Another Scottish independence campaign in the context of capitalism’s end-days: how to campaign coherently?

The end days of neoliberal capitalism

I have just watched the video below, in which Chris Hedges compellingly describes what is happening right now in the USA (and elsewhere). He paints a disturbing vision of the end-days of neoliberal capitalism, and possibly of humanity: a corporate takeover and kleptocracy. Overused adjectives like ‘dystopian’ and ‘Orwellian’ come to mind. It rings worryingly true.

Devouring every morsel

Predatory capitalism, in its death throes, is devouring every last morsel of the common good. The environment, healthcare and every public and state institution are all grist to its mill, along with justice and human rights, as the bloated military machine (a means of channelling resources into the rapacious maws of the super-rich) is super-super-sized, and minorities are systematically scapegoated for people’s misery in a relentless campaign of misinformation and propaganda, which leaves people confused and disempowered.

Left must come down from moral high ground

Towards the end of the video, Mr Hedges talks about the need for a broad campaign of non-violent resistance – of civil disobedience – for which a major requirement is that former enemies come together in a common cause, and that those who despise aspects of each other’s philosophies work together. He talks about the need for listening to each other, and says, in effect, that the left must come down from its various perches on its fragmented and partisan moral high ground and reach out. (These are my words for what he is attempting to convey.)

Galvanising alternative philosophy needed for Scottish independence and to defeat neoliberalism

While this seems compelling, I am struggling to see what practical lessons can be taken from it in the context of another Scottish independence campaign, especially in light of Bruce K. Alexander’s call (to me, self-evidently correct) for a ‘galvanising alternative philosophy’ to ‘hypercapitalism’ in his must-read book, The Globalisation of Addiction, A Study in Poverty of the Spirit, recently echoed by George Monbiot and, in the context of Scottish independence, by Jonathan Shafi of the Radical Independence Campaign.

I completely agree with Mr Shafi that we need such a galvanising philosophy if we are to win independence, and for me the establishment of a world based on such a philosophy is the only reason for Scottish independence, because a country in thrall to transnational corporations and the kleptocracy is not independent in any meaningful sense, and cannot act as a beacon for others.

Yes, I believe that the UK, without a free and independent Scotland to show the way, is a lost cause, drifting ever faster towards the nihilistic maelstrom described by Mr Hedges.

Staying part of the UK would not be an act of solidarity or brotherly/sisterly love. It would be folly; we would be entering a mutual suicide pact.

If we care about people in the rest of the UK, we owe it to them, as much as ourselves, to break free and show the way. For that I am convinced that we desperately need a ‘galvanising alternative philosophy’.


So how is it possible to put across a ‘galvanising alternative philosophy’ in a new Scottish independence campaign while not treading on the sensibilities of those who call for a Scotland ‘open for business’ (by which they effectively mean open for plundering by transnational companies), those who think the answer is low rates of corporation tax, those who support being a member of Nato (and therefore of the massive military-industrial complex at the rotten heart of neoliberal capitalism)…? (See ‘Tax breaks for “job-creators”? Toolkit for busting this and other neoliberal myths.‘ for evidence of the wrong-headedness of some of these beliefs.)

Without painting a detailed compelling vision of a world in which everyone and the environment are treated with dignity and respect, which necessarily means one in which corporate persons (specifically those in the form of transnational corporations) are not accorded privilege, how are we to galvanise people, and what are we fighting for?

If we win ‘independence’ under an essentially neoliberal regime, I cannot see another opportunity arising to break free of this poisonous doctrine, as we drift Trump-wards.

I think that if we stray any further to the right, we shall be unable to swim against the ever-stronger current, and we shall enter the maelstrom. If we were to win ‘independence’ under an essentially neoliberal regime, then I cannot see another opportunity arising to break free of this poisonous doctrine, as we continue to drift Trump-wards.

Conclusion: education, education, education?

I, for one, would struggle to argue for an independence in which Scotland is pictured as forging ahead with (neoliberal) business largely as usual, and I cannot see any ‘galvanising alternative philosophy’ in this.

I have no clever answer to this fundamental dilemma – how to make common cause with those who support the very forces responsible for the world’s problems, while painting a compelling vision of a better world – but I do know one thing which can help: education and awareness.

We urgently need to get facts across, in a non-hectoring way, to fellow independence-supporters as much as anyone else, before the forces of unreason close rationality down in the way Mr Hedges describes.

Huge difference between ‘pro-business’ and ‘pro-transnational corporation’

Perhaps we can convince independence-supporters of the ‘pro-business’ variety that there is a huge difference between supporting business, per se, and supporting transnational corporations? SMEs employ more people, and do not siphon off resources the way that transnationals do.

GDP and the parasitic financial sector

Perhaps we can make the point that the tools used to measure  ‘the economy’ (not least GDP) render what we call ‘the economy’ inimical to society (and the biosphere at large)?

It seems obvious that the economy (which many economists do not seem to understand, as they pay little attention to the fundamental issue of how money enters circulation and the disastrous consequences this has) should be at the service of society, and not the other way round. The abstract phenomenon called money, and the way it is manipulated by the parasitic financial sector surely need to be understood, and an alternative argued for?

Redistributive taxation is NOT bad for business

…And would it not be sensible to present the evidence that redistributive taxation is not inherently bad for business? On this topic and others, can we get potential allies to read Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t  Tell You About Capitalism?

Environment not an externality: talk about ‘the biosphere’ instead!

Above all, we need to make the point that we are not separate from ‘the environment’ – it is a misleading term; it is NOT an ‘externality’ – but neither should ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘natural capital’ be financialised, which means put under the control of the very forces blindly destroying the biosphere. (See what George Monbiot has to say about this.) We are part of the biosphere, and its wellbeing is inseparable from our own.

If we can direct fellow independence-supporters, and potential independence-supporters, to consider the evidence on these issues, then we can together spell out a compelling and coherent vision of a better world. If not, then I cannot see myself being able to  argue with any conviction for a nominally ‘independent’ Scotland.

A start

At the very least, I ask readers to watch the above video, and to get others to watch it too. It’s a start. Please.

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Trump antidote? Benoît Hamon, new leader of French Socialist Party, has great environmental proposals!

Benoît Hamon: 'Environmental and social issues are inseparable.'

Benoît Hamon: ‘Environmental and social issues are inseparable.’

Benoît Hamon, the new leader of the French Socialist Party, has some interesting ideas! I have translated them into English. There may be some errors, so I link the original text to make it easier for you to judge the quality of my translation. Corrections welcomed!

More information:

12 Environmental Proposals

Environmental issues are inseparable from social ones.

For several decades, despite the alarm calls of scientists and civic society, and despite a few successes, such as COP21,  we continue, in France, to tolerate to a large extent the damage, caused by our behaviour, to our environment, to our health and to our immediate surroundings. We continue to accept the pollution of our seas and our air by toxic industrial waste products, the privatisation of our water, and the poisoning of our food by pesticides. We are all collectively responsible for this inaction, whether the reasons be procrastination, inertia, or complicity with those who want, above all, nothing to change.

We cannot continue to turn a blind eye. It’s our responsibility, we left-wing progressives, to see that this guilty tolerance always benefits the same people: those who will be able to maintain their own comfortable lives despite it all, and who will continue to benefit from our lack of awareness. Above all, it is our duty to acknowledge that the price is too heavy, and that it is too often paid by the most fragile among us.


The poor are most exposed to air pollution, which kils thousands every year.

The inequalities in this area are glaring. Chronic disease, pneumonia, cardiovascular problems: it is the poorest who are most vulnerable to the risks associated with environmental degradation and our lifestyles. More likely to live near sources of pollution, in poorly insulated homes, far from health centres and effective means of prevention, they are the ones who are inhale more airborne particulates and who struggle to afford quality food, free of GMOs and pesticides. Increasing awareness of this should fuel more than memes: it must deeply transform our outlook

It makes no sense for the left to choose between the protection of our planet and social progress. By protecting our fellow citizens from air, water and soil pollution, we protect their immediate environments, their health and the future of their children. This applies to all, but especially to the most disadvantaged. This campaign must be conducted in parallel with one for a new model of development, more temperate and more respectful of humans and the global commons (oceans, biodiversity), more energy- and resource-efficient, and based on a sharing economy.

Here are what I think our priorities should be for accomplishing such a transformation:

Proposal 1: In the six months following the presidential election, launch a major national Ecology-Prevention-Protection-Health conference, which will make France the pioneer and vanguard in this field in Europe.

We cannot solve the environmental issue without a broad citizens’ movement. If we are to succeed in transforming the way we consume and produce, we must all understand the urgency of the need to act, and we must build on the collective intelligence of civil society, researchers and specialists.

As early as 2017, we will launch a major national conference on this issue, which is fundamentally a social and democratic issue. In that same year, we will take the measures necessary to protect the health and environmental circumstances of all.

Thus, we will establish ourselves as pioneers in this field in Europe and, so motivated, we shall drive forward a major European project for social and ecological progress, mobilising European citizens around our common values.

Protecting our commons

Water and air are common goods that we must protect, come what may, from any deterioration or risk of capture by private interests.

Proposal 2: Go beyond the precautionary principle by constitutionalising common resources (the commons) and developing an environmental democracy.

Water and air are common goods that we must protect, come what may, from any deterioration or risk of capture by private interests. Faced with the market, states should be the guarantors of the protection of natural resources, and citizens must watch over this protection. The constitution must ensure that these principles are respected.

While these fundamental issues are often dealt with behind closed doors under the influence of private lobbies, we must devise a true environmental democracy that will enable citizens to decide together on the use of common goods.

Laying loft insulation

Insulating social housing is an important component of energy policy.

Proposal 3: Launch a wide-ranging energy renovation plan for public and private buildings over a five-year period.

This massive energy renovation plan will reduce the country’s energy dependency, create quality jobs in the building sector affected by the crisis, develop an industrial sector of excellence and, by its contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions, enable the state to fulfil its duty to be a good example, especially in the context of France’s international commitments.

The plan will have three priorities:

  • Thermal rehabilitation of social housing on the basis of quantifiable objectives: it will be based on tools such as loans, the budgetary constraints of the ANRU (National Agency for Urban Renovation), conditions applied to building rights, and a premium for virtuous landlords.
  • An ambitious plan to support private sector initiatives, conditional on the use of certified artisans (which helps to support the development of the sector and our SMEs).
  • Protection of households suffering from fuel poverty: social tariffs are useful, but not a sufficiently ambitious response. We will establish a real “energy” shield to protect the most deprived.
Diesel exhaust polllution

Diesel must be phased out.

Proposal 4: Implement a rigorous plan to phase out diesel by 2025.

  • This phasing out of diesel is essential to protect the quality of the air we breathe. We can no longer tolerate the nearly 50,000 deaths caused by air pollution in our country each year. It is one of the leading causes of chronic diseases and causes more deaths annually than road accidents.
  • The end of diesel will see the ending of this fuel’s tax advantage, the installation of electric-car charging points across the road network, as well as a coordinated effort at the European level to invest in research and development to improve electric vehicles’ battery life.
  • Moving away from diesel necessitates rethinking mobility. The digitalisation of the economy also offers the opportunity to change the way we travel, through car-pooling or car-sharing. Other non-polluting forms of urban transport must also be developed and facilitated in all cities.
  • Fighting air pollution means restoring confidence in the train. France was for a long time the country of the railroad; I intend it to remain so. At a time when the founder of Tesla is investing billions in Hyperloop – groundbreaking technology for an ultra-high speed train (1,000 km/h or over 600 mph has been announced) – France is opting for the low-cost bus. Let us get away from this anachronism and equip ourselves, alongside other EU nations, with an Airbus of the railtracks, capable of holding its own with the many countries on all continents choosing very high speed, without CO2 emissions or fine particulates.
renewable energy

50% renewable energy by 2025

Proposal 5: Achieve 50% renewable energy by 2025.

  • Launch a massive public investment plan to help citizens equip themselves with domestic renewable energy production equipment.
  • Use the state’s position as major shareholder to initiate a reorganisation of EDF’s (Électricité de France) activities in order to enhance its capacities for research and the production of renewable energy. Rather than focus on its expertise in nuclear power, EDF should invest in renewable energy and organise the decentralisation of such energy production in line with our regions’ resources.
food waste

Target food waste.

Proposal 6: Launch a National Zero Waste Plan. The goal is to move quickly from a wasteful linear economy to a circular one, by means of a zero-waste plan that includes:

  • A strand targeting food waste.
  • A requirement for metropolitan areas to recycle 50% of their annual waste (by 2022).
  • Combat the programmed obsolescence of goods by developing a plan to encourage companies and citizens to recycle, repurpose and reuse materials, and by actively promoting eco-designed products.
pesticides and dead bee

Get rid of dangerous pesticides.

Proposal 7: Combat pesticides and endocrine disruptors.

Measures should be taken as early as 2017 to bring an end, as soon as possible, to these substances’ harmful effects on the health of our children and fellow citizens.

Protect the population from pesticides:

  • In line with the precautionary principle, we will withdraw authorisation for all pesticides for which a certain level of hazard is permitted (e.g. glyphosate). We cannot wait for diseases to occur before we protect populations. Similarly, permission to market will be subject to stricter requirements.
  • The state will commit all necessary resources (financial support for conversion, access to land, technical advice and support) to assist farmers transition to a human-scaled and organic agriculture for all.
  • We will ban the importation of agricultural products using substances prohibited in France.

Vote immediately for a moratorium on neo-nicotinoid pesticides.

At the European level, make CAP subsidies conditional upon high standards of pesticide use (with regard to type and quantity).

Green investment

Put finance at the service of ecological transition

Proposal 8: Put finance at the service of ecological transition.

Left to its own devices, the market will not meet the finance needs of ecological transition, which are about 3% of GDP (60 to 70 billion euros/year). We must use all available levers to redirect financial flows towards the projects essential to this transition.

That’s why we must:

  • Lower VAT for the most environment-friendly products. Environmental taxation should encourage virtuous industrialists and the circular economy.
  • Mobilise French savings for ecological transition.
  • Attract finance to ‘green’ projects through an ‘energy transition’ label for financial products.
Man drinking milk from cow.

Perhaps this is taking short supply chains too far!

Proposal 9: Create 13 regional development agencies for new production and consumption models.

These 13 agencies will be responsible for the realisation of our new development model and will in particular:

  • Promote short supply chains, especially with regard to food, which will reduce waste. Financial support will help the disadvantaged to access quality food.
  • Use information technology and digitisation to directly link producers and consumers in supply chains, which might be longer in distance terms, but which would be short with regard to the number of intermediaries.
  • Use government instruments such as public procurement, particularly in school canteens, to promote, organise and develop responsible initiatives at the local level.
  • To extend agro-ecological contracts so as to rebalance the financial relationships between actors in this sector, supporting the best from an environmental perspective – those which are successful but currently only marginally profitable (Système U – Terrena, Système U – Biolait, Filière Qualité Carrefour).
  • Make agro-ecology a distinguishing factor for our exports, and stop focusing our export strategy on the agro-food sector alone.

Proposal 10: Re-launch “Europe of projects”, via energy transition.

  • Plan energy transition projects at the European level, systematically positioning France as a leader on these issues in Europe.
  • Campaign for public investment in support of ecological transition no longer to be counted in the 3% deficit (Maastricht criteria).
  • Rebuild the legitimacy of the EU on this fundamental issue for the future of its peoples through an ambitious contribution of the member-states, the channelling of private funding towards green investments through incentive mechanisms, and the abolition of all subsidies for fossil fuel.
Happy piglet

Animal welfare is also important!

Proposal 11: Launch a plan against animal abuse.

Our objectives in terms of quality of life and quality of food do not justify the abuses that have multiplied recently in slaughterhouses, for the sole purpose of economic return. We must guarantee the highest standards of animal welfare in all circumstances and without exception.

Eating locally, thinking globally.

Promote short supply chains and local production,

Proposal 12: Act II of the social and solidarity economy: support this economy of the future so that it grows from 10 to 20% of GDP by 2025.

A ‘social and solidarity’ economy is a moderate and resilient economy which, in its principle and in its modes of action, consistently supports a green transition. By promoting the local, short supply chains, and a rational use of our resources, it points towards a new model of development. We shall foster the spread of this model to all our regions and to all sectors of our economy.

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Eight people own as much as half the world

I am reblogging this, which I consider essential reading.

Systemic Disorder

Just when it seemed we might be running out of superlatives to demonstrate the monstrous inequality of today’s capitalism, Oxfam has provided the most dramatic example yet: Eight individuals, all men, possess as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent of humanity.

Eight people have as much as 3.7 billion people.

How could this be? Oxfam calculated that 85 people had as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity in 2014, a staggering finding that researchers with the anti-poverty organization discovered through crunching numbers provided by Forbes magazine in its rich list and by the investment bank Credit Suisse in its global wealth distribution report. Oxfam found wealth distribution to be even more unequal than did Credit Suisse, which calculated that the top one percent equaled the bottom 50 percent. Oxfam, in its report, “An Economy for the 99%,” released this month, explains:

“This year we find…

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Responsible politicians: trade barriers against climate-criminal Trump are your duty


Pulling the USA out of the Paris climate agreement would be ecocidal criminality on an unprecedented scale. I am calling on my political representatives to deter such monumental folly.

[UPDATE: Since writing to my representatives I discovered this Avaaz petition, which I have signed.]

I have just emailed my MP as below, asking her to do what she can to deter president-elect Trump from pulling the USA out of the Paris climate agreement. (I used the heading ‘No trade deal with climate-criminal Trump’.

I am copying it to the MSPs and councillors who represent me, asking them also to take appropriate action at the Scottish and local authority levels.

If you agree with what I say, feel free to use my email as the basis for similar messages sent by yourself. You can find your MP on TheyWorkForYou and your MSP on the Scottish Parliament website.

Dear Ms_

You will know that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists accept man-made climate change as a reality. You will also be aware that climate change has already had serious effects on the biosphere, increasing the incidence and severity of extreme weather events and contributing to the so-called ‘refugee/migrant crisis’. Indeed, the Pentagon believes that ‘climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages’. Many scientists fear that the tipping point is dangerously close, with mass extinction looming.


I joined thousands of other protesters at the COP21 event in Paris.

These considerations motivated me to join thousands of other protesters at the Paris COP21 event. While we were disappointed with the relatively weak outcome, it was vastly better than nothing. If the USA is taken out of the agreement, as threatened by Donald Trump, this would be an unprecedented and monumental act of ecocidal criminality, given the USA’s dominance as an economic power and significance as a contributor to climate change. It is therefore surely every responsible global citizen’s duty to do what he or she reasonably can to deter such an act.

Accordingly, I am asking you to raise at Westminster the issue of potential trade barriers/sanctions or selective boycott against the USA. Theresa May should receive a clear message that any maintained (far less enhanced) trading relationship with the USA should be contingent on that country sticking to the Paris agreement, and she must signal this to Trump. I leave it up to you how best this might be done, whether by parliamentary questions, an Early Day Motion or a mention in speeches, but I trust that you would consider yourself to be a responsible global citizen and will therefore take some action along these lines.

I thank you for considering this and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

R.Eric Swanepoel, Dr

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I concur wholeheartedly!

Mewsing Out Loud

America goes to the polls tomorrow and I don’t envy them. Both the Republican and Democrat parties seem to have to have had a competition where they picked their worst candidate. Maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so bad if Bernie Sanders hadn’t been in the running, but it feels as though the US voters – those who have made it through their minefield of registration – have to choose between their equivalents of Cherie Blair and Farage.

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Brexit will only count if everybody leaves the EU

I tend to agree with this!

Systemic Disorder

Britain can leave the European Union, but it would remain just as tied to capitalist markets as before. The decision to leave the EU is not a decision to leave the world capitalist system, or even disengage from Europe, and thus is not a decision that will lead to any additional “independence” or “sovereignty” outside of proponents’ imaginations.

What has been unleashed is the nationalism and xenophobia of right-wing “populism” — those on the Left celebrating a blow against elites might pause for thought. Yes, voting in defiance of what elites told them to do played its part in favor of a British exit from the EU, but nationalism, scapegoating of immigrants, and convincing people at the mercy of corporate power that less regulation is in their interest were dominant.

It is the far Right that been given a shot in the arm from Brexit — from the National Front…

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Yes, the Leave vote is hostile to foreigners – and you need to come to terms with that

Please read this great article I am reblogging!


Here’s what the Brexit vote means to me: 52% of the people I share a nationality with think there should be fewer people like me in Britain’s future. And before you object, or make excuses, let me point out that if Britain clamps down on immigration, there will be fewer people like me.

I was born in England. In Hammersmith, to be precise. It’s where my dad was born. And his mum. And her mum before her.

I was born in England, but I am not English. I have roots in London, but that is not the same thing. My dad’s family – his great-grandparents – arrived here as Jewish refugees in the 1880s, ending up as East enders on one side and West enders on the other. My heritage spans the breadth of the city in which the family whose name I bear has lived for a century before…

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