2007 - 2022

Self Determination and Power


Chomsky gets his round in, in The Black Man, pub, Govan (1990) after Self-Determination and Power conference

Noam Chomsky, ‘yer actual Chomsky’ has come out for Yes. So the line ‘Transformational Generative Linguists for Yes’ may not trip out nicely, but it’s a better endorsement than Sharleen Spiteri.

The Wee Ginger Dug covered the story here, saying:

“Chomsky is perhaps best known for two things – his academic work in linguistics and philosophy, and his criticisms of US foreign policy. In both fields he’s made a reputation for himself as one of the leading thinkers of our day. In the meagre coverage of his thoughts on independence for Scotland, the focus has been on his political views – anti-nuclear, pro-peace, in favour of social equality and freedom of speech. Views which are considered controversial in a warped world.”

But Bella can reveal that the roots of Noam’s go back to this encounter at a pub in Govan (photo thanks to City Strolls) after the Self Determination and Power conference.

Writing in Line Magazine (2011) Neil Cooper put Chomsky’s 1990 visit in context:

When a seventy year old Hamish Henderson sang Freedom Come All Ye at the end of an event billed as something called Self-Determination and Power that took place at the Pearce Institute in Govan, Glasgow in January 1990, it was the ultimate folk-song cabaret. Here, after all, was the man whose co-founding of the School of Scottish Studies in 1951 had kick-started the Scottish folk revival, and here he was singing the song he’d penned that many believe to be Scotland’s real national anthem (with a small n, for Henderson was nothing if not internationalist in outlook). Henderson sang it in his own slightly cracked tones not as part of some officially sanctioned flagship event for Glasgow’s status as European City of Culture that year, but for a low-level grassroots initiative that brought together art and activism in an event that would prove to be of huge trickle-down significance. The Self-Determination and Power event was organised by a loose alliance of the Free University of Glasgow, the Edinburgh Review, then under the editorship of James Kelman advocate Peter Kravitz, and Scottish Child magazine, edited by Rosemary Milne. Also involved were Variant, then a glossy magazine containing provocations from Stewart Home, Pete Horobin’s Dundee-based Data Attic and others; West Coast literary magazine, Here and Now magazine, the radical-based Clydeside Press, and the Scotia bar, then a hub for free-thinking dissent down by the river just across from the Gorbals. Self-Determination and Power had been set up in part as a reaction to Glasgow’s year as European City of Culture, which was seen by many as a cynical attempt to put gloss on what already existed. All the parties behind the Govan event were key players in radical thought who had little truck with political parties and who had more of a grounding in the spirit of punk and hippy inspired grassroots DIY culture. Edinburgh Review had become a major platform for this, as, to a lesser extent, had Scottish Child. The crossovers with the Free University, however, were crucial.

What an insight into Scotland’s radical publishing past and confirmation that social struggles have long and intertwined common roots.

Comments (12)

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  1. yerkitbreeks says:

    Leaves relative newcomers like me a bit overawed.

  2. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Oh how I would love to have been there. Truth to power it always rises to the top.

  3. Has Mr. Chomsky formed a countertheory on the psychological identity attraction of wee dugs and sausage rolls? This would be a major blow to the leading better together intellectuals.

  4. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    The transformational and regenerative power of independence…..deep structure politics.

  5. macart763m says:

    There are days when I wish I was that bit better read or educated and this is one of them.

    I had heard of Chomsky, but had no idea of the reach of the man.

  6. Dj deeprub says:

    Chomsky’s “Manafacturing Consent” is the key text for us. How the media align themselves with class interests to ensure a docile and cowed population. You could write a dissertation on what this side of Chomsky means for indyref. It’s here in video if you have the time….http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=kp&v=PQhEBCWMe44

  7. kishorncommando says:

    Talking of Hamish Henderson I have emailed Eric Bogle hoping he may have a new contribution for the referendum.

  8. manandboy says:

    I eat salmon and haddock regularly.

    I enjoy both immensly and I’m sure they do me the world of good.

    But I’ve never felt the need to be a marine biologist.

    Can someone please explain what I’m missing ?

  9. umbra13 says:

    Here is a link to Neil Cooper’s article as it is worth reading in its entire sweep:
    As presented, the events sound more important that I remember from the time, but that is an effect of proximity. What remains important is that, as Cooper’s article highlight, these events were non-institutional self-organised and broadly open.
    A future novelist and I discussed the strategy at the time as being a deliberate naivety. We had all been in other places and setting and knew how to denounce heresies from 100 yards, but set aside comfortable prejudices to see what could come of that. Sometimes the result was toothgrating niceness and I recall one participant in the breakout session that I was facilitating at the Govan conference launching out against that aspect.
    Overall, it was perhaps only another example of the encounter of a few people passing a brief period of time, but all the more powerful for its lack of position-play, that advancement was neither sought nor gained, that initiatives run their course and nourish others in unexpected ways.

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