For an Independent Radical Scotland

Yesterday saw the launch of the Radical Independence Conference to be held on 24th November 2012.

This gathering has been eagerly anticipated on the left for a long time.  We are going into a remarkable period in Scottish history, one where we have the opportunity to shape the destiny so long denied to us.   Finally, after over 300 years we may again determine our own future.  This is not an opportunity to be squandered:  it is far too important to leave to white men in suits doing horse-trading, the debate cannot be mediated through corporate journalism, and or shaped in corridors where power is already invested.  It must resonate the length and breadth of Scotland and directly engage all of our citizens.

It is critical that all sections of the left come together to make our interjection within the independence movement as vocal as possible.  This is not only an issue for the left in Scotland, or even the UK, but a critical juncture of international importance.  In our hands we have a tool to smash the imperialist, war mongering UK state.  A state which covered up decades of colonial abuses and led our young people into an illegal war which killed hundred of thousands.  A state which maintains weapons on mass destruction on our shores and displaced Chagos Islanders to make way for an American military base.  And a state which has presided over the theft of Scotland’s oil, land and coastline to fund these murderous follies.

We call on all progressive people and organisations to support, attend and participate in a conference to found an extra parliamentary, pro-independence campaign which puts forward a vision for Scotland that is:

Green and environmentally sustainable.

Internationalist and opposed to Trident and war

For a social alternative to austerity and privatisation

A modern republic for real democracy

Committed to equality and opposition to discrimination on grounds of gender, race or sexuality

This campaign belongs to everyone who holds a radical vision of an Independent Scotland. Socialists, environmentalists, trade unionists, youth, anti-poverty campaigners, cultural figures and all individuals who support the aims of this movement are encouraged to get involved.

Opening Statement, Radical Independence Conference

Perhaps I have a biased perspective, but to me the question of Scottish Independence is a no-brainer for all those of left persuasion.  But there are two particular groups that I feel a little frustrated with, they are my comrades and I value their opinions, but at the same time its frustrating when the people that you would naturally look to for solidarity are at best “meh” about the struggle that we have engaged in for centuries just as the prize is within grasping distance.  I believe they both have much to contribute to the discussions underway, but up until this time have been less than eager to grapple with the issues that we face.

I understand that given Scottish participation in the British Empire and the profits that were made out of that engagement it is difficult to see the struggle in terms of colonialism, but it was always the rich of Scotland that benefited.  Yes, jobs and infrastructure were created on the back of third world exploitation, but the working class of Scotland have far more in common with the working class of the third world than with their upper class countrymen, and it is from their hands that we must wrestle back our land and re-create Scotland as a beacon of global justice …and we can only do that if we spend our time fighting those who would exploit us, not bickering with those who share our vision of an equitable global society based on need and not profit.

The Anarchist Movement

After many years of writing off anarchos as mad nutters, since the G8, on through the Hetherington and beyond I have developed a new respect for anarchists.  I’ve come to understand that while our tactics and culture may not be the same, our end-goal is near enough identical, and that there is value in their approach.   Which is why the main narrative predominent within the anarchist movement towards the question of Scottish National Liberation irks me.   I understand entirely the anarchist position of “No borders, No nations”, and how that gives rise to a “plague on both your houses” attitude toward both the nationalist and the unionist positions, but in my opinion that is a naive analysis which does not take into account the wider power structure.

To not support national liberation is de facto to support the continuance of the status quo, to continue to allow the British State to carry on with its agenda unhindered.   Scottish independence would effectively end the UK state and in doing so bring about a constitutional crisis.  Not just in Scotland, but also in the rest of the UK a space would open to discuss questions such as the monarchy, membership of NATO, ownership of nuclear weapons and our position within the UN, giving the opportunity for radical voices to make themselves heard.  I would greatly appreciate the involvement of anarchists in the discussions and debates that we have over independence, they have a great deal to contribute, not least about how to dismantle a Scottish state once we have it.

The English Left

First off, I’d really, really like the English Left to acknowledge that they are the English Left.  I always detect a twisted anti-patriotism when the English Left hides behind Britain, as if it is ashamed of England.    To abandon English as a national identity to the likes of the EDL is to ignore the struggles of generations of English people who have come from beyond its shores to found the multicultural society it now enjoys.  England has a long and proud radical history, and one which should be promoted.

Yes, many organisations work UK-wide, including the trade unions, but that is because they follow the constitutional structure of the UK.  In Scotland we have much in common with the English (and Welsh) left –  we do, after all, share an island  - but we also have much in common with the working class of other parts of Europe and the wider international working class.  We have an opportunity here in the North to create something new and progressive which can offer a practical model for English development.  It may seem like we are abandoning you to the Tories (sorry about that!) but as the radical force within an independent nation we have far more opportunity to offer comradely solidarity than one operating within a colonial outpost.

I don’t support Scottish Independence because I am a nationalist;

I support Scottish Independence because I am an internationalist.  



Leave a comment below, or join the discussion on the or join the discussion on the Second Council House of Virgo facebook page. .

Hi Mhairi, I wrote the article you mentioned and would be happy to have a comradely debate. I also respect many grassroots parliamentary socialists and, of course, believe in co-operation where it doesn't conflict with our principles. That said, I don’t feel the sort of arguments raised in my short article have been addressed and that to comment fully on what you’ve said would be to repeat myself. The ‘no borders, no nations’ statement is correct in spirit but a simplification of everyday anarchist strategy and the need to have an ongoing, in-depth critique of nationalism and the affects of living in a nation-state (independent or otherwise). I mentioned the potential reforms of independence but would argue that the working class can and should extract reforms from the state without trying to be a part of it. I’d also suggest that we need to question the promises being made to us. I disagree that nationalism can ever be a part of internationalism. I think this sort of analysis begins with support for Scottish independence, and for an independent state, and then attempts to add ‘internationalism’ rather than the other way round. This results in the British state being turned into something far more important to capitalism per se than it is. The idea that the working class needs to be militant and exercise power in order to support the working class round the world, that internationalism begins locally, is spot on. But this has to mean class power, an organised bottom-up movement, not representatives or control of the government. Rather than a left-wing Scottish state supporting the Catalans, Basques and Quebecois to also become independent we need to provide practical solidarity to their bottom-up workers’ movements – such as the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists and the massive student protests of Quebec. A ‘socialist government’ couldn’t meaningfully support these types of movement or would want to: in the same way that it wouldn’t want to encourage this sort of opposition to its own existence. In this sense, it’s revealing the extent to which parliamentary socialists in Scotland support Cuba and Venezuela as inspirational models of government. @Morag: 'there isn't an "anarchist position" I don't think (that wouldn't be very anarchist would it?)' For me, anarchism isn't an umbrella term for conflicting aims and ideas but a specific tradition rooted in the late 19th century European workers’ movements. The libertarian strand of socialism is by definition anti-nationalist: separate from and ultimately antagonistic to any political movement that wants to use the state.* In the same way that we wouldn’t want to capture the state through a political party, or represent the working class more generally it’s just logically consistent that we couldn’t have anything to do with a strategy that seeks fundamental social change through the partition of states.** It makes no sense to want to dismantle a state by organizing through it: after socialist independence or through the more classic seizure of state power by a vanguard. Anarchists are often charged with not being realistic. Achieving independence, even a left-wing republic, is certainly more ‘realistic’ than expecting the end of capitalism quite yet. If that and the reforms which it could gain are what parliamentary socialists are aiming for then maybe they’re on the right track (though reforms are easily rolled back). But this isn’t (pro-)revolutionary, it won’t affect capitalism. In fact, I’d argue that anarchism is realistic. We’re emphatically not arguing that it’s ‘revolution or nothing’ but that we can affect change (even just small victories( through bottom-up organizing right now and that this can have a cumulative effect. It’s only though being highly organized that we’ll achieve anything, and though individual groups and networks are necessary, it’s most important that the working class generally is organized and autonomous – that it rejects social partnership, nationalism and boundaries. Whatever governments are in power, including an independent left-wing administration, they will have to confront and defuse this class power. *I don't accept the classic frame of debate: it isn’t about socialists vs. anarchists, because anarchists are socialists; or even marxists vs. anarchists, because some self-defining marxists are in agreement on this issue, and Marx himself is central to libertarian socialist thought. **On the act of voting for or against independence itself, I said: ‘I don’t feel strongly about people voting in the referendum. If they think it’s worth the chance of, for example, finally getting rid of the nukes, rather than buying into nationalism, then I can understand that. As anarchists, we obviously shouldn’t argue for voting but nor should we fetishize the act of not voting. Of far more importance is that we are outside of the narrative and critique all political managers.’ Cheers!

Morag Eyrie
Morag Eyrie

Nice post Mhairi, very nice! Didn't realise you thought I was a "mad nutter" though :-) (not that I'm bothered). Anyway, this anarchist is very pro Scottish independence and I'm sure there are others like me; there isn't an "anarchist position" I don't think (that wouldn't be very anarchist would it?).


Thank you for responding, I really appreciate it. Fundamentally I disagree that support for national(ism/ liberation) cannot be a part of internationalism. For me they are deeply entwined. As a Marxist I see the route to a global just society based on needs as being routed through seizing control of the state and ensuring that it works in the interests of the working class as a first stage, I appreciate that you and other anarchists have different beliefs about how best that can be achieved. I would imagine tho that we could at least both agree that the UK state is a damaging international force, and its destruction would be a progressive step, it is then for us to ensure that the replacement we create is rooted in radical ideals. For that reason I would welcome the involvement of anarchists in the Radical Independence Movement. All national liberation struggles have wrestled with a narrative of nationalism, which can be seductive but can also lead to reactionary ideas slipping in. I believe that nationalism is rising across Europe and in that context it is something that we must be particularly wary of in our movement. I appreciate that anarchists don't have a "line" but I and many others would welcome the strands of thought which comprise anarchism as an influence within the radical movement that demands our independence and hope that they get involved in this initiative.

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