Thursday, 31 July 2014

Bitter Together


To put much of that another way (in the words of a well-known little ditty which was originally intended to be a satire on English attitudes but which countless anglocentric persons seem to like because they cannot help taking it literally):
The rottenest bits of these islands of ours
We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot
You'll find he's a stinker as likely as not
The English the English the English are best
     I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest
The Scotsman is mean as we're all well aware
He's boney and blotchy and covered with hair
He eats salty porridge, he works all the day
And hasn't got bishops to show him the way
The English the English the English are best
     I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest
The Irishman now our contempt is beneath
He sleeps in his boots and he lies through his teeth
He blows up policemen or so I have heard
And blames it on Cromwell and William the Third
The English are moral the English are good
     And clever and modest and misunderstood
The Welshman's dishonest, he cheats when he can
He's little and dark more like monkey than man
He works underground with a lamp on his hat
And sings far too loud, far too often and flat
The English the English the English are best
     I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest
And crossing the Channel one cannot say much
For the French or the Spanish, the Danish or Dutch
The Germans are German, the Russians are red
And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed
The English are noble, the English are nice
     And worth any other at double the price
And all the world over each nation's the same
They've simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
And they practise beforehand, which spoils all the fun
The English the English the English are best
     I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest
It's not that they're wicked or naturally bad
It's just that they're foreign that makes them so mad
The English are all that a nation should be
And the pride of the English are Chipper and me
The English the English the English are best
     I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest

"As Rudyard Kipling, the pre-eminent poet of empire (and cousin of Stanley Baldwin) wrote: 'And what should they know of England who only England know?'" (Robert Hazell, The English Question)

As for the rottenest bits of these islands of ours:

"Old England indeed will tell you that Scotland was not worth the pains of conquering; but I must beg leave to say that such reflection is not to be regarded, for 'tis well known the English vanity and self-conceitedness reaches so far as to despise all kingdoms but their own and all people but themselves; on which account all the world hates them, but, besides, there is no ground for this assertion; [...] England coveted nothing so much as a reduction of Scotland. That this should be so is no strange thing, for tho' Scotland is not the best yet neither is it the worst country in Europe; and God has blessed it with all things fit for human use, either produced in the country itself or imported from foreign countries by barter with its product; so that the necessaries, and even comforts and superfluities of life, are as plentiful there as anywhere else." (The Lockhart Papers: Containing Memoirs and Commentaries upon the Affairs of Scotland from 1702 to 1715 by George Lockhart, Esq. of Carnwath, Vol. 1, ed. Anthony Aufrere, 1817)

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Crazy Dream


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.


Roch the wind in the clear day's dawin
  Blaws the cloods heelster-gowdie ow'r the bay,
But there's mair nor a roch wind blawin
  Through the great glen o' the warld the day.
It's a thocht that will gar oor rottans
  – A' they rogues that gang gallus, fresh and gay –
Tak the road, and seek ither loanins
  For their ill ploys, tae sport and play.
Nae mair will the bonnie callants
  Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee weans frae pit-heid and clachan
  Mourn the ships sailin' doon the Broomielaw.
Broken faimlies in lands we've herriet,
  Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair;
Black and white, ane til ither mairriet,
   Mak the vile barracks o' their maisters bare.
So come all ye at hame wi' Freedom,
  Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom.
In your hoose a' the bairns o' Adam
  Can find breid, barley-bree and painted room.
When MacLean meets wi's freens in Springburn
  A' the roses and geans will turn tae bloom,
And a black boy frae yont Nyanga
  Dings the fell gallows o' the burghers doon.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Getting It Together

Do you remember those complacently self-assured Tory types with bushy tails and one-track minds who self-righteously prated at us that we'd be so sure to be better off without Scottish devolution in the 1970s and again in the 1990s that it really wasn't necessary to present a soundly reasoned argument with verified evidence from impeccable sources? No? Not to worry. Here they are yet again, in a predictably platitudinous Bitter Together anti-independence cinemascope extravaganza, with helpful annotations to relieve the tedium for your more discriminating audience:


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Scottish Independence Is Inevitable

Have you noticed how the Bitter Together/Project Fear campaign has taken to indulging in a ritual incantation to the effect that advocates of Scottish independence are showing signs of desperation? Who? Where? The nay sayers are entitled to their opinion, of course, as are the flat Earthers and people who vote Tory, but quite a few of us, far from biting our fingernails, have in fact become quietly confident that, though there might conceivably not be a Yes majority on September 18th, that would not be the end of the matter but would on the contrary merely mark the end of a beginning, as did the first devolution referendum in 1979.
Why? Because it is apparent that the current referendum campaign is changing Scotland, so rapidly and to such an extent that the result of the referendum may actually not be predictable, although that nice Mr Cameron seems not to have perceived that this might turn out to be the case when he kindly signed the Edinburgh Agreement, which allowed that clever Mr Salmond to unleash his dedicated sprites and elves to work their magic in the land, transforming it to such effect that Scottish independence has arguably become inevitable:
"One thing is certain: whatever the outcome, this referendum campaign is changing Scotland irrevocably. Whether the Scots vote Yes or No to independence on September 18th, their sense of what is possible for this small nation will have been transformed.
[...] it's the smell, taste and sound of this campaign that should warn us that, this time, a No vote will not be the end of the story. Scotland is changing as we watch. [...] what's new to me is the attitude I have found typical among long-time opponents of the nationalists all over the land in recent months: 'I don't trust Salmond, and I'd never vote SNP. But I've had to re-examine my ideas, and I don't see how I can vote No.'
[...] Ever since the 1707 union with England, when Scotland sold its independence for a share in the British Empire, a tiny blue-and-white cell has survived in the Scottish brain that sends out the message: 'Wouldn't it be grand if only, if somehow...?' For three centuries, inhibitor cells jammed the message: 'We're too wee, too poor, too thick... are you daft?' But now that 'cultural cringe' has vanished, almost without a trace. And the blue-and-white cell is free to transmit. [...] the Scottish Parliament met in Edinburgh for the first time in almost three centuries. The old Union Treaty started to fall to dust at that moment, a process that is still following its own logic.
I shall vote Yes this September. The campaign has already taught me that, if we don't make it with this third referendum, there will be a fourth. It's time to rejoin the world on our own terms." (Neal Ascherson, Scottish Independence Is Inevitable, The New York Times, July 18th 2014)
To read the Ascherson article click here.

February 3rd 2014

"Scottish identity in the past century and a half [...] has undergone a transformation, which has changed the way in which Scots relate to Britain. World War I and its many Scottish casualties led to a sense of disillusionment over Scotland's relationship with the Empire. The final decline of the Empire in the 1960s, at the same time that Scottish industry started to lose its global competitiveness, cast further doubt on the Union.
Thatcherism in the 1980s led to a widespread collapse of Scottish mining and heavy engineering while the welfare state, which had reinforced the notion of common British projects, was rolled back significantly. The bargain of 'prosperity in return for political subordination' as negotiated under the Treaty of Union unravelled.
By 2011, only 18 per cent of the population considered themselves both British and Scottish, while 62 per cent now thought of themselves as 'Scottish only'. These developments have all fed into the process leading up to the September 18 referendum on Scottish independence [...]." (Neal Ascherson, Globalization and the Politics of Identity in Scotland)

To listen to Mr Ascherson's illuminating talk at the Bologna Institute click here.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Normal Country


This month there may be a meeting between the Spanish prime minister and the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia to discuss what Mariano Rajoy refers to as the Catalan problem. Artur Mas has stated that he is prepared to negotiate the date and question of his proposed referendum on Catalan self-determination, with any changes being subject to approval by the pro-referendum political parties, which form a majority in the devolved Catalan legislature. For Mr Rajoy, however, every aspect of that referendum is unconstitutional and, therefore, non-negotiable, as he has stated over and over again. Consequently, nothing much is expected of this meeting, if it even takes place, other than a handshake and a photo-opportunity in the course of which Mr Mas will sit examining his fingernails while Mr Rajoy opens and shuts his mouth to say nothing new, unless he has something up his sleeve which he is keeping quiet about.
Mr Mas will then go away and finalize arrangements for the consulta, which is scheduled for November 9th and which the Spanish government will endeavour to block. If it were to go ahead, nevertheless, it would probably establish that there is a majority in favour of independence, on the subject of which Madrid is unlikely to be prepared to enter into negotiations. There would be a constitutional impasse . . . followed by a unilateral declaration of independence and a major and wholly unprecedented crisis for the European Union just as it may be grappling with negotiations for independent Scottish membership if there is a Yes majority in the sanctioned Scottish independence referendum on September 18th.
The above documentary about the Catalan consulta is produced by Un País Normal, which is an Òmnium Cultural campaign defending the right of the Catalan people to determine their political future, in accordance with the democratic principles subscribed to by the EU.
"Voting is a normal thing to do in a normal country. It is normal for everyone to want to live in a normal country. It is normal for the people living in a country to choose which type of education, health service, energy model and infrastructures they want, because it is normal for all the people who make up a country to decide how they want to have a better life.
It is normal for a country to decide its own future. We are certain of that. Therefore, we think it is normal for Catalan institutions to commit themselves to calling on the Catalan people to express their opinion. It is normal for the Catalan Government to ask the Catalan people how they want to achieve a better life, and it is normal for the Catalan people to want to answer that question."

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

National Identity and Social Equality


Isobel Lindsay, Vice-Chair of Scottish CND,
Convener of Scotland's for Peace and a member of the board of Scottish Left Review,
"You can use national identity to say 'we are the dominant people', and it becomes imperialism and aggression against others [...] or you can use it to say 'we are all part of this society', and that means we should all have that equality of treatment, that social justice, that fairness."
Vote for social justice on September 18th. Vote Yes.