Anti war and anti austerity activist Jonathon Shafi offers a view of the upcoming Radical Independence Conference.
The Left cannot afford to spend the next two years sitting on the side-lines while the most important constitutional debate in Britain for centuries is being conducted. The debate will be the key battleground for competing ideas about what sort of society we should live in, and if we don't have answers to give about society we may as well pack up and go home. This represents a huge opportunity to open up a crack in the domination of neoliberal and militarist ideology which is part of the DNA of the UK state.
The Radical Independence Conference is an opportunity to bring together all the elements of the extra-parliamentary protest movement in Scotland. Those of us who have protested for social and environmental justice and human rights are almost unanimous in wishing to abolish everything Britain stands for. What we need is an opportunity to unite in common purpose. The case for independence is broad enough to represent Greens, trade unionists, student campaigners and Palestine activists because Britain's legacy in the world has been so widely disastrous.
An array of people and organisations have come to support the conference. Cultural figures such as Iain Banks and Pat Kane, many Greens including Patrick Harvie and Allison Johnston, ex-labour MSP John McAllion, trade unionists and students. Other groups such as Bella Caledonia and the National Collective are also signatories. You can view the signatories list here:
It is crucial that the left works together on this initiative. Building the conference brick by brick from the ground up together is the best way of achieving this. The report from the first organising meeting, based around working groups on conference format, campaigning, media and equalities and engagement, showed what is possible. Over 100 people attended with some traveling from Edinburgh and Dumfries. There were students, writers, trade union members, socialists of every stripe and people from a variety of social and environmental campaigns.
The meeting supported 5 clear and simple points which allow for maximum unity in action -
• 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
Of course, it is only natural that groups will have different priorities, but the beauty of designing a conference based on workshops as opposed to top tables is that it allows for a diversity of political thought to interact in the same space and provides enough possibilities to discuss an array of topics.
The conference should be a hive of debate and discussion. It is not an abstract debate over issues of political tradition, but a live discussion with real outcomes that can resonate with many thousands of people across Scotland. A Radical Independence campaign, that works positively with the Yes Campaign, but which retains the possibility of calling demos, direct action, meetings etc, can set out over the next two years how a genuinely progressive Scotland could look, and can be explicit about Britain's imperial role in the world order. We will need a campaign over the next two years that is able to openly argue that we should repeal the anti-trade union laws and that emphasises the possibility through independence to begin bringing about radical social change in Scotland. In this referendum there is yes, and there is no. But the context in which we vote yes matters.
If the Radical Independence Conference is to be a success, it can't just be a conference of the 'established left'. It has to be much broader than that to attract people who have never been to a political event before so that we might reach out with our radical message and build a new generation of activists and campaigners. It will come after fresher's weeks, the October 20th STUC demonstration and a major pro-independence march at the end of September. For the first time in a long time we can make radical ideas part of the mainstream debate, but only if we seize the opportunity now.
Check out the website to get involved, and check back in 2 weeks for the full site launch.