Friday, September 05, 2014
Scottish Independence, Canada, and the Power of a Movement
I have always believed that while a political party can change a government, only a movement can truly change a country. Or the world.
I got a glimpse of the power of a movement during the Quebec student protests.
When for a while at least, young and old came together to challenge the very foundations of the increasingly savage capitalist society we're living in. And dream of something better.
And now I'm seeing it again in Scotland, where despite massive opposition from the Big Business and other forces of the establishment, it's one of the reasons the YES side may be heading for victory.
None of this is supposed to be happening at all. Better Together is supported by every major media outlet in Scotland as well as in London. It has the full research resources of the British government and the backing of big business. Yet there now seems to be an irresistible momentum towards yes.
Because by challenging the bestial policies of the Con regime in Britain, and making the referendum a choice between the status quo, and a vision of a kinder, gentler, more human society, it has unleashed a people power the NO side lacks.
Famously the no campaign has to pay volunteers' expenses. No such problem affects yes. Yet grassroots movements are more agile, it seems. When Better Together unveiled dreadfully crude posters declaring that if you loved your children you'd vote no, yes, which owns social media, was able to destroy the opposition's ad aimed at women with a hashtag.
On a purely practical level yes is just better organised. As the New Statesman points out: "The yes campaign is winning on almost every front. It has delivered more leaflets, put up more posters, set up more stalls and knocked on more doors."
And by making people feel that they can make a difference, that they can change the world, the YES side is attracting many of those who were alienated from the political process.
Those who couldn't see what was in it for them. Or those who couldn't see the forest for the trees.
And creating an energy or a passion the other side can't match.
There's a feeling that the yes movement is defending the fabric of society against the austerity union, while the no campaign is defending a right to live in the 1950s. It makes a difference.
But what is also important, and benefits all of the people who live in Scotland, is the way this campaign has brought back the politics of BIG IDEAS.
This vigorous political carnival has been good for politics and good for Scotland. It has also been a revolt against politics as usual: a cry, from the heart as much as from the head, for a different way of doing things.
People are asking themselves what they value and sometimes, I think, they’re a little surprised by what they find and by how much they value it. Conviction politics has returned and who, really, can be disappointed by that? It’s been as invigorating as a seaside walk on a raw and windswept spring morning.
And when I see all that, I can't help feeling that there are some things we can learn from that campaign, use to defeat the Con regime, and set us on the road to defining the kind of decent country most of us want to live in.
Because right now all the progressive parties are offering us are mere laundry lists. There are no attempts to bring all those points of light together into a shining vision of a better society. And passion is noticeable for its absence.
So what I'm suggesting is that we think about turning the next election into a referendum on the kind of Canada we want. By creating a movement that would work to boost the efforts of all the progressive parties.
It would be non-partisan, like the YES side is in Scotland. It would not tell you what progressive party to vote for.
But it would make clear WHAT we are voting for...
And hopefully it would unleash the same kind of energy it has in Scotland, give more people, especially the young, a real reason to vote.
And as a bonus make it clear to the progressive parties that defeating the Harper Cons, as necessary and as good as that will be, won't be enough to satisfy us.
We expect them to get serious about the challenges we face, and the real change we need.
It's just an idea eh? But in a big country with small politics, we need all the ideas we can get. So feel free to suggest yours.
But we do need change.
And if it can work for the Scots...
Beyond all of this there is the now clear realisation that the no campaign represents entrenched interests and values. Every ruddy-faced landowner that puts up a no sign in their field tells you this. Every blustering lord that preaches about democracy reinforces it.
As the slogan goes: "Britain is for the rich. Scotland can be ours." It almost is.
It can work for us.
Yup. Once upon a time, for a golden moment, I saw the power of a movement...
Let's do it again, all over the country.
And make the end of the Harper Cons.
The beginning of a new and better Canada...
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