Welcome to Issue 3 of We Are Not Rats!

We Are Not Rats is looking for a new team to take over the editing and promotion of the next issue! All sorts of skills needed, please get in touch if you know anyone who might be keen!

We Are Not Rats was originally started in Autumn 2012 as the Scottish Students’ Left Review by Grace Loncraine and Patrick Olden. Its title came from the famous rectorial address trade unionist Jimmy Reid made to Glasgow studentsi; articles and debate spanned a range of themes, and can be found in our archives. Having published two issues, Grace and Patrick looked for new people to take the project over; not wanting their inspiring project to fold, several of the current team – mostly Edinburgh-based up to now – decided to take the project on.

We have however made several changes after lengthy debate and discussion amongst ourselves as to what we wanted to achieve, and what is needed. The end result of this was our mission statement. At the end of the day, our success and relevance will be – and should be – determined by our readers; in the spirit of pioneering a much-needed collaborative and democratic media model, we would welcome any feedback, thoughts and ideas on this, as well as extending an open invitation to get involved in the publication. We are a non-hierarchical and democratic group, and whether you have editing, writing, design or illustrating skills, or are simply keen to learn, we would appreciate your input.

Firstly, we have extended the remit of We Are Not Rats beyond the student movement. Whilst we think the student movement needs a space for debate, we also want to be a bridge beyond it: extending the realm of analysis and discussing ways forwards for our common struggles that challenge the core of our problems. As futures as ‘emergent services workers’ beckonii, those of us currently involved are all too aware that we, too, are graduating and moving onwards.

Secondly, we would like this journal to be a space for debate for Scotland and the North of England. The North faces many of the same issues as Scotland: inequalities, deprivation and poverty; but lacks the cohesion of a common national identity. A London-centric political and cultural landscape treats the unreal economy of high finance as the only way forwards. Consequently, connections to (the) capital are seen as the only hopeiii; ideas for more vibrant and diverse local economies are off the table. The potential for more autonomy in the North was scuppered in 2004 when a referendum on an elected North-East regional assembly suffered a resounding defeat; many locals however felt that this proposal was simply another layer of bureaucracy, without real powers. With the Scottish referendum threatening a significant refiguration of the British state, perhaps it’s time to explore such possibilities anew; particularly given the Conservative leadership in Westminster who had the axes out for the North even before the last electioniv. Whilst we have no intention of excluding people, ideas and perspectives from elsewhere, we think it important that we make our geographies explicit, rather than assume a neutrality which may be confusing to readers. We want to challenge the parochial South-centric vision of Britain, and as in other contexts, neutrality belies sexism, racism and the status quo.

With a similar desire to this publication’s founders to be a non-sectarian place for debate, we are happy to publish articles that we disagree with. Nonetheless, our mission statement aims to make explicit our views and vision, as well as lay the groundwork for productive debate for a radical movement. Whilst we believe in free speech  – a topic several of the following articles discuss – if you have views that are, for example, racist, sexist, or neoliberal, We Are Not Rats is unlikely to be the place for you to express them.

The theme chosen for this issue was autonomy: contributors could take this as they saw fit, or indeed ignore it all together. Nonetheless, the common denominator of the following articles is a simple one: how can our ability to self-direct our own lives be maximised? To us, autonomy means the ability to make decisions free from external controls, either as an individual or as a group: be that restrictive top-down management, oppressive social or political practice, or limited skills and resources. Decision-making at the lowest-appropriate level should reflect and therefore improve the experience of those currently subjugated. Read on to find out what the writers have to say.

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