An Organiser’s View: Just How Radical is Scotland’s Radical Independence Campaign? | Nicky Patterson

23 Jun

This article serves as an open insight into the workings of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in Scotland over the past year.  The RIC has been an excellent movement which has energised and politicised a new generation of activists, and re-energised and re-politicised previous generations of activism. Central to the campaign is of course securing a Yes vote this September, however it is universally assumed that the RIC will continue beyond this as a vehicle of politicisation and articulation of radical working class politics.  As with all major political movements there have been negative manifestations, and it is to some of these that I turn in the hope of providing a useful moment of reflection and assessment upon which we can collectively work to ensure that this opportunity for politicisation, and subsequent development of resilience to the manifestations of capitalism in Scotland, is protected, maintained, and enhanced.

I have been an organiser with the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) since March 2013, working initially in East Kilbride outside Glasgow, and latterly from October 2013 in the southside of Glasgow.  Initially the campaign was quite an exciting and energetic left-wing movement which focused closely on participation, collectivity, autonomy, and solidarity for – and with – the disparate groups and individuals from across the left spectrum which initially comprised the RIC’s elementary formation.  I remember the buzz and excitement of meetings where socialists, communists, anarchists, Greens, trade unionists, and non-aligned radicals of various hues and stripes were designing their own campaign within their own communites, holding to a centrality of purpose which was undoubtedly a collective antithesis to the general malaise of alienation that Westminster, and all of its associated apparatus, has been able to foster and develop in recent decades.

This was most certainly true in the Summer of 2013, and was still probably so in the weeks following the second Radical Independence Conference in November 2013, held at the Glasgow Marriot Hotel and which was attended by around 1100 delegates from around Scotland.  Since then however, the latent central strategy of the RIC has been diffused and somewhat compromised by several potent social elements. This is undoubtedly a by-product of the RIC’s phenomenal early successes, but nonetheless has engendered a loss of left-wing spirit, and has certainly purged the movement of anything inherent and explicit which might be called radical.

The comprehensive strategy which was devised collectively by members of the Glasgow Southside RIC from November 2013-April 2014 focused on the establishment and facilitation of community based groups who could then govern their own campaign within their own community networks according to their own resources and capacity. The Glasgow Southside RIC initially covered every district within the conurbation south of the River Clyde: from Renfrew in the west through to Cambuslang in the east; from Gorbals and Govan in the north down to Castlemilk and Barrhead in the south. The sheer geographical size and complexity of this area could therefore only lend to such a strategy, but of course the group was also required to adopt the “central” or “national” RIC strategy, and the first symptoms of a shift away from what initially constituted “radical” practice within the RIC is derived from the interactions between this enigmatic core body, and the outlying RIC groups.

The RIC was designed and founded by the very talented and extremely energetic members of the International Socialist Group Scotland (ISG) – a small revolutionary socialist organisation which itself was founded in 2011 by a factional split of young members of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Scotland – and it is no small testament to members of this organisation how popular the campaign, latterly a movement, has become.  As a member of the ISG until very recently, I was a witness to and sometimes a participant in the management and steerage of the RIC through assorted ISG-based group meetings.  Indeed most if not all of the organisers of Scotland wide branches of the RIC were until recently members, or ex-members, or close affiliates of the ISG, including myself.  The conflict then comes from the bipolar tensions between the determinations of this ‘hidden-committee’, which essentially boils down to no more than half-a-dozen key ISG operators, and the explicitly articulated, yet implicitly false “autonomy” of the local branches. Unfortunately as the campaign/movement has become increasingly popular, and even successful, so too have these two entities become largely compromised by mainstream currents and influences.  Firstly I will explain how this has happened and what it has meant so far for practical operations, and then I will return to how this has manifested in tense and often contradictory relations between the hidden-committee and the local branch of the RIC.

From the beginning there have been underlying tensions between the RIC and the Scottish Government initiated Yes Campaign (Yes). From the beginning too, Yes has undoubtedly been the very official, and often corporatised, vehicle of pro-independence campaigning, whilst the RIC has been the very unofficial and alternative-brand  vehicle – this is of course alongside other grassroots groups such as National Collective, Labour for Independence, and so on.  Indeed in some Yes branches there have even been resultant splits and factions between SNP officials or supporters, and ordinary or non-SNP members; and furthermore, (certainly in my experience as organiser) much of the early energy and drive from RIC recruits in the Summer and Autumn 2013 came from disaffected Yes campaigners seeking the space and agency to campaign beyond the strict remit of bland electoral-campaign praxis, and the confines of pre-White-Paper Yes rhetoric.  Since the RIC began to receive more press coverage however, and especially since the implementation of the excellent, and now ubiquitous, RIC Mass Canvass, we have seen a convergence of principles and interests between these two, initially very distinct campaigns.

There are two very clear explanations for this which will deliver for us a picture of the RIC’s shift away from its “Radical” roots. Firstly, there is recognition for the campaign’s success and popularity within the RIC’s hidden-committee, and this has in turn stimulated awareness of responsibility, and along with that, an awareness of risk. Partnered with the awareness of risk and responsibility naturally comes anxiety, an element of reactionary protectiveness, and subsequently a latent withdrawal of support for explicitly radical messages and activities.  The emergent “care-complex” harboured by the hidden-committee then signifies a paradoxical gain in confidence in the mainstream of the campaign, and a simultaneous loss of confidence in the radical spirit which produced the campaign itself.  Secondly, there is recognition of the RIC’s success and popularity within Yes too, who having hitherto failed to inspire the exponential grassroots growth rate of the RIC, have sought increasingly to collaborate with, infuse, and ultimately co-opt the RIC wherever feasible.  This has been achievable primarily through the vehicle of the Mass Canvass, where the RIC establish, organise, and publicise the actions, but rely upon Yes groups for the crucial elements of activity co-ordination, material supply, and data collation.  This practical co-operation, together with the seemingly magnetic convergence of both groups – the one which was radical becoming more mainstream, and the one which is mainstream becoming more radical – has undoubtedly resulted in the diffusion, and indeed confusion, of the RIC’s central radical strategy.

At the same time, and largely for the same reasons, this has also resulted in the diffusion, and ultimate confusion, of local radical strategy for the RIC.  As more Yes campaigners, as well as more “ordinary” or previously unengaged campaigners, joined with their local RIC groups, the potency of the original radical strategy – particularly that of local, and localised autonomy – became diluted by a more common tendency for deference to hierarchical notions of superiority or authority. New energies and talents have been joining the RIC all along and have been most welcome; what their contributions have not been matched with is a mode of emersion in and internalisation of the original principles of the RIC.  This role would naturally have previously fallen to the guidance and discipline of the hidden-committee, or at least its proxy quasi-democratic decision-making device known as the RIC National Forum – a monthly gathering of delegates from around Scotland to discuss those elements of national-campaign concern, such as pass the sanction of the hidden-committee.  Of course, no group is perfect, and I believe that had the ISG understood how successful and popular their RIC movement would become, there would have been sufficient forethought and urgency such as to realise better models of collective decision making than those which currently exist.  At any rate it is a singularly fundamental failing of the RIC to have mis-handled the influx of naivety and reaction that came with its rise in success and popularity.  So in a very real manner we have seen the mainstream-isation of the RIC at both its local and central levels.

In Glasgow’s Southside RIC group for example, this has resulted in Yes agencies agitating for and eventually securing power within the main organising group. This influence has not come from the local Yes Cathcart office, which has in fact been a fantastic supporting organisation without seeking to appropriate or co-opt control, but rather from a clique within the Yes Govan office which, on the establishment of a RIC Govan group enquired as to the authority which sanctioned the group, and subsequently sought to sanction the RIC Govan groups activities on a week-to-week basis [I will intimate here that from here on all references to Yes Govan are made to directly represent the clique involved in this case, and not to represent the Yes Govan office in its entirety, which I understand does an incredible amount of good and hard streetwork for the Yes campaign].  As the organiser who facilitated the establishment of the RIC Govan group – an important strategic location where the potential to campaign away from the influence of local SNP officials had to be secured – this required my very deliberate creation of space for RIC Govan members through the very deliberate creation of a (temporary) barrier to the Yes Govan antagonists.  Such a situation naturally led to conflict which has sadly been ongoing for most of 2014 without appropriate intervention by either campaign group.  One might naturally presume that the RIC hidden-committee would support the right and the agency of Govan based members to establish their own campaign group; however, whether by appeasement of Yes Govan induced by the emergent care-complex in the hidden-committee, or whether by a clash of personal interests (both parties in the dispute being linked in some way to the ISG), this support failed to materialise.  This hampered the RIC Govan group’s abilities severely, and the lack of intervention eventually led to the moves by Yes Govan to seek greater control within the RIC Glasgow Southside organising group.

The practical strategy realised for the southside – being among the most important urban campaign areas in Scotland, was basically to begin at the River Clyde and identify three community areas to begin work in, and once working branches were established and functioning, to move south into neighbouring communities, and so on: each preceding area being understood to harbour forthcoming links in areas leading away from the city centre. These initial areas were Govan, Gorbals, and Rutherglen/Cambuslang.  The work would involve identification of key community operators; their conversion into agents for the campaign; establishment of basic streetwork activities; a mass canvass; a public meeting; and finally the establishment of a community-based working group to continue the campaign accordingly; and then we move on – leaving a well-networked and high-functioning activist-community.  Throughout this however there have been implicit caveats exerted by the RIC hidden-committee as to who can be allowed to join the groups, and these descriptors – rather than aiming to avoid reactionary elements as one might expect – were designed to avoid members of particular other left-wing organisations.  Indeed this sectarian preoccupation over group-control and membership vetting has not only hampered the progress of the campaign – especially in light of the more radical expressions, but has also distracted the RIC hidden-committee from whom and what is entering the movement by different means, and with different aims.

This strategy however is specifically designed to precipitate power and control for the community-based groups i.e. RIC Govan, and not for the facilitation-based groups which operate in more general geographical areas, i.e. the RIC Glasgow Southside.  In the Glasgow Southside group, the Yes Govan agent who had opposed such a strategy, eventually recruited two members of the RIC who were both new, but who had demonstrated excellent energy and initiative, to oppose the strategy.  These recruits were also in a social position whereby they were able to influence and distort the feedback signal coming from the RIC Glasgow Southside group back to the hidden-committee.  The result of such complex relations has meant that new branches established in Rutherglen/Cambuslang, Castlemilk, and Drumchapel, have received little, or indeed in the case of the latter two, no support from the RIC at official level – and this is despite the efforts of this organiser and my supporting comrades in various groups.  In fact the situation has become so farcical that this Yes-Govanite faction has since grown – along with the usual soap-opera  dramatics – and has succeeded in its persistent attempts to remove me as an organiser, as well as to alienate me from the group (and groups) as far as possible, along with those other members whom they identify as being sympathetic to the original strategy – including of course the organisers of the new groups.  Moreover, as recently as last week, even newer groups that have been established in the southside of Glasgow – e.g. Carnwadric, Pollokshields, Castlemilk, Govanhill, Pollokshaws, and others – were contacted by the Yes-Govanite faction of RIC Glasgow Southside with notice that their groups were not sanctioned nor recognised by the RIC (effectively this means not recognised by the faction and the hidden-committee).  Notably the group which operates in the Gorbals, does not call itself a branch, and is ran by two members of the Yes-Govanite faction, thus leaving the group dynamic itself open to co-option and coercion by deference to the aforementioned superior “authorities”.  How radical, how participatory, how progressive do these developments seem? Not at all I claim, in fact these are the backward reactions of power-seeking interests which should not be accommodated in the once excellent (and can-be-again) Radical Independence Campaign!

Now I am making my official public protest to these developments in this article, and I will undoubtedly receive redoubled attacks for doing so – but my doing so must make the movement stronger and not weaker: the Radical Independence Campaign is already a success, it will be a success, but it must also be a success in respect of addressing its failings.  I fully accept that some colleagues and comrades will view this as a personal attack on the RIC, but instead this does not motivate me – what does is my fear that the opportunity to invest power in communities, and to lift the voice of the working class into the referendum conversation, will not be fulfilled in what little time we have left before polling day.  Nevertheless I appreciate that such an act may require my full withdrawal from RIC activity.  If this article gives cause for unionist delight however, then it is misunderstood, and such delight can only be rendered as misplaced schadenfreude: the unionist campaign is the campaign (and not a movement) of perpetual agony and anxiety – there is no case for a No vote. Any attempt to rejoice in what is essentially the teething troubles of a new generation’s social movement, can only serve to demonstrate the retarded and perverse philosophy of our political class, and their acolytes. No, this article must be interpreted as open, honest, and constructive criticism, to which we must all allow ourselves to turn in such an age of austere and prosthetic politicking.

What I have witnessed, most especially since the emergence of the original Mass Canvass action at Easterhouse, is the co-option of the RIC hidden-commmittee by the mainstream, which has simultaneously curbed the movement’s radical potentiality, and opened up the movement at street-level to subversion by careerist, by bourgeois, and thus by reactionary interests.  I have of course been extremely troubled by these events – as a sufferer of chronic depression and anxiety, the witnessing of a campaign which literally brought me back from the brink of suicide being undermined and subverted, along with my agency in it, has brought some intensely bleak periods of illness recently.  But this is about much more than just me.  Therefore do not read this as the miserable complaint of a dejected and sore campaigner, but rather as the insight of an organiser who has worked tirelessly to foster community-empowerment and resilience to future versions of exploitation, for and by the communities themselves, and thus not via the paternalistic modes of current bourgeois praxis. This is a plea for restoration, for articulation, and for consideration.  If the current hidden-committee is conducive to the most efficient modes of operation, then I can accept its agency – what cannot be accepted however is its lack of accountability, nor its selective currents of communication which seem to be open to some, yet closed to others.  This may be a call for more explicit structure, but at the very least is a call for a conversation about supposed autonomy, and the apparent favourable relationships which circumvent, and thus undermine such a principle.

In the southside of Glasgow we have over 400 members, most of whom were recruited whilst I was organising there; at organising meetings however we are struggling to make over twenty members – and some of those within the power-seeking Yes-Govanite faction have stated that the other 380+ members do not matter, as they do not attend the meetings.  I say that this attitude is fundamentally wrong, and that efforts must be made to facilitate the agency, participation and empowerment of these other members.  I say that the new apparent strategy of divesting power from those members who have established their own community based RIC groups is fundamentally wrong, and plays into the hands of those who seek power rather than those that need power.  I say that the original strategy must be re-established, that these local groups are re-affirmed, and that the RIC leadership restore to the radical roots of the campaign, which explicitly challenge reaction and bourgeois power-play, and which champion the voice and the power of working class communities throughout Scotland!

 

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7 Responses to “An Organiser’s View: Just How Radical is Scotland’s Radical Independence Campaign? | Nicky Patterson”

  1. Revolving Rapids June 24, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Firstly, thanks very much for this. You’ve clearly thought about these problems deeply and reflected a lot on it. Kudos to you for writing something as sensitive, candid and measured as this.

    A couple of points, speaking as a non-central-belt activist.

    While you have touched upon the very real issue of the ‘hidden committee’ in relation to branches across the country, this problem diminishes the further you travel from the central belt. Although that’s not to say ‘the centre’ does not impinge upon the NE of the country – it clearly does in more subtle and less sectarian ways (eg. setting agenda for national forums).

    Pretty much all of your experience and analysis is focused on Glasgow. There is a tendency for those based there to extrapolate political trends from that city to the rest of the country. The political campaign style of ‘organise, dominate, agitate’ by a single faction or group is commonplace there and absent in Dundee, for example. So, the title – “How radical is Scotland’s RIC?” – is reaching beyond the discussion framework, I’d say.

    However, you recognise the mainstreaming-radicalising dynamic between RI & YS, which is an excellent point that needs to be addressed.

    • Nicky Patterson June 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      Thanks for the candid response too.

      Point taken re Glasgow-centric nature, although I had heard that similar complaints were being discussed in the other cities.

      I’d maintain the two key points here are the compromise of radical space and praxis, and the dysfunctional aspects of the hidden-committee; and I’d hope that my analysis is still of use beyond the central belt?

      Many here share my position but aren’t confident about articulating it. Their respective positions would be bolstered with the assurance that the main issues exist beyond Glasgow, and that there is support for such analysis outwith.

      • Revolving Rapids June 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

        Yeah, you are quite right regarding your two key points, and applying them nationally. What you said certainly has some resonance beyond the central belt, but drawing on what you’ve written, it’s almost as if Glasgow is at the crucial stage – if this continues, the original aims and mode of conduct of RIC could be lost. In my experience, the problem is not so severe in other places.

        The story of the clique in Yes Govan is worrying, but I’ve never heard of similar problems elsewhere. That was a development I regarded as a typical Glasgow political phenomenon. I have not heard of cases like this in the north east branches, for example. If this has happened other branches in the country, it would be good to have them addressed as you did here.

        Unfortunately, change doesn’t just require folk like you to identify and talk about it (which was bold in itself); but for those who have been dominating to acknowledge their undemocratic strategies and cease. This will be the hard part.

  2. mhairi June 26, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    I’m a RIC activist in Govan (presumably not one of the two referred to in the above as I dont think I could be described as new) . I wasnt aware that there was such a formal strategy for the Southside, far less one as detailed as the one above which was specifically aimed at the area I live in. I would have thought that if there was such a strategy, I’d have thought that someone would have been in touch with me to at least inform me of it, if not actually discuss it with me.

    But seeing as I’ve now found out about it, here are my thoughts….

    – The work would involve identification of key community operators;
    What is a “key community operator”? I have quite good contacts with a number of local community campaigners, many of whom are already involved in the pro-indy campaign. I and others who have been involved in radical activity in Govan already know a lot of these people and have worked with them over the years.

    – their conversion into agents for the campaign;
    Which campaign? RIC? Firstly some of them are not supportive of independence, although I disagree, that is their prerogative. Many of them also already have their own affiliations within the independence campaign – particularly women for indy and labour for indy. If they choose to get more involved in RIC, so much the better, but given that women and labour supporters are key demographics that need won over, I think that Govan pro-indy movement having such people is a positive, and I wouldnt want to “poach” them for RIC, although I do encourage them to come to RIC mass canvasses which they do (again usually under their own banners within the mass canvasses). One of the main issues in Govan atm is the closure of a local nursery, one of the main campaigners in involved in Govan pro-indy work, but she already has priorities for her political work and the suggestion that she should be “converted into an agent of the [RIC] campaign” seems to me to be a bit sinister and manipulative

    – establishment of basic streetwork activities;
    We already hold a pro-indy stall at Govan Cross at 10.30 on Saturdays. We hold it under the banner of YES, as this we tend to consider it the “umbella” organisation. Usually there are about 8-15 people there over the course of the morning, We could set up a RIC stall, as well, but I dont understand why we would want to rather than just having our literature on the YES stall together with all the other “flavours” of the campaign. Apart from anything, us all being together means that we are informed of each others perspectives.

    – a mass canvass;
    We already canvass twice a week in Govan, on Tuesdays and Sundays. This Tuesday evening we had 20 people out. We have almost covered the whole of the ward, and will soon be moving on to a follow up canvass based on our returns sheets. I don’t understand what good a mass canvass would do and I think that there are areas which haven’t had nearly the level of activity as Govan that are far more in need of a mass canvas to kickstart a campaign than our area is (much as it would be super fun to do this)

    – a public meeting;
    We had one in Kinning Park (which isnt actually Govan, but hey ho) a couple of weeks ago.

    – and finally the establishment of a community-based working group to continue the campaign accordingly; and then we move on – leaving a well-networked and high-functioning activist-community”

    But we *have* a “well-networked and high-functioning activist community”, of course that can always be improved, but Govan has always been a radical hotbed and it remains so. It seems like RIC Southside are trying to solve problems that don’t exist. I suspect that the RIC activists who were telling you that this was a flawed plan were not “recruited by the YES Govan agent” (who is the YES Govan agent anyway? I’ve never met anyone who goes by that title.), but were responding to the substantive.

    I’m really quite concerned to find out about this. We have a lively and active pro-indy campaign up and running in Govan which operates across the pro-indy spectrum and I’m concerned that RIC Southside might be creating tensions with other elements which are quite unnecessary as they dont understand the local conditions.

  3. Nicky Patterson June 26, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    Mhairi – thanks for the considered response.

    A few qualifying remarks before I respond more directly:

    First of all I confess that I wasn’t aware you were involved in Govan… and I think that this is perhaps demonstrable of general poor communication in Glasgow? In fact it certainly is because there has been an active RIC branch in Govan since February and they have held stalls at the shopping centre every week since then; moreover, if I have read your comments correctly, you weren’t aware of this, and perhaps haven’t had contact with the group there?

    Secondly, just to clarify that the term “agent” is meant in the literal semantic, as is “operator”, and these terms are borrowed from the lexicon of participatory politics. I can see what you mean, and these terms are perhaps too literal for the nature of the conversation we are having; but please rest assured, they are not intended in any way to seem sinister or devious!

    Lastly, my intention was not to analyse RIC activity in Govan specifically; but rather to assess the current nature of relations on the Southside more broadly.

    The strategy in the southside has existed since November, and myself and the other two main organisers attempted to formalise the strategy in writing in order to share with other urban centres, in the hope that it might be useful. Due to the recent tensions, this particular initiative has yet to be completed, but you can check out my notes here – and hopefully these will frame the semantic narrative in a more instructive context.

    What’s more, given that Govan is already established, then the strategy refers mainly to the other districts of the Southside, which were, until recently, un-connected with the Southside campaign group. Once you’ve had a quick look at the link, the following response will make better sense.

    MMc– What is a “key community operator”? I have quite good contacts with a number of local community campaigners, many of whom are already involved in the pro-indy campaign. I and others who have been involved in radical activity in Govan already know a lot of these people and have worked with them over the years.

    NP- You appear to be the ideal “key community operator” type that we, as “Southside” activists would be seeking out in communities across the area through research and networking.

    MMc– their conversion into agents for the campaign;
    Which campaign? RIC? Firstly some of them are not supportive of independence … [and] many of them also already have their own affiliations within the independence campaign – particularly women for indy and labour for indy.

    NP – this is precisely so. The critical goal for the strategy is to build community networks. Those unsupportive of independence are still important for this aim. The “campaign” refers simultaneously to the pro-independence campaign and the campaign implicit within the strategy – admittedly this isn’t clear in my original post!

    MMc- If they choose to get more involved in RIC, so much the better, but given that women and labour supporters are key demographics that need won over, I think that Govan pro-indy movement having such people is a positive, and I wouldnt want to “poach” them for RIC, although I do encourage them to come to RIC mass canvasses which they do (again usually under their own banners within the mass canvasses).

    NP- again, agreed, except for to “poach” them as you put it. This is about networking and collaboration, about creating space and forums for activism, and so on. There would be no attempts to poach, or otherwise dissuade members from their inherent affiliations, but these kind of people are the ones we want to collaborate with.

    MMc- One of the main issues in Govan atm is the closure of a local nursery, one of the main campaigners in involved in Govan pro-indy work, but she already has priorities for her political work and the suggestion that she should be “converted into an agent of the [RIC] campaign” seems to me to be a bit sinister and manipulative.

    NP – hopefully previous interpolated responses have clarified that this would not be the aim! Nevertheless, it is exactly these sort of issues that all local community activists should be offered for consideration and potential collaborative intervention. If not then I think a great many of us have the wrong reading of what RIC actually is, existentially speaking.

    MMc– establishment of basic streetwork activities;
    We already hold a pro-indy stall at Govan Cross at 10.30 on Saturdays. We hold it under the banner of YES, as this we tend to consider it the “umbella” organisation. Usually there are about 8-15 people there over the course of the morning, We could set up a RIC stall, as well, but I dont understand why we would want to rather than just having our literature on the YES stall together with all the other “flavours” of the campaign. Apart from anything, us all being together means that we are informed of each others perspectives.

    NP – RIC Govan already host a stall too. I absolutely agree with your last line especially, in that it is important that “we are informed of each others’ perspectives”. Nevertheless RIC *must have the capacity to exist* as a space separate from the mainstream campaign for reasons explored above in the main piece and in the conversation with our comrade in the North East.

    MMc– a mass canvass;
    We already canvass twice a week in Govan, on Tuesdays and Sundays. This Tuesday evening we had 20 people out. We have almost covered the whole of the ward, and will soon be moving on to a follow up canvass based on our returns sheets. I don’t understand what good a mass canvass would do and I think that there are areas which haven’t had nearly the level of activity as Govan that are far more in need of a mass canvas to kickstart a campaign than our area is (much as it would be super fun to do this)

    NP – I have no issue with what you say here, but remember my original intent is about the southside more broadly, and an integral part of the strategy was for community based mass-canvass actions, as witnessed in Castlemilk, Gorbals and Pollok which we took (at the point of strategy formation) to be an essential part of local activist networking activity *as well as* the action’s importance for the Yes campaign.

    MMc– a public meeting;
    We had one in Kinning Park (which isnt actually Govan, but hey ho) a couple of weeks ago.

    NP- yes, and this was organised by the RIC Govan branch. They have adopted a similar strategy whereby they want to establish a working group to cover KP, Cessnock and Ibrox, before they move into the main portion of Govan, and then on again.

    MMc– and finally the establishment of a community-based working group to continue the campaign accordingly; and then we move on – leaving a well-networked and high-functioning activist-community”

    But we *have* a “well-networked and high-functioning activist community”, of course that can always be improved, but Govan has always been a radical hotbed and it remains so.

    NP – again, your response is based on Govan, whereas the initial intent was for the whole Southside area as described above. I do not discount what you say in respect of Govan, nonetheless the aim of the strategy is for developmental convergence between the *activist* community, and the *actual* community – or more simply, for more and more residents to become habitual participants in activism.

    Hopefully my response makes sense – particularly that my general complaint is in no way aimed toward activists in Govan, who are evidently doing an excellent job. However I maintain the thrust of my two main criticisms; I fully accept that you may not agree – although to be honest I had hoped that comrades like yourself would find some use in my article. Instead there are other districts in the southside where we do need a definitive strategy, where communities have been in flux, or have been atomised in some other manner, and where levels of networked activism are low. There are of course examples of community based operations across the country, but in respect of the areas I’m referring to, participation is severely low, and our strategy is an attempt to redress that.

    Take for example the area of Carnwadric, Kennishead, and Arden; or perhaps Toryglen; or perhaps Pollokshaws – an area of notorious poverty, violence and abuse over the 1990s and 2000s where the City have failed to offer anything instructive never mind progressive, and have resorted to modern-day “slum” clearance to temporarily relieve the problems. For me, it is our role as activists to foster capacity, facilitate agency, and empower activism in these areas. RIC has offered the framework for such aims to be achieved on a comprehensive scale. In my opinion opposition to such a view is backward – and there *has been* opposition to it. My article above is an attempt to analyse this -perhaps I have failed to do so well enough.

    Cheers, NP 🙂

    • mhairi June 26, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      I keep what I’m involved with relatively quiet – that way I don’t get hassled to do stuff continually. (A strategy that works less well than I would like 😉 ) I’ve never seen a RIC Govan stall, but perhaps I just thought that it was part of the larger group and didn’t realise that it was separate….but anyway…

      I’ve just read through your notes. Its all very bureaucratic! I think one of the strengths of RIC is that it is very open and it can be adapted easily to local conditions. I’m not clear who is supposed to be going through areas “zoning” them, and there seems to be a lot of assumptions being made about different areas.

      But its this bit I want to pick up on…

      “For me, it is our role as activists to foster capacity, facilitate agency, and empower activism in these areas. RIC has offered the framework for such aims to be achieved on a comprehensive scale. ”

      Within RIC people have a dual perspective – both radical and pro-independence. The independence movement is an incredibly broad church. It includes people who have a very traditional conception of life post indyref. Within the radical movement, although most are pro-indy, there are a number (including most notably the CPGB and some in the Anarchist and trade union movements) who are opposed.

      We need to recognise that there are people with whom we share a political project, but with whom we are antagonistic on other projects – both within the independence movement and within the radical movement.

      Fostering capacity, facilitating agency and empowering activism are based in a mutual respect and healthy dialogue. RIC is a temporary manifestation of a political intersection [scottish independence and radicalism], and where there are intersections there is flux. Establishing something very formal and regulated makes that flux far less likely, as adaption is less possible.

      Chela Sandoval, a Chicana feminist talks a great deal of intersectional organising from the perspective of Third World Women, who have a dual identity of [black person] and [woman], and how to dance between the two and I think that RIC can learn a great deal from Black women and their organisational methods – who challenge from one perspective while within the bounds of another (eg encouraging radicalism within the independence campaign, just as Black women promote Black issues within feminism; and encouraging independence moves while in radical circles, just as Black women promote feminism within anti-imperialism).

      RIC is temporary, it is critical to the next 3-24 months, but it will adapt and mutate as new challenges arise and our perspectives shift to meet it, we need not to get too attached. All that is solid melts into air, but dialectics lives on.

  4. pennycole July 23, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Nicky Patterson has highlighted the need for socialists to maintain our independence from INDEPENDENCE. On the morning after the referendum, if there’s a ‘yes’ vote, we will wake up in a capitalist Scottish state. Will we then accept the model that will be rushed into place to consolidate capitalism as ‘our’ independence?

    The SNP white paper propose a capitalist state whose loyalty will be to the monarchy, the embodiment of capitalist state power, and the corporations. Their economic model is the endless growth model with low corporate taxes and fossil fuels the main economic drivers. They want us in hock to the fossil fuel industry, the oil and coal burners and frackers. They have no intention of challenging the power of the banks, though the failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland (imminent) could destroy the Scottish economy. It will be a Scottish version of the market state presently centred on Westminster.

    Unfortunately, the RIC has on the whole been indifferent to the question of ‘what kind of democracy’, and has stood aside from some of the good debates that have taken place – the Common Weal, the debates organised by the Electoral Reform Society in Scotland, Glasgow People’s Assemblies etc. What kind of democracy we want – what constitutes democracy, or how self-determination can become more than about transferring power from one elite to another – these and other questions need vigorous debate and discussion to avoid the trap of narrow nationalism.

    When I went to a workshop on Democracy at the first RIC conference and saw four male speakers, with no apparent time limit, and a male chair – I knew the writing was on the wall. And there was no discussion about democracy and no modelling of democratic forms in the RIC itself, though at the local level people really fought for this.

    There has been no attempt to introduce popular democratic decision-making for the organisation as a whole, only the right to decide the next activist campaign. The very existence of a “hidden committee” underlines this reality. It has been electoral politics and activism all the way and so it is not surprising they have ended up in bed with the SNP. The hidden committee has made the YES vote into a thing in itself, not a thing for us. And if there is a NO vote, their dream will go up in smoke.

    For those of us who are fighting for the concept of the rule of the the majority through people’s assemblies, the YES vote is part of a process of a transition away from the market state and capitalism. But when we raise this question we are told – get independence and then you can vote in whatever government you want. But that is simply not true as the capitalist state model and popular democracy are irreconcilable opposites which elections cannot overcome. The transformation of Labour into New Labour – party of globalisation – is a symptom of this fact, and pushing a minority Scottish Socialist Party Mark 2 into the electoral trap would be a mistake. We’d be wasting an opportunity because a YES vote puts everything up for debate and we could fight for something more revolutionary.

    I support the YES vote wholeheartedly but not from the delusional standpoint that it will in itself give ordinary people real self-determination in economic as well as political terms. YES is not an end in itself, but would be a blow to the British state and parties like Labour who are subordinate to the union, and a crack in the constitutional wall that stands between the people and the power to decide the way they want to live.

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