RIC splits

On Sunday 31 January the reconvened conference of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) split into a RIC majority and RIC minority over whether the Campaign should continue and be upgraded or whether it should be closed down. In the 2014 Scottish referendum, RIC was the radical left wing of the Scottish democratic movement. It organised with the left of the SNP, Green Party, socialists and anarchists. It differed from the SNP in its orientation towards the working class voters not least in their voter registration campaign. After that defeat and with no prospect of another referendum the RIC had gone into decline with only a few active branches left.

The situation changed in 2016 when Scotland voted to remain and England and Wales voted to leave the EU. This showed that Cameron’s promise that staying in the union was the only way Scotland could stay in the EU was false. Until January 2021 the consequences of leaving the EU remained theoretical. Now that is about to change. The issue of Scotland’s constitution is moving up the agenda not least with the Holyrood elections this year. So naturally some RIC members decided it was time to revive the campaign and upgrade its policies. But when this conference began it became a fight over continuing or closing down

The conference ended in a stalemate. At the reconvened conference on the 31st the former leadership in Jonathan Shafi and Cat Boyd and their supporters who had become inactive in RIC proposed a motion to close RIC down. After a period of debate the motion was passed by 56 to 38 from the one hundred and twenty people present in the zoom conference. There were questions over the result and whether a 2/3 majority was required for closure. There was some dispute over whether everybody wanting to vote had been able. The abstentions were not counted which would have been a check on who voted. That aside there was now a RIC majority and RIC minority.

This was similar to the battle in the Socialist Alliance in 2004. Then the SWP majority wanted to move to the new green pastures promised by George Galloway’s Respect. The SWP decided to leave but instead of resigning decided to burn down the SA to prevent the minority from continuing. The scorched earth policy created much anger. The SA minority, however, refused to accept that result and resolved to fight on. They organised a provisional organisation and convened another SA conference deciding to carry on without the SWP.

The split in RIC goes deeper than the superficial dispute over the right to continue. Dig a little deeper and we can find a dispute between radicalism and republicanism. RIC was a radical rather than a republican campaign. It reflected the politics of the SWP transmitted through its former members. Radical socialism is the dominant trend in the English left. This is expressed in Corbynism, Left Unity and reformist politics peddled by the SWP when putting on a right populist face as it did in the Socialist Alliance. These are all variations of left ‘social monarchism’ which models itself on the ‘Spirit of 45’ whilst paying lip service to republicanism.

The radical politics of RIC demanded independence first, and only after would RIC call for a ‘modern republic’. Republicanism does not depend on having a referendum or even securing independence first. The declaration of a Scottish republic could occur before independence is achieved as James Connolly did in 1916 on the steps of the Dublin post office. The fight for a Scottish republic begins in the present struggles of the working class. It does not need a referendum to challenge the SNP aim of a Scottish ‘Free State’ in some continued relationship with the monarchy and Bank of England.

Recently a Republican Socialist Platform in RIC was set up to encourage the rebuilding RIC and to upgrade its democratic demands to include the demand for a Scottish republic. This makes sense in respect of the new conditions where opinion polls show a majority in favour of independence. This attempt to rebuild RIC led to the conference struggle between radicals and republicans, which was fought out through the arguments over closing down or continuing.
The leaders of the RIC majority are now winding RIC up. The RIC minority, however, have to decide whether to follow the example of the Socialist Alliance or simply surrender and give up the struggle. Lets hope they have the courage to continue as the RIC minority and take a lesson from the liquidation of the CPGB. Then a minority refused to accept liquidation and organised the ‘continuity’ CPGB around a provisional central committee and the Weekly Worker.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *