Castro on Catalonia

The latest in Phantom Power’s Perspective series. Castro on Catalonia, an exclusive interview with writer Liz Castro on Catalonia’s historic independence referendum. Liz gives her insight into the history and politics behind the vote including Catalonia’s complex relationship with Spain, the rise of the independence movement, campaign strategy, parallels with Scottish self-determination and what happens next. Liz is a writer and publisher living in Barcelona. ‘Many Grains of Sand’ documents the creative and highly effective campaign methods of Catalonia’s independence movement and is available @ http://lizcastro.com/granets_home/ Follow Liz for news and updates @ https://twitter.com/lizcastro

Taking the Jackie Baillie out of Labour

At the very moment that Jeremy Corbyn gave a rousing speech to the Labour party conference in Brighton and said that the party had never been more united, supporters of Richard Leonard, one of the candidates for leadership of the party’s Scottish accounting unit, released a statement to the press entitled “Comment on Jackie Baillie pish”. Only they spelled it “coment”, because the SNP has been in charge of Scottish education for years now and naebdie can spell any more. It’s all Nicola Sturgeon’s fault really.

In consequence, the past couple of days Scotland has witnessed the glorious sight of politicians in the parlie and commentators on the telly trying to mention Jackie Baillie’s role in Labour’s latest bout of self-destructive warfare without mentioning the word pish after a Labour press officer dribbled it all over a press statement to the Telegraph.  Although to be fair this is an organ which has been known to be a conduit of gallons of Jackie Baillie in the past. So it was only reasonable.

The press officer responsible for the email, Stephen Low, a former BBC journalist, was apparently a volunteer in Richard Leonard’s campaign. Perhaps he learned about journalistic pish from Reporting Scotland. According to a report in The National today, Stephen is no longer working on the campaign. He wasn’t available for comment, or even coment. Maybe he was away for a quick Jackie Baillie. And there’s Holyrood this week having a wee conflab about the need for respectful language in politics. Oops. That’s turned out to be a whole bucketful of Jackie Baillie hasn’t it.

The pish which the “coment” had been in response to was a statement made by the lovely Jackie in support of Anas Sarwar, after deputy leader Alex Rowley had been caught on tape expressing support for Richard Leonard, even though as interim leader he’s officially supposed to be neutral in the leadership campaign. But it was worse than that, it was clear that there had been some sort of attempt to get rid of Kezia Dugdale, who had clearly jumped before she was pushed. That’s Labour in Scotland for you. They don’t much like the Tories, even though they’ll do deals with them on the sly. They really really hate the SNP. But they reserve their unadulterated venom for one another.

There was Jezza down in Brighton talking about how Labour was all singing from the same song sheet like one of Gareth Malone’s choirs off the telly, the Red Army one, and at the exact same time the Labour party in Scotland manage to make a sack of angry ferrets seem like a tree full of sloths suffering from an overdose of valium. We already knew that Jeremy has as much a clue about what’s going on in Scotland as Jackie Baillie does about numeracy, but this just lit it all up in big sparkly fairy lights for all the world to see.

The woman herself was pure Jackie Baillied off. Although probably not so much by any embarrassment caused to Jeremy Corbyn. She was one of Kezia’s supporters, and now her favoured candidate Anas hasn’t been having a great campaign, despite – or more likely because of – his entering the contest with the assumption that the leadership ought to be handed to him on a wholesale platter. Ever since, he’s had to firefight one problem after another, from his decision to send his kids to a private school, to his family company not paying the living wage or recognising trade unions, to his having dinner with a businessman accused of VAT fraud whom he praised as Scotland’s Donald Trump like that was a good thing.

Jackie only thought she was helping. “Richard [Leonard] must urgently answer questions about his role in this plot,” she demanded, and went on to accuse Alex Rowley of hypocrisy and betraying Labour members, saying that he needed to clarify if he had played any role in the plot to unseat Kezia Dugdale.

Alex for his part was equally raging and denied that there was any plot. That was just his opponents taking the Jackie Baillie. The only plot I’m involved in is a plot to get rid of the SNP, he insisted. So not to get rid of the Tories then. Nice to know where Labour’s priorities lie.

Don’t you feel terribly sorry for Jackie? I do, in the exact same way that I feel sorry for Paul Nuttall. He got caught talking a load of pish and was called out for it, and now he’s a byword for a Walter Mitty figure who doesn’t know the difference between something he once saw in a comic and real life. Mind you, we all saw Jacob Rees-Mogg as posh boy Cuthbert in the Bash Street Kids comic, so fair’s fair.

Jackie Baillie was previously best known for her liberal interpretation of arithmetic and her firm belief that numeracy is the interpretive dance of politics, and also for her attempts to persuade the people of Scotland that the entire point of hosting weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde was to keep open a medium sized Tesco Express in the Helensburgh area. But now she’s become a byword for micturition and taking the Jackie Baillie out of the Labour party has become one of Scotland’s favourite sports. Now whenever some apologist for British nationalism that thinks they’re not a nationalist at all is spouting off on social media all you need to do is to tell them to stop talking such Jackie Baillie.

All over the country people are telling their significant other, “Gaunnie pause the movie while I take the dug oot fur a quick Jackie Baillie.” Politicians are due to debate the mess and upset experienced by people who live near pubs and nightclubs who are subjected to Jackie Baillied patrons leaving the licenced premises and having a quick Jackie Baillie up their close. “I’m sick fed up of having to clean up that Jackie Baillie ootside ma front door,” said one distressed Dumbarton resident. I had to stop writing this blog article after Jackie Baillieing masel laughing at the self-inflicted disaster of the Labour party in Scotland.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
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Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

The avocado toilet suite of politics

Don’t you kind of yearn for the days when it was the SNP that the media told us was a sinister cult? Now we’ve actually got real cult at the heart of British politics, and the sound of silence is deafening. Because when you’ve got people chanting Oooooh Jeremy Corbyn at an anti-Brexit rally, such as we’ve seen at the Labour party conference, what you’ve got is the replacement of reality with a blind and counterfactual faith. When you’re hoping that a man who is opposed to the Single Market, the Customs Union, and freedom of movement is the hero who will keep the country in the Single Market, the Customs Union, and preserve freedom of movement, that’s every bit as cultish as the belief that you can cure a skin condition by lighting a candle and setting fire to a tub of exfoliant before a wee statue of the god of plooks. Which looks suspiciously like Nigel Farage spouting custard, but that’s a different blog post.

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going to save us from Brexit. That’s like expecting Bargain Hunt to save you from cheaply made afternoon television. In much the same way, with Jeremy people are buying some knocked off beige relic from the 1970s in the hope that it’s going to restore their fortunes. Corbynism is the avocado toilet suite of politics. It seemed so terribly modern and on-trend at the time, but it’s only after you install it that you realise how tacky it is, and how expensive it’s going to be to get rid of.

Corbyn’s Labour is every bit as guilty as the Tories of peddling a backwards looking nostalgia as the balm to Britain’s wounds, they only differ in the decade they offer. The Tories are trying to sell us their vision of the 1910s, or the 1710s in the case of Jacob Rees-Mogg, when the upper classes still ruled unchallenged and the working classes knew their place. Labour are trying to take us back to the statism and centralism of the 1970s, because that worked out so well the first time round. 1970s nostalgia appeals to millennials, because they weren’t around then and don’t appreciate how crap it all was. That’s your choice in British politics these days, a plastic version of Downton Abbey where most of us are stuck downstairs, or a 1970s disco with a glitterball that doesn’t spin and no admittance to anything foreign.

Jeremy Corbyn is promising a slew of policies that seem very attractive. He wants to renationalise the railways. He wants strict controls on rents in order to tackle a bloated housing market that makes it too expensive for young people to own a home of their own. He signalled the death of Blairism and promised an end to austerity. But over it all hovered the unpleasantly coloured toilet suite of Brexit, threatening to flush away all the policies that benefit the poor and the low paid in a sewer of economic catastrophe. For all the fine words, Labour remains as chaotic and confused about Brexit as the Tories. Jeremy wants rid of the Tories – but not just yet, then they can take the blame for the disaster that’s unfolding.

Jeremy desperately wants the Brexit that most of his supporters are desperate to avoid, because then he won’t be constrained by EU rules putting the hems on his socialism. Jeremy is clearly not content with the kind of social democracy to be found in Scandinavia, which begs the question of what exactly is it that he he wants to do that requires the UK to cut itself off from the single market, the customs union, and to put and end to freedom of movement.

There’s little on offer for Scotland from Corbyn’s Labour party, other than carping about how the Scottish Parliament needs to use the powers it’s already got to reduce poverty and inequality and improve the economy. Those would be the powers over macroeconomic levers that Labour refused to allow to be devolved. Labour refused to allow corporation tax, inheritance tax or fuel duty to be devolved. Labour won’t allow the level of personal allowances for income tax or national insurance to be within the remit of Holyrood. Labour refused to consider the devolution of broadcasting. Labour stuck in its heels and insisted that immigration must remain reserved. Labour tied the hands of the Scottish Parliament behind its back, and now they’re complaining that it’s not punching the Tories. And what extra powers does Jeremy Corbyn want to see being delivered to the Scottish Parliament? Absolutely none at all. He’s as centralist as Thatcher.

Meanwhile Kezia Dugdale, who like Robbie Williams is far more interesting and unpredictable as a solo artiste than she was when she was in the band, has come over all Lib Dem and is calling for a second referendum on the EU. It was only six months ago that Kezia was insisting that the public were fed up with voting in divisive referendums, but now she no longer has to give a toss what Anas Sarwar or Neil Findlay say she’s suddenly realised that people aren’t as fed up as she thought. It’s just that they were fed up with Anas and Neil, but then that’s nothing new.

The branch office in Scotland remains as divided and dysfunctional as ever. It now appears that Kezia jumped before she was pushed. There are reports that there was a plot to oust her. Alex Rowley, the deputy leader, was also caught on tape stating his preference for Richard Leonard over Anas Sarwar, when as interim leader of the accountancy unit he’s supposed to be neutral. Labour in Scotland spend far more time and energy fighting with one another. They hate each other even more than the hate the SNP. Protecting Scotland from the consequences of Tory policies scarcely gets a look in. The future that British politics has in store for Scotland is becoming clear. We’ll be out of Europe, out of power, out of money, out of work, out of favour, and out of our minds.

 


 

weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
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Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

Having their Corbyn cake and eating it

It’s getting insane now. Even those of us who specialise in hyperbole are running out of hyperbolic adjectives and similes to describe just how divorced from the real world British politics and the British state have become.

I’ve given up watching the Labour party conference. It seemed to be being beamed to us directly from an alternate universe in which Labour won the general election and Jeremy Corbyn single-handed cured cancer. It’s a world in which delegates are gushing over the transformative powers of a socialism that Labour has rediscovered after years of treating it like an embarrassing old relative who had been packed off to a retirement home and never visited, but they’re studiously avoiding the fact that the retirement home is about to be bulldozed. It’s a world in which Jeremy Corbyn is treated with the reverence usually reserved for the other JC, but everyone denies it’s a personality cult.

In the collective deranged mind of the Labour party, the fact that people wear T-shirts with his image, chant his name, and praise him constantly, but it’s not a personality cult must be one of the miracles that Jeremy is responsible for with his superhuman powers. But then they’re also not nationalists, despite being in favour of the maintenance of the British state, vehemently opposed to another Scottish referendum, and Jezza supporting the hardest of Brexits, all of which are quintissentially British nationalist projects. That must be another of those miracles.

All the Labour new-found socialism in the world is going to do bugger all to help the poor, the marginalised, the weak, the oppressed, and the struggling worker after the Tories achieve their dream of a hard Brexit and a bonfire of social protection. Sure, it’s great to talk about all the fantastic new swings, chutes, and roundabouts that we can have in our public playground, but it’s bugger all use planning them when the priority is to resist the Tories who’re hell bent on selling off the playground to a global corporation and then charging us for walking by it. The priority needs to be to resist the Tory Brexit, but Labour doesn’t want to talk about that, because Saint Jeremy believes in a hard Brexit as much as Liam Fox and David Davis do. But the membership believes that at the last minute Saint Jeremy will perform a miracle, and save us all.

The party marches on to the precipice, waving the red banners that they’ve rescued from the attic and chanting Jeremy’s name. It’s every bit as much the politics of nostalgia as the Tory determination to take us back to the Empire loyalism of the 1950s.

What’s so upsetting about the Labour party conference is that it’s a microcosm of the country as a whole. The UK is in a collective state of denial, one which is fully shared by Scotland’s No voters. We don’t want another referendum, they say, because that means that they’ll have to face up to reality. The reality is that Scotland was lied to by the British state, it was taken advantage of, and its people were taken for granted and taken for fools. No one likes to admit that they were conned. We were conned by Better Together and all its fine promises of a Scotland that was an equal partner in a family of nations. We were conned by Brexiteers who promised a bright future outside the EU. And now the reality is dawning, a reality of a Scotland in which the devolution settlement is trashed, and an isolationist and xenophobic Britain in which big business runs riot and tramples democratic and human rights.

It’s only natural that people don’t want to think about it. It’s not happened yet for all that it’s coming down the line. We’re like tenants who are facing eviction from our home and who ignore the brown window envelopes that pile up behind the door warning of financial ruin. It hasn’t happened yet, and if it hasn’t happened yet then it might not happen at all. Don’t mention it. Don’t talk about it. Go away and leave us to our dreams of Corbynism or a glorious Tory Brexit in which everything comes right in the end. It’s more comforting to blame those who try and stop destructive behaviour than it is to blame the destructive behaviour itself.

Back in the real world, we’re facing the biggest threat to our civil liberties and employment rights in decades. It’s not just that the Tories are using Brexit as an excuse to trash the devolution settlement, that would be bad enough, but they’re also using it to neuter the power of the House of Commons to hold the government of the day to account. The priority for any party which seeks to further the interests of the have-nots, or the 99%, or ordinary working people, instead of the rich, the bosses, and the banks, must be to resist the Tory march toward Brexit, to find common cause with the Lib Dems, the SNP, and Plaid and Tory remainers and prevent the country being held hostage by the wild-eyed fantasies of ideological Brexiteers. But Labour won’t do that, because its leaders are also wild-eyed fantasists and ideological Brexiteers.

It’s frankly ludicrous that a party which claims to be building a mass movement, which says that its goal is to empower ordinary people, refuses those ordinary members a say on shaping the party’s policy on the biggest question facing the country. It’s the politics of denial. The hundreds of thousands of young people and remain supports who voted Labour in the General Election because they thought that the party might save us from the Brexit cliff are in for a big disappointment. Fudging the issue got the party through the General Election. It’s not going to get Labour through this parliamentary session. The tragedy is that the Conservatives have never been weaker or more divided, but Labour can’t or won’t press its advantage because it too wants to have its cake and eat it. It’s the inability of both the major British parties to face up to the realities of Brexit which will lead to the undoing and unravelling of the entire British state.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
Donate Button

Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

Down in the oozing magma

Sometimes you wonder when the declining reputation of the British state is going to hit bedrock, but that implies that there’s some solid base to the British establishment. Then you realise that it went through the bedrock quite a long time ago and is now deep down there somewhere swimming in the oozing magma with no idea which way is up. Down in the very core of the planet there are radioactive heavy elements with half-lives measured in nano-seconds. Even they’re more stable than anything that the leadership of British political parties can come up with. They’re probably less harmful to your health too.

American politics has been likened to a swamp. Here in the UK we’re envious of the solid earth of a swamp. The worst thing in an American swamp is an alligator. We’ve got Jacob Rees Mogg, who predates alligators on an evolutionary scale by some 100 million years. There’s only one thing that really occupies the mind of a Conservative politician, and that’s how best to further his or her career. It’s the Conservatives’ single minded focus on short term personal self-interest that has brought the country to this sorry state. It’s not going to get out of the mess by more Tory short term self-interest.

It was just a couple of days ago that the Tory cabinet was performing a carefully choreographed cohesion dance, sticking to one another for support like drunk best friends leaving a party and plastered with a bonhomie that was as manufactured as Michael Jackson’s nose. It turns out that they didn’t even get as far as the kebab shop before it fell off and war broke out again. Boris wants a square go with everyone. Phil is plotting to hit David Davis over the head with an EFTA deal. SAS trained David is sneaking up behind Liam Fox planning to stab him in the back with the ballpoint pen he was intending to sign a trade deal with. Things are so bad that some of them are even talking to Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom has become credible again. You know it’s got desperate when some people are seriously thinking that the best way out of the Brexit crisis is with lashings of innovative jam.

The ostensible reason for the falling out is a difference of opinion on the length of the transitional period for Brexit. Tories can’t agree on whether they want to take two years to screw the country over, or four years, or whether they want to start doing it straight away. Boris and Phil are having a spat over who is reponsible for Theresa saying that the transitional period would be limited to two years. Boris is trying to paint himself as the saviour of Brexit, because he wants to push the country off a Brexit cliff and then rule over the wreckage. Phil is furious because he wants everyone to know that pushing the country off a Brexit cliff is a collective effort.

The real reason for the falling out is a difference of opinion on the length of time of Theresa May’s premiership. Tories can’t agree on whether they want to take a couple of months, or several months, to stab Theresa in the back, or whether they want to do it straight away. Many of them would rather that Theresa was still in the top job until Brexit officially happens in March 2019, because then she can get the blame for it. In the meantime they’re all jockeying for position in order to be best placed to replace her. All this is given far more energy, enthusiasm, and time than any effort that any of them are putting into planning for Brexit.

Speaking to the Observer newspaper on Sunday, Oliver Letwin, who was chosen by David Cameron to head the preparations for leaving the EU, said that he didn’t think work on preparing Brexit was being carried out with anything like the necessary intensity. There is still time, but it’s running out, and he added that the work is going to require “clear thinking and administrative competence”. So we’re all screwed then. The only thing that the Tories have ever shown any expertise for is destroying public services in order to extract the maximum private financial gain for themselves and their pals. With Brexit, they’re going to privatise the entire country.

Labour isn’t much better. It only looks unified on the Brexit question because the Conservatives are the standard of comparison. It’s a bit like saying that a broken down hovel with no running water and a hole in the middle of the floor for crapping in is fit for human habitation because you’re comparing it to a wet cardboard box which the arse has fallen out of. Labour has got away so far without spelling out its policies with anything approaching clarity, because the entire country is transfixed with the back stabbing horror show which is the Conservative position on Brexit.

Labour’s problem is that their surge in support in the General Election came largely from people who are opposed to Brexit, but Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are as much fans of a hard Brexit as Liam Fox and Boris Johnson. Labour’s policy on Brexit is a carefully constructed attempt to say as little as possible in the hope that no one will look too carefully.

Of the three main UK wide parties, only the Lib Dems have a clear and comprehensible policy on Brexit. It’s utterly hypocritical, but at least it’s clear and comprehensible. The Lib Dems want another referendum on Brexit because people were lied to during the first one. They don’t want another referendum on Scottish independence, because the Lib Dems were amongst those doing the lying.

What this all means is that the only UK political party which has a clear, articulate, and principled stand on Brexit is Ukip. That’s how low that British politics and the British state has fallen, when the nasty xenophobic British Empire nostalgia fantasists of Ukip are able to occupy the moral high ground. No wonder we’re all screwed.


weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
Donate Button

Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.

The question of the Kurds

There’s awareness in Scotland about Catalonia’s looming independence referendum. Or at least there’s awareness if you don’t confine yourself to BBC Scotland news. The Catalan vote is due to be held a week on Sunday, 1 October. However there’s another nation which is going to hold an independence referendum even sooner. On Monday Iraqi Kurdistan will hold a referendum to decide whether the region’s future is as the first independent Kurdish state.

The Kurds have been described as the world’s largest stateless nation. Split between Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, there are between 30 and 45 million people who regard themselves as Kurdish. The numbers are uncertain because the countries concerned do not ask census questions about command of a Kurdish language or about ethnic identity. There is no single Kurdish language, rather Kurdish comprises a grouping of closely related languages which as a whole are related to the Baluchi language of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and somewhat more distantly to the Farsi language which is the state language of Iran. Most Iraqi Kurds speak Sorani Kurdish, which is written in a form of the Arabic alphabet. Most Syrian and Turkish Kurds speak Kurmanji Kurdish, which is written in the Latin script.

The Kurds have been present in their historic homelands for thousands of years. They claim descent from the Medians, one of the ancient civilisations of the Middle East. Over the centuries they have adapted and adopted aspects of neighbouring cultures. Although a large majority of Kurds are Muslim, many Kurdish speakers still preserve pre-Islamic and pre-Christian religions, of which the Yazidis are the best known. Other minority ethnic groups are also present within the Kurdish region, most notably the Assyrians and the Turkmen. The Assyrians are Christians who traditionally speak varieties of modern Aramaic – which was once widespread throughout the Middle East before the spread of Arabic and a dialect of which was the native language of Jesus Christ. The Turkmen speak dialects closely related to Turkish.

Before the Ottoman Empire committed the Armenian genocide of the First World War, there were also large Armenian speaking communities living side by side with the Kurds. The Kurds were also victims of the Ottoman authorities, who deported hundreds of thousands of Kurds into the south east. Untold thousands died.

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, as the British and French carved the Middle East up into areas of influence, the Kurds were promised an independent homeland of their own. The British and French reneged on their promise, and the Kurdish lands were divided between British occupied Iraq, French occupied Syria, with a large area to the north remaining under the control of the newly established Turkish Republic. British and French officials sat down with maps and pencils and drew lines through the centre of Kurdish lands. The interests of the Kurds themselves didn’t even register.

With the loss of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire, the new Turkey was concerned to reshape itself as an ethnic state for Turks, and the Turkish state refused to recognise the the Kurds as a national minority.  Officially the Kurds in Turkey became “Mountain Turks”, and the public use of their language was prohibited. Even the very existence of the Kurdish language was denied.  Rather similarly to certain Daily Mail journalists who opine about Scots, the Turkish state did not regard Kurdish as a real language. The Kurds responded to the violent repression by turning to violence themselves.

In Syria and Iraq the situation was little better. As these countries achieved full independence they became dominated by their Arabic speaking majorities. The dictatorships in Iraq and Syria severely repressed the Kurds. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s regime embarked on a campaign of oppression which can only be described as attempted genocide. The Al-Anfal campaign of the late 1980s killed an estimated 180,000 Kurds. Hundreds of thousands were interned in camps, their villages systematically destroyed or repopulated by Arabs from the south. It’s believed that as many as 1 million Iraqi Kurds were displaced. Some Kurdish villages were victims of chemical warfare. A gas attack on the village of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1988 killed an estimated 5000 and injured as many as 10,000 more.

Given this history, the Iraqi Kurds enthusiastically supported the Western overthrow of Saddam Hussein and seized the opportunity to take control of their own territories in Iraq. Ever since the Second Iraq War which led to the downfall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Kurdish areas of Iraq have de-facto governed themselves with a parliament and government based in the city of Erbil. The region was and remains the most peaceful and securely governed part of that unfortunate country. The constitution of post- Saddam Iraq recognises the autonomy of the Kurds, and defines Iraq as a federal state with Kurdistan as one of its constituents.

The Kurds have taken advantage of the insecurity and instability of Iraq to extend the territories under the control of the autonomous Kurdish administration, most notably taking over the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, which was outside the boundaries of the Kurdish region as agreed with the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Kirkuk is where vast oil reserves are located. The non-Kurdish population of the area, predominantly Arabic and Turkmen speaking, have accused the Kurdish administration of favouring ethnic Kurds and of promoting Kurdish settlement in the city in order to secure Kurdish rule. The Kurds reply that they have always regarded Kirkuk as the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. A referendum is supposed to be held in order to determine the final status of Kirkuk. A vote was originally due to be held in 2007 but was postponed repeatedly. As yet there is no date for a referendum to settle the question of Kirkuk. As the Kurdish administration is in full control it is in no hurry to organise the vote.

Iraqi Kurdistan held an independence referendum in 2004 which the Kurdish administration considered informal and advisory. The referendum produced a vote of 98.8% in favour of independence, but was widely boycotted by the non-Kurdish population. The Kurds had repeatedly stated their intention to hold a formal and binding referendum, but faced the impaccable opposition of the Iraqi government, the other regional powers, the Western powers, and China and Russia. The on-going war in Iraq and the rise of the so-called Islamic State caused the Kurdish government to put its plans for a binding referendum on hold. However following the recent defeat of IS in Iraq and their being driven from the city of Mosul, the eastern outskirts of which are held by Kurdish forces, the Kurdish government of Masoud Barzani announced its intention of holding a unilateral independence referendum. The vote will also take place in the Kirkuk, Sinjar, and other regions controlled by Kurdish forces but which are claimed by the Iraqi government to be outside the Kurdish autonomous region.

The referendum due on Monday enjoys the support of all the main Kurdish political parties with the exception of the centre left Gorran party, but it is also supported by some of the parties representing minorities within Kurdistan. Some of the Arab tribal leaders in the region have come out in favour of independence. One of the two main Assyrian parties, and one of the Turkmen parties support a yes vote in the referendum, and another Turkmen party has said that it will support a yes vote providing certain guarantees are given to protect the rights of the Turkmen minority. However one of the major Turkmen parties remains opposed to the vote.

The Iraqi government remains vehemently opposed to the referendum being held, but since it has no effective power in Kurdish regions has no means to block the vote. The government in Baghdad has threatened that a declaration of independence by the Kurdish government in Erbil will be seen by Baghdad as a declaration of war, and it is determined to resist Kurdish independence by force. The Kurds are gambling that they have the strongest army in the country, and the weakened Iraqi government will be in no position to act on its threats. Turkey and Iran are likewise strongly opposed to Kurdish independence, having an eye on their own restive Kurdish populations. The West, as well as Russia and China, are also strongly opposed to a Kurdish declaration of independence, seeing it as a source of yet more instability in an already unstable region.

The Kurds in Syria support the independence of the Kurds in Iraq, but have no current intentions of seeking independence themselves. The official position of the Syrian Kurds is to seek self-government for Rojava (meaning West in Kurmanji Kurdish, the Kurdish name of Syrian Kurdistan) within a federal and secular Syria.

The vote on Monday will almost certainly produce a majority for indepencence. However any declaration of independence on the part of Iraqi Kurdistan will equally likely not be recognised by Iraq or by the wider international community. Even so, it will represent an important step in the long Kurdish campaign for self-determination and a state of their own. One day, one way or another, the Kurds are determined that they will have an independent nation to call their own. The Kurds will give their own answer to the Kurdish question, and that answer is independence.


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The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


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The edge of the abyss

red-carnation

In just ten days time, the government of Catalonia is determined to hold an independence referendum that the government of Spain is equally determined to prevent. What’s happening in Spain is heading towards the logical conclusion of what you get when the loyalist defenders of the central state refuse to countenance that a country within that state has a right to self-determination. The situation in Catalonia is growing fraught, it’s getting dangerous.

The Catalan independence movement shares an important and highly praiseworthy feature in common with the Scottish independence movement. Apart from the activities of a tiny fringe group during the 1980s called Terra Lliure ‘Free Land’, the Catalan movement, like its Scottish counterpart, is dedicated to peaceful and legal protest, and to achieving its aims by persuasion and through the ballot box. Like members of the Scottish independence campaign, the Catalans believe that the kind of independent state you achieve is determined by the kind of campaign you run in order to win your independence. A violent campaign with no respect for democracy and the rule of law creates a new state born in blood, one in which democratic rights cannot be assured. That’s not the kind of Catalonia that anyone wants. That’s not the kind of Scotland that anyone wants either.

Carnation-White-StemEarlier this week Madrid took effective control of the pursestrings of the Catalan government. They haven’t suspended the Catalan administration, although Clause 155 of the Spanish constitution does permit such a step, but they have taken control of the finances of the Catalan government. Senior government officials have been arrested, and 700 pro-independence mayors have been threatened with legal action if they dare to facilitate the referendum. Even Catalan newspapers which are not pro-independence are describing this as a coup d’etat against the government in Barcelona. Catalonia is standing on the edge of an abyss, staring into the darkness of the days of the Francoist dictatorship. It has been driven to this point by a government in Madrid which is the political heir of Franco in democratic drag.

Today the Spanish newspaper El País, which is roughly equivalent to the Guardian in terms of its politics, is reporting that the Spanish Government together with the main Spanish opposition party the PSOE, are offering to negotiate with the Catalan government “within the constitution and the law”, on condition that Catalonia drops the referendum. It’s hard to see how this offer can be in any way attractive to Catalonia, as “within the constitution and the law” is code for “without any mention or possibility of independence”. The Madrid government and parties have made it clear that they’re only prepared to talk about Catalonia’s funding. They’ve made it equally clear that they’re going to maintain the same constrictions on Catalan democratic expression.

Meanwhile the central state continues its pressure. The Spanish Supreme Court has ordered that the members of the Catalan Electoral Commission are to be fined €12,000 a day each. The Spanish Treasury, the Ministerio de la Hacienda, has frozen the bank accounts of the Catalan government. Today (Thursday) in Barcelona there’s a demonstration of thousands of citizens in front of the Catalan Supreme Court, calling for the release of the government officials arrested last week. Hundreds of red and white carnations, the symbol of the independence movement, have been left outside the court office which ordered the detentions. Neither side seems likely to budge. Catalonia stands on the verge of serious civil disorder, and it’s the central government in Madrid which is largely to blame because it refuses to concede the legality of the democratic will of the people.

A group of SNP MSPs has written to the President of the EU Commission Donald Tusk, requesting that he intervene. The cross party grouping on Catalonia in the House of Lords has also written in support of the right of Catalonia to self-determination and to request that the Spanish government allows the vote to go ahead.

The Catalan public service broadcaster has been warned by the courts that it faces legal action if it continues to report on events or actions that could lead to the referendum being held. Scotland’s own public service broadcaster doesn’t need any legal threats to stop it covering events in Catalonia. It’s far more interested in the fitba. As far as BBC Scotland is concerned, there’s absolutely parallels between Scotland and Catalonia that anyone in Scotland might be interested in. Our so-called national broadcaster remains as resolutely parochial as the status to which the UK wishes to consign Scotland. The Spanish Supreme Court and Mariano Rajoy would be so proud of a broadcaster which fell over itself to give huge prominence to the musings of even minor Spanish Unionists during Scotland’s independence debate, but which seemingly prefers to place events in Catalonia in the same category of Scottish public interest as local government elections in Mongolia.

The central state nationalist intransigence on display in Spain is present here in Scotland too. Ruth Davidson, whoever it is that’s going to end up leading Labour’s Scottish accounting unit, and Wullie Rennie, refuse to recognise the mandate that the Scottish government possesses to hold another independence referendum. Ruth Davidson is on record as stating that there is no mandate for another independence referendum in Scotland even if more than 50% of the voters opt for the SNP in an election. Kezia Dugdale said something very similar. When a majority of voters choose a particular path, but the leader of a minority party not only claims there is no mandate, but is able to block that mandate due to support she receives from within the state, but outside the country in question, democracy is a sham. Ruth should be ashamed of the statement she made and should disavow it.

The lesson for Scotland from Catalonia is a lesson in democracy that Scotland’s British nationalists must pay heed to. This is what happens when so called Unionists refuse to respect the legitimate mandate of a democratically elected devolved government. It creates the risk of civil disobedience. It creates the risk of bringing the rule of law into disrepute. It creates risk of confrontation between the people and the police. It creates the risk of social disturbances. Ruth Davidson preaches against division, but it takes two to create a divide, and Ruth has her own role in its creation.  In Scotland, we do not want the kind of brinkmanship and confrontation that the Spanish nationalist establishment has created in Catalonia.

The lesson to learn is that the will of the people as it is democratically expressed through the ballot box must always be respected. Democracy isn’t a one off event. Democracy in Scotland did not stop when the country voted No in 2014. The result of that referendum is being respected. Scotland remains a part of the United Kingdom, that’s what respecting the result of the referendum means. But that doesn’t mean that Scotland surrendered the right to revisit the question of independence at a time of Scotland’s choosing. It doesn’t mean that Scotland has no right to reconsider the matter when circumstances have changed. When democracy is frozen at one point in time, democracy dies. There is a mandate for another referendum, one that was democratically and peacefully achieved. Scotland will have another referendum and we must support the right of our brothers and sisters in Catalonia to hold theirs.


 

weegingerdug.scot

The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.


gingercartoonWee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Just click the donate button.
Donate Button

Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

Many thanks.