 6) could reopen old divisions in Welsh Labour Party. There is a possibility of some, like Scottish Labour, opting to out-unionist the Tories. Furthermore, the SNP’s allies, the constitutional nationalist, Plaid Cymru fell back in votes in the general election, and instead of winning their target seat of Yns Mon, just narrowly beat the resurgent Tories in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. Although still a minority in Wales, the reactionary unionist Tories have greater political coherence than the liberal unionist and constitutional nationalist defenders of the current Welsh devolution settlement. This is going to make it difficult for the SNP government to find effective political allies in Wales for constitutional reform
In Northern Ireland, Stormont has been revived on Tory government terms after the December general election. This election showed that the DUP had overplayed its hand with Theresa May. Johnson saw the DUP’s poor election result as an opportunity to show he was boss. The DUP was removed from any determining role in Westminster politics, and Stormont was returned to acting as a devolved and semi-detached body upholding the Union. It was returned to its original post-GFA purpose of being a bi-sectarian institution squabbling over the allocation of Westminster funding subventions, with the UK state placed in a position of ‘neutral’ arbiter.
And although the relative economic strengths of the combined major EU states leave the UK government at a disadvantage in the Brexit ‘negotiations’, the Irish Republic is far more dependent on the UK economy than the other way around. This means that the UK government will use this leverage to exert pressure. It will receive backing from Trump, whose reactionary Right wing, Christian fundamentalist allies already play a major part in buttressing social conservatism, North and South, blaming the EU for creeping social liberalisation from above.
And despite the electoral surge of Sinn Fein (25% of the vote) in the Irish Republic elections on February 8th, 2020, a new Fianna Fail/Fine Gael/Green coalition government has been formed, which is nearly as opposed to Irish unification (anytime soon) as the UK government. The SNP does have a pro-independence (however that is defined) constitutional nationalist majority at Holyrood but is up against a reactionary unionist UK government. Sinn Fein does not enjoy a constitutional nationalist majority at Stormont, where in addition the Unionists have a veto. And it is not only the reactionary unionist UK government that would oppose any Irish reunification referendum, but also the conservative constitutional nationalist government and parties in the Irish Republic.
Given that Sinn Fein doesn’t participate at Westminster (never mind the tensions any political deals with Sinn Fein would lead to for the SNP), the SNP’s most likely allies are the SDLP. However, there is every indication that the SDLP wants to work with the liberal unionist Alliance Party in Stormont. Furthermore, the SDLP, with the backing of the conservative constitutional nationalist parties in the Irish Republic, is not at all keen on an Irish reunification referendum. The SDLP’s inward looking, localist politics provides little basis for cooperation with the SNP.
e) The growing tensions in the Scottish Independence Movement
There will be a huge increase in hardship as the UK and the Scottish governments and the employers try to recoup the economic costs of Covid-19. This will only add to the frustration of those pro-independence supporters expecting the SNP to deliver an escape from UK-imposed counter-reforms in the fields of employment and social provision by means of IndyRef2 as soon as possible, and for some quicker still.
Major tensions in the Independence Movement preceded the Covid-19 crisis and the December 12th general election. Growing numbers including many rank and file SNP members, had become increasingly frustrated with SNP leadership’s inability to deliver, despite a series of electoral mandates. They have turned increasingly to All Under One Banner (AUOB). AUOB’s first major demonstration was held in Glasgow on 3.7.16., largely in response to the UK voting to leave the EU, whilst Scotland had voted to Remain. The following year saw a demo of 25,000 in Glasgow. 2018 saw large local demos in Dumfries, Bannockburn, and Inverness, Dundee another in Glasgow, then a massive demo of 100,000 in Edinburgh. There was a similar pattern, including an Aberdeen demo, in 2019.
However, the SNP’s Westminster election victory in December 2019 (vote up 8% and MPs up 14), whilst Tory and Labour unionists (who had gained an extra 13 and 6 MPs respectively in 2017) fell back by 7 and 6 MPs respectively, just added to the frustration. At short notice the AUOB organised a well-attended march in Glasgow on 11.1.20, on an the incredibly wet day.
By this time, the tensions had spilled over into the SNP itself. The SNP government’s bad handling of the Alex Salmond trial fed into an opposition that became linked to Joanna Cherry. She began to argue that there was far more the SNP leadership could be doing to bring about Indy Ref2. There were suggestions of more parliamentary disruption at Westminster. Furthermore, Cherry, a QC as well as MP, suggested that the Scottish government should take its case to the UK supreme court. She had been one of the backers of the successful supreme court action, that had led to its ruling in September 2019 that Johnson’s proroguing of Westminster to speed-up his ‘Get Brexit Done’ had been illegal.
However, Cherry’s strategy supreme court appeal strategy was soon revealed to be flawed. No action was taken against Johnson, since the majority of the British ruling class now supported his Brexit strategy. The UK’s unwritten constitution enables the ruling class representatives to make up the rules as they go along. The British ruling class may no longer ‘rule the waves’ abroad, but it can still ‘waive the rules’ at home, in order to get the outcome, which it seeks.
And there is absolutely no doubt that the British ruling class, wants to retain the Union, the better to uphold, if not Empire2, then ‘Britain Second’, in an increasingly crisis-ridden world. And in this defence of the Union they would also get the backing of ‘left’ unionist Labour, the centre unionist Lib-Dems and the further right unionist parties (including whatever party Nigel Farage has in mind after UKIP and the Brexit Party).
However, in the absence of any organised alternative, various populist bodies have emerged with the aim of speeding up the independence process. The thing about populism is its attempts to appeal Left and Right. Salmond was past master of this, with his anti-Serbia and anti-Iraq war stances and his opposition to the House of Lords. This was countered by his cultivation of the queen, and his courting of social conservatism over opposition to abortion rights and secular education. And all the time his strongest links were with the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Unlike Salmond, Cherry is more of a careerist than a natural populist. She has raised some very tentative questioning of the Sustainable Growth Commission and the post Covid-19 Economic Recovery Report. However, Cherry has no independent economic strategy, and certainly not one which would break with SNP’s bowing before Scottish business, and powerful lobbies like the land, property and energy companies. If Cherry enjoys any support amongst SNP MSPs, then they all joined with Sturgeon’s MSP supporters on May 20th in voting down the Andy Wightman (Scottish Greens) proposed (and STUC backed) amendments to the SNP’s post Covid-19 bill. They refused to impose a two-year rent freeze and to give trade unions access to care homes.
Cherry, however, has marked out her populist pitch to the Right, in her opposition to transgender rights, masked as support for women’s rights. Not that Cherry enjoys any record of championing women’s (or gay) rights in the dark days under Thatcher. As such an obvious careerist, it is doubtful whether Cherry’s feminism goes much beyond ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ type associated with women like Hilary Clinton.
Cherry, as a leading SNP member, cannot be seen to go as far as supporting the new Independence for Scotland Party, which is campaigning for the second top-up vote in the Holyrood elections next year. If elected, any MSP is only committed to two policies – a vote to support an IndyRef2 as soon as possible, and opposition to transgender rights (on all other issues they are free to vote as they wish). But these are two policies that Cherry would also support.
Now the SNP has a long history of sexism and homophobia. And the acceptance by many SNP members that a self-admitted sex pest, Alex Salmond would be quite acceptable as a leader, highlights the fact that the inclusive Scottish civic nation, which underpinned the IndyRef1 campaign, could still unravel. It was only Sturgeon’s election as party leader which seemed to put the SNP in the same social liberal camp on sexual and gender issues as the Scottish Labour Party. (The SNP had long overtaken Labour on other social and economic social democratic policies) However, Sturgeon’s apparent behind-the-scenes backing for careerist women and the SNP government’s improper resort to the Scottish legal machine in the Salmond trial has placed the initiative with the Right. This was highlighted by the Scottish government’s postponement of a gender self-determination bill on June 20th.
Opposition to transgender rights in the Independence for Scotland Party and similar projects will only give succour to further social reaction. The most well-known prospective candidate in the Alliance for Independence, Tommy Sheridan, has a misogynistic record, highlighted by his treatment of women in his News of the World court case. The Rev. Stuart Campbell of Wings over Scotland has yet to decide whether to give his backing to a new party (preferably for him, one headed by Alex Salmond) to stand next year. He has a long record of transphobia, misogyny and is anti-Gaelic language and pro-Trident.
However limited the initial impact of the Salmond/Cherry axis within the SNP, or any one-off parties in next year’s Holyrood election, the transmission of social reaction into the Scottish Independence Movement would represent a major political setback. One of the most impressive things about the AUOB demonstrations has been their openness to those from all nations and nationalities (ranging from English for Independence to Palestinians), the united Celtic and Rangers Supporters for Independence, through to rainbow social alliance of LBGT participants.
Small numbers of Right ethnic Scottish nationalists have also appeared on some demos, e.g. Soil nan Gaidheal. The AOUB organisers have said that it is not their job to exclude any people who do not disrupt the marches, and their stewards also ensure that marchers do not attack the small number of Far Right, Britain First provocateurs.
e) The RIC we need
The abandonment of any national public activity by the leaders of RIC from 2015 left the political space, which was filled by AUOB. To the credit of AUOB’s founders, they understood that the absence of any movement in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of` IndyRef1, would be a relatively short-term political phenomenon. Not holding to the Movementist politics of RIC’s leaders, looking to wherever the action would pop up next, the AUOB organisers knew that it was their job to organise the preconditions for a new Movement. They did this very well. And the AUOB welcomes all Scottish independence supporting organisations (even the SWP central committee up from London on 11.1.20) on its demos.
What is required though is an organisation which upholds the ethnically and socially inclusive Scottish civic nation, which, along with the very high level of democratic participation, represented the highpoint of IndyRef1. This represents the minimum basis for the promotion of self-determination in its widest sense.
What is required is an organisation which champions the republican sovereignty of the people. Winning this argument in the Independence Movement provides the basis for challenging Johnson’s reactionary unionist resort to the anti-democratic sovereignty of the Crown-in-Westminster to deny Scotland’s right to self-determination and to undermine the limited democracy represented by the liberal unionist Devolution settlement.
What is required is an organisation which can challenge Johnson’s all-islands wide, Right populist, reactionary unionist offensive. An internationalism from below campaign should be organising in England, Wales and Ireland, as well as seeking support in those nations denied self-determination by other member states of the EU, e.g. Spain’s suppression of the Catalan Republic and Euskadi. And with Johnson’s imperial alliance with Trump in support of ‘America First’/‘Britain Second’ our campaigning still needs to offer solidarity to Palestinians, Kurds and others bring subjected to the most brutal repression.
RIC can best advance the politics needed to win Scottish independence by openly stating the need for a republican, internationalist coalition of the exploited and oppressed. Such a RIC would open to all political organisations which support 5 principles, which represent an update of RIC’s original 5 principles, to meet the changed political situation we face today.
Amended 5 Principles
1) Support the republican Sovereignty of the People – oppose the anti-democratic UK’s Crown Powers
2) Committed to equality and opposition to discrimination on grounds of gender, race, disability, sexuality or age
3) For a Democratic, Secular, Inclusive, (environmentally) Sustainable, Social, Scottish Republic
4) For the break-up of the UK and for ‘internationalism from below’ solidarity
5) For Peace and opposition to Trident and NATO
And such a RIC should chart an independent path and not be drawn into backing one wing of the SNP over the another. Nor should RIC promote any opportunistic slates or candidates in next year’s Holyrood election. Trying to hide behind the excuse that the denial of transgender self-definition is merely a surrogate issue for those wanting to pursue a more urgent independence strategy, so their transphobia can be excused and not challenged, would represent opportunistic politics and a concession to reactionary social politics. Others on the Right would soon push further. We don’t want to end up with a future Scottish version of Farage’s England with saltires.
RIC has SNP members and supporters, but in regard to the party’s internal affairs, RIC should be expressing support for those who want to democratise the party, and in particular those who want to form an open republican socialist platform.
As the multi-facetted crisis (environmental, economic, social and political) engulfs the world, there is a need for a greater sense of urgency. This can be summed up as an update of those slogans RIC championed in IndyRef1, which would now read:-
Another Scotland is necessary
Another Europe is necessary
Another World is necessary
Allan Armstrong, 16.8.20
- https://edinburghric.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/auob-demo-edinburgh-6.10.18.pdf and https://edinburghric.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/auob-6.10.18-photos.pdf