The response among liberal governments and their press to the rise of neofascist groups in Europe, England and the USA is to call the development ‘populism’. Fixed in the mind of the electorate, populist is synonymous with hoodlums, thugs, Nazi salutes and wild-eyed, bomb throwing anarchists. The dishonest, the malicious use the term to denote a political movement or cause they dislike, SNP a prime target.
Populism arrives on the page without definition. Like the anti-intellectual banality of ‘Brexit means Brexit‘, we are supposed to know what it means.
When a politician tells you a grass-roots movement is populist he is telling you to steer clear of it, it is toxic. That infamous phrase comes to mind, “no right thinking person” would join such a group. Suddenly, the SNP is placed on the same level as Greece’s burgeoning Nazis party, Golden Dawn.
UKip and the Tory’s 1922 Committee dictating economic and social pain to every nation and province in the UK are not, however, to be confused with a populist movement.
Identify populist groups
Which group does the label ‘populist’ identify? Is it a small group of loud dissidents willing to indulge in violent behaviour, or a large group of low-key malcontents? Perhaps it is a cross section of society, non-active confederates concentrating on a single goal?
Usually, when attributed to far-Right capitalist groups, it means demagoguery – hence the ‘tartan Tories’ gybe at the SNP. Could it be appended to a union whipping up unjustified dissent by demanding equal rights yet faced by a sympathetic elected administration determined to implement equal rights?
There are plenty of examples to cause confusion. Is the BNP a populist movement, or does 123,000 people signing up to the SNP as ordinary members constitute populism?
That mass expression of distaste issuing from seeing David Cameron tell us English votes are for English laws confirmed in one fell swoop that the UK Parliament is now a full blooded English parliament. His Bill was very popular. The huge number of voters who paid annual subscription allegiance to SNP goals was compensatory, the outcome of a wave of guilt and anger over losing Scotland’s freedom when we had it in the palm of our hand.
I can understand a No voter feeling remorse, and I can applaud those of foresight who realised the British state would take a No win as a profound weakness in the body politic and exploit it, but in the SNP’s case, its supporters abide by the ballot box, and by open debate. They are not wreckers of law and order.
You’ll have had your tea?
Democracy isn’t restricted to a fiery debate around the date of a general election or a referendum once every four or five years, and then we all get on with our lives.
How do you keep 123,000 people occupied till the next vote comes around? They will not all be passive members. The answer is, you keep alive the debate. Discussion of a nation’s future cannot be limited to the membership of the presiding party. It involves us all.
In Scotland’s case it is discussing and planning the nation’s return to independence as a given, an inevitability. It means feeding the debate with important issues that demand discussion and agreement such as, the regulation of banks; composing a Constitution illustrating our values and our humanity, the price of milk, and limits on fishing quotas.
There are other important questions to debate: should voting be mandatory, should newspaper owners with television companies be allowed to monopolise communication outlets, what is the balance between social security welfare and encouraging people to work, and so on, and so forth.
We need to know the sort of society we aim to create after throwing off the unelected rulers we have now.
Humanity includes our rights
When politicians talk of populism, especially in regard to Scotland’s ambitions, they talk in disparaging terms, as if the SNP is opportunistic, not motivated by the common good.
The British state thinks support of a two-state solution is repugnant, believing no two nation states ever lived side-by-side in peaceful co-existence. They take the emotional line, citing our ‘common humanity’ as the thing that binds us all together.
‘Common humanity’ is a given, simplistic rhetoric in comparison to attaining equal civil rights. Sharing our humanity is codified language for, do as they do, or as they tell us.
A majority is never enough of a majority
I am sure our opponents will insist on calling the independence moment a populist movement so long as they think it has not crossed the 50% of the populace line. After that point it is incontrovertibly the will of the people.
Of course, England will continue to resist losing Scotland’s wealth, though with far less justification faced by a majority of the electorate. I have no doubt delaying a second referendum in the short to medium term tells us Unionists know they will lose the vote.
The will of the people
Here’s the thing, the vote to leave the European Union was lost in Scotland as it was in in other places. We hear politician after politician repeat the vote to leave is ‘the will of the people’. The vote was the general will of people living in England and Wales.
In seeing the Brexit vote through to the bitter end Theresa May and her consorts claim they are giving expression to ‘the will of the people’. Then again, France’s National Front leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen says the same thing. “I will give voice to the people.”
Readers should note that giving voice to the people separates the elite from the rest of us. They are doing us a favour. In the SNP’s case the party is the people, even if it rides roughshod over individuals on occasion who cause its image discomfort. We tiptoe through a minefield when we attribute populism to every politician and every party when they can be so different one from another.
And so the Tory Party (and their camp follower, Labour) blames Scotland’s historical antipathy to Westminster rule as nothing more than old habits die hard, ‘grievance politics’.
As far as I am concerned the Zeitgeist lies with Scotland’s growing alarm at events in England. We are compelled by sheer self-preservation and protecting our collective sanity to halt the advance of English racist, isolationist policies. They are destructive and violently regressive. We are defending liberal democracy.
Why chase the British state’s diversion of populism as an alleged disruptive, unwanted intrusion? That only encourages the power elite to suppress street dissent with water cannon and gas canisters. When refusal of our democratic rights forces us to resort to civil disobedience, then what?
Our aim should be a debate about what kind of populism Scotland wants.
A state of emergency
Currently, I sense our elected representative are far too complacent, not robust enough in keeping bright the flame of liberty. Whitehall officials are planning to put troops on the street should the UK government encounter mass protest over food or medical supplies, indeed, over the lack of any supplies of anything.
It is not hard to see how that will play out against a second independence referendum. A state of emergency includes the introduction of martial law in the event of disorder after a no-deal Brexit. It covers curfews, consumables, basic resources such as gas and electricity, bans on travel, confiscation of property and the deployment of the armed forces to quell rioting.
If readers do not find that extremely alarming, I certainly do.