Thursday, 28 August 2014

Outline for coming essay *work in progress*

It's deeply important to me to be understood in what I'm saying and to be clear in expressing what my position is. anarchists are in a  unique position which few are hearing. Simply put,  I have no faith in either Better Together or  any of  the pro-Independence side. Regardless of the result, I fully expect to protest the Governments of Westminister and Holyrood and I despise both since I despise all governments in the world-  past, present and future.


Vote No?

The problem is not Westminister or Neo-Liberalism.The problem is capitalism and that we are in the class struggle and that will not end until there is a revolution. Neo-Liberalism is just the most recent phase of  Capitalism, it's most recent  form in terms of how social and economic policy is implemented. Scotland will not be able to escape this fact even if it is independent.

Vote Yes?

I have to admit to having an emotional attachment to voting Yes and to being Pro-Scottish Independence. I have felt this way since I was 14 years old. For almost all of my life this is what I would've picked.

The direction of debate pushed by the SNP has been appallingly concentrated on the question of oil and the continual exploitation and utilisation of fossil fuels. The SNP have already demonstrated their 'left credentials' are only at a surface level, having shown a cosy relationship to millionaires Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump. The SNP are merely the face of a very Scottish Capitalism. I feel justified in calling them nothing more than 'Tartan Tories' given Salmond's sniffing around in hopes he would give Scotland the lowest corporation tax in Western Europe. Like any other politicians ,the SNP will easily compromise when it's politically expedient to do so. They did a U-turn on Nato despite it a being long standing policy. There is no hope in them. I have deep concerns about what they will do having read the white paper they put out .


I wouldn't be so rash as to say we should  ignore the referendum but it must be put in a wider context. Too often recently I have seen  Radicals narrow their focus down to what sort of paradise could be after Scottish Independence, without the usual  requisite qualifications or denunciations of the Capitalist system and it's related oppressions( Some worst examples would be in RIC or the SSP) To the extent this is happening, then the critique of national liberation movements is being proven correct. The debate around the referendum is diverting energy in unproductive ways and co-opting seemingly radical people into blinkered thoughts on reform while any consideration towards real change through revolution is thrown out the window. I'm worried Scottish Independence is acting to make a whole group of self identified radicals into reformists.

I do not believe as others do (Particularly the Radical Independence Campaign) that Scottish Independence will usher in a brand new era of Scottish Democracy - I hold no such hope- and it makes me uneasy to mingle with such delusions. I would consider it politics as usual to tell the Scottish people that Scottish Independence will be a radical change if those who say it do not believe it in their heart of hearts. Those parties who identify as left wing inspire no optimism in me( as if they could anyway) As far as I can tell the parliamentarian Democratic Socialists offer nothing more than a return to Old Labour.

 As much as I am in favour of direct democracy, I am not enamoured with the form proposed by my fellows in RIC for example  and in any case do not for a second have any conviction that the capitalist state will adopt it( despite it being a vast improvement over the existing order and in spite of whatever public support there may be)

 Scottish Independence offers no guarantees of things getting better and no guarantee they won't get worse. All it offers is the promise, the potential. All it offers is possibility of reforms but only the possibility to make some things  slightly better. And given what we know about the state, about politicians, it's highly likely we'll be disappointed. We can't trust any politician ever.

It's by no means obvious that having the state closer to home will make it any more democratic. As The Glasgow Anarchist Federation has argued, "having the political class closer to home doesn’t necessarily make replacing them any more difficult. If anything, the intensification of the nationalist project championed by all apparently ‘progressive’ opinion could have a significant effect in mystifying power and class relations and undermining the self-organisation of the working class in favour of its passivity and support for new forms of failed ideas".

The idea that the closer the government is to the people the more democratic it will be, ignores where the real power lies.Power is not exercised by governments but through them.  The real power lies with the capitalist class (domestic and international) - with bosses, with bankers, with multinational corporations, with landlords, with the WTO, with the IMF and  with the world bank .

My worry is that under independence things will get worse. My fear is that  Scotland will become as Neo-liberal as England or anywhere else. Consider Salmond's unification and centralisation of the police force under the motives of 'efficiency'. It's already beginning most likely. There is lots of risks involved.  Would Trident necessarily be scrapped if  the Scottish Government chooses to remain in Nato?  How confident can we be that the Tories would never get in again?

 There is no guarantees that the left would be in a better position. While Scotland definitely does have leftism in it's history to a greater degree than England , this doesn't necessarily manifest  in practical terms. Sorry to tell the people of RIC, SSP and others, but it is not merely Westminster which prevents Scotland being an anti-capitalist or socialist country. Even if the left did get in power we anarchists know clearly they would either be ignored, co-opted( voluntarily or by necessity) or killed like Salvador  Allende. And none of us wish to see the state capitalist society proposed by the SWP. We have no nostalgia  for the soviet union and no desire to see the 'Soviet republic of Scotland'.


Ultimately the Pro-Independence side offers the false hope and promise of "this time it'll be different" which is what politicians and political parties always say to revive hope in the dying belief in representative democracy.

It seems entirely clear to me that the Referendum debate is mystifying what the real problem is- capitalism and all systems of domination, exploitation and oppression- in favour of presenting the problem in Scotland as due to where the power is located. Throughout this debate there has been the pushing of ideas of 'national unity' and  'national interest'  which act to hide where the real problems and solutions lie. These ideologies further confuse and distract the oppressed from what is necessary.  Even 'benevolent' nationalism does this.

The referendum debate represents a debate between different degrees of kinds of capitalism. Most of the No side lean more towards private capitalism while those on the Yes side lean more towards state capitalism.

an article on Libcom Some Quick Thoughts on Scottish Independence puts it very clearly
"This all being said isn't an argument in favour of the union any more than the problems of the UK government are an argument for independence. Both camps ultimately represent class interests other than our own, no matter how much parliamentary leftists might argue otherwise. Even whether independence will make the lives of working class Scots (and Brits in general!) better or worse is a question of the degrees of capitalism"

Will Independence increase the likelihood of revolution and/or increase our potential for action, for effectiveness?  There is no clear answer. Independence gives a smaller political territory to work with but the resultant nationalism however 'benevolent' could get in the way of this.

With voting Yes ,there is very real danger of  ,if not buying into the mythology of a socialist Scotland, finally getting 'democratic government', belief elections are useful tools for social change etc.,  then at least propagating those ideas as if they were true. as anarchists we should not make it seem as if governments can represent us, as if governments are truly democratic, as if governments can truly improve society, as if elections are legitimate ,as if the state is  a legitimate institution, as if the only problem is WHO is in power not that there is someone in power at all .We should not give power to rulers of any kind ever.

"This support of the underdog state or state in waiting must be opposed. There is no essence of national resistance, no essential oppressed national spirit which is being channelled by the national liberation forces. They are real organised forces with their own aims and goals – to set up a particular form of exploiting state, with particular factions in control of it. The nation is not something primordial to be repressed, but a narrative constructed by the capitalist state in the course of its development. Though the imperial structure comes to be part of the apparatus of exploitation over the working class in the territory affected, the rearrangement of this exploiting apparatus in favour of a ‘native’ state is a reactionary goal. As we have seen, the logic of nationalism is an inherently reactionary one, in that it functions to binds together classes into one national collectivity,.The problem is that the tendency to see the world in national rather than class terms is deeply engrained in the psychology of the left, as much as it is in wider society. Though leftists may be capable of criticising nationalism in their own back yard, they are incapable of doing it when faced with exotic foreign movements. "-against nationalism.





The problem is not that Scotland is not independent. The problem is not that unless Scotland is independent it will not be democratic, the problem is that regardless of whether Scotland is independent or not, it will not be democratic since states and governments THEMSELVES as institutions ARE NOT DEMOCRATIC!  A Yes vote will not usher in a new era of Scottish democracy never before seen anywhere else. RIC supporters are definitely mistaken on that.

A Yes vote will not save the environment. It will take the end of States and Capitalism to do so.
An independent Scotland will come up against the global power of the US government, NATO, the WTO, The IMF and the World Bank.
We must beware of Voting Yes becoming reformist. If it is done in the aim of seeking reform then that is a noble goal, but it must not be done with losing sight of the ultimate aim of revolution and an anarchist society. It must not end up promoting a kind of  "we're all in it together", we all have the same interests class collaborationism. Even a 'benevolent' nationalism promoted by the Yes campaign has a tendency to do this. It must not ignore class struggle, capitalism or the inherent oppressiveness of the state itself. It must not drop it's revolutionary spirit for the sake of a Yes vote.

A Yes side could be used to pacify and tame more revolutionary aims and desires. This is a danger.
I am worried by how I have seen self proclaimed radicals and revolutionaries channelled along this path and they seem to have been co-opted back into support for the Status Quo.

The Yes side can definitely be naïve. They tend to locate the source of problems in Westminister or Westminister's economic philosophy of Neo-Liberalism.
It is true a Yes vote is more likely(but not guaranteed or certain ) to protect the NHS, remove Trident,  slow the privatization of the welfare state. A  No vote is out of the question, it will just keep things as they are with westministers support of Fracking, ATOS, Wars, cuts to the welfare state, privatization of the NHS/ law/ policing/ the welfare state/ flood defences and more.

if someone is going to vote yes it must not be there complete politics. They must take direct action and join the struggles against oppression taking place right now. They must not delay social change till the vote or the never never land after Scottish independence.

 If we decide that we won't vote we must take political action at the same time. Non voting must not be an excuse for apathy or pessimistic retreat.



On the other hand, the SNP openly admit want the lowest corporation tax in Europe, have already been known to flirt with big business and would seek to make Scotland attractive to companies- meaning they would bend policy to be hospitable to business, suggesting they wouldn't be so different from the tories at all but merely 'Tartan Tories' .

Politicians almost never keep their promises to the people, so how can we be sure(and odds are against us) that they will remove Trident, will not privatize the NHS etc?

Would it be right for an anarchist to vote?  We of course aim to stick to anarchist principles like direct action which means rejection of voting as an effective means of social change, opposition to nationalism states and borders etc. Anarchists should neither be dogmatically in favour of voting, (which is anti-anarchist) nor should make out that not voting (by itself) will make a huge difference.

It's not clear to me that we cannot assume that not-voting is the best strategy in all cases for all time.

  I suppose at best , A Yes vote could slow down the Neo-Liberal phase of capitalism in Scotland.

If Anarchists are going to vote Yes in referendum then they should be skeptical and cynical about how much it will achieve, they should go into it fully aware of how it will not achieve our ultimate goals and should not pretend otherwise.

  1. The Nordic model is not  and never was socialist or or a utopia. It is increasingly explicitly neo-liberal.
  2. We DO NOT want to be using Scottish oil.  Venezuela is not a good example to be referencing on this!
  3. the SNP will be in charge of the first independent Scottish government, constitution etc
  4.  too much energy is being sucked into the vote and diverted from other causes we need to work on right now. the Vote is co-opting radicalism into reformism
  5. SNP want the lowest corporation tax in western Europe.
  6. the SNP will seek to attract business to an independent Scotland by doing anything corporations desire.
  7.  the current centralisation of the police force suggests an independent Scotland may have austerity or privatization.
  8. An independent Scotland may still vote Tory
  9. An independent Scotland is not necessarily going to be any more left wing.
  10. An independent Scotland will still be capitalist and in a Neo-Liberal world.
  11. An independent Scotland will still be swayed by the WTO  IMF world bank US government and multi-nationals.
  12. It is not certain Trident will be removed from Scotland.
  13. An Independent Scotland will not solve the environmental crisis it will only makes steps towards that.
  14. the economy might tank!
  15. Iceland is not more democratic nor is swtizerland.
  16. A No vote will destroy the left if the left put all there energy into this.
  17. A Yes vote may inspire nationalism and may draw people closer to the status quo ,closer to reformism and act to pacify any true revolutionary aspirations.
  18. There is no guarantees a Yes vote will protect the NHS, welfare state etc.
  19. It's scary that dissenting voices skeptical of a Yes vote but not No voters are silenced or shut out in a climate of fear where people feel worried about expressing their feelings.


Spoil your ballot?


One of my comrades suggested we could spoil our ballots in attempt to register our dissatisfaction with the options we've been given. Initially I found this convincing but no longer do. In UK, spoilt ballots are counted but it doesn't seem obvious what that would achieve. we can safely be ignored as cranks by them.


Vote Yes or  Abstain?


Voting risks lending legitimacy to voting as a means of social change.
voting risks giving legitimacy to representative democracy, to the State, to politicians.
Voting risks giving legitimacy to the idea that Scottish independence is the essential and ONLY means of social change.

The reason anarchists favour direct action compared to voting, union bureaucrats or politicians is it puts power into peoples hands, it gives them control over their lives and so prefigures the society we would like to see while giving people the capability to imagine and implement it for themselves. It is the best means of creating the society we wish to see. We refuse to see a distinction between the ends we seek to achieve and the means of achieving those ends.

We neither wish to claim voting will led to meaningful social change nor do we want to start claiming voting is immoral.

 Our objection to voting is that it does not overcome the political system, that it enforces The Spectacle that Guy Debord spoke of , that it encourages the passivity of the masses while creating the illusion they are doing something useful and that the system is responsive to people's needs . We oppose voting not because it's immoral but because it's not effective and infact  is counter productive to the end we seek.

Vote yes only without illusions!  vote yes only while doing direct action too!


What is abundantly clear however, is that nothing less  than the destruction of Capitalism, The state and all forms of domination for ever and always, that  nothing less than revolution( from the grassroots with mass participation without vanguards or 'dictatorship of the proletariat') will improve the world.

As Mikhail Bakunin said, "Every state power, every government, by its very nature places itself outside and over the people and inevitably subordinates them to an organization and to aims which are foreign to and opposed to the real needs and aspirations of the people. We declare ourselves the enemies of every government and every state power, and of governmental organization in general."

Conclusion.

I will finish by quoting from a friends favoured position, the source of which I wasn't able to find but I think it correctly addresses the most essential point in a critical look at the referendum,

 "Personally I will vote "Yes", as I think it is a slightly more hopeful option than the status quo, but i think the most important point is that whatever the result of the referendum we will face a capitalist system whose drive for profit is attacking us through austerity, wars and actually destroying the planet through climate ...change. Intertwined with this is patriarchy and racism/ imperialism responsible for violence against and oppression of women and people of colour. Whether a government is based in Westminster or Holyrood its priority will be a "successful economy" in capitalist terms, which is profit. The attack from a Scottish government may be less brutal in the short-term, and that is a v important issue for those such as disabled claimants in the firing line, however the next global capitalist crisis would see a Holyrood government going for austerity just like in "independent" Ireland.

The only way to effectively resist is by organising at the grass-roots, and trying to make links and develop struggles on an international basis, with a perspective of challenging the fundamentals of the oppressive system. It is very dangerous to foster any illusions that any politicians of whatever stripe can offer anything fundamentally different (even the Greens, when they got control of the council in Brighton, cut bin workers wages resulting in a strike, while social democratic governments from Brazil to Spain to France have all ended up attacking their own population. And I'm sure we need no reminders re Blair and the Iraq war!)

As I see it [our organisation] aims to do something right now by advocating self-organisation and direct action, with the aim of creating a situation of counter-power which will defeat the attacks on us by making them unworkable. The bedroom tax is being defeated in Scotland because so many people refused to pay it, and because the authorities were scared that they would not be able to evict people without serious disturbances.

Having said all that, I think a Yes vote could help create an opening for a movement to insist that peoples needs come before profit, but only if people realise that in itself independence changes nothing and that we will need to take direct action on a large scale if any of the hopes expressed by radical independence campaigners are to be realised at all. This would involve totally rejecting all spurious claims by the new Scottish Government that "we must all pull together so the new Scotland will prosper" - there is no national interest, it is just a sham to try and get us to identify with our exploiters."

 

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