Anti-Trump protest, Edinburgh. Image, Adam Ramsay
At the Scottish Independence Convention last month Elaine C Smith used a term that may become useful in conceptualising this epoch: “Trump-Brexia”. It’s increasingly clear that what we are seeing is no short-term shock soon to be reversed, but a fundamental change in the Anglo-American order towards a capital-N Nationalism where British and US elites grab what they can while the weak suffer what they must.
It’s difficult to underestimate the importance of this shift. Niall Ferguson, the pro-Empire historian, used to talk about ‘Anglobalisation’: the Anglo-American order led first by the British Empire and then succeeded by the American Empire, which constructed the rules of global political economy over the past 200 years. The key here is the world ‘rules’: while always rigged and carried out with gross hypocrisy, they sought to establish a set of political and economic red lines that were more or less universal. Especially after the post-war settlement, punitive tariffs was a no-no and collective punishment based on religious discrimination would generally mean Washington, and the international institutions it dominates like the IMF, World Bank, Nato, the UN, would put you on the naughty step.
Trump-Brexia has flushed the Anglobalisation rule book down the toilet. Trump has casually suggested that the US might establish a 20% import tariff on its neighbour and third biggest trading partner, Mexico. He has banned people from seven war-torn Muslim countries from entering the US, and stated he would take more Christians but not Muslims. In the Obama era, if the leader of another major country had proposed such measures, it would have been rebuked by the White House as “an attack on the free world”.
Brexit Britain follows limply in Trump’s slip stream, desperate for whatever it can get. Britain under May doesn’t have a foreign policy as such, it has a trade policy, which can be summed up as “please, please, please!” The cravenness of May’s trip to Washington and the subsequent invitation of a grandiose, monarchy-and-all State visit for Trump is all part of the UK’s plan to open up the British economy to US corporate vultures. A TTIP-on-steroids is being plotted, with basic rights and regulations all up for grabs. Worst of all was her cowardice – May was briefed about Trump’s planned Muslim Ban while at the White House, but said nothing. There is no principle important enough to get in the way of May’s British Nationalism.
Let’s be clear, if the global economy turns inwards Britain will come off worse than the US, which as the dominant super-power has advantages the UK gave up long ago. The UK’s economy is based on services, most importantly financial services, which requires its tentacles to reach into all parts of the global economy. UK supply chains are global. If all of this unravels, and if trade deals are signed that pick off the last of public services and neuter any attempts to rebuild a domestic manufacturing sector, the UK will have little left. While the Trump era may devastate the US, it is likely to be even worse for its patsy.
And that’s just the economics. Trump, on top of everything else, has started banging the war drum, with provocations towards China and Iran. His chief advisor, Steve Bannon, appears to pull the strings, and he is on record saying a war with China in the next 5-10 years will happen. He is essentially a religious extremist, desiring a Christian holy war against the Islamic world. Who would put it past ‘Theresa the Appeaser’ continuing her embrace with the Donald in war?
Very few people in Scotland want any of this. Finding genuine supporters of Trump-Brexia in Scotland is a tough task. Maybe some Nazi in his dad’s basement, or David Coburn – but even the Scottish Tories don’t believe in this stuff. Scottish politics has been able to hold together some sort of consensus against unhinged capital-N Nationalism. Scotland, pretty much all of it, is being dragged against its will into Trump-Brexia. It’s now time to call on all those within that consensus to unite for Scottish political sovereignty.
At the start of the Yes campaign for the 2014 referendum, support for independence was polling as low as 27%. Speaking to people on the streets of Glasgow in 2012, many struggled to understand the meaning of it all. Why did we need such upheaval? Were things really so bad? Is what Yes supporters want really so seismic as to justify such a big change? Many people genuinely believed the independence movement were the narrow, inward looking, parochial nationalists, and Britain the worldly, forward-facing, open option.
We now live in a time where the battle lines of history are much more clearly defined. If a new referendum is called (as I believe it should be), I’d wager not one punter will fail to understand the meaning of Yes. Scotland’s place in history, one way or another, will be clear to pretty much everyone. Do you want Scotland to cower behind the Trump-Brexian Nationalist bigots, or do you want Scotland to forge its own place in the world based on equality, solidarity, respect, peace and socialism?
If the independence movement doesn’t believe we can move the Yes vote up from a starting point of 45% in the current political context, then we don’t have enough belief in the values behind our cause. And we do the rest of the world a disservice. Because winning a referendum in the context of Trump-Brexia has much more global significance than if we had done it in 2014. It will be a slap in the face to their attempt to build a new Nationalist International; an insurgent movement against the radical Right. It will be won in the teeth of what surely will be a nasty, vicious and anti-democratic unionist resistance from No 10 and the White House. If you thought the last campaign was Project Fear you will have seen nothing yet. Trump just threatened to send the US army into Mexico; do you think he’ll be scared to threaten Scotland? Remember, they’ve ripped up the old rule book.
Nicola Sturgeon has ran out of road with her attempt at compromise. There’s no compromising with Trump-Brexia. It’s win or lose. This is a fight Yes can win, and that victory would be a major defeat for Trump-Brexian Nationalism. The time is now to put Scotland’s stamp on history.