Yes, They Are Killing Us

By Jason Michael

Why is it that when we describe what we are doing in the independence movement as a “conflict” there is a general panic in some quarters? Just what is it that people think we are doing here, and how does Britain see it all?

Young Ross Greer, that ragamuffin who thinks I’m a latter day Michael Collins with a keyboard, has taken issue with the suggestion that we are in a conflict with Britain. His understanding of conflict would appear to be limited to Dan Dare and Biggles; although even those might be before his time. Responding to the assertion made by the Butterfly Rebellion that we are “engaged in a real conflict with Britain,” he insisted – by way of excusing his anti-Irish racist remarks – that “we are definitely not in a conflict with the British state where it’s willing to kill some of us.”

Where does one begin with this level of ignorance? Okay, I’m not going to be too tough on wee Ross. I have a sneaking admiration for anyone who would compare me to an Irish national hero dazzling enough to be played by Liam Neeson on the big screen. “Riddled? Riddled? What are you going round riddling people for?” Whatever he needs, this young whippersnapper needs a short history lesson. As he was so keen to start his attack on me with Ireland, let’s start there. This British state of his that isn’t willing to kill us – its citizens – on 30 January 1972 shot and killed fourteen innocent civil rights protesters on the streets of Derry. On 6 April 1985 the 61 year old Scottish independence campaigner and anti-nuclear activist Willie McRae, after being surveilled by Special Branch and MI5, was shot in the head. He died the next day.

There are so many people in the independence movement who, in their innocence and naïveté, truly believe we are not in a conflict with the British state – a conflict in which Britain would be willing to kill. Youngsters the likes of Greer, born in 1994, will no doubt think of Bloody Sunday and the McRae assassination as events from the olden days, when the television was black and white. Guys like Greer, with their visions of independence and as means to a utopian end, look at the London government and see little more than a benign auld uncle who’s dithering is getting in the way of “progress.” People who approach Britain the way these lambs do are living with their heads up their backsides.

Britain is the dying embers of what was an imperial-colonialist murder machine that put both the Third Reich and the Soviet Union in the shade when it came to its sheer barbarism and its perpetration of genocide. In Greer’s own lifetime the British government lied to the public in order to follow the United States into the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan – conflicts in which over one million civilians have been killed – and now stands implicated in the murder of the weapons expert, Dr David Kelly, who blew the whistle on the state’s lies.

All of this might seem a bit abstract and far away to Ross Greer and the others just like him in the independence movement, so let’s bring this a little closer to home. In the early hours of this morning, at four twenty-six according to my phone log, I had to make a call to a young woman who was feeling suicidal. Very shortly she has to undergo a Personal Independence Payment – or PIP – assessment at the hands of the DWP. With a chronic illness she cannot work, she has no savings, no family nearby, barely meets her rent, and is so petrified of this trial by pencil-pusher that she believes she is on the verge of taking her own life.


Britain has a welfare cuts system designed to kill people.

When we add up the numbers of all those who have taken their lives as a result of the strain imposed upon them by this system and all those who have otherwise died due to the stress it causes, can we ask how many people in Scotland the British state has killed as a result of this deliberate and calculated, callous “welfare” régime? It’s darkly humorous to point out that Greer, after watching the Ken Loach film I Daniel Blake knows all about it. We know this because he tweeted: “May be [sic] a movie but it’s the reality I see every day when constituents ask for support. #WeAreAllDanielBlake” Just who does Greer imagine is behind this violence; a violence described by Loach as “imposed with conscious cruelty?” This is a system engineered to kill people.

I am questioning if Greer is, as he claims, Daniel Blake at all. He doesn’t give the impression that he has joined the dots between the conscious cruelty of the British state and the groundswell in support for independence in Scotland over the past ten years. It is clear for anyone to see that London is using austerity and now the chaos of a Brexit that will compound the suffering of tens of thousands across Scotland as a weapon to bring Scotland to heel. Such economic warfare was used against us in the past, and, yes, it is killing people.

As I see it, there is a confusion here when we use the word “conflict” – exactly the right term to describe what is happening. There are those – both unionists and utopian independentistas – who are trying to narrowly define “conflict” so as to portray people like me, who use it – in the Marxist sense, as idiotic keyboard Michael Collins’ or William Wallace’s; imagining ourselves at fictive barricades fending off the Black and Tans or the English. But no, “the history of all hitherto existing society,” wrote Karl Marx, “is the history of class conflicts.”

It is true; we are not a class in the socio-economic sense intended by the Manifesto. Yet we are a class in the sense implied by the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci. We have come together as a political and politicised class – the independence movement – in order to challenge the hegemony of the British state and the British establishment, which is – in every sense – a class unto itself. Everything we are doing as a movement is done in the context of this conflict, and whether or not we are comfortable with the language of conflict – class or otherwise – we can be absolutely certain that Britain sees this as nothing other than an existential conflict.

So to address Ross Greer’s quibbles about us being in a “deadly conflict” with the British state, we can say quite uncategorically that he could not be more wrong. It was British violence towards Scotland over three centuries, and the lives that it has cost, that gave rise to this movement he now pretends to lead, and now that we have started Britain will kill more in its efforts to stop us. Ross, after dropping out of university, wants to school me on what is and is not conflict. After having completed an MPhil in Conflict Studies and awarded a fellowship at the In Flanders Fields museum in Flanders, Belgium, I am fairly sure I know what I am talking about. We’re in a deadly conflict.


Ken Loach: life in austerity Britain is ‘consciously cruel’

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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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Power Abhors a Vacuum: A Scottish Coup d’État

By Jason Michael

It is highly probable that soon Scotland will be an independent nation state. This new state will require leadership and direction, but it would be naïve of us to think London has no interest in the shape that new power will take.

It is no longer likely the United Kingdom will survive as a state in its present configuration for the next decade. Supporters of independence and unionists alike are acutely aware that another referendum will likely result in Scotland deciding to leave the union, and, as the only cohort of the Scottish electorate to vote against self-determination in 2014 was the over 65s, unionism in Scotland – and not to put too fine a point on it – is quite literally dying. Even the bookmakers have changed their tune. The best odds we can get on a bet for a Yes vote in the next referendum are “even.”

Britain is, like all other states, a bureaucratic state. It is a state administration run almost entirely by bureaucrats, administrators, actuaries, and planners of every conceivable hue. Bureaucracies do not simply ride the waves of the tides of historical change, they actively strategise for the future; making their own realities or the next best thing to their own ideal realities as they go. Years, sometime decades, in advance of potential sea changes to the political landscape they have civil servants working on solutions to hypothetical problems, and alternatives, and alternatives to the alternatives to these possible future eventualities. Governments do not like surprises.

It is no conspiracy theory then to say that right now in London there are experienced and educated people working on McCrone-like reports addressing a number of issues arising for the British state from the question of Scottish independence. Such hypotheticals will deal with such matters as how Britain will cope in the event of Scotland’s departure and how the British state can best subvert the Scottish National Party and the independence movement in the hope of delaying their objective or stopping it altogether. Scotland – the only producer of oil in the UK – is a crucial strategic asset of the London government’s geopolitical ambitions. Scotland is a paramount state interest of the UK.

How then might these characters in Whitehall be planning to manage the problem of Scotland? Firstly, it will do as it has done in other contexts. It will infiltrate every level of leadership of the SNP and the independence movement. Knowledge is everything, and the British government will want and need to know everything that is going on behind closed doors in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Just as the offices of Sinn Féin were bugged by the British secret intelligence services, so too will the offices and phone lines of Scotland’s pro-independence politicians be scrupulously surveilled. Everything will be tapped; their email accounts, social media, the works. But such surveillance, comprehensive as it is, is only at best reactive. What the watchers desire most is a tool that will give them the initiative, helping them to nudge Scotland in the direction it wants.

The obvious instrument for this type of intervention is the press. More especially in a small democratic nation the media is the central processing centre of the national consciousness. Noam Chomsky has spelt out how exactly the media is where public consent and opinion can be “manufactured” by those who have leverage over what it produces. It’s a tautological given that the unionist press will support the union, but in the post-IndyRef context of Scotland the likes of the BBC, Sky News, the Scotsman, the Herald, and the Daily Record have reached the zenith of their ideological usefulness to the requirements of the British state.

What are of infinitely more value to the state are agents of influence inside that media popularly accepted to be neutral or pro-independence. Better still would be an entire Trojan horse; a media outlet funded entirely through obfuscated British state shells and which’s editorial management is therefore directed by the feeding hand. Such agents of influence may or may not be aware of their useful idiot status. Some may have been paid, others otherwise compromised and blackmailed, and others still content to follow orders. Money is never neutral.

It makes perfect sense that the flow of money – especially dark money – into “pro-independence” projects would facilitate also the flow of hidden influence. It is therefore not unreasonable for people working for the independence of Scotland to be interested in where their media outlets get their funding. We have a responsibility as a movement to scrutinise every aspect of the media that is both forming and informing the shape of the movement and the direction it is taking.

When we see, for example, pro-independence writers and journalists given ease of access to the pages of the Daily Record, the Herald, and airtime on BBC television and radio news programmes we must exercise a healthy hermeneutic of suspicion. Why is it only a certain few receive this honour when people like Paul Kavanagh and Stuart Campbell are completely ostracised? This chosen few appear to come from trustworthy and safe regions of the Scottish pro-independence media, and they are elevated by the unionist press to the station of spokespersons for the independence movement. Yet they are from the same outlets that make a habit of chiming with the unionist press’ criticism of the SNP, and from the same cliques from which support for unionist Labour is most often heard.

Britain’s game plan is to control, as best it can, events as they unfold in our country. The next referendum will see the independence campaign begin already over the fifty percent mark, and the Westminster government is hedging its bets. It is – or, from its point of view, it should be – influencing our media; both the unionist and the nationalist press, so as to – on the one hand – destabilise our campaign, and – on the other hand – influence the power structure in Scotland post-independence. In the event that we secure independence Scotland will be a new state and the race to the reins of power has already begun. London does not want to be out of the loop in shaping a newly independent Scotland, and so it is perfectly rational to imagine a pre-emptive coup d’état is already in the making.


Media Institution: Crash Course Government and Politics #44

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Vigilance not Paranoia

By Jason Michael

All the dirty tricks Britain played against Scotland in 2014 are coming out in the wash. We are seeing more clearly not only that we were cheated but how we were cheated out of our independence. Get ready. Another chance is coming.

A report in The Press and Journal this morning comes as a timely reminder of the lengths to which the British government has gone to sabotage the independence movement. Now that London is operating under the assumption that nationalism in Scotland is on the wane, it is cutting the research grants it had been issuing to Scottish universities through the EPSRC. According the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman these grants were inducements “for PR purposes to save the union.”

Speaking with a professor of engineering and physics, who would prefer to remain anonymous, I learned that it was these UK grants that convinced many of his colleagues throughout Scotland to back No in 2014; seeing Scotland’s academic and research reputation faring better within the union. University professors and lecturers are influential people; they share their opinions on the future of the Arts and Sciences with their students. He was an enthusiastic campaigner for Better Together and a No voter, but “it has all left egg on our faces,” he said. “Now we are even threatened with losing EU funding as well.”

This is a process known in the world of power politics as “nudging,” and it is frightening just how many people we encounter in Scotland who are unfamiliar with the concept. When large government or corporate interests find themselves threatened by public or consumer trends they engage in both direct and indirect campaigning in an attempt to sway these trends back in their favour. Multi-billion dollar corporations like Coca Cola and McDonald’s, when faced with falling sales due to the release of health reports, will launch massive advertising campaigns and fund their own “research” through compromised scientific bodies to promote the benefits of their products.

Governments, thanks to neoliberalism and the evolution of the corporatist state, do exactly the same thing. Britain did this during the 2012-14 independence referendum campaign. It backed the No campaign and pulled every string to “encourage” the great and the good to publically do the same. It also did some nudging. With the help of government-friendly public relations companies – the sort implicated in the now known and well-publicised “psych-ops” projects in Iraq and Afghanistan – opened offices all over England for the purposes of waging cyber war on the Yes campaign. Hundreds of paid employees – mainly students – created thousands of sock puppet social media accounts to astroturf the living daylights out of Scotland – an Israeli propaganda tactic known as “hasbara” or “public diplomacy.”

It doesn’t end there. Right across Scottish civil society institutions and people of influence were co-opted into supporting the union and using their influence to persuade others. Every major employer, banking and financial institutions, industrial giants, and colleges and universities was brought in on the game to campaign behind the scenes for the union at a social and cultural level. This is nudging, and how it works is simple: When the social media shell accounts effectively muddied the waters, making the debate “too confusing,” and many of the most respected persons and trusted institutions were behind the No campaign, ordinary voters – voters with less access to alternative sources of information – were more likely to vote for the status quo.

All of this eventually comes out in the wash. Blackman is right in pointing out the fact that the universities have been sold short. Partly, and what the SNP MP fails to mention, it is their own silly faults. They accepted the money knowing full well what the cost of this free cash was. The same goes for the businesses and banking and financial institutions. They were all promised the sun, moon, and stars by a British establishment that was prepared to do and say anything to make sure Scotland’s bid for independence went belly up. What they have been left with is London as an absentee landlord and the pieces of all their European rewards strewn all over the floor of the Commons.

We have to learn from this and use the lessons the profiteers of Better Together are only now learning. There are signs – visible in the attempts to consolidate power around the Scottish Independence Convention – that wheels are turning. The rumour is that May’s snap general election is about to be mirrored by a snap referendum in Scotland, and this may be sooner than we think. But let’s be level headed. Regardless of this, we are still moving in that direction and all the same tricks will be played. Our job is to be vigilant and do our bit in educating people – reminding people – of what went on and what we have learned.

Britain is a powerful and merciless beast. Underestimating the lengths to which it will go to kill independence is dangerous in the extreme. Yet, having said this, we must always bear in mind that Britain is not all-powerful. It has been defeated plenty of times in the past, and by far smaller countries than Scotland. What those who beat it in the past had, however, was a far more realistic understanding of the nature of the beast. Last time round out naivety was stripped away and we are now far better positioned for another crack at a referendum.

If we are serious about doing this all over again then we too have to be prepared to see Britain for what it is – a true enemy; an enemy which poses an existential threat to Scotland. We won’t be getting a third chance at an independence referendum. Not for a couple of lifetimes anyway. As far as the Westminster government sees this, Scotland has become a serious pain in the arse. In the event that we lose again, devolution and everything that nurtures a sense of Scottish nationhood and identity in our society will be systematically and programmatically culled. We have to be hatching some pretty dirty tricks of our own. The gloves are off.


Nudging the Citizen

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Letting Scotland Down

By Jason Michael

So last week we all had a wee bit of a rammy, and the unionists were beside themselves with glee. That was last week. This is this week. Let’s at least see in it that we still feel passionately about what we are doing.

It hasn’t been an easy week for independentista bloggers in Scotland, and it most certainly hasn’t been easy for our readers. I have been as much a part of that difficulty as anyone else and for that I am deeply sorry. We are part of a movement that has grown up through real stress and adversity. People the length and breadth of the country have given the project of independence their hearts and souls; their all. Watching on as the bloggers and writers, who effectively became the barricade against the relentless onslaught of Britain’s media machine, tore strips out of one another over the past few days must have been soul destroying. As always, Paul Kavanagh has said it best:

It’s the fault of those of us who tweet, who write, who blog, who run national groups, who manage the “new media”. We’re the ones who’re letting Scotland down. We’re letting ourselves down. We’ve turned into passengers on a sinking ship who’re arguing about the music the band is playing instead of organising the life-boats.
Paul Kavanagh

As one of those writers it is difficult to assess my importance in the movement. Both this, my personal blog, and the Butterfly Rebellion which I edit are minnows in comparison to the likes of Wings Over Scotland, Wee Ginger Dug, and the rest, but I have played my part in the recent strife. Yes, anger and frustration got the better of me and I was more than willing to throw in my tuppence worth when it came to what I perceived – and to a great extent still do – as a threat to the integrity of the movement. Maybe there were better ways to have gone about that, and I won’t be so arrogant so as not to take on board the criticism that came my way as a result of this storm on social media.

IndyRef was the first time in my life I heard Scottish voices speaking without them being caricatured or subtly demeaned for not being BBC enough. I doubt it was only me, but I have absorbed a sense of shame about my Scottishness. There was always an undertone of social, political, and cultural inferiority in how I understood myself as a Scot and Scotland at the table of true Britishness. This is, as I have since learned, how colonialism works and operates. We accept the superiority of the master, internalise it, and so attempt to become human in the image of the master – always, as it is designed to be, an impossible task.

What we did together during IndyRef began the process of breaking my own internal shackles. Strong Scots voices became music to my ears. We, I discovered, were people of worth who had a voice worth listening to. All the while, however, I was aware of a few missing notes in the tune. The beautiful Scottish voices I was hearing and reading were all of a type. They were educated and middle class. They had an air of privilege and perhaps entitlement about them. Now this is not envious class hatred. I dealt with that some time ago. I loved these voices. I loved what they were saying and doing. I love them still, and God only knows the gratitude I have for them.

All the same my Scottish voice – a working class Scottish voice – seemed to be missing. This, more than anything else, moved me to begin writing. From the very beginning I knew that we could only win Scotland back from the grip of Westminster together. We had to overcome or at least suspend all our other differences; they had to become subservient to the struggle for independence.

What I saw when one of our blogs launched an open assault on another last week was the violation of this unspoken rule. One particularly well-funded and well-polished, media savvy group – all code for middle class of course – unleashed its fury and frustration on a blog with massive working class appeal. Like nationalism, class antagonism is a truly powerful social force, and one which I believe has the power to wreck our collective effort if left unchecked.

Independence, as I have always made clear, is the single most important objective of this movement. That is, after all, why we call ourselves the “Scottish independence movement.” It is so important that I will argue that it must take priority over all other social and political concerns – and the reason for this: Without it we will have no rights save those granted and easily taken by London. It was with this in mind that I and a number of others opened full salvo. Perhaps it could have been done better. It is done now and it is over.

Is there anything we can take from this? I believe so. It isn’t the case that we have succumbed to terminal infighting. No, we had a spat. But what I take from this is the realisation that we’re all pretty damn passionate about what we are doing. I will not stand idly by while anyone – “foreign or domestic” – undermines and weakens the vehicle that is taking us to independence. This movement is the lifeboat Paul Kavanagh wrote about, and it was, however upsetting, also encouraging to see people fighting to protect it. It is worth fighting for, but, with all last week’s business thankfully behind us, it is time to refocus that fighting spirit – that esprit de corps – back on the real enemy.


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