Some significant developments came out of London Young Labour’s annual general meeting on 3 February. Strong motions supporting democratic rights for people living on housing estates, against racism and for freedom of movement, and for the establishment of a trans officer position all passed with ease. The new chair, Momentum and Open Labour-backed…
My snap analysis, written as the coup attempt in Turkey was coming to an end on Saturday morning:
“The coup attempt will be a pretext to clamp down even further on the ‘parallel state’… But in Erdoğan’s post-coup rule, it is Kurds, liberal voices in the media, trade unionists, and opposition parties… who will bear the brunt of ramped-up authoritarianism, censorship, and lumpen-populism…
…If democracy and pluralism are to have a chance, it is crucial that Erdoğan is not allowed to further monopolise the “pro-civilian”, “pro-democracy” narrative and that opposition voices of all stripes are heard. The prospects for this in the current political landscape are bleak.”
Read here on EA WorldView: http://eaworldview.com/2016/07/turkey-analysis-erdogan-military-bleak-future-people/
(Article edited by Scott Lucas)
Recently, I was fortunate enough to engage in a brief, interesting discussion online about the EU referendum – rare enough at any time on social media, let alone at a time of such poison in the national political atmosphere. So, before I head off to litter-pick in wellies at Glastonbury, I thought I would take the opportunity to briefly lay out four of the points that were made and my responses to them in more detail. (I would have liked to have gone into greater detail but this will have to do as I have a bag to pack.) Everyone is sick to death of referendum think-pieces – here is mine!
Disclaimer: I am on the Left of the Labour Party, and support much of what the Another Europe is Possible (“radical in”) campaign has argued for.
“Remain’s argument from authority is a logical fallacy”
According to a YouGov survey last week, two-thirds of Leave supporters say it is wrong to rely too much on experts. It came as no surprise. Out leafleting in Stourbridge town centre recently, I was told that not one economist predicted the financial crisis of 2007-08 – “why should we listen to their warnings?” Of course this isn’t true – Ann Pettifor and Steve Keen, to name just two, predicted a crisis. The point is that the political establishment didn’t listen to them because their ideas clashed with the prevailing economic orthodoxy of the early 2000s – deregulation, privatisation and so on. So, instead, they listened to establishment economic voices that were more amenable to their politics.
Somewhere along the line, understandable anger at what Tariq Ali calls the “extreme centre” became confused and conflated with anger at experts in general. The problem is, the experts are not a homogenous bunch – economists at the IMF have only just admitted they got austerity wrong having imposed it across the world, while some left-wing economists and thinkers have been writing critically about the neoliberal project for four decades. During this debate, however, all experts have been tarnished together in a populist upsurge.
On to “remain’s argument from authority is a logical fallacy” – so, just because an authority figure says something doesn’t mean it is true, because authority figures have got it wrong before. The point needs to be made that when you have such overwhelming authority on one side of a debate – including some unusual bedfellows who seldom agree – there is a reason for that.
It is also worth asking – what fills the vacuum left by reason and expertise when this idea is advanced? Dog-whistle politics, hysteria and misinformation – exactly what we have seen from the Leave camp. Indeed, one of the ways the Leave camp has most resembled the populism of Donald Trump in the US is its anti-expert, pro-“silent majority”, pro-“common sense” appeal. At their worst, UKIP and the Tory Right have patently race-baited in the absence of reasoned discussion.
“Voting leave would be an act of solidarity with the Greek people”
This argument, on first consideration, perhaps seems to be one of the better arguments that the more internationally engaged Brexiters have made during the referendum campaign. It is certainly true that the Greek people have been shafted by the troika, and by European instruments directed in the interests of the German state and banks. However, consider the arrogance behind the statement given that actually, despite everything, polls show that the Greek people strongly wish to remain within the European Union. The only exit ever on the cards for the Greek people last year was from the Eurozone, as advocated by former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.
The EU acted shamefully over Greece, and allowed the capture of its decision making process by a powerful member state acting against a much weaker periphery state. But how would a British exit of the EU change all of this? If anything, if one wishes the UK to wield positive influence in the future, we wouldn’t be able to do so outside of the EU – Germany would be left in an even greater position of dominance with the exit of the second biggest economy in the union, and it could be argued that the EU’s core-periphery imbalance would increase as a result.
The third part of the troika is the IMF, of which we would still be signed up to. (Where is our referendum on that!?) The IMF has dished out Greek-type ultimatums to nations many times before, particularly in the Global South. Would any of that change if we left the EU? The reality is, as Varoufakis argues, that the EU operates as capitalist bodies do in a capitalist world. Leaving wouldn’t change that. Change can only come through uniting and struggling with progressive actors across borders.
N.B. the New Statesman writer Alex Andreou has even come up with a term for Brexiters who tell pro-EU, anti-troika Greeks that their vote is in solidarity with the Greek people: “Brexplaining”!
“The EU is unreformable”
Brexiters seem to be making two arguments that are not compatible– (a) the EU is unreformable, and (b) the EU is unrecognisable from the EEC that we voted for in 1975. Well, which one is it? Has it and can it change, or hasn’t it and isn’t it able to?
From the perspective of the Left, wishing for progressive reform of the EU, it certainly is a slog. The EU is a big, bureaucratic organisation that was formed to serve the interests of European capital. However, unlike the IMF, the WTO, et al, it has a social component, and one that – with the multitude of political and economic crises that have arisen – will increasingly come into conflict with its market element. This provides a real opportunity for reform along progressive lines, and the development of pan-European Left movements like DiEM25, in addition to the success of radical parties such as Podemos in Spain, are encouraging. We need to engage along those lines.
“The European Union causes nationalism”
Firstly, it is worth remembering that the EU has contributed to the denationalising of a continent that has been torn apart by nationalism on more than one occasion. Since WWII, conflicts in Europe have only taken place outside of the EU. Of course there are other reasons for this too, but the EU has played a big role in binding the interests of nation states and increasing co-operation. It has also fostered a sense – albeit sometimes a messy sense – of European demos.
The more recent rise of nationalism, identity, reaction and so on are global phenomena, primarily related to the inadequacies of the post-crisis economic settlement. How did we get here? A centrist convergence around neoliberal economic ideas began in the nineteen-eighties and gathered pace from the end of the Cold War up until the crash. During this period, we saw new nationalist forces emerge in Europe (and around the world) that challenged the centre from the right, capitalising on the failures of prevailing orthodoxies – UKIP in the UK for example, Jobbik in Hungary, et al. By the time of the economic crisis, many of these parties had modest but solid bases – the crisis then provided fertile ground for them to surge, exploiting tensions and grievances. History tells us that the centre cannot defeat such surges – only a strong alternative can. The collapse or stagnation of traditional social democratic parties around Europe (“Pasokification”) shows this. The EU requires a Left that is internationalist in outlook, and one that fully utilises the tools that a Europe-wide material and political base has created.
The EU can take its share of the blame. It has advanced some of the regressive economic ideas that have taken hold across the world since the nineteen-seventies. In addition, although the European Parliament is certainly not simply the debating chamber that it once was and often does essential work on the environment and other issues, as DiEM25 argue, much can be done to democratise the EU and its institutions. It is of vital importance that people feel the EU works in their interests. However, to blame the EU for the far-right is to massively simplify what is part of a global socioeconomic trend.
Another key point: if we leave the EU, will nationalism just go away? Or will it embolden the most reactionary actors who are calling for Brexit? Marine Le Pen, who is a year away from contesting a Presidential election in France, would be elated at the prospect of the EU’s unravelling. Here in the UK, if we leave the EU, it will be on the back of a rising tide of xenophobia. The forces that have encouraged it and capitalised on it will also be emboldened in a post-Brexit UK, particularly the anti-EU Tory Right.
DiEM25’s manifesto correctly identifies that we have two options – either retreat into the cocoon of nation states and insular nationalism, or attempt to revitalise the EU along democratic, participatory lines. As previously stated, that will be difficult – but it is essential work. Regardless of what you think the EU’s role has been in the re-emergence of nationalism, and even if you disagree with my brief analysis above, capitulating to the demands of the xenophobic Right would certainly be the worst move possible, and would undermine efforts to challenge it here and across the continent.
— Daniel Round, 22nd June 2016.
Recently, I sent some questions to Stourbridge Labour Party candidates for the upcoming local elections on the 5th of May.
Have a read at the new Stourbridge Labour blog.
Since the resounding victory of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey’s Parliamentary elections last November, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has consolidated his position and is looking to major constitutional changes that would boost his already considerable power.
However, the President’s position of strength has a significant underside of weakness. Erdoğan is facing not only divisions within the country but also within the AKP, with frustration in some quarters at his personal ambitions and autocratic tendencies…
The interactions that Scotland and Québec engage in with their respective host states differ greatly. Perhaps the most important difference between the Scotland-UK interface and that of Québec-Canada is historical: specifically, how the two came to be subsumed into the larger national body. That the history books tell of Québec’s ‘Conquest’ and Scotland’s ‘integration’ through the mutually beneficial Treaty of Union (1707) is telling, and remains relevant in the different relationships the independence movements have within the wider nations, with Québec nationalism taking a more combative stance. While the Conquest instilled in many French-Québeckers the idea of la survivance, premised according to Francois-Pierre Gingras and Neil Nevitte around the notion that “Québec’s national culture faces continual threats”, Scottish nationalists’ sense of threat from the rest of the United Kingdom – or rather England – has been, and continues to be, far less severe. The tumult of the 1760 Conquest, a major event in Québec and Canadian history and an integral part of the Québecois identity, is also mirrored by the tumult of the Quiet Revolution in the nineteen-sixties. While Québec underwent a period of radical social change following industrialisation and the collapse of the old church authority – a period that included FLQ paramilitary activity and culminated in a PQ administration – Scotland did not go through dramatic social or political upheaval. Though Scotland did also see post-war attitudinal shifts, its big movement occurred long after Québec’s, and for very different reasons. Between 1979 and 1997, Conservative rule from Westminster and its policies of privatisation and centralisation faced great opposition north of the border. While Québec was by this stage asserting itself and moving away from being simply a periphery economy in relation to Canada’s Anglo core, Scotland – once a wealthy benefactor of empire – was seemingly becoming more and more marginalised on the periphery of the British economy, with profits from resources, such as North Sea oil, exiting south of the border. London’s strengthened financial dominance in the neoliberal era has been answered by the rise of nationalism in Scotland – as Murray Stewart Leith and Daniel Soule assert in their research, “the rejection of Thatcher has served to underpin a sense of Scottish identity in the past three decades”. Actually, it turned out to be a rejection of Thacher-ism, with Holyrood representatives from both the SNP and Scottish Labour dismissing various private-partnership schemes of the New Labour government between 1997 and 2010. Québecois fervour and Scottish gradualism are further reflected in the early fortunes of the PQ and the SNP. PQ, founded in 1968, formed its first provincial administration just six years later in 1976, causing shockwaves in Canada by winning 40% of the votes. The SNP took seventy-three years from its conception to replace the Labour Party as the major force in Scottish politics. Although devolution did not take place until the late nineteen-nineties, this nevertheless speaks volumes about the gradual development of nationalist sentiment in Scotland in comparison with the more explosive situation in Québec.
Another divergent factor between the two independence movements, and the interface with their respective host states, is language. For over 80% of Québeckers, French is the first language. While language is one of the most significant markers of identity in Québec, in Scotland it is not at all a major factor. In the 2001 census, only 58,650 people, or 1.2% of the population, spoke the Gaelic language. One hundred years ago 5.2% could speak the language, indicating a steady decline. The lack of language as an issue in Scotland has translated into a lack of concern for Scottish culture among nationalists too. Commenting on the situations in Québec, Scotland and Wales, Paul Hamilton asserts:
Much has been made of the distinction between cultural versus economic/political nationalism in analyses of nationalist parties in Western democracies. Undoubtedly, the Québec and Welsh parties have long had a concern with the fate of vulnerable languages and culture. This stands in contrast to the Scottish case, which, aside from the occasional reference in policy documents or party manifestoes, seems remarkably unconcerned with Scottish culture. One obvious explanation is the public presence of a minority language.
Indeed, in Québec, French serves as the foremost daily signifier of their distinct cultural and historical separation from the rest of Canada, and whenever in power the PQ has endeavoured to boost the use of the French language in the province through language policies. Language, however, provides more than simply a marker of identity for Québec. As Keating posits, language is a “mechanism for maintaining social cohesion, not against the international market but within it”. Indeed, despite initial concerns, language policies have not had the effect of hindering attempts to integrate Québec into the global market system where the English language is so prominent.
A major similarity and marker of convergence between the SNP and PQ, however, is the societal counterparadigm. As Professor Daniel Salee states about Québec:
Much of Québec’s evolution over the past three or four decades can be understood in terms of the development of a counterparadigm that was premised on contesting Canada’s political and cultural hegemony and on continued commitment by the provincial state to social solidarity and social justice.
The same could be said of Scotland. Indeed, both Québec and Scotland have traditionally been, and remain to this day, to the left of the rest of Canada and Britain correspondingly. Centre-right parties of both host states have historically performed poorly at elections in Scotland and Québec, while the nationalist parties reflect leftist tendencies in opposition to a conservative status quo. Amidst all the rallying cries for an independent, sovereign Québec, PQ’s website also refers to its “progressive policies”. Similarly, on the SNP website it describes itself as a “social democratic political party committed to Scottish independence”. Nevertheless, commenting on the position of the SNP, Murray Leith and Daniel Soule assert that “concepts of right wing and left wing have less efficacy than the idea of national independence.” This is certainly true of the SNP – Leith and Soule make use of political compass charts, positing that between the 1979 and 1992 UK elections, the SNP was to the right of Scottish Labour, before switching places in 1997, and then back again in 2010. It is possibly even truer of the PQ, which despite projecting a type of left-nationalism, has shifted to the right on the political spectrum a number of times since the laissez-faire nineteen-eighties in order to fill the populist political vacuum, and to counter attacks from the radical left such as Québec Solidaire (QS).
Although the notion of the counterparadigm with its emphasis on social justice and cohesion appears to be in opposition to neoliberal economic trends, this has not prevented either the SNP or PQ from embracing the market. This is in part due to the malleable nature of the two nationalist parties. If counterparadigms continue to shape much of the rhetoric of the two independence movements, the acceptance of market globalism now has a greater impact on the policies of the SNP and PQ than ever before. As Salee argues, continued emphasis on counterparadigms is used as an ideological tool to assist in winning the sovereignty argument. The SNP and PQ both argue that their nations would be better off divorced from their host state in order to pursue the “social solidarity” that they claim their societies represent, such as greater redistribution of wealth and increased civic participation. Nevertheless, in the neoliberal era, and with the influence of the international institutions, the rhetoric and the reality of the sovereigntists’ counterparadigms are somewhat confused. Although many activists in the two movements remain deeply sceptical of economic globalisation and continue to espouse left-counterparadigm views of independence, both the SNP and PQ have adapted to fit into the new global political and economic environment in attempts to legitimise and bolster the separatist cause. In accordance with localism, a prevalent trend in both the SNP and PQ over the past three decades, there has been an acceptance of integrationist models – namely, relating to the EU and NAFTA. This continental approach has impacted upon the two independence movements in similar ways, dramatically changing the meaning of independence for both Scotland and Québec. However, continentalism has very different roots in the two movements. Hamilton states that the post-war Europeanisation that Scottish nationalists have embraced “acknowledges the exogenous origins” [of nationhood] and the commonality of European nations, in accordance with the principles of EU subsidiarity. In Québec, the acceptance of North American integration is solely for economic purposes, with no project of political union. Economic ties, however, have also served to strengthen a larger North American identity that has weakened Canadian identity among Québeckers, allowing for a greater association with Québec to also flourish in conjunction. Academic Melanie Tafekman made this link in 2002, noting that 85% of Québec’s exports at the time were sold to the U.S., and recognising the new trend of Québeckers increasingly seeing themselves as North Americans and even global citizens as opposed to Canadians. In this ever outward looking global system, it seems as if people both revert back to regional and local identities as well as identifying beyond the parameters of the state on a continental or global level. This parallel dynamic has certainly helped to shape the new nationalisms of Scotland and Québec.
Integrationist tactics serve to legitimise calls for independence. As highlighted by Roger Boire and Jean-Pierre Roy’s critically acclaimed documentary National Matters (2010), for many Scots and Québeckers the idea of ‘going it alone’ have historically conjured up ideas of financial collapse, unsustainable economies, and general chaos. Politicians of both the SNP and PQ argue that an independent state’s involvement with international organisations, such as the EU and NAFTA respectively, would protect the nation’s interests and provide security. As Michael Keating asserts, these international bodies “offer considerable reassurance to voters worried about the disruption and political implications of separation.” In addition, after 9/11, international defence and security bodies such as NATO have also been taken on board by previously hostile nationalists – in October 2012, the SNP leadership reversed its traditional anti-NATO policy. Under the umbrella of such international organisations, many Scots see independence within the EU and global system as viable, with nationalists able to cite examples of successful small countries involved in the European project. Nationalists in Catalonia also use similar examples to bolster their arguments. For Québec, NAFTA represents a similar type of support as an organisation. As Michael Keating states:
For some [the continental regimes] provides an external support system for independence, and lowers economic barriers to it. So the PQ and the SNP… are committed to independence-in-NAFTA or independence-in-Europe.
With globalisation and continentalism in the form of the EU and NAFTA, as the new nationalist adage goes – “integration promotes disintegration”. In committing to giving up a little sovereignty to continental institutions and the market forces that these institutions support, the nationalists are able to erode the influence the host state has over both national political identity and economics. These policy shifts have not gone without criticism from within the nationalist camps however, thus highlighting the split between the adherents of the pragmatic strategy that follows the global political and economic trajectories, and the radicals who have upheld the traditional values of independent nationhood and self-determination. In Scotland, an array of leftist parties are in favour of independence but regularly criticise SNP policies such as corporation tax cuts, while QS outflanks PQ on the left in Québec and is now a major electoral force.
Leading nationalists in both Scotland and Québec see the integrationist approach as what Michael Keating calls a “nation-building strategy”. As a nation-building strategy, continental integration also forms a part of a wider new nationalist development in recent decades – the opening up of societies that are more ethnically homogenous than their host states. This also involves a broader shift towards pluralism. The capacity to work within the global framework has given further credence to the calls from both the SNP and PQ for a ‘velvet divorce’ from their respective host states – akin to the amicable division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Indeed, Scottish nationalists often talk of the social union that would remain between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK, while PQ politicians talk of improved relations between an independent Québec and the rest of Canada – as neighbours, co-operating and working together.
In recent years the independence movements of Scotland and Québec have found themselves in very different positions. In Québec the last PQ administration was primarily concerned with the notion of good governance. In Scotland the SNP is campaigning for independence, with the referendum fast approaching. Alex Salmond and the SNP have sought throughout to reassure the Scottish electorate that seeking separation will not interfere with good governance. Both positions are problematic – as highlighted in the documentary National Matters, sovereigntist parties can fall foul of what is known as the good governance trap, something that has traditionally afflicted the ambitious PQ when in office. The danger is that for the moderate majority, at ease with greater autonomy as opposed to full independence, most of the sought after goals can be achieved with the nationalists forming administrations within the existing political framework. Between 1976 and 1980, PQ reform of the electoral system and the charter of French language (Bill/Loi 101) satisfied many Québeckers that the necessary alterations could be made within Canada’s federal system. This allowed for the ‘Oui’ campaign to lose the independence referendum of 1980, with 60% voting against, while the following year PQ was re-elected in the province. The good governance trap at the federal level could continue to damage the PQ’s push for independence if it returns to power. In Scotland, with ever increasing powers over their own affairs, and potentially more on the way with greater devolution if the electorate votes against independence, perceived good governance within the devolved system could also hinder any future attempts at independence there, too – hence the SNP’s eagerness to win first time round and avoid the problems faced by the PQ in Québec.
The Scottish and Québec independence movements are similar in a great number of ways, yet they differ significantly too. The roots of Scottish and Québecois nationalism are poles apart, from their histories of absorption into the host state, to their relationship with language and culture, and the political systems that they operate within and contend with. Nevertheless, the two movements both espouse a progressive national narrative counter to that of their host states and have both converged over their responses to the new global economic and political orders, adopting integrationist policies within their platforms. This reflects the idea that the new nationalisms of both Scotland and Québec are formed from the pragmatism of the globalisation era added to the historical idealism of independence. As Keating suggests, “they are the result of nation-building strategies conducted within the shell of the existing state” while also “draw[ing] on historic traditions and identities”. If the historic traditions and identities of the two nations are very different indeed, the nation-building strategies are similar, reflecting both shared global realities and older separatist ambitions.
Currently, there is of course far greater momentum for independence in Scotland, and the referendum is just a week away [at time of writing]. In Québec, after two referendum losses in 1980 and 1995, and in the midst of increasing activism among its youth following two years of student protests, there is now a greater focus on social justice as opposed to independence, which has been pushed down the agenda in the province. Despite these very different situations and the historical differences around language and culture, the independence movements and the leading sovereigntist parties in Scotland and Québec have converged over many issues, and now use many similar tactics that fall under the umbrella of new nationalism. Whatever happens in Scotland on the 18th of September, sovereigntist convergence will continue to impact both its political climate and that of Québec.
– Daniel W. Round, 10th September 2014.
 Michael Keating, Nations against the State: The New Politics of Nationalism in Quebec, Catalonia and Scotland (London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1996), 220.
 Francois-Pierre Gingras and Neil Nevitte, “The Evolution of Quebec Nationalism” in Alain G. Gagnon, Quebec: State and Society (Toronto: Methuen, 1984), 5.
 Murray Stewart Leith and Daniel P.J. Soule, Political Discourse and National Identity in Scotland (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 24.
 Keating, 69.
 Atsuko Ichijo, Scottish Nationalism and the Idea of Europe: Concepts of Europe and the Nation (New York: Routledge, 2004), 38.
 Paul Hamilton, “Converging Nationalisms: Quebec, Scotland, and Wales in comparative perspective”, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 10:4 (2004), pp. 664.
 Keating, 219
 Daniel Salee, “Transformative Politics, the State, and the Politics of Social Change in Quebec”, in Clement, Wallace and Leah F. Vosko (Editors), Changing Canada: Political Economy as Transformation (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2003), pp. 25.
 Leith and Soule, 49.
 Ibid., 47.
 Salee, 27.
 Hamilton, 663.
 Melanie Takefman, “Globalisation experts congregate at Concordia”, Concordia’s Thursday Report (7th November, 2002) http://ctr.concordia.ca/2002-03/Nov_7/10-Globalization/index.shtml
 Roger Boire and Jean-Pierre Roy (Directors), Questions Nationales/National Matters, documentary film (Montréal: L’Oeil Fou inc., 2010).
 Keating, 63.
 Ian Davis, “Joining Nato: the SNP can safely hold fire on its anti-nuclear dream”, The Guardian, 16th October 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/scotland-blog/2012/oct/16/scotland-defence-nato
 Boire and Roy, National Matters.
 Keating, 223.
 Stéphane Paquin, “Globalization, European integration and the rise of neo‐nationalism in Scotland”, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Volume 8, Issue 1, (2002), pp. 55
 Keating, 217.
 Boire and Roy, National Matters.
 Boire and Roy, National Matters.
 Keating, 69.
 Ibid., 217.