About the ISG
The International Socialist Group is a Marxist organisation based in Scotland and comprised of workers, students and the unemployed. We collectively campaign for:
Capitalism is a system based upon competition between businesses and the exploitation of the working-class. This system generates a world of great disparity: wealth, luxury and power for the few; hunger, war and destitution for many.
Capitalism cannot resolve its contradictions because it is powered by them. Corporations crash and ignite a crisis causing millions to suffer, whilst the rich get richer. Working-class men and women are turned into soldiers and shipped off to foreign countries, whilst heads of states and corporations make a profit. Economic crises take place, and whilst we all pay the price the capitalist system reorders and renews itself.
Only the removal of the ruling class on an international scale can bring an end to the madness and chaos brought by capitalism. This means abolishing private ownership of society’s resources and instead running them through collective and democratic control. To achieve this working-class people must overcome the state, political parties and media all of which protect the rule of capital.
Such a revolutionary transformation of society, in the interests of the majority, is only possible through the mobilisation of the masses. This requires a profound struggle for real democracy – for new institutions of democratic control that can organise politics and the economy from the grass roots up. Socialism is the self-organisation of the majority of people over society’s resources, rather than capitalist domination by the privileged minority.
A broad movement
Solidarity and united action is necessary to build the most effective movement possible. While political ideas are always fluid, the majority of the population will generally be to the right of us as revolutionary socialists outside of times of acute social struggle or revolutionary upheaval. However, in different periods consciousness and the potential for collective action is raised with regard to particular issues, such as war, austerity or Islamophobia. In these contexts, we as socialists seek to build broad movements with other progressive social forces that agree with us on that particular issue, whilst arguing for revolutionary ideas and tactics within those formations. Fighting for the broadest possible unity in action is essential not only to draw the largest possible numbers of people onto the street, but also to focus the greatest amount of pressure on the institutions that we oppose.
Campaigning for reforms and defending the working class against attacks to their jobs and social services is of prime importance to an anti-capitalist for three reasons. First, reforms can improve the lot of people under capitalism, even if only relatively and indeed marginally when compared with what could be achieved through a democratically controlled, participatory economy based on human need. Secondly, winning small victories breeds confidence in people and allows them to understand their collective strength, while the very process of fighting for reforms concretises networks of organisation and solidarity amongst those exploited and oppressed under capitalism. Finally, there is the issue of strategy. The best way to expose the limitations of reformism is to fully push reformist institutions to their limits. We cannot convince society of anti-capitalist ideas in the abstract; instead, we must translate them into concrete actions that can undermine the control of capital over the state.
Winning socialist representation for working people in parliament is an important part of a revolutionary strategy. Parliament is the official organisational centre of capitalist political society, such that having socialist voices represented therin gives credibility to socialist ideas and allows us to challenge mainstream economic and political narratives. This form of political and ideological polarisation helps to give people the confidence to join the struggle in their workplaces and communities. Further, while as revolutionaries we recognise that there is no merely parliamentary road to socialism, we understand that the limitations of reformism have to be experienced by working-class people in practice.
An end to oppression
The global drive of competing capitalist states to exploit human labour and appropriate natural resources has led to the production and reproduction of systematic forms of oppression. As socialists we understand that struggles against sexism, racism, homophobia and disability discrimination are central to building a better society. ISG members are thus involved in feminist, anti-racist, LGBT rights and disability rights movements, both as ardent supporters of these causes and as proponents of a Marxist understanding of how these structural forms of oppression developed under and are reproduced by capitalism to further the accumulation of wealth.
For some socialists, struggles against oppression have in theory and/or in practice occupied a position seemly subordinate to more “central” struggles against class exploitation. In our view, such an understanding is flawed, given that systematic forms of oppression have structural economic roots and are crucially involved in the reproduction of capitalist social relations.
Competition between nation states, known as imperialism, is a central component to capitalist development. Major corporations, particularly finance capital, rely on their respective nation-states to compete on the international stage for geopolitical advantage and resource control. In order for nation states to establish global dominance, or hegemony, they must prey on weaker nations to gain spheres of influence over their rivals, resulting in constant war, nuclear weapons, needless bloodshed, and national oppression.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has emerged as the world’s dominant superpower. However, today the United States faces many challenges to its supremacy. We support all resistance movements from countries struggling against imperialism. This does not mean that we do not have our own criticisms of them, or that we ignore weaknesses in their strategy, but nevertheless, we stand shoulder to shoulder with them against their oppressors. It is vital to understand that any serious struggle against capitalism goes hand in hand with a struggle against imperialism.
The Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid and US imperialism is the symbolic beating heart of global resistance to imperialism. We stand with the Palestinians in their struggle against colonisation, for their right of return, and an end to the Zionist state. We support the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel to further its isolation on the global stage.
Coupled with its exploitation of human labour, capitalism appropriates natural resources in a manner consistent with profit but not ecological sustainability. Given that climate change caused by capitalist production and reproduction is endangering the livelihoods of and geographically displacing increasing numbers of working class people, ISG members are actively involved campaigns for local environmental justice as well as the global movement against ecological degradation.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence attesting to the destructive impact of climate change and the ultimate threat of it rendering the planet inhospitable to human life. However, politicians – influenced by their big business backers and fearful of losing ground in inter-state competition – have singularly failed to act. Neither market-based ‘solutions’ such as carbon trading nor individual lifestyle choices are sufficient to seriously challenge climate change – rather we require a system of economic production based fundamentally on human need and environmental sustainability. As such we recognise the necessarily integral position of ecology in a Marxist analysis and strategy for social change.
Marx argued that “capital, by its very nature, drives beyond every spatial barrier to conquer the whole earth for its market”. This has taken material form in the late-capitalist period, know as globalisation. This period is extremely interconnected, especially with regards to the global capitalist economy, meaning that we live in a system where a housing crisis in China could lead to rising unemployment in Britain, a general strike in Argentina can be watched by workers in Iceland.
To combat the globalised nature of capital we require an anti-capitalism which thinks and acts globally – one that learns from struggles around the world, builds links with them, and generalises their struggle domestically. Now more than ever it is obvious that there is no national answer to the problems caused by capitalism. Therefore we endeavour to highlight and promote the struggles of the oppressed and exploited globally. We seek to learn from the successes of anti-capitalist organisations in order to strengthen and build a new global anti-capitalist movement. Just as capitalism is globalised, so too must be our resistance.
The British state has lived beyond its years. Its strength is drawn from exploiting its own people through austerity, its history of empire, the morally bankrupt City of London, arms sales, and its subordinate position as the wing-man of American imperialism. Dominated by the Tories and a corporate right-wing media, the British state has been at the forefront of the austerity agenda internationally. All of this is out of step with Scottish voters, who have continually opposed war, nuclear weapons and cuts to public services.
A vote for Independence is a vote against Britain. The model of achieving socialism through electing a Labour government to Westminster is long outdated. Breaking Britain via Scottish Independence can crack open the British state and break British workers from the Labour Party – opening a space for a new struggle for socialism north and south of the border.
Britain is a society where wealth buys success, where privilege takes precedence over right. Our generation has grown up under a hopeless Labour Party, one that turns them into soldiers and ships them off to foreign countries, one that is utterly incapable of reversing the destruction brought by Thatcher. Britain offers Scotland nothing but neo-liberalism, privatisation, the shrinking of state welfare, and a bleak future of menial, precarious work. Britain has excelled at blaming the individual rather than the market. It is for this reason that we demand a change, not just of the flag, but of the style of government itself. We must define a new type of country and a new type of citizenship. We need a Scottish state with a constitution that enshrines basic rights based upon socially just principles: comprehensive social services, free education for all, meaningful employment, a well-funded National Health Service, no imperialist wars, and a dignified income for all.
Left unity and renewal
The strength of anti-capitalist ideas is not reflected in far left organisations internationally. Where the radical Left has made a breakthrough, in Europe, it has been based on overcoming the divisions that are no longer necessary, by being broad and inclusive enough to incorporate different anti-capitalist views and provide answers for the here and now, which address poverty, unemployment, war, etc.
The organised left in Scotland is divided for unnecessary reasons. Yet there is little fundamental disagreement amongst the left over the issues that matter most to the working class: war, poverty, cuts, independence, resistance and a socialist alternative. The alternative for many activists, to the organised left, is to reject political organisation altogether – this provides no hope against the resources and organisation of the ruling class.
Unity is necessary for those who wish to renew socialist organisation and socialist ideas for the 21st century. The ISG argues for Left unity and Left renewal in Scotland. In doing so, we have no illusions of grandeur about the ISG. We are a group of predominantly young socialists and we do not believe our organisation can provide all the answers. What we do assert however, is an enthusiasm to play as active a role as possible in building a new, regenerated left – a task of paramount importance. The Left needs to be opened up to society and society to the Left, if both are to have a serious future.