John Fullerton: We say this is our country, so let's act like it's ours - now

Journalist and author John Fullerton says people must start laying the foundations of an independent Scotland within their communities today

I'VE nothing but admiration for the SNP members at Westminster. Fearlessly, conscientiously, honestly and with immense hard work, they’ve expressed again and again with great passion the point of view, values and aspirations of the Scottish people. 

We've seen this in their commitment to self-determination for the Scottish nation, to Europe, to the single market, to social welfare, to equality, to decent education, fair taxation, and against racism, sexism and illegal wars. 

Though their sincerity has never been in doubt, they were ignored, of course. And now they are ignored in the disastrous Brexit process. Despite their decency and commitment, their work has been futile and I have to ask myself why this is so.

Read more – Poll: Support for Scottish independence at a high as hard Brexit looms

I’ve long had my doubts about liberal democracy or representative democracy, for a start. You vote for someone who becomes your representative. Then, this person and other democratic representatives form a political class far more powerful than the poor folk who elected them - you and me, in other words. 

They make a lot of money (as their expense claims and 'other interests' attest), they make decisions in your name (Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria, to say nothing of austerity) and they give themselves party names such as 'Labour' and 'Conservative', but essentially they are, individually and collectively, an affirmation of the legitimacy of the British state. 

For example, lobbying the Commons or ministers of state on behalf of the homeless is only an expression of faith in the power of the state and its processes (eg. the smug, self-congratulatory reformist antics of 38 Degrees). 

The homeless seizing empty properties and occupying them is, on the other hand, called 'direct action' and it’s generally very effective not least because it’s carried out by the very people suffering the inequality in question. There’s no mediation going on.

In this neoliberal world, of course, any real distinction between legislature and executive is academic - illusory. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said a long time ago that representative democracy is a form of feudalism because citizens can’t represent themselves, they need others to do it for them. Now we see the outcome of this process: Donald Trump and Theresa May.

The London government, like so many others, ensures compliance or at least passive inertia by what Noam Chomsky aptly named the 'manufacture of consent'.

Benjamin Franks, author of Rebel Alliances, points out that Thomas Paine maintained that representative democracy provides for all relevant interests without the inconvenience of direct democracy. It’s efficient, in other words. 

John Locke thought an elective oligarchy (UK and others) provides a bulwark against the development of a more powerful class. Well, we have that class now. It’s called neoliberalism, in which the state plays the secondary role to the global economic order as attack dog. 

Sadly, the old notion I was brought up to believe in - that governments serve by the approval of the citizens and hence are the servants of the people - is now a ridiculous fairy story, a load of old bollocks. 

The London government, like so many others, ensures compliance or at least passive inertia by what Noam Chomsky aptly named the 'manufacture of consent'.

What does all this mean? It means - for me, anyway - the failure of constitutional methods. Only direct action will do it - dozens, scores, hundreds, perhaps thousands of actions both individual and collective. For those who seek independence, perhaps this is the time to start thinking up ways to take it.

What does all this mean? It means - for me, anyway - the failure of constitutional methods. Only direct action will do it - dozens, scores, hundreds, perhaps thousands of actions both individual and collective.

I hear you interject (if you haven’t already). If I’m so bloody critical of constitutional process, why bother replacing the colonial British administration and its morning-after imperial hangover with a wee Scottish government? It’s a good question, but some of the answers are obvious. 

First of all, it’s our government. If a culturally and geographically distinct nation of five million elects a government only a few miles away from our front doors, and it’s a government that’s generally social democratic in tone, mirroring the general values of society, it’s a world away from putting up with 20 years of hostile, destructive Tory misrule 400 miles away.

Next question. Okay, so Scotland is independent - but is it really? Won’t it get sucked into the morass of neoliberal policies, turning into the servant of global corporations? To survive, it’ll have to make deals with the Putins, Trumps and Mays of this world, to say nothing of the unelected Brussels Commission. It’s that too wee, too poor, too few argument again.

The answer, I humbly suggest, is for us to make ourselves independent, and not wait on another referendum. We have to do it in countless ways, not sit around complaining and waiting for some nice Santa Clause in Brussels or some place to toss it into our laps, because it’s not going to happen. 

Right outside in your street and mine are countless issues that point the way: homelessness and housing, traffic, public transport, air pollution, schools, refugees, asylum seekers, the living wage (or lack of it), food waste, crime, safety. These are national matters, to be sure, but they are also intrinsically local.

It’s about taking power by asserting ourselves, by working and organising together.

It’s about taking power by asserting ourselves, by working and organising together.

Personally, I want to take action to bring about devolution of government and break up those local governments (too few, too large, too unrepresentative) into much smaller, more potent and localised authorities. 

Then there’s the question of local funding. Again, my personal view is that this should be done through a Land Value Tax, replacing the unfair and unequal council tax. But you’ll have your own issues crying out for urgent attention - never mind mine.

We say this is our country. Then let’s make it ours. Not in 2018 or 2020. Now.

Picture courtesy of Maria Navarro Sorolla

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