Indian independence will never work, said Winston Churchill, who dismissed it as "a crazy dream, with a terrible awakening" which should be prevented at all costs, as we were all supposedly better together, as one might say:
"If the British people are to lose their Indian Empire, they shall do so with their eyes open, and not be led blindfold into a trap. [...] What spectacle could be more sorrowful than that of this powerful country casting away with both hands, and up till now almost by general acquiescence, the great inheritance which centuries have gathered? What spectacle could be more strange, more monstrous in its perversity, than to see the Viceroy and the high officials and agents of the Crown in India labouring with all their influence and authority to unite and weave together into a confederacy all the forces adverse and hostile to our rule in India? One after another our friends and the elements on which we ought to rely in India are chilled, baffled and dismissed, and finally even encouraged to band themselves together with those who wish to drive us out of the country. It is a hideous act of self-mutilation, astounding to every nation in the world. The princes, the Europeans, the Moslems, the Depressed classes, the Anglo-Indians - none of them know what to do nor where to turn in the face of their apparent desertion by Great Britain. Can you wonder that they try in desperation to make what terms are possible with the triumphant Brahmin oligarchy?
I am against this surrender to Gandhi. I am against these conversations and agreements between Lord Irwin and Mr Gandhi. Gandhi stands for the expulsion of Britain from India. Gandhi stands for the permanent exclusion of British trade from India. Gandhi stands for the substitution of Brahmin domination for British rule in India. You will never be able to come to terms with Gandhi. You have only to read his latest declarations, and compare them with the safeguards for which we are assured the official Conservatives will fight to the end, to see how utterly impossible agreement is. But let me tell you this. If at the sacrifice of every British interest and of all the necessary safeguards and means of preserving peace and progress in India, you come to terms with Gandhi, Gandhi would at that self-same moment cease to count any more in the Indian situation. Already Nehru, his young rival in the Indian Congress, is preparing to supersede him the moment that he has squeezed his last drop from the British lemon. In running after Gandhi and trying to build on Gandhi, in imagining that Mr Ramsay MacDonald and Mr Gandhi and Lord Irwin are going to bestow peace and progress upon India, we should be committing ourselves to a crazy dream, with a terrible awakening." (Winston Churchill on Indian independence in a speech delivered in the Albert Hall, London on March 18th 1931)
Improbable and indeed eerily familiar though it may seem, Churchill supported what one might call further devolution of power to the "primitive people" of India to satisfy demands for self-government while leaving Westminster in overall control:
"We take our stand upon views almost universally accepted until a few months ago. We believe that the next forward step is the development of Indian responsibility in the provincial governments of India. Efforts should be made to make them more truly representative of the real needs of the people. Indians should be given ample opportunities to try their hand at giving capable government in the provinces; and meanwhile the central Imperial executive, which is the sole guarantee of impartiality between races, creeds and classes, should preserve its sovereign power intact, and allow no derogation from its responsibility to Parliament. Is that Diehardism?" (ibid.)
Well, yes, that was Diehardism, actually, as are indeed the vague and impalpable anglo-unionist offers of greater powers for the Scottish Parliament in the current Better Together anti-independence campaign. There is nothing new under the sun. The anglo-state merely delves into its mouldering imperial archives to dust off old schemes for holding on to subject peoples, even though they may not have been applied in full or ultimately failed.
But the Scots are not a subject people, anglo-unionists object. It depends on how you define the term and on how you understand the present balance of power between Scotland and Westminster, I venture to suggest:
"Denis Diderot, the great encyclopedist who was a friend of David Hume, wrote: 'Every colony whose authority rests in one country and whose obedience is in another, is in principle a vicious establishment.' Scotland was never a colony. But, having once been a partner in the Union, it became a dependency in the course of the 20th century. The empire's opportunities shut down, Scotland's industrial economy died or was killed off, and decisive political divergence began as Scottish voting patterns separated from those of the rest of the UK. The outcome was authority in London requiring obedience in Scotland – Diderot's 'vicious establishment'." (Neal Ascherson, The 'Glorious' Anglo-Scottish Union Belongs to a Past Era, The Financial Times, July 15th 2014)
UK postage stamp issued for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1958
(which were held in Cardiff, hence the dragon)
How fortuitous that what used to be known as the British Empire Games (from 1930 to 1950 and as the British Empire and Commonwealth Games for some years after that) are taking place in the kingdom of the Scots in this Scottish independence referendum year. As the Herald put it in its report on an opening ceremony characterized by "reconciliation with an imperial past and the promise that no one should fear a Scotland of the future", "The atmosphere was one of welcome rather than politically charged, though the singing of Freedom Come All Ye by Pumeza can be interpreted to suit a variety of purposes, including one of Scottish independence." (The Herald, July 24th 2014)
Who opposes Indian independence today? Who will oppose Scottish independence five years from today?
"A crazy dream, with a terrible awakening"? We shall see.