2017 Decision Time

glasgow_poverty_webSturgeon’s wrong – in 2017, liberals have to decide which side they are on, argues Ben Wray.

What are the major political challenges of 2017? First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, in her New Year’s message, has given her analysis of the political crisis that has engulfed the western world in 2016, and what we should do about it this year.

Sturgeon said: “The last 12 months have seen a narrative develop that the established political and social order is under threat as never before in modern times. Reactionary forces, some of them fueled by intolerance and xenophobia, have been seen to be in the ascendancy.

“But if 2016 was a year of fear, let the next year be one of hope. And let us all hope that, in time, 2017 will be seen to have been a turning point – one in which the values of liberal democracy were able to show that they can and will prevail over the forces which would draw us all backwards.”

This is an important statement of ideological intent from the First Minister, one that deserves close scrutiny.

The first and most obvious response to this is why does someone who’s stated aim is to break up the UK and set-up an independent state worried about “the established political and social order” being under threat? But Sturgeon presenting the SNP and independence as more continuity than rupture with the global elite is nothing new; the more interesting issue is the political centre of gravity the First Minister occupies as a result of this positioning.

For is it not remarkable that within Sturgeon’s whole article, dedicated chiefly to ‘threats’, she dedicates not one sentence to the situation of the majority of people as it stands? Nothing about austerity, the fact wages are in their sharpest decline since the 1860’s, the monstrous levels of inequality, rising child poverty and so on. Sturgeon’s fear of the future is reflective of the general malaise among liberals across the western world to make sense of the present. That ‘liberal democracy’ and ‘the established political and social order’ produced the sort of widespread discontent that has made the rise of the populist right possible appears nowhere in the First Minister’s analysis, or that of most liberals since Brexit and Trump.

To understand this, we need to look deeper at the First Minister’s worldview. In her speech to the Irish Parliament at the end of November she expounded on her outlook in more explicit terms: “We can choose to turn inwards or we can choose to stand strong for the principles of an open economy and a progressive, liberal democracy”, adding: “There need be no contradiction between being an open, dynamic and competitive economy, and a fair, inclusive and welcoming society. In fact, what we are seeing around the world demonstrates that the two must go together – a fair society is essential, if we are to sustain support for an open economy.”

This worldview can most accurately be defined as third-way social democracy, a theory most associated with New Labour in the Blair era and developed most thoroughly by sociologist Anthony Giddens, who also called it ‘the radical centre’. A BBC report in 1999 could have been echoing Sturgeon’s outlook, describing the Third Way as:

“…something different and distinct from liberal capitalism with its unswerving belief in the merits of the free market and democratic socialism with its demand management and obsession with the state. The Third Way is in favour of growth, entrepreneurship, enterprise and wealth creation but it is also in favour of greater social justice and it sees the state playing a major role in bringing this about. So in the words of… Anthony Giddens of the LSE the Third Way rejects top down socialism as it rejects traditional neo liberalism.”

In the post-Soviet Union era, with free-market capitalism rampant, Third Way politics appeared to fit for those traditionally from a socialist background. But nearly 20 years on, few would openly associate with Third Way social democracy – and not just because it has the fingerprints of the hated Tony Blair all over it. It failed. The financial crisis, the ‘bankruptocracy’ (as Yanis Varoufakis puts it) of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor, and the subsequent decade of declining living standards and rising inequality has intellectually killed the idea that there is no contradiction between free-market capitalism and social justice. The fact that it hasn’t killed the Third Way for our First Minister should be a cause for concern.

For on what evidence base can Sturgeon defend this idea when, under every centre-left government in the western world for the past 30 years, all of which have been utterly devoted to “an open, dynamic and competitive economy”, society has uniformly become more unfair? The Third Way idea has been defeated in practise, but remains suspended in mid-air, defended by ‘progressives’ unwilling to let it go. The “open economy” Sturgeon so cherishes has created a situation where 62 billionaires have the same wealth as half of the world’s population. If openness means an open goal for the world’s super-rich to exploit the world’s people and resources, then you can sign me up as anti the open economy.

“The Third Way idea has been defeated in practise, but remains suspended in mid-air, defended by ‘progressives’ unwilling to let it go. The “open economy” Sturgeon so cherishes has created a situation where 62 billionaires have the same wealth as half of the world’s population”

Liberals new favourite dichotomy – that left and right doesn’t matter anymore, what matters is if you’re for an open or closed society and economy – obliterates any possible critique of neoliberal globalisation that is anti-racist and pro-migration. In effect it says the left, socialist case is irrelevant – if you’re not with Apple and Google, you’re with the racists.

The nuanced version of this argument is what I call the Chukka Umunna trope: we’ve had globalisation, it is done and we’re never going back, now we need to make sure it benefits “working people”. The assumption is that the past 30 years of neoliberalism has created a big vessel of wealth that can be used whatever way we like, for good or ill, social justice or inequality. The Umunna trope makes a virtue of naivety about power relations: intrinsic to an economic order that shifts control away from labour and towards capital, away from public and towards private ownership, is that it becomes much harder to make sure the economy works for society because the forces ranged against that happening are much greater.

This gets to the heart of the problem of liberalism: liberals believe in essence that “free-markets” and free people are ubiquitous, when in fact fundamental to the capitalist mode of production is the concentration and centralisation of power of capitalists over everyone else. One’s free-market is another’s zero-hour contract. Liberals absence of a critique of capitalist power means it looks at President-elect Trump building a cabinet of corporate elites and sees an alien force, when in fact it has emerged directly out of the economic system they so cherish.

The denial (and paranoia) phase of grief for the West’s liberals

The problem with the liberal worldview is that those who espouse it are entirely unequipped intellectually to deal with its failure. It’s been their world since the fall of the Berlin Wall – but while they love to talk up its successes they cannot accept its failures. Hence why denial and paranoia appear to be the major political responses so far to the rise of right-wing populism.

First, the denial. A strange but widespread development has been the humanising of the calendar year: ‘Why 2016, why!?’ The implicit assumption in this is that 2016 was a bad apple, a peculiarly ugly year where collective madness took over, surely to be replaced by the return of sanity next year. 2017 will be a good ‘un, like us. Of course no one would seriously defend this formula intellectually – it is partly an understandable way to humourise despair – but it is a reflection of a cultural moment: confusion, even incredulity, at defeat is pushing liberals towards the comfort of denial.

More seriously, the paranoia comes in the form of Russophobia. Let me be precise here, so as not to provoke a litany of accusations of being a pro-Putin propagandist. It is not that Russia would not have a vested interest in seeing Donald Trump as President of the US rather than Hilary Clinton, or even that they would be willing to interfere in the US election (like the US, Russia have never had a problem with meddling in others internal affairs), it is the idea that Russia would be sufficiently influential to be the decisive factor in an election within the most powerful country in the world, and is a serious threat to liberal democracy. This paranoia is its own sort of denial – rather than face up to the fundamental flaws in the liberal offer of Clinton, better to blame the Russians and proclaim a ‘new cold war’.

The ‘new cold war’ narrative has no serious basis in reality. Obama, who in his last days appears determined to be the vanguard of this Russophobia, said himself in 2014 in response to Russian meddling in Ukraine that “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbours, not out of strength but out of weakness.”

All serious geopolitical experts agree with this view. Russia is nowhere near the force the Soviet Union was. Its economy is overly reliant on the exporting of oil, gas and minerals, and in the current economic stagnation is therefore tanking. Putin’s military excursions are an attempt to boost internal support in a country that has been used, under Vladimir’s reign, to a growing economy after the post-Soviet Union collapse under Yeltsin.

None of this analysis penetrates the minds of liberals determined to pin the blame for the western world’s problems on “Russian aggression”. One notable example of this, illuminated by Sam Kriss, was the widely heralded 127 tweet thread by American liberal Eric Garland. The tweets are a rambling and fairly incoherent diatribe about how Russia put Trump in the White House, but, as Kriss describes, it quickly became a “sensation”:

“Every so often, a text comes along that perfectly captures the mood of a certain section of society at a certain time, something that screams their pain for them in ways they can’t quite manage to do themselves. Garland’s tweet thread is that common roar of establishment liberalism in the age of Trump. It’s been re-tweeted thousands of times, gaining fawning praise from much of the liberal intelligentsia.”

The most serious problem of this hysteria, which Kriss describes as “the alt-center”, is that it means real lessons are not learned. For the truth is that no one was more influential to Trump’s rise than Hilary Clinton and her acolytes. They were so convinced that a political strategy based on occupying the centre-ground of US politics would win the election that during the Republican presidential candidate race they encouraged their friends in the media to give Trump attention. That’s how bad liberals analysis of the situation was and how complacent they were about the ramifications: Clinton strategists wanted and encouraged the rise of the populist right in America.

In Listen, Liberal, Thomas Frank, prior to the US election result, dissects the complacency of the Democrats in the Obama era as made up of people entirely from the professional class who are wholly convinced that their meritocratic values are all that counts, and are in denial about Obama’s clear and evident failures: in response to the financial crisis, Obama oversaw the biggest redistribution of wealth and power in history from poor to bankers, and the largest rise in inequality in nearly a century. The negligent and criminal banking elite were rewarded, and the law-abiding tax-payers were punished. How very liberal.

Frank argues that liberals own moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy must be made clear and exposed:

“What we can do is strip away the Democrats’ precious sense of their own moral probity – to make liberals live without the comforting knowledge that righteousness is always on their side.”

This critique of liberalism now appears urgent across the western world – denial and paranoia is likely to only lead in one direction in 2017: more gains for right-wing populism. If you are not worried about the possibility of a Marine Le-Pen presidency in France later this year, you should be. If you think it will be defeated by a staunch defence of “liberal democracy” and “the established political and social order”, you need to wake up. This was essentially Francois Hollande’s offer as French President – he is polling so badly that he has bowed out of the Presidential race before it has even begun, leaving the choice for the French electorate between a Thatcherite and a neo-fascist. The FT has rightly described this situation as an “existential crisis for the centre-left”.

Of course, Scotland is neither France nor America – it has its own unique political culture which can be summarised as ‘national question over-rides other contradictions’: the SNP face no existential threat (indeed they are still highly popular). Third Way politics in Scotland is seen by the electorate (understandably) as the only possible bulwark between them and Tory penury.

Nonetheless, Sturgeon is more than aware that Scottish politics is part of the politics of the western world. In 2017, three political groupings in the West matter: right-wing populists, liberal centrists and socialists (defined broadly, as those willing to challenge neoliberal capitalism). Sturgeon appears to be anchoring her politics in the liberal centrist camp – it’s the job of socialists in Scotland to push the independence movement, the SNP and their leader towards us. We need to make ‘progressives’ realise that Third Way politics is dead, and therefore they have a choice – are they apologists for a  economic system that is breeding intolerance and xenophobia, or are they on the side of those of us who believe fighting racism and bigotry and fighting inequality and capitalism are the same struggle?


Ben Wray is head of policy at Common Weal. This article is written in a personal capacity.

Comments (94)

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  1. willie says:

    Intolerance and xenophobia is indeed the natural order when there is social and economic misery for the many and social and economic bliss for the few. Into this circumstance change inevitably always comes be it the Bolsheviks, the Khmer Rouge, the Nazis, or indeed the Troubles in Ireland 1916 or more recently. But maybe we in Bonnie Scotland will be different. Such order or indeed disorder only occurs elsewhere.

  2. Mach1 says:

    My recollection of Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism is sketchy, unlike Ben’s, which is non-existent. Scotland’s struggle needs to be contextualised in terms of competing imperialist movements in the global theatre, in which Russia and the UK are two important imperialist forces. The solution to Scotland’s predicament requires the building of a broad political front to win a second independence referendum, the first blow in a battle to throw off the yoke of UK neo-imperialism. Yes, if we characterise Sturgeon as Blair, then there would be lots to cavil about. But she is not Blair, and her vision is a progressive one, of Scotland as a sovereign nation in a European family of nations, which will include England at some point in the future.
    Without this understanding, it would be so easy to think that joining the Labour party in Scotland would amount to a defending the working class on the international stage. Sorry, I will need to lie down for a moment to stop laughing.

    1. c rober says:

      or is a question of whose socialist veneer is thickest?

  3. willie says:

    And message to the Feeble Fifty Six. What’s on the agenda this year and what will you deliver on behalf of the majority of folks in Scotland who voted for you. By way of a suggestion it is below freezing today. Fuel poverty stalks our land, and the over 60 winter fuel payment entry age has again been raised to nearly 63. Maybe the lion’s that snored could lick up on this.

    1. Richard MacKinnon says:

      Feeble 56, I can think of a few more appropriate adjectives than ‘feeble’. The answer to your question is as you know, hee haw. Their presence cements the union.
      But if you scratch your head at the sight of our 56 Westminster MPs playing their part in the mother of all parliaments then have a look closer to home for real grand scale hypocrisy. I cannot believe the scene at Holyrood these days. Nicola Sturgeon has transformed herself from leader of the Scottish independence movement into the UK Tory government’s Scottish Enforcer of Austerity. And she does it with a straight face.

    2. Robert Graham says:

      This is what your Union looks like a f/n fantasy, the only reason the MPs are down there is because of the cowards who swallowed the VOW hook line and sinker.

      1. c rober says:


        Which is why the purveyors of filth were summarily rejected at the polls in 15 , 1 tory , 1 labour , 56 lions and of course minus the dodgy ones with the whip removed.

  4. muttley79 says:

    Although I think that generally the SNP have done a good job since coming into power in 2007; given the cuts to the budget and the limited devolved powers, I agree with a lot of what this article says. The quotes from Nicola Sturgeon do sound complacent and out of touch. Sturgeon did a speech on meritocracy perhaps a year or so ago, and it sounded remarkably similar to her comments that are quoted in the article. It is concerning if she does not think that inequality and the gap between the richest and the rest of the population is not a major issue. How can you argue that the West is a meritocracy, when Donald Trump is now the President of the United States, a guy that inherited a massive amount of wealth and power!? To be honest it is getting tiring and dispiriting listening to and reading left of centre politicians defending the present economic system; neoliberalism is intellectually and morally bankrupt.

    1. c rober says:

      All politics is about wealthy and poor if not versus , and theres none worse than those that took the silver in 1706 , and where today it still is happening , ie the nearly extinct Labour party in Scotland and of course the buffalo girl and her troops.

      But can the SNP be undermined , shown as being pro wealth creation for the few?

      When they answer the housing question beyond that of subsidy for banks , developers and lorded land owners only then I will take the oath…. but history is not on their side on that one.

  5. Wolf says:

    While Russia may not be an economic powerhouse (something that never stopped the Soviet Union), Russia is far and ahead the country that has invested the most in cyber warfare. The levels of Russian involvement on this front are extremely well documented at this point, including developing state sponsored malware tools, hiring former criminal hackers and creating vast factories dedicated to churning out content and comment for town and village message boards across Russia, helping to solidify Putin’s rule.

    While it’s unlikely that Russia could literally stuff three to four millions ballots in American without being caught in the act, they are more than capable of the levels of manipulation that can shift three to four million votes voluntarily. Russia has always been able to do more with less – witness their space programme – and this is just another case of that, particularly when compared to America’s historic tendency to use force to overturn election results.

    The most important thing that socialists need to remember about Russia is that they are parking missiles at Kaliningrad, close to both Lithuania and Poland. While this is largely to distract from Putin’s domestic difficulties, the Baltic countries and Poland have long been welcoming to Scots, and we should be supporting them in the face of Putin’s military bluster.

    1. c rober says:

      Really , one must have dreamt the US Israel malware for Iranium processors.

      That kind of cyber in the UK and US is really for pwning its own more than that of its enemies though.

  6. Crubag says:

    I don’t think the SNP are in any worse position than any other centrist party. They all (and us) have the challenge of jobless growth, where the economy can grow but doesn’t create lasting, well-paying jobs.

    Combined with globalisation, and the ability of the largest companies to choose when and where they pay their tax, then redistributive policies and growth-focused economic policies start to lose their rationale.

    1. c rober says:

      Bang on , why are we so fearful to say fk off to tax avoidance , could it well be the reason why its a legislation not as of yet devolved?

      Proof positive of politics are about personal wealth creation , and the protection of it , for the few , on the backs of the many. So should we be worried that this is the end game of the SNP , just like the NuSocialists?

    2. Patrick says:

      Perhaps, we need to bring her back to Parliament:
      Jean Urquhart writes to PM over EU referendum franchise rules.

  7. Josef O Luain says:

    Just as Nicola won’t be dumping the natty, wee two-piecers for a set of baggy fatigues, she won’t be changing her leftish-liberal rhetoric either.

    A fine article, though.

    1. c rober says:

      Its only a matter of time before the MSM start comparing her to thatcher by psycholigical juxtaposition and captioning. “This Lady is not for changing” , replacing the turning , its not like they dont have previous on that one – Sun.

      1. Patrick says:

        My friend, perhaps you don’t notice yet that you are suffering post-traumatic stress of Brexit, what you need is relax, and see the picture in advance of what will happen to British after trigger art 50.

        Triggering art 50.
        War on termites
        AntZ-Wrecking Ball
        AntZ-There’s Got To Be a Better Place

  8. muttley79 says:

    You now, the more I think about it, I cannot help but question why Nicola Sturgeon decided the day after the EU referendum result to say another independence referendum was ‘highly likely.’ It is generally agreed that Scotland is a (small c) conservative nation, and that political change tends to take place slowly at best. Does anyone seriously think there has either been an in-depth review of why Yes lost last time, or a rigorous reworking of the actual case for independence, particularly the economic case? It looks like we are going to be bounced into a second independence referendum that we have not prepared for. Once is bad enough, twice is troubling imo.

    1. c rober says:


      Then can they be punished for failure , or rewarded with more jobs , ie upper house and committees , well the more you think about it then the more they are indeed just like Slab and Nulabour , whom did what again in 14 years after Thatcher for Scotland , after 17 years of promises – no supply?

  9. w.b.robertson says:

    brilliant piece – which should be compulsory reading for our great mass of cosy, middle of the road, non-thinking “liberals”. Today`s political “in word” seems to be “progressive”. For who we should ask, as the rich get richer and the poor beget children. Wonderful quote that “one man`s free market is another worker`s zero hour contract”…that sums it up.

    1. c rober says:

      WB , but is there a free market at all?

      Banks bailed out , housing restricted , deals for one region over another with brexit…. or forcing the oil price up.

      I have yet to see the capitalist free market in action.

      1. Alan says:

        And you’ll never see one. There’s no such thing as a “free” market. All markets depend on regulation. The question in any give market is: Is the regulation for the benefit of the many or benefit of the few.

        1. David Martin says:

          Quite agree. And goes to the heart of this article, the Scottish Govt has no real macro-economic powers and despite me wishing them to be a bit more radical, they cannot afford to scare the horses (income tax rise?), hence the mangerial approach to government.
          Sensible regulation of markets is key to providing £ to fund redistribution. For example minimum wage is a regulation that should help to improve work for the lowest paid. Country by country tax reporting to minimise tax avoidance is another. The solutions are there for a social democratic government, if they have these levers.

          One area that the Scottish Government can do something significant is to move towards LVT.

          IMO, nuts and bolts stuff, like getting Revenue Scotland set up and functioning is fundamental to a gradual approach to Indy in this conservative country.

          1. c rober says:

            Agree David on LVT AGR etc ,

            But as I always chip in , in order to increase GDP with low wages , and remain economically viable for production keeping low wages , then cheaper housing costs is also a valid and proven option – rather than the norm of 7x mulitples and mortgages , as the reduced outgoings instead feed down into non export GDP and tax returns , rather than enrich the few and the banks.

            There are many like us , that know there can be a better Scotland , and how to do it – but that takes at least the first step being impervious to PF , and shunning the reasons why normalcy that led us to austerity , low growth , stagnating wages continues isnt by simply changing oor maisters and them keeping the script.

        2. Patrick says:

          You are right, and in any free market, the benefit of a few always predominate it could be the technological advance or the slavery factory like china, the contrary of single or common market everyone must play by the same rule and everyone can push for the advance of the many.

  10. Douglass MacGilvary says:

    The SNP are not perfect, but as has been said all too often, sadly with some not listening:

    ‘The SNP are the only vehicle to lead Scotland to freedom and the capacity and ability from that point forward to determine our own destiny, of whatever hue that is’.

    But let’s not stray into he arena of slagging off the SNP and presenting disunity. This only benefits the enemies of self determination and we know who they are!

    2017 should pave the path for unity in the independence camp and preparation of the ground for a second referendum in 2018 / 2019.

    Remember the depression post assembly vote in 1979, do we ever want Scotland to return to being England toilet paper?

    United we stand divided we only need look at the rotting force of Scottish labour!

    1. c rober says:

      Bang on there Douglass.

      But we have to police them in order for them to supply it , rather than to fail by inaction , or god forbid in following the mantras we are potentially rejecting.

      Criticism , well Its not about SNP bad lies , its about preventing SNP bad truths.

    2. Patrick says:

      MacGilvary, by fortune inside the SNP there is not disunity, neither we had or has enemies only adversaries with a different point of view. No doubt shall be in your mind, we will win the Independence for not to say that we already won it and not publish it yet.

  11. Patrick says:

    Response to some quotations:
    I don’t think the SNP are in any worse position than any other centrist party. They all (and us) have the challenge of jobless growth, where the economy can grow but doesn’t create lasting, well-paying jobs. ( If the Scottish people are not capable to realized that never in the economic history of Scotland ; the Scottish had enjoy better
    than under de SNP Gov direction, then they are under and epidemic of Alzaimer)

    Combined with globalisation, and the ability of the largest companies to choose when and where they pay their tax, then redistributive policies and growth-focused economic policies start to lose their rationale. (never forget that govern is the art of redistribution of wealth with rationalite, this is the success of the EU in spite of critisms)

    You now, the more I think about it, I cannot help but question why Nicola Sturgeon decided the day after the EU referendum result to say another independence referendum was ‘highly likely.’ It is generally agreed that Scotland is a (small c) conservative nation, and that political change tends to take place slowly at best. Does anyone seriously think there has either been an in-depth review of why Yes lost last time, or a rigorous reworking of the actual case for independence, particularly the economic case? It looks like we are going to be bounced into a second independence referendum that we have not prepared for. Once is bad enough, twice is troubling imo. ( If Scottish people yet not understand that the first referendum was loss due the bbc policy to mislead public opinion and publicity full of lies, publicity which Alex doe not handled very well, today things are different nowadays Scottish has more media information and if it is well directe the outcome will be better)

    brilliant piece – which should be compulsory reading for our great mass of cosy, middle of the road, non-thinking “liberals”. Today`s political “in word” seems to be “progressive”. For who we should ask, as the rich get richer and the poor beget children. Wonderful quote that “one man`s free market is another worker`s zero hour contract”…that sums it up.
    (Yes you are right this is why the Brexit is the stupidity proper of the British Cucaraches that think they can survive due it,s Nuke capability and sent a new diplomatic to EU tray to convinces the Europeans that the EU will disappeared without them. So if Scottish are not capable to understand the mentality of British cuca raches, they will end under slavery forever.) Nicola Sturgeon, is for Scottish what Trump is for American, Trump can break any multitreaty and make Amerca Great again because it’s internal market is virgin, very different for Scotland or UK as a whole.
    Scottish’ssss turn on your brain, is time for Independence. “For a Scotland Sovereign the sky is the limit”

  12. James says:

    I think this article makes a lot of excellent points about the complacency and consequent weakness of liberal politicians. The Economist makes a similar argument in this article, http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21693204-central-bankers-are-running-down-their-arsenal-other-options-exist-stimulate .

    What the centre needs at this point more than ever is a strong leader, both politically and intellectually, and the only one who seems to be up to the job is Angela Merkel. Sturgeon’s very good but in order to really thrive I, personally, think she needs a similarly strong challenger to hold her to account.

    Anyway, on to a different point. This article, and many left-leaning politicians, like to make much of “growing inequality”. This particular argument has never sat very comfortably with me since it’s too vague – and I think that is its appeal, since everyone is to some extent unequal to someone else. It is also intuitively opposed to our usual civic values of “fairness” (though I would also suggest that this is also nebulous – what I think is fair is probably different to a greater or lesser extent than what you think is fair). Politics is full of these vague, almost metaphysical abstractions – “capital”, “inequality”, “the patriarchy”, “the EU”, “the Union”. They might be real things, but since they are highly nebulous (or at least in the case of the EU poorly understood) and can, through confirmation bias, be blamed for just about any wrong, they are useful foils for the politically inclined to hold up as a civic demon which threatens us all.

    My problem with this kind of rallying call is that, in my opinion, it conceals the real problems. Take the example of “rising inequality”. This is becoming a postulate. How do I know? Because it isn’t actually true, it’s been pretty stable since I was at school in the 90s but you never hear the idea that it is rising challenged (https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/how-has-inequality-changed). This is not to say that the situation is acceptable, but more that going on about inequality masks the much more serious issue of poverty. You would imagine that the top earners’ income had defied the laws of nature but they have in fact dropped in the past few years (by 41%, not that that is in any way a problem for them). Focussing on the top 1% changes little for the bottom 1%.

    My attitude to this is “forget the rich”. And, frankly, most of the middle classes. Leave them to get on with it. They can (and should) take care of themselves. Concentrate on improving the lot of the poorest and you will raise our whole society. By freeing those who really understand what it is to be poor from poverty we will improve social mobility and unsettle those in our society who are complacent or feel entitled to their lot in life. Not to mention that I think it is the right moral choice – but that’s just my perspective.

    Looking at the same data you can see that whilst for the most part the income distribution has remained the same for 80% of society over the last 20 years, the people who have really suffered have been the bottom 10%. Their share of income is pitifully low, largely dependent on welfare, and dropped right up until 2009 when it began to rise (apparently because the Tories have, in fact, improved their economic circumstances – not my conclusion, see https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8371 and associated publications).

    The conclusion of the article is that Common Weal’s vision of Scotland as an independent Socialist country is the answer, and that Nichola Sturgeon’s centrist attitude is holding at least part of that solution back. The problem is that he cites Francois Hollande as one of the examples of politicians who are encouraging the right, and then moves on to say that the answer is socialism. Francois Hollande is a socialist. You probably couldn’t get a more socialist example of a developed economy than France. Many of France’s problems are rooted in the negative effects of Socialism – an inflexible labour market, for instance, which undermines employment for the young.

    Right now, the world feels unstable. Most people’s worldview was badly compromised by the financial crisis, and the subsequent lack of economic growth coupled with the apparent impunity of those who are deemed to have caused it opened the door to accusations of elite conspiracies and allowed populism in. Independence will not fix this, nor will Socialism, nor Capitalism. What will fix it is, ironically, is what liberal capitalist democracies are supposed to be best at: economic growth. But that is going to require more than skilled central bankers. It will require brave politicians who are willing to challenge vested interests, focus on the real problems in our society – like disadvantage and homelessness – and persuade the majority of voters that the solution to these problems actually lies with creating conditions where the poorest in society can actually thrive, rather than subsist, and letting those who are already capable of looking after themselves do so*.

    *Just as a footnote, I think UBI looks like a strong contender, but it rather depends on the implementation.

    1. Patrick says:

      The conclusion of the article is that Common Weal’s vision of Scotland as an independent Socialist country is the answer, and that Nichola Sturgeon’s centrist attitude is holding at least part of that solution back.
      Common Weal’s vision of Scotland don’t need to be label as Socialist, it is common sense rationalite, the nature of life in a society with humanistic view point.

      1. James says:

        I got to that assumption from the final paragraph, particularly:

        Sturgeon appears to be anchoring her politics in the liberal centrist camp – it’s the job of socialists in Scotland to push the independence movement, the SNP and their leader towards us. We need to make ‘progressives’ realise that Third Way politics is dead, and therefore they have a choice – are they apologists for a economic system that is breeding intolerance and xenophobia, or are they on the side of those of us who believe fighting racism and bigotry and fighting inequality and capitalism are the same struggle?

        Either that or he is suggesting that it is someone else’s job to push things towards ‘us’

        1. Patrick says:

          The SNP and their leader towards us. Wrong analysis the SNP is not toward any we all are Scottish and SNP is ProScotland and the wellbeing of its people. The main reason that SNP has a huge recognition in the EU.

    2. c rober says:


      Pretty much my own thinking also.

      Except that I am not a conspiracy theorist , and the wealthy are indeed the problem.

      That is if we assume the banks as the top end of the pyramid for wealth , funding that of others to be wealthy under them – from the private central banks are above them furnishing the High St Banks , and cough , which leads to the conspiracy theorists proper main gripe “the EYE above the pyramid” , no not the masons – The Rothshchilds , whom declare no personal wealth at all.

      Never mind the original article mentioning the 60 or so richest people with a combined wealth of half of the population of the planet , the Rothshchilds supposedly could call the 1 percent their zero hour servants…. in fact they probably are.

      If we really are to believe that the war is oncoming , of poor rising against the rich , promised by the rise of the right and swamp drainers , then can we expect the poor to be in control of the information ? Its not like they own the media , or state propaganda machine. Its not like they can organise like some form of arab spring from the sofa ipad , or chuck their jimmi sabus into the looms , given that the off switch is in Westminster hands.

      As long as the masses remain merely grumbling complainers then the enemy are happy , so chuck a dog a bone every now and again works – until there is no bones left.

      Its not like a republic will arise ousting the political classes altogether , through radicals or revolutionaries , unlike like that of historical America , Russia or France over monarchy the original wealthy. But then again the radicals when successful are portrayed as heroes of the new state , and when unsuccessful as terrorists.

      Of course when democracy fails the wealthy , by lending a momentary lapse in their political power , it circles the wagons afterwards , ie in Brexit , where the wealthy will still prosper regardless of democracy ousting a little of the their creationary power for the moment. Shown by the likes of socialising bank failure , or post brexit special deals , the wealthy will still have their subsidy…. regardless , proving democracy is a sham if our politicians aid it.

      One only needs to look at todays USA govt , stocked by the wealthy to see proof in the pudding , so its ironic that they elected a billionaire , whom is filling his cabinet with millionaires in order to remove the wealth from the few like them and disperse it , as some form of new corrupted communism.

      1. James says:

        C Rober,

        Thanks for your reply.

        I disagree with your analysis of the rich. What you’re observing is referred to as a Pareto Distribution, and it is a universal trait of human endeavour. No matter where you look the majority of anything is either owned or produced by a tiny minority. The most obvious example is sport, but it also applies to music, politics, business, trade union activism – whatever you like.

        It’s natural if you think of it. Firstly, no two people are equal. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and motivations. So on that basis alone you restrict the number of people who will be active in any given field, and indeed the number of those who are motivated enough to practise to the point of mastery is even smaller. Then add that crucial element of luck and you arrive at that very small number of people who dominate any given field.

        So one way or another we will always have elites and very wealthy people. Lenin apparently had no possessions, but he lived in a mansion on a lovely big estate.

        This doesn’t make the rich virtuous, rather just to be expected.

        I don’t actually care if some people have too much, just that some people don’t have enough.

        The bulwark against undue oppression (as opposed to things like the rule of law) is democracy, so we can change our rulers, and freedom of speech so we can criticise them.

        The other options only seem to induce carnage and misery.

        1. Patrick says:

          I agree, for what we to fight is for equality of rights and opportunity, and learn from the riches how to obtain the goal.
          Man always proposes and God disposes. Then God gave it to her or him that St. Peter bless her or him.

        2. c rober says:

          James , I agree with the preposterous natute of communism , some more equal.

          Even more evident in the retraction of it is in the creation of oligarchs , of communism remains for the many . as the political means for the few to protect and create it , via privatization of state owned industry and assets.

          The personal wealth of the supreme communist in Russia today isnt exactly short of a few rubles? Where if your in the club you have the protection needed to create that wealth through subsidy and protect it – politically through the legislators , its not so different to politics in the UK or American senate regardless of party.

          However the analogy of there will always be rich “as entitled by work output” is a little off , especially in the UK. Tax accountants, tax avoidance , even our biggest Independence advocate Mr Connery knows how to play that game – its the reason why he doesnt live there , or indeed in the UK…. and even in the event of indy still wouldnt , hes the same as Bowie was in the other camp.

          Sports subsidy for example created the likes of Murray, what was the overall cost in millions to create a couple of millionaires? This as the recent report came out on such subsidy finding its the middle classes affluent areas receiving the fat end of the subsidy wedge in sport , or arts , which is far more than that of say the working class.

          Of course we could gloss over the whole further personal wealth creation for the Millionaire Murrays outwith sport , under the guise of using farmland for a tennis academy “cough , housing” , while arguing its for the working class locals kids – Not that many sheep can hold a racket in such a rural location , or can afford the executive houses which are the main interest on that site , thus personal wealth creation by the back door.

          Where the monarchic wealth of old may have shifted , and that of their psychophant traitorous lords they implanted now replaced in politics by the privately educated proper middle class tory today , the old money are still there. Thatcher just created more of the wealthy , so perhaps NuCommunism for the few and not the many , by simply removing the lords from the political control of their own party – which was used for creating legislation in their favour.

          In other words wealth creation and protection if its done so by our own elected politicians we elect to drain the swamp , ie democracy being the very last bulwark you mention against oppression , therefore one can assume it is not a strong one allowing through democratically elected oppression lite.

          Which when you think about Tory old is exactly the same as our Labour socialists today , with so many being millionaires today from Blairs reign , or even before it , while the true socialist voter blindly still complains about the Tory cabinet being the same in education and bank balance. Was it not Thatcher that said she created Blair , thus NuLabour? Im spotting more holes in the Bulwark , if not a back door.

          Thus my argument persists , the wealthy protect their wealth generationally , is by control at the political level , the rest have it taxed out of them in order to subsidise it happening , and once that miniscule amount get wealth by hard work , or by luck eventually get there , they simply kneel at the political altar.

          Nothing was more obvious than the number of “Scottish” self made English or otherwise domiciled wealthy that jumped on the BT bandwagon , arguing for protecting of the wealth creation sham democracy of Westminster by Scotland remaining in the UK – parcel of rouges , English gold , pure and simple.

          1. James says:

            C Rober,

            I agree with one of your main points: too many benefits wind up in middle class households. It’s the fundamental basis of the social side of my politics. But I think you are also underestimating what the wealthy put into society. Andy Murray didn’t get to where he did simply because he was (allegedly) middle class and likes playing tennis. He got there through putting in a mountain of work which the vast majority of us would be unwilling to put in, and the state helped him and many other children along (re: the latter, I’m going out on a limb here – I don’t know his history at all). Besides, they pay their taxes like everyone else – why shouldn’t they send their kids go to the local, state-funded, tennis academy if they want to?

            We need successful people in our society, and we need to give them a reason to be successful. Businesses pay tax (OK, on this I know I’m on shaky ground, because of Google and Starbucks etc but most businesses are not Google or Starbucks). Growing businesses pay more tax. People with jobs pay tax and national insurance and rely less on the state for support. The key differentiator between a successful business and a failed one is usually their management. Particularly the people right at the top because they have to create the circumstances for those that are employed by them to be successful.

            Tax avoidance is not worthwhile until you have the means to pay for it (which many might), and the advantages to be gained (which most don’t- it requires such a taxable amount that you would make a profit from the cost of the avoidance). On that note, tax avoidance is usually entirely legitimate. The government may wish to incentivise investment in a particular area of the economy and so make it cheaper to invest there through tax breaks (got an ISA?). Utilising those breaks is tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is something for governments to manage, shrewdly, so that the propensity of people to try and hold on to their wealth is channeled in a positive way. Easier said than done. Tax evasion is, however, a different matter.

            The wealthy, like everyone else, will try to increase and hold onto their gains. They will do whatever is primarily in their best interests. That’s normal, and whilst they may, through their agency, unconsciously or consciously try to shape society to suit themselves, that does not make them inherently bad. Some of them are bad. Some of them are good. Some just want to get on with their lives. Pretty much describes the whole of humanity. Our politicians, in Holyrood and Westminster, have the unenviable job of trying to turn those propensities into positive behaviour.

            For the record, I actually agree with some of your analysis, I just don’t think that assuming bad faith on the part of the wealthy is either useful or, frankly, healthy. It’s class guilt. Yes, some of them are bad, and you could argue that their position makes that inherently worse (a Pareto distribution of badness if you will), but I know a few, and they are generally useful people trying to get on with their lives and hoping make the world a better place just like everybody else.

        3. Patrick says:

          Another reason to be rich
          Earth will be destroyed in October 2017 — and only the rich will survive! That’s the call made by researcher David Meade, who adds that the mysterious “Planet X” could even collide into our planet by September. Don’t worry about the potential survivors, though. Meade is also saying that plenty of rich and famous people have already built underground bunkers to survive the devastating impact.

          1. c rober says:

            Patrick , i sputtered my drink over my screen with that wan.

            If there was such a thing then you should be watching gold , then again perhaps the rise in Bitcoin is to fund its purchase just before niburu. Only this week we are told they discovered a nearby solar system , so anything is possible , even a socialist Labour party for indy.

          2. keaton says:

            Those are going to have to be some mighty sturdy bunkers to survive a planetary collision.

        4. Willie says:

          Interesting concept James to suggest that the bulwark against oppression is democracy. This presupposes that people actually want democracy. But from what I can see, most folk are not too bothered a out democracy. Put simply we are where we are because that is what we choose. A bit like your rich deciding to be rich.

        5. Frank says:

          Interesting point James but allow me to throw a Marxist spanner into the works. According to Capital, the rich or those that ‘own’ the means of production are rich, not because it is natural or they are lucky, but rather because they exploit the majority.

        6. c rober says:

          In my head , pre fingers on keyboard , I am in the same area as yourself , though it can look , and rightly so , that I use a wide brush – more so in citing specific examples. Not unlike our politicians do of course , or the media.

          I dont for one minute think that ALL wealthy are the problem , just like all benefit claimants or immigrants are neither in the English papers , and as you mention many do make a return on investment , Hunter and so on , probably more than the least of them pay what is due up to the point of being able to afford avoidance.

          But I do have a problem with all wealthy willing to sell us out to another 300 years of servitude , just like the originals , both Scots or English while living elsewhere – including as I have said the likes of Connery on one side or Rowling on the other.

          But there is the greater wealthy , the obscenely rich , not just those of history buying a ticket through the pearly gates , which when combined with democracy from those slightly poorer them operate the levers in their best interests , and perhaps is the ultimate confirmation that Socialism , Communism fails to supply utopia – once corrupted by greed , just the same as capitalism does when under protectionism and socialising of banks debts when funded by the poor – be they working or unemployed poor.

          Then we can look at the Mones of this earth , wealthy by working class standards , self created , whom are like those you are advocating , but again perhaps the median and not the average , where in the wealth stakes , she and those like her are the working class regardless of personal wealth to their superiors with their uber wealth behind them. These are supposedly the ones to go to for a free Scotland in order for it to thrive?

          Hardly , these are the ones so obvious in taking the silver.

          Instead and where you are indeed right though is the ones wanting an independent Scotland with personal wealth , thus a proven track record , and as such are the ones to go to and knock the doors right off the hinges.

          But were they not strangely silent in 14?

          So is Scotland such a basket case , or them so clever? Or the wealthy we want to set Scotland free are thus not as good at wealth creation we think , or perhaps their wealth is SO dependent on England , UK , as Westminster is portraying about Scottish exports?

          That wealthy wont need bribing in order to come in , their wealth will increase ethically as a result .

          The first ones hopping the fence get the most scrumping – So by definition we should also police those Indy politicians on whom they are courting as a result , gift horses should have their mouths checked , and their food promised to them , at the very least just to make sure they are not a pantomime one.

          Just like those stating they would leave America if Trump was elected , the unionist Wealthy seeing profit will pile in , despite their previous protestations.

          Wealth of course is subjective to another persons definition and amount.Objects may be closer than they appear , warning may contain nuts , wash rinse repeat , jist the tip ….honest.

          1. Patrick says:

            But I do have a problem with all wealthy willing to sell us out to another 300 years of servitude , is just as is, after I listned Nigel Farage talking about Inceptostopia:
            Brexit fallout: Ivan Rogers’ departure leaves UK weaker in EU negotiations

      2. Patrick says:

        C rober “the wealthy are indeed the problem.” No my friend in spite of the y have the same worries fortune don’t last for ever . The real problem are this mentality.

        Insignificant ( what almost poor people think of thenselve.
        Antz Sample ( The reality around westmister solutions and almost western politicians has in common)

  13. john young says:

    Wolf are you for real,Russia deploying on it,s borders,the USA therefore us the west have through our blind allegiance to them have ringed Russia/China to name the main countries,the USA has bases in 85 countries.

    1. Patrick says:

      the USA has bases in 85 countries. And all with the consent of each country Gov, except 1.

      1. c rober says:

        All your bases are belong to us.

        1. Patrick says:

          Perhaps crober, by the way on concern to
          c rober 15 hours ago

          Patrick , i sputtered my drink over my screen with that wan.

          If there was such a thing then you should be watching gold , then again perhaps the rise in Bitcoin is to fund its purchase just before niburu. Only this week we are told they discovered a nearby solar system , so anything is possible , even a socialist Labour party for indy.

          It will be better to bring back her to Parliament. She has many interesting view point applicable.
          Jean Urquhart writes to PM over EU referendum franchise rules.

  14. Alan Bissett says:

    Brilliant article.

  15. Alan says:

    In 2017, three political groupings in the West matter: right-wing populists, liberal centrists and socialists (defined broadly, as those willing to challenge neoliberal capitalism).

    I’m curious as to how socialists see themselves challenging “neoliberalism”. Willing is one thing, doing and doing successfully is another. As one might ask of Mother Theresa, what’s the plan?

    1. Patrick says:

      Yes man, perhaps the plans of mother Teresa is to call to popeye for a tin of spinach. I really not understand Uk gov, why they select so ugly girl to be the face of British there are others beauty there. Don’t you?

  16. Frank says:

    This is a very good article which exposes the hollowness at the heart of liberalism or what passes for much of so called social democracy. Yet, the analysis ignores the fact that regardless of how politicians like Sturgeon see themselves – whether it be liberal, social democrat or centre left – it is the practices of government and in particular neoliberalism which shape political reality. From this perspective, rather than governments controlling the economy, the neoliberal economy controls government and sets real boundaries on the art of the possible. This is why most politicians are referred to as ‘managerialists’ (something I have thought of as an insult).
    Ben’s article is very challenging, however like most leftist articles it is very good on critique, but says very little about the theoretical weaknesses inherent in the socialist alternative?

  17. Gary Elliot says:

    “We need to make ‘progressives’ realise that Third Way politics is dead, and therefore they have a choice – are they apologists for a economic system that is breeding intolerance and xenophobia, or are they on the side of those of us who believe fighting racism and bigotry and fighting inequality and capitalism are the same struggle?”

    Sorry but this is bollocks. Intemperate language, divisive rhetoric and stuffed full of the type of”we need to make *them* see” attitude that can be inherently countrproductive.

    1. c rober says:

      Give a man a fish…

      The only thing needed to “make them see” is remove the blinkers… and that is one thing , the fiscal question , independence depends on it as it was the main negative thing in PF – everything else can be done in post production for a fairer Scotland.

  18. florian albert says:

    Plainly, the social democratic left is on the defensive. The problem for Ben Wray is that – nearly a decade after the worst crisis in capitalism for eighty years – there is next to no evidence that voters, across the developed world, have any interest in a socialist alternative.

    In a democracy, votes create credibility. Nicola Sturgeon has credibility, her socialist critics do not.

    1. c rober says:

      But perhaps the fear is that nationalist socialism is less electable than their unionist one? After all the maths are there in every election since 14 and its not like being unionist is improving the numbers is it.

      Squeaky bums , I think I will invest in dry cleaners in Scotland right up to the end of May.

  19. Alf Baird says:

    This article makes a lot of sense. Any ‘national’ party that was serious about independence, and in ‘power’ for a decade, would have at least cleared out the thousands of overpaid elite unionists who still run institutional Scotland today. Moreover, the 2015 Scottish landslide with 56 SNP MP’s elected was clearly de facto independence, with our nation’s freedom there for the taking, and still there for the taking.

    1. c rober says:

      So Alf what do we do , reject them for failure , or reward them with more jobs ie an upper chamber with a failed indy II?

      Has history ever repeated such increase in a political party ever increasing its numbers so much despite failure?

      I think thats where our Slab is hoping , that if they keep on ostrich mode that the electorate will come around eventually back to Tory Lite , sorry NuLabour.

      Its not like they can move further to the left to become electable again after removing the working class to adopt the psuedo middle class , or to the right , or even grabbing indy on the way down , sometimes I think Kezias political steering is based on a song from the Rocky Horror Picture show on scratched vinyl.

      Its just a jump to the left , then a step to the Rightttttt… Its just a jump to the left , then a step to the Rightttttt…

      Weekly though it truly is a timewarp of indecision if not deliberate ambiguity on indy , full fat federal , devo max , IcantbelieveitsnotWestminster or whatever. She has failed to notice the Unionist slab voter has done an Elvis , the indy vote before then , so what is left for them , its definately not the socialists….. and its not like theres a queue to replace her , well behind Jackie “dethknell” Baillie.

      I hear theres a few openings selling the Big Issue , so at least shes still going to be involved in the media , but she better get in there before May , as I am expecting there to be a increased amount of applications for the position ootside Glesga Central.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        As you well know c rober, over the last decade large numbers of NewLab (i.e. liberal) careerists and their followers have migrated to the SNP, hence the party’s now dominant Indy-lite (i.e. fiddle while unionist Scotland burns) approach. Their liberal agenda is considered more important than Indy, hence the FM just said on GMS her top priority for 2017 is (again) “education”. She could just as easily have said health, or inequality, however the SNP’s top priority should be Indy as without Indy any devolved Scottish ‘Government’ and hence Scotland will always be constrained financially, culturally, diplomatically or otherwise. The FM talks about ‘building consensus’ (with our Westminster maisters) when she should be telling Scotland’s 56 supposedly ‘nationalist’ MPs to fulfil the party’s raison detre as they are democratically entitled to do. To the FM Indy is now no more than a “journey”, a word which brings long grass to mind; indy should be her overriding priority, but her liberal devolved/managerial agenda takes precedence. Indy really needs leaders with passion, and more passion, which she aint got.

    2. Douglas Scott says:

      Got it in one Alf

    3. Ed says:

      Well said Alf Baird, U.D.I. now, there is nothing to lose !!

      1. Mr T says:

        UDI. Or as others call it, trying to run a country without a tax system, benefits system, vehicle registration system, etc…..

    4. Doug Daniel says:

      “Moreover, the 2015 Scottish landslide with 56 SNP MP’s elected was clearly de facto independence, with our nation’s freedom there for the taking, and still there for the taking.”

      I’m fed up with this kind of revisionism. You cannot campaign to stand up for Scotland in Westminster ahead of the election (which was what the 2015 campaign was all about), and then claim people were actually voting for independence from Westminster after you secure their vote. It’s utterly deceitful and every bit as undemocratic as anything unionists have done to Scotland.

      If you think it’s acceptable to impose independence through deception, then you clearly do not seek self-determination for the people of Scotland.

      We can claim the people of Scotland have voted for independence in a Westminster election when the SNP campaigns on a ticket of “if we get a majority of seats in this election, that will be a de facto declaration of independence.” Not before.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Voters know what the SNP raison detre is (or what it used to be). The 2015 SNP landslide result was unexpected, yet provided no lesser a mandate to dissolve the union the same way it began, i.e. via a majority of Scottish MP’s reflecting the sovereign will of the people. This time the public had a vote and no money changed hands, unlike in 1707.

        1. c rober says:

          Alf , Doug

          I agree with the whole two fingers and turn argument , but if the LIONS never stood on a mandate then it would still mean at the behest of WM , via another rigged and double locked referendum , giving the time for retooling of PF BT et al.

          Which is why , given the Brexit concentrations of our maisters the time is now , or at least it is in MAY simply to prevent their rearming of the troops.

          However do the SNP and Greens have the round ones to do it at the council level , which is the next election on the cards? I doubt it , even though it would be ever so easy , its not like those elections have large turnouts.

          Its not like Brown and Darling will be able to offer another vow , or the Unionists have the numbers just like round II as elected politicians – but there is still the state media.

          Things have changed , the reason why many may have chosen to accept being part of the UK is one of them , via the “only as part of the Uk can the EU membership reamain ” statement, well unless your NI. Then theres the loss of jobs in those Unionist heartlands that were expected to be protected.

      2. douglas clark says:

        Thank you for putting succinctly what has been floating around in my head about this entire discussion. I would seriously propose that at the next General Election that the SNP’s manifesto must make it clear that a vote for the SNP will result in independence, assuming that they win a majority of seats. There will be no consequent need for a referendum, the decision will already have been made.

        1. douglas clark says:

          That was a reply to Doug Daniel.

  20. Patrick says:

    This is the worst news I ever read:
    Theresa May reportedly set to visit Donald Trump ‘in spring’
    2 hours ago

    The Prime Minister has already sent two staff to the US to prepare for a relationship with Trump.
    It will be better sent Henry he make a better ambassador.

  21. Willie says:

    In any other electoral system 56 out of 59 seats would be a mandate for change. But change does not come and the previous com.entator is right he observes that Independence has now become a journey. And what a journey it is with a cold country riddled with fuel poverty, a Westminster Tory government dismantling social protection in every sphere from employment protection to social care to the removal of the ECHR whilst ripping Scotland out of EU against Scotland’s will. Yes its now but a journey, a soundbite from a party fast becoming a bunch of well paid politicos having a well paid feed. Enjoy the journey!

  22. Jack Collatin says:

    Oh dear, Nicola Sturgeon is a Tony Blair, Third Way Neo liberal? Really?
    The author needs to get out more.

    1. Frank says:

      And you need to educate yourself Jack…and perhaps read the article again.

    2. It would be good to try and address some of the writers points Jack?

      1. Jack Collatin says:

        The author clearly states that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have adopted a neo liberal stance: Laissez faire capitalism with a heart? A black heart like Blair Mandelson and Brown?
        Am I missing something here? Doubt it.
        I understand completely from whence the author is coming .
        Smoke filled rooms above a pub in Clydebank, circa 1953.
        I have no more to say on this.

  23. tartanfever says:

    Maybe Bella’s editor would like to respond to the claims of ‘Russophobia’ in this article ?

    It’s clear you believe in the liberal agenda of ‘US election hacking by Putin’ (as yet unverified and major stories now retracted from the Washington Post, Boston Globe, NYT and New York Post) and the necessity to build up NATO forces in European countries that border Russia (promoted by the article citing Paul Mason/RAND corporation a while ago)

    1. c rober says:

      Dont know about ed , but personally I dont know even IF they could Physically do it. The machines are not identical , from the one supplier , neither is the software.

      There is more conjecture than facts , a history of “stripping” out voters after the count without involving russia and the internet at all…. via on site admin since 2000.

      Its Americas version of the Scottish Postal ballot , but then again did they check them all for Scottish residence , NHS use , home ownership or even death certificates. Paranoia , sounds like a nice place to visit , but keep an eye on the natives.

      1. Patrick says:

        If there was such a thing then you should be watching gold. Yes rober did you this?
        Is the radio waves of Nibirus….
        Child labor in eastern Cameroon’s gold mines
        Children in eastern Cameroon leave school as young as seven to work in gold mines. Moki Kindzeka travelled to the mining town of Betare-Oya where residents have an uneasy relationship with the Chinese mining community.

    2. Patrick says:

      Did you really believe in Putin haking US election?
      Public russian dance – Hustle celebration of Trump win

  24. Roddy says:

    Firstly, great article, like the best is managed to express thoughts I hadn’t myself found the words for yet.

    I fully agree with the analysis of the SNP, and as a member it is something I am increasingly concerned about, that we don’t appear to be speaking the same language that many Scot’s do, especially those who voted yes in 2014, often on the basis of explicitly class issues.

    However, the tangent into Russian influence I feel was a little exasperating. The current discussion around Russia is maddeningly imperceptive, and to my mind reflects a reality that many European capitals, like say many liberal thinkers, no longer understand the world we are in, in particular zero understanding of power, as a concept, a thing to be used.

    This i fear is as a result of the belief that markets, and with is levi jeans, netflix and Macky D’s would sweep all before it and everyone would end up being much the same (the same problem that made us blind to the fury growing in the Arab world).

    The tendency now is to view Russia and irrelevant, or so far behind as to be so. Indeed Russian have a point when they claim that they are often spoken to and about by westerners in a disrespectful or disparaging way.

    To be sure, Russia is not the USSR, and the overall effect of Russian Hacking (which really happened, its not a conspiracy, they did it) was really very small. But is is more than silly to ignore the fact that they did, it down right irresponsible

    That being said Russia arguably has the most effective foreign policy of any nation on earth at the moment, in that it is shaping the world into something that the Russian state believes is of benefit to itself. “Russiophobia”; its only paranoid is they are not really out to get you, and they really are out to get us.

    I point to Molly McKew’s recently essay for Politico.eu and Jeffery Mankoff’s article in Foreign Affairs, both I found very Illuminating(seriously though, great, read them) . Let me be clear, I agree that Russian influence of the US election result was minute, but the US election is not even hal of it, tell the civilians in Aleppo that Russia doesn’t matter much any more, or the opposition in Hungry, or a man on the streets of Kiev. Russia is, IS, a revisionist power, and it is it very effectively working to break-up the West. We might not like the current set up, but our interests are in reform, not destruction of Western institutions, and Russia is effectively using Military intervention, cyberwarfare, propaganda (yes its still a thing), and very possibly money, to peddle political influence (using the same opaque banking system that Western finance uses to hide its profits, possibly, though I would not be surprised to fund political parties in Western Europe.

    The same inability to understand, accept and deal with the world as we find it haunts our foreign policy as much as our domestic agenda. Its why eastern European states can remodel their states along Russian autocratic lines, why leaders of Hungry and Bulgaria can express admiration or Putin, why the possible next president of the 5th republic can do so as well (bring on the 6th I am done with this one), and we look on beating our eyes not understanding whats happening, telling ourselves it will fix itself in 2017, you’ll see.

    It won, and it’ll get worse.

    Russia seeks to break up the west, note not to destroy it, and remake it into states that look very much like it, autocratic, militaristic, very-nationalist, and within this much more fragmented West Russian power will be greatly enhanced. It’s genius really, can’t beat the west at its game, when they just smash the game.

    Russia is not the USSR but it is still in existential competition with the West and if we don’t recognise it and start to fight back someone will write an article next lamenting President Le Pen’s recent visit to the Kremlin to sign off on a new aircraft carrier built for the Russians, and we will all lament why we liberals didn’t see it coming. Russian’s understand Power, and use it very effectively, we have forgotten, and while no one wants Cold War V.2 if we dont try to understand, we’ll get something worse, I recall the words of Jimmy Carter “If you live in a daydream, you’ll wake up in a nightmare”.

    Anyway, rant over, which i think is the current internet vernacular I’m knackered.

  25. Redgauntlet says:

    It’s a great critique of the situation by Ben, right on the ball.

    On the other hand, Ben wants the SNP to align to “Socialism” which Ben describes as:

    ” defined broadly, as those willing to challenge neoliberal capitalism”….

    ….which doesn’t strike me as a particularly powerful discourse to woo the SNP away from the centre.

    It’s certainly not the definition of Socialism I was brought up with. But that word is as dead as neo-liberalism in my opinion.

    We go back to the same thing again: we need a completely new vision of society which is just, humane and egalitarian, and which isn’t called Socialism.

    Societyism maybe?

    Policy units will not do it, nor will the old rhetoric of the Left. We need something overarching, flexible on the ground, and new. It’s a heady task, make no mistake.

    If I knew the answer, I’d write it myself.

    That it exists, I am sure of. It probably involves a mixture of the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers and their social view of society – their huge discovery is that “man is a social animal ” – and Burns’s egalitarianism and Green politics and Picketty and Varoufakis and a wee bit of the current SNP…

  26. Redgauntlet says:

    The thing is, people like Ben, who is obviously a very bright guy, need to go and look at the tradition of Scottish egalitarianism – and I don’t just mean the tradition of Scottish socialism; Adam Smith was one of the first to oppose the slave trade – and then cross-breed it with current world thought on this issue – across all fields in society – and come up with a Scottish vision of the contemporary egalitarian, fair and reasonable society.

    It won’t be a policy document, it will be a book. It will be a book, and it won’t be “The Wee Blue Book” which is where we are intellectually.

    We need some philosophy….you don’t win independence on policy alone. Whoever did that? We need philosophy and, as philosophers, once upon a time we were the envy of the world…

    You would not have socialism or communism without the Communist Manifesto, which is a mixture of German Idealism, Messianic Judaism and the economics of Smith and Ricardo; not to mention some of the best prose writing of its time in the world.

    Marx was one of the greatest prose writers of his day – particularly the young Marx – and Communism is down to prose I would say, more than anything else.

    We don’t need the economics of Marx, which was completely unoriginal, or the ethics, ditto….we need the overarching vision and the prose….

  27. Pogliaghi says:

    Hm. I think there’s a lot of “begging the question” style dodgy reasoning underpinning this piece on multiple levels, and it’s based on a tendentious reading of the situation that makes for the best left wing agit prop. Sturgeon’s actual words, quoted above lament the break up of the EU and the break down of centrist consensus in Western liberal democracies through a drastic slide to the right. The imputation that Sturgeon sees these institutions as ideal, or a valuable expression of Third Way, Blairite style ideology is mainly the author’s. There’s also some breathtaking generalisation which boils down to, in effect, Hillary lost so it’s Sturgeon’s fault that the political centre is collapsing.

    What the left keeps failing to see is that while we are facing a collapse of the centre and a crisis of neoliberalism and globalisation, and yes there must be a socialist alternative to right wing populism, politicians in the concrete tactical situation of /actually being elected/ still have to triangulate. They still have to seek the centre. The unsatisfying truth is that by just blaming Clinton, or Sturgeon, or Miliband, we’re also blinding ourselves, and to some extent, becoming part of the false consciousness that leads to the rise of Trump, or events like Brexit.

    Hillary won the popular vote for a reason. For example, before Obama, about 1/6th of Americans had no health insurance. Eight years of guerilla war in Congress later and the Democrats have slashed that to 10%. Trump will throw that process back into reverse, whereas Hillary would have continued it. The puerile cynicism of “they’re both as bad as each other” runs through the left as it apparently does through capitalism’s lumpenproletariat. Cut off your nose to spite your face. We need to begin from the acknowledgement that neoliberalism with social democratic elements, whilst unstable and far from ideal, is better than the non-socialist alternatives capital is constantly striving to implement. Hillary still won the popular vote.

    And that brings me to this canard about “Russophobia”. The Russia-Today watching left is without a doubt the saddest spectacle of modern leftism. Again, this is begging the question somewhat. This assumption that some demographic or interest group is using Putin as a distraction from criticizing Clinton’s neoliberalism is not ridiculous, but it is besides the point. If the Trumpist lumpenproles had wanted a Sanders-style platform, they would have voted for Clinton for the reasons noted above. Furthermore, they’d have participated in the Democratic primary on the side of Sanders. Which might have even put pressure on Hillary from the Left.

    Again: Hillary lost by a virtual fluke and a hair’s breadth. The scale was balanced for Russian meddling to tip. Lefties are gradually absorbing the concrete reality that Putin’s Russia is a crude kleptocracy, a fucked up neo-tsarist Banana Republic. But they’re still two steps behind the game because what they don’t (and can’t) see in their ideological blindspot is that the US intelligence community, for example, is NOT WRONG about Kremlin support for, and cultivation of the far right throughout America and the EU. Don’t take my word for it. Go read Breitbart, or Stormfront or read statements by Marine Le Pen or AfD. Very pro-Russian. Look at the propaganda backdrop in Kremlin public relations: Orthodox imagery, social conservatism, Islamophobia; Putin is something rather hellish: a high-IQ Slavic Bush with a hypnotists’ ability to communicate in code such that whenever he speaks, different audiences hear what they want to hear.

    The accurate diagnosis of the situation is that America and Russia are entering a period of economic and ideological co-alignment. America becoming even more of a post-democratic kleptocracy and Russia adopting American-style social control based on religion and racism. History will judge that the left failed to take a stand, but instead kept trotting out the usual formulisms and “fighting the last battle” as is often said of incompetent generals. Namely the fight against US empire.

  28. Redgauntlet says:

    Think about the first line of the Communist Manifesto and compare it to what has been written about Scottish independence in recent years:

    “All History is the history of class struggle”….it’s an epic first line. And it is a statement of course which cannot under any circumstances be held to be true.

    But it has historical depth and huge resonance and it served a very valid general point about the state of affairs in Europe 1848, which could in some, way, to be true at that moment in history…

    It shows that Marx was an expert rhetorician. He knew exactly what he was trying to achieve, and of course he believed in it too. It also shows he was steeped in history and learning.

    James Joyce apparently put the Communist Manifesto down after reading the first line. But with a laugh…

    Joyce knew a writer when he came across one….and he knew what a writer can do….

    1. Patrick says:

      My friend, you can read the Communist Manifesto from top to bottom, and you will see is compared with all free trade agreements some part of it. If you analysis carefully all that Chineses are doing around the globe Marx is diminish . However Mother Teresa and all in Westmister want to make busines with them.
      An update of the begining of the yerar
      Child labor in eastern Cameroon’s gold mines
      Children in eastern Cameroon leave school as young as seven to work in gold mines. Moki Kindzeka travelled to the mining town of Betare-Oya where residents have an uneasy relationship with the Chinese mining community.

      Deadly shooting at Ft. Lauderdale airport near Miami
      Law enforcement officials have reported a deadly shooting at the Fort Lauderdale international airport involving a lone shooter. Authorities have “temporarily suspended” services at the airport.

  29. Alex Wright says:

    Hmm, some salient points to ponder, especially your perceived vision of where the SNP are positioned politically at this moment. It is really a shame that an analysis of your critique is happening now as opposed to 2020-2021 when, hopefully, we are independent.
    At this moment, we are a bit short on numbers so I’m kind of persuaded that Nicola Sturgeon’s current pragmatism is the only feasible way to achieve the desired result.
    As you noted, “The national question over-rides other contradictions” which I tend to agree with. As Labour continues to implode and the Tories turn into an Anglicised version of the KKK, there will hopefully be a few people who will change their minds on the constitutional question. My view for what it’s worth, is that the SNP’s version of Realpolitik is the only game in town at the moment.
    Regarding the rest of your post, Especially the “Russiaphobia”, I think you are bang on the money.

  30. punklin says:

    The article is an interesting contribution to a debate but, like some of the comments here, it misses the point.

    As a socialist and also as an active member of the SNP, I am under no delusion that it is a socialist party.

    1. c rober says:

      unlike that of 30 percent of its members?

      1. Patrick says:

        c rober, what really worry me is if Scottish society is ready to absolve the tsunami wave coming form Asia of which Nigel Farage is a fan. The waves are advance at a huge speed and it economic boom is more corrosive than water.
        Soi Cowboy, Patpong, Nana Plaza

  31. Penny says:

    Going by names, this discussion of an important idea appears to be coming from the men’s tent. Other evidence for this could be the minimal engagement with the core idea: independence for a more socially democratic society requires greater ideological clarity and electoral bravery from SNP leaders. Does Nicola (and the SNP) have to take on global capitalism more directly and more insistently in order to secure independence for Scotland? Is independence the only alternative to Tory governance in Scotland? And what, in substance, would it mean to take on global capitalism? From below (wave the increased poverty of the ‘bottom’ 10% like a shroud?) From above (immediately cancel the subsidy given Amazon to locate in Scotland?) From the local development initiatives (immediately cancel representations from the oligarchy that has killed local economies with abandon?)

    Social democracy is an artefact of the nation-state’s power to define and enforce regulation, re-distribution and public goods. Global capitalism undermines most of its powers and destroys some of its power completely. If anything reveals the parlous state of national political power, its the election of Trump; possible because the elites are not fearful of his actions to the same extent as they were with say Nixon or Eisenhower or Roosevelt. They are not fearful because by and large their power and wealth are immune from the rules and punishments of national powers. They can arbitrage Trump’s decisions just as they did Obama’s; as they are doing with the few that May has announced.

    So if Social democratic appeals are pure nostalgia, what are appeals to some kind of as yet to be defined socialism?

  32. Colin Mackay says:

    Think the article by Ben Wray is excellent and certainly agree that the direction the SNP has taken will probably prove to be the wrong one unless they are generally pulled further left.

    It is of course very difficult to argue this point with many Indy supporters as the SNP have and still are introducing, progressive and good for society policies which are without doubt to be applauded. We also know much of Scotland at heart is fairly small c in many ways. As Ben explains, this refusal to budge from the centre in the most ideological sense, is of great concern though. It has and is in the process of being rejected throughout the world. Neoliberalism is collapsing very quickly in political terms now and if the positive areas of Globalism are to be saved(or even if they aren’t for that matter) then governments need be carving out a way forward for the future instead of clinging to the clearly failed neoliberal past. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04ngmzp – fascinating discussion with Jim O’Neill and Paul Mason here worth a listen).

    Also agree with Redgauntlet that the term Socialism as a blanket term is sketchy in this context. Not sure it appeals to anyone apart from those already definitely affixed to the left these days. It feels as if we are to achieve the goal in making our little part of the world better and in turn the world a little bit better then we need to move beyond certain old descriptions and labels. I think talking in socialist terms, even though I agree with much of the ideology, is perhaps counter-productive in this case and we should perhaps think about progressive, fair and green(although not specifically) terms that can hopefully appeal to people these days.

  33. c rober says:


    Some nice reading here , an independent country , so able to negotiate its own deals , yet still has an imbalance with the UK – where UK imports are double the exports.

    So of course NI will get a deal to be in the EU , if jobs and wealth on the English mainland or NI depend on that trade imbalance being maintained , as well as through the mainland English port use for EIRE exports onward to both the EU and ROTW.

    There will be an open border with Ireland and NI in order to preserve the trade imbalance.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Yes, almost everything sold in Scotland comes via logistics centres in England, hence is an English import. For every one full load truck going south, two full trucks come north. Virtually everything sold retail in Scotland comes via RDC’s in England, and most of these goods are initially imports to England. It is not Scotland that depends on England as far as trade/logistics goes, it is precisely the other way around. As an independent state Scotland would be better advised to (re)develop our international trade links with continental hubs.

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