Independence debate provides real opportunities for the left


  By Jonathan Shafi, a co-founder of the Radical Independence Campaign

The independence referendum has provided an opportunity for left wing ideas to grow and for socialist principles to feed in to mainstream discourse.

As socialist, progressives, radicals we are in a situation that allows us to promote our vision of society.  We are able to say how we would run things and expose what’s wrong with the neoliberal consensus and the Westminster establishment.

This is a debate that opens up the possibility of seriously discussing the economic crisis, imperialism, and in fact the capitalist system itself with people way beyond the usual circles of the left.  Tens of thousands of people are convinced that, for example, GDP is not a good measure of how successful our society is and want to re-establish the idea of public ownership taxing the rich and so on.

To win the referendum the Left has an absolutely crucial role to play for a couple of reasons.

Firstly our ideas actually cut with people.  If you are struggling to get, by a young person out of work, a pensioner worried about getting through the winter, a radical case for independence matters because we are there to say that independence is a means to achieving the social and economic justice they’re after.

We can say without fudging the issue or triangulating like the mainstream parties that we will fight to nationalise energy, create dignified jobs with trade union rights and end the shame of our young people being taken out of communities and sent off to die in foreign wars for the British state.

Secondly, it is the aspiration for change that reinforces the role of the Left.  In a period of massive capitalist crisis ‘change’ is contextualised to mean something more than rhetoric.  Change is needed to secure our future on any number of levels: poverty, peace, environment, human rights and everything else the Tories and the system in general externalise and subordinate in the name of profit.  Thousands of people in and around the independence movement understand this.                    
It has not been easy for the left in recent years.  And still we have a long way to go.  But left wing ideas around the independence debate are experiencing a re-birth.  That means we have a chance to popularise our ideas.

But popularising something is only half the issue.  We need to be in the business of empowering people, of building confidence in ourselves and as a movement.  We know in the event of a Yes vote there will be a mobilisation of corporate power over Holyrood just like there was after we voted for devolution in 1997.

That means our capacity to organise and mobilise left wing opinion and activism must be there writ large.  If it’s a No vote a strong Left in Scotland will also be an absolute necessity.  There are coming challenges we will all need to rise to.

If we can mobilise all of those people who are carved out of formal politics and elections then we will win the referendum.  We need to develop a clear, coherent, concise agenda for radical change that can be mobilised in communities across the country.

This year’s Radical Independence Conference will see a coming together of local RIC groups from all over Scotland socialists, greens, trade unionists, students and campaigners who will discuss how we can transform Scotland through independence.  This can be a place from which we can launch ourselves into 2014.

The Tory austerity assault must be stopped in its tracks.  It is destroying out society, north and south of the border.  To win the referendum we have to win the idea that breaking with Westminster also means breaking with Toryism and  neoliberalism.  As well as the ideological arguments involved we need creative ways to deliver our message.

Next year we could have street manifestations that focus on particular issues, a mass campaign of voter registration, mobilise public assemblies on independence and intensify the building of a genuine social movement with community roots and a national strategy that puts the interests of people before big business.

Anyone who has watched or read anything about the Tory conference knows where they want to take us.  They want to literally roll back everything won by working people since the Second World War.  Their project is a completely privatised society with the most vulnerable trampled on and the richest elevated to an even higher level of privilege.

The Westminster establishment is surrounded by an army of corporate interest.  Independence is not just for Scotland but for the poor and deprived everywhere who know what its like to be trampled on by an arcane establishment.

We can present and fight for a social alternative.  If we do that properly and on a big enough scale we can win more than the referendum we can start a process of renewal of socialist ideas and start to challenge the issues we have been campaigning on for so long in a manner that states not just what we oppose, but how we can set an agenda that puts people before profit.


Courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice