Hundreds of people who attended the first two RIC conferences have joined the SNP. So if the purpose of RIC was to advocate an alternative Scotland to that envisaged by the SNP, we appear to have failed.
RIC activists argued throughout the past two years that supporting Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination does not make you a Scottish nationalist, it makes you a democrat. And we persuaded many otherwise reluctant Yes voters of that fact. Many appear however to have succumbed to the SNP’s charms. The nationalists have recruited 60,000 people since 18 September and are set to reach the astonishing figure of 100,000 members by the year’s-end.
“A cynic,” Oscar Wilde observed, “is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”. Anyone not astonished by the SNP’s membership surge in the light of a No vote needs to read more Wilde (I recommend The Soul of Man Under Socialism as a start). Hard-nosed SNP leaders were certainly astonished! Opinion polls now suggest Labour could be virtually wiped out in Scotland next May.
So who is joining the SNP, and why? Amer Anwar, the human rights lawyer and former SWP member is the latest to join the nationalist’s ranks. It will be interesting to hear him speak at RIC on Saturday before he goes over to support Nicola Sturgeon at the Hydro.
He is not the only socialist who appears to have lost his bearings. Tommy Shepherd, the former Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party and proprietor of The Stand Comedy Club is another. He wrote in Scotland on Sunday recently that no one other than the SNP should stand candidates against Labour next May. And the SNP conference agreed with him. Their decision to allow non-members to stand as SNP candidates suggests they will not be collaborating with others parties.
But that is not what SNP member George Kerevan advocated, writing from Barcelona on the lessons of the Catalan referendum this week. Stressing the importance of the movement, he concluded “the onus is on the SNP’s new members to ensure the party does not try to swallow up the wider independence movement”.
RIC must challenge such illusions in the SNP. Under Nicola Sturgeon the SNP will follow the same ‘corporate managerialist’ line taken by Alex Salmond and Jack McConnell before her.
Designed to placate corporate Scotland their policies do little to eradicate the poverty and inequality that so blights our nation. Anyone who expects anything else has simply not been paying attention these past seven years. The SNP will not eradicate poverty preferring to merely ‘tackle’ it, or ‘reduce’ it, in other words they will ultimately ‘tolerate’ it.
As Lesley Riddoch warned: “Massive cuts in public spending loom. Delivering social justice in times of austerity cannot be done. Nicola Sturgeon will have to raise taxes or cut spending. Can she meet Scotland’s aspiration for change?” And David Torrance, writing in The Herald, signalled the unease amongst new SNP members at Nicola Sturgeon being “no longer terribly keen on the Radical Independence Campaign,” adding, “her leadership might mean more warmth for big business”.
The SNP’s multi-million pound operation is certainly impressive and has been too seductive for some to resist. I saw it at close quarters myself in the Yes campaign. The contrast with the ham-fisted operation I observed during four years at Holyrood, when the SNP were in the political doldrums, could not be starker. But thanks to the Weir’s Lotto millions and the phalanx of staff their money now employs, the SNP machine has been ‘changed utterly’. But its political ideology has not. That remains a fusion of neoliberal economics and left of Labour social policy.
So the lesson to be learned this weekend is if you are a socialist you should be in a socialist party, not building illusions in capitalist ones. The SSP believes an independence alliance is the best way to defeat Labour in Scotland next May. We refuse to underestimate them and prefer an independence alliance to an SNP dalliance.
There are no shortcuts to building an independent socialist Scotland via the SNP. It must be built on far more solid ideological foundations, with a thorough knowledge of capitalist economics and the class struggle. Above all, such a goal must be armed with a clear socialist programme, capable of mobilising the Scottish working class majority.
That socialist programme is one that SSP activists will advocate at the RIC conference this weekend, and next May, when we field candidates in the Westminster General Election.