|The men who forgot Scotland|
“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”
- Noam Chomsky
Over a year ago in Weimar Britain and again in April this year in On The Eve, this author, like many other progressives, previewed the momentous times we are living through now. As our world and the societies within it continue to convulse and shatter in the face of the growing crises of an economic system in terminal decline, we have seen the panic of the banking collapse, the wars for oil, and the demolition of human rights to ensure control not only over terrorists but over peaceful domestic opponents as well - in particular opponents of corporate interests.
It was indeed all going as well as the Establishment could have hoped - better in fact, as the electorate continues, on balance, to be convinced by the espoused case for austerity and denigration of the public enemies of migrants, disabled people and the unemployed. With political revolt gingerly contained, even if only transiently, in the even more neoliberal Aunt Sally of UKIP, the private island-owning, off-shoring elite has gleefully seen its wealth grow to become larger and more obscenely skewed than at any other time in British history. The "free trade" TTIP treaty is set to seal it all for good. Divide and rule indeed.
But then, last weekend, a YouGov poll put the pro-Independence camp in Scotland narrowly in the lead for next week's referendum. Of Scottish voters expressing a preference, 51% said they will vote in favour, while two thirds of those still to make up their minds were tending towards the independence option. It was just one poll, though it confirmed a trend of some weeks of rise in the Yes vote. But it slammed a Panic Button among the Establishment in Westminster and ever since, as Alex Salmond has put it, everything including the kitchen sink and the whole lounge has been lobbed frantically at the Yes Scotland campaign.
First we had the faux homage of the three Westminster leaders - Cameron, Miliband and Clegg - to Scotland on Wednesday, dramatically cancelling PM's Question Time to make apparently passionate pleas for the Union to be preserved.
Cameron nearly wept as he begged Scots not to use the vote to "kick the 'effing Tories"; Miliband said he might even stay the whole week; while Clegg dashed just inside the Borders to promise, with the others, the exciting prospect of a timetable for proposals to give Scotland's devolved parliament additional powers, although none of them could quite explain what these would be. Labour's Gordon Brown was also wheeled out to remind people that he is Scottish too, although at least unlike John Prescott he didn't need to remind himself that he was supporting the "No" campaign, Better Together by writing its name in biro on the back of his hand.
But much, much more has since been deployed to stop secession. The Governor of the Bank of England, a Government appointee, has warned of financial chaos for Scotland after reiterating that there will be no common currency; while Lloyd's Bank and RBS (bankers to the Tory Party) have said they will move their headquarters south if there is independence. Next, at Cameron's prompting, Asda has said its milk prices might go up in a separate country. Morrisons and John Lewis made somewhat more ambiguous statements about divergence rather than disadvantage, but the increasingly shrilly pro-Union BBC reported these as warnings of higher prices.
And yet, and yet... wasn't this entirely foreseeable? A combination of bribes and threats spawned the Union in 1707, so it seems appropriate and unsurprising that the descendants of the elite that pushed through the creation of the UK would use the same methods to prolong its existence. Even more so, in fact - there is a commonly held misconception that neoliberal capitalism seeks to minimise the state and its powers. In truth it minimises the state only in terms of its responsiveness to the masses and their needs and wishes. It maximises the deployment of coercive state power to ensure the continued dominance of the Establishment - and this has never been as nakedly in evidence in British politics as in the last few days over Scotland.
Bankers, politicians, city traders, journalists and multinational companies have come together to warn of everything from economic apocalypse to "difficulties" for Scottish viewers wishing to watch Celebrity Come Dancing on the TV.
The bankers and traders whose sociopathic greed and lawlessness created the crash of 2008 and nearly busted the world economy; the politicians who deregulated finance so completely that the crash happened, and who then spent tens of billions of tax money and loans to bail the banks out before billing the rest of us for it; the industrialists who rage against any form of consumer or employee protection and who have plundered our society via PFI arrangements, outsourcing and tax evasion; and the journalists who, when they are not hacking celebrities' telephone messages are busy telling us all that there is no alternative to what we have got.
Yes, all the people who obviously have the best interests of the rest of us engraved on their cold, cold hearts and foremost in their absent consciences. These people are stepping forward to tell Scottish voters that they are too crap, too lazy, too...Scottish...to hope to govern themselves. And if they don't listen to their friendly warnings, there will be a less friendly price to pay. The bankers, traders, and industrialists will make sure their political puppets send the bill personally.
The message, of course, is not just for the Scottish voters. Indeed, if Scotland could be got rid off, perhaps tugged out into the mid-Atlantic and quietly sunk, many of the people currently hoarsley calling for the Union to be preserved would be first in the queue to pull the plug. However, as geography dictates otherwise, the last thing the Establishment want the rest of the UK to see is part of it defying our Masters' wishes and giving us ideas above our station. Even a mildly social democratic Scotland would not just be an annoying neighbour - it could become an existential threat to the neoliberal consensus. Hence, it must be strangled at birth - or preferrably before.
The big question is whether enough Scottish voters will be browbeaten or scared into voting against independence to stop it happening. The trend over the last fortnight has been a clear and big upswing for separation - one based on seeking a more inclusive, fairer society than the one emerging in the UK as a whole. It remains to be seen if the crisis response from Westminster and its paymasters will stem the flow, or be seen through as the insincere, last gasp blandishments of panicking machine men.
A frequent refrain from the Better Together camp is that an independent country would be moving into uncertainty; taking risks, and be a journey rather than a destination. But isn't that just life? Life for all of us. Salmond (who is no socialist but is equally no neoliberal either) has ackowledged that independence is the start of something, not the finish. Meanwhile the Radical Independence Campaign of leftwing parties like the Greens and Scottish Socialists as well as cultural groups like the National Collective positively embrace the nascent potential of such a future.
Besides, if there are no guarantees for a free Scotland, what is guaranteed about Britain as it is? A harsh, low wage, "flexible" economy increasingly unkind to the poor and vulnerable, suspicious of strangers, and selling off what little remains of its public services? A State whose main functions involve spying on its own citizens and vying with the USA for the number one spot as the most unequal developed society on the face of the Earth?
Better together? For who?