Brexit-fuelled fantasies of Empire 2.0 makes indy case

GAVIN WILLIAMSON: the Defence Secretary’s politics have stepped out of the pages of the era of the British Raj and Kipling, with rhetoric to match (Pic: U.S. Secretary of Defense)

by Ken Ferguson · In what now seems like a universe far, far away, during the 2016 EU referendum, the Voice took a reluctant Remain position and warned that the politics of Brexit would be dominated by the right.

We predicted that this would spark a carnival of reaction and so it has proved with rising reports of racist attacks and anti-“foreigner” rhetoric but even more significantly an increasing right wing dominance of debate.

At the hard end of the Tory party this has catapulted Dickensian figures such a Rees-Mogg from the eccentric fringe to the centre of debate and made rabid right wing unfettered free market politics mainstream.

Examples of this abound from the blonde buffoon Boris Johnston who, after months of blundering quit as Foreign Secretary to sinister figures such as Liam Fox who actually lust for a UK outside the EU and competing in the world as a cheap labour deregulated economy.

However in what is a hotly contested race for the most dangerously reactionary politician in this unsavoury pack top spot must go to baby-faced Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

His politics have stepped out of the pages of the era of the British Raj and Kipling, with rhetoric to match, and among his more choice ravings are the claim that Jeremy Corbyn was a Czech spy and his stern call on the Russians to go away and shut up during the Salisbury nerve gas affair.

China
He also endangered trade talks with Chancellor Hammond and China by threatening to deploy the UK’s only aircraft carrier to the South China sea to keep the Chinese in their place.

This sparked a cabinet row in which Williamson was reminded that as well as a bad idea, the carrier will not have any planes for some time yet!

Of course the difference between Kipling’s time and now—apparently unnoticed by Williamson—is that then Britannia did rule waves whereas now she most certainly does not.

Most recent figures suggest that the Royal Navy has less than 20 surface ships and when the manufactured panic about refugees crossing the channel broke one of only two cutters designed for such situations had to be recalled from the Mediterranean.

So in contrast to the military fantasies of UK politicians—exampled by Trident—the reality is that, like their free market dreams they can only be achieved by a return to a world long gone with its dreams of Empire 2.0.

However the unreality wracking the Tories is also more widely reflected in the broader crisis now convulsing the polity of the British state and putting in question its most cherished institutions.

The breakaway by a group of right wing Labour MPs is but the cutting age of a determined campaign to depose or neutralise Corbyn and make the already problematic House of Commons road to socialist change impossible.

No amount of pious talk about Labour’s “broad church” can conceal the disdain shading to hatred of many “Labour” MPs have both for Corbyn and for socialist ideas.

This was fully on show when the supposedly “independent” group of Labour defectors launched their treachery with hand wringing about the evils of Corbyn and went on the embrace three Tories who were architects of austerity.

What does this multi-layered crisis mean for Scotland and more particularly for left wing independence supporters?

Firstly it should serve as a coffin nail in the claims that there is some short cut to socialist change which runs through Westminster. Even now in the midst of cabinet in fighting and Tory splits the hapless May still leads Corbyn in the polls.

All previous Labour governments were built with a solid bloc of Scottish Labour MPs ranging from 20 to 50 in the bag. This was terminated by the Better Together betrayal and even the modest revival of 2017 in now under threat.

Bluntly, anyone who supports the need for real socialist change in Scotland and still harbours hopes of a British Road to Socialism need to wake up and smell the coffee.

A UK Labour government is so distant a prospect as to amount to a dangerous diversion from the urgent task of fashioning answers to the social and ecological crisis here in Scotland and winning independence to implement it.

Yet at what should be a moment of opportunity for the Yes forces major figures in the SNP are busily drawing the wrong conclusions both about the defeat of 2014 and what needs to be done to ensure that it is not repeated.

So supposed economic guru and author of the under fire SNP Growth Commission Andrew Wilson poses the idea of a “soft” independence which is in fact a thinly disguised code for a Scotland firmly at the service of and under control of the same neoliberal dogma underpinning today’s austerity.

Enduring myths
Indeed big business-friendly Wilson is unapologetic about the need for “fiscal responsibility” or in ordinary language continued cuts and austerity for us and bribes for footloose speculators and business.

Alongside Wilson defeated former MP Angus Robertson’s plans for yet more polling looks like an exercise in providing cover for a right wing indy vision.

One of the enduring myths of 2014 is that the working class majority was won for Yes. Despite Glasgow and Dundee this is not the case and until it is then Yes faces defeat.

It is this bald fact rather than debates about timing of any new referendum that needs to be centre stage.

Centrally, Yes must mean real change and the priority must be to campaign both to win material advances on key issues such as wages, job security, housing and real action on the environment and to link them to a firm case for any independence putting the needs of people and planet first.

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