The National RIC AGM, 17.1.21

The AGM formed the main topic of discussion at an Edinburgh RIC meeting on Wednesday 6th January.

Allan Armstrong, who is acting as one of the two facilitators for the RIC National AGM (Connor Beaton Dundee RIC is the other), introduced the discussion.

The first part of the AGM will be held on Sunday, January 17th, at 14.00.  The two main items on the agenda will be the proposed new Constitution drawn up by the RIC Constitution Working Group and a proposed amended version of the RIC 5 Principles from the RCN (of which Allan is a member`), one of RIC’s affiliated organisations.

The date of the second part of the RIC AGM to discuss and agree upon Strategy and Campaigning will be decided at this meeting on January 17th.  It is likely to be about a month later.

If the new Constitution is agreed on January 17th then existing and new members can sign up and pay the new proposed subscription, to be part of the national organisation (something not possible under the old Constitution).  Only then would the election of new office bearers take place.  This would probably be done in association with the second part of the AGM.  But this will be decided on January 17th.  All members will be able to participate in the online ballot.

We have existing groups, which meet in Angus & Mearns, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.  They will all be able to put motions to the second half of the AGM dealing with strategy.  We also have individual members in Aberdeen, Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, Fife, Highlands and Islands, Lanarkshire, Paisley and Stirling, as well as international members.  If they can form new groups before the second half of the AGM, then they too will be able to put forward motions.  Where this is not possible, Allan’s suggestion is that they could attend the online Zoom meetings of their nearest RIC group .

The proposal to relaunch RIC as a national organisation comes about because of the greatly changed political situation since 2012-14.  The work of RIC at the time was mainly focused on getting a ‘Yes’ vote in September 2014.  Some groups like Edinburgh always saw the work of RIC as being far wider than this.  We have continued activity ever since.  Others only formed for the IndyRef1 period and have fallen way at different dates since the 2015. 

Allan argued that underlying Edinburgh’s success was a commitment to open and democratic discussion, and the involvement of all the constituent parts of RIC – Left SNP, Left Greens, Socialists, independence supporting Labour and those in no political organisations at all.  Edinburgh RIC has been involved campaigning over a wide range of issues – economic, social, and environmental, trade union and international solidarity.  One example is the Living Rent Campaign, now a completely independent organisation, which came out of Edinburgh RIC.  A look at the Edinburgh RIC blog archive (https://edinburghric.org/archive/) shows all these activities and the general election hustings we organised.

However, it is no the longer the pro-austerity, liberal unionists (the Tories, Lib-Dems, New Labour in ‘Better Together’) we face. Nor is there any immediate prospect constitutionally based referendum. Instead, we face a right populist and reactionary unionist Tory government.  It is not likely to grant a legal referendum, and indeed is planning to rollback even the current devolution settlement.  The neo-liberal and constitutional nationalist SNP leadership has no effective strategy to counter this.  Hence the growing divisions, originally highlighted by the formation of All Under One Banner, but also in internal party splits..

Allan argued that the new political situation demands a more sophisticated response, able to challenge the ineffectiveness of the SNP leadership’s strategy.  They seek their mandate and sovereignty from their control the devolved institutions of the UK state.  In effect, they are looking for a junior managerial buyout in Scotland.  To counter this, he argued that RIC needs to campaign on a republican, ‘sovereignty of the people’ basis.  This of course needs to be linked to supporting all the other campaigns, which Edinburgh RIC has been involved in.

Edinburgh RIC participated in the national RIC Constitutional Working Group, but as yet has not discussed the 5 Principles or Strategy.  I would very much hope that, after January 17th, which is primarily about forming the structures to relaunch  RIC nationally, that Edinburgh RIC, with its wealth of experience, will have contributions to make in the later Strategy and Campaigning  section of the AGM. 

Discussion

Peter C raises the issue of RIC’s relationship with ‘Yes Alba’. It seemed to have some quite right wing members in its new leadership.

Objects – “Yes Alba is a campaigning organisation with the aim of gaining independence for Scotland in order to improve the way the country is governed. ‘Yes Alba’ believes that Scotland would be better running its own affairs, as part of an international family. ‘Yes Alba’ believes in an inclusive citizenship, which embraces the fact that all who choose to make Scotland their home – regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation – are full citizens of the Scotland.”

Allan said that he had attended the two meetings to launch ‘Yes Alba’, which had come out of AUOB. He read out the Objects of the proposed ‘Yes`Alba’ – 

He thought that these Objects still reflected the best features of Indy Ref1 – a civic national inclusiveness and internationalism, which had also been seen on the AUOB marches. However, there were undoubtedly Yes Alba committee members who did not adhere to these principles.  However, should they air their prejudices, it would have to be in their own name, and they could be challenged under the Objects.

The immediate problem facing ‘Yes Alba’ was the challenge to its name, and whether it was attempting to be an alternative to all the existing ‘Yes’ groups, or an umbrella organisation.  Leading ‘Yes Alba’ member, George Kerevan (who is also an Edinburgh RIC member) supports the latter, using the popular organisation in Catalunya as an example. 

Bob said he was quite enthusiastic about the possibilities of ‘Yes Alba’, and that we ought to put some effort into developing a relationship so that we could broaden the base for RIC’s politics..

Pete C argued that the argued that the proposed national RIC AGM agenda, item 5, The relationship between RIC and AUOB/‘Yes Alba’ and item 6, -The initial discussion on Strategy and Campaigning, should be reversed.

Allan agreed that this made more sense.  The only reason it was positioned there was because it was an outstanding item left over from the last National Forum on 22.2.20.  The following National Forum never took place because of Covid-19.  Allan said that he would change the order when the final agenda went out this weekend.

Peter C returned to the nature of Yes Alba asking if it was Left or Right?  What were the politics of the new committee members? Although, Craig Murray, for example, had done some excellent work, particularly in Kazakhstan, he appears to have been moving Rightwards recently.

Pete C highlighted the changed political situation we face since IndyRef1.  The SNP leadership are even more neo-liberal.  This is shown by  the role of the Sustainable Growth Commission, which argues that dependence on the market is the only way forward. 

In addition, there has been growing resistance shown in the school strikes associated with Extinction Rebellion, and by Black Lives Matter  RIC needs to develop new ways of thinking to relate to these campaigns.

Nick argued that it is likely if Covid19 is under control, there will be an opportunity to get out on the streets again in later 2021.

Sturgeon will ask for a new referendum, but she is unlikely to get it.  Johnson will say ‘No’.  The SNP leadership don’t have a strategy.  If there is a popular campaign the UK state might not react in such an open brutal way as in Catalunya, but it could still resort to repression.  Timing will be important.

Jean said that she was keen to be re-involved in RIC.  She was already active in her local ‘Yes’ group, and ‘Pensioners for Independence’.

Pete C highlighted the importance of socio-economic issues if we were to motivate people for independence.

Allan summed up by saying that he looked forward to Edinburgh RIC members attending the January 17th AGM, and to Edinburgh RIC’s further development of national Strategy and Campaigning.

Peter C said that we had a new opportunity now the Cop 26 conference was going ahead later this year.  Joe Biden would be in attendance.

The only counter to Johnson’s rejection of a Section 30 Order to permit a new referendum was mass working class mobilisation. This is why an emphasis on socio-economic issue was needed.

The political direction of ‘Yes Alba’ was important . Although there was no commitment to socio-economic issues in its Objects, the mobilisation of those who were prepared to take action over the denial of IndyRef2 was important,

Allan agreed that these were crucial and had always been central to his own lifetime of campaigning. But we also needed to go beyond being the economic wing of the independence movement and challenge the SNP for the type of Scotland we want. This also meant pushing for a Constituent Assembly to draw  up a new constitution, as Edinburgh RIC had successfully proposed at the May 2014, RIC National Forum, if a ‘Yes’ vote had been won in September.

Allan summed up by saying that he looked forward to Edinburgh RIC members attending the January 17th AGM, and to Edinburgh RIC’s further development of national Strategy and Campaigning.

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