Thursday, November 26, 2015

There's a difference between disempowerment and democracy

Given the reaction to John McDonnell brandishing Mao's Little Red Book yesterday, it's probably not the best idea for me to start quoting Karl Marx, and actually I'm going to avoid that danger because I can't track down the exact quote anyway. But I seem to recall that he once said that the English (by which he meant the British) were only truly free for one day every few years, ie. on the day of a general election. For the intervening years, they revert to being slaves of an elective dictatorship. Whatever else we might think of Marx, it's very hard to disagree with that assessment, because for as long as the UK government has an absolute majority in parliament there is nothing it can't do. There is no constitution or court that can constrain it.

That line popped into my head when I watched the Altered State video yesterday. As you've probably seen, it finishes in rather provocative fashion with Derek Bateman arguing that a second referendum held too quickly would be "catastrophic" and "suicidal", because it would be an insult to people who voted No last year. After suggesting that a timescale of twenty years is quite possible (and indeed that it may never happen at all), his parting shot is : "Live with it, guys. It's called democracy."

As you know, I don't disagree with the view that the independence movement could easily find itself going nowhere for several decades. Paradoxically, that's one of the reasons why I think we have to be open to the idea of a relatively early referendum, perhaps within the next five years. There is a danger of catastrophe or suicide in being too hasty, but there is also a danger of catastrophe or suicide in squandering the momentum that has been built up. I don't quite understand why it's less bad to see a dream die quietly and gradually through inaction and over-caution than it is to see it spectacularly go up in flames as a result of rashness. In the long run, both of those outcomes amount to the same thing. When you're in the middle of a major historical event, it's easy to lose a sense of perspective, but the fact is that we're currently living through "our 1997". For the Blairites, it wasn't 1997 forever, and it won't be for us either. The time to act is when the sun is still shining.

I also disagree with Derek's claim that one of the reasons the first referendum was lost was that it was rushed into. There actually wasn't a campaign for independence prior to 2011 - nothing was happening, and the SNP were only going through the motions in putting forward the arguments. They were caught in a trap, because the first priority had to be to win and then retain power, and for as long as that was the case they couldn't afford to scare the horses too much. The only way to break out of that trap was to actually hold a referendum, and either secure a Yes vote in one push or build a platform for a second referendum. I see absolutely no reason to think that support for independence would have gradually crept up if Alex Salmond had played a more cautious game, and saved a referendum for a hypothetical third or fourth SNP term. The trend was actually in completely the opposite direction - opinion polls showed that independence became considerably less popular between 2005 and 2011. For some reason, SNP rule was making people more content with the Union - although thankfully that contentment proved to be fairly superficial when the question was put for real.

What I want to take issue with most of all is the idea that a second referendum would be somehow "undemocratic". To return to the Marx quote, that would mean it's more democratic that voters are enslaved to a decision they've already made. Even if circumstances change. Even if they conclude that they made the decision on the basis of a false prospectus. As we know, almost everyone (and certainly everyone in the SNP leadership) agrees that there can only be a referendum if a mandate is received for one at a Scottish Parliament election. So in a sense what Derek is hinting at is that it would be anti-democratic to give people a referendum even if they vote for it! I think that's a rather grotesque parody of what respect for democracy is all about.

If you take this through to its logical conclusion, the result of any quick second referendum should be regarded as null and void because the electorate has supposedly already voted to disempower themselves for an unspecified but very long period of time. We'd be saying to people who switched from No to Yes : "Sorry, we can't take any notice of your wishes now, because it would be disrespectful to the person you used to be." I don't think that's credible. Democracy is about giving people control over how they are governed on an ongoing basis, not using their past vote against them as if it constitutes some sort of lifelong marriage vow.

Derek also pours cold water on the idea that the EU referendum could be a trigger for a second independence referendum, partly because he doesn't think that the gap between the UK and Scottish results will be all that great. It's possible that it won't be, but for that to be the case there'll have to be a major convergence between now and polling day. Have a look at the gap between the results of recent Britain-wide polls, and the Scottish subsamples of the same polls -

ICM (20th-22nd November)

Britain-wide figures :

Remain 54%
Leave 46%

Scottish subsample :

Remain 67%
Leave 33%

ORB (18th-19th November)

Britain-wide figures :

Remain 48%
Leave 52%

Scottish subsample :

Remain 60%
Leave 40%

Survation (16th-17th November)

Britain-wide figures :

Remain 52%
Leave 48%

Scottish subsample :

Remain 63%
Leave 37%

ICM (13th-15th November)

Britain-wide figures :

Remain 53%
Leave 47%

Scottish subsample :

Remain 59%
Leave 41%

Survation (9th-11th November)

Britain-wide figures :

Remain 47%
Leave 53%

Scottish subsample :

Remain 59%
Leave 41%

26 comments:

  1. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 7:29 PM

    It is not surprising Scotland appears to be more in favour of remaing in the EU. We are traditionally a dependancy country. How ln earth can Scots justify leaving the Union and handing our intrgrity to the likes of Junk er.

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    1. Auchtermuchty Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 7:46 PM

      Speak fir yersel.

      Only people favouring dependency on here regularly are yersel and Aldo. Both favour living off 'handouts fae the English' rather that getting oot yer scratcher and standin on yer ain two feet.

      Delete
    2. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 7:57 PM

      So ye prefer haun oots fae Herman an the Frogs.(sounds like a pop group).

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    3. Auchtermuchty Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 8:15 PM

      Eh? So ye mean that Nigel Garage is talkin shite and the EU gives aw the countries handoots? Garage says we huv tae pay millions intae the EU tae be a member. So he's a lyin bastart?

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    4. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 8:35 PM

      A wis talkin aboot an independent Scotland. Nuffin tae dae wi Nigel Garage. Strange thing iz Mr Garage is like the the Joke Nat si Mps. They aw tak ra money but do not want tae be ther. Aye fuckin right.

      Delete
    5. Auchtermuchty Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 9:16 PM

      So yer sayin if Scotland wis indypendent, it wouldnae need tae pay any fees tae be in the EU? It wid get immediate entry n aw like?

      That's guid news as a wis worried aboot that expense and no gettin accepted.

      Ok, you've convinced us. It's a Yes fae me!

      Cheers. Later.

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    6. Your disregard for the deaths of millions of Jews is showing again. Why are you so anti semitic?

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  2. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    James. The best book on Marx I read was by Francis Wheen. Give it a go if you get time aff fae Nationalism.

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  3. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 8:03 PM

    Will this left of centre Nat si party tax the Jock rich and better aff tae preserve public services?

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    1. Why do you think the deaths of millions of Jews are something that you can ignore, and mock? Why are you so anti semitic?

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  4. I also disagree with Derek's claim that one of the reasons the first referendum was lost was that it was rushed into. There actually wasn't a campaign for independence prior to 2011 - nothing was happening, and the SNP were only going through the motions in putting forward the arguments.

    What is worth bearing in mind is that when the SNP first really broke through in the 1960s, Scottish Labour had dropped their historic Home Rule policy for Scotland. If an independence supporting party did not win the Hamilton by election in 1967, which of course the SNP did, it is doubtful that we would be where we are today. The very fact that the SNP's supported independence meant that SLAB reversed their stance on Home Rule in the 1970s, and even the UK Conservatives supported devolution for a time in the 1960s, and early 1970s. No SNP breakthrough in the 1960s =no change in Scottish Labour's Home Rule policy in the 1970s =no 1979 devolution referendum = no 1997 devolution referendum etc. In other words the SNP's impact in the 1960s, 1970s set off a change reaction of events. Therefore, it is was the threat of independence which has driven Scottish politics for the last 50 years or so.

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  5. Good article.

    I think England will vote Leave. By how much will be crucial. If Scotland votes Stay only to be forced to Leave because of the size of the anti-EU English vote then I believe it would be right for the Scottish government [presumably SNP] to call for a second referendum.

    The EU referendum results could also be crucial if Scotland largely votes Stay and England narrowly votes Leave, thereby having the so-called united kingdom Staying because of the Scottish vote. The reaction from the BritNat media would then be even more anti-Scottish than it already is. The social and political split between Scotland and England would be greatly accentuated.

    BTW I think will could see similar tensions developing if Cameron and the BritNts win a vote to escalate bombing in Syria whilst the SNP votes against such warmongering.

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    1. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 9:25 PM

      Dan, it looks like the Islamic Fascist IS are doing a bit of warmongering. Should we let them continue because we are the bad guys that enjoy a wee bevvy and a night out at the theatre.

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  6. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 9:16 PM

    Dan, any idea why the Scots would want to remain in the EU?

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    1. That you don't speaks volumes for how out of touch SLAB and you are with the majority of the people of Scotland. If you were in touch with the opinions of 60% of folk (judging by the polling above) why would you need to ask the question?

      By asking it you demonstrate how out of touch you really are. Well done.

      Delete
  7. A very good article and I agree with you and not Derek Bateman. I think he was on a downer and it looks like the third part of his interview was filmed at the same time as the other two - a while ago (unless he keeps his sewing basket on the same position on his couch for months?)

    Therefore, his response did not take account of recent events where jobs losses have hit Scotland very badly and Labour has been tearing itself apart and the Scotland bill is floundering in the Lords.

    I would go for a second referendum in the next five years. I think the opportunity will arise and I cannot see a fall in the independence vote as once you cross to our side there is no going back.

    Next time we will win.

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    1. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 9:44 PM

      And if you lose you will go for another one. You have no respect for your people and democracy. Just fanatics that cannot change the subject.

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    2. It's Labour who keep banging on about the constitutional issue. Eat your cereal and obey the Labour man.

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  8. James, the herald has released some results on a poll they ran (I think). Any analysis?

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  9. I kind of see this EU vote red line as a "mathematically we can win" argument. I cannot see the referendum being lost - however wishfully we think - in England.

    The voters will be subject to the same guff we got last year. And then you have all the Commission millions which will be funding the stay in side. England will vote to remain, and UKIP's balloon will be punctured ( which is really what its all about anyway).

    As to Altered States. Derek is being a tad pessimistic. I suspect the next - and final - referendum to be in 2020/21. The Tories will be re-elected with an even bigger majority in England. Labour will be in chaos. The SNP will be off the high tide mark. Once more it will be a popular, populist, consumer owned battle. And we may just win it. So all you who care should be saving up. Learning what we did wrong. Preparing the fliers and the badges. We are going again. Soon.

    Oh, and Catalunya will have left Spain but remarkably still be in the EU. Scotland will be five years poorer - but we can still rise now, ha ha ha.

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  10. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 26, 2015 at 11:06 PM

    Kim Yung Eck unveils own portrait. The vanity of the waster.

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  11. SNP hold the 2 Fife seats in today's local by-elections in which Labour had most 1st preferences in 2012.

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  12. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 27, 2015 at 12:38 AM

    Scottish economist says Scots will have to pay an extra 3p in the pound to reverse the impending cuts. Not a lot is it. Will the Nats si gov go for it or humiliate themselves with the begging bowl.

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    1. The only bowl here is the one you should be eating your cereal from. You have been told before - the Labour man wants you to shut up and leave the thinking to the Party.

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  13. Agree bateman seemed very depressed as he expressed his final thoughts on the documentary
    For anyone that is interested - you will find Phantom Power's Altered State part III here together with a link to the other 2 parts

    https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/phantom-power-after-the-uk-won-the-scottish-referendum/

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