For your convenience, we have arranged them in what could be described as a ‘reading agenda’: attempting to join the dots of our common consciousness, we have tried to tease out their connections and suggest stepping-stones that will lead you right the way through to the end of this issue. However, if something particular grabs your eye or if our mixed metaphors are already boring you, feel free to exercise your autonomy and read them in any order you like!
First up we have Zack Wallace’s article on the importance of the idea of ‘positive free speech’. Freedom of speech, it is argued, should not be thought of simply as the absence of ‘censorship’ – more than this is required to ensure that everyone is able to express their own ideas.
Perhaps this concept offers a useful answer to some of the perennial debates surrounding ‘no platform’ policies – to whether certain people, such as those on the far right, should be invited to speak, or banned from speaking, at public events held by organisations such as student unions.
Following this, Kim Schnitzel of the Kittens editorial collective takes a different tack, arguing that by talking of a right to free speech, we are granting the state authority over our opinions and actions. Who asked for their permission anyway? Moreover, in accepting freedom of speech, or so this article concludes, we allow ourselves to be denied freedom of action.
Next up, Rory Scothorne surveys the political landscape for visions of a post-independence Scotland, arguing that whilst both the Common Weal and Stephen Maxwell’s “The Case for Left-wing Nationalism” have their strengths (and their differences), the missing link is a vision of “interdependent popular empowerment inside and outside the state” – of a mass movement that can exercise both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary power. Without this, independence risks being as much of a dead-end as the Westminster government’s current direction of travel. With the question of ‘what next post-referendum’ becoming an increasingly urgent one for the left in both Scotland and the rest of the UK, this is surely essential reading.
In the fourth article, Nick Dowson takes a look at our economy, arguing that a critique of the current divisions between state, private, and third sector is necessary both for environmental protection and social justice; pointing to a way out of the ‘state versus market’ debate that has been a key ideological driver of austerity.
Following this, again merging cultural and economic critique, Evan Williams takes a look at the creation and expansion of fan-ownership of football clubs, suggesting that in kicking back against the commodification of supporter loyalty, a radical turn in the popular sport could lead to great things.
Next, arguing for a rethink of the study and teaching of history – not a Niall Ferguson style rewrite – Amabel Crowe suggests that to prevent history continuing to be a tool of ugly nationalisms and a cause of conflict, its methodology must be radically changed. As our knowledge of the past shapes our understanding of the present, changing both how and what we learn about history has the potential to take us in a new direction.
Also focusing on education, Ailish Carroll-Brentnall then argues that whether in Mexico or in the UK, more room for creativity and personal development in education are needed not just for self-esteem, but also for the ability to act autonomously, in life as in politics.
Last but not least, on the back cover the We Are Not Rats editorial team has put its own self-justificatory piece, on the importance of independent media for providing a space for debate that is sorely lacking both from mainstream media and from education. We hope that this will help whet your appetite for writing (go on, you know you want to!) and spur you on to get thinking about submitting pieces for our next issue – and to just generally get involved.
For the next issue, we will be pursuing the theme of referenda and would welcome your thoughts. Check out our call for submissions page for more details.