The Free North Campaign is unashamedly left-wing in its outlook. This is a natural reflection of the values (such as solidarity, community, co-operation and social justice) that have historically shaped life and politics in the North of England. In a recent blog post, we proposed the idea of a political party that would campaign for an independent Northern republic as well as promoting a progressive socialist agenda. It’s worth exploring what a Northern road to socialism might look like…
– Real socialism recognises the importance of both individual and collective freedom. The role of the state should be limited to ensuring these freedoms and maximising public wellbeing. It should not micro-manage the lives of citizens or issue endless decrees and diktats.
– There is widespread support for nationalisation of public transport services and the utilities. Support for nationalisation also tends to be much higher in the North than in the South. State ownership, however, is not an answer in itself. In its constitution, the Welsh left-nationalist party Plaid Cymru is committed to the idea of ‘decentralist socialism’. This does not mean nationalising everything and replacing capitalist bosses with government bosses, but decentralising economic power by supporting co-operatives and encouraging industrial democracy. Nationalisation of railways, buses and utilities makes sense though, as it means the government of a Northern Republic could ensure the needs of consumers are prioritised over profit.
– Environmental sustainability needs to be at the heart of any pro-North agenda. This is no longer just a middle-class issue but something that affects all of us. The opportunities for clean, safe energy and green jobs massively outstrip the political will to create them. A pro-North left party could make these central policies.
– Politicians only pay lip service to the concerns of working-class voters, instead appealing directly to Middle England. A pro-North left party should adopt policies designed to improve the living standards of the working-class majority and strengthen community sprit and solidarity in areas devastated by Thatcherism and the decline of Northern industry.
Peace & internationalism
– Spending billions on defence is not necessary or sustainable in the 21st century. Small nations like the Republic of Ireland have shown that only a small defence force is needed to protect national interests. A pro-North left party would support a neutral North and oppose imperialism.
– Although we want to build an independent nation in the North of England, our outlook is internationalist and opposed to all forms of bigotry, sectarianism and xenophobia. We want independence because we believe it will serve the interests of the North better than the status quo, not so we can go around waving flags and thinking we’re superior to other countries.
Republicanism & democracy
– The monarchy is an outdated relic, and a pro-North left party would be uncompromising in its commitment to republican values. Any head of state must be elected, carry out a limited constitutional role and receive a salary in line with average earnings.
– As outlined in a previous blog post, the parliament of an independent North must operate in a completely different way to the Westminster gravy train. Increasing the use of referendums and devolving more decision-making to local authorities would also help to decentralise power.
These positions are not intended as an orthodox blueprint for some utopian future society, but ideas to stimulate discussion and debate about how we can fight for and build a fairer, more inclusive and more democratic society for citizens in the North to live in.
Some of the European political parties that combine support for independence with a left-wing policy agenda:
Partido Andalucista, Spain
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Catalonia
Plaid Cymru, Wales