Anti-Irish Racist IRA Slur from Ross Greer

By Jason Michael

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer showed such promise in the Sunday Herald when he blasted the bigotry of the “zoomers” on the “lunatic fringe” of the independence movement. Then he goes full Murdo Fraser with the sectarianism.

“In 2014 we built a movement which was hopeful, optimistic and open to all,” wrote the Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer in the Sunday Herald, and “bigots and bullies aren’t my people,” before he went on Twitter to attack me as “Michael Collins with a keyboard.” As the editor of the Butterfly Rebellion blog, a website established in September 2014 to continue to work for Scottish independence, I have been accused of many things. Jill Stephenson has called me a “nutter,” her unionist confederates have attempted to paint me as a neo-Nazi “blood and soil” nationalist, and – as has come to be expected – I have been written off as a “zoomer.” The ad hominem has become the go-to mode of debate for many online unionists.

Over the past couple of weeks these personalised attacks have been democratised, as the independence movement’s “radical left” intelligentsia has increasingly turned on those independentistas – including myself – with whom it disagrees. In the midst of this maelstrom I was heartened to read of Greer’s frustration at these “deeply personal attacks on good people” by “obnoxious keyboard warriors.” He rightly underlined the hypocrisy of our movement in tolerating this problematic behaviour when he asked:

What kind of hypocrisy is it to proclaim that we must all be polite to the bigots but not tell those same bigots to cut their vitriol for the sake of those they are attacking?

After over a decade of living and working in Dublin, Ireland; working with the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation at Glencree – building peace in the aftermath of the Troubles, as a delegate to the International Council of Christians and Jews, and an activist for Palestinian Solidarity, the answer to his question matters to me. Peace is an essential component of any civilised society, and peace is established with dialogue and mutual respect. When Greer writes that it is “clear that this fringe has nothing civil to say,” I agree. There are always voices on the peripheries who want nothing other than to insult, offend, and stir up trouble. I applaud Mr Greer for having called this out.

Yet yesterday the young MSP went and dirtied his bid, spoiling all his fine words. The Butterfly Rebellion published an article critical of Common Space’s use of sock puppet Twitter accounts – namely “@AngryScotland” and “@CommonWings” – to harass and troll other pro-independence activists. James McEnaney, a writer for Common Space and the unionist Daily Record, posted this to his Twitter page, calling it – as is now typical of his behaviour online – “hilarious” rather than addressing its content. So low has the journalistic integrity of Common Space sunk that everything critical of its divisive antics is dismissed as hilarious and foolish by its writing team. This was to be expected. What was not was Greer’s comment, “Check out Michael Collins with a keyboard.” Like McEnaney, I too assumed this was a witty way of calling me a “rocket” – a Scots slag term of insult, but no. In a subsequent response he hammered home its meaning: “The struggle is real and you’re no Butterfly unless you join a flying column.”

Greer was not referencing the Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, but General Michael Collins – IRA commander during the Irish War of Independence and leader of the Irish Free State Army until his assassination by Anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War. It was Collins who directed the “flying columns;” a guerrilla tactic used against British forces in the War of Independence. What an obscure insult, but it does make sense. It makes sense when one reads my personal profile on Twitter: “Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin…”

Jill Stephenson, retired professor of Nazi German history at Edinburgh University, has used my location as a weapon to inspire unionist aggression in the past. She is convinced the independence movement is led by “Catholics” and “infested” with “Irish Republicans.” There is simply no hiding the sectarian bigotry of such comments, but people like “Historywoman” are best ignored. But to see it used by Ross Greer, a fellow independence supporter and a “Christian,” is deeply distressing and personally hurtful. I am not going to call Ross a racist, but his comment definitely is.

Anti-Irish racism – yes, it is a thing – and its close relative anti-Catholic sectarianism are serious problems in Scottish society. Greer talks a wonderful game of the Scotland he wants to see after independence, but I am afraid that by perpetuating this garbage he is doing nothing but replicating the nightmare vision of Murdo Fraser and his ilk’s bitter and divided Scotland. Having worked with survivors and the families of the victims of the Troubles – from both communities – in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, I know the pain that such thoughtless IRA slurs cause. I too was almost a victim of a sectarian paramilitary bombing in Derry. How dare this young man use this nasty, hate-filled bile in an attempt to shame and silence me.

What do I want to see come of this? Well, for a start I want to see an end to the infighting he and others among the self-proclaimed leaders of the Yes movement are stoking. I would also like a public apology for this remark. It was a stupid and insensitive jibe made on a public forum by a public figure. Nothing short of public recognition and a public apology to me and all those Irish-Scots it has offended will do. On receipt of such an apology I will be content to let it go. If I do not get what I have asked for, I will be taking this as far as the law will permit me.


How relevant is sectarianism to life in modern Scotland?

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All Aboard! There’s a Bandwagon in Town

By Jason Michael

David Torrance has pronounced the death of “Yes-ism.” Mind you, he has been saying the same thing from the beginning of the independence movement. Ultimately he has nothing to add. It’s just another bandwagon.

According to Scottish unionism’s hipster-in-chief, David Torrance, the end is nigh for Yes-ism. What will we all do with ourselves when it’s all over; relearn the words to ‘God Save the Queen,’ get back into cat memes on Twitter like normal people?  Nah, do you mind if we don’t? When there’s a sniff of a bandwagon in town it is never long before the third-rate hacks of the tory commentariat form a disorderly queue, and this week is no exception. Torrance has raced in as expected and – as usual – added nothing of substance to the discussion that hasn’t already been said.

What he does offer, however, is an interesting distillation of the wishful thinking of Scotland’s unionist audience watching a storm in a teacup – sensationally described by Robin McAlpine as a “Twitter storm” – in the independence movement. This is Torrance’s function. Yes, he does actually have one of those. His job as a unionist outrider is to stoke up trouble in the opposition and convey and ideologically tailored version of events back to his own ranks. In telling his readers what they want to hear he observes:

Yessers have split into two camps: the “radical” Left-wingers who view independence as a means to an end and dislike Wings’ stridency and approach to equality issues, and the “diehards” who view independence as an end in itself and believe platforms like Wings are a vital source of intelligence and propaganda for the Yes movement.

How simplistic can his analysis be? We could have told him all this years ago. Torrance’s reduction of the intersections within the independence movement to just two camps is derisible. We are talking about a national movement of hundreds of thousands of people – hundreds of the thousands of very different people – all working together towards a common objective. Of course there will be divisions. There are women and men, young and not-so-young, people of vastly different political opinions, gay and straight – you name it. After all his experience of working at the coalface of Britain’s attempts to undermine our national aspiration of self-determination, all this clown manages to notice is that there are old-guard independence “diehards” and “radical left-wingers.”

His view of the left-wingers, taken from a Twitter thread of another “academic,” Dr Scott Hames of Stirling University, is rather pessimistic. Bearing in mind that Hames is another talking-head from one of those institutions of higher learning in receipt of “research funding” from the British government as an incentive to defend the union, of course he’s going to have something negative to say – and he doesn’t disappoint. Hames reckons all these lefties are blow-ins to the independence movement from a “busted flush” Labour Party on the verge of being redeemed by the messianic Jeremy Corbyn.

Once these Labour rejects have had enough of the “centrist/Blairite SNP,” and once they’ve had enough of the diehards wiping the floor with them, they’ll all – according to Hames and Torrance – jump back into the big red Brexit Labour bus. Is that right, aye? Well in fairness they have some Cat Boyd flavoured grist for this particular unionist media mill. So what?

New leftism, speaking as a socialist, is something of a postmodern parody of the political left; more of a middle class student appropriation of the worker-solidarity identity used to give voice to a smouldering sense of class guilt and its adherents’ anxieties over their unresolved identitarian issues. By and large, as a “bourgeois” tool, new leftism is used – as we are seeing in RISE and Scotland’s “new” and “alternative” media – as another route into the professional class. Given their social backgrounds and their connections in the media and the world of politics most of these kids will ascend to where their ambitions are leading them, but that doesn’t mean they will abandon the politics that has carried them there. There are plenty of middle class and professional independentistas.

“New leftism, speaking as a socialist, is something of a postmodern parody of the political left; more of a middle class student appropriation of the worker-solidarity identity used to give voice to a smouldering sense of class guilt and its adherents’ anxieties over their unresolved identitarian issues.”

Yet none of this common sense deters Torrance from stirring the pot. In fact what he does is he takes this “divide” to an utterly ridiculous conclusion, that the infighting – which is always to be expected in mass movements – has produced a fanatical resistance to insider criticism. He absurdly compares this to the post-war Soviet sympathisers in Britain who viewed any condemnation of Stalin’s outrages as giving “aid and comfort to their political opponents.” So what are we Mr Torrance, Nazis or Stalinists? People like David Torrance will use any excuse to compare the independence movement to any despotic mass murdering régime. Perhaps he needs reminding that one Yesser threw an egg in 2014. Westminster managed to kill over a million innocent Iraqi men, women, and children.

This many people are just not always going to get along. Nothing of this is new to us, and unionists making more of it than what it is shouldn’t faze us. All of us come to the independence campaign with different social and political visions in mind – all of which can only be dealt with after independence – but what we have in common is the shared understanding that what we all want can only be achieved with independence. No doubt some of our “allies” in the new left will make their bed with Corbyn, but they’ll soon discover even he won’t live forever and neither will his utopian Britain. In the end, in Britain, only the establishment will have its way. Lasting change will only be won in Scotland by leaving Britain, and the smarter “radical” leftists already know this.


David Torrance Conceding the Right of Another Referendum

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Independence First

By Jason Michael

Independence has to come first. The rights of marginalised people and groups are vastly important, but we can never forget that none of our rights will be safe while we remain under the control of Westminster.

Let me begin by saying I haven’t the foggiest notion what people mean when they tell me they are members of the “radical left.” The last time I had a discussion about this radical left was with an enthusiastic young PhD student who introduced himself as being “on the hard left,” and he did this while tucking into a bowl of marinated garlic and chilli stuffed black olives on a bed of kale and quinoa. He lived in a rented room in an up-and-coming gentrified area of town where landlords were busy evicting lower-income tenants on the pretext of “extensive repairs,” allowing them to double the rent. His local, which served only craft beer from its basement micro-brewery, was “established in 1901” while somehow only having been in operation for six months.

This guy, who looked confused every time I corrected him with “people” when he referred to “units of labour,” had adopted an entire set of acceptable positions on the rights of marginalised social identities. “Struggle was all about challenging the hegemony of the cis-gendered misogynistic and transphobic ruling class,” he told me before asking if I had ever heard of baklava. Revolution was about achieving the maximum amount of freedom for all, he’d say, then complain about the “lumpen” kids from the flats who called him gay for drinking beer from a wine glass on a sun lounger at the front door of his house. This was his hard left. “Is that right, aye?” I asked.

On Saturday night I was chatting online with Jordan Daly, the Huffington Post and Common Space contributor who wrote the piece on sending Wings packing, about the importance of keeping the independence movement together. What I said to him was that, for the Yes movement, independence must take priority “above all other social and political concerns.” He took issue with this: “Ok,” he replied, “I’m for Indy but not ‘above all other social concerns,’ esp[ecially] as a gay man.”

We were right back at those acceptable positions on the rights of marginalised identities – what has come to be known on the “new left” as identity politics. These positions have become so important to the radical/hard/new left that it now makes perfect sense for pro-independence identitarians, in the broader context of the independence campaign, to side with unionist politicians when they deploy this politics of identity as a weapon against other pro-independence activists. This, it almost goes without saying, is the very epitome of counterproductive.

Of course the rights of marginalised people and groups are important. The defence and the furtherance of those rights is not the exclusive preserve of Scotland’s unionists. Everyone has an obligation to defend the rights and protect the dignity and worth of his or her neighbour. That much is a given – or, at least, it should be. But my problem with the ideological package – those acceptable positions – of the new left is that it is replete with internal contradictions.

My PhD student friend will soapbox until the cows come home on the need for social and worker solidarity, but he’ll happily fuel the mechanisms that aggravate the structural causes of poverty by supporting the class war project of gentrification in the neighbourhood in which he has become a “coloniser.” Likewise, no doubt well intentioned people like Jordan Daly go to a default identitarian setting when it becomes relevant – even when that relevance is little more than political capital being used cynically against comrades in the Yes movement. It has become an ideological package that trumps even the principle objective of “the struggle” – be that the fight against the systems of capitalism and state neoliberalism or the campaign for Scottish independence.

Such thinking lacks the reflection of classical socialism. It becomes incapable of revolutionary praxis. Battling on the platform of identity rights to the harm of the wider independence movement, following the schemes of unionist strategists, is ultimately destructive because Britain will never safeguard anyone’s rights. Our struggle is against a Westminster establishment that is still up to its neck in political assassinations, foreign interventions for the purposes of bringing about regime changes useful to itself, and wholesale murder and human rights violations.

Britain is about money and power over the needs and rights of ordinary people. It has implemented an austerity regime explicitly designed to impoverish and kill the most marginalised and vulnerable people in these nations. How will becoming an unwitting instrument of Great Britain against the independence cause benefit Jordan Daly, “as a gay man?” It won’t.

When we say that independence has to come before all other social and political concerns, it is not being suggested that we simply ignore these other concerns. That too would be stupid. Neither is this a matter of “nation over individual.” That too is both stupid and dangerous. What we are saying in this – and this is important – is that no one’s rights will be safe, protected, or furthered so long as we remain in the United Kingdom. Hands up if you’ve heard of Brexit and the replacement of the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s all on the way.

All our noble leftist and identitarian ideas of rights are dead without independence. Separation from Britain therefore is the prerequisite for a fairer, more just and equitable society that we ourselves will shape. As I see it, as old-school socialism argues, there is a hierarchy of rights. At the top of ours is independence. All other social and political concerns – while never ignored – are secondary and auxiliary to this end. If we are weakening the struggle for independence by our squabbles over rights and ideas that can never be safe under London rule we are simply rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship.


The Religion of Identity Politics

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Art, Sexism, Wings, and Homophobia

By Jason Michael

The question of what is and is not homophobia and sexism has come to the fore in the independence movement of late. Discrimination is discrimination, but injustice cannot be defined by the angriest and loudest voices.

We need to have a little chat about this culture of identitarianist, hair-trigger intolerant, easily offendedness masquerading as something new, brilliant and meaningful on the political left. Usually this is the calibre of self-involved blundering numbskullery at which I can roll my eyes and happily ignore, but recent events have really brought it to a head for me. Kezia Dugdale being lionised for standing up to the threat of legal action from Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland after she “called out” his comments on Oliver Mundell as “homophobic” and me being called a “sexist git” for defending the creative direction of iScot Magazine’s August cover have pushed me over the edge.

As most of the people I am now venting about probably stopped reading and blocked me after the first sentence, we are safe to continue. Feminism and questions of equality are important. I’m not going to sit here and deny this. Women and girls get a shoddy deal in our society, as do people of colour, religious, ethnic, and social minorities, immigrants and refugees, and the elderly and disabled. In Scotland we have a job of work to do to change this and challenge the structures that perpetuate these objectively unjust realities. But this does not mean that sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are what the loudest and angriest people say they are.

I find characters like Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, and Alex Jones as objectionable as the next “leftist,” but I will also be the first to admit they often have a point. A broken clock is right twice a day. When they mock the “autistic screeching” of “feminazis,” “social justice warriors,” and “snowflakes,” they are more often than not pinpointing exactly what irks most rational people about these self-proclaimed champions of truth and justice. It can be argued, and I believe correctly, that this common distaste for the antics of the “lunatic left” is assisting the rise of right-wing sentiment. When the alt-right begins to make sense to ordinary working people, even in the smallest of things, we are in trouble.

Identity politics is killing the left. While individual freedoms and choices are integral components of the broader human rights and socialist political debates, the left – in the midst of the single greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in recorded human history – has thrown itself headlong into the politics of identity and individualism over class struggle and industrial and social solidarity. There are 100,000 fewer trade union members today in Scotland than there were in 1995, but there are more workers. Over the whole of the United Kingdom more workers every year are being exploited by zero-hours contracts and contract-less situations, working for less money in dirty, dangerous, and dehumanising “jobs.” Where are the unions? Where is the left?

Theresa May has made it crystal clear that her intention is to further streamline employment rights and conditions, and further financialise and deregulate the economy in her plan to transform Brexit Britain into a tax haven and a billionaire’s playground. The number of those classed as “the working poor” is on the up, the use of foodbanks has skyrocketed, and the suicide rate continues to rise as benefits sanctions go on unabated. Call me crazy, but I can understand why an angry white guy from Stoke-on-Trent would side with right-wing YouTubers when they shed light on the “progressives’” uncompromising support for a university educated preoccupation with identity issues.

These “identity issues” – when they reflect objective social injustices – are important, but when they are the primary concern of the left and no longer solidary with the working class, the growing precariat, and the rest of the non-identitied oppressed they become peripheral and obscure to the struggle of ordinary working people. As a project of the left this is counterproductive. It does not protect those it purports to be defending; it merely aggravates resentment and further pushes the post-industrial ballast it has abandoned to the right. Who will that protect?

Stuart Campbell is being put through the wringer for having the audacity to use the law to protect himself and his reputation from Kezia Dugdale’s repeated slander that he is a homophobe. The unionists of Scotland and the tabloid media are losing their minds that he is doing this on top of fundraising to keep his pro-independence blog alive. He has every right to fundraise. In the past twelve months of daily blogging I have spent over 780 hours writing. That’s just over a month of non-stop work. It is a massive investment of time and energy. God only knows how much more time Campbell and the Wings team put in. Don’t muzzle the ox on the threshing floor.

Weaponising the accusation of homophobia against him – another example of throwing mud and hoping some will stick – is nothing but a cynical attempt to discredit him and thereby his work and that for which he and others are working. Kezia, the apparent leader of party political leftism in Scotland – knows the slur of homophobia will excite the eager-to-be offended and so trigger an overly emotional supportive response. It doesn’t matter a jot that Kezia is a lesbian. Being gay or lesbian gives no one the right to define what they merely do not like or find distasteful as homophobia.

Homophobia, like sexism, is real. Simply using common words and terminologies relating to homosexuality or LGBT people is not homophobic. Neither is the artistic use of nudity – male or female – as political comment inherently sexist. Of course they can be, but all of this is context dependent. Leaping to accusations of homophobia or sexism – especially when political agendas are involved – without reflection and a search for objectivity is just reductionist stupidity. It is harmful to the fight for equality, it weakens the left, and, in this case, it poses a serious danger to the unity of the independence movement. I am with Žižek on this: We ought to react less and think more.


Germaine Greer on Feminism

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Bandwagon Politics and Independence

By Jason Michael

Saying that Scottish independence is not all about the SNP is tantamount to suggesting that independence is not a political question. Only one political party can now lead us to independence no matter what RISE says and Cat Boyd votes.

Cat Boyd, Yesser and former RISE candidate, voted for Jeremy Corbyn – that is, she voted Labour – in the last general election, and she was “proud” to do this because “it was a UK election.” Where do we in the Yes movement begin to get our heads around this decision? Well, to begin with, we should be clear that it was unwise and ill-considered, but we must also be cautious not to use this as an opportunity to instigate unnecessary infighting in the movement. What is required, and urgently so, is a conversation about the so-called radical left and its usefulness to the project of Scottish independence. That I myself am a socialist, and given that the Yes movement is in the main a working class left-of-centre movement, this is an important conversation.

In and of itself RISE, as a political force in Scotland, is of little consequence. Its impact on the polls is at best negligible, but as an alliance built around the various personality cults of characters who made a name for themselves during the 2014 independence campaign it has the power to box – in terms of influencing opinion, if not winning votes – well above its weight. Its ability to divide the pro-independence vote in Scotland, as has been pointed out by others, made it a darling of the British media; thus making its members run the risk of becoming the useful idiots of unionism. While it serves no purpose to attack RISE and therefore alienate it from the independence movement, it is crucial that we examine what it is propagating and show where this thinking leads.

Boyd and others – and not only others affiliated with RISE – have successfully popularised the opinion that independence is not all about the SNP, making way, at least in theory, for other pro-independence parties to share in the task of representing wider visions of an independent Scotland. There is also, as we have witnessed in Boyd’s support of the Labour Party, a continued willingness to work with unionist political parties in the pursuit of a better deal for Scotland. On the face of it these arguments are cogent and appear to present a rational political method moving ultimately towards independence, but they are fraught with contradictions and seriously problematic.

RISE and radical socialism as a whole is infatuated with the idea of vanguardism; an essentially Trotskyist idea of mobilising mass political support behind a class-conscious political vanguard, but is forever getting it wrong. As this political ideology has no mass support – without which there can be no vanguard – it leaps to the head of every grassroots, vaguely left social and political cause; dragging the whole thing down to the level of mere bandwagon populism. In doing this the radical left is forever missing the point of the revolutionary political vehicle – something that clearly does already exist, for good or for ill, in the form of the Scottish National Party.

In Scotland the revolution has already begun. Now more than half of the Scottish people have decided that the future of our country lies in our full separation from the United Kingdom. Whether we like the fact or not this expression of the will of the people of Scotland sounds the starting gun of a race to independence and all other political causes become secondary and even tertiary to this prime political objective. Scotland is already in a state of political paralysis and this will remain the case until the constitutional question is finally settled.

Regardless of the opinions of individual independence supporters it is clear that neither the Green Party nor RISE or any other party can accomplish the task without getting behind the vehicle that is now in motion. Sorry about you, but this does in fact mean supporting the SNP and that independence is all about the National Party. Turning to Corbyn’s Labour Party – a momentary blip in the otherwise downward trajectory of unionist British Labour – is reactionary to say the very least. Britain’s politics have come to an end in Scotland, and dancing to its tune in the hope of gaining anything for Scotland is delusional in the extreme.

It is not the case that I think people like Cat Boyd, Jean Urquhart, and Alan Bissett are problems for the independence movement or that they do no support independence. I believe they are sincere when they speak of what is best for Scotland. What we must question is their level of reflection. Independence cannot be won by undermining the political party that is the de facto party of independence because it does not happen to chime perfectly with any one individual’s or a group of individuals’ particular political thinking. Normal politics has been suspended in Scotland. Running to British parties in the hope of gaining anything else for Scotland is, whatever way we look at it, moving in the wrong direction.


Former RISE candidate Cat Boyd voted Labour

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