Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Scottish independence and Nato: still all to play for

The Scottish National Party's conference decision to renounce its long-standing anti-Nato position is a disappointing setback to any prospect of a left-leaning independence for Scotland.

What kind of progressive state can call itself independent of international warmongering when it chooses to remain part of that warmongering club?

Nor does making Scottish Nato membership 'conditional' on exemption from its 'nuclear obligations' absolve the SNP from this shameful u-turn.

Being a partner in Nato, a nuclear-threatening organisation, involves core acceptance of its nuclear doctrine.

In practice, signing-up to Nato will not only lock Scotland in to that aggressive pact, it will put any effort to remove Trident on the indefinite back burner. In short, Faslane, Coulport and the rest of Nato's ugly arsenal will be an operational reality for many years to come.

There's a body of thought that, in seeking to pre-empt public fears over losing 'Nato cover', Salmond has gone for this safeguard position knowing that Nato will not, come independence, actually accept Scottish terms and conditions of entry.

Salmond can thus say that he's tried to allay those public concerns and that it's Nato which is imposing its unreasonable demands on Scotland.

Of course, it's always possible that Nato would reject any Scottish application premised on nuclear exemption. The SNP's assurance of a specific constitutional clause prohibiting nuclear weapons, coupled with strict UN authorisation for participating in conflicts, might also, some say, be a set of conditions too far for Nato.

But it's more likely that Nato would simply want Scotland quickly signed-up and party to its collective 'security' agenda, its Strategic Concept, leaving any Scottish 'demands' over the nuclear issue fudged and negotiated away.

As Kate Hudson of CND notes:
"membership of NATO would preclude effective opposition to nuclear weapons.Scotland would have to accept NATO’s Strategic Concept which affirms its status as a nuclear alliance. On this basis it would be extremely difficult to expel Trident. This is precisely the problem which Germany faced when it stated that it no longer wished to host NATO-assigned US tactical nuclear weapons in its territory."
Whether in explicit or implicit form, Scottish Nato membership would more likely require endorsement of the whole package.  As Jamie Hepburn MSP concisely put it in his conference appeal:
"Expect them [Nato] to say, 'it's ok, come in, join the club, but we'll get back to you some time about the other thing'. Do we consider nuclear weapons are immoral just because they're located in Scotland or do we consider they're immoral, wherever they may be located?"
The Salmond leadership seem unduly afraid that an electorate with 'enduring associations' to regiments and military culture would be reluctant to vote for a non-Nato Scotland. Yet, other small countries, such as Ireland, Finland, Austria and Sweden, enjoy such status - with many good reasons for resisting Nato membership.

So, why the SNP's timidity?  Opinion polls consistently show an electorate overwhelmingly opposed to nuclear weapons on the Clyde. There's also strong public disapproval over the invasion of Iraq and demands for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Yet, rather than take this antagonism to nuclear weaponry/illegal wars and firm it into a more coherent message about the menace of Nato and the financial benefits to be derived from leaving it - more jobs, hospitals and public services over wasteful, wicked wars - the SNP has chosen to seek all the costs and burdens of 'inclusion' at the top table.       

As SNP minister Kenny MacAskill painfully rationalised it in his conference speech:
 "Friends, I'm no US poster boy. And I'm certainly no US lap dog. I've marched for CND and I've protested against Trident, I demonstrated against the Iraq war - I'm tired marching. I want a seat for our government in the situations of power."
Such is the seduction of politicians to the aspiring heights of 'decision-making'.

In truth, Scotland would have almost no say in whether the US/UK/Nato elite decided to pick-off another awkward state like Libya. MacAskill's delusions of grandeur are matched only by his political servility.

The only useful way of doing something constructive about Nato aggression is to refuse membership of that club, thereby setting an encouraging example for other small states to follow.

With, as the Ministry of Defence admit, no other viable place to locate Trident in the UK, it's also worth remembering that removal of the nuclear madness from Scotland would be a great boost to British cancellation and the wider non-proliferation movement, a process that would be more urgently advanced with Scottish rejection of Nato. 

The case for refusing Nato membership is, first and foremost, a moral one, but it can also be argued as a more basic appeal to political and financial reason: no need to be dragged into spurious, crazy wars; let's put anti-austerity policies before boys-with-toys militarism. Yet, the SNP have no serious counter-message to the US/UK/Nato nuclear/war machine.

Such, of course, is the deep-rooted power of media-led war propaganda, an indulgence of the 'safety-first' narrative of 'security' that, urged on by 'realistic' politicians, including the SNP, we're all encouraged to live with.

Independence is still the valid leftist aim

The SNP will hope that by getting this painful debate and decision 'sorted' early, it can now concentrate on building for the actual poll.

David Cameron, alongside Labour and the other unionist parties, battled to have any third question eliminated. Yet, that option of 'devo-max' - increased powers for the Scottish parliament -  appears to be the most popular amongst the electorate.

Now the unionist camp has buried that option, what choice does this 'more powers' constituency have other than the status quo, which most don't want, or full independence, which many also might not want but, at least, secures that greater change?

The yes campaign might now usefully claim that Cameron has denied the Scottish people a basic democratic choice, a view which, if properly cultivated, may lead some of that floating element over to the yes side.

In 'affecting the case' for a third choice, some say Salmond cleverly played that card all along. And that prudent 'effort to consult' the electorate on the matter may, in the long run, be to the no campaign's detriment.

The no campaign's riposte: if keeping Nato, the monarchy, the pound and the Bank of England as last lender is 'independence', why bother leaving the union?

Much of this can be dismissed as unionist posturing and playing on the independence minutiae. Yet, the SNP's fearful concessions in 'canny pursuit' of the big prize should also be a jolt to any progressive-minded voter. Not only are all these issues still up for grabs, they may be more ably challenged within a fully independent parliament.

With the Nato decision expediently 'shelved' until the referendum is resolved, the SNP trust that the agreement on a straight yes/no ballot will now allow voters to look more reassuringly at the practical benefits of independence.

But, alongside Salmond's courting of corporate elites like Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump, such supplication to Nato is a timely reminder that real, progressive independence will always be a difficult work in progress - particularly in this turbulent time of banker-approved austerity.

Independence offers the opportunity not just to approve SNP policies, endorse their concessions or, indeed, install another SNP government, but to move the political agenda decisively more leftfield - as well as more greenfield.

Those still wedded to Labourist unionism, notably Miliband's latest 'one nation' contrivance, may likely see things in the same party-oriented terms, falling for the same 'saviour politics'.

Other left-conscious Labourites, one hopes, will come to realise the small but significant chance we have here of creating an alternative model to the same old Lab/Con/Dem politics.

But, as we've seen from the SNP's latest cave-in to big power, that will also involve, just as importantly as gaining independence, the difficult, if still-promising, post-independence task of crafting something more politically compassionate than all-party neoliberalism and the corporate militarism that goes with it.



Two SNP MSPs, Ross Finnie and Jean Urquart, have now resigned, unable to reconcile their party membership with the leadership's u-turn on Nato. It's an admirable action and reminder to the SNP that, while it may have won this vote, there's a healthy and growing opposition to any plans for a Nato-aligned Scotland.     

Thursday, 18 October 2012

In praise of Miko Peled - Israeli general's son denounces Israel


Please, if you can, find the time to watch this outstanding video of Miko Peled, son of late Israeli general Matti Peled, speaking with great courage and insight on the ethnic cleansing and other murderous crimes committed by 'his country'.

Quite admirably, for someone who has served in the Israeli army and whose father was a leading figure in it, he directly calls that army "terrorists".

I also commend the brave response of Peled and others in his family to the killing of his niece in 1997. What wonderful compassion and understanding of the core causes.

Peled is particularly adept in explaining the inbuilt Zionist refusal ever to return what Israel has taken, thus nailing the utter fiction of any two state solution.

He also gives a clear account of how Netanyahu is using Iran as a fearmongering diversion from the issue of Palestine.

I hope
Miko Peled's highly educational and moral message gets spread widely, particularly amongst the Jewish community.



Thursday, 11 October 2012

One Nation Labour - latest Guardian LIP service

Ed Miliband's breathtaking bravura and a One Nation stroke of genius
This was the day Miliband took full command of his party and turned his
private qualities at last into public strengths
So ran Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee's excruciating headline in support of Labour leader Ed Miliband, telling us all we need to know about the Guardian's own dutiful function.

As with past proclamations of 'saviour leaders' and their 'new-broom' projects, the Guardian has gushed its approval of Miliband and his 'One Nation' slogan, the most fatuous play to 'anti-class politics' since the shallow 'stakeholding' patois of Blair.

Rampant austerity, widening poverty, shameless pay rises for bankers, a privatised spiral of cuts across the NHS and other vital public services, treasury billions for death and destruction in Afghanistan, the spectre of further Nato warmongering, the haunting imperative of climate catastrophe - and here's Miliband's 'big political solution': One Nation Labour.

Rather than instant dismissal of this tired posture, minute dissection and grandiose prose duly filled the Guardian pages, as though Miliband had delivered some wondrous new holy-grail philosophy.

Besides the actual unoriginality of One Nation Labour (ONL) - why not New Improved Labour (NIL)? - one might reasonably wonder how 'serious journalists' can be so absorbed by such blatantly obvious spin. The answer, in large part, lies in the career-conformist ways in which liberal journalists comprehend, accept and describe the prevailing system of 'participatory democracy', the hegemonic fiction of which a 'critical, vanguard' media is itself a key, reinforcing part.   

And so the Guardian revels in its role as 'liberal inspector', earnestly comparing the extended party 'variants' of 'one nation compassion'.

Anticipating the prime minister's big conference riposte to Miliband, Patrick Wintour, Guardian political correspondent, considered the same great 'one nation challenge', as if being inside Cameron's head:
David Cameron will seek to prevent Ed Miliband's "one nation" Labour driving him from the common ground of British politics on Wednesday, asserting that his brand of compassionate Conservatism is not just for the strong, but also the best way to help the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.

Despite a conference full of tough messages on burglary, welfare and sometimes social issues, the prime minister will insist: "My mission from the day I became leader was … to show the Conservative party is for everyone, north or south, black or white, straight or gay."

In his annual speech to the Conservative party conference, he will tell his party: "It's not enough to know our ideas are right. We've got to explain why they are compassionate too."
And, with Wintour's fevered speculations duly registered, Guardian favourite Jonathan Freedland gave the all-important appraisal of the actual speech:
All of this amounted to an answer to a question Tories have long wanted Cameron to address. Given that he can't say how long Britain will have to keep taking the austerity medicine, they have yearned for him to explain again – and more effectively – why the treatment is necessary and what the country will look like once it's over. On Wednesday he made a decent stab at that. The result is a conference season that leaves the three main leaders stronger than they were before, at least with their own parties, and which has opened up a genuine and substantive argument between the main two. Both Labour and the Conservatives are now locked in a fight for the centre ground, each claiming to be the authentic voice of One Nation. The shape of the next general election just got clearer. [Emphasis added.]
How thankful we should be to Freedland and his Guardian peers for elucidating these "genuine and substantive" differences and electoral choices.

Which, as with the culminating farce of Obama-Romney, amounts to a Hobson's choice of who is politically distinctive, radically willing and intellectually capable of effecting real change.

What's the difference between ConDem 'compassion' and Labour 'compassion'?  In either policy 'content' or moral practice, precisely none.

What's the 'answer' to current Tory/Liberal cuts and austerity? More Labour-intended cuts and austerity.

What's the best deal going in 'one-nation-centre-ground' politics? Take your pick from the political party shelves, all guided by the Guardian's lofty indulgence of the hype and dissembling versions on offer.

The liberal media's complicity lies not just in its abject failure to identify and expose the charlatanism of branded party politics, the supermarket 'choices', but in its own image-enhancing part in the marketing.

One of the key checks on real political choice and reform lies in the relentless media messages which filter and sustain the very narrowest notions of achievable aims, trivialised to things like a few pence of tax breaks or a concession on tuition fees, a political culture of realist constraint and austerity sacrifice encouraged by whatever ready-fashionable conceit that 'we're all-in-it-together'.

From Blair to Brown, from Cameron to Clegg, the Guardian has helped project, protect and rehabilitate an entire catalogue of 'centrist visionaries', dutifully announcing their every fanciful take on the stakeholding/one nation/big society charade.

Now, as liberal commentariat and 'consumer-watchdog', it is eagerly selling Miliband and his "bravura" promotion. What serious chance of Miliband moving in any other direction than his neoliberal, war-criminal predecessors and contemporaries? What chance that the Guardian itself knows this basic truth and trajectory?

One Nation Labour, ONL, will have its seasonal appeal; pushed, fetishised and eventually sell-by dropped just like the others. As 'political' products, these appeal as 'current season', keeping leaders in the shop-window and correspondents looking like real journalists.

What matters, more crucially, is the preservation and continuity of that Liberal Illusion Politics - the all-important LIP-service to power - helping to legitimise the system through the high-personalisation of smooth-talking leaders, indulgence of their 'big ideas' and the shiny pretence that all of this constitutes real political debate.

LIP: now, there's a fertile political narrative for exploring; a far-reaching idea and message for the liberal literati to fill their bold headlines, searching editorials and analytical columns.

Don't expect that kind of dissenting chat any time soon at the on-message Guardian.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Celestial beauty of Northern Lights

Some serene and wondrous images of the Aurora Borealis, captured last Monday evening, from various Scottish locations. It's quite rare to see the amazing northern light show even from more southernly points.