RiC Conference 2016, a response.


On Saturday the Radical Independence Campaign held a conference with 300ish attending. This was based on, in reality, where do RiC go now as they have been abandoned by the SNP and a whole swath of their very own supporters.

Here are the ten key points about the RiC Special Conference as detailed by Jonathon Shafi on Bella Caledonia. http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2016/10/04/10-things-from-ric-2016/

My responses are in italics:

1) Britain is not the benchmark

We cannot run an independence campaign which frames Britain as the benchmark. Saturday’s conference showed that we have a wealth of ideas and talent that can articulate how Scotland can break from the worst elements of Britain. Economically, socially and politically we have to put forward a clear sighted alternative to UK Plc. All of the speeches on these issues reinvigorated the vision we so desperately need and have been lacking since 2014. But here’s the fundamental warning. That’s a disaster. And that is why the radical left has such a vital role to play going forward.

The whole issue here is conflating class politics with a nationalistic campaign. Their whole theory is based on not being able to change the UK system, but somehow they can break from the unreformable UK and then somehow reform and change the EU. This is Utopian in the extreme and in reality nothing but “school boy sedition” see Crass for explanation.

The whole original yes campaign was inherently a complete support of the SNP white paper. RiC tried its best to diversify and claim that the independence movement was more than what it really was. That it was not a nationalist movement and was not an SNP front. To some extent this is true but the reality is very different, the SNP used RiC and RiC was far too compliant and was not even critical of the SNP and their policies that are in fact pro-business, pro EU and pro in reality capitalism, as fully detailed in the White Paper.

The outcome was then the tacit support for the SNP from the pro indy left for the SNP in the General election and the huge surge in membership of the SNP.

Then the crushing defeat in the Scottish elections for all the pro indy left parties in the Scottish elections. The people of Scotland spoke and rejected the radical left. 

“A well-known community activists embedded in her area for decades told me that a lot of Yes voters she knew had lost enthusiasm. They wouldn’t vote No, but it’s likely they wouldn’t vote at all. That is a disaster.”

Why? Because what was put to them in 2014 was in reality a pipe dream. After the defeat of the referendum they were then told to vote SNP in a general election and then were asked to vote for RISE or Solidarity in another. In Solidarity’s case, it was vote SNP 1 then us 2.

What a conundrum this had to create within the population. The issue with RiC and Solidarity (because Solidarity are not part of RiC, but push the same purely Scottish agenda and ideology) is the same with all “radical Left parties” the mass of the population in reality ignores us, or view us as extreme. Including mine.

Until there is a movement and change in the fundamental class consciousness of the population, then we on the left will always remain marginalised.

That is why people will not vote YES again. They looked to the mainstream parties for a way out. A way out supported and promoted by RISE and Solidarity. In this referendum they were supposedly offered that way out and then of course disaster. They look at RISE and Solidarity who supported that mainstream view and now turn away. Who’s to blame them? There was no real class perspective, only political opportunism. Vote SNP this time, support SNP this time, indy first then we worry about class.

2) We need a coalition to win

This was not designed to be a ‘get the band back together’ event as such – though that is an important element – because the political terrain has changed and RIC needs to reach out to new layers of support. That said for the first time since 2014 it really did feel that there was a genuine coalition of individuals and groups involved. Without the SNP we can’t get another referendum, but we cannot win a referendum with one party alone. Additionally, it certainly cannot win a referendum with it on the shoulders of one person. We need to rebuild, deepen and broaden the range of forces in favour of independence, and the left is going to play a crucial role in that process. On Saturday people left with a sense of rejuvenation. How desperately we have needed that since the energy of 2014 dissipated.

You will once again need the SNP to support any form of indy action. What will happen this time? Will it be once again constraint from the left, then support and compliance for the SNP?

Again I ask you to review on this point. “Without the SNP we can’t get another referendum, but we cannot win a referendum with one party alone.”

You can’t achieve anything on indy without the SNP. So is it indy first before class politics, and yet again compliant support of the SNP? 

3) We are part of an international movement

We were lucky to hear from Catalonia, France, Ireland and England. We have links with many more in Quebec, Portugal, Germany, India and the United States. As British power in the world goes through an existential crisis and through a period of radical decline it is likely we will see the establishment lash out in various ways. That means we have a crucial opportunity to promote a totally different international relations framework based on peace, mutual cooperation and solidarity. This is not abstract. Movements feed off the energy of others, they learn from each other’s victories and errors. We need an international movement for radical transformation, and
RIC is very much a part of that process.

All socialists are involved in internationalist movements and always will be. Scottish independence is a purely side issue within this international concept, we all have international aspirations of working class unity..

The anti-indy left can list even more lists of affiliations and real working links with socialist parties from all countries.

Socialism is in its very ideology and make up an internationalist movement. It always has been and always will be.

National issues, that are not about the true fight for self-determination and working class outcomes, only serve to skew and divide this concept.

4) Embrace debate in the movement

Disagreements within the movement can often manifest themselves on social media in unproductive ways. On Saturday we tried to have sessions based on real debates in the movement. On Brexit and be EU, on Corbyn and class. These only scratched the surface – but the format showed the best way we can handle tensions is to take them to real forums of discussions and debate. It is an important step forward that the radical left can provide such an arena. Let’s talk about how we can take that forward. And let’s stop the cries of treachery every time someone raises a new idea, or indeed a disagreement. That only puts off potential supporters, and weakens the intellectual rigour of the movement in general.

Agree, debate and disagree, but always do it in a comradely manner.

5) People want to campaign now

Without a referendum in place it is not possible to mobilise a mass campaign. But there are things people want to do right now, and that we should be doing right now on a strategic basis. RIC supporters discussed building anti-racism, and developing community and workplace roots and campaigns. These will get underway soon. We need to build campaigning capacity and the networks which spring from mobilising around issues in the here and now to ensure there is a strong framework in place for a future referendum that is based on localities and in progressive politics.

If you are campaigning for Independence, then campaign for that. To try and turn real broad alliance campaigns against racism, austerity, cuts, EU etc into independence issues you will then destroy those very campaigns through the divisive indy issue.

This one I find truly worrying. To divide the left even more on issues such as these when indy is only a pipe dream and now only based on EU membership is a real disaster.

If you turn these real unifying left issues into a pro or anti indy issue, where indy is the only option, then you are only interested in indy and nothing else. I will resist this at every point.

You do not own these campaigns. You cannot claim these campaigns in the name of nationalism or independence. That is an affront to us all.  You cannot frame workers’ rights, anti-racism, anti-austerity within a purely independence campaign, where independence is given as the only way forward.

If you do then it is nothing but a nationalist campaign, because you are clearly stating that we know better than you and independence is our only aim.

6) We cannot dismiss Corbyn. Unite the movement, divide the state

It is not good enough just to say ‘Corbyn doesn’t care about Scotland.’ It might make you feel good and the people you talk to feel good. But it is not an analysis and it dismisses a profound change in the political situation that has a real impact on the national question. Many Labour supporters in Scotland have waited their entire lives for this moment of a genuine left-wing breakthrough. There is a real movement in England – driven by similar impulses to the Yes movement in Scotland in 2014. Both advocate transformation based on wealth redistribution and anti-Toryism. Both are manifestations of a grassroots surge looking for an alternative to neoliberalism. Critically, both have come under attack from the same press barons and elite interests. You cannot ignore this development, indeed, we have to support it, but at the same time as holding our pro-independence position steadfastly. As the Momentum speaker at RIC said: ‘There is a voice for independence within Momentum’. We need to make that voice stronger from below. RIC and Momentum making links is an exciting development full of potential, especially as Dugdale continues to build a Chinese wall between her party and those who support Corbyn. Unite the movement, divide the state.

Of course it is not good enough. The Corbyn movement has exposed the whole infrastructure of the UK. It is a movement for change, a movement for nationalisation, a movement for socialism for the whole UK.

To dismiss this, as is implied above, as an English only movement and totally secondary to independence is the greatest mistake the indy left can make. Tacit support is not good enough. Only by supporting a Corbyn government can real change for the working class be achieved.

We all want a move to socialism. Who offers that most, Corbyn or an SNP government. Because that is what indy 2 asks us.

“Unite the movement, divide the state” so true, what is advocated here is divide the movement on national terms. Indy first, all else last is becoming a recurring theme here.

“Momentum speaker at RIC said: ‘There is a voice for independence within Momentum”

Now this would be really relevant and very profound if it was from a member of the Campaign for Socialism/Momentum group here in Scotland. But it was not. It was from a Momentum “spokesperson” from south of the border. (who turns out to be speaking in a personal capacity)

I would then have to ask for clarificacion at this point, was he a member of the SWP or more probably Counterfire?

If so this would make the whole position a wee bit clearer to me and my interest would subside.

The people from the “Campaign for Socialism/Momentum” here in Scotland, actually always put forward and support the case for Progressive Federalism. No ifs no buts, just that.

So what is the position here with this spokesperson I wonder. Is it Counterfire/SWP policy we are hearing or a real reflection?

What I do dislike most is that both SWP and Counterfire organisations totally resisted this notion of petty national Independence a few years ago.

7) Making a workplace strategy

In 2014 RIC made real inroads into areas of low voter turnout and built a campaign of mass canvassing in communities that stole the initiative from Better Together. We reframed the debate from under Labour and won without doubt the idea that working class Scotland was voting Yes for social change. But we did not develop a campaign based on work and the workplace. Next time we can develop a strategy for workplace intervention, with policies and ideas that relate to people’s experience of work in the 21st century, which has seen increasing precarity in hours, conditions and pay RIC includes a lot of trade unionists, who represent a lot of experience of raising political arguments in a workplace setting. These experiences and abilities could be utilised in a future independence referendum.

Welcome to the real world for f’s sake!

8) Towards a youth movement

The conference was diverse in its demographic makeup. Lots of people attended as their first event since the referendum, indeed for some it was their first ever political event. During the lunch break we held a strategic discussion about building a radical youth movement. This is something we need to bring energy and radicalism into a new referendum campaign. A RIC youth movement could also start to widen the gap in the polls further when it comes to young people voting Yes. We need to turn the sections of society that already support Yes into regiments of Yes support. Amongst the youth, Yes should be overwhelming in its dominance.

Engaging young people is a great thing and I applaud this. Unfortunately, not one mention of class politics. Only indy, indy, indy………………………

9) Indyref2: Timing and Theresa May

RIC is focussed on building vision and campaign organisation rather than on advocating a precise date for a referendum. That said, at the conference there were questions raised about the timing of a second referendum and many people felt that the balance of forces means that a referendum in this parliament is ideal given we have a pro-independence majority, Brexit, Scottish Labour in terminal declaimed and a weak Tory government. What we are resolute about is that if Theresa May tries to block a second referendum, we will unleash a campaign in communities, workplaces and on the streets that will demand on basic democratic grounds that a second referendum be granted.

Go for it, but not before 2025, unless you want to frame it purely around EU membership.

Let’s ignore Corbyn and go for indy ref nationalism 2, the pro EU nationalism referendum.

10) Navigating Brexit

Lastly, we have to think very carefully about the EU in relation to the next referendum. While it is likely that Brexit is the trigger for the referendum, we need to ensure we have a broad and radical policy platform that can appeal to the hundreds of thousands of Yes voters that also voted to leave the EU. The question on the ballot paper should be word for word the same as 2014 and should not be tied to the EU. Our movement should not be afraid to debate and discuss openly a prospectus that is radical and offers a real alternative to the stagnation of the failed neoliberal experiment, and that includes the role of the EU in this process. RIC can play that role, and will develop a strategy to ensure we reach out to every section of Scotland that wants to see a rejection of the status quo and an economic system rigged for the rich.

The next referendum if it is framed against “Brexit”. Will be a re-run of the EU referendum and no more.

It will be based on the proposition that Scotland was taken out of the EU against its will, therefore we demand another referendum. There is no way around this. The left indy need to acknowledge this and decide what side of the EU they are on this time.

We know where the SSP stand, pro EU and very proud to be so called internationalists, although their whole agenda is the creation of another class border. Then the remainder and minority of the RISE Scottish “Syriza” are divided on this very issue . Solidarity of course will jump where-ever the votes are and will still be rejected by every other indy grouping, because of Tommy Sheridan and now the SCOTTISH FREEDOM seeking Pat Lee.

If a referendum is based on and called because of Brexit, the only question is going to be are you pro or anti EU.

No amount of politicking and left wing, so called internationalist posturing can obscure this simple fact.

So the indy left will have to put forward a real progressive way forward within the EU. Not just the rhetoric of solidarity and internationalism, but a clear case for remaining in the EU.

A thing that a huge portion of the both pro and anti indy left think is an impossibility. Who agree the EU is greatest construct of neo-liberal capitalism that is unreformable.          


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