“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.