“Trouble is with Galloway is he prefers foreigners to his own.” (sic)


“Trouble is with Galloway is he prefers foreigners to his own.” (sic)

This message from a nationalist on social media is typical of many such missives which come my way. Usually I delete block and move on. This time I resolved definitively to state my position, my stand on nationalism. It will probably serve once and for all, we will see…

I regard nationalism, except in cases of national oppression, as an infantile disorder, a state of false consciousness. It has nothing to do with me. Include me out.

Those nationalists who say they were “let down” or even “betrayed” by my stance on the Scottish referendum and who seek motives “money” or “votes” or most absurd of all “treason” are really barking up the wrong tree, and a few minutes research would show that.

I have opposed the central SNP project of breaking up our small island of English speaking people all of my life. Why should it be any kind of surprise that when the question was finally put in September 2014 my answer should be no?

I feel exactly the same about English or British nationalism by the way. The sight and sound of nationalists standing at the border, all red in the face, shouting Boo at the people on the other side I find not so much repugnant as ridiculous. And the same goes for the beefy UKIPers doing the same at the white cliffs of Dover.

There are many comic opera nationalists in Europe who are equally ridiculous. An independent Cornwall would be a kind of Brigadoon with pasties. The Flemish nationalists who want to break up Belgium, a country I drive across regularly in 30 minutes, because they want to separate from the Catholic Walloons; the Venetians who want a state called after a dessert; the Italian Northern Leagues who want rid of the “Arab”, poor, south of the country… I could go on believe me.

I oppose the break up of democratic Spain too. During the fascist dictatorship all of Spain was oppressed but the national minorities, the Basques and Catalans, specifically so even if there was no shortage of fascist collaborators amongst both. But fascism was defeated forty years ago and Spain is a European democracy better together than broken into pieces. The Basque country and Catalonia are richer than the rest of Spain, particularly the latter. It is no part of my philosophy or my faith to enrich the already richer at the expense of the already poorer.

Some fools say that I support “freedom for Palestine” but not for Scotland. But Scotland already is free, it last exercised its right to self determination just a few months ago. There is no national oppression of the Scots. Ordinary Scottish people are oppressed by the same economic forces as oppress the people of Bradford, Liverpool, Swansea, huge parts of London etc. But that oppression cannot be compared to the Palestinians, indeed that is a repugnant comparison.

But even in Palestine I don’t support separatism as the answer to that oppression. For more than forty years I have struggled for a single Palestinian state, from the Jordan River to the sea, called Israel-Palestine or Palestine-Israel according to your taste where Jews Christians and Muslims live as equal citizens under the law, one man one woman one vote. Like in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Other fools say “you support a united Ireland but not an independent Scotland”. Apart from one clue being in the word “united” and a hatred of “partition” of small islands let me enlarge further.

Ireland was and partially still is an occupied country, held by force for centuries against its will. Its people were subject to specific national oppression, by the Scots as much as the English. Ulster I remind readers was one of the first “colonies” proclaimed by an independent Scotland almost a century before the union with England. When the Irish exercised their right to self determination and voted overwhelmingly for the independence and unity of Ireland their country was drowned in blood and partitioned by brute force.

Scotland was not and is not a colony of England. Scotland and England together colonised much of the world. There are no Black and Tans in Scotland. There were plenty of Scots in the Black and Tans in Ireland.

It is not that I have any affection for existing states – which is what people really mean when they say “country”. I don’t. For me states have outlived their usefulness and are rendered increasingly meaningless in the globalised capitalist world in which we live. I believe in the increasing unity of states and believe that individual states will “wither away”. The unity of the Arab states, the African states, the Latin American states and of course the European states.

Let us look at our own state. We have a monarch which neither I nor anyone else chose and which incidentally Alex Salmond is keener on than most of my constituents in England. We have a minority government, always a minority government: it is just that this one represents a smaller minority than usual. It is elected on a grotesque parody of democracy, a first past the post system which means that only around 200,000 of the tens of millions of votes which will be cast in May will count, that is those who live in the marginal constituencies on which the election will turn.

Whoever is in power is forced by the prevailing orthodoxy to govern in the interest of the few rather than the many. The few call all the shots and the economic system we have is their economic system which works for them but not for the rest.

It is not that Scotland shouldn’t opt out of all that but that it cannot do so. Running a St Andrews flag up on Edinburgh Castle would change nothing in relation to that. Electing a hundred MSPs like me or even Tommy Sheridan would change nothing in relation to that. Even if Scotland were ready to announce itself as a cold water Cuba it would change nothing in relation to that.

Facts are chiels that winna ding as Robert Burns said. An independent Scotland would not could not opt out of the prevailing fix we are in. Even Britain alone cannot though with around twelve times the population it can do more than an independent Scotland could.

But an independent Scotland breaking away from the rest of the island would have seriously weakened any future prospect of real change. It would have left the Tories in power in England in perpetuity. The Tories would have made an economic environment even more heavenly for the few. The currency which according to Alex Salmond we should have shared would have been governed by a Tory England. Scotland, whoever ran it would have had to match cut for cut deregulation for deregulation every free market reform introduced by the Tory England, or die. And thus would have begun the race to the bottom which would have beggared working people on both sides of the border.

So, returning to the title of this article let me deal with the question of “foreigners” and “my own”.

I am a man of faith. I believe in God. I believe like Robert Burns that we are all God’s children, that we are all therefor each others brothers and sisters. And that we are our brothers’ keepers. That is what Jesus said and it is what I believe. Therefor no man or woman is a foreigner to me.

Like Che Guevara I am “capable of trembling with indignation at any injustice visited on any person anywhere”. That is why I am a comrade of his.

Being born on the same piece of rock as me does not make you one of “my own”. If you are Brian Soutar the bible belting bigot, homophobe privateer and union buster then I despise you, whether you were born in my neighbourhood or not. “My own people” are the bus drivers who work for you, are the gay people witch-hunted by you, wherever they were born wherever they live whatever colour they are however they pray.

That is all. That is what I believe. Everything else flows from that.

George Galloway MP
House of Commons

Scotland, Farage and Me

The imbroglio involving Nigel Farage and a hate-filled mob on the streets of Edinburgh was a pure dead embarrassment to Scotland. Any sensible person can see that. It could have been so described by First Minister Alex Salmond if he was in any way prime ministerial, but it was not. Adding insult to injury Salmond put the boot in and made it all worse. For a popular elected politician to be forced out of Scotland’s capital city in a police van is intolerable and for many will be seen as the shape of things to come in the run up to the independence referendum and beyond – if Salmond were to win. Meanwhile the message sent to millions of English people who support Farage, to investors, tourists and customers, is that Scotland is not open for business if your face – or your flag – doesn’t fit. For me Farage is a right-wing populist Europhobe – the anti-thesis of everything I stand for. But he is not a racist – still less a fascist, and has every right to speak anywhere in the United Kingdom – so long as it exists.

The night before the roughhouse in the Northern Yorkshire town of Rotherham – filled with ex-miners and steel workers – UKIP won a sensational council by-election over Labour. A few weeks ago they scored 25% of the vote in English local elections. Unless millions of working class people in England have swung to Nazism this phenomenon needs better tools to fix than those deployed routinely against the likes of the BNP.

It is said that Farage feeds popular prejudice against foreigners – so do all the mainstream parties, including if the English are to be so described – the SNP.

That he is not particularly sound on gay rights. As sound as Brian Soutter of stage coach – the million pound backer of the SNP – who funded homophobic campaigns throughout Scotland. Farage who is admittedly better if you catch him before lunch time is no different in these things from many other political leaders who, if this fashion catches on, will be told to regard Scotland as a no-go area for them. Where will that leave us?

Not every racist is a fascist; if they were, we’d be being run by men in black uniforms and iron heels. If you believe Paulo DiCanio not even every fascist is a racist. And the idea that folk not keen on gay marriage, for which I voted, should be denied a platform would make Scotland look like Albania circa 1980. These false trails will have to be combatted by more sophisticated arguments than the Doc Martens of a Scottish rent-a-mob. Such tactics will merely garner increased support for them and an increasingly unpleasant reputation for a Scotland itself divided along many different fissures.

Salmond sunk to the occasion showing himself less than a national leader, more as a faction fighter at the head of a motley crew. If the virtual social media spoke for Scotland this game would already be a bogey. Cyber-nats bestride the internet in an increasingly poisonous parade of flag-waving and militancy which makes me wonder what happened to the Scotland I left just eight years ago. In that they are the mirror image of the Faragists who think getting all red-faced going down to the channel ports and shouting boo at Johnny Foreigner can somehow solve our problems, which are not, as it happens, the fault of the English, the immigrants, the gays or the Europeans.

I have had to block hundreds of Scots on Twitter for example, who deny my own right to speak on Scotland’s future despite my having been born and raised here, elected to parliament four times from Glasgow and been a feature in Scotland’s politics for 40 years. All on the grounds that I now live in England. Not that they’ll be sending Sean Connery’s campaign cheque back of course.  I have no doubt that when I pitch up to speak on the Fringe of the Edinburgh Festival this summer, that the same thing as happened to Nigel Farage will happen to me. What kind of Scotland is this? Is this really the kind of country you want?

It was once said that anti-semitism was the socialism of fools. So too is the idea that Scotland broken from the rest of this small, island of English- speaking people will somehow lead to some kind of progressive beacon of hope for the world.

The opposite is true. Socialism in one country was a myth, even when the concept was coined to describe a state – the USSR – which stretched from the Urals to Vladivostock. In Scotland, a country of five million, largely empty and with the only population in Europe that is falling, it is even more absurd.

We would be permanently joined to a perpetually Tory England and thus would begin a race to the bottom.

Tory England would always have lower corporate and personal taxation than a so-called socialist Scotland – unless Scotland undercut them. Where then would lie free prescriptions, tuition fees and free care for the elderly? Let alone the red-speckled dreams of the nationalist left fringe?

Independent, Scots would continue to be at the mercy of the waves of international vicissitude. The only difference would be that they had gotten out of an ocean-going liner and climbed into a Para-Handy puffer – with no life boats. The same is true of course of Farage’s fantasy of bulldog Britain. In that sense those waving their flags at each other in Edinburgh last week were bald men fighting over a comb and hair gel.

If Britain cannot face this storm alone how much less can an independent Scotland?

I’ll tell you what would happen when an independent Scotland proved to be a chimera.

Scots would turn inwards, turn on the English and turn on each other. First they would come for the ‘unionists’ as they describe people like me. We would become a ‘fifth column’. Soon other scapegoats would have to be found. Catholic schools, judging by the cyber-nats-speak, would have to succumb. Then it might be the immigrants, brown as well as white who would be ‘taking our jobs’, ‘our houses’, ‘marrying our women’ and the rest. We would become an embittered people, the very opposite of the Scottish internationalist we have been for so long. What a pity.

Who will guard Scotland’s 4000 miles of coast line. A Scottish Royal Navy? How will we pay for it? If you lose your passport in Uzbekistan when you’re scouring the world looking for work, who will replace it? The embassy of England? What currency will you use? Not the English pound I promise you. The Euro? How’s that going? The Icelandic Shilling perhaps? Covered in the ash of a volcanic national bankruptcy? Or would we bring back the Groat? Backed by what? Oil and gas reserves, fast running out? Or sell ice cream to tourists increasingly repelled by the kind of mentality we saw in Edinburgh…

Doesn’t all this seem like a high price to pay? To make Alex Salmond the Prime Minister, he’s just shown himself to be less than capable of being? A Brigadoon Scotland shrouded in the mist of Celtic obscurantism is not for me. Does it do anything for you?

Are the people of Liverpool or Leeds really foreigners to you?

You speak the same language as them, watch the same TV, read the same newspapers, listen to the same radio, eat the same food – usually curry. What foolishness is this?

Did you consider the Beatles your fellow countrymen or not? Have you seen the statue of the late Scotland captain Billy Bremner at Leeds United Stadium?

Do you know who has just followed the greatest living Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson into the manager’s seat at Manchester United?

Scotland and England have been grafted together like bone, politically for 300 years, physically since the dawn of time.

We have committed – in times of empire – many crimes together. But for a time in the face of real Fascism we stood alone and changed the world. When we did so together, it was our finest hour. Running Nigel Farage out of a press conference  was not.

Words by George Galloway MP

Design by Gayatri

Michael Marra RIP. A rolling stone comes to rest.

Michael Marra the singer-songwriter and gentle musical genius who died this week at the tender age of 60 was largely unsung outside of Scotland and Ireland. Which is a pity. The rest of the world lost out on that. As a chronicler of our times, ordinary peoples’ times he was up there with the best. He ‘coulda’ bin a contender’. Perhaps if he’d been born in New Orleans instead of Lochee, the Irish quarter of the industrial Scots’ city of Dundee, he might have really made the big time. Perhaps he never wanted to.

Michael Marra came from a prominent Roman Catholic and Labour family in Dundee, a family full of schoolteachers and educationalists, music, culture and grace. Which is how he came to be, maybe the most musical, cultured and graceful Dundonian of them all. I first saw him play in Laings Hotel in Dundee’s Roseangle back in the mid 1970s. The hotel wasn’t really a hotel, more a dive for students from the university across the road, and the city’s prestigious Art school just a hundred yards up the road.

His band – Skeets Boliver – were really something and hoped, with some expectation, to be another far from Average White Band which originated largely from Jute City like Mick Marra, and indeed myself. They were a loud explosive rock formation as I recall – does anyone have any footage of them I wonder? Or audio? But they were capable – under the influence of Mick – of dropping way down low, quiet like, reflective. Just like him. They were totally original, performing their own material at a time at least in venues like these where the pay must have been peanuts, or more likely in liquid form and i don’t mean “readies”. Most of that material, and virtually all of the arrangements were the first craft of this master-craftsman, Michael Marra.

If Skeets weren’t original enough for you – they had an alter-ego: Mort Wriggle and the Panthers! You could book the band in either ego, or even both with the guys changing gear and playlist at half-time. The Panthers were a pure rock and roll show, mainly covers, early Elvis, Chuck Berry, all leather bikers jackets and Brylcreamed quiffs and DA’s. I must tell you that in both of these guises, they were really amazing, and I remember those performances 35 years on.

The lead singer Stuart Ivens was a real star, and the sax player Peter McGlone who was at school with and played in the same orchestra as me – though no friend, he once doorstepped my mother on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper – was a terrific and terrifically cool saxophonist. I apologise to the rest of the guys whose names I’ve now forgotten, but I’ve never forgotten Michael Marra who was truly the heart and soul of both incarnations.

In fact just a few weeks ago I was teaching my half-Dundonian son Zein to sing his peaen to another of the city’s proud products – the Bridie. A kind of pastie, unique not just to the city but to one bakery in the city – Wallace’s Pie Shop – it can be enjoyed plain, or with an onion in it. Or in my native language, to enjoy both you’d just ask, like in the Michael Marra song, for a “plen ane en an inging ane an a’ ” Only Mick could make magical music out of a Dundee pie.

Ditto his hymn to “Hamish the Goalie”, the evervescent hero of the Tannadice goal mouth, Dundee United’s evergreen keeper Hamish Macalpine. Everybody loved Hamish, a sometimes crazy often-times brilliant goalkeeper who seemed to have kept the United goal for the best part of twenty years – and their best years at that. Everybody loved Hamish, but not everybody could save him for ever in a song. But Michael Marra did.

He wrote musicals, experimental stuff in foreign genre, and played the smallest of places, even bars! The sort of thing you don’t do if you’re in it for fame and fortune. Fortunately or unfortunately, Michael Marra wasn’t in it for either. If he had been, far more of you would have known who I was talking about. I’m hoping now, you’re going to try and find out why. Take a walk down ‘Pity Street’, the only album of his I still have, somewhere, for starters.

May God have mercy on you, Lochee Mick. Though come to think about it, you’re probably playing the piano and crooning at His right hand already.

[George Galloway MP]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.