Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Why an Independent Scotland is not enough.

A reply to an ally of the Radical Independence Campaign who writes  "... I still need convincing that independence is not the best thing for Scotland at the current time, as a means to a fairer society..."


The short version of my reply is this:-

(1) the way the debate is framed is wrong. The debate asks the wrong question. Whether Scotland is ruled from Holyrood or Westminster is, beyond surface changes, irrelevant. The problems in Scottish society are not because of where it is ruled from but are merely aspects of global problems stemming from capitalism, patriarchy etc. Talking in terms of nations is not just a mistake but harmful in understanding the real sources of social problems.
(2)  There is no guarantees that things would be better. This is not an argument for the union either however. It is just a reminder that whether ruled by Westminster or Holyrood, the same problems will remain and that the creation of an independent Scotland will not change this and cannot. No government can solve the problems that exist which it exists to preserve. This is proven in theory and in practice by historical experience.
(3) Following directly from No.2,  An independent Scotland could not live up to the promises and claims made about it because of its existence in a world with capitalism, patriarchy etc.

Problem 1: The way the debate is framed- Westminister vs. Holyrood instead of oppressed vs oppressor.

Firstly, the framing of the debate is narrow. It is often claimed that the pro-independence side is not nationalist. But to reduce political debate down to an issue of nations is nationalist in the original sense of that word ( in the sense of viewing political issues in terms of nations and nation states) even if it may not be nationalist in the fascist/UKIP/BNP sense of that word.

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.

My problem with framing the debate in terms of nations is that it renders invisible the actual systems of oppression that exist. A consistent and recurring theme in the debate has been an analysis of  social problems that locates the source of  those social problems with Westminster/ the Tories/neo-liberalism instead of the more realistic targets- larger long standing systems of oppression like capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy etc. All the problems going on in Scotland are just manifestations of global problems brought about by systems of oppression and exploitation.

If you misunderstand the causes of social problems then you will seek faulty or wrong solutions to the problems which will not solve them and may infact make them worse.

Framing the issues in terms of Neo-liberalism ignores that neo-liberalism is merely a phase of capitalism and exists more or less, everywhere in industrialized nations.

Framing the issues in terms of nations masks the fact that people are ultimately divided by class not by nations.

I have personally seen the way in which the issue of independence has sucked radical activists into its orbit like a black hole diverting attention and energy to itself which would've been better spent elsewhere. We would say that the independence issue has co-opted radicalism into reformism.

I of course support reforms if gained from direct action at the grassroots. I'm not in favour of oppression sold as progress though and am opposed to reformism which means the belief that positive social change can come through working within the existing system.

 I have seen former radicals lose critical thinking to believing in independence. I have seen a Yes protester criticize a group I was involved with who were holding a pro-choice demo, a much more vital issue than independence I'm sure you'll agree. I've seen independence campaigners devote more time to independence than to pro-choice marches, anti-workfare etc. Those I'm least critical of are those who have done both together.

Ultimately, 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

. The problem is  not WHO is in power but that there is someone in power at all .We should not give power to rulers of any kind ever. The idea that an independent Scotland will represent massive positive social change is used to hide existing oppression and how that will not change except superficially and is used to tame and constrain resistance to oppression which sees the roots of the problems as located at a much deeper more systematic institutional level.

An independent Scotland will still have the inherent inevitable conflict of interests between capitalist class and the working class, which we call the class struggle.

....As for RIC: Far from being radical , RIC's beliefs seem to amount to little more than a re-hash of Old Labour and it's ideas on nationalization.

Problem 2.   No guarantees things will be better.

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".

It seems quite apparent to me that this is what has happened.
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. This is not to suggest that governments do not have power but to remind people that governments serve their masters, the capitalist class and that the state exists solely to preserve the long term existence of the capitalist system and all other interconnected systems of oppression. 

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. Independence in a globalized economy is pretty much meaningless unless you favour autarky.
Unless there is direct democracy there will not be a more democratic society.  An actual direct democracy instead of a sham one will not exist in a society with patriarchy, capitalist, the state etc. It will not be allowed to.

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.

With an  independent Scotland ,there is very real danger of   buying into the mythology of a socialist Scotland, of being misled to think we'll  finally get 'democratic government', to be conned into the belief  that elections are useful tools for social change etc.

There can be no such thing as a democratic government. The people will not be in charge of their own lives.  A government always consists of a minority who rule a majority by propaganda and if that fails, by force so there will still be a distinction between ruled and rulers no matter how 'democratic' the state claims itself to be.

 The state exists to protect and preserve capitalism and all of the other interconnected systems of oppression by any means necessary. That is its sole purpose. Anyone elected who aims to change that will either be diverted into working within a narrow framework, will be ignored or will be killed(e.g. Salvador Allende)

Problem 3:  Some ways in which it won't be better.

As the Anarchist Federation of Scotland write,  "An independent Scotland would in most respects have resembled the Scotland of the UK, a patriarchal, capitalist, environmentally destructive society. A country with the most unequal land ownership in the developed world – where 50% of the land is owned by just 432 individuals. A country dependent on North Sea oil for much of its exports – oil that must be left in the ground to prevent climate catastrophe. A country with huge poverty and huge wealth and little in the way of organised working class action to change that dynamic. And in so continuing to uphold the same institutions, the same structures of power, the same business interests, and the same political configuration, our fight against the state, capital and oppression continues."

RIC seems to believe that an independent Scotland will be unlike any other previous state. This is not true. An independent Scottish state will not be more honest/less corrupt, more democratic, more green, anti-capitalist, feminist etc.  We will not and cannot have a more just, more sustainable, less oppressive society merely by having a government at Holyrood instead of one at Westminster.

An Independent Scotland would not be fairer- an independent Scotland would need to pander to business to boost it's economy so it would be pro-big business if not neo-liberal. It would still indulge in lowered corporation tax, tax breaks and dodgy dealings of banks. It would still be capitalist. And an independent Scotland would still fall under the sway of all conquering institutions like the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

Contrary to those like RIC, Nationalization is not socialism, it is state capitalism.It turns the state into a collective capitalist. At it's most extreme, this is extremely totalitarian and repressive for example in the Soviet Union.

An independent Scotland would not be more green- an independent Scotland could not help but utilise North Sea oil with so much money and jobs invested in it and would be reliant on it most likely. To combat climate change, We need to move to renewables as quickly as possible and we need the end of consumerism which is a central driving force of environmental degradation. An independent Scotland could not do that and would have no reason to do that.

As Anarchist Federation(AFED) say, "An independent Scotland would have relied heavily on fossil fuels – not least to maintain currency reserves and a positive balance of trade. The extraction of North Sea oil will instead continue to prop up the UK’s trade deficit. "


RIC seems generally concerned with electoral politics and elections. But this will not end oppression just change it's form. One split off group from RIC is the Scottish Left Project which seeks to form something akin to a left unity political party.

Representative democracy is neither representative nor democratic and cannot be made so. So parliamentary means are pointless.No politician cares about us. Direct democracy is the wave of the future.

We must use direct action, taking grassroots action ourselves  and not seek to appeal to governments or politicians. We must forget parliaments and politicians and work to build a grassroots expansive radical movement which seeks to overturn the foundations of oppression and replace it with directly democratic society . That  is it's true,  a longer and harder task for sure but a more worthwhile one.








Some quick thoughts on Scottish independence

Beyond the Scottish referendum by Mike Sabot.
Independent and Free? A Glasgow anarchist’s take on Scottish Independence

Rhetoric of disempowerment




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