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Friday, 28 October 2016

The People and constitutional and political revolutions – and Scotland’s independence.

I’m a democrat. I believe in the ballot box as the prime mechanism for delivering political change. I don’t believe in violence or violent revolution as a mechanism, except as the very last resort, nor could any rational person with any shred of humanity in the light of the appalling price of change effected by violent revolution, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, whatever the ultimate benefit. But there are revolutions and revolution – not all revolutions are violent, and some have been achieved with minimum violence and with speedy returns to democracy.

I have a deeply-rooted presumption against violence as a mechanism for change, but I do believe intransigent regimes and political systems sometimes have to be challenged in ways that are not violent, but which may provoke an extreme response. If I didn’t believe that, I would be denying, for example the necessity and validity of the independence struggle in the Indian sub-continent in the first half of the 20th century and the American Civil Rights Movement, notably in the 1960s.

If I rejected violence outright in extreme cases, I would deny the French Revolution, the American War of Independence, the struggle for democracy and freedom in South Africa under Mandela and many other violent independence upheavals. In other areas of violent struggle, I am conflicted, and cannot reconcile my abhorrence of violence in politics – or as a means of settling any conflict – with the egregious and inhumane injustices that led to its use. I won’t cite the obvious ones in our own time or the conflicts raging at this very moment across our world.

Scotland’s situation is not - in my view - of that nature, and the scale of the injustices inflicted on it by the Union, painful and unjustifiable as they are for sectors of the Scottish population and individuals (although arguably they were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) are not of that magnitude and inhumanity. They have been remedial by the processes of democracy, and the failure has, at least in part, been the failure of large numbers of Scots to recognise egregious injustices and inequalities, and to use the tools of democracy to effect the remedies.

This short blog is a kind of preamble, a testament of my basic beliefs about constitutional change, set out as a marker against what I may say over the next few days, and, who knows, weeks and months on the Brexit negotiations, the Scottish Government’s strategy, the mood of YES and #indyref2.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that Scots have not suffered in such a way and to such an extent as to justify violently attempting to overthrow the existing political system. The problem is that many others throughout the world have suffered considerably and continue to suffer as a consequence of British imperialism (and American imperialism supported by the UK). And we in Scotland, as part of the UK, benefit from that imperialism. These issues should not be ignored; at least not from a moral perspective.


    There is little doubt that from moral standpoints emphasising equality, empathy and justice, violence against the UK state (and the USA) would be justifiable. Certainly violence would be acceptable from a utilitarian viewpoint if - and this is the hard bit - one could predict with reasonable certainty that the consequences would be a reduction in overall suffering in the world. (To what extent we can feel for those who are so geographically or socially distant from us and to what degree one is willing to sacrifice one’s life for the sake of others are, of course, different questions.)


    Many in the independence movement like to emphasise a civic nationalism which is also outward looking. However a true internationalist perspective - as opposed to the laughable one currently espoused by many left-liberal Britnats - requires that account is taken of the interests of those beyond UK borders when any question of constitutional or extra constitutional change to the UK is considered. From an internationalist and moral viewpoint, a Scottish nationalism that predominantly focuses on autonomy for people who live in a particular area of the British Isles - with minimal attention paid to social justice for everyone - is of little importance. On the positive side though, an autonomy driven Scottish nationalism, if successful, would significantly diminish the influence of the UK state (or whatever we call what’s left of it after Scotland leaves).

    Perhaps you could keep this wider moral perspective in mind when you contemplate Brexit etc.

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