#RIC2014 Report: Radical Change Now / No to NATO / Stopping TTIP
- #RIC2014 on Bright Green: Read more reports and reflections from the event, watch all the sessions online, or visit the Radical Independence website.
Amanda Grimm, Edinburgh Green Party member, spent today at the Radical Independence Conference. Here’s what happened.
Mass Forum 1: Radical Change Now
Jonathan Shafi, Radical Independence: We need to think about when the next referendum will occur, and how that timing affects our strategy. He doesn’t think that the next referendum is just around the corner, so we should be focussing on the issues that we campaigned around during the last one. Social change is possible now. We can do things now to alleviate poverty and to offset and oppose austerity.
If the independence movement is going to have long-term success, we have to focus on these social issues, and work to improve people’s lives right now. We need to ensure that communities remain active and engaged, e.g. by opposing closures of libraries. Libraries are integral to broadening people’s knowledge and encouraging them to become politically and socially engaged.
How do we include and engage with new SNP members in the RIC movement? We have to realise that we were more likely to win by being more radical, and talking about changing the status quo. We need to keep holding the SNP to account.
Westminster is facing a crisis of representation and democracy. That crisis is essential to reforming the illegitimacy of Westminster. How do we exacerbate the crisis – not to cause chaos for the sake of it, but because it’s so clear that the present system doesn’t work, and needs to be overhauled.
Social media and new media is important, but radical left politics also has a place in the mainstream media. We need to force ourselves onto the agenda.
Three things we need to do now:
- Fight for social issues
- Remain focussed on the crisis of WestminsterCarve out our place in the media.
Maggie Chapman, Scottish Greens: The Radical Indy Conference two years ago had 800 people. This year it’s 3,000! This shows two things:
- Politicians have failed the people
- There’s a huge appetite for change
The opportunity to create a new politics (not just to achieve independence) has motivated people unlike any other issue. What is the role of political parties within this movement? They have a part to play within it, but they’re not a replacement for the movement. The political parties that gained so much from the referendum should use their skills and resources to support this movement. “Elections must be seen as staging posts on the way to better democracy and social justice for Scotland.” Politicians need to fight to devolve power to the people.
We must demand a Citizen’s Income, and at least a £10 minimum wage – now. We must make it impossible for big businesses to ignore the voices of the people, frack under their homes, close community facilities, maintain nuclear weapons, and continue with other plans that the people don’t support.
If the politicians get the new politics wrong, Maggie hopes that we, this mass movement, will seize the power from them. We have that right, and we need to exercise it. The new politics should deliver hope, energy and a transformed politics that our country needs.
Liam McLaughlan, Scottish Socialists: Liam is a co-founder of the Glasgow North and East branch of RIC. He grew up in the east end of Glasgow, where there was a complete and systematic disengagement from politics.
The biggest challenge for independence campaigning in that area was making people realise that this vote really mattered. He never thought that on polling day, people would be queuing up to vote, as they were.
What we need to do now, before Christmas, is to get out on the streets, on stalls, and let people know that although we lost the referendum, this movement isn’t going away. The SSP has already been doing this.
We must interlink this movement for independence with the movement against austerity across Scotland and the UK. We need to remain pillars of support for those who are going to be the most affected by cuts after the 2015 election. We can’t stand by and let Westminster politicians create another lost generation.
The desire to eradicate existing levels of poverty, and make his community and country a better place to live, is what drives Liam to continue campaigning for independence.
Sandra White, Scottish National Party: Sandra said that everyone here should be so proud of taking part in this movement, and the work we did to bring us to the verge of independence. She feels privileged to be part of this conference, where the young people are so engaged and energised.
We do have to work from within the political system, but we also have to mobilise and work from outside. We must continue the fight on the doorsteps of people who, only a few months ago, were absolutely disengaged, but who are now desperate to get involved.
People are still talking about the referendum, and are hopeful about the upcoming elections. We need to remind people about the despicable strategies that the major unionist political parties stooped to before the referendum, e.g. sending letters to people and saying that they may not have a job or continue receiving their benefits if they vote yes.
Sandra is not holding her breath for anything that will come from the Smith Commission, but she is holding them to account. “If they don’t deliver, we’ll deliver change in 2017.”
The way forward for independence is to continue working as we did before the referendum, and to get the Labour MPs out of Scotland. Once we’ve done that, we’ll be nine a stronger position to take on the British state.
It’s not just for Scotland – it’s for Catalonia, and for the people across the world who want independence and true democracy.
There’s a Yes bar in Glasgow, and there’s talk about pop-up Yes bars across the country. These will be places where people can gather and engage in political discussion. Sandra is almost certain that if we push forward and get the SNP in and Labour out in 2016, we’ll have a referendum in 2017 – and we’ll win.
Robin McAlpine, Common Weal: The people of RIC dragged the entire Scottish politics to the left – and that’s where it’s going to stay. He proposes setting the following goals to continue the movement now:
- Although we don’t have just one unifying target anymore, we cannot forget what it felt like to work together. Solidarity is incredibly important. The Greens and the SNP do need to critique each other, but in a constructive and friendly way – and try to take criticism on board. We should write a manifesto that people across the UK can sign up to. Let’s create a pan-UK alliance, driven by Scotland.
- We need to convert our aspirations into practical steps to make changes, and create content, not just slogans. Robin suggests focussing on two areas:
- Housing. Let’s build the highest quality public-sector housing, where young professionals and those suffering from poverty will live side by side.
- Cold and hunger. How do we eradicate this? Send Robin ideas if you have them!
- The Scottish Independence Convention is coming up. We need to start writing specific policy for the next referendum, e.g. about a Scottish currency. We should be ready for an indy referendum in 2020!
- We must create and strengthen our media channels, e.g. Bella Caledonia, National Collective.
- There should be an organisation to support progressive, small and medium sized businesses.
Let’s bring in as many more people as we can to this movement. We all need to ask ourselves what we need to do, and do it. We can win this within 6 years.
Robin gets a standing ovation!
Lesley Riddoch, Broadcaster and Writer: Lesley asks the crowd whether Robin should stand for election in 2015, or whether he should run the Common Weal. (There was equal response from the crowd for each option.) Of course we want such dedicated and passionate people in elected positions, but Lesley wonders whether being a political representative is the best place for such people, or whether it would drain the enthusiasm out of them. Lesley will not be standing for MP next year, as there’s a huge task to be achieved outside the political system. But we need to support everyone within the system who’s standing under the humanitarian, pro-yes banner, and working to achieve the change we want.
Does the ‘radical’ in our name make sense now? Can the movement be radical if so many people are part of it? The media continues making people think that our movement and values are bizarre and marginal. But we only have to look to the Nordic counties, to see that these values drive the most successful small countries in Europe; they’re not abnormal and unrealistic.
Lesley suggests that 16 and 17 year olds conduct their own general election in 2015, as women in Norway did in that country’s independence referendum in 1905, when they weren’t allowed to vote.
This movement is so important because it drags everyone leftwards and community-wards. It shows people that men speaking for women, or older people speaking for young people, is no longer acceptable.
Workshop: No to NATO, A new strategy to challenge imperialism and nuclear weapons
Pete Cannell, Stop the War: The disgust at the way in which Westminster disregards people’s views about going to war was a very strong thread throughout the Yes campaign, and it should continue to be a strong thread within the movement.
Pete explained the background to the current situation in Iraq, which Britain is bombing again. In 2003, British and American intervention smashed civil society in Iraq, and fuelled sectarianism.
Jean Urquhart, Independent MSP: NATO is a first-strike organisation. We don’t want to be part of that.
The rise of UKIP is actually interlinked with concerns about militarisation. War never comes when people have plenty. War=poverty=war. This all links in with the rise of UKIP and resentment towards immigrants. If people are feeling threatened because they have no job, they might consider going into the army. If people are feeling threatened because they think that immigrants are taking their jobs, then they might feel an irrational sense of security because we’re in NATO.
Two things that people here can do:
- Any time that any charity asks you for a donation, ask them if they support NATO. Scotland would save so much money if we weren’t part of NATO.
- Everyone should go to the demonstration at Faslane next Sunday, not just CND members.
Nuclear weapons and democracy are just not compatible. There is the greatest secrecy in the world around the 9 members of NATO, and the people will never know all the details: the true cost of being in the organisation and the members’ ambitions.
We need to take care of the people who work in the weapons industry, and make sure they can transition to other jobs.
Discussion: The media portrays demonstrators at Faslane as being fringe radicals, but that’s why we need to get more people and families going to Faslane, to show that this isn’t the case. The demo next Sunday will be an inclusive, family friendly event.
Hands Across Scotland is another effective way of showing opposition to nuclear weapons, and is more difficult for the media to portray in a negative light.
There will be a blockade of Faslane in April.
Workshop: TTIP, towards an international strategy to stop it
Nick Dearden, Director of WDM: TTIP ties in closely with all the themes that have been discussed at the conference today.
This trade deal shouldn’t be considered by itself: it stands alongside three other new trade deals. Taken together, this is the biggest transfer of power from people to multinational corporations and capital seen in the last three decades. It would be a fundamental and irreversible transfer of power.
There are three points in TTIP that show just how corporate the treaty is:
- A mechanism within the deal gives corporations the power to sue governments if they believe that the government has somehow impeded their ability to make profit. For example, Phillip Morris, the tobacco giant, is suing Australia for enforcing plain packaging on cigarettes, as that reduces the number of cigarettes bought. As another example, Quebec tried to prevent fracking in Canada, and now the Canadian government is being sued by a fracking company. This is a major incentive for governments to pass legislation which is not in the public interest – and they don’t need more incentive to do that!
- One of the aims of the deal is to ‘harmonise’ the standards between Europe and the US. But this harmony will most often be achieved by bringing the typically higher European standards in line with the lower American standards, e.g. food standards and bank regulation standards. It will be a race to the bottom.
- TTIP encourages economic liberalisation.
In addition, there will be an energy chapter in TTIP which would result in using more tar sands, and would accelerate climate change through other measures as well.
Nick believes that TTIP can be derailed, as there is a great deal of public interest in the campaign against it. Unfortunately, the British government is at the forefront of wanting to push it through, whereas France, Spain and Germany are more concerned about it now, due to the concerns of their citizens.
Nick thinks that TTIP can be to the rest of Europe what the referendum campaign was to Scotland: an impetus for people to become angry with the status quo and to become politically engaged.
Camelia, Campaigns Manager at European Citizens’ Initiative to stop TTIP: The Canadian equivalent of TTIP, CETA, is closer to being passed, but there’s still time to campaign against it.
The European Commission told the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) that they couldn’t campaign on these trade deals, but the Citizens’ Initiative decided to do so anyway. Since it’s not an official ECI, if they obtain the required number of signatures, their petition won’t be binding. However, they’re gaining a good deal of media attention and raising awareness of the deals. They’ve obtained almost 1 million signatures already. Camelia passed around the ECI brochures and workshop attendees added their signatures to the initiative.
Camelia congratulated the conference on what we and the wider yes campaigns achieved during the referendum. She believes that another Europe is possible as well as another Scotland, and is excited about working together around TTIP and other issues that affect both the UK and Europe.
Unite the Youth are a London-based youth group campaigning against systemic inequality and marginalisation. They recently organised a large rally against TTIP in Parliament Square.
Discussion: What practical steps can we take to oppose TTIP now? Nick suggested that we should put pressure on the Scottish Parliament, as even though they don’t have the power to vote against it, they can issue an official statement saying that they’re against the whole deal (and they’ve already said informally that they’re against it). We should of course also lobby our MEPs about this.
Anyone can sign the European Citizens’ Initiative to stop TTIP at www.stop-ttip.org.
There will probably be a mass demonstration against TTIP and CETA within the next few months, now that there is a critical mass opposing it.
There will be a mobilisation against TTIP in Brussels, in January. Those who are interested should contact WDM to find out more and get involved.
MEPs aren’t allowed to see the text of the treaty until it’s finalised, so they still don’t know exactly what it will include. An audience member suggested that we campaign to allow for more time for MEPs to learn about and debate the deal, and also that we draw attention to the undemocratic and closed process in which the EU is going trying to push through the deal.
If the UK leaves the EU, would TTIP still stand? It’s not clear exactly what would happen in this situation.
UKIP can’t decide where they stand on TTIP: they like it as it’s very in favour of the free market, but they don’t because it’s an initiative of the European Commission. So we have a good opportunity to embarrass them!
Tufts University have found that TTIP would cause 7% of the total wages in the economy to shift from the labour side to the capitalist side, and that it would further entrench inequality.