Scotland Must Listen

It’s now the end of an active year in Scottish politics. Writers on both ends of the Nat-spectrum (Scot to Brit) are ruminating and reflecting sagely about various elements of the referendum campaign, and are offering affected and patronising advice on aims for the coming year, informed by naturally assumed superiority of knowledge.

In the continuing discussion on the future of Scotland, a common sentiment appears from both No- and Yes- voters: That people now need to get along and work together for the common good. These observations are made by those who are, in the least, comfortable, and at best, privileged, and therefore in a position to assess Scottish politics from a disinterested angle. The real and increasing threats from TTIP, austerity, fracking and perpetual war are omitted.

One example is Blair Jenkins of the Yes Campaign, who plays the proud father. He doesn’t know that much about your school subject, but you did damned well in your exam, and he knows you’ll do even better next time.

According to Jenkins, “Scotland has changed forever”: Those who were in Yes Scotland (non SNP-dominated groups are notably omitted) are “still possessed of conviction and determination, the belief that change is necessary and possible”. Not only that, but what we have now is people “enthused by the prospect of a better nation” and “a new self-confidence around, more than strong enough to survive the disappointment of defeat in September”.

“It brought folk together, giving them a sense of community and of being part of something bigger. It was a team game.”

Laden with platitudes of unmitigated positivity, we can see that Jenkins is eager to draw out successes from a defeat. However, none of these observations in fact point towards concrete change in society. To hold up the spirit of a campaign as an indicator of meaningful societal change is naïve and unhelpful.

For the future, Jenkins asserts:

We cannot make progress by leaving half the population behind, which is why continuing dialogue is essential. And from my own experience before and after the referendum, I know there were many No voters who came close to voting Yes. We have to continue to find common ground with them.

This is either disingenuous or misguided. If the latter, it demonstrates that Jenkins is hopelessly bereft of political nous. Firstly, the huge medley of groups campaigning for a Yes spoke – to varying degrees of concern – about social justice, and offered plans to achieve goals of social change. The No camp talked about the pound, the Queen, the EU, the British army. If after hearing the positions of both sides after two years and you voted No, the chances are you are fairly right wing. The inverse is generally true for Yes voters (with prominent exceptions such as Christians for Independence and Business for Scotland). Secondly, given the first point, how can two groups with diametrically opposed national, social, political and economic aspirations for the same country sit down and agree on a strategy?

In fairness to Jenkins, he seemed to write the rubbish in a good spirit, while an article written shortly after[i], with similar calls, by one Sandy Wilkie, is as unpleasant as brillo-pad toilet paper.

Sandy voted No and is in favour of a federal British state. Like almost every No voter, he prefaces his arguments with a declaration of being proud of his Scottish heritage. He describes himself as a “left-leaning idealist” despite campaigning for the Labour Party. He talks at length about what he did, what he wants, what he engaged with, what he challenges. Needy yet narcissistic, it reads like CV by an English and Philosophy student.

“The vocabulary of Scotland,” writes Wilkie, “has to change from Yes to No, from Us to Them, to We.” With this groundbreaking paradigm shift, he presents his new hashtag: #OneScotland. What does this hashtag seek to do in Scottish politics?

“#OneScotland approach… is a pragmatic – not idealistic Braveheart – response; it’s an adult approach not a childish ‘we will not co-operate one’” Keeping in the vein of the pragmatic adult, he continues:

To me, #OneScotland is about mutual respect, tolerance, collaborative working, future-focussed energy and a positive vision in terms of improving social, economic and environmental inequalities.” It’s also about “working together with fellow Scots, born or adopted, to show that we are mature enough to live with shared values.

Perhaps thousands of people who worked together for a Yes vote, to achieve those aims, lost because of their immaturity.

Wilkie goes on to relate a sad tale. He contacted Nicola Sturgeon the benefits of “a #OneScotland philosophy to our divided nation”. On Twitter. He even took the liberty to offer himself as a panellist at her recent tour of Scotland. There was no response from the head of the Scottish nationalists, not even a ‘Who the fuck are you?’ He was totally twignored.

Regardless, Wilkie’s resolve remains, and he calls for “a grown-up national conversation”. What will this post-puberty discussion focus on? “The real issues such as food banks, NHS funding, poverty, land reform, the environment and the whole democratic process.” Essentially, everything that Yes campaigners talked about for two years, and sought to address, but in the context of the British state!

The specific plan for this is so comical that it deserves to be quoted in full:

So here is the deal. This is where it gets serious. We get the best political and cultural minds in Scotland round the table in March 2015. Think of it as a modern reincarnation of the medieval Court of Scotland – orators, bards, makars, poets, musicians, ambassadors and representatives of church and state. For one night, and one day, only, we break bread and craft real actions out of the indyref fires that still rage around our land.

The medieval comparison and self-congratulatory tone aside, this looks like an attempt to copy something the Radical Independence Campaign did. Twice.

Wilkie asks who is up for it, and asseverates: “With the support of The National, I can make this happen if the will is there.”

In case it was unclear half-way through, this article is about him, his hashtag and WilkieFest 2015. The obsession with the child/grown-up dichotomy is both condescending and telling; the underlying assumption is of course that the author is the ‘adult’ while the reader – or a significant section of society – is the ‘child’. This particular adult has chosen to side with the Labour Party and the British state. He is the quintessential political careerist, opportunistically working towards self-promotion. Wilkie is an intellectual mollusc, slithering up a dirty window, attempting to peer into the boardroom of bourgeois politics.

While Jenkins may be misguided in analysis and patronising, he did assist with the campaign for independence, and today remains a proponent of Scottish self-determination. Wilkie, however, worked with the most reactionary forces of Scottish politics during the referendum, but now seeks to present himself as someone above it all, and in favour of all the causes those in the independence campaign championed.

[i] Sandy Wilkie, The National, ‘End Yes/No labels for #OneScotland’, Letters and Comment (23rd December 2014)


The growing collusion between activists, terrorists and food shops

It is probably reasonable to say that most of us on the anti-Zionist Left in western countries stay with our ‘own’ news sources regarding Palestine. This is usually Palestinian activists in Palestine or trusted, non-corrupt human rights NGOs; but it is helpful on the occasion to take a cursory glance over the great divide into the realm of the deluded Zionist. This is a healthy political exercise since it forces us to perform seriously challenging intellectual acrobatics to understand what it’s like to be a Zionist.

The Daily Telegraph writes for middle class people who identify as British. When they open this newspaper, they leave the 21st century and enter the British Empire, somewhere between the death of Queen Victoria and the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Apart from that, you get the occasional snippet of what occurs today, albeit through the lens of the some middle-aged white man who can’t remember the last time he left London.

It is, then, pretty shameful to buy this imperial toilet paper, but to pick up a crumpled copy of it in an airport waiting area is fine. This is where the recent article by the truly impressive Stephen Pollard was found. His article should be held as paragon of the favoured Zionist argument today: that anti-Zionism is simply antisemitism cloaked.

This is a series of responses to key points in the article.

Terrorism takes many forms. But whether it is Islamist extremists on the streets of London or IS beheadings in Syria and Iraq, it has one common thread – it is designed to instil such fear that a society or community changes its very way of life.

Opening sentence to frame discussion in context of terrorism, which sets the scene for later discussion on anti-Zionism. The focus is of course on Muslims only, and non-state terrorism only.

On Saturday, a branch of Sainsbury’s removed all kosher food from its shelves over fears that anti-Israel protesters picketing outside would attack the shop. Compared with the impact of the 7/7 murders, Sainsbury’s behaviour was certainly banal. But it was more than that, because in its way it was both giving in to, and colluding with, a form of terrorism.

The behaviour of one manager in one shop in one town is not an action by the company. Reference to 7/7 is a clear indication of unsound mental faculties.

In response to protesters calling for a boycott of Israeli goods … the manager ordered his staff to clear the shop of all its kosher goods. Clearly the manager is not the brightest spark in the firmament, since kosher produce – which is the only food observant Jews are allowed to eat – is not the same as Israeli produce – which is simply food produced in [sic] Israel.

It’s easy to imagine what went through the manager’s mind: “Israelis, Jews – here, they’re all the same. Let’s just get rid of this stuff pronto and keep the protesters happy.”

Kosher is not the same as Israeli, correct. A people is not the same as a state; the manager – inadvertently or not – conflated Jews generally with the Israeli state, which is unacceptable. The truth is, nobody knows what the manager was thinking… even Zionists that write for broadsheet newspapers.

I can think of no other description for Sainsbury’s behaviour than it is a “hate crime”. How else should one describe the targeting of Jews – by removing kosher food from a shop – simply because of the actions of a foreign government with which they have no connection other than religion, and with which they may or may not agree?

Sainsbury’s can’t be said to have committed a hate crime (don’t know why Pollard used quotation marks) when it was an action by an individual member of staff. Jews were not ‘targeted’ by the shop, or by protesters.*

Yes, Jews as a group are not responsible for the crimes of the Israeli state. They are not connected at all, and certainly not through religion – the Israeli state is a Zionist construct; an ethnocracy which identifies Jewish as a nationality.

Worse, the idea that the best way to deal with a mob of angry anti-Israel protesters is to give them even more than what they want, by removing all Jewish produce in the hope that they will then go away, is not merely spineless. It is, in the broadest terms, exactly the response that terrorists seek. Some hapless Sainsbury’s spokesperson issued a statement saying that the company was “an absolutely non-political organisation”, and went on: “It was an isolated decision made in a very challenging situation.”

This is a pivotal point in the argument: that the removal of Jewish products as a political extension of boycotting Israeli products, framing the call for boycott as fundamentally antisemitic. A deceptive insertion of racism into the narrative. The aims of the Sainsbury’s campaign can be found here.

Sainsbury’s “challenging” remark is indeed shite.

Challenging. What a wonderful word that is designed as a catch-al to excuse all sorts of inexcusable acts. So – given how challenging things are in Iraq at the moment – presumably Sainsbury’s will be removing all halal goods from its shelves because Islamic State is slaughtering Yazidis. No? You mean Sainsbury’s does not believe all British Muslims should be punished for the actions of a foreign body with which they have no connection?

Again, sudden link to groups who identify as Muslim perpetuating atrocities. This entire point is predicated on the falsehood that Sainsbury’s targeted Jews.

“Muslims punished for ‘actions’ of foreign body” is a continuation of the specious people-state-link argument.

A pattern is emerging in which a form of anti-Semitism is becoming normalised – as if it were now acceptable to speak or even act against Jews as Jews, under the cover of acting against Israel.

The key logical fallacy jump. Antisemitism now ‘normal’. There is antisemitism in the UK, just as any other form of racism is found, but the Sainsbury’s case cannot be classed as such. This is a crude and harmful Zionist argument that asserts all anti-Zionist acts are rooted in antisemitism.

Two weeks ago, the Tricycle Theatre in north London decided that it would not be able to host the UK Jewish Film Festival, which had graced its screens for the past eight years. Not an Israeli festival, mind – a Jewish festival. The reason? The festival has received a £1,400 donation from the Israeli government. The Tricycle has happily shown films from Russia, China and other nations with deplorable human rights records and made no demands over the funding of the films.

All Israeli state-funded shows or festivals are boycott targets, regardless of the ethnic or religious composition of the event. Yes, other states violate human rights, but only Palestinians have initiated and called for a global BDS campaign. This is the ‘why Israel?’ argument. No other western-backed state is an ethnocracy, managing a colonial occupation that seeks in rhetoric and action to wipe out an entire people using army, airforce and navy.

I doubt the management of the theatre is anti-Semitic in the sense of believing Hitler was right. But their actions – singling out Israel, alone of all the nations on the planet, for opprobrium and boycott – were clearly anti-Semitic.

Reductio ad Hitlerum. Poor show. 1/10.

For the bien pensants who inhabit this world, theirs is a supposedly more subtle stance. Some of their best friends are Jews, oh yes. But they’re the Good Jews who condemn Israel and to whom it’s acceptable to give house room, rather than the uncouth Bad Jews who, let’s be honest, shouldn’t really be here. They should fly off to Israel if they like it so much.

All Zionists – Christian, Jew and non-believer – are challenged. Anti-Zionists do not seek to deport Jews to occupied Palestine, obviously.

Not that Hitler wasn’t right, according to some of the banners at London marches over the past few weekends. “Hitler Was right”; “Israel = Nazi”; “Jews Babykillers” – they’ve all been given an outing.

If anyone is seen at a demonstration with antisemitic placards, they should be confronted, expelled and excluded from any Palestine solidarity events. It is the responsibility of all activists to do this as being part of a campaign oriented towards human rights and anti-racism.

The comparison with the Israeli state and the Nazi regime is inaccurate and insensitive at best. However, those being politicised for the first time understandably look to what they know as the worst crimes in human history. This is unsurprising, given the genocidal comments made by Israeli members of parliament, supporting the slaughter in Gaza

Over the course of July, the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism in cooperation with the police, recorded over 240 incidents – and they have been on a similar scale in August. The situation in Britain is not comparable to that in France, where there have been anti-Semitic mobs torching synagogues, but for many British Jews something poisonous has now entered the ether and anti-Semitism, the oldest hatred, is being normalised.

The benignly-named Community Security Trust categorises anti-Zionist activity as antisemitic, so their figures on hate crimes are distorted. This is ultimately harmful, since genuine cases of antisemitism are bunched with actions against the Zionist state.

Reports on the burning of synagogues in France turned out to be untrue.

Last week my own newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, conducted a straw poll of 150 Jews stopped randomly in the street. The results were not scientific. But fully 63 per cent said they and their friends had, over the past month, discussed whether Jews have a future in Britain.

In the past month, the Israeli state has been slaughtering Gazans and media attention has honed in on it. Zionists continue to conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism, amid increased outrage against the Palestinian genocide, so naturally, Jewish people (particularly Zionist Jews) will question their place in a pro-Zionist country. And how do you stop a Jew randomly in the street? What does one look like?

Stephen Pollard has revealed the desperation of Zionists faced with the global BDS movement, and the crisis Zionism is currently attempting to endure. All that the propaganda campaign has left is terrorism, Hitler and heavy use of antisemitism claims.

* Edited for clarity. Previously read “Sainbury’s can’t be responsible…”.


How Not to Write About Gaza [reblog]

  •  Do not infantilize it by God-awful chants such as the morbid “Gaza Gaza don’t you cry/We will never let you die.” Gaza has withstood a seven year siege, three invasions in six years, and a resistance movement that despite the odds has developed itself and given life and hope to Palestinians. That is only in the last seven years. Look up Gaza’s rich history, one that extends beyond being the spark of the first intifada in 1987.


  • Gaza is not Palestine. It makes up less than 2 percent of the country. Gaza is not the Palestinian cause. It is part of it. The Palestinian cause encompasses all the territories that the occupying power has divided and ruled over such as the West Bank, Jerusalem, the 1948 occupied territories, and Gaza. And then some, considering the millions of refugees still waiting for their right of return in camps in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt.


  • Gaza is no more an “Arab cause” than it is a “Muslim/Islamic ummah cause.” The former are collaborators with the Zionist regime, the latter does not exist. So save your takbeers (unless it is to cheer on the resistance) and empty rhetoric on saving al-Aqsa mosque (it’s not the one with the shiny golden dome by the way) for when Salah al-Din emerges from his grave.
  • Continuing on in the same vein, bury that stupid slogan of “You don’t need to be a Muslim to support Gaza. You just need to be human.” NO. Just. NO.
    • Also, don’t “Pray for Gaza.” Thank you very much.


  • Gaza is not a charity basket case. Use those bake-sales to attain something oh so slightly pettier. We don’t want money to ameliorate the disastrous conditions. We want an end to the siege and a border crossing we can be in charge of. We want dignity.
  • Gaza is not a cool warzone for you to add on your CV and Facebook albums. So pseudo journalists, fuck off. Orientalist journalists, the same applies to you. Foreign journalists who love reporting about the location of resistance rockets fired-endangering whole neighborhoods- the darkest depths of hellfire await you.
  • Gaza is not a cool slogan. Gaza is not cool for you to parade your activism shamelessly. Gaza is not an acceptable mainstream easy activist protest where flags of parties who are actively involved in killing civilians such as Hezbollah can be waved around.
  • Gaza is not a platform to use for your political and public speaking career, George Galloway. Gaza is not for bigots, no matter how “good” of a speaker they are.
  • Gaza is not a “feel-good call of duty even though I am so angry by all the killings there.” If you want to protest, do it right. Do not hold hands for the umpteenth time in front of the Israeli embassy chanting “Free Free Palestine” like a broken record. Do occupy or smash up the embassy. Quality over quantity.
  • Gaza is not for selfies.
  • Gaza is not to be used for people to further their own careers and star-studded personalities who support oppression elsewhere. Gaza is not for hypocrites, like Abby Martin.
  • Dear West Bank especially, and the rest of Palestine in general: Gaza is not a neighboring country. Do not protest in “solidarity” by holding candles and gathering at city centers. Rise up against the slavemaster’s puppets, the Palestinian Authority. Rise up against the slavemaster, Israel. Shove your solidarity to somewhere where the sun don’t shine.
  • Dear the rest of Palestine: do not internally Orientalize Gaza. That includes describing singer Mohammed Assaf as “dark-skinned but with a great personality.” Perhaps it is too much to ask to get rid of your colonized minds.
  • Gaza is not for your own fetishization. Do not fetishize Gaza.
  • If you do not understand what is meant by “Gaza is Hamas, and Hamas is Gaza” as Israel relentlessly bombards it with thousands of tons of heavy weaponry and massacres then do not even torture us with your senseless analysis.
  • Do not use “We teach life, sir” to the point where the phrase’s essence loses its meaning every time you see a photo of Palestinian children enjoying themselves. Children are children. They quickly adapt to their surroundings and find ways to have fun.
  • Gaza is not for your sympathy. Gaza is a call for direct action against the complicit hypocritical world.
  • Gaza’s murdered civilians are not just “women, children and elderly.” Men are civilians.
  • Gaza is not to be resoundingly victimized as hapless and helpless. Simultaneously, Gaza is not under any circumstances to be compared to the colonizing, occupying Zionist regime.
  • Do not talk about Gaza, liberal Palestinians and foreigners. Do not ask why there are no bomb shelters in Gaza, like that stupid sellout rap group DAM did (who have since deleted that July 13 post on their Facebook page. The powers of screenshots poses their question in Arabic below). Do not ask why people in Gaza “don’t just leave.”


سؤال لحماس-

غير انه عندكم استراتيجية ل-تخويف العدو
هل في برنامج لجلب الطمأنينة للشعب؟

يعني غزة دايماً كانت مستهدفة، بس بين هجوم لهجوم هل في بناء ملاجئ؟

  • Impartiality does not exist in Gaza.

Originally published on State of Hawiya

Wild Flowers: Women of South Lebanon

By Cygnus

TW: film features reference to rape and scenes of unarmed protestors being fired upon by army.

This is a short documentary film from 1986 about the Zionist occupation of South Lebanon, beginning in 1982, and women’s resistance against it, following the mass incarceration of the men of South Lebanon.

The film focuses on how women maintained a semblance of normality, while simultaneously defending their communities in various way against occupying forces. There is no distinct linear narrative: scenes of casual interviews – about anything from resistance anecdotes to stories of imprisonment – are interspersed with music. It begins with the scenes of a content family in the hills, and ends with a woman discussing her drive to learn and be educated, with coverage of the Zionist invasion in between.[i] This captures the outlook of those resisting: the occupation will remain only a short episode in their desire for a good life, free of oppression.

It is particularly relevant to watch today, as we witness an upsurge in the objectification of women and acceptability of rape as a tool to ‘discipline’ or maintain hegemony over the Palestinian people in the context of colonial occupation. Sexism and racism are fused to operate as the driving force of Zionism. Complementing this, the use of sexual images of Jewish Israeli women to romanticise and ultimately ‘clean’ the IOF is the ‘defensive’ arm of the sexist Zionist public-relations campaign (hasbara). This reveals the misogyny inherent in the Zionist colonial project: the female (if Palestinian) is reduced to being a target of sexual violence or (if Jewish Israeli) is used as sanitiser of oppression through her role as a sex object.[ii]

Wild Flowers: Women of South Lebanon shows women as complete human beings – family members, workers, resistance fighters. Their role can be the home or the fields and hills, where armed resistance takes place.

The film was written and directed by wife and husband, Mai Masri – daughter of Munib Masri – and Jean Khalil Chamoun.

I would appreciate if someone could post some more background about the film, since it seems difficult to find (in English online, at least). Also, if a full version of the film can be found, please post it here.

[i] Sadly, this version of the film uploaded seems to be cut short, but I have no idea by how long, could be 1 minute or 10.


When Genocide is Undeniable

By Cygnus

It is 2014 and Zionism continues to labour under the delusion that it will achieve its settler-colonial aims of 1897. Starting in 1947, the ongoing Nakba has now reached an agonising climax, with the Israeli state moving from apartheid policies to carrying out genocidal acts – the extermination of Palestinians in Gaza. As the Zionists attempt to remove Palestinians from history, the West ignores this. However, they are not merely complicit but actively funding and arming the perpetrators of the greatest crime of our generation.

Raphael Lemkin – the Polish scholar who coined the term genocide – based his studies largely on the Armenian genocide of 1915. Writing in 1946, as the world was still reeling from WWII, Lemkim clearly identified genocide as: “the crime of destroying national, racial or religious groups … by its very legal, moral and humanitarian nature, it must be considered an international crime.” He goes on to contextualise the atrocity: “A ruthless regime finds it easiest to commit genocide in a time of war. It then becomes a problem of the treatment, or, rather, mistreatment, of a civilian population by an occupant.”[i] Lemkin successfully pushed for genocide to be formalised as a crime under international law, with the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide being adopted in 1948. According to Article 2 of the convention, can refer to:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • (a) Killing members of the group;
  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.[ii]

Genocide is not simply about the extermination of people; there is a process before and after this particular stage. Gregory Stanton has indentified ten stages of genocide in a model, which lamentably can, without any effort, be applied to Palestinians. Since 1947, we have witnessed the classification, persecution and dehumanisation of Palestinians by those in military and/or political power of the Zionist movement. The denial of the Nakba was attempted by renaming ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages to Hebrew, utterly razing villages, or building parks upon the ruins of them. As Jean Baudrillard writes, “forgetting extermination is part of extermination, because it is also the extermination of memory, of history, of the social, etc.”[iii] Palestinians, by commemorating the Nakba, by resisting through culture or through force of arms, have fought against this genocide.

Today, genocidal sentiments in Israeli society are the ethical and tribal support for the violence carried out by the state. In the parliamentary, public, military and journalistic spheres, explicit or implicit support for genocide against the Palestinian people – or Arabs generally – is now commonplace. At the beginning of the current campaign of destruction and slaughter, Israeli parliamentarian, Ayelet Shaked called for the wiping-out of all Palestinians. She categorised the enemy as “the entire Palestinian people” and argued for the extermination of Palestinian mothers because they give birth to “little snakes”.[iv] Later in July, reports of racist mobs singing and chanting in Tel Aviv revealed the genocidal nature of Israeli society further still. The songs celebrated the state murder of children, with the lyrics: “In Gaza there’s no studying, no children are left there” and “Gaza is a graveyard”.[v] A few days after this, an IOF soldier boasted online of his murdering of Palestinian children. Aiming his comment at a Palestinian woman, he said, “ I killed 13 children today and you’re next Muslims”.[vi] These manifestations of overt and violent racism are not incoherent outbursts, nor are they isolated – they all support, from different angles, the Israeli state killing of Palestinians as a people. Equally important, but more sinister, is that all three examples explicitly emphasise and support the deadly violence against children. The targeting and murder of Palestinian children has been a prominent feature in the latest phase of genocide in Gaza. On the first of August, The Times of Israel ran an Op-Ed entitled When Genocide is Permissible. The author, Yochanan Gordon, argues that – in a roundabout fashion, using rhetorical questions – genocide of the Palestinian people could well be the only option Zionism has if it wants to retain its hold of Palestine. This article was pulled on the same day it was published.[vii] In July, four children – all boys from the same family – were killed by an Israeli gunboat as they played on the beach.[viii] Later in the month, eight children were killed in the bombing of a playground on the first day of Eid al-Fitr holiday.[ix] Now, over 1800 have been murdered, including 300 children, and almost half a million displaced.[x]

Nine years ago, before the systematic carnage in Gaza today, the UN World Summit produced an Outcome Document on ‘The Responsibility to Protect’. This noble initiative prefaces its principles with a considered observation of the globalised political structures:


The 2005 document puts forward three ‘pillars’:


  1. The State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement;

  2. The international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling this responsibility;

  3. The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

[italics added]

According to the 4th Geneva Convention, the Israeli state, as the occupying power, is responsible for the people living in Gaza.[xi] The Zionist government in Tel Aviv has committed (or is committing) War Crimes (murder and displacement), Genocide (according to the UN Convention), ethnic cleansing (though forced population transfer in Gaza and West Bank) and Crimes against Humanity (through apartheid policies). Anyone using a Liberal interpretation of power would naturally assume that states endorsing the Responsibility to Protect would intervene – militarily or otherwise – to stop the Zionist atrocities in Gaza. After all, the doctrine was invoked by the UN Security Council in 2011 in response to the crisis in Libya. However, It did not go as cheerleading Liberal interventionists expected. Instead of protecting the people of Libya, NATO bombed civilian population centres and overthrew Gaddafi. Following that, amid the fragmentation of state power and military confrontation between militias and the army, western oil companies moved in to consolidate their control of Libyan oil production. The country remains extremely volatile and unsafe.

The ‘protect’ in Responsibility to Protect implies that this is a project for imperial powers. Only states which have substantial military power coupled with interventionist policies have an interest in this mendacious initiative, since it lends legal and moral backing – via the United Nations – to predatory campaigns seeking to overthrow disobedient despots or to usurp national resources. Reading past the front cover and between the lines reveals Responsibility to Protect to be an attempt to legitimise and justify violations of state sovereignty under the cloak of humanitarianism. Were this doctrine to be applied equally to all human rights violations, troops would be rushing in to break the siege of Gaza and dismantle apartheid. Unfortunately, Palestinians are not the right kind of people: they are oppressed by the right kind of people for the west. The US, as an imperial power – with its allies, UK and France – has no interest in stopping the Palestinian genocide. As a European settler-state in the Arab world, the Israeli state is an ally. It can be set upon recalcitrant Arabs if they do not know their place and bow to western strategic aims. But more importantly, western arms companies such as BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon & Thales either sell parts to the rogue state or buy weapons from it which have been ‘tested’ on the Palestinian population.[xii]

While Palestinians are either seen as a people to be removed from the land or as guinea pigs for weapons, the UN will not and cannot stop the genocide. Palestinians – as an economic cog in the machine of the arms trade – are just too profitable. There is now a growing gulf between those citizens of conscience and the imperial states that govern them; and they are waking up to their responsibility to show solidarity with Palestinians by boyotting and isolating the Israeli state. As the BDS movement gains traction across the western world, states collaborating with genocide will be forced to change course. The trend towards this is slow but increasing as more and more people rise with indignation against apartheid, looking for a constructive and effective outlet to stop genocide.








[vii] Full article can still be found here:



[x] |



Fear and Loathing in the Gaza Strip

by Cygnus

The Israeli state is now responding obediently to the rabid colonist chants of ‘Death to the Arabs’ and to the graffiti around al-Quds that in English and Hebrew reads ‘Gas the Arabs’. In a backdrop of systematic starvation, a ground invasion of tanks, assisted by the deployment of toxic gas has begun this week, with homes and hospitals being destroyed and entire families being wiped out.

As expected, the corporate media have buried any mention of the Palestinian experience of colonisation: the ongoing Nakba remains absent, resistance is terrorism, and the Israeli state is merely ‘responding’ to rockets from Palestinians who break ceasefires they didn’t even hear about. Thankfully, Palestinians in Gaza have challenged the imperial and colonial narratives by using social media, such as Twitter, and writing on news/analysis sites, such as Electronic Intifada. Without this, many people in the world would remain lost in the undignified and distorted world of the Zionist narrative.

Sadly, there one notably unsavoury character who has modelled himself as a promoter and defender of the ‘Palestinian perspective’, while in reality expertly fashioning himself into an institution. Harry Fear is a beneficiary of Palestinians being denied – as Edward Said termed it with clinical accuracy – “permission to narrate”. He has carved out an orientalist niche somewhere between the unabashed, self-congratulatory rich kid talking about his gap year volun-tourism shit with ‘the poor’, and the embedded war-reporter who pretends to give a fuck about the whirlwind of carnage prop that makes his 5-minute report for the evening news so “oh, dear” inducing for his audience.

He made this niche during the Zionist slaughter of Gaza in November 2012, and subsequently went on a world tour to talk about Gaza. At the outset, many of us watching his reports thought he was a welcome alternative to the corporate media coverage. This was quickly proved false. He describes himself as a “documentary maker & activist” – a slightly ambiguous description of someone who simply actively documents his white male self amid a colonial ethnic cleansing campaign of Arab people.

Look at his website. It is exhaustingly hard to believe that this site is about anything other than him. Gaza is the background to his show. No links to activist groups. No reblogging of or reference to works by Palestinians (or any other people, for that matter). No reference to Palestinian organisations or individuals working with him. There are two different links take you to the same page – his blog. Five different tabs on the left, with his smug, pasty face looking back at you from the right side of the page. He’s even got his own fucking logo – an ‘H’ next to an ‘F’, because these are the initials of his name. Harry Fear. HF

Harry got invited to do a TEDx talk in Copenhagen. The theme was ‘challenging realities, the mainstream media & you’ – because he is the alternative to mainstream, remember? He does not come across as a passionate activist or documentarian. He is self-indulgent, and well warmed and nurtured by his white, male, upper-class privilege. His body language and speaking style convey an absurd degree of self-satisfaction, with his annoying pursing of lips, and sharp intake of breath to punctuate points, like a 1960s BBC reporter, doing a piece on the monarchy, and trying to make it seem acceptable to the proles. If viewed for the first time, having never heard of him, in the context of a pub, for example, he’s what you’d call a wanker.

Indicating the point where he left Gaza for an extended trip up his own arse, Harry makes a video entitled ‘Harassed in Gaza: Internationals Under Threat’. Basically, it’s 2 minutes 47 seconds of him walking up to an Israeli state controlled border and getting warning shots fired at him. He stoically concludes “all in a day’s work for an international journalist.” Harry has the luxury of entering and leaving Gaza when he wants. A “day’s work” is choosing to use the IOF to show how dangerous Gaza can be for ‘Internationals’ (ie. Harry) in an unnecessary provocation of Zionists (who, admittedly, shouldn’t be there anyway).

Harry’s suspect motivations and ideology have already been identified by Palestinians and other (decent) international activists. Last year, he put up a list of books on his facebook page about Palestine that he recommends people to read, because he is an authority on the matter, after all. This list of books included one Palestinian and no women. Comments on his page highlighted this but he deleted whole lot. Fortunately, some comments were saved here: (copy & paste into address bar to read). Speaking at the Islamic University of Gaza, he is challenged by a young woman about this. He responds with the usual condescending style, chiding the woman, saying, “firstly, I want to say that I don’t appreciate the confrontational tone.” He then goes on to expound a bit of orientalist theory with: “I do not believe in freedom of speech 100%… and judging by the hijab on your body, you probably also don’t, because neither does Islam.” Muslim women: Harry can identify your political ideology just by gazing at your head.

A succinct summary of the deeply problematic nature of Harry’s comments, approach and behaviour is given by Maha Rezeq here. “As Palestinians,” she writes, “many of us are extremely offended by his inaccurate accounts and exaggeration, presumably to simply boost careers potentials.” Despite these very serious problems, expressed by Palestinians, Harry continues to gain media coverage. In its coverage of the recent spate of massacres in Gaza, Russia Today has been praised by activists for its anti-Zionist angle. However, they invited the self-promoting, one-man-institution for an interview, as they have done many times before. There are 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, but they choose the white upper-class Englishman.

It has been established that the corporate media values an Israeli life over a Palestinian life. Looking at the comments on Harry Fear’s videos, it would seem that for some people, a privileged white voice is of more value than a Palestinian voice. Comments on his videos regularly feature gushing praise and sycophantic compliments, from people of all backgrounds. What really is the appeal here? Harry is offering nothing in terms of news and analysis that Palestinians in Gaza cannot. Is it perhaps that people, realising the very real danger the Zionists pose to Gaza, find some sort of muted amusement in the fact a white posh kid with a comically over-inflated ego is actually in the besieged enclave? Or, perhaps more likely to western viewers, the boy deserves kudos for ‘reporting’ (read: vlogging on himself) in Gaza while being more ‘like them’ than a Palestinian?

Those who identify as activists no longer have any excuses for behaving like a Harry Fear (not that he qualifies as an activist). A good start for those who are still lost would be Ramallah Bantustan blog by Mariam Barghouti. Written with such clarity, empathy and political nous, one article methodically works through the various political and cultural problems and issues that have emerged with westerners becoming involved in Palestine solidarity activism. Harry Fear epitomises virtually all the negatives enumerated by Mariam.

Harry is back in Palestine again. Zionist oppression of Palestinians is again another few lines on a curriculum vitae. There are many activists and international ‘journalists’* who have in fact heeded the guidance of Palestinians. They see them as intellectual and moral equals, and respond to their demands accordingly. They do not need to do a world tour and they do not need a logo. The work for the liberation of Palestine as a secondary, complementary element of the struggle, led by Palestinians themselves.

*In Palestine, code for any white person with a camera, ability to use a word-processing document, and internet access.

The Legal and Moral Right of Palestinian Resistance

By Cygnus


Well I hate it when the blood starts flowin’

But I’m glad to see the resistance growin’

– Gil Scott Heron, Johannesburg


The majority of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are refugees from the 1947-49 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Since 1967, the tiny enclave of (now) 1.5 million people has been under belligerent occupation. The most recent spate of attacks on the defenceless, highly populated area were in the form of aerial and naval bombardment, using hundreds of tonnes of high explosives. The bombing by the Israeli state of the besieged Palestinian territory is congruent with the history of colonial oppression from Zionist forces. Resistance against the Israeli state by Palestinian groups occurs to varying levels of intensity, from symbolic attacks with no military gain, to self-defence through damaging Zionist machinery and weapons. Nonetheless, Palestinian acts of resistance are not viewed as such in the west, with the word itself virtually remaining absent in the lexicon of western journalists and political commentators.

The very idea that Palestinians using force against the Israeli can be considered ‘resistance’ is alien to the corporate media and the western public generally, the former having a clear and direct influence on the opinion of the latter. The BBC prefers to adopt a narrative that presents those fighting against Zionist oppression as militarily and politically equal to the 4th largest army in the world. This narrative omits to mention that the state is an occupying power, and that Palestinians have no navy, no army and no air force to defend themselves.[i] Unabashed, the BBC stands with the aggressor: one of their journalists, Jonathan Marcus, dedicated an article to cogitate over the military limitations of an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. “The Gaza Strip,” he sagely observes, “is a tiny-cockpit – especially for mechanised forces.” He then goes on to describe the Operation Cast Lead massacre (2008-09) as “a bitter three-week struggle.”[ii] The Israeli defence minister at the time chose to describe the campaign as a “Holocaust”.[iii]

At the time of writing, 100 Palestinians have been killed in four consecutive days of bombing – the vast majority being civilians. At 18 months old, the two youngest victims were Mohammad Malakiyeh and Ranim Jawde Abdel Ghafour, while the oldest is 80-yea-old Naifeh Farjallah.[iv] UN OCHA reported that “the targeting and destruction of residential properties in Gaza is the main cause of civilian casualties.” The people of Gaza live permanently in the crosshairs. There has been resistance to this latest bout of ethnic cleansing, by Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad. Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas) fired a number of rockets at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Nevatim military airport in the south of 1948 Palestine. The al-Quds Brigades (IJ) claimed responsibility for rockets fired at Israeli town, Nir Oz. The Ali Abu Mustafa Brigades (PFLP) fired a combination of home-made projectiles and rockets at Israeli towns surrounding Gaza.[v] On the 8th and 9th of July, Palestinian fighters swam from Gaza to an Israeli military base in 1948 Palestine, only to be killed in short fire fights. Five were killed on the first day, and two on the second.[vi]

It must be emphasised that according to customary international law, armed resistance is not controversial, but is in fact a right of all peoples fighting colonialism or occupation. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed this on a number of occasions, the most explicit and significant being the following two.

UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/3246 of 29 November 1974:

2. Renews its call to all States to recognize the right to self-determination and independence of all peoples subject to colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation and to offer them moral, material and other forms of assistance in their struggle to exercise fully their inalienable right to self-determination and independence;

3. Reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation form colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle;

7. Strongly condemns all Governments which do not recognize the right to self-determination and independence of peoples under colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation, notably the peoples of Africa and the Palestinian people;

UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/23/34 of 29 November 1978:

2. Reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle;

3. Reaffirms the inalienable right of the peoples of Namibia and Zimbabwe, of the Palestinian people and of all peoples under alien and colonial domination to self-determination, national independence, territorial integrity, and national unity and sovereignty without external interference;

As the resolutions show, the right to armed resistance is subsumed under the fundamental right of all people to self-determination. The Zionist project has aimed, since its inception, to not only deny Palestinians this right, but to exile them from their homeland, through various military, political and legal means, or exterminate those who remain.

Speaking in the context of the al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-05), UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Richard Falk, argues the legal angle regarding Palestinian rights and resistance. As the occupying power, the Israeli state is obliged by the 4th Geneva Convention to protect the human rights of Palestinians and their prospects for self-determination. Instead, it has defied international law by refusing to withdraw from the occupied territories, and has continued to ignore UN resolutions and to violate the fundamental rights of Palestinians. The military occupation itself has engendered the Palestinian right of resistance.[vii] It is the structural violence of the occupation that dictates how individuals and groups see themselves and the oppressor. This perspective shifts the understanding of resistance from a legal question to a moral one.

It is elemental to the success of a settler colonial project that violence is used: the replacement of one people (the indigenous) with another (the colonists) requires ethnic cleansing by definition. Frantz Fanon, writing in 1961 on the Algerian Revolution, points out that “the colonial regime owes its legitimacy to force and at no time tries to hide this aspect of things.”[viii] Conversely, the Palestinian resistance can derive its legitimacy from international law and from – by virtue of undergoing colonial occupation, moral norms. The coloniser and the colonised can never be morally equal and must be seen as opposites; the uprooting and genocide of a people is an inherent wrong in any decade or country, and has no moral foundation, although the settlers will use any religious, ethnic or historical pretext for it. Resistance against Zionism does not need a legal text for justification – this is a purely human phenomenon of land, violence and belonging. It would demean the people if we were to urge those resisting to consult the law before deciding to defend themselves against colonists. Fanon captures the root of the issue in its entirety: “National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people, commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used or the new formulas introduced, decolonisation is always a violent phenomenon.”[ix]

Armed resistance has legal and moral justification, and the UN calls upon states to assist oppressed people in their struggle for self-determination. For western states to acquiesce to this call, a paradigm shift would have to occur. Were they to do this, they would be undermining their diplomatic support for Zionism, and would – to avoid contradictory policy – have to cease the funding and arming of the Apartheid state. This would also hinder their own neocolonial projects by legitimising the resistance in Iraq, for example. Undeniably, Palestinian resistance will not receive any support – tacit, symbolic or concrete – from any western state. However, the support from the grassroots campaigns and civil society in imperial countries is growing.









[viii] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 66

[ix] Fanon, p. 27

An alternative to Partitionist thinking in the Post-Good Friday era

by Pádraig Ó Duirnín

Writing just over a century ago in March 1914, James Connolly, with a canny farsightedness, predicted that the partition of Ireland would lead to a ‘carnival of reaction both North and South, would set back the wheels of progress, and would destroy the oncoming unity of the Irish Labour movement and paralyse all advanced movements while it endured’.[1] The primary determinant of partition was not the Protestant Unionist population in North-East Ulster, largely reactionary as it might have been, but the over-arching role of British Imperialism in Ireland. The Anglo-Irish Treaty which institutionalised partition was agreed upon in London, and the British negotiating party faced by the representatives of the incipient Free State included Lloyd George, Austen Chamberlain, and Winston Churchill, not Carson or Craigavon.

Connolly’s ‘carnival of reaction’ of course came to pass, with the establishment of a deeply conservative, ultra-Catholic agrarian state in the South, the ideological remnants of which have yet to be fully overcome, and a sectarian ‘Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people’ in the North. The forward march of Irish Labour was well and truly halted. The violent suppression of the Civil Rights movement amongst the Catholic Nationalist community in the Northern six counties led into the conflict euphemistically known as ‘the Troubles’ between 1969 and 1998. For thirty years, the British state did not hesitate to deploy a force of over 20,000 troops to streets which were supposedly as ‘British’ as Birmingham or Liverpool.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, amidst the height of the conflict, [Provisional] Sínn Féin adopted a political programme known as ‘Éire Nua’ (New Ireland), which called for a ‘federal, democratic socialist republic based on the Proclamation of 1916’. The federal system envisaged would include the establishment of four Parliaments based upon the traditional provinces of Ireland, including Ulster, but on a nine-county basis (also including Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan, then and now part of the South). Various political criticisms can be made of Éire Nua – in an article for The Blanket written in 2002, Seaghán Ó Murchú bluntly described it as a document deeply coloured by corporatist-Christian socialist thinking, a document ‘not red enough for the Marxists, certainly green enough for the left, but too nationalistic for the peaceniks’.[2] Nonetheless, it represented a relatively progressive, reasonably coherent Republican political alternative not just to partition but to existing economic doctrine North and South of the border, the likes of which have not been seen since.

Éire Nua was eventually supplanted as the Southern-based leadership of Sínn Féin was replaced by the Northern-based group around Gerry Adams in the early 1980s, a leadership for which ‘the military domination of the republican strategy drowned out the calls for political alternatives in a post-British island-wide government’.[3] It can be argued that the present position of Sínn Féin as the administrators of a reinforced, albeit slightly more generous partition settlement is in part due to the lack of a coherent, developed political programme within the Republican movement once the military avenue had reached inevitable exhaustion.

Sínn Féin and the Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) brought an end to a conflict which had undoubtedly run its course, but nonetheless, neither the agreement nor Sínn Féin’s policy approach since have succeeded in addressing the fundamentals of the issue of partition; the GFA was an attempt to deal with what is seen as an inter-communal problem in the North, rather than a matter between the British state and the Irish people as a whole. With the GFA, the political concession gained by Sínn Féin was recognition by Westminster that their political position in the North could become that of state-legitimated representatives of a particular community in the Stormont Assembly. Given the nature of enforced coalitions within the Stormont system, –which exist in order to prevent a return to the sectarian one-party state which existed before 1972 – Sínn Féin in the six counties, like the SDLP, UUP, and DUP, cannot be voted out of power, therefore operates politically with two core purposes:

a)     Seeking dominance of the Nationalist ‘side’ against their primary community rivals, the SDLP. This goal was accomplished at the 2003 Assembly elections and was maintained after restoration of Stormont in 2007. Sínn Féin have finished second to the DUP at every Northern election since.

b)    the demographic game, with the eventual expectation that the Nationalist ‘side’ will one-day outnumber the Unionist, at which point a border poll can be called with the agreement of the Northern Ireland Office at Westminster, reuniting Ireland through the achievement of a particular majority in that part of the country which remained under British control in 1922. The British Northern Ireland Secretary still maintains the right to over-ride the result of any poll.

Whilst the SDLP are in decline as a political force, having lost over 80,000 votes in the North since 1998 (indeed, British intelligence described them as an ‘aging party’ as early as 1983)[4], of late an electoral challenge has begun to arise at a local level, with the election of ‘dissident’-aligned Republicans such as Gary Donnelly in Derry, and more conventional left-type groups such as People Before Profit in Belfast, amongst several other independent Republican and/or Socialist candidates. Lack of progress after sixteen years of the GFA over resolving the issue of partition has gone hand in hand with Sínn Féin’s administration of the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition’s cuts in the North, whilst it postures as the ‘anti-austerity’ option south of the border.

The 1916 Societies and ‘One Ireland, One Vote’

In recent years, Republicans in Tyrone frustrated at these developments and in the political direction of Sínn Féin have formed a group known as the ‘1916 Societies’ – grassroots, autonomous local branches of which now exist across Ireland, and to which the Scotland-based James Connolly Society are now also affiliated. Rather than looking towards short-term electoralism, the Societies have worked on in areas such as anti-eviction campaigns, providing direct assistance to some of the nearly 200,000 families in the twenty-six counties threated with foreclosure since the Irish economic crisis, as well as in campaigns against internment and sectarian parades in the North. Whilst the Societies have arguably not entirely broken free of the under politically developed communalism rife in the North, (as critiques from the Anarchist Workers’ Solidarity Movement suggest)[5], they have nonetheless moved a Republican perspective back towards a decommunalised understanding of partition, one in which the relationship between the Irish people as a whole and British imperialism is the key dynamic.

At present, and particularly important in the context of the Scottish independence referendum on the 18th September, the Societies have launched a campaign calling for ‘One Ireland, One Vote’. ‘One Ireland, One Vote’ is of interest particularly because it represents a break from the Westminster-approved politics of Good Friday, in that it does not accept partition as a fait accompli, but also from the blinkered militarism which led the Republican movement into that corner: the all-Ireland referendum it calls for is fundamentally a citizens’ initiative. Whilst a new political programme for a united post-partition Ireland approaching the depth of ‘Éire Nua’ does not yet appear to be on the Societies’ agenda, the ‘One Ireland, One Vote’ campaign provides fruitful circumstances for the development of such a programme, as the upcoming Scottish referendum has produced a variety of such visions on the other side of the Irish Sea. Even if the prospect of immediate success is somewhat limited, the framework the campaign presents should nonetheless be given attention by Republicans and Socialists interested in moving towards an Ireland which can overcome both the geographical and social consequences of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.



[1] James Connolly, ‘Labour and the Proposed Partition of Ireland’


[3] Ibid.




Author can be found on twitter: @fernetower

Learning from Latin America: Part 1. The State

By Cygnus

The function of Scottish independence, for those on the Left campaigning in favour, is one of societal revival. Scottish society can enter the 21st century only after the sweeping away of anachronistic British structures – stemming from London – that nurture elitism and stifle democracy. We are now turning towards different societies, looking for positive ideas (policies, laws, etc.), and doing the right thing by stealing them. The most commonly occurring examples cited appear to be practices and policies from the Nordic countries. These ideas are promoted by Scottish think-tanks, Common Weal and Nordic Horizons, with the former being most prominent in terms of reference in pro-independence circles (although it has no formal position on the referendum). ‘All of us first’ are the words of the moment by Common Weal, an attempt to capture opposition to inequality in a slogan. The excitement about building our own version of a Nordic Utopia – as some have sardonically called these countries – has manifested itself in the rhetoric of some active in the Radical Independence Campaign. A couple of questions arise at this point.

Firstly, what is it that people identifying as ‘socialists’ find so covetable about Nordic countries?

It is demonstrable that these countries are more equal and more democratic, with better healthcare, better pensions and better wages. These conditions are said to be achieved by inclusive democratic structures, nationalised services, and a peaceful foreign policy. No doubt hailing the Nordic approach as the paragon of civilisation is a result of living under the British system, where aggressive individualism is rewarded and those weakest in society are punished for the crime of being disadvantaged. The Nordic approach is merely social democracy – the filing down of the sharp, rusty edges of neoliberalism to maintain the structures of cuddly capitalism. This is not radical by any measure. In fact, the trend in Sweden[i] and Norway[ii] is towards privatisation of public services and state-owned companies.

Secondly, why are some on the Scottish left obsessing over Nordic countries when there are more socially-oriented countries they can turn to?

Is it because Scandinavians are more ‘like us’? They also speak a Germanic language. They are also white. They are quite close to us geographically. However, there are examples further afield which are radical and which can be feasibly applied to an independent Scotland. Starting around fifteen years ago, some Latin American countries have been transforming their societies not only politically and economically, but addressing deep social issues of sex and gender in a positive and meaningful way, and prioritising social needs, not capital accumulation. Strangely, they have largely been ignored in favour of the people to our north-east.

After the election of Rafael Correa as Ecuadorean president in 2007, a Constituent Assembly was formed to write a new constitution. The assembly gained approval by 80% of the electorate, and the constitution was approved almost two-thirds of voters. Enacted in 2008, this constitution[iii] – by international standards – is uniquely progressive in that it addresses the fundamental human rights and needs of citizens.

Article 11 recognises the fundamental right to gender identity and sexual orientation. Ecuador is the first state to do this. Article 281 guarantees the right to food: “Food sovereignty is a strategic objective and an obligation of the state in order to ensure that persons, communities, peoples and nations achieve self-sufficiency with respect to healthy and culturally appropriate food on a permanent basis.” The state has fourteen administrative, economic and bureaucratic obligations pertinent to this article. Again, this is a world first in terms of rights. Articles 71-4 address the rights of nature: nature has “the right to be restored” and the state is obliged to restrict or prevent “activities that might lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of ecosystems and the permanent alteration of natural cycles.” Like the previous two, this section of the constitution is globally unprecedented. That the environment can be constitutionally protected is particularly salient to Scotland, considering the recent razing of areas of Special Scientific Interest in Aberdeenshire by the avaricious Donald Trump, enabled by the Scottish government.[iv]

Similar to the Ecuadorean experience, only ten years earlier, Venezuela elected Hugo Chávez who subsequently made provision for a Constitutional Assembly to be voted on. The constitution was approved by the electorate in 1999 with an over two-thirds majority. The Venezuelan constitution has been described as “non-androcentric”. In terms of language, it uses both the Spanish masculine and feminine noun-classes – something lacking in all constitutions up until 1999. It incorporates the definition of discrimination by the UN ‘Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women’. In a more concrete move towards equality of the sexes, women working in the home are entitled to receive payment by the state for this, since their labour is recognised as an economic activity. Economic rights in the Bolivarian constitution are geared in the interests of working people: “every worker has the right to a sufficient salary that allows a life with dignity and covers his own and his* family’s basic material, social and intellectual activities.” In addition, the state is obliged to promote and protect economic democracy, like cooperatives. The right to healthcare is also enshrined in the constitution: “health is a fundamental social right, an obligation of the state, which guarantees it as part of the right to life.”[v]

Both the Ecuadorean and Venezuelan constitutions clearly seek to ensure not only the protection of political rights and freedoms, but to engender a social and economic environment that is conducive to the advancement of individual and community health and wellbeing. The medium- and long-term result of such rights being implemented is that people with their fundamental needs secured can then concentrate on political participation and activity. In turn, then, social change can be harnessed by the working class in a direct way, since they are no longer burdened with daily hardships as before.

Bolivia has been engaging in land reform for years, but the redistribution of land has been accelerated by president Evo Morales since his election in 2006. Land ownership has been shifted from the wealthy to indigenous communities and poor farmers. While the landed classes still own vast amount of land, peasant and indigenous organisations now collectively control one-third of regularised land. Of titled land, peasant and indigenous communities now hold over 55%. The government has acquired (by some estimates) 25 million acres from individuals or businesses that did not use land productively or could not show legal rights to the land they claimed.[vi] Guided by correcting historical injustices and challenging privilege, Bolivia is making those in genuine need the beneficiaries of land use. By contrast, the Scottish government’s Land Reform Review Group recently proposed that there should be an upper limit on the amount of land held by private owners, and advocated an increase in community land ownership.[vii] This is a disappointingly insipid solution to a country which has the highest concentration of land ownership in the developed world, with 432 individuals owning 50% of the land. Scotland only abolished feudal property rights ten years ago.

The only example of lessons in democracy from Latin America which is popular with the Nordicists is that of Porto Alegre. In 1989, the Brazilian city decided that measures had to be taken to combat corruption and wasting of resources. The participative budget was the solution offered: the population would decide on budget expenditure, priorities and development plans. The working class and middle class, leftists and rightists, were invited to talk civilly in an economic forum. This has been lauded as a victory for democracy. Proponents point to results: sewerage systems, drinking water access and paved roads have been installed in poor areas that previously had none.[viii] It’s unsurprising that those favouring the Nordic model are attracted to this scheme – it allows the middle class to retain their position of luxury while the working class must negotiate their way out of poverty. This does reinforce the idea that advocates of Nordic-style democracy have bourgeois interests, contrasting with recent programmes and policies in Venezuela, for example, which are largely working class.

While the radical changes in Latin American countries tend to be highly state-centric and top-down, this is quite a logical step, given the history of US invasions, military dictatorships and systemic human rights violations. The concern with having a state that guarantees rights and can promote and defend working-class interests is an obvious priority. However, there are positive trends that indicate communities are taking control, without state coercion (explored in part 2). In the discussion of the need for Scotland to radically change, there are two flaws in choosing the Nordic model. The first is that Scotland has a large working class population, and a prominent working class political culture. The Nordic approach accepts that governance should remain in the hands of the bourgeois; working class empowerment is not an option. The second is that Scandinavian countries began their social democratic projects in the early- or mid-20th century (depending on which country you are talking about) – before the globalisation of neoliberal capitalism. Capital must deepen and expand, which is why even Norway is now submitting to the logic of the market; social democracy can only slow down capitalism, not stop it. The Bolivarian movements began as a direct challenge to neoliberalism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with the focus on tearing down the economic structures that exploited those poorest in society, to the benefit of the wealthy. Those in favour of independence and calling themselves a ‘socialist’ of any stripe must to turn to Latin America for ideas. With a housing crisis, food bank use rising, concern for the future of NHS, urgent land reform needed – all amid recession and austerity – the lessons we can learn from Latin America are far more instructive and relevant than those from the Nordic countries.






* Assuming this gender specific language is in the English version of the constitution only





Scotland: Friends with America?


By Cygnus

With intentions unlikely to be benign, the British state and corporate media have been drawing international attention to Scottish independence. High-ranking politicians from Russia, US and China – like the UK, all have permanent seats in UN Security Council – have been asked their views on the upcoming referendum. Out of those three, for simple reasons of imperial ambition, America is the one that will lose the most, were Scotland to choose self-determination.

In January this year, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was asked his view on the referendum. With robotic diplomacy, he opined that all people had a right to self-determination, but argued that “being part of a single, strong state has some advantages”. He distanced himself by calling it “a domestic issues for the UK”.[i] In mid-June, the No camp claimed a success, pointing to US president, Barack Obama’s ostensible public backing of the British state. Speaking at the G7 conference, Obama said that the referendum was “up to the people of Scotland,” going on to assert that it is in the US interest to have a “strong, robust, united and effective partner”.[ii] It’s worth watching the video to see how he struggles to find the correct diplomatic language, and the words unnaturally tumble from his mouth. An explicit declaration of support for the British came later in June from Chinese premier Li Keqiang. At a press conference with David Cameron, Li voiced his support for a “strong, prosperous, united United Kingdom”.[iii] Incidentally, on the same visit, £14 billion in trade deals were signed between China and UK, with a £11.8 billion deal between China National Offshore Oil Corporation and BP pending.[iv] More telling were comments from US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during an interview with Westminster mouthpiece, Jeremy Paxman. Clinton remarked that she “would hate to have you [the UK] lose Scotland”. She attempts to backpedal after this utterance of imperial language, by pointing out that she doesn’t have a vote in Scotland, just in case we were wondering.[v]

These comments have revealed that world powers have a preference for the status quo – which, in this case, is the British state. For the US as an imperial power, this is a serious concern. Obama’s fake neutrality was necessary to hide the American agenda: the continuation of the British vassal state. His description of the UK was flattering, and requires translation from diplomatic to power speak. It is a subservient, pliable, deferential junior partner of American imperialism. As expected, the US is deeply concerned with keeping its vassal state politically, militarily and economically intact. Wikileaks has revealed that the potential for the breaking of the British state is being closely watched and analysed by US intelligence.[vi]

The UK has been consistent in its support of the American Empire, during the Cold War and into the unipolar world that became a playground for NATO. Iran in 1953, Diego Garcia in 1968, East Timor from 1975-2000, Iraq in 1991, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq (again) in 2003 and Libya in 2011 have all been targets for US-British military aggression under various pretexts.

Scottish independence poses a genuine threat to British militarism and therefore to the status of junior imperial partner. While the Scottish government pledged to remove Trident from Faslane naval base near Glasgow in the event of a Yes vote, they narrowly voted in favour of joining NATO. Trident is the US nuclear weapon system, owned by the US navy, and a key component of UK military power. Scottish civil society is considerably more radical than the government, establishing active grassroots coalitions, No to NATO Scotland and Scrap Trident. The latter organised the April 2013 blockade of Faslane, an act of mass civil disobedience against British militarism. With no suitable alternative base for Trident in the UK, the only option would be to decommission the bombs, rendering both Scotland and Britain non-nuclear countries. According to Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, all nuclear bombs could be removed from Scotland within 2 years, and then being dismantled 2 years after that.[vii] Pressuring the nascent Scottish state to remove Trident as promised and not to join NATO will not be a case of petitions and voting. It will require consistent and energetic mobilisation, organised by dedicated and coherent grassroots campaigns. Scrap Trident offers an encouraging blueprint for this.

Scotland is not only home to nuclear weapons, but has been used as a transit country for CIA aircraft, in their ‘rendition’ programmes – this is where individuals are kidnapped from one country, and sent to another to be tortured. This year, legal charity Reprieve requested the Scottish government investigate their complicity in American human rights violations.[viii] Ensuring that an independent Scotland would not join NATO would preclude the CIA from using Scotland as a base for their global campaign of incarceration and torture.

If Scotland chooses independence, the UK would no longer enjoy the Scottish tax contribution to the British treasury, access to Scottish oil or various sources of renewable energy. It would also be stripped of the hard power privilege of nuclear weapons. This would open into question the UK permanent Security Council seat – with veto rights – at the UN; all permanent members have nuclear arms. An economically truncated UK with the nuclear threat could not hold onto its Security Council seat in the long term. Given the American reliance on British diplomatic support in the Security Council, losing a submissive ally would mean losing another vote which legitimises their across the world.

Of course, it would be an exaggeration to say that Scottish independence would strike a blow to American imperialism. With the loss of one ally, America will find another. The US has military bases and allies all across the globe. However, the weakening of British militarism and aggression is without question. By association, then, independence can break down a key American ally to the point of being inadequate as a junior partner. In the least, it will frustrate US ambitions, since the UK will be in no position to join in imperial adventures. On the global scale, this is a minor change, but still positive inasmuch as one global aggressor is taken out of the game. Clinton was being honest: they would hate to have the British ‘lose’ Scotland, because they, in turn, would lose their most reliable vassal state.