The Scottish Indy Podcast Episode 13 – Robin McAlpine

For Episode 13 Michael Greenwell spoke with Robin McAlpine who, amongst other things, is the editor of Scottish Left Review and the director of the advocacy group The Reid Foundation.

Democracy was a big theme in the discussion and we spoke about the importance of mapping out the stages of the independence process and how democracy is key in every part of that. We also talked about the weakness of local democracy in Britain in general and Scotland in particular and how this is something that needs changing.

Furthermore, we talked about the hollowing out of democracy that has been successfully carried out by the neoliberal institutions and why Scottish Independence will help to at least improve this situation.

A very interesting point on why it is crucial not to allow cultural arguments to be removed from the Independence debate is in there somewhere as well.

This is the direct download link (right click and save as)

Listen online at the home page

Comments (8)

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  1. martinthorpe says:

    For my two pennyworth see the foot of the earlier “MADELEINE” article, November 12, 2012.
    As ever, any constructive criticism greatly appreciated.

  2. I have to say I am very worried by Pat Kane’s stance on radical Labour; and I did try to post a reply to Pat, but Bella-ra-Fella didn’t put it up. It was all about ‘Vulgar Marxism’, Hegelian Dialectics, and Marxian develoment theory; Labour Marxist superstructure ideology, controlling the Communist infrastructure economy is basically what it all amounts to, and Pat Kane thinks a ‘radicalised’ Labour political Party should be allowed to ‘prosper’ at the expense of Scots, Scotland, and the independent Nation of Scotland!

    Robin, I’ve read your writing before, and it is ‘centrist’ for the most of it, but you do show ‘radicalised’ ideals when you espouse Labour; Scotland really isn’t going in that direction, regardless of what Pat thinks! Scots’ will vote ‘Yes’, but we are getting hacked-off by the Main-Stream-Media Union bias; the BBC, STV, their news and political programmes are harmful to watch now. Even the Press like the Herald, The Scotsman are all getting hacked-off themselves with being ‘ordered’ to write their rubbish. And it is all for Labour, and against SNP. If Labour think we are stupid enopugh not to notice this, then they MUST be, and deserve to be finished from politics in Scotland.

    1. martinthorpe says:

      I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to know what exactly constitutes your “thoughts” on…… “‘Vulgar Marxism’, Hegelian Dialectics, and Marxian develoment theory; Labour Marxist superstructure ideology, controlling the Communist infrastructure economy is basically what it all amounts to,” or doesn’t as the case may be.

      I like many await with bated breath. Oh and one last thing, I was born in the Simpson Maternity Ward in the good year of Our Lord 1965, which I think makes me Scottish.

      1. martinthorpe says:

        So please, please re-post allymax bruce, a nation awaits.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          It would be really good to keep the tone of comments constructive. If it just descends in to baiting other people we get nowhere. Thanks

      2. Hi martin, I tried to post 5 comments last night, but whoever was ‘moderating’ wouldn’t allow my comments to go up; I tried to reply to you saying I’ll do my utmost to get my Marxism paper out as soon as possible, but my political activism comes first, and that takes up most of my time just now. Can’t wait until the ‘Yes’ vote; I retire!

  3. bellacaledonia says:

    Ally – among people looking forward to a new beginning for Scotland the tired old Labour-SNP bipolar Punch and Judy Show is over.. at least until after the 2014 Referendum. Its only the party faithful that give a shit about the ding-dong between political parties. Which, by the way, is less than 50,000 people in a country of 3.7 million adults. Its a minority sport. I dare say this will change in the run up to 2016 election but one thing at a time 🙂


  4. martinthorpe says:

    It’s been a blast but like all good things it has to come to an end, and for me that end was matriarchy in the tropics. So sorry that I won’t be around to read ally max bruce’s Marxist epic but as they say; things to do, people to see. Just a couple of thoughts before I sign-off…..

    Walter Benn Michaels in his excellent book The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality points out that only 20% of new jobs created in the US require a degree level education, and that the fastest growing employment sector (in the US) is personal care for the elderly. Which I’m sure you will agree may require many attributes but a university education isn’t necessarily one of them. Add to this what Andre Gorz has to say about structural un/underemployment:

    The rate of unemployment among the unskilled is due not to their lack of professional skills, but to the fact that one third of skilled or highly skilled people are in unskilled occupations -for want of being able to find anything better- and have thus elbowed out those who ought normally to be able to fill these jobs. Instead of subsidising unskilled jobs by way of basic income, it is the redistribution of skilled jobs that ought to be subsidised by considerably lowering the hours of work in those occupations.

    Gorz wrote this nearly twenty years ago and even Michaels book is nearly a decade old, things have inevitably got a lot worse since, but you’d never know it, unless like me you’ve experienced it at first hand. The inability and/or unwillingness of the political and media mainstream (and most of the non-mainstream for that matter) to acknowledge these simple truths is staggering, but demonstrates an abiding tendency amongst our species: the greater the problem, the greater the denial. It also illustrates another general tendency, namely that history is written by the victors, which in this context mean that those who govern and those who report (including those on the Left) are invariably also those invariably for whom the system has worked.

    Unsurprisingly the attempts by UK governments of both hews have to tackle the problem of structural un/underemployment through a combination of family credit, mass university enrollment and workfare, with the implicit assumption that if we can only improve the educational level of the workforce we can get the buggers into work and off welfare as proved to be an unmitigated failure, as yesterdays announcements clearly demonstrated. The reality is however (as Michaels points out) that we could send every eighteen year old to (in his example) Harvard but it wouldn’t have any appreciable affect on employment patterns, wage rates or poverty levels. This is certainly my experience of the labour market; I spent years working in retail, earning little and sharing the experience predominantly with graduates and doctorates, the majority of whom like me never advanced wage-wise much beyond 20K, and with many over time (again like me) going significantly backwards from even this sub average UK salary figure. When one adds into this prolonged periods of straight unemployment and scale it up you begin to see just how serious the crisis is facing us. I have no property, no pension and no savings and I’m far from alone. How on earth are you going to sustain current levels of social spending let alone that required to account for the coming demographic revolution on such a precarious tax base. Well, the answer is pretty simple: you grow the public sector workforce, shower the underclass with family credit and other subsidies and borrow, borrow, borrow and hope for the best. As I have alluded to elsewhere on this site the concern expressed by the Guardianista classes with the plight of the underclass is all well and good but it really misses the point, if an economy fails to harness the talents of people like me the fate of the functionally illiterate at least in economic terms is an irrelevance.

    Mainstream political parties are essentially driven and sustained by patronage; the leadership is basically the gatekeeper to well paid employment that offers a host of ancillary benefits; post retirement media career, gold platted pension, directorships and straight forward graft. Therefore it should come as absolutely no surprise that the majority of those drawn to such institutions are by and large on the make. For a brighter than average working class kid with few prospects the career path of the trade union movement and then onwards and upwards into the local and then parliamentary Labour Party was and still is about the only legal method of significant social and financial elevation.

    The Labour Party uncannily resembles the military in its hierarchal organisation; with a cadre of working class/lower middle class trade union types doing the heavy lifting, and from whose numbers a lucky few are promoted to senior NCO status (MP’s), and an Oxbridge officer corps that monopolise the really important positions of state, (Cabinet ministers).

    Bella Caledonia joins the dowdy pantheon of self-described “radical and inclusive” organisations that litter the history of the post-war Left. The reality is that you like they are nothing of the sort; this is amply demonstrated by the proceedings of the recent Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow. Now imagine if you will; you’re passionate about Scottish Independence and you decide that this is just the kind of event for you, but there’s only one snag, you’re Jewish (and before you even think it, no I’m not) and you find yourself in less than complete agreement with the opinions of the organisers. What do you do: go along, keep your head down and say nothing; go along and get harangued or most likely not bother at all. The point I’m making is that this talk of inclusion and respect is bullshit plain and simple, it’s inclusion and respect but only if you agree with me and the comrades, which would be bad enough if it was on the central issue at hand, but of course it isn’t, it’s on an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with the matter in hand. What it does do however is demonstrate the wonderful logical disconnect that affects so many on the Left; we can debate just so long as no one actually disagrees on anything of substance. That striking the right poise is all matters. That blatantly playing the race/religious card while condemning others for doing likewise is done without the merest twinge of hypocrisy. That what is important is to get a few like-minded friends from faraway places to come over so you can all join in a big, backslapping love-fest, whilst ignoring the downtrodden on your doorstep. How seductive it is to search out cut and dried, black and white, good versus evil conflicts in faraway places that you know little about and can affect even less, make them your litmus test for participation and then wonder why nobody in the wider population takes your even remotely seriously. Instead of developing practical proposals and communicating them to a wider audience its much more appealing to sit in a room with a bunch of carbon copies and congratulate yourselves on what a bunch of Bravehearts you all are. This also has the great advantage that it means you don’t have to spend any time in your own back yard, populated as it is with a boorish, uneducated, and ungrateful working class that never ever seem to appreciate all the good work that you put in on their behalf. All those conferences on expenses, working parties at Holyrood, the endless hours spent sitting on this quango and that, oh yes its altogether eminently much more productive (and a whole lot more fun) to chew the tapas fat with your new Catalan chums than get on a bus to Coatbridge and try and persuade a few of the great unwashed how posturing in support of Hamas (a nastier bunch of fascist thugs its hard to imagine) is going to help transform their life for the better.

    Pat Kane inadvertently let the cat out of the bag with his wonderfully surreal suggestion that the next step in building on the “success’ of the RIC was some kind of Adam Curtis type documentary! Now I like Adam Curtis, and obviously Pat Kane does too, but the vast majority of the electorate, no I don’t think so. In fact why not just recycle the wonderful Off-Kilter by Jonathan Meades, it’s ready made, eminently relevant and watched by about the same number of people. This kind of navel staring cobblers is sadly the meat and drink of the so-called (at least by the participants) Radical Left. The reality is that they are neither radical nor particularly Left. The causes they gravitate towards invariably have little or nothing to do with the lives of most ordinary Scots, and consequently are largely ignored. Stephen Dorril, one of the founders of that fine periodical The Lobster summed it up very nicely some years ago, the exact quote I don’t have to hand but basically it was that after years plodding round the doorsteps of Hull on behalf on the Labour Party he had concluded that far from it being the case that what was required was for the majority to have the blinkers removed from their eyes and the prospect of socialist paradise revealed, the vast majority of the population simply weren’t interested in politics, and never were going to be interested. A statement that if made in connection with stamp collecting, train-spotting, Bridge or buggery would one imagines illicit nothing more than mumbling agreement by the readership of this site, but if one were to suggest the possibility that politics might fall into this ambit you’d be denounced as some kind of bourgeoisie sell-out or worse. Folks, the uncomfortable truth is that the vast majority of you’re fellow Scots aren’t capable of even the most basic level of abstract thought, without which sophisticated political debate of the kind that you endlessly indulge in is simply impossible. They don’t know what the hell you’re talking about and they don’t care. If you’re serious about Scottish independence then you have to accept this fact and tailor your message accordingly, but that assumes that you’re motivated primarily by your stated objective, but sadly from all that I’ve seen on this site and my wider experience of and in the Scottish Left I sincerely doubt that this actually is the case.

    By bye Bella, I wish you well.


    PS My posts may to some have been somewhat intemperate in tone, but as you may have guessed I’m pretty pissed-off with my lot and have been for many years. Talking amongst yourselves is all well and good as is meeting-up for the occasional conference, not least as it offers the opportunity for the odd bit of leg-over Olympics but at the end of the day that shyster Salmond has for reasons of pure ego and hubris propelled the nation to a point of premature decision. I don’t think the vote has a cat in hells chance of going our way, for that you’d need to have at least five years of +70% polling figures. So, the question to be asked and answered is how quickly and in what form can you reconstitute another vote, and in this if nothing else I’m rather optimistic. The global economy and the Eurozone in particular are buggered and no amount of central bank financial chicanery will alter that. The long term employment trends in all the advanced economies (Germanyincluded; there are only so many machine tools you can sell the Chinese before they start making and selling their own) a permanent structural change that ensures that capitalism at least as we’ve known it for the last couple of hundred years is as dead as the Dodo. The Left needs of get of its mental knees, look beyond trade unionist slogans and embrace a future that will be here a lot sooner than you or I can imagine.

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