The MacRonin report
Last night I sat down to empty my mind of various family, political and crowdfunding stresses using the trusted old method of temporarily transporting myself to another time and place. Drug of choice: my classic film collection! A sure way to escape yourself for an hour or two, or even three in this particular case! As I watched, and the familiar old story unfolded, it struck me for the first time in many, many watches, what an incredible analogy this particular film is for the current political moment of truth facing us all in the Yes movement, as we all struggle to get ourselves ready for Brexit and IndyRef2. It struck me so powerfully that I would like to share it with you…
The scene is medieval Japan, but it could quite as easily be Scotland 2019. A peaceful hardworking population has just been pillaged of its resources… again, by a band of thieving mercenaries who assume theft of other people’s resources as their natural birth right. So sure they are of this right of theirs to steal, that they make no bones about their plans to return in the autumn and remove the last remaining resources that the population has left to see them through the coming winter. They even give the population a rough date of when to expect them back… I think they said something about October the 31st… but, it all depends on when the crops ripen.
So, like Scotland, this population is faced with an existential crisis – on a timer. The choices are stark. Wait to meekly deliver the bandits their resources and then slowly die over the coming winter… or, risk survival, come together and defend their hard won resources by standing to fight. Importantly, the bandits are also starving and dependent on the population’s resources to survive the winter themselves, so any fight is likely to be a battle of survival for both sides. Is this analogy making any sense to you yet?
The population meet, discuss and decide collectively to fight. They have lots of experience of war, but only as the victims of it, not the perpetrators. They decide to find a core group of experienced warriors to defend them. With little to no resources left after the bandits annual visits, the defenders the population need to find must be of a different breed, motivated by the cause and the fight, not money or status. These, in the film, are found from the Ronin, Samurai warriors no longer strictly tied to a clan but instead masterless, and following their own moral and social honour codes.
In Scotland 2019 this band of ‘Ronin’ are the fiercely autonomous Yes groups, spread all over the different communities of Scotland. Groups full of people no longer strictly tied to past party-political loyalties (if they ever were). They are not motivated by money, status or party rank, they are volunteers to a greater cause and driven by a grassroots code of equality, independence and autonomy.
Meanwhile, back in Japan… something very interesting happens as soon as the population finally find the few Ronin willing to ‘defend’ them. What happens is that the Samurai immediately set about strategizing, planning, walking the coming battlefield, honestly assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their own side.
Have we as a grassroots done these basics yet in preparation for our own IndyRef2 battle that is looming? Do we as a grassroots even have the organisational capabilities of such basic essentials?
It slowly becomes clear that the Samurai do NOT see themselves as the army, they know from hard experience that it’s the population themselves that are the army. The Samurai will not be protecting the population because only the population is capable of defending themselves, and even then, only by acting collectively. The Samurai organise the inexperienced by sharing their experience to mould an effective army for when the time comes to fight and then, fight hard alongside them.
‘Collective action saves the individual. Individual action kills the collective. This is a rule of war’
In 2014, grassroots Yes fought IndyRef1 thinking we were following this same winning strategy, grassroots groups fighting to a collective plan in each of our own communities, a movement with a collective strategy. We were all fighting in our communities alright, but no one had properly walked the actual battlefield, honestly assessed our strengths and weaknesses, strategized and planned together as a grassroots campaign.
Unlike the experienced Samurai, our fighting was more for our communities rather than alongside them, as strategic and tactical help to their main campaigning heft. In other words, we did not, as a movement, properly organise in a way that fully mobilised our communities to fight the campaign themselves. This was not through lack of willing volunteers or enough popular support within our communities, but instead it was through a logistical inability by central YesHQ to handle all the offers to volunteer coming from Scotland’s newly motivated, but politically inexperienced, general public.
‘The Seven Samurai’ (did you guess the film?) do not build a fort in the middle of the battlefield where they arm themselves behind walls and moat waiting for the hordes of bandits to attack. Instead, they organise themselves into the areas of the village they need to defend. Each Samurai takes responsibility to train, arm and organise the population of their own sector in how to fight most effectively in that sector, with the skills and resources they have at hand. Each Samurai is in constant contact with the others and they all understand the full importance of their own sector’s role in the over-all battle. BUT… it is the everyday population of each sector that must win the fight! The battle is won tactically: using simple bamboo spears wielded by non-professional fighters in simple formations assembled from their own community groups (unfashionable I know, but does this remind you of any Scottish history at all?)
Yes Scotland’s centrally organised, top down ‘leadership’ was the equivalent of the Yes movement preparing ourselves by building that central fort in the middle of the battlefield for our leaders and expecting to get effective orders out to our samurai to run the battle from each community. Well, in 2014, our fort got swamped, our leaders could no longer help and the samurai were left to fight for their own communities individually as best they could. This is not a good a film script for IndyRef2. So, let’s look again at the original… where the population is saved and the bandits are defeated – yass!
Step 1: Ditch centralisation. We need no fort. Rather than another Yes Scotland at the centre, what we need is effective communication directly between the autonomous campaigning Yes groups (our Samurai). This way each yes group can help one another, talk through practical strategies, learn from each other, share resources and develop training techniques. Effectively walk the battlefield and prepare to win. We need to be able to turn inexperienced yes volunteers into simply organised but very effective campaigning forces inside their own communities.
IndyApp platform is designed to perform exactly this decentralised secure communications role.
Step 2: Support our volunteers. The inability to convert what eventually became enormous numbers of inexperienced but willing volunteers into a useful campaigning force on the ground was Yes grassroots’ single biggest failure during IndyRef1 and is still the movement’s single biggest lesson to be learned when organising for IndyRef2.
Most first contacts to the grassroots during IndyRef1 were received as a response to the sign-up form on the Yes Scotland national campaign website. Unfortunately, central HQ was simply not capable of assessing and then distributing those volunteers effectively on to their nearest local Yes group, who could then have metaphorically handed each their bamboo spear and pointed them in a direction most likely to help win a Yes in their local area.
IndyApp platform is designed to perform exactly this decentralised role of ‘first contact’ for volunteers to directly find and join their local Indy Group on the ground.
Step 3: Get ready for the surge. Our job as a movement is to develop effective grassroots ways to properly use the inevitable surge of Yes volunteers just as soon as they become willing to get stuck into campaigning. Something most ‘normal’ Yessers only ever get motivated to do during an actual IndyRef campaign. This may even come to some Yessers as late as mere days before the vote. We need to be able to convert every last drop of volunteered potential into effective Yes campaigning, no matter when or where that potential gets offered!
IndyApp platform is designed to accept that decentralised surge as it expands and pass it directly onto the closest local groups wherever they are in the country.
These are the real lessons to be learnt from the grassroots’ campaigning experiences of 2014. It is what happened on the ground then and it is how IndyRef2 campaigning will play out again, when the time comes. We, the Yes groups, must prepare now for those logistic and organisational campaign realities. This time we have to take our painfully hard won experience as a movement and turn 2014’s failed centralised campaign structures into a properly decentralised campaigning community of local groups, with practical strategies designed and ready for specifically winning IndyRef2.
Next Step: Now that the IndyApp platform is ready, the NYR are holding a national training weekend for all local Group Editors and interested group members. It will be held at The Station Hotel in Perth over 21/22 September 2019, 160+ training places available with overnight accommodation for 100. After holding successful test events, we now have an interactive training process that practically takes folk through all the shared platform functions needed to allow that campaigning community of local Indy groups to form.
Open Invite: ALL groups are very welcome, whither registered on the IndyApp platform or not. To ensure you and your group are a part of this important training weekend, please book your places Now as we MUST have numbers by 1st of September when we pay venue costs…
Bookings are going well, but each place at the Perth weekend is heavily subsidised in order to keep attendance affordable and open to all. This means that the training weekend is dependent on the success of our crowdfund. The full venue costs must be paid by the 1st of September and so the crowdfund end date is only a few days away! At time of printing we are at 34% of our target, so if you like what we are trying to do, please click on the link, read more about it and please help make it happen with a donation.
NYR IndyApp practical training Strategy:
1 Hold a national training weekend in Perth to practically train all group Editors and interested group members on the new IndyApp platform and its functions. At the event, use those functions to create support structures among the newly trained, and begin building the necessary grassroots structures needed for decentralised national campaigning.
2 Cascade same training and network building down to every groupmembership across the country, with training collectively organised locally and regionally. Once groups are properly networked and able to respond to enquiries from the public, we can all focus on expanding IndyApp membership to as many Yes supporters as we possibly can.
3 From that solid base, we can then actively publicise IndyApp Encourage registration of the wider Yes supporting public. The more Yessers register on the IndyApp, the bigger the grassroots Yes campaigning pool becomes. Not another petition of names but instead an ever increasing pool of individually contactable Yes supporters.