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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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.


PLEASE SUPPORT Scotland’s independent media. GA Ponsonby writes: “iScot is the most under-valued new media outlet, rarely mentioned, yet slick and professional.” He’s dead right. iScot is probably the best print media we have and it needs our support. If you can afford it, no matter how much, please think about following the link >>HERE<< and making a wee donation to keep it going. Or better still – SUBSCRIBE. It’s monthly. It’s online or delivered to your door and it’s pure brilliant so it is.

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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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Hamburg: Welcome to Hell

By Jason Michael

Rioting in the German city of Hamburg is being treated by the Western media as an isolated and apolitical response to popular disaffection, but this could not be further from the truth. Hamburg is symptomatic of global anger.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been thoroughly embarrassed by the wave of violent protests that have struck the G20 summit in Hamburg. It had been her intention to host the summit in the northern German port city to show the attendees that protest is both tolerated in Germany and that it is a normal part of a healthy and robust democracy. Rather than working in her favour the anti-Capitalist protests quickly became violent, with extremist anarchist groups numbering in their tens of thousands proving too much for the 20,000 strong Bereitschaftspolizei.

All of the major commercial streets in the centre of the city and arteries leading into the city have been affected, with retailers and restaurants smashed up, ransacked, and looted, and residents’ cars have been vandalised and set alight. So-called “black bloc” tactics have in recent years become a feature of anti-capitalist demonstrations globally, yet mainstream media – even in Germany now – repeatedly makes the mistake of reporting this violence as apolitical; presenting it as mere hooliganism and wanton destruction. Regardless of our opinions on these protest methods it is wrong to imagine these events are purposeless and without basis in popular political thinking.

Contrary to the majority of the coverage coming from Hamburg black bloc is not a movement or a specific group or gang. It is an anarchistic tactic that has been in development since the squatter riots of the 1970s in West Berlin, allowing protesters of various leftist politics to participate in common action against the police and the state without fear of personal identification, reprisals, arrest, and harassment. As a tactic it has proven successful in taking space quickly from the authorities and sending a message to the state and the people and institutions behind the globalised capitalist agenda. This success, together with the growing perception of a need for change, is transforming discontent into a powerful and violent movement; a revolution in all but name.

We have to question the violence. Recent protests in London are taking this more militant approach, but in Scotland we have seen very much the opposite. The difference of course is that the protest movement in Scotland is in government in Edinburgh, whereas in London that movement for change is as far alienated from government as can be imagined. Each of these protests – whether violent or non-violent – are in response to the same state and corporate violence being meted out by Westminster.  Yet Westminster is only a cog in the international machine; the same machine that has sparked these protests in Hamburg.

What is happening in Hamburg is part of a wider global protest that is happening in response to capitalism and the corporatist state. Thus it would be wrong to consider events in Hamburg as unrelated to the political tensions that are being played out all across Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America. As wealth is being transferred from the bottom to the top of the economic pyramid, only the few – in this case the G20 – are making the decisions on behalf of all of us and this is what is at the root of the gathering storm.


Tens of Thousands Plan to Protest Trump and Globalization at G20

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Orange Culture is Culture

By Jason Michael

Some of our neighbours have taken to the streets to “remember” a battle they never fought; in a country they’ve never visited. This is Orangeism, a hilariously anachronistic but highly dangerous slice of Ulster-Scottish antiquarianism.

Since before the weekend, what with an Orange Order parade scheduled for Glasgow on Saturday, Scottish social media has been a riot over Ulster and Scottish loyalists claiming cultural status for their hideous bonfire and Battle of the Boyne commemorative antics. Apparently we and the other communities of Northern Ireland are to accept the burning of flags and Catholics in effigy, racist, bigoted, and sectarian slogans and songs, and ancient hatreds as “culture.” Members of the Orange institutions and the unionist establishment in Scotland and Northern Ireland are demanding that we accept Orange parades as cultural celebrations on a par with St. Patrick’s Day, Burns’ Night, or any other national cultural celebration. But evidently we do not.

Orangeism is a culture no matter how much we protest, but that is because we have gotten stuck on the idea of culture as a good thing; the social expression of the better angels of our nature. Yersinia pestis, the organism responsible for the Bubonic plague, is a culture. All sorts of really bad things are cultures, and not just bacteria. There are cultures of prejudice, misogyny, and bigotry. In the BBC and the British Conservative establishment there is a culture of organised child abuse. Cultures in society are simply the result of social relations and their effects, and they are not always good things. The Orange Order is only another example of a bad social culture.

Trapped in the bleak theological landscape of the late Reformation, and in complete denial that its iconic hero was widely rumoured in the seventeenth century to be gay and that his war against James II was blessed and funded by the Pope, the Orange Order is a culture of hate. Shaped by centuries of colonial supremacy and its perpetual war to displace and annihilate Irish Catholics, the Orange institution is unable – it seems – to break free from its sectarian bigotry, its racism, and its backward and quagmired religious intolerances. As a culture it is a culture of anachronisms, petty and ancient hatreds, and death. By its very nature it is at odds with the modern world, but it is a culture.

When we see the flags of the Irish Republic and the flags of all its trivial proxy wars against Catholicism and republicanism – the Vatican, Poland, the Starry Plough, Palestine – atop bonfires, along with effigies representing Catholic people we are looking at a culture. This is what happens when a closed society sinks into the isolationist and ever-inward looking feedback loop of self-affirmation. When challenged by the outside world, when mocked and jeered, it reacts and acts out. It becomes what its mythology has always told it that it is – a community; a culture under siege. Rather than coming out into the twenty-first century it finds social and cultural nutrition in its despised otherness. It embraces and finds identity in pretty much all that is hateful.

Britain’s recent willingness to sacrifice the peace of the Good Friday Agreement and the threat posed to its “Holy Land” of Britain by Scottish nationalism have emboldened this culture, giving it once again a sense of cultural relevance. Somehow in the limited imagination of Orangeism open anti-Black and anti-Irish racism makes sense. It serves an imagined purpose; it is being put to the task of saving the Union they truly believe a nasty and hateful god gave them. This too is culture. It is shared by people, passed from one generation to the next, preached in what passes in their community as “Christian” places of worship, and supported by the pressure of its own wider society. It most definitely is culture. It’s just not good, informed, or healthy culture.

Violence too is inseparable from this diseased culture. Orangeism was born in the colonial-imperial violence of a Planter community over an indigenous population. It was violence, often sheer brutality, which kept this ascendant class in power in Ireland against resistence and rebellion. Supported by the British forces of occupation in Ireland and later in Northern Ireland this culture learned that violence endeared it to the Crown, the Empire, and the whole British establishment. By violence it won the love and embarrassed admiration of its gods in London.

So when Jack Ramsay, the Grand Secretary of the Grand [Orange] Lodge of Scotland, talks of the Orange Order becoming a terrorist organisation to fight against the Scottish government after Scottish independence we have to take this threat seriously. Since the Battle of the Diamond in 1795 the “Defenders” – the precursor movement of the Orange Order – have defended Britain in Ireland qua the notional “Union” and, by extension, the Union in Scotland by force of arms. Violence is as Orange as the sash and the Lambeg drum. Violence is cultural to Orangeism. Orangeism is a culture of violence. The Orange Order is a fanatical, religious fundamentalist and extremist violent organisation – no different, in most ways, from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

A fellow independentista blogger was chatting with me this morning. She was expressing how afraid she was of these Orange clowns. I sympathise with her completely. What the hell would our country be like if this savage ideology was victorious? Canada and Australia would have more Scots. We can defeat them and we must defeat them. We won’t do this with violence. They love violence and you can rest assured they want violence. In the Republic of Ireland there are Orange lodges. In Dublin there is the LOL 1313. Its members keep themselves to themselves and no one in the rest of the country bothers about them. There are no marches and no violence and the reason for this is quite simple; its Britain is dead. We pull the teeth from Orangeism in Scotland not by taking up the sword, but by sticking to the plan and killing our Britain.

Ultimately it is the violence and hatred of Britain and Britishness that is the rotten corpse on which this culture of Orangeism grows. So long as the host is in place the disease will do what it does, it will spread and grown. We can tackle it as a symptom but the cause will still be there. What we do is what we have always been doing; we rid ourselves of the carrion of Britain and Britishness and the sicknesses it gives rise to will up and follow the stench. Only in a Scottish Republic will the Orange Order wither away into the past in which it belongs. Only then can we all get on with the business of the future where Scotland has so much to do.


All the Trolls are Under the Bridge

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