2007 - 2021

Yes Meet Jez

corbyn-arrest-rob-scottMuch space in the newspaper comment pages has been given over to speculation about what a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party would mean for Scotland’s independence movement. To political professionals in the elite bubble, the big question is whether a left wing leadership would draw anti-austerity No voters back to Labour from the SNP.

Meanwhile, on social media, in the synapses of the independence movement’s networked brain, that question has seemed secondary. Aside from some moments of anger after Corbyn spoke against Home Rule, the independence movement has been very supportive of his leadership bid, without compromising its demands for Scottish democracy. In #JezWeCan, many independence activists see an English reflection of our own movement.

Professional politicians and commentators focus on the political theory, the left-right positioning. This makes for easy thinking and easy copy, but it misses the deep material processes driving these political changes. To most activists, in Marshall McLuhan’s now-overused formulation, “the medium is the message.” Form can be more important than content.
From Yes to Jez to Occupy to Bernie Sander’s presidential run, diverse mass movements with wildly different politics (respectively, independent nationalism, Bennism, anarchism, and democratic socialism) are using organisational forms that give them much more in common than their ideologies would suggest.

In his recent book PostCapitalism, Paul Mason argues that the old industrial working class, which socialists called a “historical subject,” a class of people capable of transforming society, is being superseded by “networked individuals.” He relates this to an early-90s theory of the “universally educated person,” a new type of citizen able to use the internet to call on all of human knowledge piecemeal, as and when they need it. That sounds a lot like the yes movement, which educated itself in everything from EU entry criteria to monetary theory as issues came up in the campaign.

If Mason is right, we are only at the beginning of the development of this new class. At a similar stage in the development of the working class, trade unions were evolving as secret societies, Robert Owen was building experimental communes, and demonstrations were calling for parliamentary democracy for the first time.

The movements of the networked class are still searching for successful tactics. The hard problem for the working class was to educate and organise, to connect people together. For the networked class, this is the easy bit – the internet has reduced the cost of organising drastically. During the yes campaign, newcomers organised demonstrations of thousands, a task that once required many long and dull days of flyering and postering. This was made possible by the formation of dense networks with many connections. The (largely unnoticed) phenomenon of mass facebook friending allowed the movement to push articles from Bella and others out to hundreds of thousands of Scots.

In combination with high quality crowdfunded news and comment websites this allowed a far wider range of perspectives to reach the public. The centre of politics shifted away from the narrow politics of the media and political classes, and towards the broad left-wing politics of the Scottish people.

Humans are driven to conform, and good thing too, or there could be no society. Unfortunately, when we watch television news, our views are shifted because a wide variety of people are presented agreeing with ruling class viewpoints. We feel an urge to agree, just as we would if all our friends shared a point of view.

Social media has inverted that pyramid, to great upset from journalists. Now they have to face the views of thousands of (often angry) ordinary people, and once a dense network such as Scotland’s politicised Facebook users is formed, we can establish our own social and ideological consensus. Social media movements have been able to break out of neoliberal thinking, but are still search for tactics that can break us out of neoliberal economics.

Occupy Wall Street and its cousins from Turkey to Egypt to Spain tried mass encampments, which changed the debate but did not give them power as a class. The yes movement, #JezWeCan and Bernie Sanders are now trying to remould pre-internet political parties. As we have seen in Greece, this too is likely to fail – parties can be formed or changed, but they do not know how to defeat the pressure from international finance that brought Callaghan and Mitterand to their knees. It will take years or decades for the new movements to create suitable institutions, or to make old institutions suitable.

What links Yes to Jez is not politics, but these underlying shifts in the cost and nature of organising. They are both examples of a wholly new kind of political movement, expressing the common interest of a new type of human. The old political class, hamstrung by their self-interest in the old ways, will be the very last to grasp this fact.


Comments (27)

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  1. dunderheid says:

    The only way to “defeat the pressure from international finance” is to completely opt out of the global economic system a la North Korea…so Sturgeon or Salmond as the Glorious Leader?

    1. Neil Anderson says:

      You really ARE a Dunderheid aren’t ye?

    2. JBS says:

      Nah, I reckon the Glorious Leader will be you: Kim Kard Dunder, Great Moghul of Scotland, Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Revolutionary Suicide College of Auchtermuchty.

      I predict that one of your first acts after coronation will be to order a certain number of your most trusted acolytes to dress up as pink bunnies and give you reassuring hugs every day…

  2. Tam Dean Burn says:

    This throws up a lot of great interesting stuff that ties in with my thoughts of the need for new forms of political organisation beyond the old school parties. It also ties in with our discussions at the commonweal butterfly rammy Edinburgh fringe show. We are riffing of the Scots word ‘swither’ today and David Torrance is on the panel. I’ll raise this. Cheers Alistair, Tam

    1. Simon Findlay says:

      Seeing as David Torrance is on the panel surely “numpty” would be a better choice.

  3. douglas clark says:

    Fascinating stuff. It is for articles like this one that I read Bella.

  4. Jim Graham says:

    What has happened in Scotland, and is happening now in England and Wales, is that the people have started to bring political control back to the masses. One of the great benefits of this has been the growth in disregarding the establishment’s mainstream media propaganda. Long may that continue!

    Some politicians are currently ‘in denial’. Nevertheless, they are going to have to come to terms with an informed public that is no longer willing to put up with their self-interests or party-interests taking precedence over the reasons we sent them to Parliament. We are a new public! We are so much more engaged and quickly see politician’s views and votes within the system! These changes in scrutiny are permanent.

    Labour, Tories, SNP, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP et al – Remember your purpose! We are watching!

  5. Alex Beveridge says:

    No such thing a an “ordinary”person, Alistair. The reason we are so engaged these days, is because we are all real, extraordinary people.

  6. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    The interesting thing is nobody knows.

    Usually when there’s political change, it means acceleration to a snails pace. However, things are moving fast. More people are demanding change. Corbyn’s campaign confirms the extent to which the Westminster bubble and the MSM are hopelessly out of touch with ordinary people.

  7. C Rober says:

    One question I do have to ask myself about Corbyn is will he keep the mindset that the Scots labour voter is still in some way subservient to Labour of England? So far he strikes me of a similar vein of socialist politics as Dewar , perhaps he can continue his battle even if the party lied about it during indy.

    So far from what I have seen though he is a breath of old air , not fresh air , to the party at least South of the Border , but he would do nothing for the party north of Carlisle if he does not head towards at least a federal Scotland.

    But why would he want to , the simple answer is proof of delivery , the reversal of Rule over Scotland at least in part is to the betterment of some if not the many ie the north of England.

    While oil is somewhat off the table being uneconomical for god only knows how long , it makes sense , however a bigger war in the Arabian peninsula driving up the price of oil is on the kerds in circa 4 years time to redress that….or sooner if Kim jong 50 missing subs are sitting off the coast of UAE etc.

    I did notice one of my favourite Labour party members was at his side at a meeting in Scotland with him , Katy Clark , despite her being spoonfed during indy and given orders on the party policy to conform or lose her job , which resulted in her losing her seat to SNP McMafia family the Gibsons of North Ayrshire anyway , she is a bit more battle ready than battle weary at present , and if She says Corbyn then I would jump ship towards Labour – but only if there is a federal solution on the table.

    Until then Labour is still doomed in Scotland , regardless of whom is at the helm and whether the boat is Scots or English registered.

    1. Jane Kidd says:

      Very interesting C Rober, but you missed the point of the article which was not a critique of either SNP or Corbynism.

      “What links Yes to Jez is not politics, but these underlying shifts in the cost and nature of organising. They are both examples of a wholly new kind of political movement, expressing the common interest of a new type of human”

      In other words, the way history is made has changed, and so has the art of predicting the future.

    2. Kenneth G Coutts says:

      Let us decide the unionists are finished in Scotland, that is Neoliberal right wing socialist labour, Neoliberal right wing Liberals and Neoliberal right wing conservatives.
      Get rid of them first and foremost, regardless.
      The No voters should be awake by now, shurely?
      Or are they still blind to reality.
      I wish Jeremy Corbyn well and hope he gets the leadership of English Labour, He is not interested in Scotland, why should he be , it is up to all of us here to make the change we need to get our Independence from the Westminster cess pit and the english dark imperial state.

  8. Marsha Scott says:

    Very interesting piece, lots of food for thought from a Women for Independence perspective. (With my usual observation that WfI could be better integrated into this analysis–political organising in Scotland is deeply gendered.) We are working hard to understand the unparalleled and unexpected mobilisation of women over the last 2 years while helping to clear the path for ongoing activity. What is required I think is some better understanding of what worked so well combined with flexibility to mediate political and socioeconomic changes to nurture the best parts of our movement. And sometimes we just need to get out of the way.

    1. Thanks Marsha, we are an open forum but I don’t think we’ve ever had a submission from WfI. We’d welcome more input.

  9. Karl says:

    Very interesting points. However, we need to look at what the “Global Elite” are doing. After a Century, or so, of rampantly expanding capitalism they are probably looking to the endgame. Once resources have been maximally exploited, to the point where they are more trouble than they are worth, the optimal strategy is to change the game. In order to ensure the 1% keep their wealth and power they could well be looking to return to a modernised form of Feudalism. Without the need for a large workforce there is a pressing need to reduce outlay on Public Services, Welfare, charity etc. Initially by austerity but ultimately by the far more efficient method of population control and reduction. Maintenance of a loyal and reliable private staff/army of dependent workers will result in the complete destruction of International boundaries and Society as we know it and result in the emergence of smaller, highly efficient and obedient populations under an all-powerful formerly-Capitalist Warlord class.
    The Warlords, through a system of family and deputies will control everything. Food, water, mineral resources, travel, population control and will be answerable only to their peers, not the population who will be entirely dependent and expendable!
    This sounds like fantasy but look around. Look to the modern-day Empire builders, media-moguls, bankers (owners, not tellers). Time to wake up and re-write the rule books, just like we could have done in an Independent Scotland.

    1. Karl says:

      Nurse, NURSE! The medication is wearing off!

    2. Quakeawake says:

      You are speaking a lot of truth there Karl. Those tablets are working! We sit and trust far too much while they build their fortresses http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/14/bilderberg-2015-a-travesty-of-transparency

    3. Mr T says:

      Just a point of clarification……if this is going to result in “….the complete destruction of International boundaries….” how would Scotland being independent actually help?

  10. Will says:

    Let’s see how Jeremy Corbyn the new Muesli Munching Manager at Head Office supposedley traditional Labour ilk gets on with Scotland. Jeremy Muesili Munching Corbyn 30 years in Westminster and has not got a clue about Scotland, what’s up did he never go into the subsided bars to listen to the chortle of his Scottish Labour careerist cronies before they got the boot from Westminster. Anyway I would never trust a man who is into Muesili I always stick with porridge and I put salt in it only not sugar or jam.

  11. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Looks to me like Corbyn is being stitched up.

    Up 100,000 votes could be discarded?

  12. Kangaroo says:

    “How to deal with international finance”

    The answer is to revert to using REAL money ie Gold. They can’t fiddle with it and rip everyone off. It forces discipline and removes their ability to create money from nothing. Their ponzi scheme is doomed and a gold standard is the way out of the mess they have created, but they will kick and scream all the way because the loss of power will be immense.

  13. Alan says:

    “The old political class” knows all about the Internet and new ways of organizing and is adept at subverting them to its own ends. See for example: UK surveillance “worse than 1984,” says new UN privacy chief. Have you learned nothing from Snowden? If this is your road to the revolution, you better rethink it. And you better start learning a lot about encryption and how to use it effectively.

  14. Donald McNeil says:

    How about after 300 years we are nearing the goal of independence and we throw it all away on an aging hard left Englishman who does not have the support of his own MPs and believes powers should be retained at westminster?

    The only benefit Corbyn is to Scotland is that he will weaken labour further.

    it’s simple, united we succeed and divided we fail to gain independence!

  15. Lochside says:

    Corbyn represents a re-awakening of the disenchanted electorate in England. Social media has played a big role in this happening. But Scotland ‘s experience both REF and GE has been the catalyst.

    English people have been alerted to the power of state and msm disinformation. The challenging made by our social media here is now being mirrored there.

    However, it is not entirely the same phenomenon. Ours is primarily one of an assertion of national identity and desire for independence leavened with aims of social justice and equality.

    For English voters torn between conflicting ideologies of extreme right (Ukip) and liberal left (Corbyn), the choices are more problematic.

    Without a movement that questions the basic Imperialistic class ridden system that is England, voters are still marooned in a PR hell of soundbites encapsulated in msm spin.

    There is no root and branch questioning at any level amongst the Corbynistas of Britain as an entity. Whilst Ukip are simply fascist little Englanders.

    That is why Corbyn can do nothing for Scotland. Its like watching a shooting star in the night sky; a historical event from the dim past shooting across the firmament then disappearing into oblivion.

    Our journey must continue alone and unfettered by an adolescent movement south of the border that is still essentially imperialist in nature.

  16. arthur thomson says:

    Spot on Lochside.

  17. C Rober says:

    I see the media is taking every opporchancity to sh1t on Jezza , wont give indy to Scotland , wants to talk about giving Falkands back to Argentina.

    If the independence is true then still game over for SLAB in Scotland , will they ever learn.

  18. By Gavin Falconer One of the results of the independence referendum is that it makes all of us, whether we like it or not, gradualists. This weeks Hysterical Neighbours Prize is a three-way draw.

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