NGO chief says Scotland must play its part in a movement for a better planet
The political power unleashed by the indyref campaign in Scotland can play its part in a movement to transform society – but only if it thinks and acts globally.
Even while fighting in the context of Scottish independence, activists must link their demands and goals with those campaigning throughout the world.
That’s the opinion of Nick Dearden, the director of NGO Global Justice Now – formerly the World Development Movement.
He said the energy unlocked by the independence referendum campaign – which saw vast numbers become politically engaged for the first time – is part of a process taking place globally.
Crucially, for large swathes of activists the movement for Scottish independence is predicated on values of social justice and wealth redistribution, with a focus on Scotland taking its place among a community of progressive nations as opposed to a narrow nationalism.
The movement in Scotland carries with it the possibility of long-term transformation – a shift in what’s politically possible
Dearden, writing on the Scottish Left Project website, said the Scottish movement stood in the tradition of movements which have taken place in Latin America since the 1990s.
They can also be understood in the context of anti-austerity politics embodied by the likes of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. Its success now lies in how successfully it internationalises.
He writes: “The movement’s first job is to transform the social context. For the first time in many years, we have a movement in Scotland which is capable of this
“The movement that has emerged in Scotland over the last two years also carries with it the possibility of long-term transformation – a shift in what’s politically possible. But the movement also needs to be global. In an era where capital is more internationally mobile than ever before, and where capital has created structures that will be very difficult to disentangle and unwind, there are only global solutions to our biggest problems.
“What’s more, coming from a part of the world that has materially benefited from the plunder of others, any project to transform our society for the better has a duty to end the exploitation of others.”
He said the campaigns against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – which activists claim could lead to an asset stripping of the NHS - are an example of where local campaigns can link globally.
Dearden writes: “The fight against the US-EU trade deal (TTIP) has brought together activists across Europe. We can beat it and defeat another attempt by big business to further undermine our democracy. But the TTIP campaign needs to be seen in the context of a global struggle. We need to join up with activists across Asia, Latin America and Africa who are also resisting trade agreements – with some considerable success.
The fight against climate change is another example of a struggle which must be waged internationally.
Ultimately, Dearden says, the struggle against neo-liberalism can only win on a world scale as individual attempts can be picked off.
However, rather than demobilising them, that realisation must inspire local and national actions which then link-up.
He writes: “Greece has become the first country in Europe to truly say no to austerity and structural adjustment. On its own Syriza will be picked off. The people of Europe must support the Greek people to hold back the tide of bullying and blackmail by our governments. We all win from Greece successfully saying no. If we can hold out till December, an anti-austerity government coming to power in Spain would totally change the power dynamics in Europe and open up huge new possibilities. But we all lose if Greece is defeated.
“The movements in Latin America presented the biggest challenge to neo-liberal capitalism in three decades. Parts of Europe are ripe to carry out the same challenge here. But we’ll only succeed if we learn from those who are fighting back right around the world, and work with them to transform the world for all of us.”
His thoughts echo those expressed in a debateat the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ Gathering event last week.
There, Dr Oliver Escobar of the University of Edinburgh said a revolution is taking place which could usher in a new era in participatory, grassroots democracy – if people and communities seize the opportunity.
Dr Escobar said the voluntary sector is already carrying through parts of this “revolution”, which is being reflected on a Europe-wide scale.