Scottish Independence

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)

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’

[2] http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/cidecenen.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-25465593

[5] http://www.wsm.ie/c/republican-publication-1916-societies-sectarian-agenda

 

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.

 

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/dec/18/private-healthcare-lessons-from-sweden

[ii] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/da1191dc-1628-11e3-a57d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz367RR2hoY

[iii] http://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Ecuador/english08.html

[iv] http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/trump-golf-course-damaging-environment-claims-rspb.21425182

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

[v] http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/70

[vi] https://nacla.org/blog/2013/3/31/bolivia-unfinished-business-land-reform

[vii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-27735003

[viii] http://www.unesco.org/most/southa13.htm

Scotland: Friends with America?

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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.

 

 

[i] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-25800441

[ii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-27713327

[iii] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/17/china-li-keqiang-scottish-independence

[iv] http://www.bbc.com/news/business-27882954

[v] http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/9317-scotland-is-not-a-property-to-be-lost-salmond-tells-clinton

[vi] http://search.wikileaks.org/?q=independence+scotland

[vii] http://www.banthebomb.org/images/stories/pdfs/TridentandIndependence.pdf

[viii] http://www.globalresearch.ca/police-investigating-use-of-scottish-airports-by-cia-rendition-torture-flights/5383738

A match made in heaven – Common Weal and the Rich

Roch Winds

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There is no hiding the fact: we live in a period when moral sense is totally expunged from the minds of the people in the big cities… The worker cannot see why he should lack everything when the rich man goes short of nothing. He revolts against the unjust distribution of wealth which, in his eyes, has ceased to be compensated for in any way. He blames our social system and sees some sort of justice in overthrowing it. He wants, in his turn, to enjoy all the good things of life. This becomes a consuming and intoxicating passion. It is no longer a question of victory over some verbal quibble, or over the form of government. What is at the root of these impious endeavours is the total reshaping of society. From political riots we have passed to social war.

To so grave a malady there would be but…

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The Threat of Scottish Independence

By Cygnus

In the corporate media today, Scottish independence is increasingly presented as not merely a bad idea, but sinister and threatening. This danger runs inwards and outwards: it can be a threat to the individual citizen living in Scotland, or it can be a threat to entire states – depending on who is speaking and who their audience is. It’s a malleable nightmare. It has been given a structure: Alex Salmond as the mendacious, autocratic and self-serving leader, and the SNP as his brainwashed and loyal army. The need for an ‘enemy’ in the British corporate media is not a new idea, however.

During the Cold War, from the late 1940s to the 1980s, ‘Communism’ was – juxtaposed against ‘democracy’ or capitalism – was seen as a global threat, with Russia at the economic, military and political centre. Britain’s proximity to the Marxist-Leninist monolith was a cause for anxiety. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, Irish Republican ‘terrorism’ plagued the headlines. These people apparently sought to destabilise the civilising mission of British control of the Six Counties. The ‘War on Terror’ in 2001 with the invasion of Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq in 2003 sought to crush ‘Islamic terrorism’. The ‘Fundamentalists Islamists’ – with the near-mythical Osama bin Laden as their leader – were driven by their hatred of democracy and Christianity (the West) to attacking any physical manifestation of these concepts. Since the launch of Yes Scotland and the Radical Independence Campaign in 2012, media attention has focused on Scottish ‘nationalism’. Any person or group supporting independence – be they anarchists, socialists or free-market capitalists – is referred to as ‘nationalist’ or ‘nat’ (or ‘cybernat’ if they are expressing themselves in the digital realm). Their values are seen as a wild aberration, diametrically opposed to the normalcy and stability of the British state; their goals are unrealisable at best and potentially dangerous.

The hysteria emanating from the Unionist corporate media and high-profile Unionists is becoming increasingly irrational and detached from reality. While independence has been accused of magically emptying your bank account, more absurd accusations and stories are being manufactured. Parasitic peer, Lord Robertson claimed that “the forces of darkness would simply love it” if Scotland were independent and that the effects would be “cataclysmic in geopolitical terms”. The entrance of the good-versus-evil narrative is implied here, creating a moral divergence between the pro-British and pro-Scottish groups. Head of Better Together, Alistair Darling compared Alex Salmond’s behaviour to that of Kim Jong-il, deceased ‘supreme leader’ of North Korea. In the West, the dictator was well-known for his heinous human rights record and state-created personality cult. He also complained that people are being “threatened for saying the wrong things” – hinting at a latent violence in independence supporters. Recently elected to European parliament, David Coburn of the misogynist and racist UKIP blurted out a string of non sequiturs relating to Salmond and the SNP the day after Darling. He likened the party to a cult, Salmond as “prototype dictator” then opined: “they all follow behind him [Salmond]. Nobody says anything wrong, it’s always the same nonsense, there’s no humanity to them.” The SNP, then, have entered the realm of science-fiction villains. The No camp have framed this debate as one where they are the underdogs, despite having a slight lead in polls, and the entire apparatus of the British state to assist them. This is an obvious exaggeration but helpful in that it adds to creating a culture of fear: the opposition has shifted from being a potential threat to a likely one.

This tactic closely resembles, in public relations speak, deviance amplification. The ‘nationalists’ are increasingly being portrayed as folk devils, whose aims are state subversion (via separation), with their values and methods that completely deviate from the rational, democratic and peaceful Unionists. Whether intentionally or not, the British corporate media have elevated Scottish independence to ‘enemy’ status. By doing this, they demean and distort the hopes of genuine grassroots campaigns that are now active in our communities. Evidently, this does not matter; what matters is defending the British state at all costs.

EU: Peaceful, Prosperous, Neoliberal

By Cygnus

There are plenty of discussions now on what kind of Scotland we intend to work towards in the next few years, with an eye to social change. Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), the Scottish Socialist Party, the Scottish Green Party and – to a lesser extent – Yes Scotland are often focussed on the same overlapping and intersecting themes and issues. The democratic deficit, crushing poverty and inequality, and unemployment are recurrent in our proposed solutions to the social and economic injustice that characterises the British state today. Specifically, then, and in terms of concrete change, we want quality jobs, workers’ rights, and free and universal health care. Independence, we have realised, is a means to attain these goals, which are socially oriented. This therefore requires a democratised economy which is geared towards achieving ‘sustainable wellbeing’[i] and not the accumulation of profit and the expansion of capital. We are intent on working towards a socially just economy, as opposed to one driven by market fundamentalism, but certain economic structures in place now are, by mere design, a threat to progressive change. This is because their purpose is to implement and maintain neoliberal capitalism, and they are found at the supranational and international levels. However, a coherent discussion about the international economic structures appears to be neglected, despite these having an enormous influence on how we organise our economy.

At the time of writing, the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is being negotiated. According to the EU Commission, this trade agreement aims at “removing trade barriers (tariffs, unnecessary regulations, restrictions on investment, etc) in a wide range of economic sectors so as to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and US. The EU and US also want to make it easier for their companies to invest in each other’s economy”.[ii]

While vague on virtually everything, it is clear from the language that this is a serious attempt at the supranational level to further entrench neoliberalism and deepen corporate power over states. In March this year, Tory cabinet minister, Ken Clarke, “hosted a roundtable meeting with professional business services to discuss barriers to the US market that they currently face and explore the many opportunities for business that the proposed [TTIP] will bring”.[iii] Much like the EU level negotiations, we are given no clue as to which individuals representing ‘professional business services’ are present in talks on economic policy that is skewed towards the interests of business. In effect, what this deal does is cut away any bureaucratic fetters on corporations, and grants them unprecedented power, by allowing them to legally alter the structures designed initially to regulate them.[iv] This agreement will be a comically dystopian victory for capital, due to one particular element of it: the Investor-State Dispute Settlement. This is a mechanism that grants multinationals the power to sue states for limiting their profits with regulations.[v] While many of us identify states as obstacles to genuine democracy in themselves – due to their necessarily hierarchical and violent structures – we must concede that they can at least assist with the creation of (somewhat) democratic institutions; laws amended or written by multinationals will be oriented towards the accumulation of capital only.

Even if the dark era of TTIP does not begin (although there is currently no organised opposition to speak of), an independent Scotland will likely be a member of the EU, World Trade Organisation, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. All of the latter three institutions are configured to implement, or assist in implementing, neoliberal capitalism on a global scale – and have succeeded – although only the WTO was created specifically for this purpose in the mid-nineties.

The EU is dedicated to upholding the principle of market fundamentalism, and ensuring that its members run free trade economies. The IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission (executive arm of the EU) work together to ensure that states in the Eurozone adhere to neoliberalism. This is most starkly demonstrated in the event of capitalist crises, where savage public spending cuts are imposed to pay for private losses – Greece being the most current and stark example.

The IMF’s purpose, it claims, is to “provide the public good of financial stability”.[vi] The World Bank has two goals to be complete (by 2030): to “end extreme poverty” and to “promote shared prosperity”.[vii] Both of these international institutions enjoy membership (therefore ‘legitimacy’) from almost all states in the world (188). It’s worth considering the internal democracy of these two bodies with nobly egalitarian aims. Since its inception in 1946, all presidents of the WB have been US citizens, and since the same year, all managing directors of the IMF have been Europeans. Driven by their desire for financial stability and poverty reduction, the WB and IMF have been responsible for socio-economic atrocities on a global scale, notably in the global South. During the 1970s, they put pressure on countries to take out loans, borrow, and deepen national debt. By the early 1980s, those indebted countries were abandoned. There were then pressured to implement ‘structural adjustment programmes’ – this, in short, meant that the working class are required to pay of the debts of the rich.[viii] More recently, the World Bank demanded that Tanzania privatise its water system, and advocated that food subsidies to post-invasion Iraq be terminated.[ix] The role of the IMF and World Bank is to ensure the interests of the rich remain unthreatened by the needs of the many; it is for this reason that Chomsky aptly labelled them “tools of the neoliberal onslaught”.[x] The WTO describes its aims as “reducing obstacles to international trade and ensuring a level playing field for all” and boasts that it has contributed to “unprecedented global growth”.[xi] These words are being echoed today in the TTIP. A US trade representative once lauded the WTO as being adept at promoting “America’s passion for deregulation”.[xii]

Discussion of international neoliberal institutions is crucial if we want to have a socially just economy in an independent Scotland. We cannot ignore them because they will not ignore us: democratic grassroots movements to control the economy for the benefit of all can incur an authoritarian response from the state. There are precedents for avoiding or resisting global neoliberal structures in a formal capacity. In May 2007, Venezuela officially cut ties with the World Bank and the IMF. Regarding the latter, it shut down its offices in the country the previous year.[xiii] Despite this, Venezuela appears to still be considered a ‘member’ of both the IMF and the World Bank. Non-members of both include: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Cuba, Nauru and North Korea. While these are serious politico-economic issues, they can only be dealt with in a post-independence Scotland. There are, at the moment, challenges to those who seek to build a new Scotland oriented towards social need, by those whose priority is the free market. One page on the site of Yes Scotland is entitled ‘Scotland Open for Business’ and states that the country is a “very attractive destination” to direct foreign investment.[xiv]. An article on the SNP website hails business opportunity in an independent Scotland, arguing that, after independence, it “will be able to strengthen its competitive business environment”.[xv] On another Yes Scotland page, there is simply a screed of uncategorised quotes by various capitalists endorsing independence to varying degrees. Among them are: UK president of PepsiCo, the chairman of BP and the chief executive of Tesco.[xvi] True, none of these pages speak of planning an orgy of privatisation or eroding further the already abysmal state of workers rights, but they do reveal a determination to create a Scotland which is supine, that will not disturb the neoliberal status quo. It is disconcerting that the country should be presented as prey to capitalists while a fifth of children in Scotland are living in poverty. Pandering to the interests of big business is not an ideal starting point for working towards a socially just economy. Even if they are doing this simply to capture the business community [sic] vote, it is a careless and desperate attempt to win a campaign.

The IMF, World Bank and WTO are state- and capital- centric institutions. Their aims, then, are to work with – or impose upon – states to ensure they remain fertile ground for neoliberalism. Likewise, the EU is a state-based politico-economic bloc, which has resorted to unspeakable savagery to maintain the ‘stability’ of the state and safe for business (see the Greek situation). These bodies interact with their members at the national level. For us in Scotland, there is a two year ‘transition’ period after the vote, meaning we can enter that space and prevent any pusillanimous bureaucrats from speaking for us and selling out. We can use this period to build coherent and organised resistance to external neoliberal entities. Erroneously, and sadly, some parties and groups – whose social concerns are at least informally expressed – maintain that the EU is some sort of progressive bloc. TTIP is not an aberration in policy, it is a logical and necessary continuation of EU neoliberal policy, so to oppose the TTIP but not the institution managing it is misguided. Scotland is part of a small island, but economically it is not isolated; it is part of an interconnected web of repressive economic structures. These are genuine threats to fundamental social change, and must be made a priority for those of us discussing a post-independent Scotland. There is a serious danger of being preoccupied with piecemeal political reform, to the detriment of economic restructuring. A reference here to James Connolly’s almost proverbial ‘hoisting the green flag’ argument is difficult to avoid here.

 

[i] See ‘Environment & the Economy’ by Scottish Environment LINK

[ii] http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ttip/questions-and-answers/

[iii] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ken-clarke-discusses-proposed-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership-with-professional-business-services

[iv] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/12/trade-death-democracy-2013121812233660574.html

[v] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/04/us-trade-deal-full-frontal-assault-on-democracy

[vi] https://www.imf.org/external/about/whatwedo.htm

[vii] http://www.worldbank.org/en/about/what-we-do

[viii] http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20070516.htm

[ix] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/apr/27/comment.business

[x] http://tech.mit.edu/V120/N46/46chomsky.46n.html

[xi] http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/wto_dg_stat_e.htm

[xii] http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199705–.htm

[xiii] http://www.theguardian.com/business/2007/may/01/venezuela.imf

[xiv] http://www.yesscotland.net/news/scotland-open-business

[xv] http://www.snp.org/blog/post/2013/jan/business-opportunities-independent-scotland

[xvi] http://www.yesscotland.net/news/business-quotes-about-independent-scotland