I found Carlton Reid’s Roads Were Not Built for Cars a valuable reference book and a good read.
He’s now kickstarting the funding for a new book, Bike Boom.
Nice video which I can’t get to embed.
Use of bicycles in America and Britain fell off a cliff in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to the rapid rise in car ownership. Urban planners and politicians predicted that cycling would soon wither to nothing, and they did their level best to bring about this extinction by catering only for motorists. And then something strange happened – bicycling bounced back, first in America and then in Britain. Today’s global bicycling boom – even the one in the Netherlands – has its roots in the early 1970s.
And this is what I’d like to explore in Bike Boom, a book that will use history to shine a spotlight on the present, and demonstrate how bicycling in the future has the potential to grow even further, if the right measures are put in place by the politicians and planners of today and tomorrow. ..
Bike Boom will aim to dig down into historical sources to find out how the Netherlands built a world-class network of bicycle paths – and much of the rest of the world didn’t. I’d also like to interview the bicycle advocates and planners of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (and those of today, too) to hear their stories, and learn from their successes and their mistakes.
Ur-Sustrans built its first cycleway on the Bristol to Bath route from 1979 – 1986. I remember the Innocent Railway stretch Edinburgh when it was still covered with ballast and gave you punctures and the tunnel was blocked – that was the early eighties. It is now a black top path and the main North Cycle Network 1, and this was through my own cycling organisation, Spokes. In the UK the progress has been local and patchy and has taken much patient volunteer effort.
The Innocent Railway – National Cycle Network 1
Scottish commentator Chris Derin notes the rise of anti-Semitism, and the fact that in Scotland it’s not coming from Islamists or the traditional far-right, but from elements of the supposed “left”:
Unthinkably, anti-semitism is once again on the rise across Europe. Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggestion that the continent’s Jews should move to Israel, following the attacks in Paris, Belgium and Copenhagen, has angered many of his co-religionists, but the fact he felt able to say it should give the rest of us pause.
A timely article published yesterday in Scotland on Sunday by the journalist Dani Garavelli showed concern about their safety is growing among Scotland’s Jews. Giffnock’s long-established community has seen security stepped up outside Jewish buildings, including police patrols at the synagogue and at Scotland’s only Jewish primary school. The children are no longer allowed to line up in the playground in the morning.
The number of anti-semitic attacks in Glasgow rose ten-fold last year, according to Garavelli. A woman selling Israeli cosmetics from a stall is said to have had a ‘burning’ substance thrown in her face, while a rabbi was taunted with shouts of ‘Sieg Heil’. A sheltered housing complex in East Renfrewshire was daubed with a swastika and the words ‘Jewish Cunts. Jews Out’.
It seems to be politically hip to adopt an anti-Israel stance. What used to be the preserve of the far-Right now sits more easily with the far-Left, which is currently undergoing a modish revival in Scotland. Criticism of Israel’s government, a perfectly reasonable thing to do, all too regularly shades into the dark prejudice of anti-semitism. There’s nothing cool or modern about this. Anti-semitism is the most ancient of hatreds, and it was only 70 years ago that Europe’s Jews were nearly destroyed in a mass extermination programme. Anti-semites: think of the company you’re keeping.
JD adds: here at Shiraz we’ve had cause to comment on the anti-semitism of the Scottish PSC before now: “A little bit anti-Jewish”.
An excellent article about the proto hipster Nathan Barley, who would answer the phone “Hullo you wanker”. Nathan Barley was John the Baptist to Russell Brand’s Messiah:-
Looking for an online guru with an open-ended nanofesto that boils down to “peace and fucking – believe!”? Sorry Russell Brand, Nathan beat The Trews to the punch by 10 years with the rambling video homilies on his website (back when websites were novel)trashbat.co.ck. Barley aficionados will surely see in Brand some echoes of the show’s Preacherman character, the burnt-out style writer Dan Ashcroft who is bullied by style mag Sugar Ape’s appalling editor Jonatton Yeah? into adopting a voice-of-a-generation role. Replace the cynical weariness with messianism and you have Russell to a tee. …
Nathan started life on the TVGoHome website….
TVGoHome was [Charlie] Brooker’s surreal and scatalogical late 90s collection of fake TV listings, including imaginary shows such as Inspector Bumhat, Daily Mail Island and the probably-best-not-explained Mick Hucknall’s Pink Pancakes.
….One regular listing concerned a young media man about town called Nathan Barley. It went under the pithy title of Cunt…
Chris Morris, the creator of The Day Today and Brasseye, had written listings in secret for TVGoHome. Around 2000 he suggested that they try to develop a show around the Nathan character and east London’s increasingly absurd club/art scene. “We talked about the show for years before we made it,” says Brooker. “Chris was adamant very early on that there should be a tiny acorn of likability to Nathan, something irrepressible. He does terrible things but he has an endearing sort of rabbity enthusiasm to him. In the fake listings he really was a cunt, whereas in the TV show he’s a twat – and there is a difference.
As there is.
Kingsley Amis liked these sorts of fine distinctions.
He says of a club bore: – “he was only an old fart, not an old shit as well.”
(The Folks Who Live on the Hill)
That’s a wide distinction. But when it comes to the following:-
A privilege granted to few
Is meeting a pratt on the scale
Of Nicholls: by common consent
A nitwit not fit to shift shit,
Whether more of a bastard or cunt,
Views varied, one has to admit.
(Kingsley Amis The Reunion)
The distinction is narrower. But here’s a working definition – a bastard will cheat on his partner, a cunt will get back at her with revenge porn.
Re Charlie Hebdo:-
“The point of satire is to attack the powerful, to expose their hypocrisy and absurdity, and of course to be funny. If satire is directed downwards it is not satire, it’s bullying.
Two elementary objections:-
1. Mohammad and Islam are very powerful to a gruesome degree in some places;
2. It’s not the point of satire to attack the powerful. The point of satire is to ridicule absurdities. It’s not just the powerful that are absurd.
Tim Sanders belongs to some left wing groupuscule. I suppose he’d admit that left wing groupuscules are (sadly) not powerful. They had the piss gloriously taken out of them in The Life of Brian with the The People’s Front of Judaea vs the Judaean People’s Front.
Here’s a video clip to refute his argument:-
1. It’s funny – one of the funniest scenes in one of the funniest films
2. It attacks the powerless – who happen to be absurd in this instance. In fact their powerlessness is part of their being ridiculous.
However word seems to be getting about that satire MUST attack the powerful otherwise it isn’t really satire – punching up against punching down. Will Self said something incoherent about this on Channel 4 (both he and Martin Rowson are purgative – see them fisked here.)
“You always have to ask with something that purports to be satire, who is it attacking? Are they people in a position of power? And if it’s attacking people in a position of power, is it giving comfort to people who are powerless and who are assaulted in some sense by those powerful people? This is not the dynamic with Islamist terrorists, they are not in power in our society, and it is not comforting the people who look at these cartoons whether in Charlie Hebdo or in newspapers here, they don’t feel better about themselves or about life to see Islamist terrorists mocked or the beliefs of Muslims in general mocked – why does it make anybody feel better?”
Islamists do have power within our society. In that interview the cartoonist Rowson said he wouldn’t draw Mohammad in case staff at newspapers got killed, i.e. he obeys the assassins’ veto. Pissing off Islamists and their followers seems as morally imperative as pissing off David Cameron and his – except that David Cameron won’t execute you out of hand.
When Rageboy was in one of his fits about a crappy film, – those fits which would be funny if they weren’t sinister, it made me feel better to knock this cartoon up. Caption:- Film Critics Revolt
Self teaches contemporary thought at Brunel University but his notions of satire seemed to have stopped at Spitting Image. One thing to notice about modern culture, as I thought last night when watching Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipes, which twists the tail of the ordinary glazed-eyed citizen as well as world leaders, is how it is flooded with satire, with piss-taking, with smart-arsery, with Reddit, and Cracked and Weird Al Y?Yankovic . It’s the modern idiom. Selfie, with his natural tone of sneering contempt and his ultra-punnable surname, is evidently the fish who doesn’t know it’s water he’s swimming in as he hasn’t noticed that early twenty first culture in the anglophone world is satirical to the point of misanthropy, which makes our politicians despised to an unhealthy degree, because, they, poor buggers, have to talk in the language of hope and belief, and it’s as if they’re speaking Victorian Uplift, while we their voters speak Modern Cynic.
However Self may have been doing a piece of satire of his own – perhaps a subtle reference to the English academic in David Lodge’s Changing Places (a satire against the not very powerful) who boasts he’s never read Hamlet.
Satire can be cruel, or it can be gentle. Goodness Gracious Me was rather gentle about its crass whites, its social climbers the Coopers and the bloke who says Indian about every invention (who should be resurrected as a Muslim saying, “It’s in the Qu’ran” about genetics, embryology and thermodynamics.)
Jonathan Swift punched up at politicians in Lilliput and Brobdignag, and scientists in Laputa, but come the fourth voyage he was punching downwards at grovelling humankind. The Simpsons punches down at America’s blue-collar class. Shameless punched down at the British underclass. The Royle Family punched down at the British working class and Rab C Nesbit punched down at the Scottish schemey.
Mo Dawah one of the best things on Twitter aims his darts at the target of the “community leader” – who has a helluva lot more power than their victims though less power than the Government.
We must not be afraid to address the problems within our community, by introspecting fearlessly on how it is everyone else’s fault.
We have to fight the hegemony of hetero-normative racist patriarchy that tries to blame the perpetrators who are victims too #Rotherham (Now that one is savage.)
Sick of double standards of liberal fascists imposing freedom to say what I want on me, whilst denying my right to impose censorship on them
Well I’d think you were a shit of course, but I already thought that about you.
However, let’s treat this seriously for a second or two and spell out the difference between making fun of a religion with its sacred objects and a staggering, culture-breaking historic event that still has living witnesses. Here are a couple of cartoons featuring women – one semi-mythical (though admirable on the whole).
The Virgin Mary/Our Lady
A rape victim
I’m sure you Holocaust cartooners can find something absurd and ridiculous about her plight and will knock up a nifty speech bubble. As for me I never want to google “rape victim” images again.
Actually if I was Charlie Hebdo I’d do a caption like “Her skirt must have been too short” which, to explain to those who are slow on the uptake, would be a satire against rape-victim-blamers. But I haven’t got the heart or stomach.
My satire is constrained by my own boundaries and a shared culture is one where we judge what is outside of enough. We can judge satire as good or bad in all sorts of ways, but not that it only should attack the powerful and that cartoonists laying into a religion should think again, except for the prudential reasons that now are forcing us to mind our manners or else.
In December 2013, former Charlie Hebdo editor Olivier Cyran, who had left the magazine in 2001, published an article, “Charlie Hebdo, Not Racist? If You Say So,” on his website Article11.
Charlie Hebdo’s religion editor, Zineb el-Rhazoui, replied in an essay published the same month. I’ve translated her essay below. When the attack on the paper’s offices occurred, el-Rhazoui was traveling in Morocco. (From Too Hot for Jacobin)
Olivier, you start from the premise that the Muslims of Azerbaijan, of Bosnia, of Malaysia, Egypt or Burkina Faso, represent a single whole that can be designated as a “race.” Well, it so happens that that’s the one I belong to. The fact that I’m an atheist, and proud of it? It makes no difference, since you don’t ask us what we think; you talk about racism, and therefore race. I won’t keep beating around the bush, since I don’t doubt for a second that, like me, you perfectly understand the distinction between a religion and a race. If you make this lamentable conflation, it’s because you engage in a sociological fallacy whose origins lie in the demography of France: our Muslims are most often those we call “Arabs.” I’m sort of starting to understand why you speak of racism. But let’s try to be precise: we’re not talking about the Arabs of Lebanon, who are rarely encountered in the French projects, nor the persecuted Arab Ahwazi minority of Iran, whom nobody in France talks about, and certainly not the Arabs of Qatar who keep Louis Vuitton in business. No, you’re talking about the “Arabs” of North Africa — and here again, it so happens that that is the “race” from which I spring. Moreover, for your information, those “Arabs” aren’t always Arabs. The best-informed people in France know that they are Berbers, a word of Greek origin, “Bearded,” which refers to us Amazighes, Imazighen — Free Men, as we like to call ourselves. I am thus triply qualified to dispel the obvious confusion you manifest when you identify those you claim to be defending: the Muslim race.
Muslim You Will Stay
Among the individuals that you assign to this racial category, there are militant atheists like me, obviously secularist (laïque). There are atheists who have other fish to fry, they are secularists too. There are atheists who love Charlie Hebdo and support it; others less so or not at all. There are agnostics, skeptics, free-thinkers, deists; they are secularists as well. There are believers who are non-practicing but politically Islamist, practicing but secularist, or even those with “no opinion,” whose daily lives do not suffer because of Charlie Hebdo. There are converts to Christianity — and oh, are they secularist, for they’ve endured the terrors of theocracy in their countries of origin. And finally there are the fundamentalists (intégristes), the militant Islamists, the adherents of an identity defined above all by religion, and those are the ones you have chosen to defend. Those are the ones who, given the reality of French laïcité, have no other choice than to cry racism, a tear in their eye and a hand on their heart, on the pretext that their “religious feelings” have been mocked by a drawing in Charlie. Among them you will find many who stand for laïcité in France but vote Ennahda in Tunisia, who do their shopping at a Parisian halal butcher but would cry scandal if a misfit decided to open a charcuterie in Jeddah. Who are outraged when a day care center fires a veiled employee but say nothing when someone they know forces his daughter to wear the veil. They are a minority. But they are the standard to which you have chosen to align the identity of all of us.
Meanwhile the Sheikh of Bradford and First Sectarian of mainland Britain has his own take. I got the picture from the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain who observe that (a) he’s increased the usual number by half a billion; and (b) it’s hard to do a religious headcount in countries where atheists and agnostics and converts to other religions keep their gobs shut.
Update:- of the 2 billion victimised about 300 turned up to hear Galladin – which is fewer than the 1000s that turned up in anti-Rushdie days. (I got that pic off Twitter and suppose 2014 is a typo.)
We the people declare our inalienable right to take the piss.
To no person will we deny the right to cock snooks at, give the finger to, take the mickey out of.
(Crying as I post this.)
Carlton Reid’s Roads Were Not Built for Cars is a revisionist history, reclaiming the role of bicycles in the development of roads and the cars that dominate them. When a class, a race, a gender reclaims its history it is usually in the cause of self-assertion. After reading this I was indignant when a privileged usurper tooted me for walking across the entrance of a cul-de-sac which they were turning into. Listen, these are my f***** streets too, you know.
The later Victorian age. The railway lines had cut through the country on their purpose-built tracks and profoundly changed ideas of mobility. The roads, once well maintained for mail coaches, had fallen into disuse. But in the 1870s and 1880s people started pedalling themselves at speed and with the commercialisation of the Safety bicycle in 1885 bicycling became popular with the elite, affordable for the middle-classes and then finally through second-hand sales and mass production, taken up by the clerks and the factory workers. It powered invention. In 1896 more than half of the 28,000 patents were for improvements in bicycles.
The Psycho Ladies’ Bicycle -1889. Step through for the skirt problem
Cyclists were heading from the paved streets to the countryside, on roads which unlike the railways were not then seen as conduits for fast-moving traffic. Roads were originally made for a human or horse pace and for short journeys. But a new desire had been formed – for self-propelled travel over a distance on a smooth surface.
Passage on the king’s highway is an ancient right in England. A landmark court case in 1879 established bicycles as “carriages” under law and so with the rights to use the roads in the same way as broughams and hackneys. The Cyclists’ Touring Club had one of their members (an MP) add a clause to the Local Government Act of 1888 which effectively prevented county councils from creating by-laws to prohibit cycling on the roads.
Along with lobbying for legislation cyclists campaigned for better surfaces via bodies like the Roads Improvement Association. Some roadworks the members funded themselves. They produced equipment including a ring to measure the size of stones for surfacing, kept an eye on maintenance and made themselves guardians of the highways as modern cycling advocates act as wardens for cycle paths. Eventually this work was taken over by the Road Board “the first central authority for British roads since Roman times”.
Where the cyclists went the motorists then followed and their lobby groups were often the cycling groups with “Automobile” added to the name. One of Cartlon Reid’s main themes is that this was not a case of the poor man’s transport (the bicycle) overtaken by the rich man’s vehicle (the automobile). Bicycles were at first expensive – the high-wheelers (“penny farthings”) were ridden by moneyed athletes. Aristocrats like the Marquess of Queensberry, Oscar Wilde’s enemy, were keen cyclists as was Daisy, Countess of Warwick, one of Edward VII’s mistresses. Arthur Balfour was president of the National Cyclists’ Union and Herbert Gladstone, son of W E Gladstone and one time Home Secretary vigorously pedalled, and pushed for street paving and road maintenance. In the USA the League of American Wheelmen was founded in Newport, the millionaires’ holiday village,
The League of American Wheelmen also campaigned for better roads via the Good Roads Movement, again with a combination of politics and practical demonstration. Their campaign included rolling “road shows”. “The Good Roads train.. would disgorge road builders, a traction engine, a road roller, a sprinkler and broken stone, from which an “object lesson” road would be constructed at prearranged stopping points.” Railway interests opposed them, and farmers, who were responsible for half-heartedly maintaining the rural roads, did not want to be taxed for the benefit of city-slicker cyclists, however much their own wagons jolted on the ruts and ridges. ”Eventually the farmers were won over and the politicians found there was mileage in a publicly paid for road system.” In 1916 the Federal Aid Road Act was signed by Woodrow Wilson, himself a cyclist who had been much impressed by the roads in Britain and France on cycle journeys in his youth.
By then many of the cyclists had become motorists as well. They were the rich who loved speed and self-propelled travel and the very latest gadgetry, promoted by the cycling industry’s flair for advertising. They used the maps that Messrs Bartholomew had crowd-sourced from members of the Cyclists’ Touring Club. The technology behind these early motors – the pneumatic tyres, the ball bearings, the spoked wheels, the precision engineering skills – had been created by the cycling industry.
French cycling poster, 1897
“Carl-Benz’s Patent Motorwagon, the first true automobile, was a motorised two-seater tricycle… The key components for Henry Ford’s Quadricycle – including the wire spoke wheels, bush roller chains and pneumatic tyres – were from bicycles.”
The Nazis erased the cycling origins of Benz’s Motorwagen from history and monument and at the launch of the 15 millionth Model T in 1927 the Ford company claimed that the “Ford car… started the movement for good roads.” The now plebeian bicycle became something of an embarrassing ancestor to the more powerful and more progressive seeming vehicle.
So the well-connected cyclists who had lobbied for good roads became well-connected motorists who wanted unthwarted access to these roads. And they took them over, though they numbered only in thousands, while the cyclists were in the millions because the masses had begun to ride bicycles.
The rights to the passage on the King’s highway was a liberal right which then in the spirit of Ayn Rand was taken over by the strongest and most ruthless. Even a speed limit law was seen as “unEnglish” and as the motorists were of the upper echelons, they resented being treated as criminals for breaking it. (The motoring public is still resentful that they are subject to law – witness fury at speed cameras. One of the cycling groups’ aims is to lower speeds in urban centres to 20mph.)
Carlton Reid compares this to the enclosures “when land in common use by the many was fenced in and appropriated by the few.”
And like the landowner the motorist feels himself entitled to the roads. Hold up his passage he won’t feel merely inconvenienced, but righteously outraged, spluttering like Hilaire Belloc’s JP:-
I have a right because I have, because,
Because I have, because I have a right.
Moreover, I have got the upper hand,
And mean to keep it. Do you understand?
Familiar political themes run through this book. One is of how laissez faire can become devil take (or run over) the hindmost. Another is the Revolution Devouring Its Own Children. A group or class will agitate to bring about a change that will ultimately destroy them, like Iranian leftists demonstrating for the removal of the Shah only to end up being killed by Khomeini’s Islamic Republic. The cyclists lobbied for good roads and got them, and were then pushed off them by the sheer force of a ton of metal, going at five times their speed.
However though Roads Were Not Built… is a polemic shot through with a sense of injustice for the written out and colonised – the literally marginalised literally pushed in the gutter when they had literally paved the way for the motorist – it could be enjoyed by Jeremy Clarkson. It buzzes and hums with innovation and invention. It’s crowded with energetic promoters and lobbyists, engineers and entrepreneurs and tinkerers, sportsmen and pioneers. Cycling did come as a miracle, bestowing a sense of speed and independence. “The cyclist is a man half made of flesh and half of steel that only our century of science and iron could have spawned.” wrote Charles-Louis Baudry de Saunier in The Art of Cycling (1894).
In our own equally exciting and innovative age of computing we are half flesh, half digital stream. Thus Carlton Reid’s Roads Were Not Built… was kickstarted by crowdfunding. He put his researches on his entertaining blog. You can get the book as a big dead-tree soft-back with lots of colour plates (histories of cycling always have cool pics) or as an “iPad version with 10 videos, two audio clips, a 3D spinnable object, and 580+ illustrations, many of which zoom to full-screen.“
Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce
The book ends with potted biographies of many of the motor grandees with a cycling background and their firms, my favourite being that of Lionel Martin. Eton rich. Held long-distance records on tandem and tricycle. He and his friend Robert Bamford were both members of the Bath Road Club and were souping up ordinary cars.
Their advertisement in the Bath Road News:- “If you must sell your birthright for a mess of petrol, why not purchase your car – from Bamford & Martiin Ltd, the most humorous firm in the motor trade.” These cars became Aston Martins.
“Martin was a tricyclist to his dying day. He was killed in October 1945 after being knocked from his tricycle by a motor car on a suburban road in Kingston-upon-Thames.”
I had hopes that it would not have been a 55/45 split in the Scotland’s referendum but more of a 35/65 one. Instead the vote swung from closer towards independence than most had anticipated a year ago and the Scottish National Party has gained thousands of recruits from disappointed Yessers and those on the left who have given up on the Labour Party. They are likely to win most of Scotland’s seats in the next general election.
This, along with the rise of UKIP this swing to nationalistic and populist politics should not be surprising in Britain. It’s happening all over the continent, with France’s Front National having a good chance of winning the presidency and the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece and of the Sweden Democrats.
This sort of politics with its whiff of the thirties is very alarming.
Kenan Malik’s piece here is excellent on the rise of right-wing populism within Europe:-
“What are considered populist parties comprise, in fact, very different kinds of organizations, with distinct historical roots, ideological values and networks of social support. Some, such as Golden Dawn, are openly Nazi. Others, such as the Front National are far-right organizations that in recent years have tried to rebrand themselves to become more mainstream. Yet others – UKIP for instance – have reactionary views, play to far-right themes such as race and immigration, but have never been part of the far-right tradition.
What unites this disparate group is that all define themselves through a hostility to the mainstream and to what has come to be regarded as the dominant liberal consensus. Most of the populist parties combine a visceral hatred of immigration with an acerbic loathing of the EU, a virulent nationalism and deeply conservative views on social issues such as gay marriage and women’s rights.
The emergence of such groups reveals far more, however, than merely a widespread disdain for the mainstream. It expresses also the redrawing of Europe’s political map, and the creation of a new faultline on that map. The postwar political system, built around the divide between social democratic and conservative parties, is being dismantled. Not only has this created new space for the populists, but it is also transforming the very character of political space.
The new political faultline in Europe is not between left and right, between social democracy and conservatism, but between those who feel at home in – or at least are willing to accommodate themselves to – the post-ideological, post-political world, and those who feel left out, dispossessed and voiceless. These kinds of divisions have always existed, of course. In the past, however, that sense of dispossession and voicelessness could be expressed politically, particularly through the organizations of the left and of the labour movement. No longer. It is the erosion of such mechanisms that is leading to the remaking of Europe’s political landscape.
as broader political, cultural and national identities have eroded, and as traditional social networks, institutions of authority and moral codes have weakened, so people’s sense of belonging has become more narrow and parochial, moulded less by the possibilities of a transformative future than by an often mythical past. The politics of ideology has, in other words, given way to the politics of identity…
we need to establish new social mechanisms through which to link liberal ideas about immigration and individual rights with progressive economic arguments and a belief in the community and the collective. Those who today rightly bemoan the corrosion of collective movements and community organizations often also see the problem as too much immigration. Those who take a liberal view on immigration, and on other social issues, are often happy with a more individualized, atomized society. Until all three elements of a progressive outlook – a defence of immigration, freedom of movement and of individual rights, a challenge to austerity policies and the embrace of collective action – can be stitched together, and stitched into a social movement, then there will be no proper challenge to the populists.”
The referendum being all over now and the Noes (or the “forces of sanity and reason” as we call ourselves) having it, I have to thank Shiraz Socialist and Tendance Coatesy for sticking to their socialist principles. The contortions that the left and Greens went through to defend their acting as troops for the Scottish nationalist movement have to be seen – well you can see them here, in an excellent round up by Bob of Brockley.
Also Shiraz Socialist’s die-hard enemies, Socialist Unity, have stayed staunch. Here’s an excellent piece by Tommy Kane.
Reflecting on the referendum campaign it’s clear that it’s degenerated into the most polarising, divisive and diversionary political event of our times. Countering this view, some socialists in the Yes camp suggest that the campaign has engendered hope, inspired a revitalisation of left politics and saw record levels of political engagement. These supporters pronounce independence will bring freedom from subjugation and a renewal of democracy, others proclaim it will allows us escape from the supposedly different Scottish and English political cultures, while others assert firmly that a Yes vote can go some way to ‘smashing the British state’ (incidentally not at the top of people’s concerns on the doorsteps). Amongst some there also resides a belief that, at the very least, independence will bring social democracy and a fairer and more just Scotland, because, whisper it, ‘we are more progressive up here’. In order to sustain a clean and seamless Yes campaign these left proponents of this missive appear to have suspended their critical faculties, especially in relation to the SNP’s White Paper, and whether they like it or not, have encouraged a discourse that has appears to have focused predominately on the liberation of ‘Scottish nationhood’.
Greens went weird as well.
Scotland wants to invest in renewable energy, but the money for investment will inevitably have to come from further investment and money raised through oil and gas.
AND YET – one of three key principles of the Green Party is to reduce “dependence on fossil fuels”. Scottish Greens too say they want to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
So why are the Green Party supporting an outcome that makes a nation even more dependent on exploiting its oil and gas resources?
I wrote a piece of verse about the contradictory times we found ourselves in:-
And so ends the old order,
With Indyref fever full boil.
Lefties campaign for a border,
Greenies shout Yay for the oil.
As a corporate lawyer in Edinburgh, Helen would have advised her clients to vote No for prudential motives. However as she has now just moved to Australia to act as adviser to a senator in the Liberal Democrat Party, she has backed an iScotland because of its potential for a free market economy.
I hope “yes” wins the day, because I also think Scotland’s robust civic culture would make a fair fist of independence. The socialism would evaporate, sure, but the country would not fall prey to the “resource curse” so common among small, oil-rich nations. That Scotland gifted the world the skeptical Enlightenment would stand it in good stead. Its current inhabitants may prove themselves worthy heirs to Adam Smith, David Hume, and all the rest.
The Yes campaign was everything to everybody. As Ewan Morrison said the members campaigned to:-
Get rid of Trident, raise the minimum wage, lower corporation tax, promote gay and lesbian rights, create a world leading Green economy, exploit oil to the full and become a world leading petro-chemical economy, nationalise the banks, nationalise BP, be more attractive to foreign investment.
So now what happens? Yessers are re-grouping and now some have badged themselves “45”, in memory of their percentage share of the vote. ’45 is a bizarre name for a Scottish nationalist group to give themselves.
Don’t they remember the last ’45 in Scottish history and its ultimate end?
Radical Independence, one of the left routes into nationalist politicking, are holding a conference.
The conference was launched earlier this year with a statement signed by dozens of campaigners, trade unionists, cultural figures and politicians, calling for the creation of an extra-parliamentary independence campaign that puts forward a radical, progressive vision of an independent Scotlan
Meanwhile the Greens have increased their membership and I would guess the SNP itself, however defeated they may seem to be, did run a campaign that pulled up the independence vote from lagging behind to scaring us shitless, may be gathering in old Labour supporters and will still be a power, especially if Nicola Sturgeon is as an effective leader as Salmond.
The Yessers are certain that all their newly energised population are not going to go away and that they can build a new independence movement. That would be appalling for Scottish politics, since the Noes, who have found this refereendum an ordeal which they have vowed will never be repeated, will then vote to keep the indy lot out. I cannot imagine anything less constructive to useful politics than a large chunk of the people voting primarily on this particular issue.
However perhaps it will just fizzle out. According to the Very Public Sociologist:-
Surely this view has been rendered null and void by the intrusion of many millions into the Scottish debates? Unfortunately, for all the networked organisations, the radical independence outfits, and non-affiliated people this is a movement under the undisputed leadership of the SNP. Its reach is powered by a soft left-populist rejection of Westminster and, despite the hopes I have for it, is likely to simply demobilise in the event of a Yes victory. I say this not because it’s convenient, but by looking at the mobilisation of similar movements elsewhere. Remember the mass movement against Le Pen in 2002? Where did it go? What happened to the defeated movement for Quebec independence? Or what about the mobilisation of the grassroots for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign? Even huge working class mobilisations under ultra-correct revolutionary leaderships can quickly fade, such as the ‘victorious’ anti-Poll Tax movement. With radical groups present but by no means hegemonic, I can see Yes heading the same way. I understand you may feel different, but enthusiasm in the absence of a unifying organisation can dim very quickly. Once the job is done, if the job gets done, what next? How can the momentum be maintained at the moment its SNP lynchpin works to shut it down?
Yessers now say they will be mocked when they sing what has become Scotland’s anthem, Flower of Scotland, especially the lines “to be a nation again”. Well, perhaps they could dump it. It’s an embarrassing dirge, with terrible lyrics, remembering a victory over a particularly weak English king 700 years ago. It is even more embarrassing in that it was written in the late 1960s, not the 1700s.
At the opening of the new devolved Holyrood Parliament Burns’ great hymn to democratic humanity was sung by Sheena Wellington. Couldn’t we adopt the last verse as the anthem? The ideas behind it are not nationalistic but universal and noble.
Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.
So we really have gone crazy up here. The polls tighten, the campaigners for an independent Scotland, the Yessers, who thought they could pat themselves on the back for making a respectable showing, now have a chance of winning.
Heady, exhilarating – for those on the Yes side and for those who are cheering them on. For us Unionists – and I never thought of myself as such a thing, just a British citizen with dual nationality living in Scotland – these last weeks have been nerve-wracking. Acute anxiety is my normal state of mind now, and others
feel the same.
The charged, hysterical atmosphere is like the outbreak of World War I, except instead of emanating from the newspapers it’s from the Yes campaign, which has captured the patriotic side of the argument. The cries of traitor, treachery, quisling, the message that this is a heroic struggle and only the cowardly and feart will be on the wrong side of history, the solemn announcement that I have voted Yes, with the same pride as I have joined up to fight for King and Country and the proud badges waved on Facebook profiles. Those of us who think this is a march – well not to disaster but at least disillusion and certainly not the land of vibrant egalitarianism they are prophesying- are handed out metaphorical white feathers.
“I’ve been called a traitor, a quisling, tory scum, a hun, and a diet Scot, because I support Scotland’s place in the Union. ”
There is the endless lies and propaganda and the rumours of secret weapons, such as the hidden oil field that the UK government is keeping under wraps.
42% of Scots believe in this.
And for armchair generals, substitute armchair economists, for moving flags forward and back to show territory won and lost and the attendant mood swings, think poll-watching, and for the Somme and Paschendale think in the short term at least a tanking economy, austerity, high unemployment, emigration. Ah, but all those will be ours. If it’s a mess, it’s OUR mess.
As some Noes have said, I have seen the intelligent minds of my generation turn into blithering idiots.
The Yessers have campaigned in poetry – offering hope that all ills will be removed by independence. Their ad in today’s Metro showed a baby hand against an adult hand “Vote Yes and keep Scotland’s future in your hands for good”. The No ad gave a list of points of contradicting false claims on the NHS, currency etc by the SNP. The Noes are definitely prose, and reasoning, the Yessers offer a fantasy Scotland. And when did reality ever match up to fantasy?
Ewan Morrison has a brilliant article on the cult-like atmosphere of the Yes campaign and compares it to the SWP.
As a ‘Trot’ we were absolutely banned from talking about what the economy or country would be like ‘after the revolution’; to worry about it, speculate on it or raise questions or even practical suggestions was not permitted. We had to keep all talk of ‘after the revolution’ very vague because our primary goal was to get more people to join our organisation. I learned then that if you keep a promise of a better society utterly ambiguous it takes on power in the imagination of the listener. Everything can be better “after the revolution”. It’s a brilliant recruitment tool because everyone with all their conflicting desires can imagine precisely what they want. The key is to keep it very simple – offer a one word promise. In the case of the Trotskyists it’s ‘Revolution,’ in the case of the independence campaign it’s the word ‘Yes’. Yes can mean five million things. It’s your own personal independence. Believing in Yes is believing in yourself and your ability to determine your own future. Yes is very personal. How can you not say Yes to yourself? You’d have to hate yourself? Yes is about belief in a better you and it uses You as a metaphor for society as if you could simply transpose your good intentions and self belief onto the world of politics.
And as Salmond calls any requests for some sane answers on the currency and other questions “scaremongering” so do the Yes campaigners
From Tom Bradby, a reporter for ITV:-
The essential trouble is that the ‘Yes’ campaign’s argument here is high on emotion, but short on sensible detail. I have said before and wholly stick to the view that their long-term analysis is pretty fair, save perhaps for some exaggeration of the revenue they are likely to glean from North Sea Oil.
… But the ‘Yes’ campaign here is about to bring its incipient nation into being based on an economic policy that would literally be laughed at if it were produced at Westminster.
Alex Salmond has barely set foot inside the House of Commons for a decade and yet on the question of a currency union he claims to know what politicians there are going to do better than they do themselves – and certainly better than all those Westminster analysts whose job it is to talk to these people and study their mindsets, day in day out. It is frankly absurd. Anyone who lived through the Euro crisis at Westminster knows that, but point it out and you are guaranteed a volley of abuse.
all reporters I chatted to yesterday agreed that the level of abuse and even intimidation being meted out by some in the ‘Yes’ campaign was making this referendum a rather unpleasant experience.
And whilst I am sure both sides have been guilty, the truth – uncomfortable as it is to say it – is that most of the heckling and abuse does seem to be coming from the Nationalists…
I don’t think Scotland will turn into Yugoslavia or the Ukraine, or a Middle East country where Shi-ites and Sunnis who have lived as neighbours for generations start killing each. Family fallouts, a reeling economy and poisonous politics are not the end of the world. This is still part of a state that is on the whole civilised. How angry I am that a bunch of nationalists, deluded progressives and ideologues are trying to break it apart.