Monday, 29 September 2014

Foodbanks, bombing and fear - but indy mood still rising

                            Paolo Nutini
                               Iron Sky
George Square, Glasgow,
foodbank collection (27 Sept 2014)

We are proud individuals
Living for the city
But the flames
Couldn’t go much higher

We find God and religions
To bait us with salvation
But no one, no nobody
Can give you the power

To rise
Over love
Over hate
Through this iron sky that’s fast
becoming our mind
Over fear and into freedom

Oh, that’s life
That’s dripping down the walls
Of a dream that cannot breathe
In this harsh reality
Mass confusion spoon fed to the blind
Serves now to define our cold society

From which we’ll rise
Over love
Over hate
Through this iron sky that’s
fast becoming our mind
Over fear and into freedom

You’ve just got to hold on
You’ve just got to hold on

[Charlie Chaplin’s speech from The Great Dictator]
“To those who can hear me, I say - do not despair.
The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed -
the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.
The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they
took from the people will return to the people.
And so long as men die, liberty will never perish...
Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men
with machine minds and machine hearts!
You are not machines!
You are not cattle!... You are men!
You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful,
to make this life a wonderful adventure....
let us use that power - let us all unite.”

The Orwellian state we're in

And we’ll rise
Over love
Over hate
Through this iron sky that’s fast becoming our mind
Over fear and into freedom
Into freedom

From which we’ll rise
Over love
Over hate
Through this iron sky that’s fast becoming our mind
Over fear and into freedom
Freedom, freedom

Oh, rain on me
Rain on me
Rain on me

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Indy rising: should we push for a Yes Alliance?

A week on from 18 September and the raw feelings of sadness and bewilderment still prevail. After all the hope and all the fear, how can so many of us not feel such emotions? 

Some say it's just the cut-and-thrust of politics. But more know it's a deeper hurt for the loss of something much more visionary. 
Elaine C Smith epitomises the mood:
I am sad that so many in Scotland voted with the rich and privileged and with big business and handed the chance of power back to the British establishment. We have witnessed the full force of the British state in all its glory over the past few months and it has been an unedifying sight....I am also one of the lucky ones. I will go back to a comfortable, happy life and career - I won't be queuing at a foodbank like many of the working poor or worrying how to pay the bills.
Julie Webster, founder of the Maryhill Foodbank, was in tears on Friday, contemplating the lost opportunity to abolish foodbanks in Scotland, and wondering how her clients will now face a despairing future: "Now I feel as if there is no recovery...for the vulnerable groups." (Sunday Herald, 21 September 2014.)

Maryhill registered the highest Yes vote in the whole country, 57%, alongside Provan, with Springburn and other poor and austerity-afflicted Glasgow constituencies returning similar majorities. Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and Dundee all had Yes majorities.

We should take good heart from such returns, showing the substantial desire for change in areas of most concentrated poverty, from those who have least, and others who see they've nothing to gain from Westminster neoliberalism.    
Yet still the disbelief. Did we really waste this chance? Did that great act of bribery really happen?

For AL Kennedy'Establishment representatives approached a savvy, philosophical electorate with threats, insults and bungs.' #the45plus

And what of other key demographics? As blogger Mark Frankland distils it:
It was an epic betrayal of a generation. Scots voted ‘Yes’ all the way to the age of 55. Had the over 65’s been excluded from the vote, then ‘Yes’ would have won the day by 54% to 46%. 73% of over 65’chose the [status quo] because they had been frightened into doing so. The scandalous dog whistle politics of the Establishment got right into their heads and persuaded them to walk away from their grandchildren. They were told that their pensions were at risk. They were told that they would no longer be able to watch ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and‘Eastenders’. They were told their power and grocery bills would go through the roof.
It's hard being seen-off by the establishment, harder still being beaten-down by parochialism.

Eradicating foodbanks, removing Trident, protecting the NHS and all the other great things this Yes generation aspire to now seems numbingly lost. 

But, from the searing sense of what could have been, the mindset alters, the healing proceeds, and we search for new openings. 

The #45 meme has been a welcome palliative. It's helped keep us connected and sustained. But we can't just stay fixated on that reassuring number.

So many of the 55% will come to regret their vote. Many already have, some bitterly. So it can never be about recrimination, tempting as that might be. It's also, most vitally, about winning No people back and driving up those numbers.

The reactionaries who terrorised Glasgow that dark Friday after the vote may never change. We can't, Yes or No, live under their ugly intimidations. But nor should we hate them in return, staying compassionately aware of how such virulence takes ideological hold, particularly of young men.

The much greater concern and disappointment is with the core middle classes who voted No out of base self interest. Many, of course, crossed their No with sincere conviction that this was the better option. But a lot of those class motives were just shamelessly selfish. It's important to note that truth.

But it's also useful to remember that such people are subject to the same climate of fear and wider culture of selfish individualism. The task here is to show that 'better together' actually means mutual regard, ideas of common weal and really caring for each other. People can still be brought around to a more collective way of thinking.
And if anyone thought that great Yes momentum is dissipating, what of the unprecedented surge in party mobilisation?

SNP membership has gone through the roof, more than doubling in days. From former Labour stalwarts like Tommy Sheppard to many thousands more just sickened by the result, it's indicative of the increasing desire for independence and mass disaffection towards Labour. Substantial new numbers have also now joined the Greens and socialist parties. That tells us all we need to know about how so many now view Scottish Labour, and Labour at large.

For Gerry Hassan, the SNP handover promises another leftward shift:
The SNP will remain centre-stage post-Salmond and their project of self-governance and independence will reconfigure and re-emerge in a new form, content and language. The party will, under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, undoubtedly shift to the left, focus more on the west and central belt, and aspire to win over more Labour voters.
Let's see. If so, it should include an immediate revisiting of the party's untenable Nato position, new tactical opposition over Trident, and a much stronger climate change agenda.

It should certainly, right now - and particularly following Obama's brazen No intervention - be proclaiming an outright rejection of the West's latest interventionist crimes in Syria/Iraq. 

Whatever unfolds around the SNP, I see many, like me, who don't feel comfortable with machine politics, but who are ready to be an energising part of a common Yes movement that doesn't depend upon party identities.
That politics is grassroots and free-floating, ever-wary of hierarchies. It's not a negation of parties. It embraces them where they're strategically useful and progressively-minded. Indeed, it's that very positive tension between the Yes street and Yes parties that's bonded this dynamic movement together. Having come so close, having tasted the possibilities of change, many newly-politicised younger people in particular now want the real thing. And they don't all see the SNP and conventional party politics as the sole route to that goal.  
So how best now to hold and drive-up that energy? Much reflection is going on within Yes parties and other Yes organisations about new positionings and electoral strategies.

Alyn Smith SNP MEP is in no doubt what needs to come next:
How about an Alliance, a Collective, standing for Scotland at the Westminster elections? Mobilise the Yes vote behind a single Yes candidate and we'll win pretty much every seat. I'm proudly SNP, but under first past the post we only have six Westminster seats, and much as I'd love it, I don't see all the energy of Yes coming to us. Many other organisations deserve to continue; we must help that process and support them to argue our corner in Westminster. How about Women for Independence, National Collective, the Greens, Socialists, Radical Independence and more coming with the SNP under a united banner for the Westminster elections.
We can take a leaf out of the Five Star movement in Italy and the Podemos movement in Spain. They stood not to be politicians but to demand that politicians change how they do business....A common platform will keep the bonds of friendship, engagement and energy going...We cannot go back to politics as usual and the SNP is, after all, not about politics as usual. We do not hold the monopoly on the independence franchise any more - we have to spread that enthusiasm around.
Left-leaning SNP MSPs Joan McAlpine and Bill Kidd have made similar appeals for a Yes Alliance platform.

Radical Independence campaigner Cat Boyd makes the same essential non-party case in urging a Scottish Podemos. For Boyd, "thousands of working-class Yes voters [are] looking for a political home", but "won't find it in the SNP nor in Labour". Instead:
we must create a more diverse polity in Scotland with the views of those who want radical redistribution of wealth and power properly represented, not just in Holyrood but rooted in communities. To do this we will look for inspiration from home and abroad. We need to learn from the likes of Podemos in Spain who emerged out of the Indignados movement and is currently unseating the Spanish Labour Party all over the country.
As Boyd rightly says, "It was not nationalism, nor Scottish identity, nor certainly the SNP that powered the momentum behind the Yes campaign. The truth is that the movement for Yes was powered by class politics."

Jonathon Shafi, co-founder of Radical Independence, offers similar views on how best to express his Yes politics: 'Diversity inspires the independence movement. I will vote tactically in 2015, but I don't support funneling the movement into SNP machine'.

And, indeed, while recognising the SNP's core Yes role, why should it alone reap the 'Yes dividend'?

What purpose is served by sending x more SNP MPs to Westminster - even if, as Alyn Smith questions, that could be guaranteed? Holyrood, with PR, is a different issue, where people feel they have a more democratic part in returning parties and influencing policies. But the rationale of the Yes vote is that it doesn't actually trust Westminster, or its party cabal, to deliver. So why participate in it other than to register a clear numerical statement for a Yes alternative? 

Craig Murray has also called, in this vein, for a Yes Alliance approach, emphasising the wider Yes base, thus qualifying Tommy Sheridan's thoughtful appeal for outright support of SNP candidates in 2015.

In short, there can be electoral cooperation here, but it must be based on the recognition of a wider, radical Yes politics. As Cat Boyd reminds us:
The radical left's role now is to ensure they stay part of a movement for the real and radical social change they voted for...It was not a wave of Scottish nationalism that powered the momentum towards a Yes vote: this was a debate about social justice, economic democracy and an opportunity for radical change.
Whatever unfolds over the coming months, the basic issue is how to use such opportunities constructively in advancing the broad movement and definitive case for a Yes.  

The British state's near-death experience will now concentrate elite minds on how best to stifle that rising demand. Returning to the same party-based politics would only be gifting Westminster and the Union an extended lifeline. 

My own reading of all this may be flawed, and I'm open to any kind of corrective persuasion. But in the same good spirit of political engagement we've seen these past months, the potential of a Yes Alliance strategy should now be widely discussed.

In small promotion of that, anyone similarly concerned might wish to utilise this tweet-sized question for wider distribution:
Should all Yes parties contest UK 2015 as #YesAlliance using same populist appeal of Yes movement to win new #indy mandate? #the45

Monday, 22 September 2014

Trident Nuclear Weapons Base Blockaded in Post Referendum Protest

Wonderful, inspiring, relentless. Trident No. Scotland Yes. #the45

Trident Ploughshares Press Release

22 September 2014

Trident Nuclear Weapons Base Blockaded in Post Referendum Protest

This morning, four days after the historic referendum Trident Ploughshares [1] and Faslane Peace Camp [2] have partially blocked the north gate to Faslane Naval Base, homeport of the UK Trident nuclear weapons system, sending a strong message that the overwhelming desire of Scotland to be rid of nuclear weapons must be honoured.

Five activists have locked on to each other while displaying banners that read Scrap Trident and Scotland YES Trident NO. Traffic waiting to enter the base is backing up causing gridlock at the roundabout close to the gate.The action followed a hundred strong protest at the base on Saturday after the referendum delivering the message: YES or NO Trident Has Got to Go.

Brian Quail, a member of SCANA and Trident Ploughshares and one of the blockaders said “We campaigned for a YES vote because an independent Scotland would have thrown out nuclear weapons. But the result of the referendum does not mean that we have to accept the continuing UK policy of relying on these weapons of indiscriminate slaughter. On the contrary we know that the vast majority of Scots, including those who voted No, reject Westminster ’s plans to replace Trident, as do a simple majority of people UK wide. And just as the independence referendum has opened up a national debate on constitutional issues it also calls into question the replacement of Trident, a decision that will take place in early 2016, following the next general election.”

Janet Fenton from Trident Ploughshares and Scottish WILPF said “We must now channel the energy of the YES campaign and the clear rejection by 1.6million people of Westminster politics as usual into policy changes. If the parties continue to disregard the will of the people for disarmament of these horrific, useless and expensive weapons there is bound to be a resurgence of vigorous opposition to them, including renewed nonviolent action like ours today. We are here today to send a strong message that we will not rest until we see the end of Trident and the abolition of nuclear weapons.”

The blockaders are Jane Tallents (07778276833), Brian Larkin, Mary Millington, Jean Oliver and Brian Quail.


Contact: Leonna O'Neill 07596902461

Contact for Photos: Douglas David Shaw: 07713 918940

Notes to Editors

[1] Trident Ploughshares campaigns for the disarmament of the UKs nuclear weapons. For further information

[2] Faslane Peace Camp has maintained a continuous protest against Trident nuclear weapons outside the Faslane Naval Base since 1982. For further information see:

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Indy not gone, still in the making

I found it hard to open the curtains on Friday morning, feeling just numb and dejected.

It's felt like a wake, a weird bereavement-like emotion, the sense of a beautiful opportunity lost. One of my first thoughts was that Trident is now staying where it is. The establishment had won. Somehow the realisation of that just felt crushing.

But life has to go on. Down on George Square that morning a lot of Yes people just wandered around, lost and subdued, talking about the result, and where this massive energy might possibly go now.

John Harris and a cameraman from the Guardian, maybe having overheard some of it, came over and interviewed a few of us for a film piece. We talked broadly about the great Yes movement and how it had lost to fear and a massive establishment network that used every last, shameless intimidation to get its way.

Many voters were instictively for No. But while a great debate was had, it wasn't any true exercise in democracy. No had a political-business elite, threatening banks and financial houses, Cameron's supermarket friends, big oil's policy lobby, and a host of other well-connected interests who knew precisely how to alarm and blackmail people.

How the City and its global friends would have cheered when that first Clackmannanshire result came in. Money talking, the voice of the foodbank underclass put firmly back in its place.

And, of course, it had every part of the media, notably the BBC. None of that issue is going away. A campaign is also now mounting around Yes social media for a mass licence refusal.

For Tariq Ali, No's 'victory was made possible by a Project Fear that required a media campaign of ferocious intensity that even Goebbels might have admired.'

Respects to the Sunday Herald for at least standing its Yes ground.
Seemingly aware of all this, John Harris said in his own piece to camera that he too would have voted Yes had he lived here. Commendable. But when I asked them both about the Guardian's own disgraceful support for No (the camera now conveniently inactive) both insisted that the paper should not be criticised, denying that its No declaration had any significance, and that the small editorial circle is not the voice of the Guardian at large. Much better criticising the BBC, they thought.

But why, I persisted, did this 'crusading organ' feel the need to join all the other No establishment media at all? It could have taken a position in favour of Yes. Instead, just as it had protected Blair and postured over wars and 'liberal interventions', it sided with the powerful. Still, they argued, it didn't matter.
But it does. The enduring lesson of blind-eye journalism, even from its 'critical' elements: don't bite the hand that feeds.

Later that afternoon, while people still floated around talking, some being soothed with songs and guitars, an ugly Loyalist Unionist crowd, coordinated via social media, was forming at the far end of the square.
As it swelled with Union Jacks, sectarian insignia and Nazi salutes, part of the baying mob swirled around and charged into the rest of the square. Caught right in the middle of it, we saw Alex Thomson approach with other camera crews. 'Make sure you get this', I said'. 'I will', he replied. Alas, he didn't, his tweets seeming to convey something of a minor sectarian-fuelled disturbance. And despite Cameron Buttle more readily reporting the mob's "coordinated" charge through the square, the BBC headline led with this disgracefully distorted framing: 'Police separate rival groups in Glasgow'.
Prudently, we left, passing the Loyalist hordes now coralled by the police, even their flag-draped cars left abandoned in the street. Like others, we later saw online evidence of them roaming through the city centre, dispensing their hate and violence. A dismal spectacle. And they had warned what carnage would likely have come from a Yes win.

Small consolations occur. A majority of Glasgow said Yes. Dundee and West Dunbartonshire also delivered Yes majorities.

But there's so much still to be faced. How do we overcome the sheer might of that establishment network? Or the unpalatable truth that a substantive rump of an incriminatingly quiet middle class voted out of base self interest? When the alarming spectre of NHS privatisation and TTIP effect deepens, I suspect many will come to regret what they've done.

And what too of that residual left element who campaigned in the halls, streets and online for a No, the most deluded notion of 'class action' we're ever likely to see?

And if they were lacking in strategic understanding and political intelligence, a self reflective note too on the dangers of over-expectation, even when tempered by hope rather than certainty. 

Many will say we've still gained new powers. But 'Devo Vow' was a trick, the already predictable backtracking so apparent. 'Devious max', more like. The continuing, core truth, as intimated to Harris, is that without independence we can't make that real transitional change. We can't build the actual alternative society, the true economic change so many want to see.

All of which has only intensified determination for a Yes, particularly amongst a newly-politicised youth.  

As Irvine Welsh asserts:
Though defeated in the poll, the independence movement emerged far stronger – from the narrow concern of a bourgeois civic nationalist party, to a righteous, vibrant, big-tent, pro-democracy movement. The referendum galvanised and excited Scots in a way that no UK-wide election has done. Like it or not, unless they come up with a winning devo max settlement, every general election in Scotland will now be dominated by the independence issue.
Which takes us into new political scenarios.

The Westminster system was rejected by almost half the electorate, so it's only logical that any new Yes movement should continue to reject its legitimacy.

So much now has to be considered. But it seems to me that there are two broad options for channeling that political energy in the immediate future.

The first is to campaign for mass non-participation at the next UK election, with a high number of abstentions serving to nullify the UK state's political authority.

Right now, I feel strongly disinclined to vote in a Westminster election ever again, 'disenfranchising' myself from an institution, a system, I simply no longer recognise.

The second option is to embrace, expand and mobilise the gathering case for a formal Yes Alliance, one that includes the same broad Yes parties and organisations.

Of the two, the latter may have the greater appeal because, as with Yes Scotland, it drives people to actually create something - electoral numbers - which would stand as another notable demand for independence. But any such entity won't go anywhere unless it encapsualtes that same Yes street, rather than just Yes party, dynamic. 

A big debate over all that will now unfold. Hopefully, another great politics of assertion.
And our little healing will continue. It's been helpful being around family and friends, standing in Buchanan Street, and around George Square again yesterday, saying our wee bits, urging others on, taking sustenance from each other, the true mark of community.

Whatever happens, at least one thing's for sure: this beautiful, organic movement for Yes is going on, the collective effort gathered around an emerging #45 identity.
On this lovely Sunday afternoon, after all the tumult and disappointment, there's the sun-warming reminder of what Yes has actually achieved, and the assurance of a newly-adapting movement. It's international peace day (my birthday), and I feel peacefully gifted by this inspiring statement from National Collective: How We Won and How We Will Win.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Say Yes to change within yourself


And so the day approaches.

A day when we have that rarest of opportunities to make a decisive mark in active pursuit of the better, fairer, democratic and, above all, more compassionate society.

After all the words, all the debate, one simple question is now before us: do you want the basic right to run your own affairs?

From that proposition, and from an affirmative answer, all else can be addressed, politically, economically, socially and on myriad other levels.

From currency options to fiscal arrangements, pensions to passports, none of this, despite every fear-fuelled warning thrown at us, is beyond our collective capability to negotiate, organise and resolve. The only real obstacle is fear itself.

This great moment is like a small team making it against all the odds to the World Cup Final, with the shining prize right there for the taking, the immense chance, for once, to be heroic winners rather than valiant losers, using our elevation to help build the just society.

This can be a newly-inspired community of people, one that rejects austerity, banishes poverty, secures our NHS and truly cares for others. It can be a community that earnestly cherishes our environment, and allows us to rid our beautiful landscape of those appalling nuclear weapons.

But the change we want cannot just be centred around issues like taxes or oil. It's about self-respect.

Real change has to be about the alteration of our mindset, from one of conformist acceptance to that of assertive intent, the deeper belief that, if we win this historic contest in the face of every form of establishment chicanery, it really is possible to advance in the confident, exciting knowledge that we most assuredly can take meaningful control over our own lives.

What a stimulus that would be, not just for us in this newly-forming collective, but for those we care about beyond this little piece of earth, who will find similar, progressive inspiration in seeing such a resilient people prevail.

The last, desperate round of intimidation and bribery tells us so much about the establishment and its motives. But it's not just that these 'promises' are cynical and illusory.

Independence of any kind cannot be promised, sold or given, it's something we aspire to and realise as our fundamental right.

I don't want Westminster's 'new powers', or to be sold Better Together's baubles or, in the final analysis, to be handed my/our independence. It's not anyone else's to promise, sell or give. It's ours to take by right.

Independence from an abusive partner doesn't depend on the abuser granting the abused release from that relationship. It involves the abused finding their own conscious liberation, determining their own right to realise a non-abusive life.

And just as we rightfully seek emotional independence, so we can strive to escape other dominating forces: the sovereignty of corporate power, the nightmare of neoliberalism, the degradation of our planet, the mind-twisting propaganda of our elite-serving media.

That same assertion of rights comes before us on September 18. If we take it, the outcome must ultimately be for the inclusive benefit of all people. Let there be no hatred or recriminations, whatever happens. Let's hope we carry not just the vote, but the integrity of the vote. And to those now-reflecting Labour friends in particular, just think what a rejuvenated force you could be with your new independence.

It's also about the process: the getting there, the ballot-box moment, and the ongoing struggle for real change. All of that involves a sense of independent mindfulness, the act of truly being the change you want to see. Again, none of that has been given, granted or permitted. It's been fought for, crafted and made possible by an evolvingly energised people.

It's a community of concern, inhabited by you-and-me folks, on the streets, chapping doors, talking to our neighbours, having this wonderful, civilised 'rammy', the desire for a true participatory democracy driven by our own passion and positivity.

It's the assurance of being part of an outward, inclusive and open-hearted political-cultural community, taking sustenance from the joyful, independent creativity of those like National CollectiveBella Caledonia and Common Weal.

It's about our down-among-the-people writers, musicians, actors and poets, like Liz Lochhead, James Kelman, Irvine Welsh and Alasdair Gray, Peter Mullan, Ricky Ross, Loki, Eddi Reader and many more.

It's having other great, strong women for people and independence, like Elaine C Smith and Lesley Riddoch - in the spirit of Margo - 'sticking up for us' like our 'big sisters'.

It's about the likes of Kevin Bridges, Greg Hemphill, Limmy and Frankie Boyle keeping it all irreverently humoured and pressing us tae see ourselves.

That spirit of honest scrutiny, that enlightened voice, hasn't the slightest taint of nationalism, dark or cringing. As Billy Bragg, epitomising our enduring comradeship and solidarity, so brilliantly articulates, it's a mature, self-examining and giving civic identity.

It's about radicalising all of our minds. It's about using our politics for generous ends. It's about ending the despair of foodbanks rather than succumbing to the blackmail of corporate banks. It's an organic movement that's intent on taking that which already belongs to us from those who have wilfully denied it. It's about pointing our sails and showing the way.

Beyond all the debating points, this is an intellectual, moral and humanitarian case for independence that's never been remotely grasped by a sterile No campaign. In disseminating so many fear-laden, negative messages, it has no real comprehension of why, deep-down, people reject Westminster's patronising second-hand 'powers' for actual powers.

The real difference lies with a Yes movement that's not fighting against something but aspiring to create something of our own making, something qualitative, better and new, the most empowering act of hope overcoming fear.

As the inspiring character speech from David Hayman expresses it:
"So yes, welcome to my great wee Scotland, wae its thistles and ragged edges and uncertainties - we don't even know what the weather's gonnae be like in hauf-an-hoor, let alone what our nation will be like in a decade. But at least it will be oors, shaped by us with our values and our humanity. And we're no mad. We're just tryin' tae do the best we can, cause we've given ourselves a chance, a once in a lifetime chance, an empire of the hearth and the heart. And the world's no gonnae fall apart. We're just takin' responsibility for who we were, who we are and who we can be."
And, in the end, that's what it comes down to: a small act of beautiful, responsible and confident faith in your own good, inner self, one that can have great, caring and lasting effect for others.

With your passionate hearts and with your independent minds, say Yes.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Indy Glasgow in pictures - Yes to a real democracy

 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, yesterday.
Just inspiring.




Freedom Come All Ye! 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Independence - taking the 'Renton test'

Paul Mason asks whether those trying to stave-off independence for Scotland can address the 'Renton test'.

Mark Renton is the anti-hero from Trainspotting who in a landmark scene rails against his country's subjugation, alienation and lowly identity.

'So the Renton test is simple: can your argument sway somebody like this fictional kid? Can you even put it into language he can have a conversation with you in?'
Mason is largely right in seeing an absence of mainstream parties able to have a real 'conversation' with those like 'Renton'. That's obviously true of the Tories, but much more damningly the case with Scotland's 'heartland' Labour party. Beyond standard platitudes and urgings to 'defeat the Tories', it has no meaningful language, assurances or vision to offer 'Renton' or any other parts of its 'core constituency'. 

It's not just that they and the wider UK establishment can't comprehend or relate to him. It's the fear of what he might become, how his awareness gets transformed from alienation and animosity to assertive and optimistic radicalism.

The establishment don't just want the British state maintained because it suits entrenched interests around the political-business status quo. They're terrified that independence sows the seeds of something more 'dangerously' alternative on their very doorstep. That won't come immediately with a Yes, but it's a substantive, longer-term worry.

The fear is even more cringingly apparent with the Labour Westminster elite. I watched a news piece where a young girl took on Miliband while he was doing a grinning selfie during his stage-managed visit. She asks (I paraphrase): 'How can you defend all that spending on Trident while I cannae get a house to live in?' He grinned some more and looked awkwardly away, a perfect encapsulation of Labourite distance and abandonment. A politics apart.
Many of those alienated people are now being politicised outwith that sterile party politics, as we're seeing through the street politics of Radical Independence. The many thousands now registered to vote, many for the first time after being 'lost' in the system, aren't about to trek in anymore as Labour fodder.

I'd love to see Irvine Welsh do a Trainspotting follow-up - hopefully under independence - charting Renton's journey, how another generation has been discarded by New Labour, and whether the present one will have opted to 'choose life' through an assertive Yes for real change.

Encouragingly, Welsh now sees much greater promise in the new political generation. Essential reading, I'd say, for Paul Mason and visiting media others trying to 'find Renton'.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Banking on corporate blackmail - resist the fear and safely deposit your Yes

As that parcel of rogues, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, head back to their Westminster bunker, the last, desperate love-bombing has given way to a last, desperate wave of corporate intimidation.
And make no mistake, despite the blind panic, this is still all concerted establishment action, a political, corporate and media network throwing everything and that kitchen sink at our momentous Yes movement.

Scottish actor Martin Compston provided a suitable summary on Cameron's union-saving visit: 'Gone are the days when the Bullingdon Club can come up here and tell us what to do'. That applies just as much to carpetbagger Clegg and Tory clone Miliband.

It applies, likewise, to those Labour-ermined Lords Prescott and Robertson, with their hypocritical appeals for 'class unity' and warnings to stay nuclear for fear of Putin 'threatening' the UK - maybe he's after our Irn Bru. Sometimes you wonder at the contempt they really must have for people's political intelligence.    

Now come the financial cavalry, with RBS, Lloyds and Clydesdale Bank making 'contingency plans' to depart Scotland in the event of a Yes outcome.

Isn't it remarkable that after causing such mass economic and social misery through their shameless greed and crazy speculations, these institutions now have the audacity to effectively tell people how to vote?

Not very in keeping with all those warm, homely telly and cinema adverts showing friendly local banks, gushing about how much they cherish our country and our life-long custom. And like that whole PR whitewash to make us forget their criminality, we're seeing the same blatant manipulation of public sentiment over the referendum.

Three things to note here.

Firstly, they're bluffing, just as the Westminster cabal are bluffing about negating the proposed currency union. We've heard a lot of this 'high-stakes' intimidation before from the likes of Standard Life. It's simply facile to believe that where there's profit to be made, companies like RBS and Scottish Widows won't be there doing precisely that, irrespective of where they happen to be re/registered or domiciled. It's facile also to believe that the financial and political establishment would be a willing party to any such destabilising business climate - like the very banking crisis they've sought so desperately to crawl-out from.

Secondly, contrary to BBC and other media-hyped hysteria, business - the financial sector or otherwise - is not planning any kind of serious exit after a Yes outcome. Indeed, a mass spectrum of business - small, medium and large - has already declared for Yes. Most of these institutions are only talking about relocating headquarters, rather than shedding jobs. But still we're bombarded with a staggering mass of BBC and other media headlines focused on Better Together 'business fears' and the 'financial voice' for No.  

Third, and most importantly by far, whatever their intentions, whatever their leanings, the issue of independence simply cannot be determined by big business. We have, as the highest priority, our political rights to secure: the right to use our votes for a parliament we want, a politics we choose.  From there, we have our economic rights to invest in: a mass of the population needs to be removed from poverty; we have our privatisation and TTIP-threatened health service to protect; we have the historic opportunity to rid this land of the obscene and massively costly Trident. All that and much more comes well, well ahead of bankers', or even shareholders', interests, particularly bankers that have already stolen so much public money and are still being bailed out.
It's incredible to think that families are surviving on foodbanks and children malnourished due to the austerity agenda caused by bankers' greed. And now, with their culprit chief executives still being gifted hefty bonuses, they're blackmailing us to say No.

Imagine that people could be cowed into believing this set of distortions, driven by fear to relinquish our rights and priorities. Imagine losing this prized moment, our future, to a set of grasping, promiscuous moneychangers.    
Well, here's something much more reassuring to bank on come 18 September. They don't have a vote. We do. It's our democratic right to decide our political future, not theirs to frighten us into corporate submission.

Theirs is not a message of protection and certainty. It's about the security and stability of vested interests, from oil to banks to 'healthcare'. 

And with that comes an encouraged mindset of selfishness: the 'me' and the 'mine', rather than the 'us' and the wider good of others. Certainly not all No voters are driven by 'the self' - we all wish for a little personal security - but, unlike the collectivist, outward and progressive motivations of the Yes case, much of the No message helps foster a regressively inward fear and selfish individualism. 
However big business decides to act, and it's a safe bet it will be business as usual, you can be sure that the wider world of capitalist volatility, market mayhem and 'financial jitters' will continue just the same, rewarding the rich, afflicting the poor. Be much more realistically afraid of that mammonic misery and corporate control than the spurious fear of 'uncertainty' and 'instability' being peddled by this privileged elite and their establishment cronies.

Don't fear a running of the banks, just consider the darker costs of them running you.

Good people of Scotland, go safely deposit that most valued piece of paper, that most moral currency: your wee humanity-imprinted Yes.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ten days to save archaic Britain, or rip it up and start again

The No establishment are in deep panic mode, screaming that there's only ten days now to save 'our cherished union'. Ten days for the 'best of British nationalism' to stand up and be counted.
Not, for the BBC and our 'leading' media, ten days left of healthy, vibrant debate on the deep problems many now see in that archaic, warmongering union. Not ten historic days in which to assert our democratic opinions and rights.
Just ten angst-ridden days in which to rescue a failed state, a failed politics, a failed economics.
A small selection of the noble call to arms:       
The BBC dutifully announcing the 'crisis', in its review of press output, without, of course, any mention of its own establishment part in hyping the 'emergency'.

The Independent's front page: 'Ten Days to Save the United Kingdom'.

Fraser Nelson and the Spectator urging us to save the union with a rush of persuasive letters to misguided Yes voters.

Alan Cochrane of the Telegraph ordering everyone to pass around felt tip pens and make improvised No window posters: 'Now's the time to stand up and be counted'.
Hughie Green with the original Stand Up and be Counted. (Okay, Hughie's gone now, but I'm sure he'd be readily invoking his 1977 classic in these darkest days for the union.)

Tim Stanley at the Telegraph proclaiming that same emotional nationalism: 'To save the Union, we have to say it out loud: Britain is the greatest country in the world'.

Will Hutton declaring Scottish independence as, no less: 'the death of the liberal enlightenment before the atavistic forces of nationalism and ethnicity'.

And, of course, with perfect timing, The Pregnancy (as presciently suggested by our 'Yes seer' at Bella Caledonia).

We even had the Guardian ask: 'Will the new royal baby save the Union?'

Perhaps not, but maybe Gordon Brown can. The man who wrote the cheques to 'save' (read, slaughter) Iraq has now been 'recalled' to save the UK with his 'promise' of 'new powers' - forget the purdah, the media have - if we all just cut the Braveheart stuff, vote No and put our trust in those benign ConDemLab saviours.

Just think, we really can now have The Best of Both Worlds. With all those dreamy prizes on offer, why would we even think about having real, confirmed powers in nine days time?

Maybe because of interventions from leftists like Owen Jones who, while berating the establishment as solely responsible for this state of affairs, declares his faith in 'federalism' and the fascinating idea that neoliberal New Labour can still be transformed into something radical.

Jones often claims that he's 'not here to tell Scotland how to vote'. But this kind of opinion piece, pitched significantly at Labour supporters in Scotland, serves the same establishment-upholding purpose: to prop-up a collapsing UK state; and to foster the illusion of Labour as a party of left deliverance.

As Ian Bell notes at the Sunday Herald, this is the same Labour party under Miliband which voted for a Tory benefits cap that will see another 345,000 children thrown into poverty, and which slavishly follows the ConDem's relentless privatisation of the NHS:
Even if you can make the bet that Labour can fend off Ukip, prevail against voting habits in the English South, suppress its own worst instincts and see sense amid the austerity mania, you are left with a question: when did Miliband's party last deserve to be called progressive?
 For Bell:
Nothing progressive can come from a party bent on such a course. Nothing that party offers, circumscribed by expediency and electoral calculation, matches the opportunity for Scotland of independence. You can have Miliband's remote hopes. Or you can rip it up and start again.
For George Galloway - alas, it's the same false faith choice of a Labourite rescue and that old clarion call to hold the union: 'Ten days left to save Britain and unity of people of this small island. Now is the time for men women [sic] who believe in that to step forward'.

It's not just the blatantly reductionist portrayal of an intoxicating Yes movement as 'nationalist', or the fallback to rogues like Brown and that old Labour clique, it's the poverty of the No left's political imagination, that toxic refusal to look beyond the SNP, or Salmond or the White Paper, to contemplate the creative potential of a new left-directed politics, for Scotland and the rest of the land.

As an antidote to all this atavistic Brittanica, referendum bribery and Labour apologetics, how energising it was to read Irvine Welsh's leftist essay on the real case for Yes, all wonderfully infused with a true appeal to Labour supporters.

Reflecting on the cringe of old patriotic infantilism and spurious 'nationalism', Welsh observes the pleasing advance of a new political and cultural maturity:
I’ve been greatly inspired by the post-devolution generation, and their pragmatic thinking on the issue of independence. I believe they have enabled an emotionally backward and immature country (as all countries, by definition must be, when they are governed from elsewhere) to grow up and move forward. It’s this generation who have given us phase three of the independence debate: beautiful, wonderful phase three, which says that it doesn’t matter who is to ‘blame’, the important thing is to fix it.
Welsh also mulls the Blairite project's annihilation of old Labour through the post-war period and the now lost gains of Bevanite social democracy:   
All that has now gone, and the Labour Party will not be bringing it back. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were no aberrations; they were the natural progression of a movement that has ‘evolved’ from its radical roots into a centre-right focus group-driven party of power. Now, on a policy level, they chase middle England votes, while lecturing working class people on their ‘duty to vote’ (Labour), in order to ‘keep the Tories out’.
He also puts paid to the old 'class abandonment' argument:
An anti-independence argument, repeated in the discussions with my old Labour-supporting pals, is one I’ve consistently heard down the years. It contends that we have to ‘stand alongside our comrades in England.’ I agree wholeheartedly, but fail to get how ‘standing alongside’ somebody involves trudging to the polling booth every five years and sheepishly sending down a cluster of political class lobby-fodder careerists to Westminster, who then continue to preside over the transfer of resources from the rest of us to the super rich.
Instead, for Welsh, voting Yes offers an opportunity to promote meaningful democracy, practical solidarity and real internationalism:
I believe that our joint aim should be to make these islands the home of a batch of healthy, vibrant democracies, instead of a chess piece in the saddo G7/militaristic ‘sphere of influence’ games of the power brokers: those war-mongering (never war-fighting) cowards and their pathetic groupies in the privately owned media. Let this happen in Britain, in Europe, across the world. That’s internationalism, not preserving an elitist, reactionary, pomp-and-ceremony failed UK state, which has over the last thirty-five years systematically crushed every single gain that non-privileged people in this country have fought for. 
If you're one of those conscientious Labour waverers, let that timely, inspiring piece, rather than Jones's false manifesto, seep into your progressive consciousness these last nine days.