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.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

My condolences.

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.

Exactly what goes on over here. A pretense of democracy that serves the richest few longer more effectively than any overt dictator could.

John Hilley said...

Thanks, ifthe.

Some other comments on above from Media Lens page:

Thanks John. Excellent piece (NM)
Posted by Peter Cleall

Re: Thanks John. Excellent piece
Posted by psingh

As someone who observed events in Scotland from the south, and was inspired, excited by the Yes campaign, I was absolutely devastated at the no vote, in fact I couldn't believe how depressed I was by the result. And I talk as a 51 year old Marxist who has seen more than enough defeats in my lifetime. I guess what made it so painful was that the majority of people had voted for their own subjugation. But life goes on and reading wee ginger dug and others you realise the fight goes on, and a priority must be to consign the Scottish Labour party to the dustbin of history, just like the Scots have done with the Tories.

Re: Indy not gone, still in the making
Posted by gloriousrevolution

Ten years from now, things could be very, very, different, and the result the opposite of the one we've just witnessed. There is definitely a trend towards people in specific geographical, economic, or cultural spaces realizing that the have to work together, organize and attempt to take control of their own lives, or the neoliberal, market forces juggernaut will roll right over them.

The silent middle class 'no' is ironic and tragic, because so much of their lifestyle is deeply rooted in the growth and success of the Welfare State model which is under sytematic attack from prescisely the same forces they believe have vowed to protect it. The traditional role of the middle class has been act as bulwark against rapid social change and support the state, not surprising as they are linked to it at the hip, but the state doesn't need the middle class in anywhere near the numbers it once did. Their future is just as uncertain as that of the vanishing working class and industrial jobs. When, if, the middle class can understand that 'yes' far from threatening their lifestyles is probably the best chance they have of preserving them, political change is possible, even a reawakening of middle class radicalism and a kind of alliance with groups below them in the social hierachy as opposed to aspiring to join and emulate powerful groups above them. This probably hits home only after social mobility, so much part of middle class culture, stops, or as is happening today acutually goes into reverse.

This also applies to many on the left, as they are bougeois too, at heart. The very idea that delivering a potential mortal blow to Westminster, to all three of the big right of centere fanctions, Conservatives, Labour, Liberal, and the media, the City... that this was somehow 'reactionary' and 'nationalistic' and not something the left should support by voting for Scottish independence, I find quite, stunningly, extraordinary. What's not to like about defeating all of them for once?

Labour has to be seen and defined and fought without reserve. It like the Tories must be treated as the enemy with goal of destroying it in Scotland like the Tories. This isn't going to be easy, but, on the other hand it has to be done. When people see that Labour's vows and rhetoric mean next to nothing and they cannot deliver on their newly revived social democratic rhetoric personified by Gordon Brown, then Labour's days in Scotland will be numbered too.

John Hilley said...

Re: Indy not gone, still in the making
Posted by gloriousrevolution

I forget to mention the media! What can be said? One newspaper, the Herald, out of Scotland's fifty to sixty news publications, supported the 'yes' campaign. Talk about a democratic deficit! Journalists are still part of the middle class who have managed to keep their noses above the rising neoliberal tide, but for how long? Journalists as a group seem to identify with the State to a surprising degree. The sad fact is, too many people are still too comfortable to seriously begin to question, let alone challenge the neoliberal socio-economic model. This has to change as the middle class get squeezed and exit history stage left like the handloom weavers and the steel, shipyard, and mineworkers. When the journalists begin to loose their jobs, then one might see so changes, but don't count on it.

The media has now become one of the primary instituions of the neoliberal state for, which is both totalitarian and coporate. It's both the source of most of the disinformation in society and protects and legitimizes the State's Big Narrative about the nature of our society. Only the Big Narrative is a framework of lies, a form of fantasy, which is going to be very difficult to maintain and sell as reality and history snaps back and bites it in the arse. When the character of the media's role becomes more apparent it will lose its legitimacy and its power over how people think. So, one has to basically challenge the media and aim to destroy it too along with all the other enemies that are hampering human progress. This is all easier said than done, but still it needs to be said, before one can begin on the task of doing it.

Very nicely done [nm]
Posted by emersberger

Thanks, very good accurate, heartfelt piece. A very Happy Birthday too John! (nm)
Posted by Ed

Happy birthday, John! Good piece. The next round in the fight to escape ukistan starts right here.NM
Posted by Rhisiart Gwilym

Very good piece John, and the National Collective you link to. Like all MLers I fully agree with
Posted by marknadim

the 1st propsed plan by that collective, in an excellent uplifting rallying call:
"The vast majority of the mainstream media have demonstrated their complete lack of autonomy and level of compliance to the British establishment and the corporate elite. We need to create and preserve alternative media channels. But there is little point in creating them as a protest to the mainstream media. These alternative channels must become the mainstream. To do so requires working together. There are some utterly brilliant and resourceful people in this movement. It’s time to unite."
- See more at:

thanks for your post, couple of comments
Posted by Everyman

From outside Scotland, after an initial great disappointment, after looking at the age group breakdown of the NO vote, I'd say the independence movement has great cause for optimism.

It seems that those under 55 voted in a majority for YES, and I think we all understand why those over 55 voted in a vast majority for NO, they were the main target of the marketing campaign with two main aspects, the fear of economic loss, and the hope of 'devo max'. I can understand those on pension or heading that way voting NO, especially if they had some trust in the BBC and corporate media and some trust in the Labor party to fulfill the VOW.

But with a majority of those under 55 voting YES it seems independence is inevitable in the coming years.

Sorry you have to 'live the loss' but take hope not only in the YES majority of the under 55's but in the fact that outside of Scotland millions of people in the world were watching Scotland hoping you would win and who are inspired by the social movement that made it so close.

Thank you so kindly, all :) (nm)
Posted by John Hilley

Anonymous said...

I live in Clackmannanshire. Don't believe this county voted No. Results lost all credibility right at the beginning. Went to bed.