Archive | June, 2013

Scotland’s Road to Socialism: an Exercise of Vision | Nicky Patterson

4 Jun

At the recent ISG organised launch of “Scotland’s Road to Socialism: Time to Choose”, audience members were prompted to participate in the exercise of envisioning their own idea of who, what, where, when, and why Scotland will be in the coming years.  This call-to-action, especially in light of the book’s own conversation, with the emergence of the Common Weal project, and with the subsequent publication of the Cuthbert Report on the Mismanagement of Britain (pdf), is both an invigorating and self-clarifying endeavour.

First off, I’ll outline the major principles that I expect Scotland to adopt in the forthcoming age of new-enlightenment; and then I will offer some of my own ideas which have generated some interest at various levels of low-key conversation.

The Cuthbert Report has made obvious the dysfunctions of the United Kingdom’s current political and economic machinery: to be frank, nothing more needs to be added – there is no plausible, coherent argument at a social, political, economic, or cultural level, to maintain the facility of Union: Scotland must become independent; we must become a republic; and we must create our own independent currency;  thus liberating us from the debilitating traditions of aristocratic and bourgeois command over land, resource, and capital.  The ecological-socialist argument maintains that such elements as these must be held in public trust – of stewardship, rather than ownership, of natural elementary resources such as land, water, oil, and so on; and ownership over the produced manufactures derived from such resources: crops, fuels, engineered materials, and so on.  These to be held and used, or sold for the mutual benefit of the people. On such a basis Scotland must provide for its citizens the access to these resources as well as the means of production that can satisfy basic, developmental, and advanced needs for the comfortable conditions that support life, purpose, and well-being.

From this basic, generalised picture, the characterisations of a society can begin to be formulated and it will be useful here to answer the oft-cliched five-faceted question of who, what, where, when and why… is Scotland? (from a visionary perspective).

Who is Scotland?

Scotland is, and can only be, the people that collectively co-operate to form the society of citizens that function within the historical parameters of the national Scottish region.  It is not a national identity, but rather a societal identity: Scots do not have to be born in Scotland, nor is it required to have ancestral ties to Scotland; a Scot is simply a person who lives, works, loves, and plays in Scotland.  Scotland has no national language: instead it is a celebration of humanity where the indigenous vernacular of the Gael can be heard spoken in the same environment as their Urdu or English speaking neighbours.  Scots are liberated from the insular-parochial hybrid of anachronistic British Imperial sentiment: Scots look outward to improve the conditions and relations of peoples across the globe; working to breakdown false barriers of race and class, whilst perpetually celebrating the diversity and flamboyance of cultural variety.

What is Scotland?

Scotland is the revolutionary and evolutionary framework of a society that fuses basic progressive principles with the endeavours of a confederation of people’s assemblies.  Scotland is the people, it progresses from the people, and it is accountable to the people. Participatory democracy is a core tenet whereby:

  • 3 citizens are elected for short determined terms, and by chance, to represent their immediate neighbourhood of up to 300 persons at an assembly of community representatives within their local municipal region;
  • these assemblies debate democratic pursuits against a second chamber of proportionally elected party representatives that offer an active and vibrant critical conscience to Scottish society, liberated from the constraints and obfuscation of intense corporate lobbying power, as well as the necessity to lead the issues – finally championing intellect over pantomine-performance;
  • referenda are undertaken on a monthly basis via simplified technological means;
  • the citizenry decide how budgets are spent at separated hyper-local, local, municipal, and national-regional levels;
  • decisions require a 66% majority to carry through both houses, making coalition, collaboration, and recalibration intrinsic qualities of Scotland’s vibrant democratic culture;
  • the energies of activists are maximised to the point of raising issues for debate or action from within the people, rather than vying simply to have issues addressed by self-serving political professionals.

Where is Scotland?

Scotland is, without being flippant, physically in the north-western region of continental Europe.  As such Scotland forms strong physical links with surrounding societies of all natures to offer collaborative and persuasive energies as appropriate to improve the conditions of neighbouring peoples – most especially our English, Welsh, and Irish neighbours with whom we have recently shared a tumultuous cultural history that will surely continue to evolve.  Scotland is also technologically integrated with the rest of the globe and must assert similar endeavours by whichever practical means as an international beacon of progress, justice and solidarity.

When is Scotland?

Scotland is of the now; liberated from the cultural anchors of the past, but with careful attention paid to any remediation that may be due to past subjugated peoples: for example the issue that much of Scotland’s accumulated wealth arose from the enslavement of African, and other aboriginal peoples, is an unhealthy stigma that needs to be healed.  Scots look for improvements in the current conditions and relations of the people; ever mindful of potential challenges to future generations; and ever conscious of lessons from the past. Scotland is progressive, inclusive , and universal, and discards the intrinsic sanctions of tradition that present an impediment to such just pursuits.

Why is Scotland?

Scotland has for too long been a bus-passenger on a predestined excursion to places that we are not wholly comfortable with:  independence has given us the ability to hold our own forum on what method of transport and what destinations we wish to choose. Recognising the deficits in democracy, culture, and economy that the Union with England had harboured, Scots have now renewed their self-esteem and evaluation of preferred achievements.  The reactionary stance of the UK toward immigration and internationalism was a hair-shirt to Scottish mongrelism, cultural diversity, and sense of common human identity in the plights of other peoples.

What Else?

The main point in all societal discussion must be that both human and systematic tendencies must be taken into account in all aspects of structural thinking. In many ways these two tendencies work in tandem, although there can be no doubt that the one came before the other, it is useful to evaluate each and thus be informed as to the likelihood of success, or failure of planned societal policy.  It is, for example, a human tendency to diversify whilst at the same time needing to coalesce with the same diversified interests in some meaningful and progressive manner; here collaboration, co-operation, and debate are all three very useful human instruments of collective assessment and employment of ideas that lead to progressive results without the dysfunctional sectarianism and opposition that hampers such pursuit.  What this means is that decision making, as well as idea creation cannot be conducted in the exclusive arenas of Parliament and Press as they are now, because just a couple of the systematic tendencies of these instruments are to be a) bureau-centric and b) influenced by charismatic authority; instead these processes must be democratised, universalised, and randomised.  At the same time of course, the human tendency to diversify leads to specialisation, which itself can lead to charismatic expression, and so Parliament and Press functional-facilitation cannot in any way be extinguished: instead these should be allowed full function, but only as secondary instrumentation to the new popular-democratic structure.  These simple paradigms can be applied to almost any societal instrument that is deemed to hold disproportionate influence over the people, and can be easily facilitated with some careful and objective evaluations.

These ideas are not of course consistent with our current experience of Scottish democracy, and it is also unclear how such ideals can be established in the current corpocratic mode of social, economic, and political functionality.  Radical solutions are therefore required.  One such solution involves the elementary acceptance of the above principles along with the deconstruction of current socio-economic dynamics in order to recalibrate the Scottish approach to life, employment, ownership, and citizenship.

The first major question is: from where will the time be afforded to adopt such participatory ideals?  Put simply, a 4 hour-work day is a viable economic paradigm that will obliterate unemployment, and also allow all citizens to fully flourish in other pursuits: community, the arts, caring for the vulnerable, intellectual discussion, scientific and technological development, and so on: Marx’s goal of a worker to all ends and none. Various thinkers of the past have put this forward as an achievable goal, most notably in recent British history Bertrand Russell did so at around the same time as John Maynard Keynes: with every technological advance the instrumental need to work long hours is becoming less and less prevalent – it is only because the ruling classes command the resources and capital that the necessity to work-work-work exists: in reality this is a collusion that the ruling classes present, and that the people fulfil through acceptance.  The collusion is so devious that it co-opts the people into producing more and more wealth stability for the ruling classes, whilst at the same time dividing their own interests further and further into individualised sentiments and pursuits.  Reducing the working week is a liberation ideal: affording and de-commodifying that most precious of human resources: time.

The second question leads quite naturally from the first: how can these principles be afforded? There is required here yet another radical restructuring of economic paradigms: whilst the monetisation of an economy is useful for the ends of exchange, it does not naturally follow that such an ‘exchange’ need exist between the collective produce of the people, and the distribution of such produce to the same people.  In other words, welfare provision need not be a monetised transaction; in fact its very essence as such frames welfare provision within the context of a capitalist structure whereby your means are earned by somehow ingratiating those individuals whom you have benefited  by your labours.  Here then can the case for a citizen’s dividend of mainly material requirements, but also with monetary distribution, be made (an adaptation of the citizen’s income).  There is no logical reason why collectivisation and universal redistribution of those most basic human needs – shelter, warmth, food, water, medicine, holidays, access to travel, access to information and so on – cannot be achieved without co-opting the people into the exploitative machinations of the capitalist superstructure.  Put simply, Scotland must put all feasible means of production into collective stewardship/ownership and provide for its citizens a comfortable life where work is not actually a necessity.

This liberation from the need to work will not, as the Right argue, extinguish productive endeavour; on the contrary it must surely lead Scots to pursue whichever endeavours they wish, and these can be so framed in a localised and monetised market environment, if they so wish.  Full employment then assures the protection of the people from exploitation and sub-standard conditions since they can simply cease working in such a fashion without threat to their vital means of sustenance.  Corporate models must be sanctioned against in favour of co-operative or worker-led enterprise: the introduction of income ratios of around 4:1 would work in favour of more equal reward distribution; the introduction of the Ecuadorian ‘Dignity Wage’ would ensure that those businesses that do adopt the corporate model must ensure base-workers are paid appropriately before profits can be distributed among the share holders; multiply into this a progressive tax system with much higher starting rates and Scotland can achieve the industrious, equitable economy that many on the Left have in mind.  Further to these economically productive employments, local projects such as community farming, community care, community maintenance and so on will likely arise naturally from the anarchic tendencies of people to look after one another – to bolster this however with some collective continuity, the proposal of a community-service programme for all 16-18 year old citizens, based loosely on the national-service programme, should be established as a conduit for initiating and engaging young citizens with the pursuits of community and citizenship through action and education (this, and many other points raised, can be described in far more detail if of any interest); these young people can then return to education more holistically adjusted to societal needs and opportunities: an end to disastrous career advice.

As an exercise this presents some of the flavour of a personal utopian vision of Scotland: it certainly needs criticism, and no doubt some revision before any further development.

Nicky Patterson: @NickyPatterson

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