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.