Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
This has been a long campaign. Two years ago, even the very notion of imagining winning the referendum would have seemed absurd. Yet as the polls inched closer, the prospect of a Yes vote came into our sights. Millions of people were mobilised by the Yes campaign, and by Radical Independence within it – some who have never been involved in politics before and others who have been let down by politics for decades. The radical left’s role now is to ensure they stay part of a movement for the real and radical social change they voted for.
At a recent debate, I heard a Labour MSP lament the ‘binary’ nature of the referendum. But for people in Scotland this was not a binary choice: it was not a choice between the SNP’s White Paper and the unqualified failure of the Scottish Labour Party. Instead, a growing majority of people in Scotland recognised that, while there were only two options on the ballot paper, within one of those choices lay the possibility of a new type of Scottish society.
It was not a wave of Scottish nationalism that powered the momentum towards a Yes vote: this was a debate about social justice, economic democracy and an opportunity for radical change.
Cat Boyd speaks at a Red Pepper meeting on independence. Photo: Jack Macbean
When David Cameron talks about ‘British values’, he refers to a UK culture of war, imperialism and profit. Of course, Scotland too suffers from the hangover of empire. It was slave-owners and tobacco barons who built huge parts of Glasgow. In this regard that Scotland is still too British. It is British nationalism, and allegiance to the British State that has caused more bloodshed, slavery and war than the democratic establishment of an independent Scotland ever could.
Scotland has also suffered from the same neoliberal policies as elsewhere in the UK, despite devolution. The difference however is that there is a social-democratic consensus in Holyrood, where the Tory party is an insignificant player. The independence campaign was not about Scottish ‘blood-and-soil’ nationalism. It was a rejection of those ‘British values’ to which Cameron refers.
First and foremost, it was a rejection of the last 30 years of neoliberalism and its concurrent failures. It is 59 years since Scotland returned a Tory majority in a general election, yet for more than half that time we have been ruled by the Conservative Party. The Tories are not just the ‘more-centre-right’ option. They are the enemy of socially progressive policies, no matter how incremental the policy may be. The Conservative Party undermine even the most minor of Labour’s social reforms.
Whenever the Conservative Party are in control of the Westminster parliament, not only will they push back against any negligible reform, but will force a regression on the issue. They have done so over and over again during the last 40 years. This, combined with an archaic electoral system which pits Labour against Tories for the same middle class, middle England swing votes, drags politics rightwards.
Neoliberalism is deeply entrenched in Westminster: not only within all the main parties, but also in Westminster’s links to the financial capital in the City of London, to the arms trade, to providing diplomatic cover for Israeli aggression, to inherited wealth and privilege. The Yes voters were rejecting of the most decayed and undemocratic aspects of the current British regime.
For the last two years we have worked together – and we need to continue to do so to ensure that our demands are heard. Before our conference in November 2013, George Kerevan wrote in an article in The Scotsman that the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), with its focus on working class voters, was the ‘wild card’ of the referendum. The message from that 2013 conference was that independence is a class issue, that the rich are voting No – and that remained the case for the rest of the campaign. As the vote got closer we saw a surge in support for independence among working class people who saw a Yes vote as a chance for change.
The Radical Independence Campaign’s responsibility, in the wake of the vote, is to have a way to keep the links we have established at a grassroots level with working class communities and to ensure that working class interests are pushed on to the table in whatever comes next. We want a radical redistribution of wealth, progressive taxation, a green ‘new deal’ for creation of sustainable worthwhile work, a repeal of Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation, and we still absolutely and unequivocally want rid of the Trident nuclear weapons system. We are entering this new era in Scottish politics with our eyes open – we do not expect the SNP, or Scottish Labour, to simply give us these things.
Within the Radical Independence campaign, we have battled against the ‘other’ nationalist myth; that Scotland is more inherently egalitarian than anywhere else. Concurrently, we need to confront the reverse of that myth: if we are no more left wing than anywhere else, then we are no more right wing, either. There is no reason that we cannot have a sustainable and successful socialist party, like elsewhere in Europe. In Scotland, there is a demand for a new, strong, representative left organisation that is absolutely accountable to the movement which produced it. This demand was articulated time and time again at meetings across the country.
The No vote will likely mean a drop in the incredible momentum that has been built up – for a while. But there are also thousands of people who will continue to fight, not just for an independent Scotland but for freedom from the tyranny of market forces over everyday life. The consequences of a No vote for the radical left are insignificant in comparison to the material realities for the people in Scotland.
There will be a backlash now from the establishment. There will be huge pressure, particularly from the aforementioned swing constituencies, for ‘reviewing the funding to Scotland’ as Professor David Held has stated. After the 1979 referendum, Scotland was rewarded for its loyalty to the British state with the destruction of its industries, the misuse of its natural resources, the disinvestment from rural communities and infrastructure: we will be rewarded in the same fashion again. It is the threat of independence which provides Scotland with the lever for devolution. If independence is no longer a threat to the establishment, it will be funding to Scotland that is on the chopping block. That is the next battle we face together.
The referendum debate transformed Scotland. In every pub, in every close, in every shop, debates burst out about politics among millions who rarely, or never, vote. Scotland is changing forever, and can change the rest of the UK with it. For progressives, socialists and radicals in every part of the UK, we say keep supporting us. This referendum opened up the possibility of a different type of society: one that unlocks the neoliberal consensus at Westminster. Our day will come.
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control.
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going