Britain, Independence, Politics, Scotland, Socialism

No left turn.

So Scotland could have ended up like Spain, eh…

I was fully on board to hear some criticism of the SNP or the Yes campaign, because I like criticism – it’s healthy and often helpful. Carol Craig actually does make plenty of good observations about different aspects of the referendum in her explanation of why she intended to vote no. Yet quite quickly this other piece went all wrong – the stand out statement for me was early on: “I’ve shuddered every time I heard folk talking about how indebted the UK is”.

Is this because she recognises how unnecessary a lot of the UK’s debt is; how entrenched vested interests have skewed the political and economic priorities of our governments; how that debt is being used as an excuse to arbitrarily punish the most vulnerable? Nope! Carol shudders because to her this complaint reflects the selfish, nationalist optimism of those who pointed it out. Conveniently she ignores the constant assurance that the Scottish government would seek to take its share of the UK’s debt, whether legally required to or not!

I don’t doubt that she did find the decision agonising, and I sympathise with plenty of her concerns. Yet she doesn’t veer far at all from the “SNP dictatorship” perspective and her claim that Scotland would somehow be less safe from corporate interests out-with the UK is pretty bizarre… More perplexing still is her claim that “I’d rather be on the same side as radicals like Andy Wightman, young activists like Zara Kitson and cultural figures like Janice Galloway and David Greig whose work I admire hugely. Instead I’m on the same side as the bowling clubs, old footballers and the British Legion.” Yet Carol did indeed choose that side in the end.

What worries me is that, while lamenting the rise of nationalism in Scotland (mhm), she seems to find being on side with bowling clubs, footballers and the British Legion more troublesome than being on side with: the actual ethnic nationalists (BNP, Britain First, UKIP); the morally bankrupt establishment (Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats); and, you know, everyone else who is patently anti-leftwing within the UK. I could go on, especially about the blind optimism of her hopes for a grass roots, left-wing resurgence within the UK (although she doesn’t talk about that too much). Thankfully Stephen and others who commented on her article said most of what I wanted to say.


“I have dreaded writing this reply because as someone who has two of Carol’s books I was extremely sympathetic to her account of how our country and its people have been damaged by the forces of economics and history, and yet on this matter I believe she has not only spectacularly mis-judged the opportunity for national advancement that was on offer, but she has besmirched a movement, which had at its heart social justice, not selfishness, as she posits.

Like every independence movement that has gone before it, and there have been over 100 since 1945, the over-riding question on offer is this. Do citizens of a nation prefer to govern themselves or would they prefer to be governed by another country? Contrary to what Carol would like us to believe, independence as a route to self-enrichment, was never dangled in front of the populace as some kind of “get rich quick scheme”. Yes, of course, people wanted to know if they were likely to be better or worse off, than being ruled from Westminster, and I am sure the Czechs and Slovaks, Estonians, Lithuanians and all the rest of those middle-European nations who became independent in recent time had to inform their citizenry on the economic viability of becoming self-governing, but it wasn’t the main issue.

So when Carol says that the ” core reality of the official Yes campaign – its appeal to selfishness.” or “Essentially the official Yes campaign was not about heart, but pocket” .I just think what campaign have you just witnessed? It wasn’t the one I saw as I chapped doors. No-one was ever told by me or anyone I was out with to tell people that the good time were on their way post-referendum. Yes, I told many a person not to believe the doom and gloom from those who would wish us to believe that financial doom was awaiting us on the other side of a Yes vote, but I believe that to be the case. Sorry Carol, but if you are basing your argument for a No vote on the basis that the other side were trying to bribe the electorate with lucre then you are dreaming.

In my opinion, and this isn’t a leap of political imagination, just a recognition that Noam Chomsky and George Orwell have told us how this goes in class-riven societies, a large part of the population were cowed by the arguments that there is not alternative to the status quo of neo-liberal British mantras. Scotland will be punished by the markets, the man in the big hoose will take his favours elsewhere, your mortgage will sky-rocket, Asda will bump-up your bills for the hell of it and lets be frank, we are all not really cut-out to make a go of things. We’ll just get it wrong!

Readers of Carol’s will know that the fear of “getting it wrong, and being “found out” are huge impediments to risk-taking and self-expression that many Scots feel based on the hand that history and economic forces have dealt them. It is ironic, but more importantly, deeply saddening that she has based a lot of her justification for supporting the No campaign on the proviso that the market-makers, spivs and masters of the universe of the City are going to punish Scotland for wanting to build a nation state that espouses social justice at its core.

And on those ” 55 of the UK’s lead academic economists wrote to the Financial Times independently of the No campaign, to say that independence was ‘ a gamble with very poor odds’. Which of those geniuses predicted 2008’s cataclysm? None of them and their benevolent wishes for a nation wishing to remove itself from the City of London’s vice-like grip, are conspicuous by their absence.

I will still recommend Carol’s books for those who would like to know why many of the their Scottish grandparents, parents, friends and relatives, feel unable to express themselves as fully autonomous individuals and why society abuses or ignores them for this lack of confidence. However her denigration of the Yes campaign as one based on selfishness and bribes, suggests to me that she has given-up on any possibilities for social advancement for Scotland’s working classes that does not involve kow-towing to financial capitalism’s big sticks.”

Independence, Politics, Scotland, Socialism

The Socialist Paradox?

Tonight I ventured onto the Vote No Borders Facebook page (not to be confused with the excellent No Borders, which actually does what it says on the tin). It was about as dire as I expected with ‘We hate Salmond!’, ‘How can we pay for things when the oil runs out!’ and ‘We’d be defenceless if England invaded!’ drowning out any reasonable discussion. You just have to feel sorry for the view some people have of their own country and how easily they become blind to the other, very real problems that are convincing so many people to vote yes to independence for some hope of solving them. Anyway, one comment that wasn’t just ignorant or hateful moved me enough to reply and I felt it worth sharing. After all, I don’t expect to get a very positive response from most fans of Vote No Borders, although I’m hopeful for the one person I addressed it to who wrote:

‘The whole labour and trade union movement has an age old slogan “Unity is Strength”. I’m no interested in the Status Quo or the Union Jack, I campaign for a Britain and Scotland where there is “a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people”, to borrow a phrase. Only the United British working class has the power to wrestle the stranglehold of Capital and big business in order to achieve that. So it “Naw” from me, but that’s only the beginning of a fight back against crisis-riddled Capitalism and an economy run for the rich few.’

[Covert socialist], if you want to shift the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people then clearly you do care about the status quo. I think anyone who believes in the principles of the labour and trade union movement can clearly see that the status quo is punishing the working class for the sake of the well off. After all, the parallels between Victorian Britain and Britain now are striking! Rock bottom wages, exploitative contracts, debt, food banks, distinctions between ‘deserving’ and ‘underserving’ poor; these are exactly the kinds of cruel and oppressive circumstances that the labour and trade union movement developed to stop!

When I first approached the question of independence my sentiment was similar to yours; I saw separation as a step backwards, because surely we are better united? But assessing the evidence during the past couple of years my verdict is that the political set up of the United Kingdom is completely at odds with democratic and socialist principles (the House of Lords tells us all we need to know about that). Clearly you recognise that the UK is not OK, but where do you foresee that ‘fight back’ coming from? From New Labour? After everything that party has done (illegal war, PFI, academy schools, censorship of NHS staff to name a few) and while Labour’s main concern is winning right wing votes from Conservatives and UKIP? Remember, even when Labour were in power a march of one million people was not enough to change the UK government’s actions.

I understand why your instinct is to vote no to independence; it was my instinct too, and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with waving a Union Jack or shouting about the Queen. Yet I implore you to explore these websites to get an idea of the socialist arguments for independence:

Radical Independence
Common Weal
Labour for Indy

Yes, we can enact change for working people in Britain, but it’s not going to happen if we vote for the same parties of the same people to make the same decisions about our fates. Please consider the possibilities.

Not exactly what we’re talking about, but close enough.