Radicalism now more than ever

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Speaking at the Radical Independence conference in Glasgow this weekend (26 Oct) trade unionist Suki Sangha warned that we need a politics that reaches beyond rival wings of the British establishment. We reproduce it here as the British state leaps deeper into crisis with the likelihood of a general election.

Our conference comes amid an intense and complex constitutional crisis. But it also comes amid human tragedy.

The bodies of 39 migrants have been found within the borders of the British state. This is a crime of racist border policies – both Britain’s and the EU’s.

But it’s also a crime of class society. The majority of these workers travelled from the world’s second largest economy, to die in the world’s sixth largest economy.

This reminds us of the meaning of radical independence – of the need for a movement not just for constitutional change, but for total social and economic transformation – for a world where such unnecessary suffering is a thing of the past.

When the first Radical Independence conference was held in 2012, what we said was forthright and daring; We said that the British state was reactionary and unjust, we said that its days were numbered due to that injustice.

Seven years later, those who doubted the truth of this have been silenced, by the permanent and seemingly unresolvable crisis we witness from Westminster to the workplaces and communities of every city, town and village in the UK.

Some said our movement was naive – a flash in the pan with no mass appeal. 7 years later the independence movement is the largest and most active in modern Scottish history.

We also heard the argument that national and constitutional questions are irrelevant to a world which has left these matters behind with globalisation. But 7 years on, from Catalonia to Kurdistan, Palestine to Kashmir, national self-determination is on the front line of the global struggle for democracy.

Time and time again we are told that we had our chance, that independence is a once in a lifetime opportunity. That our democracy was limited to one vote, on one day, in 2014.

Let’s be clear, self-determination isn’t in the hands of the lawmakers and politicians; it is the imperishable right of the people.

Seven years on we cannot ignore that we face difficulties. We are not independent. Despite the worst crisis of the British state since the second world war, the path to a second referendum remains blocked.

Despite our mass mobilisations, Scotland remains a country scarred by austerity, poverty, inequality and injustice.

Let’s be honest, the party that governs Scotland has not yet built an economic strategy which puts people before profit, makes fair work the driver of our economy or ensures investment in our public services and infrastructure.

We cannot build a nation on speculation, on extraction and nodding along with big business. We have a duty to protect our industries from closure and ensuring that our national infrastructure is not sold off to private greed.

Radical independence is about breaking from the status quo. Both in London and Edinburgh.

Seven years on, not just the UK but the entire global system is much more fractured and chaotic. There will be some who tell us that the road forward is to make Scotland a supplicant nation within a global order dominated by powerful states and corporations.

Some will tell us that we need to pick a side between Boris Johnson or Tony Blair, Dominic Cummings or Alistair Campbell, Nigel Farage or Jo Swinson.

Our choice is neither wing of the ruling class.

Our movement for independence and radical change will be served by neither faction of the ruling elite.

Our movement now has the responsibility to tackle the profound challenges we face.

If we’re asking how independence will be delivered to us, or when the time will come that we will be granted permission to ask for it, then our questions are wrong.

If this is a movement for self-determination worth its name, then we have to debate today how we achieve independence, by the only force which has ever achieved anything for the mass of people – our own capacity to organise, to fight and to win.

Picture: Suki Sangha

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