Opinion: After Scotland’s Independence Referendum – A Socialist Republican Perspective

The following piece by Allan Armstrong featured on the website of the 1916 Societies.

  • An instructive piece by Allan Armstrong of Scotland’s Republican Communist Network on the political situation ongoing in Scotland following last year’s independence referendum and the need for republicans to develop political struggle from below in order to advance a common agenda and impact on the political process. The article was kindly shared with us by our comrades at 107cowgate.com and appeared on their website late last year.
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Allan Armstrong speaking at JCS event at James Connolly's birthplace, 107 Cowgate, Edinburgh.

A Movement-in-the-making

The campaign for Scottish independence has been the largest movement for popular democracy seen in these islands since the Irish War of Independence. In terms of electoral participation it was unprecedented. Voter registration was 97% and voter turnout was 85%.

The ‘Yes’ alliance faced the biggest ruling class offensive, backed by the UK state, since the Miners’ Strike. Only this time it brought together the combined Tory/Lib-Dem/Labour ‘Better Together’ ‘No’ alliance, UKIP, Ulster unionists, the Orange Order, other Loyalists, British fascists, the BBC, the Pope and the Free Presbyterian Church, and the US and Chinese governments!

The ‘Yes’ alliance still won 45% of the vote, and badly rattled the British ruling class in the last two weeks before September 18th. Cameron had only conceded the referendum, and signed the Edinburgh Agreement back in 2012, because he thought the prospect of any alternative to the ‘Westminster way’ would be trounced – ‘There is no alternative’. We showed that ‘Another Scotland is possible’. Furthermore, since September 18th the mood of anger and defiance has continued.

Therefore a key issue is how do Socialists address this unpredicted situation.

First, we have to understand what we are witnessing. This grassroots ‘Yes’ campaign represents an embryonic Movement. Sunday Herald correspondent Paul Hutcheon has chronicled how, in many areas, the official ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign slipped out of the hands of the SNP officials running it at the national level [1]. The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), with its platform of internationalist anti-imperialism and republican anti-unionism, and its anti-neo-liberal social and ecological vision, was formed to provide an alternative the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals [2]. RIC concentrated its efforts upon registering  people in those working class housing schemes, where voter participation had fallen to historically low  levels.

"The 1916 Societies take this opportunity to forward best wishes to the Scottish people ahead of their vote for independence and encourage all those with a vote to use that vote, to vote ‘Yes’ and vote for independence."

At a national level, the SNP’s ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign was modelled on Barack Obama’s 2008 ‘Yes We Can’ presidential campaign. In a similar manner, if there had been a ‘Yes’ victory on September 18th, this campaign would have been closed down and the conduct of politics handed back to the ‘suits’. In contrast, RIC would have launched a grassroots campaign seeking to involve the tens of thousands already mobilised, as well as those enthused by the new possibilities. The aim would have been to create an entirely new Scottish republican constitution, with a massive popular input. RIC devoted its May 17th Glasgow National Forum to addressing  such issues, with agreed proposals coming from the Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh branches.

However, instead of a majority ‘Yes’ vote, we gained 45% support. Most would have thought this to be a major setback, knocking back the issue of Scottish independence possibly ‘for a generation’. Yet, it was Labour Party members, fronting the ‘No’ campaign in Scotland, who seemed particularly tetchy and somewhat less than magnanimous after their ‘victory’. Glasgow, Dundee, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire had ‘seceded from the union’!

Since September 18th the Scottish Labour Party has gone into deeper crisis. Throughout their ‘Better Together’ campaign, Labour, alongside the Conservatives and Lib-Dems, had relentlessly transmitted the diktats of the City of London, the CBI, the US State Department, selected Euro-bureaucrats and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. They had called their campaign ‘Project Fear’ [3]!

Therefore, it was not surprising that neither the Red Paper Collective [4], nor George ‘Just Say Naw’ Galloway [5], failed to organise any follow-up marches, or other public events celebrating the great display of ‘British working class unity’ represented by the 55% ‘No’ vote. Instead, it was an alliance of Loyalists and British fascists who went on the rampage, stirred up by the pro-union, pro-monarchy, pro-war and Union Jack waving onslaught, which accompanied the mainstream ‘No’ campaign. The Loyalists, British fascists and other deeply reactionary forces get their succour from the worst elements of the Unionist state set-up and its imperial history.

‘One Nation’ Labour (‘Tory-Lite’ for the concerned middle class) and ‘Blue Labour’ (‘UKIP-Lite’ for the British working class) both accommodate to this reactionary legacy. In the pre-‘One Nation’ days, when they were New Labour, Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer pledged, ‘Whatever it takes’, for the conduct of the notorious Iraq War in 2003. Then, sounding like an old League of Empire Loyalist, he said, ‘the days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial past are over’.  Brown also took up the call for ‘British jobs for British workers’, long a favourite slogan of the British Far Right. And now we hear Jack Straw’s call for a new Westminster law making the UK ‘indissoluble’ – more Franco than Farage!

From September 19th, the day after the referendum, and despite all the illusions and contradictions involved, tens of thousands joined the SNP, with several more thousands signing up to the Greens and SSP. RIC branches have had the largest attendances they have ever seen. RIC’s forthcoming national conference in Glasgow on November 22nd will be the biggest yet. This is in marked contrast to the ‘No’ camp, where the only growing political force seems to be UKIP.

We could be witnessing something with even greater potential than the large campaigns formed by the autonomous ‘Yes’ groups and RIC. Campaigns can ebb and flow like CND or the Anti-War Movement. Instead, what we could be looking at is a potential republican Movement that could unite struggles in the economic, social, cultural and political/democratic arenas, and provide an inspiration beyond Scotland. And by republican, this does not mean merely having an aspiration for a future monarchy-free Scotland, but making the democratic affirmation, in the here and now, that sovereignty lies with the people, not with Westminster [6]. Laws imposed on us, under the UK’s anti-democratic  Crown in Parliament  formula, can be resisted when they undermine our economic, social, cultural and political rights. The Anti-Poll Tax campaign, triggered off in Scotland, was a good example of this.

Nevertheless, the idea of RIC developing further as a new republican Movement will need to be defended against those who would divert it behind largely electoral schemes. These would most likely end up providing support for the SNP leadership’s project of gaining complete hegemony over the movement for Scottish self-determination. Their interests lie in building up a new Scottish ruling class through pro-business policies and the incremental reform of the existing UK state.

To counter this prospect, we need a republican Movement that can sustain itself through its participants’ increased awareness of the nature of the UK state; and their better understanding of the role of the US/UK imperial alliance in underpinning the current global corporate order. We need a Movement that addresses the needs of the exploited and oppressed. This will inevitably have to challenge, not only Westminster and Labour, but also the Holyrood government and the SNP, and those local councils they run or help to run, as they continue to attack vital services in working class communities and their employees’ jobs, pay and conditions.

A sustainable Movement certainly needs to have a clear political analysis of the situation and the obstacles we face. It has to develop a longer-term strategy. However, it also needs to build its own independent base of support. This can not be done by depending on the very institutions it hopes to replace, even if it may be necessary to participate in these for a time. Nor can it be done jumping into every fleeting campaign or flash mob event. These tend to draw their support from the angry and perplexed. In their frustration, they often look to any means to hit back. Yet some of these activities can be counter-productive, e.g. “We are the 45%” so, in effect, everyone else, ‘Stuff You’!

Campaigning group Republicans For Independence was established by James Connolly Society in 2012

The relationship between Movement and Party

A Party is the best political vehicle for promoting more soundly grounded courses of action. However, many individuals’ experiences of existing parties is such that they often reject the idea of a Party altogether. This has contributed instead to a worship of movements, whether expressed in Anarchist, libertarian, radical, populist or just ‘movementist’ terms.

Yet those movements, which are sometimes idealised in such thinking, e.g. Occupy, tend to be episodic and initially well-supported campaigns, triggered by a reaction to something specific, e.g. the 2008 Financial Crash. Since they make a political virtue out of spontaneity, they are unable to undertake a deeper political analysis, or provide a longer-term strategy, which can sustain them. They do not develop into a wider Movement that can unite every aspect of the struggle.

We have certainly seen the political decay of once well-supported Parties, e.g. the Labour Party, and the one-time official Communist Parties (stronger on the continent than over here). They drew much of their strength from being at the centre of real Movements, e.g. the Labour Movement with its own political party, trade unions, cooperative societies, workers educational associations, etc. However, as the Labour Party has declined, so have all their affiliated Labour Movement bodies. There is a dialectical relationship between Movement and Party. They are linked and tend to rise and fall together.

Attempts to divert our Movement into support for the SNP 

So, what sort of new Party could become the political expression of a new Movement? First, we have to recognise the distinctive political situation we currently face in Scotland, after the fall of the Scottish Socialist Party, the most recent attempt to create a new post-Labour Party. The acrimonious break-up has fragmented Socialists and further increased feelings of cynicism about the possibilities of creating a new Party. Others, after seeing the unprecedented rush to join already established parties, think another party, untarnished by the past, can just be declared.

One inadequate response to the post September 19th situation has been the Gadarene rush to become involved in the 2015 Westminster or 2016 Holyrood elections without any deeper idea of strategy; any real understanding of nature of what we are up against, either from the UK state or the SNP government; or any real analysis of why earlier projects like the SSP (never mind all the Marxist-Leninist-{Trotskyist} sect-parties) faltered or failed.

It has been suggested that a new Left Party could be created in Scotland, which rapidly becomes a ‘player’ making deals with other ‘Independistas’. Such a Left Party could look for allies amongst all those newly recruited SNP members, who now form the majority in that Party and who will surely dictate its policies. However, these new members will come up against a leadership that has created the ‘New SNP’, controlled from the top by the ‘suits’, and moulded to meet the interests of business. The SNP leadership has not wasted all those years creating the ‘New SNP’ to represent the interest of a wannabe Scottish ruling class, so that this can just be set aside.

SNP leaders know when to turn on the populist rhetoric and, after the September 18th catharsis, this will become more necessary for a while. We will see this at the forthcoming SNP conference.

Competing populist pitches will be made to appear more ‘nationalist than thou’, by supporting the earliest date possible for the next independence referendum – 2015, 2016 or 2020. There could be some debate about whether the SNP would allow a few token individuals from the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign to stand in selected seats in the 2015 Westminster election. Two of the SNP vice-presidential candidates have proposed this. However, the quid pro quo would be supporting SNP candidates in all the other seats, and having little or no influence on any post-election deals that would be made by the SNP leadership with the newly incumbent Westminster government.
There is unlikely to be a recognition that any likely future UK government, led by the existing Unionist parties, will ever concede another referendum. That would take the SNP leadership into territory it does not want to go – organising a Catalan style referendum [7], or even considering a Citizens’ Initiative referendum [8], in defiance of the UK state and government.

The Dear Leader voting for NATO at 2012 SNP conference.

It is worth remembering that we got plenty of populist rhetoric from the SNP government during the referendum campaign about the need to create a fairer and more just Scotland, with verbal overtures to Common Weal and the ‘Nordic’ model. However, the only real change during the period of the campaign was the SNP’s acceptance of NATO, at the heavy prompting of its leadership, whilst the catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Libya have both been supported.

Most of the SNP’s MEPs, MPs, and MSPs, as well as their paid officials backed NATO – including  Nicola Sturgeon. Her much-vaunted ‘Left’ credentials lack any real substance, although certainly she can certainly outbid Labour’s Johann Lamont in the contemporary Scottish social democratic stakes.  To their credit, MSPs John Finnie and Jean Urquhart resigned from the SNP, and to the membership’s credit the vote was much closer than anticipated by the leadership. However, the further resignation, after the independence referendum, of MSP John Wilson over this issue, shows he does not believe that the incoming members will be able to do much to alter the SNP’s current pro-imperialist course.

The SNP’s recent Westminster ‘revolt’ over UK participation in the third Iraq war was more of a political triangulation exercise, all the more so, when led by Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster party leader and Defence spokesperson. He is firmly on the Party’s Right wing and is a vigorous supporter of NATO and its military bases in Scotland, as well as its wars in Afghanistan and Libya.

During the period of the referendum campaign, the SNP government also appeased maverick tycoons like Trump, Murdoch and Ratcliff. Anti-union, tax-dodging Amazon has been courted. Scottish Enterprise Chief Executive, Lena Wilson, was allowed to moonlight in the private sector whilst holding well-paid public sector job. The SNP government wanted to send out a signal that the ambitions of anyone from the business world can be accommodated, at public expense, in an SNP-run Scotland. Building up a new wannabe Scottish ruling class involves the recruitment of key individuals to the party, as well as the phased handing down of powers from Westminster and the wider UK state.

The SNP government also created a centralised Scottish police force which immediately began to throw its weight around, arming officers on the streets, making record numbers of unwarranted searches, and implementing an Offensive Behaviour Act, designed more to suppress overt expressions of Irish republicanism, than address the real nature of the divide we see in Scotland [9].

Lessons still to be learned from the SSP – the last Left Party initiative in Scotland

How do people see any new alternative Left Party coming about? Both recalling and misrepresenting the SSP experience, some on the Scottish Left have said that a new Left Party can be still built, provided we all ‘forgive and forget’. Claims are also being made that any new Left Party must also dilute its politics to gain a new inflow of members united against ‘bad things’ and supportive of ‘good things’, or who just hate Labour. In the face of such illusions, the SSP experience can provide some useful lessons, provided that we are prepared to ‘listen and learn’ before moving on [10].


The SSP’s most obvious failure was its inability to get beyond the constant public promotion of Tommy Sheridan, who increasingly relished his role as a celebrity Left politician. Beyond any effective political accountability, Sheridan went on to promote the ‘Tommy and Gail Travelling Theatre’. However, when this particular road show became subjected to criticism, both from the Right and Left, Sheridan went to inordinate lengths to defend the show’s image, wildly attacking anyone who was not prepared to go along with the illusion [11]. When the majority of the SSP leadership very belatedly showed their own concern, Tommy broke away to form his own entirely reliable fan club – Solidarity. He has plans to resurrect this once more, but in more overtly Scottish nationalist terms.

Furthermore, just as it is obvious that George Galloway, with all his Left unionist bluster, desperately wants to readmitted into the Labour Party, so it is becoming increasingly clear that Sheridan’s strident Left nationalism is designed to win his acceptance by the SNP. What we are seeing here is not Socialist but Left populist politics. The aim is to tailend the SNP, despite any face-saving caveats such as only supporting ‘anti-austerity’ candidates. It is easier to be ‘anti-austerity’ in words than in deeds. And, how about a commitment to publicly oppose NATO too, and not just the latest war in Iraq/Syria. The SNP government still supports ‘our Scottish regiments’ and their UK state/NATO enforced role in Afghanistan.

Now, the tensions between those who wanted to develop a socialist republican approach to Scottish politics, and those who wanted to tail the SNP were already there in 2003, in the SSP’s heyday. Tommy’s loyal supporter, Hugh Kerr, ex-Labour, but increasingly Scottish nationalist, wanted the SSP to stand down in first-past-the post elections to Holyrood, the better to make way for a future SNP government dependent upon support from SSP list MSPs. The SSP’s increasingly parliamentary focus, after winning six MSPs in 2003, would have strengthened this Left nationalism at leadership level, if it had not been overwhelmed by ‘Tommygate’ [12].

This overwhelmingly parliamentary focus prefigured the sort of thinking we are hearing today about the SNP holding the balance of power after the next Westminster election. If this were to happen though, the SNP would most likely follow the course adopted by the conservative Catalan Convergence Party (CiU) in the Spanish Parliament. The CiU seeks small devolutionary concessions for Catalunya in return for propping up Spanish governments, including those of the Right.

During the internal SSP dispute, both sides looked to the courts, and were not averse to unprincipled resort to the bourgeois media. This could only undermine working class confidence in the possibility of any alternative. If you have to go to their courts to sort out your own problems, what chance have you got of challenging their social order!

The wider failures of the Left and how to they can be overcome

The SSP experience has been examined, and some of the lessons to be drawn from it. But the SSP also inherited some of the problems of a wider British Left, including those from a Trotskyist background – whether orthodox or dissident. The 2008 Crash demonstrated their continued dependency on the state. They could not present a coherent societal alternative to a capitalism facing a multi-faceted crisis, but fell back instead on half-baked neo-Keynesian national state ‘solutions’. These would not be able stand up to the pressures of today’s global capitalism.

Only if people believe there is a real possible alternative to capitalism will they be prepared for the mounting struggles needed to transcend the current crisis-ridden order. But how do we get over the problem of people seeing socialism/communism as being merely abstract propaganda or an unrealisable utopia?

Promoting independent class organisations is the way this can be achieved. We need such organisations in every area of struggle – political, economic, social and cultural. Once more we can see the link between Party and Movement. Together, these can provide us with the direct experience of self-determination in its widest sense. This then prepares us for the take-over and the running of the whole of society, in other words a revolutionary transformation.

However, most of the Left, trapped in sect-parties and their own sect-front campaigns have been unable to promote wider independent class organisation. This is why they have never developed any new Movement. Instead they promoted a Broad Leftism, which clings to the shell of an older Movement. In the trade unions, they have sought the replacement of Right officials and office bearers by those on the Left. This has led to continuous institutional adaptation and sometimes corruption. This why new Broad Left challengers are often up against old Broad Left incumbents! This deficiency arises from placing sovereignty in the hands of the officials in their union HQs, rather than amongst the members in their workplaces and branches, i.e. ‘industrial republicanism’.

At the wider UK state level, we can see an analogous process amongst an ever-shrinking Left Labour, as they go along with the UK state and its sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament, even arguing that this provides the best framework to unite the British working class! The republican notions of the sovereignty of the people, meaningful self-determination and independent working class organisation and are alien to such thinking.

Then there is the profoundly sectarian and undemocratic behaviour of Labour, Communist and Trotskyist organisations. These also mirror the practices of existing states, highlighted by the Labour Party’s uber-unionist campaign in the independence referendum, with Gorgeous George’s ‘Just Say Naw’ own road show acting as a bizarre parody.

The resort to ‘party’-front organisations, by the Trotskyist SP and SWP, e,g. the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and Unite the Resistance, provide other examples. These emulate the state’s behind-the-scenes manipulation of organisations.

However, it goes even deeper than that. Other aspects of today’s capitalist social order have become internalised on the Left. There has been a persistent pattern of sexism and sexual abuse, highlighted by the rape allegations in the SWP [13] and the sexist abuse allegations in the RMT [14]. Both organisations failed to address these issues properly. The SWP was prepared to expel or drive away whole swathes of its membership for even questioning the leadership’s handling of the issue.

This is why it is vitally important that any new Party is avowedly communist/socialist in its aims [15]; is committed to promoting independent class organisation in every sphere of struggle – economic, social, cultural and political; is thoroughly democratic and comradely in its behaviour towards others [16]. It needs a Party like this to politically sustain new Movement. However, such a Party can not be just be pronounced or developed in isolation from a new Movement, but can only be created as part of a process of developing wider independence class organisation. This will involve both political engagement and the promotion of a genuine democratic culture.

The link between the international and the national

Members of a new Party should also understand the multi-faceted crisis of the global capitalist order we live in. Its rulers can only promote more austerity, wars and environmental degradation, and further deepen class, sexist and ethnic divisions. Therefore, this Party’s approach must be profoundly internationalist, providing support to the struggles of the exploited and oppressed throughout the world.

It is also important for a new Party that it has an understanding of the nature of the state we actually live in. That state is the UK – a declining imperial power, that needs the support of another larger, but now also faltering imperial power, the USA, to sustain it in the face of growing inter-imperialist conflict. In Scotland, this also means recognising the real role of SNP leadership. They seek no more than a junior managerial buy-out of local branch of UK Ltd, and wish to make their own deals with the Global Megacorp.

The SNP’s own ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals accept the monarchy and hence the UK state’s Crown Powers; the pound and hence economic subordination to the City of London; participation in the British High Command and NATO and hence a continued commitment to imperial wars; and the continuation of the Protestant establishment and hence institutionalised sectarianism (which nowadays mainly takes the form of anti-Irish racism in Scotland [17]).

In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, Salmond offered the prospect of a ’Team Scotland’ consisting of the SNP government and representatives from all the Holyrood unionist parties entering into negotiations with Westminster. Any ‘Yes’ vote would have been reduced to a negotiating ploy. The SNP sees its real mandate as coming from being the elected government of Westminster’s devolved parliament at Holyrood. Any Movement which based itself on the sovereignty of the people expressed on September 18th, and which promoted a new Constituent Assembly with popular involvement, would have been strongly opposed by the SNP government.

Now though, after the ‘No’ vote we confront a different ‘Team Scotland’. This one is led by the British unionist parties, recently allied together as ‘Better Together’.

Lord Smith with friend

The SNP government has now joined this other ‘Team Scotland’. John Swinney, its Right wing Holyrood Finance Minister, has been assigned to cooperate with Lord Smith’s Commission. The mainstream unionist parties have called upon Lord Smith to outline further possible devolution options. His lordship is very much part of UK state’s Crown-in-Parliament set-up  – his title is a bit of a giveaway! Any demands for meaningful change in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the UK will only be answered by small-scale administrative reforms, which do not address genuine popular concerns.

The continuing rise of UKIP, which, in alliance with Ulster unionists, wants to undermine the current British ruling class-backed ‘New Unionist’ settlement – ‘Devolution-all-round’- will further contribute to the abandonment of all those ‘vows’ – Gordon Brown’s federalism and Alistair Darling’s ‘Devo-Max’- opting instead for a ‘pocket money parliament’, firmly under the control of the UK state and Westminster, and bowing to the every demand of the City of London.

Therefore, the SNP government, which accepts so much of the existing UK state set-up and the current global corporate order, will undermine any real Movement for genuine Scottish self-determination, the better to sidle up to the mainstream unionist ‘reformers’. To do this, they will demand those involved in the wider Movement fall in behind a campaign to win the maximum number of SNP MPs at Westminster in 2015 to ‘hold the unionists’ feet to the fire’ and deliver on their ‘vows’. Electoral votes and the number of MPs are the chess pieces to be played on the Westminster chessboard.

Meanwhile most of the things which will affect our lives, will be arranged elsewhere, hidden from any democratic scrutiny by the UK state’s Crown Powers. Furthermore, neither of the two SNP MEPs opposed the draconian new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Initiative in the European Parliament. These are designed to subordinate public interests to those of the corporations. This is partly because the SNP leadership supports global corporate capital, and partly because they largely accept the anti-democratic and bureaucratic nature of the current EU set-up. They just want a seat at the top table.

Therefore, one of the most important jobs for a new Party in Scotland will be to struggle relentlessly against any attempts by the SNP leadership to derail a new Movement. At the front of the Movement’s defence should be RIC.

The need for a socialist republican and ‘internationalism from below’ approach

RIC also has a keen interest in what happens in England, Wales and the whole of Ireland. This is why the new job facing us cannot be confined to backing the SNP government in its support for the mainstream unionist parties’ largely cosmetic reforms of the Union  against the rising Right populist unionist parties – UKIP and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) [18], which want to turn the clock back. The half heated nature of the mainstream unionist parties’ proposed reforms, and their complete unwillingness to tackle the underlying anti-democratic features of the UK, provides active encouragement to reaction.

UKIP already has an influence on the Tory Right and increasingly on Labour  too [19]. Loyalist street demonstrators and TUV are pushing the dominant Stormont coalition partner, the DUP still further Right. The mainstream British unionist parties all defend the reactionary UK state and Crown in Parliament set-up, which provides succour to the reserve forces of reaction, be they UKIP or the Loyalists. Opposing this effectively means making links with organisations that understand the need to challenge the UK state, and the British unionist parties that defend the current constitutional order.

Alex Salmond has tentatively suggested that his ‘Independence-Lite’ Scotland could push the rUK into wider capitalist modernisation. When the SNP government looks beyond Scotland’s borders for possible support, it mainly looks to the Labour-led cities in the North of England, to Westminster’s devolved Cardiff Bay and Stormont assemblies, and to the Troika and City of London puppet Irish government.

This capitalist modernisation would still accept the existing global corporate order, highlighted by SNP policy to cut corporate taxes for transnational companies. The SNP may have developed a slightly more critical attitude towards the City of London, than in the pre-2008 Crash days, when it fawned before the Royal Bank and Bank of Scotland. However, the role of the EU Central Bank (backed by the EU Commission, the IMF) in also imposing austerity upon the weakest, has made going for the euro no more attractive than staying with sterling. The referendum campaign revealed the lengths the SNP government was prepared to go, rather than opt for a currency option independent of either sterling or the euro.

The SNP’s wider capitalist modernisation proposals would also still leave the rUK intact. It would still act as the domineering power in these islands. And rUK would continue in its junior partner role to US imperialism. An SNP government would provide continued NATO bases in Scotland and operational support in the event of future wars, as now happens in Ireland, which is not even in NATO!

'London Says Yes' rally

It was only towards the end of referendum campaign that RIC was able to win some support in England, Wales and Ireland. Individuals like Tariq Ali, Bernadette McAliskey [20] and Leanne Wood [21] (President of Plaid Cymru and a Welsh republican) publicly gave their support and also spoke in Scotland. Members within the new Left Unity Party organised debates in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham. Cat Boyd and Pete Ramand spoke at a meeting in the Westminster parliament on June 26th organised by opendemocracy and Red Pepper [22] Allan Armstrong spoke at a meeting in Dublin, and another in Belfast, alongside Tommy McKearney; and again at a ‘London Says Yes’ rally on September 6th [23], alongside Bernadette McAliskey. A ‘Go For It Scotland’ rally was held in Cardiff on September 13thwhich Leanne Wood addressed [24]. People came from England, Wales and Ireland to Scotland to support the ‘Yes’ campaign, and RIC in particular.

The ‘Better Together’ campaign was able to build on the pre-existing British institutional and mainstream unionist party support for the UK. They were able to organise larger rallies. And certainly, the engrained Left unionism of much of the British Left, or their disregard for the particularly reactionary nature of UK state [25], held back a bigger Left response in England.

However, one of the results of the surprisingly large ‘Yes’ vote, and the last minute panic it provoked amongst the unionist politicians across the UK, is that there are now more people in England, Wales and Ireland, who understand the need for a break with the whole UK state legacy. They can see the importance of the Movement in Scotland for genuine self-determination. They can be reached by going beyond the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’ accommodation to the UK state and to Conservative/Lib-Dem/Labour constitutional tinkering.

Denying that there can be a more radical alternative, leaves the opposition in the hands of reaction, as the continued the rise of UKIP shows. UKIP plays to ‘Little Englander’ nationalism in England, whilst also finding niche markets in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which draw their sustenance from the UK state’s most reactionary features.

In Scotland, we are lucky to be living at the time of a huge popular clamour for democracy. Therefore, the socialist republican and ‘internationalism from below’ arguments outlined above can already strike a chord. These two clear principles need to be upheld against both Left unionists and the Left nationalists. They want try to divert our new Movement into more ‘reliable’ institutional channels. The still embryonic Movement and a yet to be formed socialist republican Party could be an inspiration to similar Movements and Parties in England, Wales and Ireland, all united on an ‘internationalism from below’ basis.

Allan Armstrong, Republican Communist Network, 10.10.14 (slightly amended 18.10.14)

[1]           http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/it-failed-to-win- independence-but-yes-transformed-politics-in-scotland-  and-.25385088

[2]          http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/06/20/the-independence-lite-referendum-and-a-tale-of-two-campaign/
+              http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/12/20/radisson-blu-or-post-radisson-red/
[3]           http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/08/02/beyond-the-unionists-project-fear-the-uk-state-mask-slips/
[4]           The Red Paper Collective is a Scottish Labour/CPB Left unionist alliance, which takes its name from Gordon Brown’s 1975 Red Paper. For a   critique of their politics see:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/03/15/on-how-the-vetigialleft-is-failing-to-understand-the-political-life-of-scotland-today/
+              http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/10/08/scottish-self-determination-and-the-actually-existing-labour-movement-2/

[5]           http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/02/11/just-say-naw-to-galloways-sectarian-british-unionism/
[6]           see Republicanism, Socialism and Democracy by Bob Goupillot at:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/06/16/republican-socialists-and-the-diamond-jubilee/
[7]           http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/12/10/6374/
[8]           This approach for uniting Ireland was advocated by Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society at the Edinburgh RIC branch meeting on 14.4.14. The following branch meeting, 28.4.14,gave its support to this 1916 Societies initiative.
[9]           This stems from the Irish/British political divide, backed by the UK state and underpinned by the post-Good Friday Agreement, with constitutionally entrenches a the Unionist/Nationalist split at Stormont. This political/ethnic divide has knock-on effects over here. Also see
[10]           http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2011/12/23/beyond-the-ssp-and-solidarity-forgive-and-forget-or-listen-learn-and-then-move-on/
[11]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2006/10/03/a-critique-and-exposure-of-tommy-sheridan/

[12]         Nor was such accommodation to the existing institutions of the state, including parliament unique to Scotland, as the disastrous decision of Comunista Rifondaziona in Italy to join a pro-capitalist coalition government showed, when they were wiped out in the subsequent general election.
[13]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/04/16/feminism-and-the-crisis-in-the-british-socialist-workers-party/
[14]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/08/26/sexist-abuse-in-the-trade- union-movement-a-case-requiting-a-proper-response/
[15]         Some of the RCN’s own contributions to the promotion of a communist/socialist alternative can be seen at:-
+               http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/04/16/debating-the-possibility-of-communism/
[16]         Although definitely not a Party, the RCN endeavours to follow these two principles, both within our organisation and whilst working alongside others.  See:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/02/26/comradely-conduct- policy/
+          http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/05/01/the-republican-communist-network-and-the-radical-independence-campaign/
[17]         At the all-UK level it mainly takes the form of anti-Islamicism. British fascists are trying to extend the anti-Irish racism of Scottish and Northern Irish Loyalists to cover anti-Islamicism. Britain First has been prominent in this. In the 1930’s Oswald Mosley faced problems trying to introduce the British Union of Fascists’ anti-Semitism to Scottish Loyalists, who preferred to stick to their anti-Catholicism and anti Irish racism.
[18]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/06/26/making-plans-for-nigel/
[19]        There is also a relationship between the furthest Right elements of UKIP and the TUV, with hard line Loyalist and neo-fascist organisations like Britain First          and the PUP ( which for years fronted the UVF, a Loyalist death squad).   Also see:-
[20]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/11/25/2nd-ric-conference-after-the- uk-the-future-of-4-nations/
[21]          http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/08/15/wales-and-scottish-independence-leanne-wood-president-of-plaid-cymru/
[22]          https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ourkingdom/event-hear-radical-case-for-scottish-independence-in-heart-of-westminster
[23]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/10/to-scotland-with-love-a-report-from-the-london-says-yes-rally-on-september-6th/
[24]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/19/message-from-edinburgh-ric-to-the-go-for-it-scotland-rally-in-cardiff-on-september-13th/
[25]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/06/24/labour-and-the-far-left-unionism-and-the-scottish-independence-debate/

This article was first published on Emancipation & Liberation. It is republished here with the permission of the author.


  1. TPQ apologies offered for this piece going out simultaneously with another and not getting any time as the lead piece. A boob at this end. It will now run as lead until this afternoon.

  2. Couldn't believe the outcome and was a mixture of disgusted and embarrassed for the Scots. However, get your jibes in now while you can, we will look worse when Ireland votes NO for reunification.

  3. Larry Hughes,
    One thing is for sure with the likes of you doing your usual dissing of anything republican, even those you may claim to support, there will be absolutely be a rejection of irish unification.
    A total pessimist if ever there was one. It just amazes me how being such a negative that you obviously are why you even bother commenting at all? Surely that would be a waste to time too.

  4. Beggars belief how anyone could swallow that propaganda, I've more faith in the Irish people than that. The most recent poll on the issue of Irish Unity, in none other than that pillar of the establishment the Irish Times, had those in favour of reunification at 67 percent, with 64 percent stating they'd willingly pay more taxes to see it happen

  5. larry
    Why were you disgusted and embarrassed for us? I wasn't disgusted and embarrassed.

    What worries me about Scottish nationalism and Irish republicanism is that they are political faiths with a very unrealistic view of human nature.

    What was on offer to the Scots last September was a pig in a poke, not an independent Scotland or the Promised Land.

    My view is that partition of the UK in 2016 would have been bad for Scotland. I was one of the minority that did not vote in the referendum. If you get your United Ireland do you think that your Ulster Loyalists are just going to accept it, or will they up sticks and go to Scotland and England?

  6. joe Denver

    in the unlikely event of a yes vote here for unity I don't think after their contribution over the centuries anyone would give a fuck if the huns went to England or scooterland, as long as they went.

  7. The only reason it's unlikely Larry is because they won't allow us to have such a vote - democracy in action. As was made mention of earlier the Irish people would be willing to pay higher taxes to finance reunification, if it were otherwise they'd allow for such a vote. As I was saying to you in that email Larry, I seen your 'like' of Liam Clarke's comment over on Facebook which relates to what we're talking about. What the hell is going on with you at the minute, I'm genuinely bewildered by the massive shift in your thinking, hard to believe a move to Donegal would have such an effect on a man. Your politics are now those of the Worker's Party at their nadir

  8. The boul' Hughes now reckons we need to make 'Northern Ireland' a viable economic entity before pursuing Irish Unity and an end to partition. Jesus wept, I could have mistook ye for PJ McClean, Proncius De Rossa or one of the lads. Gone to the dogs!

  9. Larry O'Stick LOL

    the thing is Sean, no matter how politically correct or ideologically the argument Larry ain't gonna give one flying fuck.

    And while that probably irritates you I find it endearing!!

  10. Doesn't irritate me at all, I'm more bemused to be honest. A man though is free to think on things as he likes

  11. Sean Bres

    Living since January 2006 in the south here I have had my rose tinted glasses removed and see the true light of day rather than living in the endless delusional fog of romantic 6 county republicanism.

    Whilst there will be a swelling of phoney emotion (euro motivated) by shopkeepers and publicans during the 2016 centenary activities the same people a week either side of these same celebrations would cold shoulder or bar you from their premises for talking republicanism or the 'north'. Maybe it hasn't dawned on you yet Sean that the 1916 societies are hardly thronging the streets with the masses? The south has no interest in taking on Britain's financial and security role in the north. There will be not all-Ireland vote, it happened in 1998, that's your lot.

    The south sold the 6 counties by agreeing to shelving the border commission in return for a scrapping of debts to Britain in 1925. De Valera talked the talk but never intended walking the walk in the 1930s. All republican 'movements' have ended up accepting partition in the final analysis. Demographics and time will bring change or else it wont. You dreaming of revolution wont push people into another futile and worthless conflict. Even if you did, what good would it do? Enjoy your wee hobby Sean safe in the knowledge you wont be arrested, jailed or shot. Good for you.

    As for Liam Clarke's article, I'm not so blinkered and delusional that I cannot read a range of material and see some merit in quite a lot of it. You should get out of that fog you live in an odd time. There's a solar eclipse today, I doubt very much doubt you'll have noticed.

  12. Sean Bres

    Snippet from Brian Hanley's book The IRA 1926-1936

    W.T Cosgrave identified the driving force of the IRA in 1931 thus. “The IRA appealed to the poverty of the poor… the cupidity of the dishonest and the envy of the unsuccessful. Despite his patronizing tone, Cosgrave was more correct than he probably realised, as discontent was the motor of IRA support. The IRA was made up largely of those who did not believe they had benefitted from the revolution of 1917-21 and who sensed that the revolution was unfinished"

    Was that like a wee glimpse in the mirror? Matter of interest, if Adams and the SF leadership were removed what makes the 1916 societies any different from SF or any other republican failures that fizzled out before you took up the poisoned chalice?

  13. Once again Larry you're on the money. Any belief that anything near a majority down here would entertain unification doesn't match with my experiences living in the 'Free State' either.

    You want to have been here in the late seventies and through the eighties. Though I was less than 50 mile from the border I might as well have been 5,000, to the degree that there was any concern shown or expressed for the plight of Northern CRN's. In general, peoples' moral compass ensured that they looked any way but North. Its only in recent times that I have come to understand that this was a valid enough position; they were acting out of enlightened self-interest. I'm convinced they'll continue to take that stance for a very long time to come; until they see that real reconciliation has happened and only when they have a sense that (that) reconciliation has become embedded in Northern society will they countenance geographical unity.

    I sometimes think that I go too hard on the likes of Sean. Many of those who still cling on to the old dogma have in fact experienced trauma, either direct trauma of the conflict or some more nebulous vicarious trauma that haunts and lingers on as a real felt sense of abandonment and betrayal. Such continuous emotional arousal precludes normal rational functioning and prevents them from making more informed choices which in turn leaves them vulnerable to cult and sect membership.

    Very challenging to communicate effectively to such people.

  14. My God Larry Hughes how bitter have you become of late hi, what to say to all that (shakes head). The less said the better but it's good to get an insight into your true character - a jumped-up git who doesn't like home truth. I can see you exactly for what ye are, the bitterness towards me positively oozes from your every utterance, your attitude is stinking and has been for quite a while now - the reason for it escapes me but it's long noted. Good luck to ye and your snide remarks, your no loss as far as I'm concerned. Here's a wee treat for ye to pass that fine evening, about the only rebel song that suits ye these days. Slan.

    The Larry Hughes National Anthem

  15. Sean Bres

    once again you resort to the personal-defensive-run away routine. Address some of the issues rather than blaming the world because it doesn't fall in behind your latest attempted re-run of historical events with the 1916 Societies or even has the audacity to ask questions. Sound familiar? Get yourself and your toys back into the pram Sean.

    Henry Joy

    As Sean's post there shows republicanism and its rigid adherents are nigh on impossible to debate with. This is because although born 'yesterday' the latest manifestation believe they were present at the first Dail. Once this position is embedded then Ireland rightfully belongs to them and the rest of the planet are defective and flawed.

    SF and the 'societies' proclaim religious toleration and sensitivity towards unionist fears in a silly attempt to somehow hoodwink them. It is a cowardly transparent agenda and is going nowhere, AGAIN. Your analysis long term is in my view on the nail. Don't be surprised if a future SF-FF government, either one party alone or together in coalition take Ireland into the Commonwealth when demographics in the north are suitably stacked in RCs favour. That will be all the reassurance unionists will get in the end game I suspect.

  16. You have some neck talking to me about the personal Larry but as far as I'm concerned you can jog on, I'm through concerning myself with any of your insulting garbage. Your attitude beggars belief and it's long past time you were told. The link for your new anthem never came up but here it is - suits your new-found persona to a tee:


  17. Run away from what by the way, it's all been discussed with ye endlessly elsewhere. You've a bee in your bonnet about something hass but as far as I'm concerned at this point it's your issue not mine. Good luck to ye, you've shown your true colours this past while - and I'm not talking about politics

  18. Sean bres,
    Don't be too despondent with the knockers and begrudgers on this forum. They are every bit as dictatorial as the bearded one they like to give off about-if they don't agree with you they will demonise and mock you as well.
    The positive gleaned with the topic of unification is that people are now starting to talk about it. Those who don't want irish unity like to shut down any debate immediately. As for those who continue to suggest that the 26 counties will reject unification then I would argue to at least let us see the colour of their money. Let's have a vote. And when as predicted by the visionaries on here,there is a no vote, at least the U.S will be spared the charade that they endure this time of year, of plastic paddies masquerading as 'irish' people flying over from the Emerald Isle to be feted by irish America. At the very least it will open the eyes of the diaspora of what irish republicans are up against in Ireland. At least some good will come out of it?

  19. With the level of infiltration within 'dissident' republicanism there is probably a serious danger that in the future with an RC majority in the north the Brits could activate them like ISIS to derail any progress towards unification. A re-run of the republican dogmatic agenda offers more dangers than solutions. Republicanism is not the answer to loyalism and orangeism. I thought I had made my thoughts on that clear many times and long before the last 6 months. Some people live in a hot tub time machine stuck in 1916.

  20. hot-tub-time-machine 1916 societies joined by Wolf Tone. Just how far back can we actually go!?

  21. What's the incessant whinging about then Larry? Your never done moaning about a party you clearly should join - your politics are identical. For a man that's never done complaining you sure spend enough time these days propping up the status quo. That's fine, you're free to do what you want, but I've had enough of your snide comments. Politics is one thing, I'll discuss that all day, but you've a bee in your bonnet about something else and have had for a while. You had the utter cheek to say to me the other night I believed I had a copyright over Ireland's rebel dead in my own mind, that was truly sickening to read. Tonight we have 'enjoy your wee hobby Sean safe in the knowledge you wont be arrested, jailed or shot. Good for you.' Honest to God lad, what the hell has happened you? You've put some crap to me this past while but maybe you just don't realise it. The best of it is your politics are identical to Sinn Fein so as I've said to ye before, you'd be as well to join. Someone should post ye a link because you're clearly itching to join

  22. Sean Bres

    Partition is an issue that is not seriously on any party's agenda. You take my political trajectory as a personal insult. I cannot help that. The societies for me is the long road to the same jobs SF and the rest are doing. If the societies can ever garner enough support to get elected in any significant numbers that is.

    I don't think it is worth the effort. You are of a different opinion. Your choice, you have the time to waste. Why ignore the history, look at those now in constitutional politics. The societies aspire to that also. Instead of accusing me of being a closet shiner, why not tell us all what sets you apart?

    Personally SF having a membership devoted to Adams for me is akin to having a registered sex offender elected as party leader. It just leaves me lost for words.

    The only thing I see setting you guys apart is lack of support and a call for an all Ireland referendum on unity. Good luck with that, if it happened my vote is 'yes' but I believe from what I see and hear even in the event that a referendum took place it would be lost. That may be hard for you to read, but it is my observation.

    Nothing 'happened' to me Sean, I just see no point telling you what you want to hear rather than the truth as I see it.

  23. It's yourself that misunderstands Larry, I've no issue with any of that or anyone's political opinion - the idea I find any of that personally insulting is absurd. There are a lot if other things you've been saying which are a different matter entirely.

  24. Sean Bres

    I honestly think you are taking the scenic route and the hard way to electoral politics. There is no 'war' nor will there be one. None of the political parties are able to do much differently. There are limitations once people enter politics proper. You have energy, youth on your side, why waste that on the periphery? Different if there was an insurgency going on...and you decided to give it your best shot. But you are engaging in politics at an irrelevant level. Just my opinion.