“Monbiot also overlooks the fact that the Scottish Parliament which legislated for the referendum on 18th September owes rather a lot to the “no brigade” (i.e. its creation by the last Labour government) and was created by the very British state…” A truly horrible article, but this last point reveals the author’s true intention. That Scots should be for ever grateful to the generosity of the British State. It’s a very them and us scenario, we give and you receive, which is why so many Scots want to leave the Union. We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back. We have nothing to thank the UK or Labour Party for, the Scottish people created their Parliament, Labour and the UK merely granted us a concession. This article thinks we are subservient, and should remain subservient to UK rule, to parties not elected by us. I’d consider myself an internationalist, but given thats not an option on the table, all socialists should want to see power devolved to local people, should want to see a written constitution enshrining the protection of the NHS, should want to see the decommissioning of nuclear weapons. This article offers no hope for the future. It just wants Scots to go back, cap in hand to their overlords and thank them for everything they give us.
A fascinating exchange over at Socialism First (“The real alternative to Scottish independence”), following their publication of Dale Street’s critique of George Monbiot’s pro-independence article in the Guardian (DS’s critique also published here at Shiraz, three posts ago): fascinating because of what it tells you about the irrationality, dishonesty and near-hysteria that seems to characterise much of the pro-independence ‘left’:
Why do so many ‘yes’ advocates have such a problem understanding the simplest of arguments and plain statements of fact?
It is no more than a statement of fact that the last (thoroughly right-wing) Labour government introduced legislation to stage a referendum in Scotland, and that this subsequently resulted in the creation of a Scottish Parliament.
The only reason this is mentioned in the article is to counter Monbiot’s simplistic (not to say ignorant) attempts to portray ‘no’ supporters as the forces of darkness and ‘yes’ supporters as the forces of sweetness and light.
But Bob knows better!
The sentence, he writes, “reveals the author’s true intention. That Scots should be forever grateful to the generosity of the British state.”
(Isn’t it amazing how many ‘yes’ advocates are able to uncover the hidden, inner, deeper, subterranean and subconscious meanings of words and actions? Indeed, the ‘yes’ campaign has created a veritable cottage industry of cod-psychology. It could be called: Monbiot Mindreaders Inc.)
Having read something into the article that simply isn’t there, Bob can then retreat further into a parallel universe of his own creation: “The article thinks we are subservient, and should remain subservient to UK rule. … It (the article) just wants Scots to go back, cap in hand, to their overlords and thank them for everything they give us.”
This is obviously contradicted by the paragraph in the article which states the exact opposite:
“Broken, corrupt, dysfunctional, retentive: you want to be part of this? asks Monbiot with a rhetorical flourish. No, socialists don’t want to be part of it.”
But then we get to Bob’s own politics, encapsulated in the sentence: “We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.”
Let’s not quibble about figures. For the sake of argument, let’s just accept this as a statement of fact. Because the conclusion which Bob draws from it (vote ‘yes’) sums up the difference between nationalism and socialism.
Socialism is, in part, about the redistribution of wealth between rich and poor. That’s why socialists support progressive taxation. That’s why socialists support rich EU states paying money into the EU, for example, so that the EU can then pay grants to poor EU states and regions. (It’s the strings we’re against, not the redistributive grants themselves.)
Nationalism and nationalist/regionalist separatism are about something different. Their basic approach is: “We are rich here. We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back. Let’s go our own way.”
Bob’s statement could just as easily have emanated from a member of the Lega Nord. It is, after all, exactly what they say. (And at one time their battlecry was “Roma ladrona” – “Rome: big thief”. The SNP and their supporters have simply replaced “Rome” by “Westminster”.)
Or, in relation to the European Union, Bob’s statement could have been uttered by a member of UKIP: “We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.”
But if Scotland were independent, runs the obvious counter-argument, then within its borders Scotland could carry out progressive policies to reduce inequalities. The problem with that counter-argument is:
– A promise to cut corporation tax and a refusal to raise income tax (remind me again: which party is it that opposes a top tax-rate of even 50p?) is not a promising start to reducing inequalities.
– Socialists are generally in favour of ‘bigger units’ (i.e. the creation of states covering a greater area) because the bigger the state, the greater the resources which can be redistributed to challenge inequalities.
– Capitalism is an economic and social system which, by its very nature, generates inequality. Attacking inequality means attacking the rule of capital – not creating yet another border in the world.
– The agency of any such attack on the rule of capital is the working class organized as the labour movement. But the pro-independence campaign replaces a political discourse based on class by one based on national identity: “We (Scots) don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.” It therefore weakens the only agency capable of challenging the rule of capital.
Bob writes that he considers himself an internationalist but that that is not an option on the table.
In fact, being an internationalist is an option every day of the week. And on 18th September there’s certainly nothing internationalist about adding another border to the world.
The point about giving more than we receive was to counter the idea that runs through the original article and the entire British media, that Scots should be thankful for all the concessions bestowed upon them by the British State and Labour Party. It is not England’s gifts to give, and those who think like that have misunderstood the whole point of what the union was supposed to be, equal partners. Scots have been repeatedly told that they owe everything to England, including even devolution according to the author. Devolution was not some great generosity bestowed upon us by lovely Labour. It was a cynical attempt to quash the West Lothian Question once and for all.
The Labour Party are not the magnanimous agents of change here, they are not the answer to Scotland’s social issues, they are the problem. They’re failure to deliver social equality is the driver behind Scottish nationalism. And incidentally, the SNP are not the progressive party who have designs on cutting corporate tax to woo business. As I said, given that we are not in the throes of a worldwide socialist revolution, Scottish people deserve the opportunity to build a society on social democratic principals, rather than the neoliberal values of Westminster. Asking them to submit to more austerity (promised by both Labour and the Conservatives), the bedroom tax (unopposed by Labour), and divert money from social services to fund redundant nuclear weapons (again Labour Policy), complemented by the occasional foray into an illegal war (Labour Labour Labour), is not Socialism by any stretch of the imagination, it’s asking them to prop up a system based on elitism, privilege and cronyism – House of Lords anyone? Should we have opposed the self determination of all the former colonies of The British Empire for some misplaced sentiment about borders? Should we be trying to bring Australia, Jamaica, Fiji, Kenya et al back into the fold since the author so opposes any form of self determination for anyone? Like the rest of the BT campaign, this author offers no hope for the future, only more of the same bleak misery. Maybe he should go and talk to some people queuing at a Foodbank, or the terminally ill forced back into work, or the disabled who have lost their homes due to the bedroom tax all about Milliblands plans to continue austerity, about the Conservatives promising to make Scotland pay, about the probability of being pulled out of Europe by a UKIP campaign. Maybe he should talk to the parents of any soldier who died in Blair’s war. Now compare that to the idea of paying for a childcare revolution on the back of weapons of mass destruction. There is hope one way, there is only misery the other.
Empty tedious bombast. (From beginning to end)
Cheap and transparent attempts at emotional blackmail. (“Why don’t you go and talk to …”)
Factual inaccuracies (“the bedroom tax (unopposed by Labour”))
Total misrepresentation of what is being argued. (“The author so opposes any form of self determination for anyone.”)
Logical incoherence. (Socialism is not on the agenda. So let’s collapse into Scottish nationalism. As if the latter could ever be some kind of surrogate for the former.)
The case for a ‘yes’ vote on 18th September in a nutshell.
Bob’s latest contribution sums up what’s wrong with the case for ‘yes’ better than I ever could.