Wednesday, 17 September 2014


I am not normally a supporter of adding more countries to the world's list of nominally independent countries. Or at the very least, I am usually ambivalent about it. While localism is sometimes fashionable in progressive circles, there's lots of reason to doubt its merits. [looks pointedly at south of Canadian border.] But: there are sometimes some merits. [looks again pointedly at south of Canadian border.]

Montreal Simon is disappointed at Canadian progressive bloggers for not being as vocal as he for #YesScotland. I admit, I haven't said as much on the subject as I could have. Canadian bloggers outside Québec, particularly anglophones, would have a not-unexpected negative reaction to separatist campaigns, a tendency whose origins I will not go into too much here, except to say that the most recent incarnation of a PQ government, at precisely the moment when a progressive stand against Ottawa made the most sense, instead decided to shift with disastrous results into a more ethnoculturally-focused footing.

But despite my general reluctance towards these things, I am inclined to wish for a yes vote in Scotland, even knowing that a yes vote would bring out a host of unresolved risks and problems and is not guaranteed necessarily to be everything that the #YesScotland campaign might hope it would be, at least in the short and medium terms. The reason for me to give the crucial Vala endorsement of the yes side is thus:

The UK, and London in particular, is in some sense the epicenter of a political dynamic that started in the 70s and has now almost fully played itself out. Nowhere in the world is the neoliberal dead end more visible than in the UK, for all that it possesses a more comprehensive social state than e.g. the USA---now almost an accident of history, because unlike Great Britain, the US actually has had a recent if very flawed expansion of its social state. But the UK is at a dead end. Of all the countries in Europe that should be considering leaving the EU---itself a flawed institution that has slowly turned itself into a nightmare---the UK is the last to have something to complain about, as it is not suffering the effects of the Eurozone. And yet, the biggest pressure to leave comes from people whose primary objection seems to be the EU's social standards and human rights protections!

Something's gotta give. The situation and ideological paralysis epitomized by an unbreakable consensus in Westminster (reflected throughout the world, but it seems particularly present there) cannot last forever. There will be a rupture. And there as a choice as to which kind of rupture it is. It seems to me that the first stone thrown can either be the formal ascendency of an explicitly chauvanistic and regressive English nationalism, or it can be an optimistic and progressive-minded Scottish civic nationalism. I fully realize that even under the latter, there can be nodules of darkness hiding behind blue and white. But nothing is perfect, and there are few better opportunities. I suspect the result will be end up being a few percentage points for the "No", but whatever the outcome, the UK will never be the same. Which, at this point, is something to be hoped. I know it's not fair to place burdens on liberatory movements, but if Québec sovereigntism can adopt a similar spirit once again, I'm now less against it than I might have been, because Ottawa too is trapped in the same London paralysis.


Kirbycairo said...

I sympathize with your feeling Janet. I too have been ambivalent about the whole thing. While I sympathize with the Scottish people's desire to break free of a neo-liberal government to which they have been more or less enslaved, I am not sure that localism is the answer to such problems. From a normal cultural sense Scottish sovereignty makes less sense than Quebec sovereignty given that the majority of Scots only speak English. And even though I certainly believe that the people of Scotland have a right to self determination, I am seldom comfortable with the concept of 50% plus 1 being a standard for changing constitutions.

But, regarding Simon's disappointment, I haven't bothered writing about the issue in large part because I have assumed that the "NO" side will win. It is almost always easier to win a vote based upon a fear of change than a hope for something new.

Beijing York said...

The media bias against the yes side has firmly renewed my support for an independent Scotland. This drive to protect and strengthen their autonomy has led to this point. I heard a clip from a BBC Scotland call-in show on As It Happens last night that included one woman who spoke of the days when Scotland was ruled by an iron fist and that many decried the devolution of decision-making power over items such as education, claiming that standards would fall. As she put it, the attitude was so paternalistic and condescending and she saw the same attitude again during the referendum campaign.

Given my family background, separatism or the desire for independence from a past imperial imposition has never been anything less than a noble goal for many Basques and Catalans. I could do without the terrorism, but in the case of the Basques, they were brutally treated by the Franco regime - so there is that.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I am a south-of-your-border(er), so perhaps it's none of my business.

But this guy is on blog roll (as are you, Dammit Janet!), and I like the case he makes.

lagatta à montréal said...

Well, I was a founding member of Québec solidaire, and we never bought into the PQ's "identitaire" silliness. Actually, I'm in favour of a secular state, but secularism must attack the dominant religion(s) first and foremost, starting with the crucifix in the National Assembly. In Québec, we've eliminated confessional education, but there is far too generous state funding for private schools (including religion-based schools) many of which (of all the Abrahamic monotheisms, at least) advocate the subjugation of women.

And secularism has absolutely nothing to do with how private citizens dress.

Námo Mandos said...

Here's a good article in The Guardian by an Englishwoman in England supporting Yes.

Námo Mandos said...

Lagatta: that's another merit of a Scottish Yes vote---a successful independence effort whose major campaign points were not based in ethnocultural identity.

Only a few hours left, but I am still guessing about 3-4 points ahead for No---however, my election prediction skills are poor. Still, pretty groundbreaking.

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