Editor Jonathan Rimmer writes on the motivations behind the Conter project. The following is adapted from a piece published by Red Pepper Magazine before our launch.
Staying abreast of political developments feels like a daunting task at the moment. In the space of three years we’ve seen the British state narrowly avoid dissolution, the hard right hideously hijack an EU referendum, and the crisis-ridden Labour Party dramatically recover thanks to a genuinely left-of-centre manifesto.
In this volatile environment, anti-capitalists need to not only be responding to these events but also driving the narrative with our own programme. There’s a good reason Jeremy Corbyn managed to win hearts and change minds over the course of the 2017 election campaign: his message resonated because people know in their gut that the system has failed them. We need to be confident in pointing out that wealth inequality, in-work poverty and strained public services are due to unfettered capitalism.
Broadly speaking, socialists down south have realised the importance of getting behind a left wing Labour Party now more than ever. But even the most rampant unionist can’t deny Scotland remains a different beast. Although the SNP are not a socialist party, a significant number of Scots joined their ranks as they were inspired by the more radical arguments offered during the 2014 independence referendum.
But polling data shows a significant number of Yes voters were also motivated by Corbyn to vote Labour in the general election. Consequently, Scotland finds itself a position where anti-independence socialists are voting Labour but pro-independence socialists are now split between Labour, the SNP, the Greens, the SSP, RISE and Solidarity (depending on the election.
Although some media outlets might think otherwise, left-wingers on opposite sides of the constitutional divide readily work alongside each other on a wide range of causes and campaigns. Activists in the areas of housing, welfare, the workplace and elsewhere are coming together and winning significant victories.
However, whether you’re a Momentum campaigner or an advocate of radical independence, there are no online spaces where this divide is breached. No single website can unite the left behind a single political project, but Scottish socialists urgently need a platform where they can debate key issues, share experiences or promote campaigns – and, most importantly, do so in a comradely spirit.
We intend Conter (Scots for ‘against’) to fill that void. The site will be a home for socialists of all hues to discuss the issues that matter. It’s to be split into two sections: Thought and Action.
The Thought section will carry socialist comment and analysis on a wide range of topics. We’ll be inviting writers and activists to give their perspective on current political topics, but we also want to hear from people with wider ideas on social issues, culture and arts, policy or strategy, no matter how creative or outside the box.
The Action section will promote the amazing work being done by individuals, unions and campaigns across Scotland. So, for example, that might be a video interview with someone campaigning on zero hour contracts or rent controls, it might be coverage of an event or rally, it might be an informative written piece outlining workplace rights in a certain area, or it might be a personal story on a specific issue.
We want Conter to be a dynamic space that’s accessible and easy to navigate, with a mix of multimedia content. But we also intend it to be intellectually assured and firmly rooted in socialist politics. We don’t want the site to simply ‘cover’ various causes and campaigns; we want to analyse our activism and discuss the best way forward for our movements.
The site is being launched by RISE, which we’re open about. It follows on from The Scottish Left Project, which was an attempt to bring together different socialist parties and group in order to challenge Scottish parliament elections. Although it isn’t currently an electoral force, RISE activists are involved in various social movements all over the country.
However, the site will have no party line. Our editorial board includes supporters of the various different aforementioned parties and organisations (and indeed none). The same goes for contributors: we want to hear from you regardless of political allegiance (the obvious exceptions being if you or the organisations you support promote racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia or transphobia in any form).
In Scotland, socialists will be divided on independence, the EU, theory, strategy and many other things. But we’re united on class. Let’s collaborate and unite on the issues that affect real people every day. And let’s debate with each other on an amicable basis, even if that means taking the contrary position from time to time.