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By Jason Michael
Saying that Scottish independence is not all about the SNP is tantamount to suggesting that independence is not a political question. Only one political party can now lead us to independence no matter what RISE says and Cat Boyd votes.
Cat Boyd, Yesser and former RISE candidate, voted for Jeremy Corbyn – that is, she voted Labour – in the last general election, and she was “proud” to do this because “it was a UK election.” Where do we in the Yes movement begin to get our heads around this decision? Well, to begin with, we should be clear that it was unwise and ill-considered, but we must also be cautious not to use this as an opportunity to instigate unnecessary infighting in the movement. What is required, and urgently so, is a conversation about the so-called radical left and its usefulness to the project of Scottish independence. That I myself am a socialist, and given that the Yes movement is in the main a working class left-of-centre movement, this is an important conversation.
In and of itself RISE, as a political force in Scotland, is of little consequence. Its impact on the polls is at best negligible, but as an alliance built around the various personality cults of characters who made a name for themselves during the 2014 independence campaign it has the power to box – in terms of influencing opinion, if not winning votes – well above its weight. Its ability to divide the pro-independence vote in Scotland, as has been pointed out by others, made it a darling of the British media; thus making its members run the risk of becoming the useful idiots of unionism. While it serves no purpose to attack RISE and therefore alienate it from the independence movement, it is crucial that we examine what it is propagating and show where this thinking leads.
Better material conditions mean a greater chance for big political change. At a UK election, I'd rather see Corbyn in No.10 than May.—
Cat Boyd (@kittycatboyd) July 17, 2017
Boyd and others – and not only others affiliated with RISE – have successfully popularised the opinion that independence is not all about the SNP, making way, at least in theory, for other pro-independence parties to share in the task of representing wider visions of an independent Scotland. There is also, as we have witnessed in Boyd’s support of the Labour Party, a continued willingness to work with unionist political parties in the pursuit of a better deal for Scotland. On the face of it these arguments are cogent and appear to present a rational political method moving ultimately towards independence, but they are fraught with contradictions and seriously problematic.
RISE and radical socialism as a whole is infatuated with the idea of vanguardism; an essentially Trotskyist idea of mobilising mass political support behind a class-conscious political vanguard, but is forever getting it wrong. As this political ideology has no mass support – without which there can be no vanguard – it leaps to the head of every grassroots, vaguely left social and political cause; dragging the whole thing down to the level of mere bandwagon populism. In doing this the radical left is forever missing the point of the revolutionary political vehicle – something that clearly does already exist, for good or for ill, in the form of the Scottish National Party.
In Scotland the revolution has already begun. Now more than half of the Scottish people have decided that the future of our country lies in our full separation from the United Kingdom. Whether we like the fact or not this expression of the will of the people of Scotland sounds the starting gun of a race to independence and all other political causes become secondary and even tertiary to this prime political objective. Scotland is already in a state of political paralysis and this will remain the case until the constitutional question is finally settled.
Regardless of the opinions of individual independence supporters it is clear that neither the Green Party nor RISE or any other party can accomplish the task without getting behind the vehicle that is now in motion. Sorry about you, but this does in fact mean supporting the SNP and that independence is all about the National Party. Turning to Corbyn’s Labour Party – a momentary blip in the otherwise downward trajectory of unionist British Labour – is reactionary to say the very least. Britain’s politics have come to an end in Scotland, and dancing to its tune in the hope of gaining anything for Scotland is delusional in the extreme.
It is not the case that I think people like Cat Boyd, Jean Urquhart, and Alan Bissett are problems for the independence movement or that they do no support independence. I believe they are sincere when they speak of what is best for Scotland. What we must question is their level of reflection. Independence cannot be won by undermining the political party that is the de facto party of independence because it does not happen to chime perfectly with any one individual’s or a group of individuals’ particular political thinking. Normal politics has been suspended in Scotland. Running to British parties in the hope of gaining anything else for Scotland is, whatever way we look at it, moving in the wrong direction.
Former RISE candidate Cat Boyd voted Labour