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SCOTLANDS POLITICAL TRIBES February 22, 2021

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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A very welcome guest post from Colm B.

There’s a certain form of cod-sociology, popular amongst journalists, that divides the population into politico-cultural “tribes” and then, with the enthusiasm of birdwatchers, outlines in detail each tribes’ attributes, primarily based on their consumption habits, encompassing everything from eating habits to voting preferences. While they sometimes identify real social patterns, complexity is ignored and, more importantly, surface phenomena are raised to the status of deep structure.  Class, gender, ethnicity and other fundamental social structures now jostle for attention with whether you prefer Doritos or Pringles.

You could blame the late French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu for all this, given his life-long fascination with the intersection of class and culture, but that would be doing him an injustice.  His work was based on serious research and, even though his definition of social class is flawed, no one could accuse him of ignoring deep structural phenomenon.  But as post-modernism’s “death of class” trope died in the face of the refusal of actual classes to die, it was replaced in “radical” academia by a love affair with all things Bourdieuvian, culminating with leading sociologist Mike Savage’s 2013 Great British Class Survey, which identified seven classes largely based on cultural preferences.  It displayed the methodological water-tightness of a Titanic, including the tautological absurdity of identifying what percentage of each of these seven “classes” belonged to well….traditionally defined classes.  

All this would be relatively unremarkable if confined to academia, but bowdlerised Bourdieu slipped the lead and has been all the rage amongst journalists for a long time, Ireland’s own David McWilliams being a front-runner with his 2005 The Pope’s Children.  The language has passed into popular culture merging with earlier crude media stereotypes, so we get Centrist Dads and Soccer-moms, not to mention Generation X, Y and Z.  So dominant is this discourse, that in the case of the USA, it has become the taken for granted red state/blue state binary, with the structural complexity of American society reduced to a gargantuan clash between Republican-voting, Fox-News watching Nascar loving, working class heartlanders versus Democrat-voting, cosmopolitan, woke, professional coastals.   

Yet Political “tribes” are real in a narrow sense, as manifestations of overlapping of cultural and political preferences, but they are surface phenomenon reflecting deeper structural fault-lines.  So, with tongue partly in cheek, here is your go-to guide to Scotland’s political tribes, as a contribution to the spectator sport called The Break-Up Of Britain. 

THE DIE-HARDS: These are the union-jack patriots, the never-independence fanatics who think Nicola Sturgeon is a of cross between Stalin and Guy Fawkes.  Here are Scotland’s Trumpists, seeing betrayal and conspiracy everywhere.  They are a strange mix socially, uniting working-class loyalist bigots who have returned to their old sectarian homeland of the Tory Party, with the more traditional swivel-eyed Tories of the middle and upper classes.  They are the shock troops of British nationalism, the bigoted trolls of the social media world, a loud but shrinking minority.  The fact that a significant minority of Rangers fans voted for independence in the last referendum reveals how out of touch with the mainstream this tribe is.  They are the flute band leading the union to its doom. Every Orange Walk with its trail of drunken louts, spouting sectarian venom, adds another few votes to the cause of independence.  The sudden appearance of the bombastic ghoul George Galloway and his Alliance for Unity at their funereal bonfire only underlines the desperation of their cause.

THE BROONS: These are the centrists who swoon when Gordon Brown is wheeled out, yet again, to announce some great plan to save the union.  Politically diverse, including the Labour right, the Lib Dems and socially-liberal Tories, they decry Scottish nationalism as narrow, parochial and xenophobic while they play at British nationalism – think of Ruth Davidson on a tank, Keir Starmer and the flag etc.  Though rapidly losing their hegemony, until recently theirs was the “common-sense” that dominated in Scotland until recently and still does in the media, especially the BBC.   Their social base are the managers and businesspeople who will regale us to a never-ending series of “we’ll close down, jobs will be lost” doomsday stories, during the next referendum campaign.  Then there’s greatest of them all, JK Rowling, constantly moaning about cybernats while she kicks down at trans people and promotes the Israeli state’s soft power (we should make love, not boycott).  Their last hope, politically, is the soon to be crowned king of Scottish Labour, Anas Sarwar, whose failure is already predicted in his non-unionised, non-living-wage paying business, his children’s fee-paying schools and the fact that he owes his position to his boss-politician dad.

THE BRITISH ROADERS: Allegedly written by Stalin, the Communist Party’s famous programme, “The British Road to Socialism”, still lives on in the left-social democratic dreams of this fading band of left-labour and soft-Stalinist stalwarts.  An endangered species briefly reanimated by the mirage of Scotland’s Corbynist mini-revival at 2017 election, when the once dominant Labour Party won seven out of fifty nine seats.  Still clinging to Uncle Joe’s directive from afar – take over the British state via the Labour party then implement socialism from above via Westminster, their Brexit Socialism is definitely a thing of the past, their doom written in the exodus of union bureaucrats to the more comfortable ranks of pro-independence social democracy.  Their last hope of any influence was recently swept away when the hapless Richard Leonard, the soft-left leader of Scottish Labour, was ignominiously shown the door by Sir Keir and his donor-class buddies.

THE NICOLODEONS: Now we are the heart of Scottish political power, in the company of the centrist-nationalists who dominate the SNP.  They brook no criticism of Sturgeon’s ultra-cautious social-liberalism and her “don’t frighten the horses” approach to independence.  They form the core of the SNP’s power-structure, though not of its membership or voters.  Reflecting the concerns and aspirations of the managerial class and the more forward-looking sections of the capitalist classes, they have been boosted by the steady trickle of middle class Remainers who previously opposed independence but now see it as the only way of escaping the horrors of Brexit and returning to the safety of Brussels warm embrace.  They eschew the cruder nationalism of the Saltire-faced enthusiast and like Nicola herself they would easily have fitted into the of careerist ranks of New Labour in days of yore, but their greatest dilemma is how to give the impression of forward momentum when Boris just keeps saying no.

THE BRAVE-HEARTS: With a strong base in the grassroots of the SNP and the broader pro-independence social movements, this eclectic mix of ultra-nationalists, opportunists, misogynists and anti-trans obsessives comes closest to the liberal commentariats fevered dreams of ethnic nationalism, with their be-Saltired iconography and their harsh denunciations of pro-indy activists who dare question them, as traitors to the cause.  Nowadays, William Wallace has been replaced in their affections by Alex Salmond, in their eyes a Parnell-like hero brought-down by a cabal of jealous colleagues, feminist plotters and unionists in disguise. Populist is probably an accurate enough descriptor though, in the main, it would be unfair to characterise them as rightists.  The execrable Wings Over Scotland blog and its followers, certainly fit that bill but others re the type of leftist who love Russia Today and thinks that think that feminism is a capitalist plot to divide the working class, epitomised by the disgraced former SSP leader, Tommy Sheridan, who has reinvented himself as a sort of socialist Robert the Bruce, specialising in over-the-top rhetoric and simplistic flag-waving uber-nationalism.   Their varying and ever-changing strategies for independence….hold a referendum without Westminster’s consent, declare UDI, win it in the courts….are almost Trump like in their distance from reality.  

THE INDEPENDISTAS: The pro-independence left is mixed crew, mainly composed working class and middle class social-movement activists, ideologically varying from left-social democrats and greens to left-feminists and radical socialists of varying hues.  Influential during the first referendum, mainly by way of the Radical Independence Campaign, but now scattered by disagreement, so that you may find them in the Greens, the left of the SNP, or the usual gaggle of small competing left groups. Some, such as the ex-SWPers who formerly dominated RIC and who fancy themselves as assort of left-wing Spiked, have hitched their wagon to what they see as the more popular train of the Salmondites but most reject that a turn to populism.  Since no prospect of a united socialist pro-independence party looks in the offing, its more a case of twelve tribes than a new Jerusalem. 

Comments»

1. Arthur Owen - February 22, 2021

Interesting about a country I can’t make head or tail of,I feel I have an understanding of Wales and some limited understanding of England and Ireland, but the Jocks leave me baffled.

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2. Bagatelle's Until Thesseus - February 22, 2021

Two questions:
1) You didn’t tell us which group are The Goodies?
2) Am I bad for liking Chris Hedges @ RT?

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Paul Culloty - February 22, 2021

The very point of the article would appear to be that there is no single perfect group – if you’re pro-independence in Scotland, you can at least split your vote between SNP for the constituencies and Greens for the lists as a compromise between pragmatism and idealism. Should independence actually occur, then the SNP would likely split into socdem, radical left and conservative elements, with the Scottish left realigning as a result.

Liked by 1 person

Bagatelle's Undeterred Theosophy - February 22, 2021

Err, that was the joke. Apologies for tongue too far wedged in the cheek to be detectable. The capitalization of The Goodies was, I thought, sufficient illumination but alas sic transit gloria.

Liked by 2 people

Colm B - February 22, 2021

Thought you were being ageist and commenting on my liking for the 1970s comedians.
Of course the Independistas are the goodies, cos Im one😁

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Bagatelle's Untoward Throne - February 22, 2021

🙂 That “joke” walked a narrow plank, and yet managed to fall off both sides!

The Goodies still hold up and shurely ageism is for the young’uns, the rascally whipper-snappers.

Nah, I’m The Goodies for liking Hedges so there :p If it weren’t for Hedges, Caitoz, Maté, Blumenthal and a few others the news would be a polar desert of hacks that make RDE, EH and SDonnelly look professional, informed and unbiased.

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Colm B - February 22, 2021

Personally, I’ll go for the SNP/Green split vote. Of course the absence of a broad left party on the ballot restricts the choices.

I would recommend a look at these websites for left perspectives;

https://republicansocialists.scot/
https://www.isscotland.org/
https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/

And if you’re an election nerd like me you’ll love this one;

https://mobile.twitter.com/BallotBoxScot

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Colm B - February 22, 2021

Yes you’re very bad

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3. Conor Kostick - February 22, 2021

Colm’s take on the left and Scottish Independence mboi: https://independentleft.ie/socialists-and-scottish-independence/

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Colm B - February 22, 2021

Thanks Conor. In that article on the Independent Left site I put forward the reasons why socialists should support Scottish independence. I think it won’t be too long before either we have a referendum or a Catalonia style standoff with state repression. I hope the second scenario doesn’t happen but it’s a real, if as yet less likely, prospect.

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4. roddy - February 22, 2021

How would state repression pan out?.Would Scots rebel to an Irish extent. I can assure you any attempt at state repression in todays 6 counties would finish the Northern state in a very short time frame.

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Colm B - February 23, 2021

Like Catalonia, I don’t think anyone contemplates armed struggle, aside from moral issues, it’s just not feasible, but I think mass civil resistance would be a viable option and one that many here would contemplate.
Of course the British state would have no qualms using violence to defeat mass resistance.

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5. Klassenkampf Treehugger - February 23, 2021

Many thanks for that Colm. What happens in Scotland will influence what happens with the political future of the island of Ireland – so we’re watching with considerable interest.

My take is that, after Brexit, class politics will only sort itself out again after independence in Scotland. I guess some of the tribes you mention will form a democratic ecosocialist left in opposition to the Sturgeonite leftish-liberal centre.

BTW is anyone talking about the post-independence consitution? There’s a terrain where the left can establish hooks onto which they can hang future struggle.

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