I thought I took a gamble in publishing my short book, Scotland the Brave? Independence and radical social change, just before the launch of the SNP government’s White Paper on independence. It turned out there was no gamble at all.
The hypothetical gamble was that after analysing all the policy statements as well as behaviour of the SNP over the last few years, I had written a text that robustly and rigorously critiqued the moderation and conservatism of the SNP – moderation and conservatism in terms of what is needed to not only significantly reduce social inequality in Scotland but also provide a sufficiently compelling (and, thus, radical) case for independence.
With the massive build up to the self-proclaimed White Paper to end all White Papers, I thought there was just a possibility that the SNP would pull something unexpected out of the bag and, so, invalidate my argument. It did not (except on maybe childcare). It was a case of restating what we already knew in all its good and not-so-good parts.
In my view, the strength of the argument in Scotland the Brave? Independence and radical social change remains undimmed. And it was the right decision to have it ready to be on sale for the second RIC conference on 23 November 2013 where genuine radicalism was on display.
So what is the argument? Essentially that to both reduce social inequality and win the case for independence the prospect of a radically changed – a radically progressive – society is vital. Put more bluntly, the vast majority of citizens need to be convinced that they will be significantly better off in material terms as a result of independence.
The SNP has yet to make this case. Saying as Salmond did on the day that citizens would be £600pa better off was to merely dance around the edges of what is needed. Like much of what the SNP says, that was necessary but wholly insufficient to make the case compelling (as the latest Ipsos-Mori poll seems to show with just a 3% increase in support). Of course, underlying this is the belief that it is a relatively easier – but still very difficult – task to break the hold of neo-liberalism at the Scottish rather than British level.
Consequently, arguments about scrapping Trident and developing anti-imperialism (while not unimportant for a small milieu – especially amongst the activists) are regarded as fringe issues which are not capable of motivating the vast majority to vote yes and to vote yes to a radical Scotland.
But underlying this argument is another key one – namely that having the right policies/demands/ideas is not synonymous with those policies/demands/ideas becoming credible and convincing. We can all spout policies/demands/ideas that are full of the proverbial ‘motherhood and apple pie’. But what makes citizens see them as realisable – and see that they have a part in achieving them (other than just by voting 18 September 2014 or even voting on 5 May 2016)?
The answer is when the material grievances of citizens lead them to become involved in campaigns (even their own campaigns) to gain social justice and out of these they begin to see the bigger picture of changing society as a whole to meet their own interests. So unless the campaign for a yes vote connects in this way – or becomes part of those campaigns – it is unlikely to win at all or win on the basis that it surely must – one of being for a radical version of society and not a sense of conservatism, moderation and plus ça change.
Along the way Scotland the Brave? Independence and radical social change examines
a) why the reclaim Labour attempt by the Unite union is (whether before or after Falkirk) simply not up to the scale of the task of changing Labour and moving us down a British road to socialism,
b) the red herrings of splitting the working class and
c) what the limitations to the extent to which independence can deliver radical outcomes (because of global capitalist geo-politics).
Scotland the Brave? Independence and radical social change is published by Scottish Left Review Press, priced £4.99 and available from http://www.scottishleftreview.org/shop/