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Politics and Independence: How Do You Feel?

fyk8p1Better Together has been short on emotion, and all of a sudden it’s there’s shouting and bawling all over the place. Almost. The Prime Minister has ventured north from Westminster twice to make heartfelt pleas to Scottish voters. And Gordon Brown (Gordon Brown!) has been stomping around making the passionate case for the union. Too little too late when compared with the apparent enthusiasm of the Yes campaign? We’ll only know for sure come Thursday.

But I want to be indulgent for a moment. I want to pause, and reflect. Way, way back in October 2008, as ears were ringing to the cacophony of crashing stock markets and all those ten-a-penny Trotskyist forecasts of economic crisis came to fruition, I took a brief break from thinking and blogging about those events to talk about how I  felt. After all, the received political and economic wisdom was vaporising faster than sub prime mortgage trades. Having one’s coordinates suddenly shift was disconcerting and exhilarating, and while you could see the attacks to be unleashed on working people to pay for this crisis coming a mile off, for a brief moment it felt there was everything to play for.

The Scottish independence referendum is very similar. Everything we know about British politics is upended. Whatever happens, the union cannot be the same again (and the left should champion its remaking, especially in England). The cosy Westminster consensus has not so much been shaken but rudely shoved into a blender. And how wonderful it is not to have politics blighted by UKIP and the festering lump of decomposing Toryism. Questions of social justice are front and centre, not immigration or benefit bashing.

What about feeling? It’s all a bit unreal. It’s frustrating for one. I’m stuck here hurling my opinions at the thousand or so regular drop-ins when I want to be out with other WestMids comrades who’ve made the trip to Scotland and making the left case for no. Penning long screeds and snarking on Twitter are poor substitutes for getting face to face and patiently explaining your point of view.

There’s anxiety too. If Scotland opts for independence, yes, official politics is struck a blow. But when the dust has settled I believe capital will be strengthened, and labour weakened. A lot is it stake and the wrong decision will very likely be a severe setback for socialist politics across Britain. Because it’s so close, all socialists and labour movement people should feel a little angst.

Yet there’s a weird sort of excitement too. Part of me wants it to be over, but to be on the cusp of change … well, whatever I’m experiencing must be a pale reflection of the intensity of being directly involved. The thrill of the new, for good or for ill, is very much in the mix.

Thankfully, there is one emotion missing. The tendrils of despondency have kept at bay. If the worst comes to the worst, the fluxes and shifts of politics will still afford new opportunities for the left and the labour movement, even if they’re somewhat truncated. The tough job of work is to get the labour movement to seize those moments – and likely that means a return to frustration! It’s a good job I’m predisposed toward optimism.

Less than 48 hours before the polls open, how do you feel?

This article first appeared on All That Is Solid


  1. Gerald Allen says:

    Phil; as an Irishman(with a Yorkshire accent)believing in a 32 county republic(eventually socialist but that will be an even longer task than mainland Britain) I find myself in the unusual position of being in the No camp. Even after a great deal of soul searching over Scotland’s right to self-determination I have drawn the same conclusions as yourself.
    Imho you are absolutely correct that in the event of a yes vote Capital will be strengthened and the Labour/Trade Union movement will be severely weakened on both sides of the border. Surely those Labour/Socialist/Progressive voters/forces cannot be naïve enough to believe that Salmond, Sturgeon,Swinney and the big business barons, bankers, hedge fund managers and entrepreneurs of the Scottish variety will not turn on the working class of an independent Scotland, or Salmond’s SNP or Scottish Labour if they don’t carry out the policies of austerity ala the Con/Dems, if, not when, the economic crisis that is coming to an independent Scotland(and more than likely to the rest of mainland Britain) Like you Phil I tend (or try)to optimism though this article might give doubt to that thought, but then as a socialist you have to be an optimist or you would go crazy with despair over the present state of politics at national and international level at any time in my lifetime(70yrs) even more so the last decade or so.

  2. Robert says:

    The Tories or the Progress party One nation or what ever they call themselves now or the SNP I think I would go SNP what’s to lose all of them are heading for the same battle ground.

  3. David Ellis says:

    Go for it Scotland.

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