Why have the Greens Disappeared from the Independence Debate?

Great post Clare – many thanks. It points to the liberating possibilities that accompany recognising what holds you down, and the creativity and responsibility that comes with recovering hope and refusing to blame others any more. This post is absolutely great.
But it is also far harder than that for (at least) three reasons:
(1)  there’s a need to recognise the forces out there (and habits in here) that disempower, unless you do that you can’t be free of them, but paradoxically you also can’t be free of them until you stop blaming the forces out there, and instead insist on taking the blame for going along with it, and so reclaim the power to change it
(2) it’s important to draw a temporary line and say ‘we’ (Africa, Scotland, indigenous People, Women, old people, impoverished – whatever the colonised, exploited, blamed category is. . . ) it is important to say that ‘we’  won’t stand this any more, and to say that ‘you’ can no longer get away with it; BUT it’s so easy then for things to coalesce around the newly liberated category and for it to not recognise that it’s new found freedom gives it the opportunity to similarly disempower others unless it is alert to that possibility, in particular in this context the need to ensure power passes straight on down to communities and to people caught in currently disempowered categories,  rather than simply be redeployed by a new non-independent (because still in thrall to corporations) state based in Edinburgh
(3) one way around that is to recognise an affinity with broader currents of liberation that are happening globally, and must happen globally if we are ro survive; but just as potent is to recognise an affinity with all the powerful currents of creativity that needs to be liberated in those who are oppressing and colonising, all those who have been so powerfully disempowered that they have become the forces that oppress. The easier way to do this is to recognise the creative currents (artistic, musical, socialist, green, feminist, communitarian) in the category that is oppressing, in this case recognise the destructive impact of the colonising Norman to British empire state that has oppressed and twisted English creativity and care.
But this recognition has to run deeper than this: look, for example, at the body language of a millionaire Tory cabinet minister and you don’t see a relaxed empowered person, you see a nobody driven out of themselves at an incredibly early age, a drivenness that takes the place of being at home in themselves, you see a homeless soul trying to compensate by building barricades around their isolated palace and by driving others out of their homes. This doesn’t suggest we should have any sympathy for their actions, but that we can be far more empowered if we recognise they have no ground to stand on but their empty power, while we can be at home in ourselves and with each other. But look at the body language of the First Minister- there is a welcome redeployment of many of the same forces, this time in service to the disempowered category.
But looking at post-colonial leaders in Africa, it is so easy for such leaders – once successful – to simply embrace the forces they appeared to have been resisting, and continue a deeper colonisation of their own peoples in service to the bigger forces of colonisation, forces bigger than any states.

(4) so if it is worthwhile, a move to independence has to be liberating beyond a long and deceptive moment of liberation like the one many of us experienced when Blair was elected and my son and I climbed the Pentlands and looked north, east, south and west and were so overjoyed that no Tories had been elected for as far as the eye could see and way way beyond. Being  elected with such hope and relief, Blair had an ability to carry out warfare,  extend privatisation and hand all power to finance (think PFIs) in a way and to a depth that the Tories could never have done, because while they were in power we still had a category way of framing our opposition (Labour against Tory, just as currently we have Scotland against the British state). .

So  we need to make the move to independence be about far more than us against them, and make it instead about us also wanting to liberate them (as Ghandii so successfully managed with the British).

We need to make it about much more than Salmond and the SNP and nationalism. We need to recognise that all of these can become as oppressive – or more oppressive – than the current state of affairs, where there is at least a deep knowledge that this is not what we would choose.

We meed to approach all this with a lighter touch, with a hopeful-but-in-this-for-the-long-haul confidence.

We need to be able to be more playful, and far more critical and generous, including being both self-critical and also recognising the qualities and difficult histories of others.

Unless we recognise that it’s the way we do this they matters far more than whether we are successful or not, we could end up as pompous,, superficial and murderous as Blair’s post-Thatcher Britain or as failed as any post-colonial African state (a failure for its people because a success for those forces bent on continuing to exploit its resources and people).

So what are the touchstones, the grounds of struggle and celebration and empowerment?

How can we tell if what we are doing is fuelling an independence movement that will lead to an intensification of disempowerment, or one that is enabling a flowering of self-determination and autonomy?

4 suggested touchstone questions:

– is it for, or is it against?

– is it seeking peoples’ self-determination and autonomy from  other categories within and beyond itself (does it gather those struggles into this moment and advance them as it advances), or does it marginalise them and say they will have to wait while we focus on ourselves?

– does it recognise that if it is truly liberating it will both generate an overwhelming attempt to stop it (out of all seeming proportion to its reasonable assertion/ request), but that it will also gather support from across the world, and from those within the categories it seeks to liberate itself from, and from those within itself who might otherwise reject it (out of all seeming proportion to it’s reasonable assertion/ request).

– can it focus on disentangling the histories and current dynamics of this particular oppression, while remaining fully aware of it’s potential to oppress, and remaining fully aware of the need to help liberate those in the category currently experienced as oppressing?

For me, this is why the Greens have gone increasingly silent on independence as the prospect of it happening increases.

I am a Green myself, but I do not speak as someone who has ever had or sought any position in the party, and I may not be speaking for anyone else in the party.

But as a Green myself, I think it is crucial we Greens step forward and explain why we have huge concerns about an independence framed in nationalist terms, but also explain why we have a real hunger to participate in a struggle for real autonomy and self-determination, and that we recognise that this moment and this struggle offers real opportunities to advance a movement towards liberation without which there is every likelihood this planet will become uninhabitable for humans by the end of this short short century.

So who and what are we Greens?

Fundamentally we Greens need to realise and explain to others that:

This moment and this struggle to reclaim sovereignty from Westminster offers a real and rare opportunity to advance a movement towards liberation without which there is every likelihood this planet will become uninhabitable for humans by the end of this short short century.

That this is a rare opportunity to put forward a vision of what real sovereignty could mean, and so enable us to strike out now in a direction all countries will eventually have to follow. The urgency of the need to show other countries it is possible to rapidly decarbonise, localise and humanise our economy can be measured by the depth of resistance to such a move.

In this, we need to be fundamentally realistic about the depth of change needed, and about the absolute  inclusivity required to achieve it.

We work globally to renew locally. We work locally to renew globally.

And the other key move we need to make – as part of as broad and deep a movement as possible – is  to reclaim and reshape the state so that it is no longer kept in place as a forceful tool that uses people’s identity as a way of dividing us against each other and so enable far more powerful forces to exploit us.

Reclaiming the state can play a powerful part in enabling us to resist being continually divided, uprooted and exploited.

But only if statehood is a means to multiple levels of liberation, rather than it being the end of liberation.

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  1. Jim Jepps says:

    I think it’s a fair enough question and I hope to see the Green Party throw themselves more enthusiastically into the argument.

    However, they aren’t completely silent. Here’s Patrick Harvie speaking in three recent YouTube videos on the question. First two are newsnight and holyrood the third is at the morning star conference

    http://www.patrickharviemsp.com/2012/01/the-referendum-debate-picks-up-pace/

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks good post

  2. moujick says:

    Yeah, was really pleased to see Patrick Hrvie on Newsnight the other night clearly stating the Green’s support for Independence and clearly articlulating the fact that the removal of Trident was a major factor in defining the Greens consolidation of support for Independence over Devo Max. I think this view and the clear articulation of it to the Scottish public can really support the Independence campaign.

  3. vronsky says:

    Let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I’m not sure that what Justin says amounts to satisfactory grounds for Green reservations on support for independence. There are two salient points (1) progress to a more social democratic system of governement with the UK is effectively impossible, so independence is essential (2) merely establishing independence is not the answer to all, or even any, of our concerns; the struggle must and will go on – but in rather more propitious circumstances.

    1. Colin Dunn says:

      “progress to a more social democratic system of governement with the UK is effectively impossible, so independence is essential”

      Agreed. It’s just the first step. The big changes come after.

      Colin

  4. Justin Kenrick says:

    Hi Folks,

    Misunderstanding between me and Mike: that was very much a first draft, and not yet a fully formed or fully clear post!

    Agreed Vronsky, the point I was trying to make (not yet clearly!) is that as Greens we are wanting much more than independence – and my question was how can we Greens help the push for independence ny showing how independence can help the push for deeper autonomy and self-determination (and doing this in a way that ensures that the larger movement guards against the fact that often independence for states has led to deeper restrictions on the autonomy and self-determination for other levels and groups within its boundaries, rather than enhanced them).

    As well, as this there is some really excellent Green thinking going on on this process. There is Patrick clearly stating that Greens are interested in how increased powers can help (in Jim Jepps links above), and clearly stating that we reject the picture of those in the SNP who see independence as a route to Scotland becoming a tax haven (and so just perpetuating inequality, exploitation and instability in our society and globally), and there is Adam Ramsay giving a very clear Green analysis, including a suggestion that if the referendum is about identity then an independence referendum might be lost, but if it about where power should lie – Westminster or Holyrood – then it is far more likely to be wont:
    http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2012/01/three-things-about-the-independence-referendum-scrap/

    The second draft of this post was going to end:

    So who and what are we Greens?

    Fundamentally we Greens need to realise and explain to others that:

    This moment and this struggle to reclaim sovereignty from Westminster offers a real and rare opportunity to advance a movement towards liberation without which there is every likelihood this planet will become uninhabitable for humans by the end of this short short century.

    That this is a rare opportunity to put forward a vision of what real sovereignty could mean, and so enable us to strike out now in a direction all countries will eventually have to follow. The urgency of the need to show other countries it is possible to rapidly decarbonise, localise and humanise our economy can be measured by the depth of resistance to such a move.

    In this, we need to be fundamentally realistic about the depth of change needed, and about the absolute inclusivity required to achieve it.

    We work globally to renew locally. We work locally to renew globally.

    And the other key move we need to make – as part of as broad and deep a movement as possible – is to reclaim and reshape the state so that it is no longer kept in place as a forceful tool that uses people’s identity as a way of dividing us against each other and so enable far more powerful forces to exploit us.

    Reclaiming the state can play a powerful part in enabling us to resist being continually divided, uprooted and exploited.

    But only if statehood is a means to multiple levels of liberation, rather than it being the end of liberation.

  5. Alex Buchan says:

    Kenyon Wright was on the radio twice in the last 24 hour advocating that between now and the referendum there needs to be a process of debate drawing in wider sections of society. Given that Labour, Tories and Lib Dems want to close down discusion I think that the Greens have a vital role in joining others in ensuring that there is the widest possible discussion over the kind of Scotland we want to build coming out of a critique of what’s gone before.

  6. Ray Bell says:

    Thank for this Justin, and I hope that you shall exert your influence as a party member to put it back on the agenda.

    I think unfortunately there is a two way thing going on here – the Greens have been squeezed out by the SNP, and ome of the top Greens are not greatly interested in it. I always got the impression that Eleanor Scott was more pro-independence than Robin Harper.

    With Tommy Sheridan muck raking over, the Greens are the only real alternative to the SNP in Scotland in this regard.

    “We need to make it about much more than Salmond and the SNP and nationalism.”

    You’re right, it’s not just a one party issue. There’s more at stake.

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