Over 800 delegates gathered in central Glasgow, Scotland on Saturday to attend the Radical Independence Conference.
Speakers from a broad range of campaigns and struggles provided strategies for winning voters to independence whilst calling for a progressive social, economic and environmental transformation of the country in the interests of ordinary people.
A rejection of neoliberalism in a post independence Scotland was a recurring theme throughout the event, which skilfully mixed packed rallies with wide-ranging breakaway workshops on topics such as 'women and independence,' 'wealth of the commons: a Green economy for a progressive Scotland' and 'organising the 99%.'
A mass movement
In the opening plenary Peter McColl, Rector of Edinburgh University, called for a mass movement against neoliberalism, saying that independence was part of a better future for Scotland. Trade union activist Cat Boyd told how she became radicalised by taking part in the anti-war movement which exposed 'the true nature' of the 'war obsessed machine' that is the British state.
In a tacit recognition of the significance of conference, in what was by all accounts the biggest leftwing political meeting in the country in recent years, Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond welcomed the campaign in a radio statement.
“We welcome voices to the left of the SNP’s social democratic position speaking up in favour of independence,” he told Northsound radio. The 'radical indy' campaign has a strong anti-Trident and anti-NATO focus whilst also rejecting the monarchy and neoliberal economics. Nonetheless Salmond's statement was welcomed by the conference which aims to build a united independence movement without losing sight of the wider social and political issues affecting the Scottish people.
Ethical foreign policy
The ethical foreign policy workshop had a strong focus on the campaign against trident and the recent attack on Gaza. Speakers from campaigns including CND, Stop the War and the Faslane Peace Camp opened the session in which a wide range of approaches and attitudes towards key issues and strategy became apparent. There was a strong sense that different left organisations and non-aligned activists were making initial steps towards coordinated action for perhaps the first time. The workshop called for a national demonstration against Trident in the Spring, a call which was met with passionate applause in the closing plenary.
In the afternoon an international rally saw a diverse range of speakers share their experiences of building a variety of movements, from the Quebec and Catalunia independence struggles to the fight against the devastating austerity measures besetting Greece and Southern Europe.
Leading Front De Gauche activist Danielle Obono said 'from Greece to Palestine, it is very important that internationalism is stronger than ever.' SYRIZA member Stelios Pappas told the conference that Greek activists were building a coalition that would change Greece and transform Europe. It was clear from the diverse discussions during the day that Scottish independence could be a springboard for a more radical future for the country.
Delegates took to Twitter to praise the conference. @martinDiPaola tweeted, 'goosebumps when Stelios Pappas raised a clenched fist and so many responded.'
'Lots of shades of red and green with plenty of fiery rhetoric,' commented @PeterKGeohegan.
'Enjoyed speaking at #ric2012 today, and was inspired by passion, vision and commitment of attendees,' said @JeanUrquhartMSP.
Independence through unity
The Radical Independence Campaign can provide a much needed forum in which unity can be forged as the left takes it's arguments for another kind of Scotland out into the streets, workplaces and communities.
Much like the wider movements against austerity and war- broad, organised and politically focused campaigning will be essential if a progressive vision of independence is to capture the hearts and minds if those far beyond the ranks of the left. Saturday's conference was a major first step towards that goal.
For a full list of the declarations made by the conference and for videos of speeches, visit the Radical Independence Campaign website.
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