In the aftermath of the No vote, we have seen a massive rise in people joining the SNP though Greens and SSP have also saw a big increase in their numbers. This was always excepted as many feel that SNP are the best chance of gaining independence. What is worrying is that many people on the left but were unaffiliated have now joined the SNP and many others who are affiliated are falling into the Nat Trap. Given, the SNP government have made some good strides towards social justice within the confines of the Scottish parliament but I have long argued it is easier to come across as left leaning while you are in control of a devolved parliament. We are already aware of the SNP fascination with Rupert Murdoch and cutting corporation tax so these things alone should scare off those of us on the Left.
When I talk of the Nat Trap I refer to those being caught up in the Nationalistic mood. It is fantastic to see so many people still willing to fight for what they believe in and that so many haven’t been disillusioned with the result but for RIC as a group, we must be wary of such Nationalism. RIC was founded on the basis of gaining independence as a means to an end rather than independence as an ends in itself. We want to see an independent Scotland for democratic reasons and because we see socialism achievable in Scotland while almost impossible in Britain. However, since the referendum there has been such a concentration on the independence issue that it seems the real reasons the group started might be falling by the wayside. As Socialists and others on the Left we cannot forget that while independence is what we want, we are still living under the control of right-wing Westminster, facing Austerity along with inequality and all the other wonderful bonus’ we get for being part of Great Britain. We must remember that these things too must be fought against. There has been much talk of devo-max and continuing the fight for independence and while RIC will always argue for independence, I propose that we now concentrate on other matters. The SNP have large numbers and will make the argument for Indy/Devo-Max but who is arguing against Austerity, who is arguing for left-wing politics etc? It must be RIC.
On the face of it the Radical Independence Campaign are a ragtag grouping of lefties who can only see Scottish independence as a route to Socialism. But, in reality RIC was arguably the second biggest group in the Yes movement and possibly the most effective at gaining votes. What is most astounding about the movement is what it has achieved. The desired goal was independence as a means to Socialism and even though the referendum was lost, it still achieved something remarkable. In essence it united the Scottish Left which only a year before seemed impossible.
RIC has done brilliantly well in joining together groups that have split and splintered. The group signatories include people from right across the Left spectrum. From Independents and Greens to SSP, Solidarity, ISG and CND. What is crucial is that this movement is kept together and used to its full potential. If used correctly RIC can become a defining and game changing force on the Scottish political landscape. What is so vital about continuing with the success that RIC has had is not only to champion left-wing politics but to move the political sphere in Scotland further Left too. This will be of massive benefit to the people of Scotland as they will have politics that are about them but it will once again show the gulf between politics in Scotland and the rest of Britain.
In order to become the force it has the capability of becoming, RIC must change. All things considered, the group was very well organised during the referendum campaign despite the fact there was no real organisation to the group. We could carry on in this vein and we would have successes though we would have nothing near the success we could have if we broaden the group more organisationally and become more constituted. The movement is almost totally democratic with vast majority of decisions – if not all – being made at local branch level. We cannot move away from this although there should possibly be an Executive Committee created which members are voted on to along with a Chairperson and a Treasurer. Creating an EC will help the group massively. If nothing else it will mean that there will be more than 1/2 routes for people to go through and will take the pressure off certain members of RIC who are ran off their feet. It will mean that some decisions can be made quicker and more effectively though constitutional decisions and other important matters must be voted on at branch level as they are now.
The movement must put emphasis on the need for council houses, a living wage, nationalisation, nuclear disarmament etc. These things must be put before the independence agenda as we must be the voice of the left in Scotland. RIC must become a hub of debate. We must start argument and keep the arguments going so they do not fluff out. It is a necessity to bring the argument to the people in power and make sure that the argument stays there. The arguments must be pushed so hard that the media have no option but to recognise and engage in them. We must try to have the country talking of the issues I mentioned above just as they talk about immigration, as if they are talking about an issue we have a chance of winning the argument. If an issue is not discussed, how are we to win over anyone? RIC must follow the ideology that was behind its creation by talking politics. Activism is a key part of grassroots politics but creating arguments that will win over the people is more so. Each branch should be actively discussing politics between themselves so our argument is continuing to evolve. Though not everyone may like what some may say, others will learn from each other and debates will rage that could create the ideas necessary to build the Scotland of the future.
Though it will not be popular, I believe the Radical Independence Campaign must change its name along with its form. For one, having independence in the name narrows the perimeters of debate whether us within RIC like it or not as those we debate with will always refer to it negatively. Also, the campaign itself is over and we find ourselves at another stage all together. Campaign also gives connotations of short-term while RIC has to be the opposite if it is to make a real difference in Scotland. For a new challenge we must have a new name.
RIC has achieved so very much but it cannot stop now. It can become something that Scotland hasn’t seen before in a long time. A left-wing movement that can influence decisions and bring politics back to the people.