Jason Michael McCann (Jeggit) writes about others being “without any real or meaningful grasp on the realities of real world politics” and then demonstrates his own descent into the realm of fantasy politics with the claim that,
“It is simply a fiction to imagine that this or anytime is a last chance for the politics of independence.”
This is to blithely disregard and discount at least two rather important “realities of real world politics” – the phenomenon that is the British state and the fact that time can be a constraining, limiting, debilitating factor and not at all the vast, open prairie of endless opportunity envisaged in the reveries of a romantic revolutionary.
Which is unfortunate in that otherwise this analysis is pretty much spot on. The account of what has become of a once proudly democratic party and a once respected, even admired, leader is not only accurate but very powerful. It is particularly frustrating, therefore, that so much promising analysis should lead to such a fallacious conclusion. Although it is not really accurate to say that the thinking evident in the rest of the article leads to this conclusion. To arrive where it does Jason’s train of logic must jump the tracks. The suspicion is that he deliberately derails that train of logic because he sees where it is going and where it is going doesn’t accord with his prejudices and preconceptions.
What is clear is that Jason came to his topic already decided that the SNP is a lost cause and that Scotland’s independence movement must take time to recuperate and regroup – presumably around some unspecified source of effective political power that is not the SNP. He is absolutely correct in what he says about the failure to formulate a shareable “ideology of independence” and to properly educate the independence movement. But he is woefully, tragically, dangerously wrong to suppose we can just put the rest of politics and the clock on pause while we go back and redo a job poorly done.
The coming Scottish Parliament election may not be the last chance for Scotland’s cause. But it is certainly the last opportunity of its kind. For all Jason’s complacent assurance, we cannot be certain that the election isn’t the last democratic event by means of which the fight to restore Scotland’s independence can be taken to a satisfactory conclusion. This does not mean that the aspiration will die. It does not mean that that the independence movement will evaporate. But it definitely means that the continuing effort will be fought on very different ground. In that sense, if no other, the election must be treated as if it is our last chance. It must be approached in the manner it would be if it was certain to be our last chance. That is the kind of focus and determination that is required.
Jason takes no account of the extent to which the way we approach the fight to restore Scotland’s independence is defined by the pretensions and imperatives of the British state. The British state is a reality. The nature of the British state is the reality which drives the independence movement. It makes no sense whatever to exclude that reality from any analysis of Scotland’s predicament. It is the reality which compels us to treat this coming election as our last chance to take the bold, decisive action which will be required if the British state is to be successfully challenged.
There can be absolutely no doubt as to what the British political elite intends for Scotland. To doubt it is to turn a blind eye to what is actually happening right now and deaf ear to what is being said by various mouthpieces for the British establishment. If the British Nationalist project is not stopped immediately then it may be impossible to stop it at all. It will certainly become more difficult. Because the very essence of that project is the dismantling of the means by which the project can be resisted. The idea that the fight to restore Scotland’s independence will be the same five years or even one year from now is almost infantile in its naivety. We have to assume that fight will be much harder because we know that the British intend to apply their not inconsiderable power to ensuring that it becomes ever harder.
Think about it! Is the context in which the independence movement operates today the same as it was in, say, 2011? Or 2014? Of course it isn’t! The entire political reality has changed. How unrealistic is it to suppose it will not change again over the coming months and years? What a failure to grasp the realities of real world politics it would be to imagine this change will be other than to the disadvantage of Scotland’s cause given that a significant part of the apparatus of the British state will be devoted to ensuring that it is.
There is more than a hint of hypocrisy here too. Having name-dropped and quoted Antonio Gramsci to evidence his own erudition, Jason offers the following Gramsciesque thought.
“…the great majority of pro-independence supporters in Scotland have been kept on a tight leash. The extent of their political involvement has been limited to the position of a chorus or audience hyped-up by sloganistic rhetoric and vague promises of jam tomorrow, and their vision of independence has been narrowly defined as something manifest in one political party and more particularly in the messianic adulation of the leader of that party.”
But what is his closing paragraph but “sloganistic rhetoric and vague promises of jam tomorrow”?
We are where we are. No realist doubts that it is not a particularly good place for the independence movement to be. But it is crucial that we recognise the reality of our situation. Otherwise, how might we hope to develop a strategy for dealing with that situation such as to at least give us a chance of something akin to success.
The reality is that the machinery on which the fight to restore Scotland’s independence relies has four moving parts. There is the party political arm which operates for the cause within the realm of formal politics and provides a means of channelling the strength of the movement and transforming that strength into effective political power.
There is the Scottish Government which if controlled by the political arm of the movement, becomes its executive – exercising effective political power for the purposes of the cause.
There is the Scottish Parliament which provides a venue and a locus for Scottish as opposed to British politics as well as acting as the true democratic voice of Scotland’s people as it speaks to Scotland, the world furth of our borders and, perhaps most importantly, the Scottish Government. The Scottish Parliament gives democratic legitimacy to the actions of the Scottish Government.
There is the movement itself. By which is meant the aggregate of all those who are persuaded of the need to restore Scotland’s independence. But particularly the activists within this aggregate – the Yes movement.
Remove, destroy or disable any of these components and the machinery will not function. It will either cease to function altogether or become inadequate for the task.
In terms of the claim that we don’t need the SNP it need only be pointed out that there simply is no other credible candidate for the role of political arm of the independence movement. And not the remotest possibility of developing an alternative before the ‘last chance’ of the Holyrood election. The reality of real world politics is that we are stuck with the SNP whether we like it or not and regardless of whether the party is fit for our purpose.
There can be no doubt that the SNP is not fit for the purposes of Scotland’s cause. But that does not alter the reality. The reality which Jason avoids by steering his train of logic off the tracks and down the leafy, sunlit lane to the land of fantasy politics.
Some will protest that this is not very helpful. Well, as Antonio Gramsci himself might have said, tough shit! There is no rule of politics which says reality must be helpful. There is, however, an iron law of politics which states that reality cannot be altered by wishful thinking. That reality must be acknowledged in order that those determined to alter that reality in a particular way may discover a way of doing so.
18 thoughts on “Facing reality”
Quite right Peter.
Determine to discover, how to alter
The reality of our politics.
So far we’ve been led by an established politik, 300 years of imperialist control.
The continued arrogance of the English state, “we are sovereign” is the first mistake to assume this.
Breaking this political attitude, is to use our own politics bypass their system, and confront them.
At the moment, our system is a rump system of England, break that mindset, we break through.
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Peter you have to remember that as well as being concerned about Scottish Independence, Jason is also an Irish republican. He therefore sees things through a particular filter. I disagree with him about Irish Politics, so much so that he has blocked me on Twitter.
I am however passionate about Irish History (I am after all an Ulsterman, h old an Irish Passport and obtained my first degree from Trinity College Dublin.). Now I happen to believe that the Irish model for gaining Independence is not right for Scotland and that we should be thinking in Scandinavian terms. However having said that, certainly at the present time the underlying though pattern of Jason’s Political thoughts can, if not taken too far, certainly educate us in how we should be thinking. I certainly would not chastise him for using Gramsci as a model.
It is a pity that you edited what Jason wrote . I will give you the full quotation “Without any real or meaningful grasp on the realities of real world politics, without any training in political theory, and with no clearly definable ideology of independence, the great majority of pro-independence supporters in Scotland have been kept on a tight leash. The extent of their political involvement has been limited to the position of a chorus or audience hyped-up by sloganistic rhetoric and vague promises of jam tomorrow, and their vision of independence has been narrowly defined as something manifest in one political party and more particularly in the messianic adulation of the leader of that party.”
I spent some time as the Political Education officer of an SNP branch, and I never got an opportunity to ply my trade. I keep getting told that the SNP is broad church, and any attempt to bring in more focused politics would only cause divisions. But without an educated membership the party does deteriorate into a messianic cult for the leader. There is no political education in many branches, which is why people have not the political equipment to think through the present situation, hence #Wheeshforindi and #I’mbackingNicola. However provided the foot soldiers will pay and knock doors why would an authoritarian leadership want educated members? They might start to think
At the time of the defeat of the Referendum I was of the opinion that the loss of the Referendum was analogous with the downfall of Parnell in Ireland in 1890. While the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) continued and forced the Liberal Government of 1892 to come up with the Second Home Rule Bill – (which offers less than the present Devolution of Scotland). This was defeated in the Lords by the Tories, and after 1885 the Tories were back in power. The IPP were as helpless in Westminster as the SNP are today, and in fact the IPP split and was only reunited in 1900 under a Parnellite.
People in Ireland began to look past the IPP at other ways for Ireland to gain Independence. Fortunately Roy Foster Professor of Irish History at Oxford, in 2014 published a book “Vivid Faces” which basically tracked the development of non parliamentary political action between 1890 and 1923.
The parallels between Scotland today and Ireland in the period while they should not be exaggerated are similar.
The SNP are dominant in Scottish terms at Westminster – they have been better and a lot can be learnt from the losses of 2017. The SNP lost 21 seats, and I suspect that it was because the people realised that in Westminster the SNP are impotent, just like the IPP after 1885.
In Ireland there was in the late 19th Century a most remarkable educational, cultural, linguistic literary and emotional development of a political and social consciousness. This led to political developments with the establishment of Sinn Fein and an intellectual ferment which looked past devolution to initially a Dual Monarchy as in the Austrian/Hungarian Empire. A similar revival of the Scottish spirit seems to have taken place since the establishment of the Parliament and especially since 2014.
There is a fear among many of us – some of us who have left the Party, that in fact the SNP has become the party of Home Rule – of Devolution and that is not where they should be. I was a great supporter of Devolution in 1997. I saw it as Michael Colins put it when faced with a Treaty which he didn’t much like but which was the best on offer, “It gave us the Freedom to obtain freedom.” I suspect however that the politicians have now dug in and are comfortable where they are with Devolution. Once in a Generation was a useful statement in 2014 and perhaps serves them well.
In the face of an intransigent UK Government which rejects the right of the Scottish People to self determination, and a Scottish political leadership which is happy with the status quo, things might have stayed like this for some time.
However with a British Nationalist Government which as a result of its Victory with Brexit wishes to centralise its power, the future of Devolution looks decidedly dodgy. The question is basically what Jason was asking. What do we do as the situation which he described has happened, and there appears no real political drive for a change?
And that Peter is what we would like to hear from you.
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Thank you Edward. This has advanced my understanding considerably. I am very interested in the parallels between Irish & Scottish political movements but am reluctant to draw too many direct comparisons as that tend to over-simplify a complex situation. But what is abundantly clear to me is that Scots need to look beyond the British political model if we wish to progress as a nation. I welcome us learning lessons from our Scandinavian neighbours but, as someone who is part New Zealander & spent some of my childhood there, the world is a big place & there are lessons to be learned from all over.
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I know Jason quite well.
Excellent post, Edward.
I think the similarities between the IPP and the SNP are apposite. The SNP “have gone native” – and have been for decades – in that they think independence can only be achieved by playing by Westminster’s rules. They stubbornly ignore the fact that Westminster changes the rules regularly in order to prevent Scotland regaining its independence by so-called legal means. I believe they ignore it not because of stupidity but of fear. Fear of losing what they’ve achieved thus far and fear of losing personal status.
The idea of seeking permission for an independence referendum from Westminster would, I think, have been revolting for the likes of Collins and Connolly. Scotland needs people who are not afraid to break Westminster’s ever-changing rules. I do not mean in a physical, violent way but rather in a way which shows the people of Scotland there are some who are not afraid to face and fight the consequences of British nationalist prejudice. We need political martyrs.
Thankfully, for the independence movement, eejits like Boris Johnson are in control in Westminster. Their very English britishness, and the little-Englander consequences therein, can only help the independence movement by accentuating the differences between Scotland and England. But only up to a point. Sooner or later, and it must be sooner, someone in the SNP must grasp the thistle and tell Westminster to stuff its rules – withdrawing their MPs from Westminster for example would be a start.
If the SNP continues to kowtow to Westminster? Civil disobedience by the rest of us seems the only answer.
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I posted this under your comment on Random Public Journal:
Peter, you accuse Jason of offering “jam tomorrow” but, in my view, your continuing support for both the SNP & the Scottish Parliament as the only route to Independence look like actions of a man convinced that the Titanic is unsinkable & refusing to get into a lifeboat even though a space is available to him. If you can excuse the mixed metaphors, those who abandon ship get a chance to fight another day.
In the past you quite rightly pointed out that the SNP should offer a referendum & provided dates when this should occur. You were ignored. You said we should #dissolvetheunion. And were ignored. Now you advocate for a #manifestoforindependence. And still you are ignored. What will it take to make you realise that the SNP are not going to deliver the Independence we all want? I’m left unsure whether you are simply being a good lobbyists by staying resolutely ‘on message’ or whether you are clutching at straws & genuinely believe in the SNP actually, maybe, delivering the goods at the end of the day.
And that’s before we get into the horrendous financial & legal corruption among the leadership of the party, the gender woo-woo that is set to deny Scottish women (& men) their hard-won rights and the anti-democratic system now in place within that party that appears to block the ability of the decent members, such as yourself, doing anything about it. What is the mechanism by which members can reclaim control of the party? It seems to be missing in action.
Holyrood was set up as an extension of Westminster. We Scots could have taken the tools they blithely handed us & used them to build for a better future but the chief engineer – the SNP – decided on another course of action. If Westminster takes back some of those tools Scots we might have to learn to do things the hard way – like the Irish, the Indians, the Maltese before us – instead of getting a head start with a Scottish parliament ready & waiting for us. So be it.
All this squabbling over how to make best use of the votes of roughly 50% of the Scottish public who want Independence is missing out the real issue: turning that 50% into 70, 80 or 90% as you would find in any country that genuinely wanted its political freedom.
This is like trying to convince ourselves that because we have enough eggs & sugar we can bake a great cake even though we have no flour to add to the mix. At best we might get an overly sweet omelette but most likely we just get egg in the face.
I read it. Two false premises in the first paragraph. First, the reference to my “continuing support for both the SNP & the Scottish Parliament as the only route to Independence”. I don’t “support” the idea of the SNP being the only source of effective political power available to the independence movement. I simply recognise and acknowledge a reality that is only denied by fantasists who have not even the most tenuous grasp on the realities of real world politics. And the idea that the Scottish Parliament isn’t an essential component of our democracy is both deluded and dangerous.
Then there is the notion that there is a “lifeboat” into which we can climb as we abandon the SNP as the political arm of the independence movement. This “lifeboat” exists only in your imagination. Why would I jump into your imaginary lifeboat?
Pop in and see me next time you visit the real world.
Steady Peter, no need to be Mr Nasty while pretending that is simply you being robust in your arguments. How about we pretend this conversation is taking place over a pint in a civilised pub?
The problem is, as I see it, is that I am in the real world where the SNP is not going to deliver what you & I hope it will. Your blogs for the past several months, maybe even years, can be characterised by two words: if & then. As in, ‘IF the SNP does as I suggest (insert referendum date, drop S30, manifesto pledge, etc. etc.) THEN they will deliver Independence’. But they haven’t done any of those things & there is no sign they are going to either. Meanwhile they are busily being corrupt & ineffective while forcing through extremely dangerous policies that none of us voted for. That is the real world right now so some of us are thinking about what comes next when this busted flush is finally recognised for what it is.
A couple of weeks ago I saw you taken to task on Twitter by a woman who pointed out that you, being an older man, probably hadn’t taken proper account of the effects on women’s rights that this SNP government’s legislation would have. You grudgingly acknowledged that point & I thought that you were finally letting the scales fall from your eyes but apparently I’m mistaken.
You are, of course, completely free to only be concerned with the establishment of Scotland as an independent nation but I (& I don’t think I’m alone in this) am more concerned about Scotland being a better place to live post Independence than I am in simply escaping Westminster’s clutches. It occurs to me that some people who have been campaigning for Independence longer than I’ve been alive are probably so tired now that they view Independence as their end goal. I can appreciate that but if we were to gain Independence tomorrow I’d be looking to live at least half of my life in an independent Scotland so have a great deal of concern about the shape that nation is in.
Embedding corruption into a fledgling nation is a recipe for disaster. Perhaps fortunately for Scotland, the chances of this corrupt SNP delivering independence any time soon are very low indeed. If the SNP were genuinely promising a referendum this term, or standing on a plebiscite ticket, I’d be really torn as to how to vote, even with this leadership team in place. But they’re not, are they?
You & I agree that the SNP needs a clean out & we probably agree on who needs out & what needs to be done. The question that nobody has yet answered is how this is to be achieved. I’m not a member so have no recourse to internal mechanisms. But the long-term members tell me that they have no ability to change this either, so what are we Scots to do? The only thing I can do is not vote for them & hope that they take on board that message.
It is not me setting back the progress of independence; it’s the SNP.
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It wouldn’t be a good idea to lecture me even if you had something new and interesting to say.
So you going onto other people’s blogs & lecturing them – because that is very much what you do – is ok but if someone has the temerity to do so to you you can’t hack it?
Isn’t this exactly the problematic behaviour we are seeing in the SNP: the unwillingness to even consider that their views might possibly be wrong?
Why would I go public with views that I considered wrong? The very idea is idiotic. It is BECAUSE I am always open to the possibility that my perspective may be flawed that I take such great care to never publish any opinion that I am not fully prepared to defend. I expect the same of others. But I am all too often disappointed.
I dismissed your comment because it wasn’t offering anything new. It was just a recounting of stuff I’m perfectly well aware of presented in a manner that suggested you imagined you were educating me.
Has it occurred to you that YOU may be wrong? Did it even cross your mind to consider whether comparing me with the cult of crazies running the SNP was a moronic fallacy?
If you’ve nothing better to offer than this infantile personalisation then I’ll just ignore you.
Did you take your post down on Jason’s blog, or were you punted? He doesn’t like those who disagree with him pointing out the flaws in his statements. The quote from his blog ….
“Without any real or meaningful grasp on the realities of real world politics, without any training in political theory, and with no clearly definable ideology of independence, the great majority of pro-independence supporters in Scotland have been kept on a tight leash.”
…. speaks volumes of his attitude. Pardon us for not having his academic record or high opinion of himself. I’ll continue to think for myself and wont let a blogger patronise me while he endorses articles in the Spectator.
Its true that parties born overnight tend to be extinguished just as quickly and it has taken well over a hundred years or so for the movement to slowly gain purchase to get where it is: from the seed of Cunninghame Graham’s tongue in cheek of wanting a “…national parliament with the pleasure of knowing that the taxes were wasted in Edinburgh instead of London.” to that very exact reality of the Scottish Parliament with the SNP today.
I recognise that because I’m a realist and we are talking about realism but don’t we again move into the sphere of wishful thinking and belief with the notion that if we suspend our critical faculties for that “one final push” then there is really a “doggies chance” that the SNP might wake up and give us a Referendum and furthermore might actually wholeheartedly fight for Independence?
But then why would be expect them to grasp the thistle of future opportunity when they cannot even deal with present threats?
As a government team what plan have they come up with to deal with Westminsters Scottish castle-building policy: its quite transparent ongoing neo-colonial plantation to settle thousands of civil servants in our midst with an eye on an the creation of a shadow Scottish government ? Nothing.
Is it not realism to point out that the party is hollowed out by salarymen and women of rainbow hues who are not only unconcerned with such threats but are not going to offer leadership of any kind to get us to Independence? Is it not realism to acknowledge that even when the membership elected to do something about it and move some of this cadre aside, the actual leadership actually had them reinstated essentially by fiat?
A perfect illustration of the calibre of the present favoured SNP elite was the reaction to the decoration of the entrance to Christina McKelvie’s office with essentially a minor feminist art installation: a pretty painted slate, photos and ribbons…the odd coloured sticker: you couldn’t have had a more civilised protest, but no… apparently it was shocking vandalism…(I was waiting on the term “terrorism” being used) which we are told “inspired fear” in the entrenched SNP woowoo sisterhood themselves.
If there was any doubt about the lack of any kind of gumption then look at the online arena where nearly all the sites of any significance to the movement are now subject to taboo or smear in a concerted attempt to shoot the messenger. Robin McAlpine had to resign for merely telling the truth, Craig Murray still awaits the outcome of his trial for reporting such and with all respect to Paul, can the entire movement really get by on a wheesht from the wee Ginger Dug?
Of course it matters little what a few punters and commenters do or say online its what the electorate as a whole decide, and many of those votes will clearly be influenced by the corporate media & the BBC which even before all this were the enemies of Independence. They now have enough ammunition supplied by this ongoing saga to hammer home several stories every day until the elections: hostages to fortune supplied by the very supine spineless corrupt party that we are required to actually vote for.
Westminster will continue its Edward the hammer inspired castle building program to incorporate us into greater England and unless we have a major leak Sturgeon will hang on and be happy with another five years in a minority government whilst they do so.
This could of course all change if the SNP were to adopt your #ManifestoForIndependence but on the matter of realism, where in this organisation actually exists the spine to do that?
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I didn’t say it would be easy. But the only thing making it impossible is the refusal of so many to even try. They make magnificent excuses for themselves. They even tell themselves they’re pursuing an ‘alternative’. But they flatly refuse to do the one thing that might actually be effective. There are a lot of things that I find perplexing about politics in Scotland today. But few things are more puzzling than the eagerness – the relish – with which so many in the Yes movement toss aside the tool we have in favour of tools made out of delusion a wishful thinking. No doubt the tool we have is broken. But there is a chance that it could be made to work. There is absolutely no possibility of any of these ‘alternatives’ be effective.
All fine words but what action is suggested if we have to seize the mantle right now?
“…what action is suggested if we have to seize the mantle right now?”
-Well there’s the rub…
Aside from the Hate Crime & Self ID sunshine vote-winning bills and the ongoing charm offensive of their attempt to destroy and imprison their most successful politician ever, the SNP have also been busy giving out pretty transparent flags that they aren’t going to go for a referendum. It’s hard to miss :
1.Their downplaying the notion or indeed not mentioning it at all in campaigning material.
2. Their not having prepared in any way for one.
3. The “Abracadabra!” trick involving all the money donated for such into magical “interweavings”…
4. …and thus their destruction of trust concerning further potential funding sources (i.e: all of us.)
to run an Independence campaign leading to
5. …serious financial impecunity and possible fraud…
-Peter has suggested in his posts that we are really at the stage where its not about a Referendum any more but more fundamentally its probably about the survival of the Scottish Parliament itself, which may be true.
We zealots and true believers therefore have to vote for the SNP twice… to make up for the lack of votes from everyone else… i.e. the ones that the SNP has seemed determined to lose by means of all the above.
He might be right: it might just keep the parliament out of unionist hands but will no doubt be a good cover for reinforcing Idpol central with its Green party cadre and therefore….we will merely be in the same situation but only slightly worse next year….Success!….ummm…
“Aside from the Hate Crime & Self ID sunshine vote-winning bills and the ongoing charm offensive of their attempt to destroy and imprison their most successful politician ever, the SNP have also been busy giving out pretty transparent flags that they aren’t going to go for a referendum.”
And in the very first paragraph, all objectivity flies out the window and the rest of the post can therefore be safely ignored.
Ignore what you like but wouldn’t you be best stating what it actually is you disagree with in that paragraph? For the removal of doubt “sunshine vote-winning” is ironic.