The RCN produced its first Emancipation and Liberation RIC Special Bulletin for the National Forum in March. It included the following articles:
- Let’s all end our abusive relationship with the UK state
- The Republican Communist Network and the Radical Independence Campaign
- A Republican perspective is important for Scotland’s future
LET’S ALL END OUR ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UK STATE
Osborne, Alexander and Ball’s ‘Dambuster Strategy’ to roll back the ‘Yes’ vote has highlighted the reality of ‘Scottish self-determination’ under the UK state. In effect, this ‘partnership’ leaves the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland trapped in an abusive relationship. Cameron’s subsequent ‘love-bombing’ reveals the classic behaviour of an abuser – but still represents an ‘apology’ beyond the capabilities of Johann Lamont and Labour in Scotland. Unless, we accept our subordinate part in their ‘order of things’ and bow before with rule of the City of London, and, if necessary, are prepared to die for ‘Britain’, then our currently allotted ‘allowance’ under this relationship will be curtly terminated.
But the UK is not a marriage between just two partners, however unequal. The British ruling class’s Union is designed to maintain their abusive ‘polygamous’ relationship with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK, being an imperial, unionist and monarchist state, with an established religion, has a whole panoply of powers, both under the Crown and Westminster, with which to promote division between the peoples, and in particular, the working class, living on these islands.
To prevent one ‘partner’, Scotland, from breaking free from this abusive relationship, Tory, Lib-Dem and Labour politicians have fallen over themselves act as mouthpieces for the City and big business. This has highlighted just who is in control. The UK’s longstanding treatment of Ireland should already have provided one warning of the violence the British ruling class can resort to. But isolating one partner, by cynically currying favour with the others, has all been part of their manipulative method, as Scottish people are now finding out.
However, the power of the British ruling class is not unlimited. It depends on the degree of real working class unity that can be achieved – not just within Scotland, but together with our other abused partners in England, Wales and Ireland. More people can see that ‘Better Together’ is part of the shared Tory, Lib-Dem and Labour pro-austerity, pro-war alliance. This will continue whichever party wins the 2015 Westminster General Election.
People outwith Scotland, are beginning to understand that the September 18th referendum is not primarily a vote for a rather timid SNP government, but for constitutional change. This will have far-reaching effects for the continued existence of the UK, and hence for the state which allows the British ruling class to maintain its abusive domination over the working class throughout these islands. We can counter their top-down UK state and British unionist alliance, through our own ‘internationalism from below’ democratic alliance.
This is why the RCN has initiated the following motion passed by Edinburgh RIC, which will be debated at the National Forum on Match 29th in Perth:-
“RIC agrees to provide speakers for events organised by socialist and radical organisations in England, Wales and Ireland where the issue of support for Scottish independence is being discussed.
Therefore, RIC supports the proposal being made by the Republican Socialist Alliance platform to the Left Unity Party that it organises a conference in England around the issue of support for Scottish independence.”
Allan Armstrong (RCN)
THE REPUBLICAN COMMUNIST NETWORK AND THE RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN
The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) has mobilised a large number of Socialists, Left Greens, Left Nationalists and other Radical Democrats in Scotland. The opportunity to exercise Scottish self-determination is the issue that has brought us together, along with a concern that the SNP government is prepared to settle for something well short of genuine political self-determination.
The possibility of writing a new constitution, reflecting the social needs of the majority of people is a heady prospect. Meetings and street activities have been held all over Scotland. There has been an outpouring of writing, other cultural initiatives and contributions on the social media. Such thinking goes well beyond the usual narrow concerns. It has led to a wide-ranging discussion over exactly what sort of Scotland we want to see, and what sort of wider world we want to live in.
RIC is based on vibrant branches and on affiliated organisations. The diverse views found in our ranks are not only welcome; they are necessary. These reflect real debates over aims, strategies and tactics. Such discussions inevitably arise when people become politically involved for the first time, and when others become re-enthused after many years of setbacks. Furthermore, the political situation is fast changing, so we need to constantly reassess what we are doing.
The Republican Communist Network (RCN) is a small organisation. Our ultimate objective is described in that word ‘communist’ – not a tyrannical system built around ‘great leaders’, or rule by dull grey bureaucrats in a party-state – but a society organised on the principle “from each according to their ability; to each according to their needs”, and “where the free development of each is based upon the free development of all”.
However, before we can achieve the global commune we seek, there is a need to develop independent class organisations, locally, nationally and internationally. This involves a commitment to the struggle for genuine democracy. The struggle for self-determination is just one aspect of this.
In the context of the UK state, with its draconian anti-democratic Crown Powers, there is a need for a republican opposition. That word ‘republican’ in the RCN’s name is shorthand for the type of immediate struggles we see ahead – not just political, but economic, social, environmental and cultural too.
The RCN has been involved in RIC from its beginning. We initiated the Democracy and Republicanism session at the first RIC conference, and the After the UK: The Future of 4 Nations session at the second. We have pushed strongly for RIC to be organised on a democratic basis. We have found strong support from other organisations and individuals for such an approach.
The RCN does not believe we have all the answers. That type of sectarian approach has bedevilled much of the Left for decades. However, we do think we can make a real contribution based on our members’ extensive experiences. We wish to learn from others too. By working together, we can come to a shared higher level of understanding and therefore become more effective.
Getting a ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th is important. However, even this aim is but a step towards developing the political organisation needed to achieve genuine Scottish self-determination – whatever the vote. Alex Salmond has said that September 18th is a “once a in a generation opportunity”.
However, the British ruling class will not be able to stabilise the UK state in the event of a ‘No’ vote, especially under the present conditions of multifaceted crisis. The UK state is a declining political and economic power, dependent on life-support from an economically declining US to maintain its imperial pretensions. The need to exercise the fullest Scottish self-determination will not only remain, but will become more acute.
The British ruling class will further intensify its austerity drive. Some of today’s ‘No’ voters may be slow learners. Any comfort they might get from a ‘No’ vote in September will evaporate much faster than it did amongst those who took comfort in the defeat of Labour’s Scottish Devolution referendum in 1979 – only to find they got Thatcher instead! People placing their hopes on a Westminster Labour government being elected in 2015, are going to be profoundly disappointed – very quickly if this doesn’t happen (the most likely political scenario), but only a little less quickly, if it does.
To all intents and purposes the current Tory/Lib-Dem/Labour ‘Better Together’ coalition is a dry run for a continuing shared UK wide austerity offensive. Ed Balls has already committed Labour to George Osborne’s austerity budget limits. Meanwhile Labour is in coalition with the Tories in seven Scottish local councils.
However, a successful ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th makes the continued existence of RIC even more important. The SNP government’s official ‘Yes’ campaign is modelled on Barack Obama’s 2008 ‘Yes We Can’ campaign. It was slick, professional and drew in many naïve radicals. The day Obama was elected it was abandoned. The SNP government will do the same with the official ‘Yes’ campaign. They see their mandate coming from the devolved institutions of the UK state, not from people in Scotland voting ‘Yes’.
The SNP government intends to bring MSPs from the existing unionist parties in Holyrood into their negotiating team. No new democratic body will be created to draw up a constitution or to elect new representatives to conduct negotiations with the rUK state. RIC should champion popular democracy and mobilise wider support to ensure this happens.
Some people think that Salmond and the SNP government are ‘boxing clever’. The gloves will come off after a ‘Yes’ vote. People said the same about Tony Blair and New Labour in the run-up to the 1997 election – “Things can only get better”! Even before any negotiations, the SNPs ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals already accept the British monarchy (and hence the long arm of the Crown Powers), the economic tutelage of the City of London, and a willingness to stay in NATO to help the US/UK imperial alliance police the world for the benefit of global corporations.
All these SNP government accommodations and climb-downs are not tactical, but for real. They represent the interest of a wannabe Scottish ruling class. They want no more than a junior managerial buyout of the Scottish branch of UK Ltd, and are eager to continue business with US Mega-Corp at discount rates. However, the division between the majority of the British ruling class and a wannabe Scottish ruling class provides RIC with a political opening to put across our own alternative vision. It is very important we discuss and debate the political, economic, social, environmental and cultural changes we want.
However, such an immediate programme must not be left as a post-September 18th wish list. We have to connect with all those campaigning organisations prepared to struggle for some of these aims in the here and now. No issue is a ‘side-show’ or a ‘diversion from the real struggle’. It is not necessary to have a relatively small group of RIC activists chasing every campaign. RIC can become a much more sizeable and effective organisation by bringing people active in these many campaigns into our own ranks. By helping to coordinate partial struggles around the immediate demand for a democratic, secular, social Scottish republic, we can make the best opportunity of the chance we are being given to bring about genuine self-determination.
Furthermore, the British ruling class is mounting its own ‘internationalism-from-above’ alliance of various UK unionists, the City of London, EU bureaucrats and US state officials to head off a ‘Yes’ vote. These are the people and institutions imposing austerity and war drives on other workers throughout the UK, Europe and beyond. They are also denying genuine self-determination to other nations. This is why RIC should uphold an ‘internationalism from below’ approach, and extend our campaign to England, Wales, Ireland, Catalunya, and Euskadi, amongst others.
These are the outlines of a strategy the RCN would like to see debated in RIC, along with others. Democracy is the essence of the current struggle for self-determination. This is why RIC should itself be a model of democracy. We see our proposals as contributing to the wider debate. If some proposals are defeated in democratic debate, we will not get too upset. If some proposals are subsumed in wider decisions, which others have contributed to, we will welcome this. If some people find themselves in much agreement with what we are saying, they are welcome to attend RCN meetings, and may wish to join us. RIC, however, will remain a wider coalition, and as long as it maintains a fundamental commitment to democracy, this will remain its strength.
Allan Armstrong (RCN)
A REPUBLICAN PERSPECTIVE IS IMPORTANT FOR SCOTLAND’S FUTURE
Republicanism is at the heart of democracy. To have a republican perspective is to place Sovereignty of the People as the founding principle of any democratic structure. To many, republicanism equates only with the ending of monarchy and, they claim, our monarchy is largely symbolic, so why bother?
However, putting the principle of the sovereignty of the people into practice goes well beyond merely abolishing any monarchy; it is concerned with control, at the lowest possible local level, of all aspects of our life – the political, the economic, the environmental and the cultural.
Suppose the monarchy was abolished tomorrow, would that give us full control over our lives?
Would we, for example, have control over the land, how it is used and the wealth that is generated from it? No, because ownership derives mainly from the feudal past with capitalist acquisition grafted on. If we decide to replace the idea of private ownership with that of public custodianship and further state that decisions about land use will be made at local level then we open up the potential for development of Scotland’s vast tracts of land that could reverse the continuing rural population decline and expand the economic growth.
Politicians need to be accountable
The idea of sovereignty of the people extends to many aspects of our lives. If we, not parliament in Holyrood, are to be sovereign, then parliament must be restructured to allow this. One idea is that elected representatives should be subject to recall where they break their mandate or ignore the wishes of the people. In other words, politicians need to be accountable, not once in five years, but in the here and now. Can you imagine MPs being so willing to follow Blair like sheep and vote us into an illegal, unpopular war if then the next day hundreds of constituency assemblies had begun moves to have their MP recalled and perhaps dismissed?
Housing and transport could likewise be democratised. Imagine if the next housing development in your area were to have the design of the houses, with the advice of architects, under the control of those who were to live in them? Where to position doors, switches, power points and cupboards; the level of thermal insulation.
Likewise with food. None of us has any control over where it comes from, whether the producer is paid a fair price and whether or not it is healthy for us. Most of the time we don’t even know what is in it.
Independence alone will give us none of these things but it will give us the space to fight for them – and we will have to fight.
The monarchy is not a benign, ceremonial show. Senior Royals can refuse Royal Assent to parliamentary bills (Usually the bill is altered in advance. Freedom of information has exposed numerous examples of where the royals had been ‘consulted’. Also, Prince Charlie alone had 36 private meetings with government ministers in a three year period.)
UK state’s draconian Crown Powers
The monarchy fronts the UK state’s draconian Crown Powers. Behind the monarchy is the Privy Council. This unelected, 500 member body comprising of representatives of the military, the established church, peers, the City of London as well as leaders of the main parliamentary parties meets monthly and exercises real power. It only needs a quorum of 3! It can and does act independently of parliament and even the courts. It has authorised the continuation of phone tapping, justified the use of illegal interrogation techniques (torture) within the UK and Northern Ireland during the 70’s. It ordered the removal of Diego Garcians from the Indian Ocean island to make way for a US military base and then twice overturned the court ruling that it was illegal. Not even parliament can overturn a high court ruling without changing the law itself.
One ‘parcel o’ rogues’ through greed and ambition, sold us into this union, now another, for the same reasons, want to keep us there.
Iain Robertson (RCN)
Ian Robertson’s article was also published in the RCN’s May Day Special Bulletin. For other two articles in May Day bulletin see:-