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By Jason Michael
AT SOME POINT the Scottish independence movement, the whole movement, has to take seriously the frustrating reality that England – from where any real power we have is devolved and can be suspended – holds all the cards. Other than the most extreme measures, all of our legal and democratic routes to independence depend ultimately on the permission of a London government which has no intention of letting Scotland go without a fight. Our 2014 referendum, as it was understood by the British government at the time, was about giving the Scottish people the illusion of choice. It was never a real choice. David Cameron, a reckless gambler, only agreed to the Scottish government’s request because the polls and his advisors convinced him we would reject independence. The narrowness of the union’s victory and the realisation that Scotland will choose independence over union under certain conditions have fundamentally changed England’s attitude to Scottish democracy. Brexit has laid bare the truth of power in the United Kingdom; that England will decide the future of Scotland and legal and democratic opportunities for independence will be ‘once in a generation’ – with the proviso that a generation is based on the lifespan of Methuselah.
WHERE WE ARE
Yet, even faced with this reality, we must still forego both a unilateral declaration of independence and the suicidal fantasy of an armed revolt – and both for the same reason. Any decision concerning the constitutional future of our country must be democratically decided by all the people of Scotland and any such decision must appeal to the supreme authority of the popular sovereignty of the Scots. Anything short of this, moving the nation without the expressed consent of the people of the nation, will have two unavoidable consequences; it will instigate a civil – and probably violent – conflict and invite the active military occupation of the country – England’s most valuable territorial and strategic resource rich asset.
There exists absolutely no legal route to independence. To believe otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of British law.—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) June 22, 2019
Winning an armed struggle against England, which is by no means impossible, would require a great deal. This would be an asymmetric and long war in which Scots would have to build up a militant tradition of resistance against a highly experienced and technologically advanced aggressor, a process which took almost half a century in Ireland. The conflict would be fought entirely in Scotland, and on at least two fronts – Scot against Scot, and Scots against the entire military and state security apparatus of the British state. Our economy will be comprehensively demolished and the process of social and economic recovery after the conflict – as was the case in Ireland – will take decades. Discounting a tiny minority of hotheads, most Scots are neither prepared nor inclined – thank God – to go down this horrible and nightmarish road.
So, we are presented with a stalemate. There is nowhere on the board for us to move, but this is not game over. Far from it. We are all at least familiar with the idea of the Kobayashi Maru, the Gordian knot – the unsolvable conundrum. When the rules of the game and the conditions on the field make victory impossible, winning demands changing both the rules and the field of play. So long as the rules are the rules set by the British state and so long as the pieces are on a Scottish gameboard, no matter what happens, the result will always be that we come to an impasse; a point at which no further forward movement is possible without recourse to more extreme or violent means. This is a trap built into the constitutional arrangement between Scotland and England which serves to keep Scotland perpetually in chains with nothing but the illusion of agency and choice.
The rules stipulate we must adhere to the limitations imposed by the British state. We can dispense with those. The playing field is Scotland, an arena in which the conditions that make gaining independence near impossible were created before the game began. We can take the fight to England.
In the biblical book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a great idol (Daniel 2). This colossus had a head of fine gold, a chest and arms of silver, loins and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of part iron and part clay. Even at the time this heroic novella was written, this description was accepted as a metaphor for the decline and fall of empire; no matter how tall and no matter how precious and strong the materials of its composition, in the end every empire has feet of clay – an Achilles’ heel. England is no different. Both because of its protracted historical decline and its stratified social make up, England is fragile – part iron and part clay.
England is in a pre-revolutionary state, and that revolution is a far-right revolution.—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) April 06, 2019
England, the progenitor of the industrial age and the father of international Capitalism, is the perfect example of a state in the final stages of Capitalism. The highest stage of English Capitalism – the British Empire – has come and gone (à la Lenin), and since the end of the Second World War it has been in constant, terminal decline. From the mid-1970s, through the end of the Cold War, to the present; with a steadily diminishing global influence and a decreasing share of the – no longer expanding – international trade markets, England, like other states in a similar predicament, has turned its imperial-colonial expansion in on itself. And in doing this it has exposed the most sensitive contradictions at the heart of English society.
Margaret Thatcher’s brand of neoliberalism, the weapon with which she ‘disciplined’ the British labour force, sought to keep Britain in a position of strength – even then, boxing well above its weight – by reducing overheads by incentivising British firms to relocate their plants to countries with much cheaper labour costs. In the decades since, the British economy has been transformed from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, the collective bargaining power of workers has been almost entirely stripped, and workers’ pay and conditions have been cut and weakened repeatedly. The result was predictable. This downward trajectory, caused by domestic economic expansionism, has produced a massive underclass – a dangerous, angry, and often criminal lumpenproletariat, it has produced a weakened working class increasingly unable to purchase the manufactured goods now made abroad, and has enthroned the beneficiaries of this process; an infinitesimal fraction of the population – a new aristocracy. And here is our first great contradiction, adroitly expressed by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1840:
…democratic peoples have a natural taste for liberty; left to themselves, they will seek it, cherish it, and be sad if it is taken from them. But their passion for equality is ardent, insatiable, eternal, and invincible. They want equality in freedom, and if they cannot have that, they will still want equality in slavery. They will put up with poverty, servitude, and barbarism, but they will not endure aristocracy.
Insofar as the royal establishment and the aristocracy of Britain’s ancien régime are largely invisible to the English people and visible to them only when it is a patriotic symbol English nationhood, they are content to ignore it – even take pride in it. But when a commoner becomes an aristocrat, when a section of the commoner stock is elevated, due to the widening gap between the rich and the poor, to the ranks of a new aristocracy – an oligarchy – this, the Englander will not tolerate.
"They will put up with poverty, servitude, and barbarism, but they will not endure aristocracy." Tocqueville - 99 to 1 shar.es/rx88i—
David Marshall (@dpmars) April 17, 2012
This development has fostered across the whole of English society a deep ressentiment; a sense of simmering hostility directed towards the rich, who are identified as the cause of the people’s suffering. And this, in turn, exposes the second contradiction; the rise of reaction. It is no exaggeration to say that from about the late-1960s England has been a pre-revolutionary society, teetering from one social and economic crisis to another. Each new crisis – which in itself is a manifestation of the underlying socio-political contradictions of English society – has elicited a more forceful, angrier protest; bringing larger and larger crowds onto the streets of cities up and down the country, often becoming violent and, more recently, with the force to overwhelm the police. This proto-revolutionary mob has provoked a response from the social and political reactionaries – both within the political establishment and in that fraction of the working class and underclass kept in a state of perpetual intoxication by the British state’s government-aligned and right-wing tabloid media.
These social tensions have only been exacerbated by two attempts by the British state to correct the failures of Britain’s late stage Capitalism policies; namely, the debt crisis and austerity. Given that wages have largely stagnated in the UK from the early 80s, rising inflation and the reduced spending power of the working class caused by labour flight under Thatcher and subsequent administrations have greatly reduced the standard of living of everyone below the income level of the upper-middle-class – those in the country whose incomes do not depend on wages. This too created a crisis, this time a crisis in consumerism. In the 1980s it became apparent the British public could not afford to buy the goods British companies produced in the Developing World. Another contradiction: As production needs demand and because poorer workers in Bangladesh could never afford these goods anyway, the efforts of British capitalists to cut labour costs actually killed demand for their goods. The solution was credit – and that contradiction was exposed in 2008.
Enter austerity! Save for the already destitute and criminalised underclass, every tier of British society was crippled by the greatest crisis of Capitalism since the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. London-based banking and financial institutions were threatened with destruction, the speculating class was bankrupted, and the government – thanks to the global nature of the failure – had its back against the wall.
As is the case in all bourgeois bureaucratic states, the government was – and still is – composed entirely of scions of the millionaire and billionaire classes, people who had been educated in a culture of aggressive class warfare against the poor and the vulnerable. Under no circumstances would these class warriors make the wealthy pay for the crimes of the rich, instead Britain – like the rest of Europe and North America – would make the poor foot the bill. Social spending in welfare, healthcare, and state education was savagely cut. Once again, diseases related to hunger and malnutrition – not seen in the UK since the 1930s – visited the poor and the working poor. The London government’s refusal to feed the worst affected witnessed the ‘charity sector’ – itself often based on private industry economic models of profit – taking up the slack and the number of foodbanks mushroomed in every part of the United Kingdom.
Trapped in an inescapable black hole of debt, with no or a greatly reduced income, hungry, and without even a quantum of anything approaching a social safety net, England’s simmering ressentiment turned into an explosive rage – the poison that birthed Brexit and its discontents. Ever a master of the long game, a skill it learned in Africa, India, and Ireland, a British political established terrified of revolt (even revolution) – think here of the force of the 2011 England riots in which five people were killed, 186 police officers injured, and which caused damage in excess of £200m – ramped up the racial blame game; employing a fictive and exaggerated narrative of terrorism and stoked the flames of popular resentment against foreigners, immigrants, and refugees to shift the focus of rage from the government and the ruling class to the most defenceless people in England. The union flag, long an embarrassing symbol of England’s angry white working-class racial supremacism, was picked up and dusted down to be plastered on everything from television talent shows to loafs of bread in the construction of ‘Brand UK’ – a jingoistic soft British nationalism that would only feed the dogs on the right and rope in the mild and patriotic of the comfortable classes.
England’s fusion of nationalism and racism, never quite consigned to the toolbox of a dead empire, was wheeled out once more to defend the state from the fury of the great unwashed. This was only ever a temporary band-aid stuck over the deep wound of a dying system:
Capitalism, like all class-based and [class]-divided socioeconomic systems, is fundamentally unstable, giving rise to conditions and forces that will sooner or later lead to its overthrow or transformation. This is to say, the capitalist development process is driven forward by forces that are generated by fundamental contradictions intrinsic to the system.Contradictions of Capitalism (2018), Henry Veltmeyer and Raúl Delgado Wise
OUR WAY FORWARD
Reader, I hope you see where we’re going with this, and I do apologise for the overlong preamble. It is important, however, that we have some knowledge of this history and of England’s present unstable condition, because this is where we must take Scotland’s struggle for independence. Sun Tzu said: ‘Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.’ England’s power to resist – so long as that fight is in England – is already broken. It is in tatters. What is being proposed here is the adoption by the Scottish independence movement of a strategy of left-Accelerationism. When our First Minister was in London trying to save Scotland by saving England from itself, she was only prolonging Scotland’s suffering. The key is not to pull, but push. Let England have what it wants, let it wrangle with the contradictions and then collapse.
Brexit will really hurt England, but it is not wrong on our part to help them get what they voted for. We can break… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) June 25, 2020
Obstructed in Scotland by a constitutional framework designed to eternally frustrate independence, and stuck to a state that will – as it has again and again in the past – move the goalposts to benefit the union, it stands to reason that we can achieve infinitely more and faster by stoking division in England than we ever can by trying to unify a Scotland already mentally colonised and socio-politically divided by England. Those of us of a certain generation will remember the words of Robert de Brus, the father of Robert the Bruce, in the film Braveheart: ‘You will embrace this rebellion,’ he said to his son. ‘Support it from our lands in the north. I will gain English favour by condemning it and ordering opposed from our lands in the south.’ In late thirteenth century Scotland this was about the survival of a noble family, in early twenty-first century England this ploy of backing two opposing sides is about the destruction of an auld enemy.
The quickest route to independence for Scotland is not the strengthening of a cause in Scotland, but smashing England – and without lifting a finger. It would not take much to bring England to blows with itself, sure, all by itself it has arrived at the threshold of civil war – and there are forces in England willing to take it that far, and this has already been remarked on in the House of Commons by senior Conservative politicians. England is staggering towards some class of violent showdown. This is not rocket science, but neither is it inevitable. Sober government can always put the breaks on this process and begin the work of re-stabilisation, and this is why our efforts to accelerate matters are so important. By allowing the right in England to believe their beloved country subsidises us, and by encouraging this erroneous belief, we can rattle their cages by laughing at them, thanking them, and, like Oliver Twist, by asking them for more. At every anti-austerity protest south of the border, we can remind them of how easy we have it here thanks to their generosity. By infuriating them, we can make them hate us the way they hate Europe; that is, we can manipulate the angriest fraction of the English population into wanting rid of us.
Failing this – or in tandem with this – we can back both horses. By supporting and encouraging both extremes – the right as much as the left – we can drive England closer to the edge, to chaos and the abyss. This power is in our hands. No more than one hundred pro-Brexit social media trolls made Brexit happen. Everything is possible. It turns out we can use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. By harnessing all that is wrong with the world, we can throw fuel on the inferno of England’s angry politics and fiddle while London burns. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24), and a kingdom fallen cannot hold Scotland (Jeggit).
Richard Wolff: Contradictions of Capitalism