Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Social justice or City profits - radical Yes or corporate No?

Another day, another threatening statement of 'corporate concern' over the potential 'instability' of an independent Scotland.

As dutifully headlined by an 'impartial' BBC:
The chief executive of the oil company Shell has said he would like Scotland to "remain part of the UK". Addressing the company's annual reception in London on Wednesday, Ben van Beurden said he valued the "continuity and stability" of the UK. 
I'll bet he does. When it comes to corporate self-interest, exploitation of resources, and outright suppression of human rights, you can be sure of Shell.

From the pillage of Nigeria and murderous repression of its Ogoni people, to the attempted billion dollar appropriation of the Arctic, Shell has shown a formidable capacity for exploitation posing as exploration.

Van Beurden, 'ethical' CEO, would have us believe that Shell merely want assurances over currency and monetary issues. What they really want is continued political licence to plunder. Hence this and other such 'non-political' interventions.
We hear much about 'worrying insecurity for the energy sector', and threats of corporate disengagement. What are Shell going to do if there's a Yes vote? Vacate the North Sea?

The greatest unexplored depth here, media and political, is the issue of climate change. While the corporate-political theft of oil revenues is an historic scandal, it doesn't supersede the massive calamity of even more carbon in the atmosphere - and the denial beast behind it. And while that's part of a much larger issue of global containment, it will not absolve any independent Scotland from its primary environmental duty.    

Yet, if, as seems obvious, oil is to be pumped, why not allocate such revenues for the social good, preferably as a Venezuelan-style nationalisation, or, at least, a Norwegian-type oil fund, to feed, house, educate and care for people, rather than stuff the accounts of corporate tyrants like Shell?

Beyond the 'worries' of Tory-minded outfits like Standard life - as amplified by BBC correspondent Robert Peston - and Alliance Trust lie the real, joint concerns of a Westminster establishment and high corporate forces, notably the privileged banks and Big Oil: profit and continuing political protection of it.
Yet concerns about corporate power, a business-first agenda and media prioritisation of such are almost nowhere to be seen.

This is part of a generally loaded reportage on independence, as revealed in academic John Robertson's findings of BBC bias. In one telling example he notes:
- On 26/4/13, in Reporting Scotland, a generally negative assessment of the future of insurance companies after independence finished with the Labour spokesperson’s assertion of ‘billions in costs’ and ‘potential closures’.
From the BBC to STV, the Daily Mail to the Scotsman, it's a daily-repeated diet of corporate insinuation, threat and blackmail.

For Iain Macwhirter at the Sunday Herald, this all amount to a "coalition of the City of London, the political classes and a UK-dominated media laying down the law." Thus:
The Scottish front pages have been reduced to a proforma. They just fill in the dots. Alliance warns of risks, Standard Life warns of risks...Lloyds...BP...Shell...Sainsbury's.
As Macwhirter asks:
Who are these people to make these threats? Who elected all these financiers and captains of industry? Bob Dudley, the boss of BP who earned $8.7 million last year, heads a firm that isn't even British any more. Since when did we allow banks to make our political choices for us? The degree of direct political involvement by big business in this referendum campaign is unprecedented and deeply disturbing. It is reminiscent of Latin America in the bad old days, of US dirty tricks and Yankee colonialism.
Alongside "these daily hectorings about the irresponsibility of independence from the finance houses", whose "unrestraind greed" has caused so much economic and social havoc, Macwhirter castigates "Owen Jones, BBC Question Time's favourite tame lefty", for failing to recognise the radical impetus behind the demand for independence or his willingness to welcome "an alternative political space opening up in which it is possible to challenge the neoliberal consensus."
There's no such timidity from noted leftist figures like Tariq Ali. As Jones departs the Independent for his new 'radical' sinecure at the Guardian, Ali  comes to Scotland this week to help make the case for real, radical independence:
He will tell his Scottish audiences that a vote for independence would "enable the rediscovery of hope of a better future, provide a much greater say for people over what their country looks like, and would finish off the decrepit, corrupt, tribal Labourist stranglehold on some parts of Scotland forever". [...]Ali is not much exercised by suggestions by businesses that would leave Scotland after a yes vote. "Large corporations are trying to frighten people,'' he said.
Again, all with complicit media help. 

Why the privileged headlines for the views of big business? What about the views of deprived people, actual voters? As this recent tweet put it:
Instead of @ScotlandTonight constantly asking big business and the rich what they think about#indyref, why not pop along to Easterhouse?
The latest £12 billion round of ConDem tax and benefits measures are set to cast another 100,000 children in Scotland into poverty. Is that not simply criminal? Deepening austerity and despair for the already poor, ongoing protection and bonuses for the already rich. And where's the much larger media outcry? Why is this not a predominant issue? A large part of the answer lies in the first of these two words: corporate media.
It's not just the problem of being run politically from Westminster by a cabal of neoliberal parties. It's the much bigger problem of being run by the City of London and a financial system which sets the very terms of those neoliberal policies.
That affects everyone, whether you live in Glasgow or Gloucester, Easterhouse or Essex. Poverty knows no boundaries, and any resistance to the poverty-makers will all need to be directed against that same privileged City and the greed credo by which it lives.
The question is, faced with such a depth of corporate-political power, what productive tactics can be deployed to challenge it?   
Beyond any imaginary hope of a leftist breakthrough under a stitched-up electoral system, the independence vote, as Tariq Ali asserts, offers some viable opportunity for breaking the matrix of Westminster rule, big-business parties and an imperialist, warmongering Union, while opening up, at least, some serious prospect of a post-neoliberal landscape. That can only benefit all progressive forces, within and beyond Scotland.

This decision isn't about the SNP, or Alex Salmond - all part of the same scare agenda - even if some of that governing hierarchy still have to be faced-down over its neoliberal accommodations, Nato approvals and eco credentials.  

It's primarily about saying Yes to radical empowerment and No to corporate hegemony.  

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