On war, and elites

10 Nov

Simon Brooke discusses the relationship between the commons and the elites when it comes to modern war.

Radical Independence Dumfries & Galloway

By Simon Brooke

Wars are not won by elites. Or, to be more precise, twentieth century wars were not won by elites. From the middle of the bronze age to the end of the medieval period wars were, more or less, won by elites – for very long periods an elite warrior, equipped with the best armour and the best weapons of the time, was able to slaughter the peasantry almost with impunity. That’s why the epic battles of both Scotland’s and England’s national myths – Bannockburn and Agincourt respectively – were each in their time so shocking: largely elite armies were defeated – at Bannockburn by careful choice of terrain, at Agincourt by the use of the most basic of peasant weapons – by largely non-elite forces. These battles were, in their time, exceptional. Until the development of the reliable portable firearm the elite warrior was perceived as invincible…

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Remembering the Horror of 9/11 | Nicky Patterson

11 Sep

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40 years ago today the CIA engineered a violent military coup in Chile led by the monster Pinochet.

Allende’s democratically elected socialist/Marxist government was framed as a severe threat to American democracy in its consolidating potential for communist Cuba – a small country that to this day remains under embargo as an enemy to the (almighty) USA.

Friedman, the disciple of Hayek, had been training young Chilean economists at Chicago in the necromancing arts of the shock doctrine.

The coup was planned as mass shock treatment to the Chilean people, and the new Chicago-trained economic doctors were instructed to rebuild Chile according to Friedman’s neoliberal discipline and undet Pinochet’s administration.

In the years that followed tens of thousands of Chilean people fled or were tortured, murdered, and disappeared as the awful shock therapy was administered in Pinochet’s cells and Friedman’s wards.

By deign of democratic accountability the people of the UK were complicit in these tortures and murders – Pinochet and Friedman were fully sponsored by Thatcher and her own vile administration. The “Iron Lady” once said that she had great admiration for the activities of Pinochet,  but that she doubted such tactics would be acceptable in the UK.

Today we should remember how fragile democracy truly is when it doesn’t suit the interests of the powerful ruling class. We should remember also the victims of anti-democratic mass torture and murder across the globe.

Unfortunately the more we learn about the methods of power consolidation by the ruling elites,  the more we realise that justice and fairness cannot be delivered by negotiation, but rather only by revolution can we prevent the savage rape of current and future generations.

FAITH, HOPE, FUTURE! | John Paul Tonner

2 Aug

With the countdown to September 2014, the stories we tell will have an enormous influence in the political action we express. Britain, and how it is understood, our loyalties and feelings about it are under close inspection.

Within the same week as the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 years olds for the Scottish referendum, the top YouTube video doing the rounds is one entitled ‘we didn’t own an ipad’. This version of Billy Joel’s anthemic apology for the baby boomer generation compares playstations and board games (amongst other things) to strike a contrast between growing up now and growing up in the late 70s and 80s. It’s well worth a chuckle; however, with regard to the Referendum debate, this division is misleading. The contrast is not between equally E-savvy 30 year olds and 16 year olds who broadly consume the same reality; the real generational line in the sand is somewhere nearer 1979. The ideas, visions and collective story of Britain on offer to each either side of the line are strikingly different. 

The 18-35 year olds voting in 1979 would have been the first crop of baby boomers, born in the shadow of the post-War consensus. Their parent’s had lived through war, depression and European fascism. This was the New Jerusalem:  the Britain of collective taxation, comprehensive Welfare and Universal provision of health. They worked in a Scottish economy that was often the closest to the British mean in terms of employment and infrastructure.[1] This was a Scotland that shared the same political vision of the UK electorate as a whole, sending MPs to London to play pivotal roles in directing the course of the economy and reshaping Britain’s image as it attempted to shed its leopard skin of Empire. With the exception of the minor irregularities in the 1959 and 1970 General Elections, the majority of Scotland’s MPs were of the same political party as the majority of the UK’s. [2] The future is always fraught with risk; until 1979 the baby boomer generation in Scotland found security in the New Britain. The Spirit of ’45 was still strong.

Cue the 18th September 2014.

The 16-35 year olds voting in next year’s referendum have experienced not just a different Britain, but a different world. Change is the one certainty. Since 1945 the number of nation-states has quadrupled in a global community that has grown dramatically more affluent.[3] The post-79 generation are painfully self-conscious of Britain’s image: at best a cringe-worthy Dad awkwardly trying to fit in, at worst a bully-boy in the world’s 21st century playground. Through their eyes, the credibility of Britain’s imperial might as a force for good has disappeared. They’ve witnessed Britain’s military involvement since 1979 with more cynicism and scrutiny.  Korea, Suez and Borneo have a different feel to The Falklands, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. With the world’s fourth largest defence budget and the fifth largest global exporter of arms, is difficult to feel proud of the UK’s recent military record. Watching that pride being expressed with fervour in the Last Night of the Proms or Royal pageantry events is, for this generation, increasingly like watching a London orientated Disney parade: removed and remote to any meaning in their lives. Particularly true in a Scotland where many don’t feel they are stakeholders in the British establishment of privilege and corruption. Nothing is British sacred; the instruments of state have shown themselves to be fallible and defunct, unravelling the consensus through MPs expenses, illegal wars and class warfare. Project Britain is over, giving way to elitist politics and democratic failure for many: 23 out of 36 years in Scotland from 1979 until the next general election in 2015. This isn’t just a statistical anomaly, a blip in voting differences between Scotland the rest of the UK; this is a fundamental divergence in our values and the types of society we want to live in. Westminster democracy from 1979 until 2015 has resulted in a 64 % failure rate for Scotland, hardly an endorsement for a common vision or shared story. Politicians can no longer rely on the Dunkirk spirit to appeal to a generation that don’t even know where Dunkirk is. The proclaimed ‘Miracle of 1940’ is starting to join the Charge of the Light Brigade or the Battle of Rorke’s Drift– remote events, historically distant and increasingly irrelevant to our identity in the 21st century. The UK cannot rely on the shared experience of war as a social gel- the ‘Iraq Spirit’ only reflects a divided society, people cynically aware of their politicians and distrustful of their political system.

So what is the story we adhere to now, what grand narratives are going to influence young voters in the referendum next year? Commentator Gerry Hassan highlights the need for Scottish society to extend itself beyond the limitations of the British legacy:

‘ a new language and philosophy is required for 21st century Scotland, one which addresses our own unique experience and which also contributes to the wider global debate about the challenges we face. This has to draw from past futures we have created, their limitations and possibilities….and always open to being made and remade’.[4]

Scottish independence is an opportunity for this generation, the post-79 generation, to build their own hopes, dreams and visions of the future. Of course, the dour realism of our climate may hamper some of these utopia ideals, some may gang aft a-gley. However, there is a growing realisation that we have to aspire. It is every generation’s responsibility to offer new hope, clearer direction and fresh belief. This constitutional debate isn’t just another issue amongst a plethora of others; it is a debate about how we do the basics of decision making in our future reality. Voting for independence gives us that option- to create a new narrative that isn’t based on the managed decline of Empire. We can build a story of our own; a young nation ready to face the globally challenges of the 21st century steeped in the labour tradition but not strangle by it. This generation have little to lose from independence, either culturally or to their sense of identity. The status quo, stagnant stuffy Britain ready to extinguish our progressive values, isn’t a viable option.

Yet there are some who claim we need to sacrifice our appetite for self-determination for the perceived safety of London’s womb, that security trumps liberty. Perhaps our story can be inspired words of courage uttered by a nation that faced the same dilemma nearly 250 years ago and has yet to look back. Benjamin Franklin, the leading intellect in the infant American nation remarked –They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.[5] Truly the way we can face the future is by believing in ourselves, our own actions and responsibilities. Everyone has to grow up. It seems the younger generation are more willing to grow up and create their own destiny: a Scotland proud of its British heritage, but not defined or constrained by it.  In the creation of a new story, our actions next September will leave a legacy of faith, hope and self-belief as together we take the exciting initial step into independence. It is this generation that have the voice to determine and shape the Spirit of 2014.


[1] David McCrone, We’re A’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns: Social Class in Twentieth-Century Scotland, in Devine and Findly (eds), Scotland in the Twentieth Century, pg. 108

[3] G Hassan, The Shape of Things to come, pg. 179

[4] G Hassan, The Shape of Things to Come, ImagiNation pg. 187

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

Does Strike Action Work? If So, Let’s Use It… Globally| Nicky Patterson

23 May

David Harvey’s recent article in the Independent claimed that May Day is a Nice Day for a Revolution, and when we consider the vast internationalist solidarity that May Day engenders, I believe he has an excellent case.

I have also recently read Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy (available free to download) which sets out a catalogue of peaceful tactics which he believes can bring about democratic revolution: indeed it has been claimed that his book was studied and employed with tremendous effect in many of the Arab Spring movements.

Now, I am a utopian dreamer – I can admit that – but we have witnessed in the Arab Spring and Occupy Movement, among others, the power of organisation via social media orchestration: what if, just imagine, what if we could organise a new May Day movement that could really redress some of the world’s vast inequalities through a General Global Strike which would not end until 3 simple demands are met.  These demands can be debated perhaps, but I might suggest that we start with cancelling Majority World Debt; Universal Nuclear Disarmament; and a new Emergency Rio Summit where rigorous environmental targets are established along with a clear system of transparent monitoring whereby the methods and progress can be seen by all.

The idea would be that the General Global Strike would not end until particular targets within these demands are met; and the strike would be reinforced annually should non-compliance arise.  Moreover the strike should be on May 1st, and NOT on any prescribed public holiday set aside nearby: the goal is to sting hard and fast, and further to use the threat of such action to both prepare and premeditate some positive responses from our collective governments and multi-national organisations before the main day of mass action.

The principle of using already universally recognised dates, methods, and motivations, means that all that is required in the next year is simple awareness and organisation based on the tenets of solidarity.

Thereafter, or indeed even herein, there also lies the opportunity for sub-continental general strikes to make more specific demands.  For example, in southern Europe the strike might be geared toward ending austerity and a redress of sovereign debts; in northern Europe, it might be for the banks to return all state-funded bailouts, end the link between retail and investment banking, and for the states to bring about full-employment and universal welfare provisions.

If you think that such a strike would be impossible or at the least unsustainable, then we may, in fact already be too late.  My belief is that charity movements like Live 8 are both patronising and ineffectual – they pose as a burden to be paid by one people to help alleviate the conditions of another, WITHOUT the organisations that maintain such odd circumstances having to move a muscle, or indeed spend a penny.  Furthermore the ascendant social-media collaboration of the commons has rendered such things unnecessary and expensive.

The goal is to create Globalised Solidarity working to end Capitalism and bourgeois domination: like pressing the reset button because the system has crashed.  We have nothing to lose but our chains.

@NickyPatterson

A Thought on the Sale of Public Housing Stock to Council Tenants | Nicky Patterson

20 Apr

The sale of council housing stock to social tenants was a method of extending quasi-bourgeoisie attitudes of property (and all of its associated norms and values) deeper into the proletarian mindset, in other words further normalising the concept of property ownership, therefore pre-empting and, thus undermining all future support for proletarian mass action.

How might this process be reversed in a peaceable manner from a retroactive perspective? Is it necessary to do so? Is property ownership (and subsequent transfer by sale) reconcilable with a socialist-collectivist approach to society?

@nickypatterson

Expanding the Scottish Independence Debate into the Common | Nicky Patterson

10 Apr

First off, I am an ardent supporter of an independent Scotland BUT please hear me out: for I am interested only in a fully informed public vote which can only be realised through balanced public debate.

My idea is of a progressive society formed on the pillars of:

  • a participatory and fully accountable democratic republic;
  • egalitarian citizenship based on collective efforts, risks, and rewards that are formed from the community level upwards;
  • a constitution that recognises the universal tendencies of human conditions and behaviours;
  • reversal of private ownership, and a new paradigm of communal stewardship of land, environment, and resources;
  • communal universal welfare provisions with a radical departure away from reliance of what Paul Krugman has called “sado-monetarism”.

With this in mind I have tried to identify political theories or movements with which I can associate mutual prerogatives: the Socialist-Anarchism and Communalism of Murray Bookchin seem to be the closest I have come across yet, and so I am a member of the Scottish Greens – but have become increasingly frustrated by a distinct sleepiness at branch level.  The alienating sectarianism of the Left is too messy and many look with increasing interest to the Left Unity movement. I myself will look to immediately become active within the Radical Independence Campaign.

In recognition of this then, I have struggled often to find common points of reference with my fellow citizens on which to frame a debate about Scottish independence.  For me, winning a Yes vote in September 2014 is just the first step toward realising a fairer and more equal society: the first step on a programme of power and wealth decentralisation that must develop even further than that: delivering true democratic ability out to the community level.

But the common citizen is not yet interested in such ideals or endeavours: for the contemporary Scottish citizen, the majority of political and philosophical debate is utterly superfluous to their familiar points of reference.  What I come across most are issues surrounding interest rates; currency; Bank of England; military security; road conditions; industrial dependency, and other such concerns.  Paramount among these is perhaps suspicion of the apparent SNP stewardship of the Yes Campaign and also their post-independence rhetoric which frames them as the de facto Scottish government (witness the dissemination of their in-house decisions and debates regarding Trident, Nato, the EU and so on) .

As is universally recognised throughout modern society, when a politician is addressed with an issue of really existing popular concern, their answer is invariably obscure, evasive, and fundamentally non-committal.  This is evidenced week-in-week-out in public broadcast forum discussions as well as, I’m sorry to say, Yes campaign launches.

Furthermore closed ‘debates’ are not efficiently helpful: true progress only arises from conflict and this means that townhall debates need to represent as full a spectrum of opinion as possible.

So here we have a triple issue of effectively obfuscating technical language from theorists (the forward looking visionaries) on one hand; and blatantly obfuscating new-speak and non-input from politicians (the retrospective apologists) on the other; and the final hand shuts out opposing (and therefore progressive) voices.  The public debate in my view needs to initially be between lay citizens who can argue and advocate without prosthetic or aesthetic vernacular.  This ‘public’ as in common debate needs to happen now and it needs to be consistently representative of all THREE camps: the Yes, No, and Undecided.  It needs its own place and its own space – free from the nonsense of jargon and bullshit.  It should be given as much broadcast and press coverage as we can collectively muster.

Once this form of public debate between the Yes, No, and Undecided camps has settled into the common conscience, then we can upgrade it with our suggestions of model futures.

Twitter: @nickypatterson

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