Archive | September 21st, 2014

Scotland is not a nation – Referendum News ”VIDEO”

NOVANEWS

Don’t think that dictatorship of the proletariat is an immediate proposition in either scotland or Britain – but does separation bring it closer or further away in either?

Published on Aug 29, 2014

On 18th September 2014 the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum to decide whether they will remain part of the Great British Nation.

Read “THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN SCOTLAND” here: http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents..

 

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Resistance to oppression is a UN-recognised human right

NOVANEWS
 www.joti2gaza.org

I wrote this on Facebook at the end of July as a general sounding-off against all those war pimps who try to equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor in Gaza.

I am so sick of listening to people slating the Palestinian resistance (‘Hamas’) for trying to fight back against the genocide being perpetrated against their people.

To deny people their right to resist is to deny them their humanity. It is a right that is actually enshrined in international law. Not that you’d know it from watching or reading the corporate media coverage.

How do you feel about the French resistance who fought Nazi occupation? If you think this is different, ask yourself why? Because the people fighting this particular occupation are brown and not white? Because some of them are muslim and not christian? Because your own ruling class has demonised them?

No doubt Goebbels’ nazi media accused the French and other European resistance fighters of all sorts of dreadful crimes and motivations. That was their job. It didn’t make them right. And the western demonisation of ‘Hamas’ (Palestinian resistance) doesn’t make those lies true either.

If we really want peace in the Middle East, we should be calling for the odds to be evened up. Give the Palestinians some tanks, fighter jets and a nuclear weapon or two, and I bet you anything the Israelis would be all about the peace talks … so easy for them to be brave when they’re massacring babies like fish in a barrel from uncontested skies.

And this a week or so later in response to the most disgusting bit of BBC war propaganda I’ve yet had the misfortune to read:

The British people need to know what the BBC won’t tell them: a. that the occupation is illegal, b. that the siege is a crime, c. that the massacre is a war crime, and d. that resistance, including ARMED resistance, is a UN-recognised human right.

Senior BBC journalists should be facing a war crimes tribunal. This kind of disinformation campaign is exactly what the Nuremberg judges were talking about when they looked at the role of propaganda in facilitating war crimes. Journalists actually got executed after WW2 for their role in enabling the Nazis’ crimes.

Hamas were elected by the Palestinian people. The resistance is the resistance of the Palestinian people. Wishing resistance to an illegal occupation would stop is NOT a justification for war crimes.

If the Israelis want the oppressed to stop resisting, there is a simple solution. They need to stop the occupation, end the siege, dismantle their apartheid state and allow the refugees to return home. In short, they are going to have to stop acting as stooges for imperialism in the Middle East and give up their fascist dreams of a jewish-only supremacist state in Palestine.

Check out the video below for confirmation of this view from a humanitarian doctor who could in no way be described as a communist or a communist sympathiser. Just an objective observer who refuses to be cowed by the weight of the imperialist propaganda offensive about ‘Hamas violence’.

“This is not a battle between terrorism and democracy. Hamas is not the enemy Israel is fighting. Israel is fighting a war against the Palestinian people’s will to resist. The unbending determination not to submit to the occupation!

“It is the Palestinian people’s dignity and humanity that will not accept that they are treated as third-, fourth, fifth-ranking people.

“In 1938, the Nazis called the jews ‘untermensch’, subhuman. Today, Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, in the diaspora are treated as untermensch — as subhumans who can be bombed, killed, slaughtered by the thousands — without any of those in power reacting …

“It’s stated in international law. You are permitted to fight the occupier, even with weapons …

“Nobody wants to be oppressed! Nobody wants to be occupied! Therefore it is actually rooted in international law — that an occupied nation can resist — also with armed struggle.”

– Dr Mads Gilbert of Norway, who has been serving in Al-Shifa hospital Gaza during the latest massacre

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Nationalism in an imperialist country can never be a progressive force

NOVANEWS

www.joti2gaza.org

I’m not going to repeat all the work done by my party in proving that Scotland is not actually a separate nation, but part of the British one. The work is detailed and scientifically based.

I’m not going to repeat the work done by my party in pointing out that the illusions propagated by left-wing supporters of Scottish nationalism are mere wishes, based on nothing but the electoral promises of the SNP (not worth the paper they’re written on, like all bourgeois election promises) and on the hopes and desires of the many progressive people who have become demoralised at the scale of the task that faces revolutionaries in Britain.

Although socialism is in the interests of all British workers, those of us who openly advocate for it are few in number, disunited, disorganised and very often lacking in any real understanding of what socialism really is and how we might get from here to there.

In the face of these difficulties, all too many of us have simply given up on the revolution altogether. Instead of working harder to overcome our theoretical and organisational weakness, some of us have decided that maybe we could get somewhere at least a bit better by pursuing just a part of our goal in a smaller part of Britain, against what we fondly imagine will be a weaker and easier-to-defeat enemy.

But let us consider this: when the Nottinghamshire miners and the pit deputies settled with the government in 1984, they must have followed similar reasoning. They couldn’t bring themselves to believe in the possibility of winning if they joined or maintained the strike, and they thought that they could at least preserve their own jobs and communities if they stayed at or went back to work.

Thirty years on, how has history judged this decision?

It is clear to all of us now that the pit deputies’ and Notts miners’ actions played a significant part in defeating the strike, thus selling out the rest of the miners nationwide. Moreover, this defeat ultimately led to the closure of all their pits too, and the loss of all their jobs.

They tried to go for a solution that would protect a smaller group and ended up losing everything for everyone.

Scotland is a part of Britain. Scottish workers are a part of the British working class. If we allow our exploiters to divide us, all we succeed in doing is making it easier for them to pick us off bit by bit and defeat us.

We have a single struggle against a single ruling class, and we need the maximum possible unity if we are to have any hope of winning. Our rulers know this. That is why they constantly tell the people living in Scotland that they are a separate nation, and why they give so much help to the nationalists in spreading the illusion that the ills of capitalism can be solved by voting SNP.

But Scottish workers are not going to get a socialist paradise if they vote for the fake ‘independence’ that is being offered. They will get a smaller, weaker force against the same united, strong and very cunning ruling class of British exploiters.

Meanwhile, encouraging workers in an imperialist country (which Britain undoubtedly is) to identify with their ‘own’ national bourgeoisie (which is what nationalism does) means asking them to take the side of and identify their interests with imperialism. No-one has offered any meaningful proof that the Scotland-based section of the British ruling class is going to give up looting the world the day after ‘independence’. It will continue to be what it is now — a ruthless group of imperialist billionaire exploiters. Yet Scottish nationalism tells British workers living in Scotland to identify with these exploiters and to blame ‘the English’ for all their problems.

What on earth is progressive about that?

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Scotland: a part of the British nation

NOVANEWS
The following resolution was passed overwhelmingly by delegates at the sixth congress of the CPGB-ML in October.
Affirming that “A nation is a historically-evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture” (JV Stalin), this congress is of the view that at the time of the 1707 union of England and Scotland, Scotland was not a nation since it lacked more than one of the essential characteristics of nationhood.This congress notes that during the half century following the Jacobite rising and the 1746 battle of Culloden, which resulted in the suppression of the Jacobites, the destruction of the feudal system was followed by a phenomenal development of capitalism in Scotland, during which Scotland acquired all the characteristics of nationhood. However, precisely at that time, such were the dialectics of history that the Scottish people threw in their lot, along with the English people, into building a common British nation. The development of capitalism in Scotland not only bridged the gap between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland, but it also made the Scottish economy indistinguishable from that of England. By 1815, there were no separate English and Scottish economies but only a common British economy.Congress further notes that the Scottish people – from all classes, not just the bourgeois sections of it – played a vital role in building the British nation, of which they have been an integral part ever since. The British nation is neither an English racket nor an elitist project of the ruling circles of England and Scotland. The British nation is well and truly a historically-evolved stable community with a common language and a common territory, with a common economic life that welds the various parts of England and Scotland into an economic whole, and with a common psychological make-up.This congress affirms that, contrary to Scottish nationalist myths, Scotland was neither an oppressed nation nor subject to English colonialism. Nor was she a junior partner of England. Far from it: the Scots played an equal, and on many occasions a leading, role in the economic, cultural and social life of Britain, as well as in the establishment of the British empire, which at one time ruled over one third of humanity.

Congress further affirms that, contrary to the myths propagated by the ‘left’ Scottish nationalists, at no time was the working-class movement in Scotland driven by separatist and nationalist sentiments. If, from time to time, the militant movement of the Scottish working class dug into Scottish history and used the names of such figures from the past as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, it was for no other reason than to invoke figures from the past who had fought against established authority. The names of these figures, and the songs associated with them, were just as much invoked by the workers in the Lancashire mills, while, conversely, no matter how misguidedly, the Magna Carta was invoked in the struggle against the bourgeoisie not only by the workers in Lancashire and many other places in England but also by those in Scotland. Indeed, it was not uncommon for the Scottish workers at their militant demonstrations to sing ‘God Save the King’.

This congress is of the view that, historically, the workers in Scotland, just as in England, faced the British state and endeavoured either to reform it or to overthrow it. At no time did the Scottish working class hold the view that its misery could be ended through the separation of Scotland from England. Scottish workers overwhelmingly regarded themselves as British, just as did the workers in England. They were firmly of the view that they sank or swam as British proletarians.

In view of the foregoing, this congress believes that the Scottish nationalist movement is a retrogressive and reactionary enterprise, whose success can only bring in its wake a catastrophic split in the unity of the historically-constituted British proletariat. This congress is further of the view that, notwithstanding any outward appearances of ‘independence’ that may follow a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 referendum, the only real separation achieved in practice would be from fellow workers in the rest of Britain. In times of crisis, nationalism, like racism, is a useful tool for our rulers in dividing our movement and stopping us from effectively fighting the system of capitalist exploitation.

This congress believes that the historically-constituted British ruling class has no intention of allowing its own unity or strength to be in any way diluted. Most especially, it has no intention of allowing its financial or military apparatus, and thus its ability to project imperial power into the world, to be broken up. The fact that the bourgeois-nationalist SNP is gradually ditching all its apparently ‘progressive’ policies as it edges closer to the possibility of taking power in a nominally independent Scotland is a clear sign of this fact. Alex Salmond and his cronies have agreed that ‘independent’ Scotland would keep the same head of state (ie, the British queen), the same currency (the British pound) and the same army regiments. SNP leaders are in the process of ditching their manifesto promise to take Scotland out of Nato, which would then clear the way to ditch the commitment to drop Trident.

This congress further believes that the apparent willingness of the SNP to maintain funding for education and health services is nothing more than a short-term bribe to Scottish workers, aimed at persuading them to pin their hopes for a way out of the crisis onto capitalist politicians, while removing them from a joint fight against privatisation with their counterparts in England. In reality, they are simply allowing the ruling class to attack workers one section at a time – thus helping it achieve its aim of saving its rotten system by making the poorest pay for the crisis.

This congress therefore resolves:

1. To work for a NO vote in the Scottish referendum.

2. To hold at least one further party school on the subject of Scottish nationalism, with the aim of helping comrades to become confident in arguing the party’s case amongst workers who have become infected with nationalist sentiments.

3. To produce two pamphlets: one based on the discussion article in Lalkar, which lays out the scientific case against Scottish nationalism, and another that uses simple language to address common questions and concerns, such as (for example) ‘Are you asking me to be proud to be British?’, ‘Aren’t you in favour of more local powers for Scottish people?’ and ‘Won’t Scottish independence lead to the weakening of British imperialism?’

 

 

JV Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913

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The National Question in Scotland

NOVANEWS

Contributed by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) as a discussion article

Introduction

The continuing decline of British imperialism, combined with the continuing decline of the working-class movement, has over the past at least three decades pushed the national question in Britain to the fore.  It is not the first time in history that such a period of reaction and decline has brought in its train disillusionment and a lack of faith in the common forces of the working class.  This lack of faith in a common bright future has caused sections of the British proletariat, particularly in Scotland, to take shelter under a national tent.  Even some organisations and individuals, calling themselves ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ have not been immune from the disease of creeping nationalism.

To the rising tide of nationalism, and the increase in the electoral support for the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Blair government responded by a devolution plan, endorsed in a referendum of 11 September 1997, which devolved some powers to a Scottish Parliament set up under this dispensation.  A Welsh Assembly, though with fewer powers than the Scottish Parliament, was also brought into existence.

The SNP is programmatically committed to Scottish independence, a referendum on which is scheduled to be held in 2014, marking the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a battle won by the feudal barons of Scotland against those of England.

To the extent that the British ruling class has accepted that Scotland is a nation, and has conceded its right to secede and constitute an independent state, writing on the question of Scottish nationhood might be regarded as an exercise in futility.  Although our views will have absolutely no effect on the holding of the referendum on Scottish independence, they may prove to be of some significance in the actual outcome of that referendum if we manage to spread them among the working class in Scotland.  If nothing else, writing on the question, albeit belatedly, may bring theoretical clarity to a subject which has become enveloped in so much emotion and obfuscation.

In order that a thing or a phenomenon may be usefully discussed, it is necessary to define it, for without such a definition, without an agreement on the essential characteristics and properties of the phenomenon being discussed, all discussion about it becomes meaningless, with the disputants talking at cross purposes and ending up hurling abuse at each other.  This is especially so with regard to the national question, on which people are so little informed and which, therefore, gives rise to such heated, not to say fruitless, debate and release of emotion.  To avoid this, we shall start with a definition of what constitutes a nation.

Definition of a nation

The most scientific and world-famous definition of a nation was given by Joseph Stalin.  Writing in his 1913 pamphlet, Marxism and the National Question, Stalin defines a nation thus:

A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.” (FLPH, Moscow 1940, p 5) (Stalin’s emphasis)[1]

Thus, a nation is a definite community of people.  This community is not racial, nor is it tribal, but a historically constituted community of people; nor is it a casual or ephemeral agglomeration, as for instance the great empires of Cyrus and Alexander, but a stable community of people.

However, not every stable community can constitute a nation,  For instance, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, India, etc., are stable communities but no one with any knowledge of the question calls them nations – they are states and political entities.  What, then, distinguishes a national community from a political community?

One of its distinguishing features is that a national community is impossible to conceive without a common language, whereas a state does not necessarily have a common language.

So, “community of language is one of the characteristic features of a nation” (ibid p5).

From this one must not conclude “that different nations always and everywhere necessarily speak different languages, or that all those who speak one language necessarily constitute one nation.  A common language for every nation, but not necessarily different languages for different nations” (ibid pp5-6).  While there is no nation which speaks at the one and the same time several languages, this does not exclude that there may be two or more nations speaking the same language.

Thus, for example, the British, the American and Australians, notwithstanding a common language – English – do not constitute one nation.  They do not constitute a single nation because, inhabiting different territories, they do not live together.  A nation comes into being through lengthy and systematic intercourse between people living together for generations.  In the absence of a common territory, naturally people cannot live together for lengthy periods.  “Thus community of territory is one of the characteristic features of a nation” (ibid p 6).

Community of territory is by no means sufficient to create a nation.  What is required, in addition, is “an internal economic bond which welds the various parts of a nation into a single whole” (ibid p.6).

To prove his point, Stalin gives the example of his native Georgia before the latter half of the 19th century.  At that time, although the Georgians inhabited a common territory and spoke one language, they did not constitute one nation, for, being split up in a number of disconnected principalities, there was no common economic bond to weld them together.  For centuries they indulged in internecine warfare, inciting the Persians and Turks against each other.  Georgia only appeared on the scene as a nation in the second half of the 19th century, with the abolition of serfdom and the growth of capitalism, with the resultant development of the means of communication and the institution of a division of labour between the different parts of Georgia, which served to completely shatter the economic isolation and self-sufficiency of the principalities, binding them together into a single whole.

The same is true of every other territory which went through the stage of feudalism before going on to develop capitalism.  Thus, we may confidently assert that, in spite of the fact that there were people inhabiting a geographical entity known as England in the 12th and 13th centuries, or even 14th and 15th centuries, there was no English nation at that time.  Nor could there be one, considering the splendid isolation in which the various disconnected principalities carried on their existence.  This, notwithstanding the fact that from time to time a successful King may have managed to bring about their transitory amalgamation, which in time disintegrated owing to the fortunes of war, “the caprices of the princes and the indifference of the peasants” (ibid, p 6).

Thus community of economic life, economic cohesion, is one of the characteristic features of a nation” (ibid p5).

In addition to the above-mentioned features of a nation, there is yet another which must be taken into account, to wit, the specific spiritual complexion of the people constituting a nation.  This spiritual complexion manifests itself in the peculiarities of national culture, resultant upon conditions of existence over generations.

This psychological make-up, commonly referred to as the “national character”, in so far as it reveals itself in a distinctive culture common to the nation, for all its indefinability to the observer, is definable and cannot be ignored.

We hasten to add that “national character” is not something fixed forever, but it changes with the changes in the conditions of life.  However, since it exists at every given moment, it leaves its stamp on the physiognomy of the nation.

Thus community of psychological make-up, which manifests itself in a community of culture, is one of the characteristic features of a nation”.

The above, then, are the characteristic features of a nation, which Stalin summarized in his pithy definition cited at the beginning of this section.

None of the above characteristics is by itself sufficient to define a nation, although it is sufficient for a single of these characteristics to be absent and the nation ceases to be a nation.

Nation: a historical phenomenon

Nations have not always existed, nor will they exist forever.  On the contrary a nation is a historical phenomenon and, as such, it is subject to the law of change, has it history, its beginning and end.  More precisely, a nation is not merely a historical category but a historical category belonging to a definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism.

The process of the destruction of feudalism and the development of capitalism was simultaneously a process of amalgamation of people into nations.  This, for instance, is how the British, French, Germans and some others constituted themselves into nations at the time of the triumphant advance of capitalism and its victory over feudalism.  The formation of nations in these instances at the same time signified their conversion into independent national states – British, French, etc.

What took place in Western Europe earlier (roughly between 1789 and 1871 – earlier still in Britain) took place in Eastern Europe and Asia, where capitalism was late in developing, a century later, i.e., from the turn of the 20th century.  In the East, however, multi-national states were formed, comprising several nationalities as, for instance, in Russia.  In the East, owing to the continued existence of feudalism, hand in hand with the feeble development of capitalism, nationalities which had been forced into the background had not yet managed to consolidate themselves as economically integral nations.  Here the role of welder of nationalities into a state was assumed by the politically most advanced group – the Great-Russians in Russia, the Magyars in Hungary, and so forth.

At long last capitalism also began to develop in the Eastern states, resulting in the economic consolidation of nations.  “Capitalism, erupting into the tranquil life of the ousted nationalities” (p.12), aroused them and stirred them into action, but, although stirred to independent life, the ousted nations were in no position to constitute themselves into independent national states owing to the powerful opposition of the ruling strata of the dominant nations, which had much earlier assumed the control of the state.  They were, so to speak, too late!

The same process is taking place under our very eyes in Africa today, where various politically strong peoples and tribes have taken upon themselves the task of amalgamating various peoples and welding them into nations.  Not all the tribes are destined to emerge from this process as fully-fledged nations.  Some, nay the majority, the weaker ones, are bound to be assimilated by others, the stronger ones.  That is in the very nature of the development of capitalism and the process of nation formation.  And no one but the most sentimental reactionaries will moan at the obliteration of certain tribes as distinct entities.  And in this process of nation-formation, historically the bourgeoisie everywhere plays the leading role.  Nor could it be otherwise, for, as Stalin says: “The chief problem for the young bourgeoisie is the problem of the market.  Its aim is to sell its goods and emerge victorious. … Hence its desire to secure its ‘own’, its ‘home’ market.  The market is the first school in which the bourgeoisie learns its nationalism” (ibid p 13).

In his article, The Right of Nations to Self-Determination, Lenin makes the same point in the following terms:

Throughout the world, the period of the final victory of capitalism over feudalism has been linked with the national movements.  For the complete victory of commodity production, the bourgeoisie must capture the home market, must have politically united territories with a population speaking a single language and all obstacles to the development of this language and to its consolidation in literature must be removed, such is the economic basis of national movements.  Language is the most important means of human intercourse.  Unity of language and its unimpeded development are the most important conditions for genuinely free and extensive commercial intercourse on a scale commensurate with modern capitalism, for a free and broad grouping of the population in all its various classes and, lastly, for the establishment of a close connection between the market and each and every proprietor, big or little, and between seller and buyer” (Collected Works (CW) Vol 20, p394, Feb-May 1914).

Lenin was in complete agreement with Stalin and highly, even effusively, appreciative of the latter’s theoretical contribution on the all too important national question. Towards the end of 1913, in his The National Programme of the RSDLP, he stated that there was “no need to dwell” on the question of “why and how the national question” had at the time been brought to the fore as the “fundamentals of a national programme” of the Bolsheviks “have recently been dealt with in Marxist theoretical literature (the most prominent place being taken by Stalin’s article*)” (*‘Marxism and the National Question, written at the end of 1912 and the beginning of 1913 in Vienna and published in the magazine, Prosvesheheniye (Enlightenment), nos. 3, 4, 5 for 1913 under the title ‘The National Question and Social-Democracy’).

Already in February of that year, in his letter to Maxim Gorky, Lenin wrote exuberantly “We have a wonderful Georgian here who has sat down to write a big article for Prosvesheheniye after collecting all the Austrian and other material”.

Soon after, on finding that Stalin’s article was proposed to be published with the sub-heading that it was for discussion only, Lenin expressed his outrage thus: “Of course, we are absolutely against this.  It is a very good article.  The question is a burning issue, and we shall not yield one jot of principle to the Bundist scum”.

Again, when in March 1913 Stalin was arrested, Lenin sent this message to the editors ofSotsial Demokrat: “Arrests among us are very heavy.  Koba [Stalin] has been taken. …He managed to write a long article … on the national question. Good!  We must fight for the truth against separatists and opportunists of the Bund and among the Liquidators”.

In the light of the above Marxist-Leninist theory of modern nations, how and in what historical circumstances do they arise, let us now delve into the question of Scottish nationhood.

Scottish nationhood

Scottish nationalism – of the right and left variety – starts from the assumption that Scotland was a nation from medieval times, if not earlier.  Some even go to the ludicrous extent of tracing the origin of Scotland to the time of the ancient Picts, or the arrival of Scots from Ireland, or MacAlpine kings in the 9th century.  The more intelligent, among the nationalists, while not going to these extremes, assert that Scotland achieved nationhood in high medieval times.  In support of this assertion, they refer to Scotland’s alleged war of independence against the ‘English’, the grandiloquent Declaration of Arbroath (1320), William Wallace’s victory at Stirling Bridge (1297), the battle of Bannockburn (1314), and the ‘holy trinity of the Kirk, the education system and the law.  Even the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745 are pressed into service in this narrative, not for what they really represented, namely a dynastic fight between the deposed Stewarts and the recently ensconced Hanoverians, but as expressions of Scotland’s national resistance against encroaching English colonialism.

John Foster, a leading light of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and a well-reputed academic, supplied theoretical embellishment for this historically inaccurate and absurd narrative.  While Marxism-Leninism, as outlined at the beginning of this article, quite correctly associates the rise of nations with the development of capitalism, the ‘Marxist’ historian Foster asserts, in the face of contrary historical evidence, that the Scottish ‘nation’ was almost completely a “feudal creation” (see J Foster, ‘Capitalism and the Scottish Nation’, in G Brown (editor) The red paper on Scotland, Edinburgh 1975, p.142).

The “founding elements” of Scottish law, language and literature, he says, all “stem from the last three centuries of the middle ages” (ibid).

And elsewhere: “Most comrades … agree that by the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries at least four … groupings had fused themselves into a nation that identified itself as Scottish; long before any moves towards modernisation and at a time when Scots society was anything but civil” (J Foster, ‘Nationality, Social Change and Class: Transformations of National Identity in Scotland’, D McCrone, S Kendrick and P Straw (eds), The making of Scotland, culture and social change, Edinburgh University Press/British Sociological AssociationEdinburgh, 1989, p.35).

Some of the protagonists of this theory go further, asserting that Scotland was not only a nation prior to the Union of Scotland and England in 1707, but incorporated into England as an oppressed nation – a status which allegedly it has maintained ever since. Not surprisingly, then, in this view Britain and Britishness are disdainfully dismissed as no more than an elitist unity and a fragile imperial construct, behind which lurk real ‘nations’ of England, Wales and Scotland, thirsting to be freed from its suffocating embrace.  The ‘leftist’ version of this trend of thought expresses itself in the form of Scottish socialism or a Scottish workers’ republic.  The Trotskyite Tommy Sheridan of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) went so far as to protest in print against 300 years of Scottish ‘national’ oppression and advocate the cause of Scottish independence.

The falsity of the above nationalist myth was exposed very well indeed by Neil Davidson, in his book The Origins of Scottish Nationalism (Pluto Press, 2000).  Notwithstanding some of its serious shortcomings, which need not delay us here, this book has done more than any other to our knowledge to debunk the nationalist myth and to subject it to well-deserved ridicule and scorn.

There is, however, one question we would like to get out of the way before dealing with the substance of Davidson’s analysis which shows up the nationalist myth for what it is – nothing but hackneyed twaddle.  This question concerns the definition of a nation.

The very first chapter of his book, the “purpose” of which, he says “… is to produce a conceptual framework within which Scottish experience can be discussed”, Davidson fails miserably, revealing himself to be a very poor theoretician.  In his attempt to define a nation, he ties himself in knots.  Definitions of nationhood, he opines, “rely either on objective or subjective criteria”, adding for good measure that there is “… no agreed Marxist position and little help to be gained from Marx or Engels themselves”, for a precise definition of the concept is not to be found in “their writings on the national question” (Davidson, p.8).

Davidson is far too erudite not to know that, in Marxist literature, the precise definition of a nation given by Stalin (cited above) has been accepted as the only scientifically correct definition and as such held sway for a whole century in the international working-class movement.  He also knows fully well that Stalin’s definition met with Lenin’s enthusiastic approval.  Far from being pleased when encountering a precise definition which could serve him in achieving his declared purpose of producing “a conceptual framework” for studying the Scottish experience, Davidson is much irked by this fact.  While admitting that the “most famous definition” of what characterises a nation was “given by Stalin in an article of 1913 called ‘Marxism and the National Question’”, he bemoans the fact that this definition “unfortunately has exerted an influence over the left far in excess of its theoretical merits, which are slight”.

Davidson makes not the slightest attempt to prove the correctness of his assertion that the theoretical merits of Stalin’s definition are merely slight, considering that his definition served as a guide to the Bolshevik programme on the national question, both prior to and following the Great Socialist October Revolution; considering also that the Bolshevik policy on the national question was one of the crucial factors in the victory of the Bolsheviks.  He dismisses Stalin’s definition as “merely an extensive checklist of criteria”, under which, he says, “many nations which are currently recognised as such would be denied the title …” (p8).

In substantiation of this assertion, he has the misfortune to choose the example of Switzerland which fails “the Stalinist criteria on at least two counts: those of language … and religion”, adding that, nevertheless Swiss territory did not change from 1515 to 1803, during which time “the vast majority spoke dialects of German”; only at the “latter date” did Switzerland incorporate Italian speakers, and not until 1815 “did it acquire territories with significant French speaking populations.  The Swiss state was formed in 1815 only and right up to 1848 “it was enforcing religions within the cantons”. In 1891, the Swiss state decided “… that the 600th anniversary of the founding of the original confederation of Schwyz, Obwalden and Nidwalden in 1291 constituted the origin of the Swiss nation”.  Being very pleased with himself, Davidson triumphantly declares: “It should be clear even from this brief account that the Swiss nation exists in the absence of [Davidson’s emphasis] of the elements which are supposed to constitute nationhood, not because of them” (pp8-9).

On the contrary, it is clear that such a Swiss nation, as imagined by Davidson, exists only in Davidson’s head and not in reality.  No Swiss nation has ever existed in the past, nor does it exist today.  It could not have existed in feudal, pre-capitalist, Switzerland, for the rise of nations is inextricably linked with the development of capitalism; nations are formed through the intermingling of sundry tribes, ethnic groups and nationalities, brought about in the wake of capitalist development.  There were at that time diverse groups occupying Swiss territory, which itself underwent changes, but no Swiss nation, for there was no “common economic life” (Stalin) which might, other conditions being present, have given rise to the formation of a Swiss nation.   This being the case, no decision of the Swiss state could have served to constitute a Swiss nation in 1291 anymore than the decision of the British state in 1891 could have constituted an English or British nation in 1291.  If decisions of the state could replace all historical development, all discussion on the subject would be pointless; for it would be ever so easy to conjure into existence all manner of entities which have no historical foundation.

There has not existed a single Swiss nation since 1815 either, for Switzerland is a multinational state, with four languages, which enjoy equal status.  Apart from the economic cohesion consequent upon the development of capitalism what secures this state the loyalty of its citizens and inculcates in them a sense of being Swiss in relation to the non-Swiss, is the degree of democracy that has permeated the Swiss state since 1848.  In the words of Lenin: “… there is only one solution to the national problem (insofar as it can, in general, be solved in the capitalist world, the world of profit, squabbling and exploitation), and that solution is consistent democracy.

The proof – Switzerland in Western Europe, a country with an old culture, and Finland in Eastern Europe, a country with a young culture” (‘Critical Remarks on the National Question’, CW Vol 20, p202)[2].

It is clear from the above remarks of Lenin, that he is firmly, and correctly, of the view that the Swiss state was a multinational state, which had been able to solve the national question, to the extent it is capable of a solution under the conditions of capitalism, through the application of consistent democracy.  Had the Swiss state been a nation state, there would self-evidently be no national problem within its borders.

As if not to leave anyone in doubt, a mere two months earlier, in his article ‘Critical Remarks on the National Question’, arguing against the opportunists on the national question Lenin specifically says this: “to be sure, Switzerland is an exception in that she is not a single-nation state” (Collected Works, Volume 20)

Probably having a sneaking feeling that he was wrong, and in order to cover his theoretical nakedness, Davidson enlists the services of a witness, just as naked theoretically as Davidson himself.  In note 6 of chapter one of his book he drools thus:

It is perhaps appropriate that Leon Trotsky, the man who did most to uphold the classical Marxist tradition against Stalin, also offered an alternative to his checklist procedure using precisely the example of Switzerland:

“… ‘the Swiss people, through their historical connection, feel themselves to be a nation [our emphasis] despite languages and religions.  An abstract criterion is not decisive in this question, far more decisive is the historical consciousness of a group, their feelings, their impulses. But that too is not determined accidently, but rather by the situation and all attendant circumstances [whatever they may be! – Lalkar]’” (p214)

If by citing the above purely subjective nonsense, all in the name of fighting against Stalin’s “checklist procedure” and his purely “objective” criteria for determining nationhood, Davidson may have wanted to bring credit to Trotsky, all he has succeeded in doing is to reveal Trotsky’s total theoretical bankruptcy and his substitution of concrete, solid, historical processes and phenomena by historical consciousness, feelings and impulses of a group.  Since the Swiss, goes the argument, have feelings, etc., they must be a nation.  By this procedure, a lot of non-nation entities, Jews, for example, can claim to be nations, whose claims must be accepted, if for no other reason than they entertain such consciousness, feelings and impulses.  From such a slippery and opportunist stance one quickly rolls down the hill and finds oneself in the swamp of Zionism and the worst kind of bourgeois nationalism.

Besides, before quoting Trotsky so uncritically, Davidson ought to have paid heed to the following words of Lenin in regard to Trotsky: “Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any important question of Marxism.  He always contrives to worm his way into the cracks of any given differences of opinion, and desert one side for the other.  At the moment he is in the company of the Bundists and the Liquidators.  And these gentlemen do not stand on ceremony where the party is concerned”.

These words were written precisely as a time when Trotsky was speculating “on fermenting differences between the Polish and Russian opponents of Liquidationism and to deceive the Russian workers on the question of the programme [especially section 9 dealing with the right of nations to self determination]” (ibid.)

Trotsky had written in the journal Borba that the “… Polish Marxists consider the ‘right to national self-determination’ is entirely devoid of political content and should be deleted from the programme”.

The blatant falsity of Trotsky’s assertion prompted Lenin to respond thus: “the obliging Trotsky is more dangerous than an enemy.  Trotsky could produce no proof, except ‘private conversations’ (i.e. simply gossip, on which Trotsky always subsists), for classifying ‘Polish Marxists’ in general as supporters of every article by Rosa Luxemburg.  Trotsky presented the ‘Polish Marxists’ as people devoid of honour and conscious, incapable of respecting even their own convictions and the programme of their Party.  How obliging Trotsky is!”

Having dismissed Stalin’s definition as purely “objective”, Davidson falls into the morass of pure subjectivism and wriggles like an eel as he labours over “granting national status” to such groups as Zionists, South African white supremacists and Ulster loyalists (p10).  He goes as far as to approvingly reproduce the following purely subjective definition of a nation given by the Zionist philosopher, Ahad Ha’am:

If I feel the spirit of Jewish nationality in my heart so that it stamps all my inward life with its seal, then the spirit of Jewish nationality exists in me; and its existence is not at an end even if all my Jewish contemporaries should cease to feel it in their hearts”.

The meaning of this solipsist absurdity, if it has any meaning, can only be that the worthy Mr Ha’am will constitute a Jewish nation on his own and will be applauded all the way to some lunatic asylum by Davidson.

Having waded through incredible confusion, Davidson says that he would use the word nation “to describe a human community that has acquired national consciousness”.

Contrary to what is written by Stalin and other objectivist theorists of the nation”, asserts Davidson, “there is no underlying reality of nationhood…”   Contrasting a class with a nation, and in an attempt to be profoundly original, Davidson says that while there can be class ‘in itself’, i.e. the working class exists as a matter of fact whether or not its members are conscious of their position as workers, there “can never be a ‘nation in itself’”.  Let Davidson expound his original profundity:

Class consciousness arises through a process of recognising real common interests, a recognition which is only possible as a result of social classes having material reality prior to consciousness.  National consciousness arises through a process of constructing imaginary common interests, a construction which can result in the establishment of a territorial nation state, but only at that point will the nation have a material reality outside of consciousness.  The resulting difference in aspirations may be summed up schematically by saying that a member of a social class may achieve class consciousness (bring their consciousness in line with reality) and a group with national consciousness may achieve statehood (bring reality in line with their consciousness)” (p13) (Davidson’s emphasis).

Such idealist twaddle, according to which nations are the product, not of a long historical process connected with the development of capitalism, but of conjuring up “imaginary common interests”, is worthy of a Bishop Berkeley and not of someone claiming to be a Marxist.  This nonsense stands reality on its head, for it asserts that it is not the material reality of the existence of a nation which produces national consciousness but, on the contrary, it is the national consciousness which brings forth the material reality of nationhood.  Obviously poor Marx laboured in vain for his profound materialist teaching that it is the social being that determines social consciousness, not the social consciousness that determines social being, has had little effect on some of those who profess to follow his teaching.

Having haughtily, and foolishly, dismissed Stalin’s definition as a purely objectivist checklist, he goes on to use exactly the same criteria which characterise Stalin’s definition of a nation, to devastating effect in annihilating the right and left nationalist assertions as to the existence of a Scottish nation prior to the 1707 Union with England.  As an adherent of Trotskyism and loyal member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, an incurably counter-revolutionary Trotskyist organisation, Davidson had willy-nilly to perform this conjuring trick of dismissing in words Stalin’s highly precise and scientific definition, while making use of it on the sly in practice to demolish the absurd claims of bourgeois and ‘left’ Scottish nationalism.  Be that as it may, Davidson has amassed a tremendous amount of empirical evidence to reveal the hollowness of nationalist claims and shown them to be the myths that they are.

The thrust of Davidson’s thesis is that there could not have been, and there was not, a Scottish nation before the 1707 Act of Union.  It is entirely mistaken, he maintains correctly, to attribute to medieval formations, or to entities earlier still, the notions of modern nations.  Although doubtless most states, almost invariably, surround themselves with a mythical narrative, with roots going back to ancient history, all the same it is entirely misplaced to project present-day nations backwards into times long past.

Nation

Part of the problem, says Davidson, lies in the long usage connected with the word ‘nation’, whose meanings have changed beyond recognition over nearly two millennia.  In the Vulgate Bible, first produced in the third century, the original Greek ethnos was rendered as the Latinnatio.  In the first English versions of the Bible (14th century), natio was translated as nacioun,becoming in turn nation in the authorised version of 1611.  For the authors and translators of the Bible, the word ‘nation’, far from conveying what we understand by the use of this word today, had ethnic and racial connotations, designating ‘gens’ or ‘populus’ with a presumed common biological descent.

Davidson says that “…if the feudal idea of a nation was essentially defined racially, then the feudal idea of race was itself defined linguistically”, adding that it “…was on this basis of common language that the student fraternity in medieval universities was usually, if not exclusively, divided into ‘nations’ from the thirteenth century onwards” (p25).  A similar situation prevailed in the knightly orders, with the Hospitallers in the Levant being grouped into tongues depending on their place of origin in Western Europe.

Thus it is clear that the word ‘nation’, as used in medieval and earlier times, far from being a source of clarity on the subject, has caused much confusion and provided fertile ground for the propagation of nationalist myths.

Declaration of Arbroath

In this context, we cannot avoid referring to the famous Declaration of Arbroath, which has been variously interpreted by some historians as expressing “all the fierce nationalism of the fourteenth century”[3]the clearest “….statement of Scottish nationalism and patriotism in the fourteenth century” and the finest “… statement of a claim to national independence… produced in this period anywhere in western Europe.”[4]

Far from it.  As Davidson rightly observes, “The sonorous wording of the Declaration is in fact a clear statement of, among other things, the fact that the feudal ruling class still considered themselves to be a nation in a racial rather than the modern sense” (p.48).  This Declaration took the form of a letter from the leading Scottish nobles “and other barons and freeholders and the whole community of the realm of Scotland” to Pope John XXII, asking the latter to intercede with Edward II in the interests of peace between Scotland and England, which had been intermittently at war since 1296.  Probably the contents of the Declaration had been settled at an assembly of nobles at Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian in March 1320, and a final text was prepared and sent by Bernard of Linton, the Chancellor of Scotland and Abbot of Arbroath, dated 6 April.

The preamble to the Declaration is characteristically medieval: it traces the wanderings of the “Scots nation” from “Greater Scythia” to Scotland, celebrates its triumphs over Britons and Picts, and survival from attacks by “Norwegians, Danes and English” (p.49).  As Davidson remarks, those who assert that these statements serve to “prove the existence of a primordial Scottish nation must logically also accept the existence of primordial ‘British’ and ‘Pictish’ nations” (ibid.).

Apart from anything else, the names of Roger Mowbray and Ingram Unafraville, among the signatories, are evocative of a descent from Anglo-Normal settlers invited to settle in Scotland during the reign of David (1124-1153), who themselves descended “…from earlier Viking invaders of what is now France from what is now Norway – a place somewhat removed from Scythia” (p.49).

A key passage in the Declaration runs thus: “Yet if he [Robert the Bruce] shall give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the king of England or to the English, we would strive at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and we would make some other man who was able to defend us our king; for, as long as hundred of us remain alive, we will never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. For we fight not [for] glory, nor riches, nor honours, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up without his life” (quoted in Davidson, p.49).

The above passage has been represented by some as the prototype for modern nationalism.  Some have even gone so far as to assert that this doubtlessly brilliant example of medieval bombast represents “the first national or governmental articulation, in all of Europe, of the principle of the contractual theory of monarchy which lies at the heart of modern constitutionalism.”[5]

In truth, this passage suggests the function of the noble estate “as the defender of the kingdom against the claims of the individual monarch in a way that was entirely typical of absolutist Europe” (p.50).  It is no more than a statement, albeit exceptionally eloquent, of medieval regnal solidarity.  Its message was two-fold.  First, it was directed at Edward II, informing him that it was pointless for him to attempt to depose Robert with a more subservient king, since the remainder of the Scottish aristocracy would not cease its resistance.  Second, it was addressed to Robert, making it clear that they would not brook his jeopardising their interests – which lay in their god-given right to unhindered exploitation of the mass of the peasantry – through making concessions to Edward.  In this sense, the message can rightly be seen as a Scottish version of the Magna Carta, imposed by the barons of England on King John at Runnymede in 1215.

To attribute to the Declaration of Arbroath modern connotations of nationhood is as false as to impart similar meanings to the Magna Carta.  Both these documents should be seen for what they really were – an expression of regnal solidarity by the barons of the respective kingdoms and their determination to hang on to their privileges, against the monarch.  As Davidson correctly points out, to read into the Declaration the notions of a modern nation, not merely obscures its motives but “establishes a false identity” and “confers legitimacy on a key element in nationalist ideology, namely the primordial continuity of ‘the nation’ throughout history”.

Cosmopolitan feudal elite

The kings and the nobility of both kingdoms – England and Scotland – were feudal lords, who did not even understand, let alone entertain, modern-day ideas of nationhood, nor could they.  They were possessed of a culture drawn from the Norman French, who married across the whole of the north-western part of Europe and were, in this sense, cosmopolitan to their fingertips.  To them the very concept of wars of national liberation would have been entirely alien.  Their domains of exploitation, their rivalries and their commonalities invariably coincided.  Norman French was the first language of the Anjou and Plantagenet kings of England, not English. They were also paramount lords in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.  They held large tracts in France and derived most of their wealth, surplus produce and their military-political power, from their French, not their English, domains.  In this regard, Henry II can be best viewed as Henri of Angevin.

Long before the 1066 Norman conquest of England, invading Angles had settled along the east coast up to the north and over the Lothian plain, which was for long part of the English kingdom of Northumbria.  The battle of Carham (1018) added the Lothians to Scotland.  It did more than fix the present border between England and Scotland: it determined that Scotland would not be a purely Celtic country and that it’s most fertile and economically promising part would have a language akin to the one spoken in the north of England and open to feudal influences from the south.

After 1066 a feudal baronage grew up closely connected with England and holding large estates in both kingdoms.  For example, Robert Bruce, the Earl of Carrick and a vassal of Edward I, held 90,000 acres of land in Yorkshire, while his rival, John Balliol, held large tracts of land in Normandy and England as well as Scotland.  The kings of England – the Plantagenet and Anjou – held large areas of France – Gascony, Aquitaine and Poitou, inter alia – and regularly laid claims on the French throne.  Members of the nobility from the kingdom of Scotland, for example John Comyn, fought on the side of Edward I in the latter’s conquest of Wales, while the armies of Edward I and II, deployed in the wars in Scotland, which were firmly rooted in feudal, not national rights, were recruited from their feudal realms in France, Wales and Ireland.

Undoubtedly Edward I laid claims to the kingdom of Scotland and sought to include it into his own kingdom.  Edward got his chance with the death in 1286 of Alexander III of Scotland.  By the Treaty of Brigham it was arranged that Edward’s son and heir should marry Margaret of Norway, the heiress to the Scottish throne, thus bringing the two kingdoms together in a personal union, with each side preserving its rights and privileges.  However, the arrangement collapsed with the death of the Maid of Norway at sea, triggering a crisis of succession in Scotland, and Edward I moving fast to achieve his object by other means.  With 13 rival claims to the throne of Scotland, the barons turned to Edward to settle the dispute.  He marched his army to the border, proclaimed himself lord paramount of Scotland, and decided that John Balliol had a better claim than Robert Bruce.  John Balliol was accordingly crowned king and duly paid homage to Edward in 1292.

Contradictions within the feudal elite in Scotland, and harsh demands made by Edward on his vassals, drove John Balliol into revolt, but his forces were roundly defeated at Caddonlee.  Balliol was captured and humiliatingly stripped of his feudal trappings during a ceremony at Montrose Castle in July 1296, with his tabard, hood and knightly girdle physically removed.  Following several shifts of alliances, the feudal elite in Scotland turned the tables on Edward I and then Edward II – at Stirling Bridge (1297) and then at Bannockburn (1314), after winning which battle the nobility of Scotland attempted to expand its influence into Wales and Ireland. Thereafter, the so-called war of independence turned into a mutually ruinous war between the Bruce and Balliol families.

In substance, the conflict between the ruling elites of England and Scotland was not much different from the Wars of the Roses in England, that is, an internecine struggle between competing feudal inter ests whose belief systems were based on the then-prevailing notions of fief and vassalage, not on the present-day notions of nationhood.  The Norman lords in Scotland were engaged in a desperate struggle to defend and safeguard their traditional monopoly to exploit their peasant serfs against the centralising power of Edward I.  Be it said in passing that, at the time under discussion, both England and Scotland were mere geographical entities, with the kings of the former waging wars in Scotland.  Neither entity constituted a nation.

Broadening the discussion out from the Declaration to the time in which it was drafted, participation by the peasantry and urban plebeians in the wars at Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn, says Davidson, is frequently cited, particularly by those on the left, as evidence in the middle ages of national consciousness.  He answers such assertions, first, by pointing out that in fact “mass participation” had no appreciable effect on the outcome of the battle of Bannockburn (1312), although it did at the earlier battle of Stirling Bridge (1297).  Second, he says, it is not at all clear why such participation in itself proves the existence of national consciousness, since popular mobilisations in support of powerful elites “can be traced as far back as the Greek city states”.  There is evidence, says Davidson, that the “community of the realm”, referred to in the Declaration, viewed itself – just like other similar groups across Europe – as a “regnal group based on racial identity”, with little to indicate how those excluded from this community regarded themselves.  He goes on to quote with approval George Kerevan’s following observation:

The notion that illiterate peasants, who lived and died their short brutal lives within a few hundred yards of their village, had a conception of nationalism beyond a gut xenophobia for everyone beyond the village is stretching the imagination” (p.51).[6]

Doubtless there were commonalities in the medieval and earlier periods, none of which were sufficient to constitute the inhabitants of various geographical entities into nations.  Take the ancient Greeks, for example, who spoke the same language, shared a common territory, and a common culture, as against the non-Greeks, but who were far from being economically united.  They waged endless wars against each other. Their mode of existence, characterised by scattered and self-sufficient agriculture, combined with petty manufacture, tribal identity, and the exceptionally poor development of the means of communication, ensured that the Greeks lived in several competing polities.  Notwithstanding myths, propagated in equal measure by Greeks and non-Greeks, the ancient Greeks did not constitute a nation, nor could they, for the objective requirements for the existence of a Greek nation were plainly absent.  And what is true of the ancient Greeks is equally true of medieval Europe.

The defeats of the feudalists of England at Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn, far from furnishing proof of a people’s war on the Scottish side, are an eloquent testimony of feudal arrogance and incompetence on the part of the armies of Edward I (Stirling Bridge) and Edward II (Bannockburn).  For example, at Bannockburn, if Edward II’s armies had made use of the English and Welsh longbowmen, a tactic which soon became accepted practice and which proved its worth against a far more powerful French feudalism, they would have decimated any stationary force.  Instead, fighting on extremely dangerous terrain, they unleashed a frontal cavalry charge against Bruce’s massed pikemen, suffering a humiliating defeat.

As for Stirling Bridge, the assertion that William Wallace led a people’s revolt in a ‘war of national liberation’ against the ‘English’ does not stand up to scrutiny.  Although the imposition by Edward I, following his 1296 victory, of a puppet parliament and his plans for a more intense feudalism aroused widespread resentment and opposition, including on the part of small landowners, no natural leadership, willing an able to take up the fight, emerged, as many aristocrats were incarcerated in England waiting to be ransomed, others were unable to join the fight owing to injuries suffered in 1296, and still some others were temporarily overawed.

It was this vacuum that made for the emergence of Andrew de Moray in the north and William Wallace in the south.  But it must not be forgotten that behind these commanders of “the community of the realm” stood the great noblemen – Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, and James the Stewart, who was Wallace’s lord.  Following Moray’s death as a result of injuries suffered at Stirling Bridge, Wallace came to be Guardian in Scotland, in the name of the “illustrious king” in exile, John Balliol, not the people.  Even if, for the sake of argument, he had become Guardian in the name of the people, it would not be sufficient ground for asserting the existence of a Scottish nation at that time owing to the absence of a number of characteristics of nationhood.

Stirling Bridge was to be the only victory won by Wallace.  In July 1298 his forces were comprehensively destroyed at the Battle of Falkirk by the army of Edward I – this time deploying longbowmen – and his position as Guardian was severely undermined.  With their resistance much weakened, the aristocracy opted for a peace deal, forcing Wallace to resort to tactics of guerrilla warfare and launching raids into northern English Counties.  He was captured near Glasgow in August 1305, carried to London, tried for treason, found guilty and executed.  Long after, he was to furnish the theme for stirring poetry, novels and songs, his name used by working-class and democratic forces in just the same way as the destruction of the mythical Anglo-Saxon liberty under the Norman yoke was used by Levellers and Diggers and many others.  But we must not allow myths, however well-intentioned, to pass for history.  We must not see nations where none exist; and consequently, we must not perceive national liberation struggles where nothing of the sort exists.

The ‘Holy Trinity’

Most historians who hold the view that the Kingdom of Scotland was a nation before the Union with England in 1707 also assert that “it was maintained afterwards through the various institutions preserved in the Treaty, the so-called ‘holy trinity’ of Scottish nationhood” (p.51).  This ‘holy trinity’ is a reference to the Kirk, the education system and the law.  As there was no Scottish nation before 1707, no institutions could have preserved that which did not exist.  To assert otherwise is merely to assume precisely that which must be proved.

Besides, the supporters of the ‘holy trinity’ never explain precisely how, and in what way, this trinity managed to perform the role of ‘preserving’ national identity.  If these institutions really played “the role ascribed to them, then they must have acquired their social significance before 1707”.  However, “… the examples which are often cited as demonstrating their importance are from a later period, particularly in the case of education”, the latter only gaining prominence in Scotland following the Education (Scotland) Act 1872 (p.53).

Davidson is correctly of the view that no Scot, on being asked to define his national identity, has ever responded with a sermon on the beauties of the sheriff system, the merits of Scottish education, and the marvels of Kirk homilies.  He adds that the only groups who identified themselves with, and felt any loyalty to, these institutions “were the cadres who ran the professions, but these men were the most Unionist of all in their politics” (p.54).

Scotland’s status in the light of Marxist theory

Having disposed of the baseless assertions of the existence of a Scottish nation before 1707, we now pass on to the most important question, namely, Scotland’s status – both before and after 1707 – in the light of the Marxist-Leninist theory concerning the formation of modern nations and the indispensable significance of such characteristics as language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up and culture, in the process of nation formation.

Economy

Prior to 1707, Davidson says, “Scotland had one of the lowest levels of capitalist developmentin western Europe” (p.55).[7].  Sir James Stewart, writing in 1767, stated that Scotland could even then be compared to fourteenth century Europe.  Even if Sir James was exaggerating, his remarks would not have been misleading a hundred years previously, according to Davidson.

All the same, the fact remains that immediately preceding 1707, the Scottish economy was organised on feudal lines, with the main source of ruling class income emanating from the surplus produced by the peasantry, under threat or actual use of force, exercised “through the territorial jurisdictions” by the use of which the feudal magnates could bring their tenants to their own courts.  This had two-fold implications.  First, the loyalty of the feudal lords to the Scottish Crown took second place to their own local, particular interests.  It is hardly surprising that one of the important concessions conceded by the English parliament during the treaty negotiations was the inclusion of Article 20 which explicitly retained the heritable jurisdictions which were the bedrock of the power of the Scottish lords over their tenants.

In the absence of peasant revolts, which were not known in Scotland until the mid-17th century, combined with the near-absence of an urban sector, it follows that burghal support for a rural rebellion, had there been one, was missing.  As the peasantry was by and large quiescent, the danger from below which might have compelled the Scottish aristocracy to strengthen the monarchy, instead of exploiting its weakness, never surfaced.  In the absence of the need for an absolutist monarchy to suppress the direct producers, absolutism remained weak, with the result that “the individual lords retained a local weight unparalleled elsewhere in western Europe” (p.58).  Between 1455 and 1662, the Stuarts attempted on no fewer than seven occasions to outlaw the jurisdictions that were the basis of the nobility’s power, but they failed – a failure which speaks eloquently of the balance of power between the Crown and the nobility.

Second, it made for the absence of economic cohesion, that is, an economy connecting all regions within the Kingdom of Scotland.  In the memorable words of Thomas Johnston: “Scotland was not a nation: it was a loose aggregation of small but practically self-supporting communities, and scanty supplies and high prices at Aberdeen may quite well have been coincident with plenty and comparatively low prices in Dundee and Glasgow”.[8]

To use the words of Stalin, “…an internal economic bond which welds the various party of a nation into a single whole”, was characterised by its absence in pre 1707 Scotland.

Local heritable jurisdictions, by which the lords ran their baronies and regalities (which were specifically retained in the Treaty of the Union), this feudal particularism was one of the greatest obstacles to the development of capitalism, the formation of a single market connecting all the regions of the Kingdom, and hence to the formation of a Scottish nation.

Language

Lack of a common language was another factor which stood in the way of the formation of a Scottish nation.  Instead of being united by a common language, the inhabitants of Scotland were divided by language.  In addition to the remaining survivals of Scandinavian in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the Kingdom was split between the Gaelic-speaking Highlanders and the “…vast majority of Scots” who, “even in 1688, spoke what was originally the dialect of English spoken in Northumbria and brought from there to the Lothians and beyond by trade and conquest from the tenth century onwards, long before the border was established” (p.56).  It was the latter (‘Scots’ or ‘Lallans’) that eventually supplanted Gaelic. Scottish literary works of the Renaissance were written in Lallans – a language which was also used at the Royal Court in Edinburgh.  Lallans was just one among many dialects, and it is conceivable that it might have become the Scottish language if the autonomy of the Kingdom had been maintained.  Since that did not happen, Lallans (the dialect spoken in the Lothians and the south-east) simply reverted to being “one among many Scottish dialects, and these in turn became merely several Scottish dialects of English” (p.57).

It is notable, however, that the poets who wrote in Lallans did not regard it as distinct from English.  In The Goldyn Targe, an early 16th century work, William Dunbar “acclaims Chaucer simultaneously as the finest of British authors and as one of the Makars – the contemporary Scottish poets first given this name by Dunbar” (p.57).  Most significantly in this regard, though, is his assumption that they share the same language.

Be that as it may, in the words of Kenneth White: “Nobody in contemporary Scotland speaks consistent Lallans – that is part of our historical linguistic situation.  What we speak is English with local accents and intonations, and sprinkled with elements of Lallans, and indeed of Gaelic, which have come down to us”.[9] White adds: “I can see in this no cause for lamentation, and certainly no justification for trying to write systematically in Lallans, as some literati have done and are still doing” (ibid.).

The process which hindered the emergence of Scots as a distinct language was under way before the 1603 Union of the Crowns and the departure of James VI and his court to London.  Most probably, the use in Scotland of the English vernacular Bible following the Reformation, and of the authorised version after 1611, played a more significant role in frustrating the emergence of Scots as a separate language than the Union itself.  Thus English became “the language of solemnity and abstract thought, of theological and philosophical disputation.”[10]

It is worth nothing that the ‘holy trinity’ is so often invoked by the supporters of Scottish nationalism as the basis for the supposed national continuity precisely because language could not play that role.  In the apt words of A D Smith, “Among the Scots, language long ago ceased to play a differentiating and unifying role, once Lallans had become the language of the lowlands”.[11]

In the course of this historical process, in Scotland as well as in England, English supersededLatin as the language of theology and philosophy and Norman French as the language of administration.  While the majority of the people in both Kingdoms spoke English, they would have equally perceived the emergent ‘Standard English’ as distinct from the everyday English they used at home or in their localities.  Certainly, language “did not hold the lowland Scots and the English apart, nor did it define them as protonations” (p.57).

The Highland/Lowland divide

The Highland/Lowland divide was not merely a function of geography, but also of culture; in the final analysis, it was a reflection of the prevailing social relations marked by the absence of economic cohesion, of an economic bond which could have welded the various parts of Scotland into a single whole.

The Lowlands regarded the Gaelic-speaking Highlanders as culturally inferior and closer to ‘Barbaric’ Ulster, while the Highlanders themselves were riven by internal divisions and rivalries, who thought of themselves as Scots “… only in the sense of being notionally subject to the Scottish crown” (p72).  The word ‘Sassenach’, normally an abusive Scottish term for the English, and derived from the Gaelic word ‘Sasunnach’ for Saxon, was originally applied by the Highlanders to all non-Gaelic speakers, be they Lowlanders or English who were, in the eyes of the Highlanders, indistinguishable and both equally aliens.

The Gaelic-speaking Highlanders were regarded by the Lowlanders, among others, as ‘wild’, ‘untamed’, ‘rude’, ‘savage’, ‘murderous’, ‘thieving’, ‘treacherous’ and plundering hordes; ‘robbers’ given to rapine and lacking in civility; and wretches lacking in honour, friendship and obedience.  To add further insult, their very language – Gaelic – was considered to be a factor contributing to their supposed degradation.  As late as 1736, an anonymous ‘Highland gentleman’, who had doubtless imbibed the Lowland attitudes towards his fellow Highlanders, wrote thus:

Our poor people are from cradles trained up in Barbarity and Ignorance.  Their very language is an everlasting Bar against all Instruction, but the barbarous Customs and Fashions they have from their Forefathers, of which they are most tenacious, and having no other languages, they are confirmed to their miserable Homes”.[12]

Given the status the Makars are given as representing the early modern Scottish nation”, says Davidson, “poems by William Dunbar from the early decades of the sixteenth century like ‘The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie’ contain a level of abuse towards the Highlanders which suggests they were not part of it” (p.65)

The semi-official history of the 1688 revolution, published in 1690, fares no better, characterising the Highlanders in these far from flattering terms:

The Highlanders of Scotland are a sort of wretches that have no other consideration of honour, friendship, obedience, or government, than as, by any alteration of affairs or revolution in the government, they can improve to themselves any opportunity of Robbing and plundering their bordering Neighbours[13]

From the fourteenth century onwards, says Davidson, “the behaviour, language and, in a minority of cases, religion of the Highlanders, led them to being described as ‘Irish’”, particularly, “all the negative characteristics which the Lowland mind identified with the Highlands appeared to be confirmed by the close links which existed between Ulster and the Western Highlands”, the political implication of which connection was made clear during the civil war (p.70).

Gaelic-speaking Highlanders, for their part, thought of themselves as the genuine representatives of the Scottish people, in contrast to the Lowlanders who had abandoned their original linguistic traditions.  This is what Alexander MacDonald, the Highland Jacobite poet, wrote of the Gaelic:

She still survives

and her glory will not be lost

in spite of the deceit

and great ill-will of the Lowlander.

She is the speech of Scotland

and of the Lowlanders themselves,

or our nobles, princes and dukes without exception

(quoted in Davidson, p.73).

Language alone did completely explain the hostility entertained by the Highlanders towards the Sassunachs.  In 1724, this is how George Wade – an Irish man himself – soon after assuming the office as Commander in Chief of the British army in Scotland, tried to explain Highland attitudes towards Lowlanders in a report to George I:

They have still more extensive adherence one to another as Highlanders in opposition to the people who inhabit the Low Countries whom they hold in utmost Contempt, imagining them inferior to themselves in Courage, Resolution, and the use of Arms, and accuse them of being Proud, Avaricious, and Breakers of their Word.  They have also a tradition that the Lowlands were in Ancient Times, the Inheritance of their Ancestors, and therefore believe that they have a right to commit Depredations, wherever it is in their power to put them in Execution” (quoted in Davidson, p.73).

Thus it is clear that the Highlanders fully returned the compliment paid to them by the Lowlanders.

Be that as it may, the Highland economy was extremely backward and the people there had a parochial and isolated existence; by comparison, the economy of the Lowlands, particularly around Edinburgh, being commercially oriented and with close connections to the market in England, was characterised by a certain degree of dynamism.  These two parts of the Kingdom of Scotland stood poles apart.  Far from forming a single entity, they may as well have been two separate countries.  The deep social, economic and cultural chasm that divided the two found its reflection in politics too.  “The name Scotland”, observes Davidson, “concealed the existence of two regions whose inhabitants had been antagonistic to each other for centuries” (p.75), with neither able to accept that the other was Scottish.

The following few lines written in the 1720s – a whole 20 years after the Union, by Edward Burt, an English officer serving in the Highlands, makes abundantly clear the deep chasm that still divided the Highlands and Lowlands:

The Highlands are but little known even to the Inhabitants of the low country of Scotland, for they ever dreaded the Difficulties and Dangers of Travelling among the Mountains; and when some extraordinary occasion has obliged any one of them to make such a Progress, he has, generally speaking, made his Testament before he set out, as though he were entering upon a long and dangerous Sea Voyage, wherein it was very doubtful he should ever return[14]

Lowlanders knew little of the Highlanders, and the little they did was not encouraging.  From the fourteenth century onwards, when the Highlanders were first identified as a distinct group, the Lowlanders had nothing but contempt for them, fearing them as lawless and outside the constraints of state authority, with a different language and religion.

The Lowlanders had far more in common with the English than they had with the Highlanders, and in the minds of the later the first two were seen as Sassunachs.

In the light of the foregoing it would be stretching the imagination to assert that before the 1707 Union with England, or even a few decades following it, the Scots were a nation in the modern scientific meaning of the concept, for they were lacking in a community of language, economic cohesion and psychological make-up reflected in a community of culture.

Bridging the Gap

The hostility between the Highlands and the Lowlands, on the one hand, and the suspicion between England and Scotland, on the other hand, was only heightened by the outbreak of the 1745 counter-revolutionary Jacobite rising, which served to strengthen in popular English thinking the identification of Scotland with feudalism and “gave the already high level of English xenophobia towards the Scots a harder political edge” (p.77).  All Scots came to be seen as Jacobites.

It was precisely to counter such sentiments that an ideological counter-campaign was undertaken by spokesmen of the nascent Scottish bourgeoisies which portrayed the Highlands as “the barbarian Other to Lowland civilisation” (p.77).

This triangular hostility between the Highlanders, Lowlander and the English, which had survived the Union, and had, if anything, been heightened by the Jacobite risings, was nevertheless brought to an end whereby the Lowlanders and the Highlanders began to regard themselves as Scots, and all the three began to consider themselves as Britons.

From the Jacobite rising and the 1746 Battle of Culloden, followed by the army occupation of the glens, the British state emerged militarily victorious over clan society before going on to destroy its feudal social structure.  The pacification of the Highlands brought peace, civic virtue, inward investment, access to a large new market and unprecedented opportunities for commercial profit and advancement to high and profitable positions in the military, political and bureaucratic state apparatus of Britain.  Left to itself, Scotland most probably would have remained stuck under the tyranny of Scottish feudal lords for a much longer period.

Unity with an England that had overthrown absolutism at the cost of so much blood, installed bourgeois liberty, and set upon the path of capitalist development proved irresistibly beneficial to the rising bourgeoisie in Scotland.  Shortly after 1745, Scotland underwent a massive economic boom and an unprecedented industrial revolution.

For the first time, the economic integration between the Lowlands and the Highlands, as well as between Scotland and England, began to become a reality.  The Scottish component, though numerically a small portion of the ruling class, was most keen on this integration taking place.  The rising bourgeois elements in Scotland were at the forefront of these attempts at integration, and the principal advocates of Britishness, for the British state was far more important to them than to their English counterpart.  Scottish capitalist landowners, tobacco and sugar merchants, as well as textile manufacturers; professional groups such as lawyers and Church of Scotland ministers – the two groups that had provided the majority of Enlightenment thinkers and theorists; the Scottish constituent of the British military officer class; and poets and playwrights – all greeted with enthusiasm the new emerging society and were most insistent on being recognised as British.

The suppression of internal reaction and the pacification of the Highlands had opened new and compelling opportunities.  The military and juridical onslaught on the remains of Scottish feudalism saw to it that every landowner was obliged to enter into commercial relations with their tenants; the destruction of the power of the nobility had cleared the path for undreamt of commercial and industrial development in Scotland, in turn laying the ground for the integration of the Scottish and English economies and the construction of a Britishness, which was not simply an extended English nation state into which Scotland was absorbed, but “an entirely new formation, a new nation state with its own attendant national consciousness” (p.80).

Thus, from the second half of the eighteenth century, when all the necessary conditions for the formation of a Scottish nation had emerged, such were the dialectics of history that just at that time the rising Scottish bourgeoisie threw in its lot with the much bigger English bourgeoisie and devoted itself wholeheartedly to the construction of a new British nation state, of which the Scots were an integral and crucial part.

Scotland an oppressed nation?

Scottish nationalists, in addition to claiming that Scotland has been a nation since early medieval times, if not earlier, also assert that Scotland has been an oppressed nation, it being variously declared that since the Union with England in 1707, Scotland has been a victim of English expansionism, English internal colonialism, English imperialism or English cultural imperialism.  The natural corollary of this stance is that Scotland is ruled by an alien power, that there is a Scottish nation and an English nation, but no such thing as a British nation.  That Britain is an artificial construct, or simply an English racket, to imprison Scotland and Wales.  In the eyes of Scottish nationalists, the nation of Scotland languishes in the suffocating embrace of the state and ruling institutions which are English or British waiting for its moment of freedom with the ‘inevitable; break up of Britain.

In this scenario, Scotland is put in the category of heroic nations, such as Algeria, Vietnam, Kenya, Yemen, Congo, India and China – countries that fought for independence against various European colonialist and imperialist powers.  Only through such obviously fraudulent devices, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and their left-wing appendages can see some equivalence in their demand for an independent Scottish state with the national movements of colonial peoples.

Furthermore, the nationalists make a vain attempt to deny Scotland’s part in the construction of Britishness, or the establishment of a global British empire, which practised slavery on a gargantuan scale, devastated India and exploited and oppressed the vast masses of many countries.  England/Britain did all that, not Scotland, is the national mantra.

Unfortunately”, says Davidson derisively, “mere facts have not deterred” the nationalist writers from confusing the issue by making false claims (p103).  All the same, he marshals an array of facts and irrefutable statistics to knock the bottom out of the nationalist assertions and prove their utter falsity.

Since it is impossible to substantiate the argument that Scotland went through an experience comparable to that undergone by the nations that fell victim to colonialism and imperialism, the more intelligent and cunning of the ideologues and defenders of Scottish nationalism turn for help to the softer and more pliable concepts of ‘internal colonialism’ and ‘cultural imperialism’.

The concept of internal colonialism with regard to Scotland was the brainchild of the American sociologist Michael Hechter, in connection with his study of ‘Celtic’ nationalism on the British Isles.  In this study he divided the UK into two zones – the ‘core’ and the ‘periphery’ – the latter zone (in which he placed Scotland) being marked by economic dependence, a retarded development designed to complement that of the core, specialised export-oriented industrialisation and lower standard of living than in the ‘core’.  “Internal colonialism, therefore arose out of the same systemic needs which later spawned its more notorious overseas cousin”[15]

The implication here clearly is that Scotland’s ‘peripheral’ position is just another version of the process experienced by those nations subjected to colonialist and imperialist domination and exploitation.  In the Hechter narrative, the English state successfully turned Scotland into an internal colony with the Union of Crowns in 1603 – a state of affairs which was continued even after the Parliamentary Union of 1707, when, notwithstanding the formal dissolution of the existing two states (England and Scotland), the ‘core’/’periphery’ relationship was maintained within Britain.

Hechter did point out, however, that of all the ‘peripheral’ nations, Scotland was least amenable to this type “of categorisation” (p92). Although he retreated further still from his original stance, it was too late to prevent his narrative becoming a theoretical underpinning for Scottish nationalism.  For instance, the ‘left’ nationalist James Young has made this ludicrous statement “Scottish society [was] pushed into a subordinate role [as] a victim of ‘internal colonialism’ with an economy peripheral to the core of British capitalism, and with institutions dominated by the ‘conquering metropolitan elite’[16]

Davidson demolishes the Hechter-based nationalist narrative by empirically reviewing the progress of three leading non-agricultural sectors of the Scottish economy in the eighteenth century – coal, linen and tobacco.

The output in the coal industry in the 18th century rose as much as eight or ten times, a rate nearly double that for Britain as a whole.  And, be it noted, this industry continued to use the most advanced forms of technology.

Linen production increased four-fold between 1730 and 1775, with the majority of this output being for sale in the English or colonial markets, the scale of the latter was hidden by the circumstance that perhaps half of the linen exported from England was in fact of Scottish origin.  After 1747, the share of Scottish manufactured linen exported from Britain rarely dropped below 20%-30 %, and on occasion reached 35%-40%.  Since these figures relate exclusively to linen which qualified for a ‘bounty’, the total might have exceeded 50% if other linen be taken into account.[17]

Tobacco was the most successful Scottish import, and this rose, in just three decades, more than six-fold from 8 million lb in 1741 to a peak of 47 million lb in 1771.  By the early 1760s, Scottish overseas tobacco trade accounted for 40 per cent of British imports.  These figures have a particular significance since, of all the sectors of the Scottish economy, tobacco received the most stimulus from access to the previously restricted English domestic and overseas markets after the Union of 1707. Without the Union it is inconceivable that Scottish tobacco imports would have reached the heights they did in the middle decades of the eighteenth century.

Thus, far from revealing retarded and peripheral characteristics, Scotland stood ahead in terms of technique, per capita production and capital accumulation.  Only in the absence of English coal, linen and tobacco industries, which was not the case, would the idea of ‘complementary’ development have any bearing on Scotland.

From the early years of the industrial revolution, Scotland achieved outstanding performance in the principal exporting trades, with early successes in tobacco, cotton and jute being surpassed by heavy industrial goods – pig iron, steel, railway locomotives and shipbuilding.  Shipbuilders on the Clyde alone produced 70 per cent of all British iron tonnage between 1850 and 1870; in the latter year they employed 20,000 out of a British workforce of 47,500 in that industry.  Until the Second World War, Glasgow was the biggest exporter of steam locomotives in the world.

By the end of the nineteenth century”, says Davidson, “the proportion of Scots employed in primary industry was one third higher than in England and Wales, and 11 per cent higher in heavy industry”.

He continues thus: “Had Scotland been an independent centre of capital accumulation, it could be said to have ‘caught up and overtaken’ its one-time English rival by, at the latest, the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.  By that date there were no longer ‘Scottish’ and ‘English’ economies separate from that of Britain, except in the geographical sense which allows us to talk about the ‘southeast of England’ or ‘the Midlands’ as distinct economic regions.  Nevertheless, abstracting ‘Scotland’ as an economic unit from Britain  as whole, these figures clearly indicate that, far from being ‘peripheral’ to the British economy, Scotland – or more precisely, the Lowlands – lay at its core” (p94).

The Scottish success in the field of trade and industry was replicated in other fields, ranging from the professions to politics and the army.

Qualified Scottish physicians moved to England in great numbers, “Without either graduating from Oxford or becoming Anglicans – both obligatory for English physicians” (p94).  Before the mid-eighteenth century, anyone in Britain desirous of taking up the medical profession was obliged to go to Europe for training, often in Leiden or Paris.  The first important medical faculty in Britain was established in Edinburgh after 1750; by the end of the century it had become the most important institution for medical training in all of Britain.  Subsequently, a further medical school was opened at Glasgow.  During the first half of the 19th century, the majority of the British medical practitioners would have received at least part of their education in Scotland.

Turning to politics, there was a marked increase in participation by Scots in political life, especially outside Scotland.  Whereas between 1747 and 1753 only 8 of the 45 Scottish MPs had paid state office, by 1780 the number had risen to 23 or over half.  In addition there is the striking phenomenon of more than 60 Scots being elected as MPs between 1754 and 1790 from constituencies outside of Scotland, while during the same period no English or Welsh MPs represented Scottish constituencies.  Between 1790 and 1820 the number of Scots sitting for seats in England and Wales had risen to 130.  Campbell Bannerman, Asquith and Bonar Law, hailing from the Scottish legal, banking and commercial dynasties, stood at the apex of the British political establishment for nearly the first two decades of the twentieth century – holding the office of prime minister.  In more recent times, of the 23 Cabinet portfolios allotted following the General Election of 1st May 1997, six were held by Scots, including those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary and Lord Chancellor.

Having furnished the above details, Davison approvingly cites the following commendably restrained remark of Keith Webb!  “It is unusual for a colonial nation to provide the political leaders for the colonising nation”[18]

Cultural imperialism

Even while accepting the above facts, it is still possible to cling to the belief that Scotland is the victim of English colonialism.  The key to this antinomy lies in the notion of cultural imperialism.  As proof of Scottish subjection, some nationalist writers refer to the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment and their desire to assimilate Scottish to English history.

It was not the crude type of colonial relationship that English capitalism was imposing on large parts of Africa and Asia”, says the left national James Young, adding that “… the very subtlety of the mediating role of the indigenous elite of the agrarian capitalists, merchants and intellectuals in assisting the English to impose cultural imperialism on the Scottish populace has obscured its importance in dictating cultural, political and economic developments …”[19]

Davidson cites a host of Scottish nationalists, who give their backing to such claims, and draws parallels between the cultural “inferiority” experienced by Scotland and the colonised “third world”. Even the denial of British/English “cultural imperialism” by any Scot provokes the accusation that the latter has become assimilated – ‘assimilado’ to use a Portuguese term for a native who, in addition to adopting the Portuguese language and culture, adopted too the Portuguese contempt for his native culture.  Most preposterously, Pat Kane has attempted to draw inspiration from black people’s struggle in the US against centuries of brutality and racism for the Scottish nationalist project, for “… both projects serve the same nationalistic ends; the broadening of one’s national community into its true complex of history out of the hands of the wilful mystifiers”.[20]

Having quoted from the writings of various nationalists, Davidson says: “In all of these extracts it is through the domain of culture that analogies with classical imperialism, impossible to sustain frontally, are readmitted through the back door, so to speak” (p97).

Davidson successfully counters the above nationalist nonsense by demonstrating that the Scottish intellectuals played a preponderant role in the construction of Britishness.  Adam Smith elaborated an economic theory that served as a framework for Britain’s destiny as a capitalist nation; David Hume and Sir James Mackintosh laid the foundations for a modern English history; James Mill, in his History of British India, mapped out Britain’s future as an imperial power legislating for the entire humanity; Sir Walter Scott who provided the English with the artistic expression of their national myth: that of the Saxon race indomitably struggling against Norman yoke and the eventual reconciliation between the two ‘races’; Thomas Carlyle extended and developed this into a philosophy of the English character and a critique of industrialisation; and Macaulay, the one single writer whose view of England was more influential than that of Carlyle, though not a Scot himself, was deeply influenced by the ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment.

These Scots were not, nor did they regard themselves as, agents of cultural imperialism.  The very notion that they were culturally inferior would have been laughable to them, for they were the architects of the new British identity.  In the words of Cairns Craig: “As England was being transformed by the construction of a new British identity which had significant Scottish components – to which the likes of Hume were prime contributors – so Scotland was transformed by English elements of that same British identity”.[21] Thus, if England influenced Scottishness, as it certainly did, Scotland for its part played a crucial role in the transformation of England by helping to remould it as an integral part of the new British nation.

James Watt, the famous inventor and one of the most important non-literary enlightenment figures, who was proud of being a Scot, nevertheless turned down the invitation from Catherine the Great, asking him to move to Russia, by saying that he could never leave his own nation which was Great Britain.  “Scots like Watt”, aptly observed Linda Colley, “do not seem to have regarded themselves as stooges of English cultural hegemony.  Far from succumbing helplessly to an alien identity imposed by others, in moving south they helped construct what being British was all about.[22]

In the light of the above facts, the proposition that Scotland was an ‘internal colony’ of England or a victim of English ‘cultural imperialism’ rings hollow and devoid of all substance.

Highlands

Davidson concedes that the term ‘colony’ might legitimately be used in the case of the Highlands.  He does though go on to ask penetratingly: “But who were the colonists?” (p102).

In dealing with this question, Scottish nationalists, not only conflate the experience of the majority of Scots with that of the Highlanders, but also “… shift the attention from class divisions within Scotland, on to a supposedly external national oppression” (p104).

All the same, the claims of the nationalist ideologues are unsustainable.  Davidson alludes to historical evidence to demonstrate that Culloden was not a defeat inflicted on the Scots by the English, nor was the following persecution carried out by the English – the assertions to the contrary by the ideologues of Scottish nationalism notwithstanding.  Nationalist assertions merely serve to blur the national, social and class content of the struggle.

The 1746 Battle of Culloden, saw the rout of the Stewart dynasty and the destruction of Highland clan society by the combined forces of Lowland Scots, German and English regiments paid for by the British state.  During the military occupation of the glens following Culloden, in “…almost every instance it was the Lowland Scottish officers, rather than their English counterparts”, who committed the worst atrocities (p104).

As regards the clearances, with one solitary exception (that of the Duke of Sutherland), those responsible were not only Scottish but Highland Scotts.  The clearances were carried out “…at the behest of Scottish landowners, organised by their Scottish factors and, where necessary, enforced by Scottish police or Scottish regiments” (p105).  In other words, the Highland peasantry was mercilessly ejected from the land by their ‘own’ lairds and sent packing to the Americas in the interests of “indigenous” capitalist accumulation (p106).

It is worth stressing that Britishness offered alluring opportunities for betterment to the Highland gentry and, for this reason, they turned their back on the Highland society and traditions willingly.

The Highlands peasantry suffered terrible oppression, but in essence the clearances were no different from the forcible eviction of the English peasants through the enclosures carried out 400 years earlier in England, or similar suffering of the peasants across Europe in the transition to capitalism.  The eviction of Highlands peasantry can no more be described as colonial oppression any more than can the eviction of the English or European peasantry.

In turn, the Highlanders evicted by their lairds from the land, and forced to emigrate to America, soon began to assume a colonial role in their new homelands.  “The native Americans”, says Davidson, “to whom the Highlanders were so frequently and inaccurately compared, might have expected different treatment at their hands than was generally dispensed by settlers from elsewhere in the British Isles.  Alas, this was not the case” (p105).

As a matter of fact they had no scruples about displacing the native inhabitants “from territories the latter had occupied for much longer than there had been Gaelic-speaking Scots in Scotland[23]

The Highlanders, forced off their land by an indigenous capitalism, proceeded to establish their own control over the inhabitants of another land, in the interests of the same capitalist class. “There is tragedy enough here, surely, without inventing a wholly fictitious colonisation of the Scots, either by the English or themselves” (p106).

A junior partner?

Far from being a victim of any form of colonialism or imperialism, Scotland was, as an integral part of the British state, a significant component of it.  Reality has forced some of the ideologues of nationalism to largely abandon the view of Scotland as an English colony for one which portrays it to be a successful “junior partner” in the larger enterprise of British colonialism and imperialism.  Apart from distracting attention from the unity of the British state and supporting suggestions that elements of the Scottish state survived the 1707 events to operate externally in partnership with England, the notion of Scots as ‘junior partners’ with England flies in the face of facts.  Since in many cases the Scots were in the senior position, the purpose behind the “junior partner” thesis can only be to shirk responsibility.  Scots were crucial to conquering and running the empire.

After the liberation of the American colonies in 1783, the greatest opportunities for the relatively impoverished Lowland landowners – at any rate their younger sons – were to be found in India.

By the mid-eighteenth century 60 per cent of British imports normally came from India.  A small number of merchant agencies controlled this trade.  At their peak, in 1803, of the 23 agencies based in Calcutta, the six most important were dominated by Scots.  And, in Bombay, where trade was controlled by an even fewer number of privileged agencies, there were just five of them, of which at least three were Scottish, exercising a degree of political power beyond the reach of their Calcutta counterparts – in no small measure because of their willingness and ability to make funds available to the East India Company in times of crisis.  In 1772, one in nine of the Company’s civil servants, one in eleven of its soldiers, and, one in three of its officers, were Scots.  The most important economic significance of the Scottish presence in India was the investment in Scotland of the vast amounts of wealth accumulated by them upon their return home.

India had an impact upon eighteenth-century Scotland out of proportion to the number of Scots who went there”, according to one historian.[24]

One might as well say”, adds Davidson, “that Scotland had an impact on India out of all proportion to the number of Scots who went there, although this is an impact the Indians might well have done without”.  Davidson then goes on to reproduce the following description of Britain’s rule in the subcontinent of India by James Callender, a radical Scot active during the 1780s and 1790s:

In Bengal only, we destroyed and expelled within the short period of six years, no less than five millions of industrious and harmless people; and as we have been sovereigns in that country for about thirty-five years, it may be reasonably computed that we have strewn the plains of Indostan with fifteen or twenty millions of carcasses. … The persons positively destroyed must, in whole, have exceeded twenty millions …. These victims have been sacrificed to the balance of power, and the balance of trade, the honour of the British flag…”[25]

Whatever the ideologues of Scottish nationalism may say, it was not ‘English capitalism’ which was responsible for the bleaching of the bones of countless Bengalis in the sun, but British capitalism, of which the Scots were an integral part and in which they played a leading role.  On top of being at the forefront of colonial expansion, the capitalist class in Scotland played a leading role in the export of capital – one of the characteristics of monopoly capitalism.

At the turn of the 19th century, says Davidson, “the Scottish bourgeoisie could legitimately have cried: yesterday, America; today, India; tomorrow, the world.  By 1858, with ‘Pax Britannica’ – or perhaps one should say ‘Pax Caledonia’ – at its height, Williams Burns, a tireless campaigner against real and imagined English slights to Scotland, compiled a comprehensive account of how much the Empire owed to his native land:

“‘Allow us to ask. What portion of our present colonial possessions belonged to England prior to her union with Scotland?  We know of none, except one or two West Indian islands – very profitable appendages they are! – and some narrow strips on the sea-board of Hindustan.  Our Indian empire has risen under the joint energies of Scot, Irishman and Englishman; as the names of such men as Munro, Malcolm, Wellington, Dundas, Stewart, Burness, Napier, Dalhousie, and the recorded exploits of Scottish soldiers assure us.  Australia, New Zealand, the Cape, Malta, Gibraltar, our Chinese establishments, are all in the same position.  The remark, however, applies particularly to Canada, Nova Scotia, and our other North American possessions.  Canada was conquered by Scotsmen; Scotsmen were the pioneers of all our operations, and now form the staple of society in that great country’”(p111)[26]

Britishness

Now what about Britishness and a British nation?  How did it come about?  Linda Colley has argued that Britishness was constructed between 1707 and 1837 from four interconnected elements.  First, popular mobilisation by the British state in its recurrent wars with France; second, the identification of France as the Catholic ‘other’ as opposed to British Protestantism; third, the monarchy, esteem for which welded the other elements into a basically conservative national identity; and finally, the Empire.

Davidson disagrees with Colley saying that these factors were actually “either obstacles to the construction of Britishness (Protestantism) or the cause of political divisions within an already existing national framework (counter-revolutionary Francophobia, Monarchism)”, even though he adds “the latter two factors were clearly important in making the dominant strain in British nationalism a reactionary one after 1789” (p89).  Empire, he agrees, certainly played an important part in the process of the construction of a common British nation.

Whatever role these factors played, in our view the most important factor was the phenomenal commercial and industrial development that Scotland underwent following the defeat of the counter-revolutionary Jacobite risings and the resultant destruction of the fabric of feudal society in the Highlands of Scotland, followed by the industrial revolution in England and Scotland experienced from the final two decades of the eighteenth century.  In the case of Scotland, these developments were truly phenomenal as she was transformed from being a self-sufficient peasant economy to one characterised by capitalist industrialisation within a time frame of three to four decades, whereas development of capitalism had been going on in England for a very long time.  These developments had the effect, on the one hand, of integrating the economy within Scotland, bringing the Highlands into the maelstrom of modern economic development, and bringing the Highlands and Lowlands closer, and on the other hand of creating an integrated British economy embracing England and Scotland.  This, the most important factor, underpinned all others, including participation in the Empire, and provided the material requisites for the creation of a British nation – one with a common language, a common economy, a common territory, a common psychological make-up. Britain, in sum, is not an artificial construct or some casual or ephemeral conglomeration, but a stable and historically constituted community of people.

Once the material basis for the formation of a British nation was in place, the consciousness of this reality increasingly began to be reflected at all levels and in various spheres of life, giving rise to what can be described as a genuine British consciousness.  Our main difference with Davidson on this question is that he quite often incorrectly imputes the existence of the British nation to consciousness, rather than the other way around, namely, explaining British consciousness as arising from the construction and reality of the existence of the British nation although, it must be said, in practice he frequently departs from his wrong theoretical framework.

With the defeat of the Jacobites, and seeing the writing on the wall, the Scottish aristocrats and the traditional elite quickly went over to commercial agriculture and jettisoned Jacobitism for loyalty to the Hanoverian monarchy without much difficulty.  Soon the Highlanders were to become the super-loyal phalanx of British – not English – colonialism.

The unprecedented industrial growth in the late 18th and early nineteenth century, which has been aptly called the Industrial Revolution; an astounding increase in capital accumulation; joint colonisation, exploitation and administration of what was to become a vast British empire; commercial and colonial wars with France, with the entire globe as their theatre – all these served to form a British nation and, with it, a genuinely British consciousness.  In the construction of the British nation, Scotland played a crucial role and was an integral part of it.

Through their participation in industrialisation, the British market, the British overseas expansion and the British state machine, Scottish aristocrats, capitalists and professionals prospered beyond their dreams.  Scots were disproportionately represented in top posts in British politics, the civil service and the armed forces.  Glasgow became on of the principal industrial cities of Britain.

Edinburgh rose to banking prominence, second in importance only to the City of London.

Fictitious Highland culture

Once the Highlanders had been defeated and switched their loyalty away from Jacobitism, as feudal clan society faded, as the Highlands stopped being the bandit country they had been, as loyalty to the Jacobite cause became a forlorn memory and made way for mass recruitment of Highlands regiments into the army, as Gaelic was superseded by English as the principal language of the Highlanders, Lowlanders, for once felt safe and confident to accept, adapt and rejoice in a fictitious Highlands culture, conjured into existence through the efforts of poets and writers – most notably Sir Walter Scott.  This inauthentic Highlandism became the prototype for a supposedly original and common Scottish culture, now closely harnessed to the interests of, and in the service of, British capitalism.  Highlandism, from being something to be “disavowed as a source of shame”, was transformed into something that was “a source of pride” (p129).  Its accoutrement – the plaid, bagpipes and an allegedly ancient, though patently forged Ossianic literature, and other paraphernalia, such as kilts, bonnets and differentiated tartans – were absorbed into an emergent Scottish culture.  The fact that tartanry, earlier on a symbol of the Stuart dynasty and its supporters, was incorporated into the uniform of Highlands regiments, ensured its survival.  Differentiated clan tartans did not originate in antiquity; they were introduced to differentiate different regiments and only afterwards adopted by the clans that spawned them.  The kilt, said Trevor Roper, having been invented by an English Quaker industrialist to bring the Highlanders “out of heather and into the factory”,[27] was “saved from extinction by an English Imperialist statesman [i.e. Pitt the Elder]”.[28] In due course, it spread to all parts of the empire, and wherever the Scots or their descendants settled.

The first to suggest that the kilt had been the traditional dress of the Highlanders was Sir Walter Scott, interestingly in an article in 1805 in which he disputed the authenticity of the Ossianic poems.  He was also the person who stage-managed the ceremonial surrounding George IV’s state visit of August 1822 to Edinburgh, with the King clad in a tartan kilt, greeted by the gathered Highland landowners (whom Scott insisted on calling ‘chiefs’) and the Edinburgh bourgeoisie, while Scott was fully aware of the historical falsity of the undertaking.  Tartanry was simply being used as an embellishment of British imperialism.   The King had sought to show his respect for the customs, which had purportedly prevailed in Scotland before the Union, by wearing what, in the words of Macaulay, “was considered by nine Scotchmen out of ten as the dress of a thief”.[29]

The point, however, is that it had ceased to be so.  Although Sir Walter has been given the credit for welding together the Highlanders and Lowlanders, the truth is that actual developments, as remarked earlier, were driving the two regions of Scotland into fusion.  What Sir Walter did was to give them a literary and artistic, not to say a romantic, expression.  He was not alone in this regard.  There were several institutions engaged in the Celtification of Scotland.  This Celtification added momentum to the forces which were in any case serving to unite the Highlands and Lowlands.

In the words of one writer: “The kitsch Gaeldom of the nineteenth century would conveniently obscure the sacrifice of the Highland peasantry on the altars of political economy”.[30] “In fact, tartanry attained its dominance at precisely the moment in which the existing Gaelic culture was being destroyed” (p139)

Whereas previously Highland clan society had been associated with ‘barbarism’, after the publication of the Ossianic poems by James McPherson it was perceived as not only characterised by backwardness, but also by qualities of nobility and bravery.  MacPherson, as the one who had rescued this world from oblivion, had to be defended – and was defended.  Adam Smith was practically the only one who declined to endorse the revised view of the clans that his colleagues were busy putting forward, saying that they were only sentimentalising the harsh reality of social relations embodied within clan society.

The contradiction between a realistic historical assessment of Scottish feudal society and hankering after a mythical romantic past allegedly representing Scottishness, was only resolved rather late in the post-revolutionary period.  Sir Walter Scott was the foremost figure in this endeavour.  While being aware of the historical inaccuracies of the Ossianic poems, he was not entirely dismissive of them, saying:

“… while we are compelled to renounce the pleasing idea, ‘that Fingal lived and that Ossian sung’, our national vanity may be equally flattered by the fact that a remote, and almost barbarous corner of Scotland, produced … a bard, capable not only of making an enthusiastic impression on every mind susceptible to beauty, but giving a new tone to poetry throughout Europe[31]

One historian has said that Scott was a ‘valedictory realist’. While his valediction is conferred upon a heroic but defeated feudal past, his realism compels him to the conclusion that it would be sheer madness, even if it were feasible, to set that past in opposition to the unheroic but commercially and industrially successful present.[32]

Scott was, though, engaged in using his perception of the Scottish past to create a myth, whereby the virtues of the Highland society could be recognised retrospectively, if only for the purposes of pressing them into service of the British state.  He thus supplied the ideological connection “between the deeds of the Highland soldiers and those of their clan ancestors” (p133).

The fictitious world of the Scottish past, imagined by MacPherson in the Ossianic poems, then by Scott in his poetry and novels, gained much of its conviction, first, from the spread of mass tourism to the Highlands, aptly described as ‘Ossianic touring’ by one writer, and, second, from its former inhabitants who were increasingly the backbone of the British army.

Doubtless, from time to time, middle class Scots harboured grievances about their position within the Union, but they realised only too well the advantages of the Union and the solid reality underpinning it.  Equally, some of them occasionally harked back nostalgically to a mythical Scottish past – a past gone for ever.  Sir Walter Scott gave literary expression to this dual consciousness by showing them how to focus “their confused national emotions upon inessentials.  By validating the making of a fuss about nothing, Scott gave to middle class Scotsmen … an ideology – of noisy inaction.” (pp184-186)[33]

Although Scott had internalised the Scottish enlightenment theory of historical change, and given it artistic expression in his novels, all the same “he can be more usefully seen as the literary representative of the class of improving landownerswho were being replaced in the Scottish class structure by the manufacturers, who brought factories and workers in their wake.  He admires both Union and Empire, but is unwilling to pay the price in the transformation of the Scottish social structure” (ibid, p 163).  Hence his constant fretting over the possibility of armed insurrections during the great working-class demonstrations of 1819.  His ideal is stability through a combination of enterprise, authority, common sense, and paternalist responsibility.

With the advent of industrialisation, this was a forlorn hope, for the bourgeoisie had “…pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘national superiors’, and … left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’, … drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervours, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculations”.  It had resolved “personal worth into exchange”, and “for exploitation, veiled by religion and political illusions”, it had “substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation” (pp33-34)[34]

Scott was only too well aware of it, even if he did not quite enjoy the spectacle of masses of wage labourers increasingly getting organised, and increasingly becoming class-conscious, in response to brutal exploitation and the conditions of squalor in which they lived.  Scott understood the significance of the class conflicts which erupted after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.  It was not merely the middle class that he hoped to imbue with an ideology of “noisy inaction”.  He also clearly saw the usefulness of Scottish national identity to be administered to an increasingly restless proletariat.  Scott was passionately keen to press into service his version of Scottish national identity precisely to prevent class divisions and class consciousness from becoming a dominant feature of the working-class movement; in this context, the Royal visit of 1822, so spectacularly stage-managed by him, was a fairly successful attempt.

Davidson is surely right to observe that “… the major contribution made by Scottishness to the events of the radical years was a component, not, as is so often claimed, of working-class militancy, but of the ideology of a counter-revolution.  In a letter [written in 1826], Scott suggested that only the retention of the Scottish identity prevented Scottish people, or at least their lower orders, from becoming ‘damned mischievous Englishmen’” (p199).

It is a matter of great pride for the British working class that Scottish workers, ignoring Scott’s advice, and overpowering “proud feelings” about their own romantic past, were to become militant class fighters and “formidable revolutionists” in 1820.

A number of nationalist historians have asserted that Britishness was a primary and permanent identity only for the tiny minority at the top: the aristocracy and the upper rungs of the gentry, who alone periodically intermingled in their London houses, intermarried, and sent their sons to posh English schools; that occupationally this group belonged to the officer corps, high officials of the East India Company, as well as diplomatic representatives of British missions abroad.  These historians go on to add that after the 1707 Union, Scottish identity was largely maintained by the lower orders of Scottish society.

In view of the following, such an assertion is devoid of substance.  Between 1746 and 1820, Scotland witnessed an industrial transformation unprecedented in European history, the scale of which would not be repeated until the world historic industrialisation of the Soviet Union from 1929 onwards.  “Scotland packed into about thirty years of crowded development from 1750 to 1780 the economic growth that in England had spread itself over two centuries.[35]  Consequent upon this “Scottish Great Leap Forward[36], the Scottish economy grew in a remarkably short time to equal and even to exceed temporarily that of England.  As a result there was created a single British economy.

This transformation was, to repeat, only made possible by the suppression of the 1745 insurrection and, following it, the destruction of the patriarchal power of the Highland chiefs, the abolition of heritable jurisdictions, and the elimination of the Jacobite party, which had long boasted as the proud guardians of Scottish manners and customs.  The resulting influx of wealth, the expansion of trade, and the advent of industrialisation, transformed the people of Scotland by 1805 into a class of beings as different from their forefathers, as were their English counterparts from those of Elizabethan times.

Though a late starter, by 1820 Scotland’s mills employed a huge 78,000 weavers, who came from the Highlands, Ireland and rural Lowlands in that order.  By 1850, with the sole exception of England and Wales, Scotland had become the most urbanised place in the whole of Western Europe – Glasgow being the second city of the Empire.

With industrialisation came the proletarianisation and, with it the slums of Glasgow and its satellite towns, in which a mass of humanity lived in intolerable conditions of squalor, poor sanitation and frequent outbreaks of epidemics.  This combustible human material was confronted by an unreformed British state in Scotland, totally unresponsive to the needs and demands of the working class, possessed of the most narrow oligarchical franchise, and with governmental power monopolised by members of the aristocracy and its party – the Tory Party – to the exclusion of the Whigs.  There was no freedom of the press, and no political activity, which was not friendly to the existing power structure, was allowed.

The condition of the working class assumed unbearable dimensions following the British victory in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, which concluded 20 years of counter-revolutionary war against France.  The result was a collapse in the demand for armaments and ammunitions and the resultant unemployment, exacerbated by demobilisation of soldiers and renewed immigration from the north of Ireland.  Further, the abolition of income tax meant the transfer of taxes on to essential consumer items such as salt and soap, which hit working-class pockets – the hardest his being the handloom weavers.

This post-war crisis drew the mass of the workers for the first time into the movement for political reform, hitherto the preserve of the petty bourgeoisie and a sprinkling of the dissident members of the bourgeoisie.  The most important demands of this movement, for franchise for working men and annual parliaments, met with contempt on the part of the ruling class.  As a result, on 1st April 1820, a group describing itself as the Committee of Organisation for Forming a Provisional Government, called for a general strike and rising in support of these demands.  The response was nothing short of dramatic, with 60,000 workers striking along the Clyde valley.

At no time in the history of the radical movement between 1792 and 1820”, says Davidson “was Scottish nationalism the predominant political ideology”.

He is able to substantiate this statement by reference to the slogans, proclamations, oaths and actions of this militant movement.  He alludes to the United Scotsmen’s oath, which called upon prospective members to swear that they would persevere in endeavouring “to form a brotherhood of affection amongst Britons of every description and to obtain an equal, full and adequate Representation of all the People of Great Britain”.

Virtually the same formulation finds its way into the oath of one of the secret societies which surfaced in 1815.

It is undeniable that from time to time Scottish radicals dug into Scottish history for inspiration, however this search for revolutionary ancestors was not motivated by sentiments of Scottish separatism, but by an inclination to locate and emphasise every incident or occurrence, whether recent or ancient, that epitomised, and was evocative of, resistance to established authority.

Thus it was not uncommon at working-class demonstration to see banners bearing the names of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, side by side with those invoking the Magna Carta and the rights of Britons, to the accompaniment of the singing of ‘God Save the King’ and ‘Rule, Britannia’, incidentally written by the Scottish James Thomson.

Scottish radicals were just as well occupied with the events in England.  On 11 September 1819, a meeting to demand reform was held in Meikleriggs Muir near Paisley.  The participants marched in military style to the venue of the meeting with slogans, accompanied by a brass band.  The most popular song on the march was Burns’ ‘Scots Wha Ha’e’. The flags were edged with black crepe, the platform was draped over with black cloth, most of the speakers were clothed in apparel reserved for funerals, all in token of mourning for those who had been slaughtered in the ‘Battle of Peterloo’.  At the end, a collection was taken for the widows and orphans of the victims on St Peter’s Fields in Manchester.

The most striking example of Britishness, however, is furnished by the General Strike of April 1820.  The proclamation which heralded the strike was addressed to “the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland”, evoking “those rights consecrated to them by the MAGNA CHARTA and the BILL OF RIGHTS”.  The General Strike call announced that the workers in Scotland had joined the workers in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Cardiff in forming a united working class that was British.  The aim of this insurrectionary movement was to overthrow the government on each side of the border.

The adoption of English radical images in Scotland was reciprocated by the adoption of Scottish radical images in England, with the appropriation of ‘Scots Wha Hae Wi’ Wallace Bled’ as a rallying cry for liberty in Lancashire cotton mills.

British consciousness became dominant among Scottish people following the industrialisation and urbanisation of the Lowlands, especially the industrial west, which became identified with Scotland as a whole through the influx of immigrants from the Highland and Ireland.  Not only did these developments unite the Lowlands and Highlands, welding them into a single whole, they also served to make Scotland indistinguishable from England.  By 1815, there were no separate English and Scottish economies, but a single British economy, which accelerated the process, already under way since the suppression of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, of the formation of a single British nation.

The unprecedented development of capitalism, we may say after Lenin, replaced the ignorant settled peasants of self-sufficient agriculture in isolated communities by mobile proletarians whose conditions of life broke down specifically local narrow-mindedness.

This material reality found its reflection among all classes of Scottish people, who for their respective class reasons, increasingly between 1746 and 1820 began to regard the British aspect of their identity economically, politically, geographically and even culturally as decisive.

In the case of the Scottish working class, the process was facilitated by a number of reasons.  First, the Scottish workers suffered no racial or national oppression similar to that which the Irish workers did; had they been subjected to discrimination and oppression, joint organisation between the English and Scottish workers in the industrial and political arena would have been impossible.  Second, with industrialisation and urbanisation, the industrial west became the centre of economic gravity, and with it the very notion of what it meant to be Scottish changed.  Increasingly the industrial west and Scotland became synonymous.  For its inhabitants and workers, a goodly proportion of whom were of Irish or Highland origin, this was the only Scotland they had ever encountered.  A Scottishness, of which these migrants were an integral part, was very different from that which prevailed even as late as 1776 – the year of publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.  And this industrial west of Scotland was, in turn, indistinguishable from the industrial heartlands in England.  Third, the state which faced the Scottish as well as the English workers was a British state, that was susceptible to reform or overthrow through their joint actions alone.  Finally, Scottish history was characterised by a near-absence of radical values which the rising working-class movement desired to adopt.   Neither Wallace, nor Bruce, nor the Covenanters, were enough to provide the basis for the construction of a radical tradition.  Thus the proletarian movement in Scotland, notwithstanding its incorporation of radical symbols from past Scottish history into its own traditions, was just as well-disposed to English radical beliefs and symbols.

It has been argued that the Scots display a kind of duel consciousness, made up “partly of loyalty to the actuality and opportunity of modern Britain; and partly of loyalty to the memory and tradition of Scotland”, and that this duality “represents a real emotional tension, a contradiction within the citizen which is never resolved[37].  But more important than this, as Davidson remarks, is the fact “for the Scots, their British and Scottish identities do not merely exist in parallel, but interpenetrate each other at every point”.  He adds that “ Scottishness as we know it today not only emerged at the same time as Britishness, but is part of Britishness, and could not exist … without it” (pp201-201).

If the truth be known, a lot of the most demonstrative displays of Scottishness are just because Scottish identity requires constant assertion, whereas British identity is just taken for granted by the overwhelming majority of the British (including Scottish) people, requiring no such assertion.[38]

Conclusion

A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture” (ibid, JV Stalin).

At the time of the 1707 Union, as Scotland lacked some of the essential characteristics of nationhood, it did not constitute a nation then.

When, in the latter part of the second half of the 18th century, Scotland acquired all the characteristics of nationhood, the Scottish people from all classes – bourgeois and proletarian – threw their lot into the construction of a British nation, which was neither English nor Scottish, and in the construction of which Scotts played a crucially important role.  There is nothing artificial or elitist about the British nation as such.  It is well and truly “a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture”.

Our purpose in emphasising this material reality, far from being motivated by an inclination to become propagandists for British imperialist nationalism and chauvinism, is, on the contrary, driven by the need to recognise that which is factually true and the product of real historical development, as well as a burning desire to expose the unscientific, divisive and poisonous nonsense spewed out by the advocates of Scottish nationalism, and thus minimise the danger of a calamitous split in the historically constituted British proletariat.   Our aim is to counter bourgeois Scottish nationalism, which by its very logic and narrow interests is compelled, on the one hand, to deny the elephant in the room – the material reality of the British nation – and, on the other hand, to conjure into existence a phantom Scottish nation.  It is our utmost duty to fight against bourgeois nationalism, which “… drugs the minds of the workers, stultifies and disunites them in order that the bourgeoisie may lead them by the halter …” (Lenin, ibid)

It is our ardent duty to wage an uncompromising struggle against the contamination of the proletariat with bourgeois nationalism, even of the most refined, ‘left’ and ‘socialist’ variety.  “True”, in the never to be forgotten words of Stalin, “such nationalism is not so transparent, for it is skilfully masked by socialist phrases, but it is all the more harmful to the proletariat for that reason.  We can always cope with open nationalism, for it is easily discerned.  It is much more difficult to combat a nationalism which is masked and unrecognisable beneath its mask.  Protected by the armour of socialism, it is less vulnerable” (Stalin, p29).

Hence our duty to fight against the ‘left’ nationalism of the ‘socialist’ Tommy Sheridans and John Fosters of this world, as much as against the bourgeois nationalism of the SNP.

We are fully aware that this article is only too likely to provoke the ire of our nationalist opponents and cause them to accuse us of being British nationalist enemies of the Scottish people – “paper will bear anything that is written on it” (Stalin) – but the interests of the unity of the British proletariat and of its struggle for social emancipation are far too dear to us to be deterred from stating the truth by such threats.

NOTES:

[1] J V Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, FLPH, Moscow 1940

[2] V I Lenin, ‘Critical Remarks on the National Question’, CW Vol 20.

[3] T C Smout, A history of the Scottish people, Fontana Press, Glasgow, 1969, p.27

[4] GWS Barrow, Robert Bruce and the community of the Realm of Scotland, 2nd edition, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1976, p.430

[5] E J Cowan, ‘Identity, freedom and the Declaration of Arbroath’ in D Brown, R J Finlay and M Lynah (eds), Image and Identity, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1998, p.51.

[6] ‘Arguments within Scottish Marxism’,  The Bulletin of Scottish Politics, Vol.1, No. 2, (Spring 1981), pp. 111-33 at p.125

[7] Davidson’s emphasis

[8] Thomas Johnston: The History of the working classes in Scotland, Fourth edition, Unity Publishing Company, Glasgow, 1946, p.146.

[9] Scotland, history and the writer, Edinburgh 1998, p.149.

[10] David Murison, The Guid Scots Tongue, Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1977, p.5.

[11] The ethnic origins of nations, Blackwell, Oxford, 1986, p.26.

[12] Edward Burt, Robert Jamieson, Sir Walter Scott, The Highlanders’ Complaint, Transmitted by a Gentleman of that Country To his Friends at Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1737, p.24

[13] The History Of The Affairs Of Scotland From the Restoration of King Charles II In The year 1660.  And the Later Great Revolution in That Kingdom, Edinburgh, 1690, p.128-9.

[14] Burt’s Letters From the North Of Scotlandwith an introduction by R Johnson, Edinburgh, 1974, Volume 1, pp4-5.

[15] Michael Hechter, Internal Colonialism, London and Henley, 1975, pp9-10,80.

[16] J D Young, The Rousing of the Scottish working class, London 1979, p11

[17] See Alistair Durie, ‘The Markets for Scottish Linen: 1730-1755’, Scottish Historical Review 153-154, 1973, pp30, 38)

[18] Keith Webb, The Growth of Nationalism in Scotland, Glasgow, 1977, p.93

[19] J D Young, ibid, p41.

[20] Soul Brothers Under the Skin, Tinsel Show, Edinburgh, 1992, p168.

[21] The Modern Scottish Novel, Edinburgh, 1999, p30

[22] Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837, London, 1992, p125

[23] James Hunter, A Dance Called America, Edinburgh, 1994, p237.

[24] G J Bryant, ‘Scots in India in the Eighteenth Century’, Scottish Historical Review 177, April 1985, p41.

[25] The Political Progress of Great Britain; Or an Impartial Account Of the Principal Abuses In The Government OF This Country From the Revolution in 1688, Edinburgh, 1792, Part 1, pp1-2.

[26] W Burns, Scotland And Her Calumniators: Her Past, Her Present and Her Future, Glasgow, 1858 pp19-20

[27] Hobsbawm and Ranger (Editors), The Invention of Tradition: the Highlands Tradition of Scotland

‘The invention of tradition’, p22).

[28] Ibid p26.

[29] Thomas Macaulay and Hugh Trevor-Roper, The History of England, London and New York, 1906, Vol. 2. p452.

[30] C Kidd, British Identities before Nationalism, Cambridge, 1999, p145.

[31] W Scott, ‘Report of the Highland Society Upon Ossian, etc’, Edinburgh Review and Critical Journal, 12 July 1805, p462.

[32] T Nairn, ‘Scotland and Europe’, The Break Up of Britain, London 1981, pp114-17.

[33] Nicholas Phillipson, ‘Nationalism and Ideology’, J N Wolfe (Ed), Government And Nationalism In Scotland, Edinburgh, 1969.

[34] Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, FLP, Peking 1965.

[35] Rosalind Mitchison, A History of Scotland, London, 1970, p345.

[36] See Immanuel Wallerstein, ‘One Man’s Meat: The Scottish Great Leap Forward’, Review,Vol.3, No.4, Spring 1980.

[37] Christopher Smout, A Century Of The Scottish People 1830-1950, Glasgow, 1987, pp239-238

[38] See Joyce McMillon, ‘Foreign Lessons In Dressing For Home Rule’, Scotland on Sunday, 22 August 1993.

 

The national question in ScotlandLalkar, September 2012
Scotland: a part of the British nation, Proletarian, December 2012
JV Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913

Posted in UKComments Off on The National Question in Scotland

Scottish nationalism: weakening the working-class movement

NOVANEWS
by hasta_la_victoria

Two years ago, our party conducted some thorough Marxist research into the question of Scottish nationalism. We took a scientific look at the question of Scottish independence in order to find out whether there is any truth to the assertion made by nationalists that Scotland is an oppressed nation in need of liberating from the English imperialist yoke.

This question is of vital importance for communists in Britain today. If we are serious about organising for the revolutionary overthrow of British imperialism, we are going to need the maximum possible unity of the working class in order to achieve that. Everything that divides workers weakens our movement and undermines our chances of success in the class struggle – sexism, racism, ageism, ableism, regionalism … and nationalism.

What is nationalism?

Nationalism is a bourgeois ideology, since nations in the modern sense only appeared in the capitalist era. This can be confusing to understand, since there were feudal kingdoms and loose associations with the same names and similar languages in many parts of the world, but it is important to recognise that these were not nations in the modern sense. Some of these feudal communities went on to develop into modern nations. Others disappeared or were subsumed.

The true nation only appeared on the scene historically with the development of capitalism, as the expansion of commodity production and markets broke down the barriers between previously self-sufficient and isolated feudal fiefdoms and united them in the interests of trade and commerce – bringing a single infrastructure and language, a single set of laws, taxes and customs, and the massive expansion of the capitalist division of labour that made the average individual much more dependent on many others (spread across the entire national territory) for the necessaries of life.

The Marxist definition of a nation is quite precise: “A nation is a historically-evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.” If a group of people lacks even one of these characteristics, they cannot be considered to be a nation. (JV Stalin)

That is why Marxists refute the idea of a ‘jewish nation’ or a ‘muslim nation’, for example. Because a shared religion among people spread across the globe does not make for a nation. There are jewish Americans, jewish Iranians and jewish Germans, and the jews in each of these cases share a language, territory, culture and economic life with their fellow Americans, Iranians and Germans. Likewise, there is no such thing as a ‘black nation’. Black Americans, black Congolese and black French people may share a colour of skin, but their language, territory, economic life and culture are those of America, Congo and France respectively.

Like everything else in human history, nations are a transitional phenomenon, and their lifespan is actually destined to be rather short in the overall scheme of things. Nation states are the form that capitalist class rule took in western Europe, while in the East, where capitalism arrived on the scene somewhat later, multinational states are the norm. Along with classes and the state itself, nations will gradually disappear after capitalism has been replaced everywhere with socialism.

Nationalism is therefore an ideology that has developed out of capitalist production relations, and which reinforces capitalist society. It encourages workers to identify their interests with that of their ‘country’, which means identifying more with their own exploiters than with the exploited peoples of other countries. That is why Marx famously wrote that workers have no country, and why the communists adopt the red flag of the workers rather than identifying with national symbols.

Nationalism and national-liberation

That being the case, one might wonder why we should ever give our support to a national movement. Paradoxically, in the era of imperialism, nationalism in the countries that are oppressed and superexploited by the imperialist powers can very often play a progressive role. It can encourage the oppressed to unite against their oppressors and rise up against them, since the national bourgeoisie is also suppressed by imperialist rule and stopped from developing. In these cases, the workers and the independent-minded national bourgeoisie (as opposed to comprador sections of the bourgeoisie who facilitate imperialist exploitation and oppression) have a shared goal and can become temporary allies, despite their class antagonisms as exploiters and exploited.

When Stalin wrote his famous work on the national question in 1913, his conclusions were endorsed by Lenin and by the international communist movement. He showed that in the interests of the maximum unity of the working class, the rights of oppressednations to self-determination – ie, to be free to organise their lives and economies without interference from imperialist powers – must be respected and fought for. He showed that the struggle of the oppressed peoples for national liberation is a part and parcel of the proletariat’s struggle against imperialism.

He explained that only by recognising and fighting for the rights of the oppressed could workers in the imperialist countries free themselves from the superiority complex that kept them siding with their own exploiters and looking down on the superexploited masses – and that this attitude kept workers in the imperialist countries tied to their own ruling classes and separated from the exploited of the world, who ought to be their biggest ally in the struggle for revolution. This division was and is a major barrier to the development of a real revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries.

On the other hand, Stalin showed that only by having complete freedom to finally determine their own destiny would workers of the oppressed countries ever let go of their own national prejudices and come to see their common interests with workers from the oppressing countries.

National oppression is therefore a bar to the unity of workers and peasants all over the world against their common oppressors, and is thus an impediment to socialist revolution. That is why Marxists support the national-liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples, and why we demand their complete freedom of self-determination. We are supporting these national-liberation struggles because of their democratic and anti-imperialist content, not because we are in favour of encouraging nationalism.

We in the CPGB-ML take these lessons from history very seriously. Of all the people who call themselves communist in Britain, we are the only ones who really take our duties towards the oppressed of the world to heart. Ours is the only party that constantly seeks to show British workers the connection between the superexploitation of workers and peasants abroad and the strength of our ruling-class enemies at home.

Unlike the Trotskyists, we do not try to tell workers in the oppressed countries how they should conduct the struggle against imperialism. We recognise their rights unconditionally and give them and their chosen leaders unstinting support, no matter how they are demonised in the imperialist media. Alone among the British ‘left’ parties we opposed the wars against Libya and Syria from the very beginning – and supported the anti-imperialist leaders of those countries against imperialist vilification.

Unlike the revisionists of the CPB, we do everything in our power to expose the imperialist nature of the Labour party and break the working class’s illusions in social democracy. We do all we can, small as we are, to promote unity with the oppressed masses of the world and to break the connection between the working-class movement and the imperialist stooges who currently control it.

Unlike every other party and supposed ‘solidarity’ movement, we try to show workers in Britain what our rulers on no account wish them to understand: that we have the collective power to stop British imperialism from functioning – whether it is waging illegal wars abroad or making draconian attacks on the working class at home – and should organise ourselves to use it.

No cooperation with British war crimesNo cooperation with capitalist austerity.Workers have the power to stop the wars and stop the cuts. These are our core messages to workers in Britain.

But the same seriousness we apply to our support for the oppressed peoples abroad applies to our waging of all other aspects of the class struggle. This is not a game or a passing popularity contest, but a deadly serious endeavour. We have no hope of winning in the long run if we refuse to take a scientific approach to all important questions; if we pander to popular prejudice and are scared to tell workers unwelcome truths.

The lessons from science and from history are clear. We support the independence movements of the oppressed nations because that weakens imperialism and enables workers to unite on the basis of equality. We do not support anything that divides the working class for no good reason. The coming struggles will be hard enough; we have no business making them even harder by allowing ourselves to be corralled into smaller and smaller groups.

Building for revolution in an imperialist country

Alongside the conclusions discussed above, Stalin also showed very clearly that to demand ‘self-determination’ for every group of workers that has fallen into nationalism is a backward and not a progressive step. He was adamant that unless a group really can be scientifically determined to be a nation in the modern, capitalist sense of the term – and can be shown to be being oppressed and superexploited by imperialism – there is no basis and no justification for dividing the working class.

At all times and in all cases, the paramount consideration for revolutionary Marxists must be the achievement of the maximum strength and unity of the working class. If the development of the capitalist state has already brought together various disparate groups of workers from pre-existing groups or feudal societies and welded them into a single nation (albeit with some differences in their historical backgrounds and local customs), it is not the job of the communists to go re-dividing those peoples along lines that were long ago obliterated in all meaningful ways. That is merely to help the capitalists in their aim of dividing in order to rule.

At the time when Stalin wrote his pamphlet on the national question, the working and oppressed masses in the Russian empire, just like workers today in Britain, were suffering from deep demoralisation. The 1905 revolution had been defeated, and this defeat had led many to believe that the revolution would never happen. After all, at that point, before the success of the 1917 October revolution, Marxism still seemed to many to be an untested theory. As the revolutionary tide receded, nationalism rose to take the place of internationalism and revolution.

In this situation, bourgeois ideology was in the ascendant. Marxism seemed to have been disproved, and many groups sprang up claiming that the solution for their particular group of workers was ‘national self-determination’. Essentially, they said, “Forget about the revolution, forget about socialism, forget about solidarity … if we can get language rights and ‘cultural autonomy’ for our little group, we don’t need to care what happens to anyone else.”

And before they knew it, workers who had been standing together in struggle one day were acting as strike-breakers against their fellows the next, because they had started to identify themselves as being from different ‘national’ groups. Alongside this, they were voting for ‘representation’ in parliaments and other talking shops not on class lines but on ethnic ones, supporting all kinds of anti-working-class scoundrels on the basis of a shared ‘national identity’.

Scottish nationalism serves imperialism

That is why, before coming to a conclusion on the question of Scottish self-determination, we conducted research into the question of Scottish nationhood. And the conclusion we came to was clear: there is no such thing, in the scientific sense, as the ‘Scottish nation’. There may briefly have been an ‘English nation’, which developed out of the feudal kingdoms of England, but that too is long gone. In its place there long ago developed the British nation – into which both English and Scottish rulers and workers alike were amalgamated. This has been an established fact for some 250 years.

There is no evidence to back up the claim that the Scots are being kept down as a nation and denied their right to self-determination in the United Kingdom.

The Irish, on the other hand, have clearly been oppressed for centuries – their people starved, their language and culture suppressed, their resources looted – with the native rulers expropriated and feeling the jackboot as well as the native workers and peasants. Hence the constant resurgence of armed struggle by the Irish people over the years. And hence the fact that the core tenets of the Irish peace process are all about redressing the basic inequality of treatment between the settler-colonial and native populations (protestants and catholics; unionists and nationalists).

There is an interesting point that no Scottish nationalist ever seems to have an answer to. If Scotland is a colony of ‘English imperialism’, how on earth has it managed to win its chance for ‘freedom’ without any kind of struggle?

Where in the world did a colonising power ever give up its hold on power and ability to loot superprofits voluntarily? Where in the world did an oppressed and colonised people ever win their freedom without mobilising a fierce struggle by the masses, usually including the use of arms?

We have seen centuries of armed and political mass struggle by the oppressed and superexploited masses of Ireland, but no such struggle has ever been remotely on the cards in Scotland. If the people of Scotland have really been oppressed and exploited by ‘English’ overlords for so long, we have to ask ourselves: why has such a struggle not materialised?

And then we have to ask ourselves something else: what kind of freedom fighters ever included in their list of demands that they should be ‘allowed’ to keep the key elements of their oppression intact after liberation?

And yet, these are precisely the ‘demands’ of the Scottish nationalist leaders. They wish to keep the British Queen as their head of state, keep the British pound as their currency (“The pound … is as much Scotland’s pound as the rest of the UK’s,” says Alex Salmond), keep the British army regiments currently based in Scotland (and soaked in the blood of the oppressed of the world) as their army, and keep their membership not only of the imperialist EU but even of the nuclear warmongering Nato alliance. Indeed, Alex Salmond has made it clear that the SNP’s commitment to a ‘nuclear-free’ Scotland is of secondary importance to a retained membership of nuclear-armed Nato!

Meanwhile, the Queen, the army and British financial control are precisely the bastions of British imperialist domination that centuries of Irish struggle have been aimed at removing from Irish soil!

It seems from this that what is on offer is not ‘national liberation’ or ‘independence’, but the division of the working class into hostile camps, alongside the continued unity of the exploiters. Business as usual for British imperialism, in fact.

What difference would it really make to workers in Scotland if Britain’s Trident missiles were shoved over the border to Berwick or Bowness? Would they be less likely to suffer the effects of nuclear fallout from such a move? Would a Nato-aligned Scotland be any less culpable for the use of nuclear weapons by the Nato alliance?

Those who imagine that they are ridding themselves of a large section of exploiters in voting for independence should consider carefully: Alex Salmond will not be the last representative of the British ruling class in ‘independent’ Scotland; only the most visible one. Just as in the case of ‘Westminster rule’, the real decisions will continue to be made by the British billionaire class behind the scenes.

The SNP leadership may seem to represent a less seasoned brand of exploiters, but, make no mistake, they and their replacements will simply be what all other British politicians are and have been for centuries – the public face of a very old, very experienced and very cunning ruling class.

All Alex Salmond’s statements about Nato, the Queen, the pound, the army and so on, are simply his job-interview promises to that class. In effect, he is telling his bosses: “Don’t worry, I understand what is required of me and will do the job you need me to do.” And just as in the case of Cameron, Blair and co, voting out Salmond would simply bring another Salmond clone into his place.

So what would the ‘independence’ that is on offer (as opposed to the imaginary castles-in-the-sky of various ‘left-nationalist’ illusion-mongers) really mean for workers in Scotland?

The reality, far from being the socialist paradise that is painted by the ‘left-wing’ supporters of nationalism in Scotland, will simply be a race to the bottom, as the governments in the two territories compete to ‘attract investment’ and to prove their subservience to monopoly capital by lowering wages, lowering corporation tax, removing workers’ rights, removing environmental protections and so on. The break-up of the union carries the prospect of an even faster erosion of the rights of the working class, helping our rulers to lower workers’ pay and rights more quickly than if they had to continue with a full-frontal attack on the entire British workforce in one go.

After all, breaking up the NHS into regional groups and attacking them with different levels of ferocity has been of great assistance in the work of reprivatising Britain’s health service. Workers in Scotland have been lulled into a false sense of security that if they keep voting nationalist the cuts will never come to them, while the workers in England have been left to stand alone against the worst of the attacks so far.

Of course, experience of such things teaches us that the ruling class is expert at picking us off bit by bit in order to achieve its aims. There is every reason to suppose that NHS privatisation will come to Scotland – and will be even harder to resist by workers in Scotland who have seen them happening elsewhere and will have been told that there is no alternative, and who will receive no back-up from their compatriots over the border in England.

The prospect of a destructive race to the bottom is perfectly illustrated by Alex Salmond’s proposal to cut corporation tax in an independent Scotland. Salmond has stated that: “Corporation tax rates remain an important tool for securing competitive advantage and for offsetting competitive advantages enjoyed by other parts of the UK, notably London.”

Even bourgeois critics of this policy have pointed out thatAlex Salmond wants to turn the nations of the UK into competitors, with the risks to jobs and conditions that would involve.”

This is a law of economics under capitalism, and especially in times of crisis, when unemployment is climbing ever higher and workers are desperate for whatever they can get. Whichever side of the separation border has better protections for workers, higher taxes and so on, will be bound to be seen as less ‘attractive’ to ‘investors’ (capitalists), since anything that benefits workers cannot help but impact levels of profitability.

So investment will flock to the more ‘flexible’ side of the border, and the cry will go up on the other side … we, too, need to be more ‘flexible’ and ‘attractive’. Down will come the wages, the corporation taxes and other ‘barriers’ to profit-taking. Back will come the exploiters to reap the rewards … until the workers on the other side of the border can be forced to accept even worse pay and conditions in the interests of ‘job creation’ and ‘competitiveness’.

In effect, the implementation of the border will help to speed up the process of ‘persuading’ British workers to accept the same kind of pay and conditions as are standard in the oppressed countries – and to lessen their collective resistance. Such a future has appeal to the ruling class, but it is hardly the manifesto of a liberation struggle! Meanwhile, the Scottish nationalists are working hard to prove to the capitalists that this is a game they are more than willing to play their part in.

‘Progressive’ nationalism: a mirage

All the ‘progressive’ arguments in favour of Scottish independence ignore these facts, basing themselves in shallow, short-sighted and sentimental arguments that mistake wishes for truths and dreams for reality.

Here are just a few of the more widespread examples of wishful thinking by the independence supporters of Britain’s ‘left’:

1. The Tories will be decimated in Scotland, and this will be good for workers, who will finally get local powers instead of being ruled from Westminster.

This argument replaces the realities of class struggle with the illusions of bourgeois politicking. Anyone who knows anything about capitalism and the bourgeois state can tell you that there is no essential difference between any capitalist party in Britain today.

What good does it do to the workers of Scotland if they simply replace the Conservatives, Labour and LibDems with the SNP? They all serve capitalist imperialism.They are all parties of war and austerity. Recent history is enough to show us that any number of Labour or SNP landslides will still bring war, genocide and looting abroad, and privatisation, crisis and austerity at home, because these are built into the system that all the British bourgeois parties serve.

We are told that people in Scotland didn’t vote for the Tories and it’s a travesty of democracy that they should have to be ruled by them.

But workers didn’t vote overwhelmingly for the Tories in plenty of other parts of Britain. Most of the poorest workers didn’t vote at all. The first-past-the-post system and the constant changing of electoral boundaries (gerrymandering) mean that by upping their vote from 32.4 to 36.1 percent of votes cast (ie, a less than 4 percent rise), the Tories in 2010 were able to increase their number of seats in parliament from 210 to 307 (a 46 percent rise). Meanwhile, the LibDems, on whom so many well-meaning liberals placed their hopes in 2010, raised their votes from 22 to 23 percent but actually lost five seats.

Likewise, we are told that most Scottish people don’t support the policies being implemented by the Tory-led coalition, and this proves they are being ‘undemocratically’ and unfairly treated.

Once again, though, this actually applies to workers all over Britain, who overwhelmingly reject the wars and austerity of both the current ConDem and the previous Labour government. Should we therefore be arguing for the republic of Yorkshire or the republic of Merseyside? These regions, too, have large populations of disenfranchised workers, who never voted Tory, feel disconnected from London and have seen their industry and services decimated.

Even the hatred for ‘London’ is misplaced and confused. London may be where the City bankers are based, along with the Westminster quislings, but it is also home to some of Britain’s poorest people. And Londoners don’t generally vote Tory or UKIP either. Should they be given their own republic to free them from this democratic deficit?

Neither the separation of Scotland from Britain, nor a change in the voting system will fix these problems for workers. The capitalist parties will do what the capitalist ruling class requires them to do, no matter how people vote or how many of them take to the street to express their ‘peaceful opposition’.

If the Iraq war taught us nothing else, it surely taught us that. A landslide Labour electoral victory and two million marchers on the streets had absolutely no impact on the dominant section of the British imperialist ruling class’s will or ability to wage a genocidal war that the people of Britain – and even a section of the bourgeoisie – were absolutely opposed to. That is the truth about our much-vaunted ‘democratic’ system.

Progressive people should be using those facts to expose the institution of British bourgeois democracy entirely and to build a movement for its revolutionary overthrow, not as a justification for dividing the working class and propagating the (totally false) illusion of a ‘fairer deal’ for just a few of them. The truth is that the struggle for a better deal for workers will actually be much harder to wage in a smaller country with an even further weakened working-class movement, where workers have been turned away from class struggle and persuaded to pin their hopes on nationalist illusions.

Meanwhile, as far as local powers go, this is also a demand of workers everywhere, and fully supported by communists. We want ‘devo-max’ for every part of Britain, not just for Scotland or Wales. Indeed, local councils with elected representatives, which are actually empowered with tax-raising and decision-making powers, are one of the many concessions granted to workers – along with council housing, a health service, free education etc – that have been under attack in the years since the overproduction crisis took hold in the late 1970s.

The lesson of this is that we cannot trust the capitalist system to be run in the interest of workers. Everything we win in the course of class struggle can be taken away again if we let down our guard. The only way to keep hold of the gains we make is to get rid of the capitalist system and establish socialism. A lack of local powers is not an argument for nationalism; it is an argument for socialism.

2. The SNP is anti-war and will take Scotland out of Nato. No more imperialist wars for Scottish workers to fight in.

Replacing the Tories with the SNP will not change the requirements of the imperialist ruling class by one iota, and the SNP has shown that it understands this and is ready to serve that class just as faithfully as Labour, the Tories or the LibDems.

That is why, the closer it gets to the possibility of an ‘independent’ Scotland, the more of the SNP’s progressive-seeming policies (which were only ever there as window-dressing to attract voters) are being ditched. The promise to keep Scotland in Nato, along with reassurances about the importance of ‘Scotland’s’ British army regiments, are a sure sign that the warmongering requirements of the ruling class remain a key factor in who can and cannot get elected – and what they will have the power to do (or not) – north of the border should ‘independence’ come to pass.

Those who spread the illusion that Scottish nationalism is somehow ‘anti-imperialist’, and that an independent Scotland will see the Scottish ruling class opting out of imperialist wars altogether, are lying to themselves and to the workers. There might be disagreement between members of the ruling class over this or that war, but the overall policy of warmongering is not going to change, since that is at the root of the wealth of the British ruling class – both north and south of the border.

The French ruling class did not take troops into Iraq. Does that mean they stopped being imperialists and warmongers? One has only to look at the crimes committed by French imperialist troops in recent times in Libya, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and more by the ‘socialist’ government of Hollande to see that disagreement over one particular war doesn’t mean an end to imperialist war in general.

3. The SNP has a more progressive manifesto for education and health care in Scotland. Independence will allow them to carry these out.

It is true that the SNP, like Plaid Cymru and even the LibDems (until they were so deservedly exposed by joining the coalition government in 2010) have or had stated policies that were considerably to the left of the last Labour government on most social issues – hence their relative rise in popularity at a time when the working classes have been so thoroughly disillusioned with Labour and demoralised by the failure of the trade-union and social-democratic movements to represent them or struggle for their rights.

Both the Welsh and the Scottish national assemblies have been allowed some power to reject privatisation and cuts in these vital services. What is not clear is that this is a situation that would continue after ‘independence’.

On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that allowing the nationalists some financial scope to appear progressive on these fronts has objectively paid dividends for the ruling class. It has broken the unity of the fight to save services (since Welsh and Scottish voters think they are not affected) and given a massive boost to nationalist sentiments (thus keeping workers away from revolutionary ideology at a time of crisis, just when they need it most).

But the post-independence race to the bottom would be very likely to see these small gains eradicated. And, indeed, such petty gains are small beer indeed compared to the goal of a socialist Britain. Are we really prepared to sell ourselves and settle for so very little?

Not jobs, pensions, housing, health care and education with security, equality, freedom, dignity and the end of class exploitation and rule, but a slightly-less-buggered-up health service and slightly-less-shitty education policies? Frankly, we deserve a little better than to sell our birthright for such a mess of pottage!

4. British imperialism will be weakened by the departure of Scotland from the UK, and that will be good for workers at home and abroad.

There is no evidence that this is anything more than wishful thinking on the part of those who assert it. As indicated above, the Scottish nationalists, as represented currently by the SNP, have expressed their intention of setting up a ‘state’ that keeps all the important pillars of British rule intact – the army, the monetary union, membership of the EU and Nato, the Queen (spokesperson and figurehead of a united British ruling class).

Moreover, BBC propaganda has been extremely sympathetic to Scottish nationalism. It long ago changed the status of Wales and Scotland from ‘regions’ to ‘nations’ in its coverage, and it has given an open platform to nationalists from every walk of life to make their case most forcefully and without interruption. Given how infamous the BBC is for vilifying and misrepresenting every real opponent of British imperial interests – from Palestinian and Irish freedom fighters to the leaders of socialist and anti-imperialist states like Fidel Castro or Robert Mugabe – this is strange indeed.

Taking the BBC as a barometer of class sentiment, this readiness to disseminate nationalist ideology is hardly the behaviour of a class that feels its interests to be threatened. On the contrary, the coverage has all the elements of a massive sideshow – a huge and fraudulent sleight of hand that is being perpetrated on the workers of Britain, with the same mock debates, fake ‘choices’ and personality politics that characterise all our electoral charades.

And now the latest rumour is that Rupert Murdoch is getting ready to back the ‘Yes’ campaign. A more hard-headed and warmongering member of the imperialist ruling class would be difficult to find. He may talk about his Scottish forefathers, but he calculates with his blood-soaked wallet.

5. To campaign for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum is to side with the BNP, the unionists and the Orange Order, and therefore it must be against the interests of the working class.

This argument is as unscientific as all the rest, and has its roots in an emotive, tribal approach to class politics. While such instincts often serve progressive workers very well, they are not infallible and are all-too open to manipulation when not firmly rooted in a scientific analysis – just as a hatred of racism can turn into a hatred of all white people and a belief in black nationalism if the roots of racism are not properly understood.

Identifying ‘unionists’ as the enemy based on an allegiance to and sympathy with Irish republicans means ignoring the very real differences in the class positions of unionists in Glasgow and unionists in Belfast. The unionists in Belfast are a settler-colonial population who were for centuries granted significant material privileges in return for acting as local tools of the British imperialist ruling class – in much the same way as Israeli workers are rewarded for keeping the Palestinian people down.

Just as they did for the Israelis or South African whites, the material conditions of the Irish unionists produced a culture of racist supremacy and violence, which, alongside the well-deserved hatred of the native-Irish masses, pushed them to identify themselves with their own exploiters to such a degree that nothing short of destroying the sectarian northern-Irish statelet could open their eyes to their idiocy – by first removing the material basis for their supremacist ideology.

The tribal aspect of this ‘protestant-catholic’ or ‘unionist-republican’ rivalry has been transplanted wholesale to cities in Britain that have a sizeable Irish-immigrant population, and has been a very useful tool for the British ruling class in keeping workers divided. Glasgow, in particular has suffered from this, and seen it entrenched via the football terraces.

But, while the Irish have suffered the fate of every immigrant population into Britain in their time as cheap labour and easy scapegoats, the differentiation between these groups of workers, however real in the past, has its basis today more in perceived than in real differences, as the Irish have been assimilated and fresh waves of immigrants have arrived in Britain’s cities. Today, newly-arrived workers from eastern Europe or Africa are far more obvious scapegoats for working-class ire in Scotland as elsewhere, but the tribal identities of protestant vs catholic are kept alive in Glasgow in particular via the football rivalry of Rangers vs Celtic, just as the England vs Scotland divide is kept alive in the field of international football.

Meanwhile, our party has to take a position based on a clear understanding of the question, and not out of a fear regarding whom we might seem to be associated with.

There is emotive rubbish being talked by charlatans on both sides of the referendum campaign in Scotland, and working-class people are taking up the cudgels on both sides too – for a whole variety of real or perceived reasons. Our job as communists is to try to provide some clarity and some rational, class basis for taking a position. And our position must always be based on what is going to be in the long-term interests of the revolutionary movement.

Because UKIP are opposed to Nato’s war in the Ukraine, should we suddenly abandon a correct analysis and join the side of Nato? Of course not. We must demonstrate clearly the difference between taking up a position based on Little-England racism and one that is based in proletarian internationalism – and then do everything in our power to show workers why it is in their interests to accept our analysis and join the struggle for revolution.

The unionists want British workers to identify with the class interests and the national symbols of our oppressors. They want to divert the anger of workers down a blind alley and dissipate their energies into pointless activity. We communists, on the other hand, want to show workers that their interests lie in the maximum unity of all British workers against all British oppressors. We want them to identify their interests with the oppressed everywhere, to discard the blood-stained Cross of St Andrew along with the blood-stained Union Jack (the Butcher’s Apron, as the Irish so aptly refer to it), and to build a movement for overthrowing imperialism and building socialism.

But we will not do that without understanding clearly who are our friends and who are our enemies. The fact that good, well-meaning and generally progressive people have been misled must not prevent us from “seeking truth from facts”, as Mao so profoundly expressed it.

Nationalism vs communism

The fact that many progressive Scots wish to see British imperialism weakened, andhope that by voting for independence they will achieve this aim, does not prove that that is what will actually happen.

What we are witnessing in Scotland today has its echoes all over Britain. The outward appearance may be more progressive, since many left-wing workers support the call for independence, but it is essentially a mirror of the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment among impoverished and misguided English workers, arising from the same demoralisation and the same frustrations.

All over Britain, revisionism and the disappearance of a real, class-conscious communist movement left the most militant workers bereft of leadership and guidance. The Labour party, in which they had been encouraged to put their hopes, has proved itself irrevocably to be a tool of imperialism. It is clearly not in the interests of workers to continue voting for it or supporting it.

So as war and crisis bite ever deeper, workers have been asking themselves what the solution is. And into the gap left by the communists has crept nationalism. In England, this takes the form of anti-immigrant sentiment. That immigration is a ‘problem’ is a ‘truth’ so universally acknowledged that it is very hard to persuade workers that they have been duped on this issue.

In Scotland and Wales, a more progressive-seeming brand of nationalism has been offered up as the ‘answer’ to the problems of capitalism. But its effect is the same – it gives workers a scapegoat for the ills of capitalist society. “Don’t blame capitalism, blame the immigrants!” say the BNP and EDL to angry and disillusioned workers in England. And the media agrees. “Don’t blame capitalism, blame the English!” say the SNP and Plaid Cymru to the angry and disillusioned workers in Scotland and Wales. And the media agrees.

That people are in the mood to fall for this misdirection is a sign that they understand that something is wrong and that something must be done. They have understood that this society is not serving them, and given up hopes of a worker-friendly Labour government. So far, so good. But without a clear analysis and leadership, it can be very hard to understand where all the various ‘solutions’ on offer will really lead.

Back when Britain had a strong communist movement, nationalism among class-conscious workers was almost non-existent. This explains why there is such a generational divide amongst working-class voters in Scotland today – older people are far, far less likely to vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum, because they belong to a generation amongst whom it was generally understood that class allegiances were paramount.

No argument has yet been put forward to convince us that Scotland’s rulers will cease to be imperialists after a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum. Therefore all that nationalism does in such a context is to teach workers in Scotland to identify their interests with those of imperialism. This is an outcome devoutly to be unwished!

As communists, our job is to propagate a scientific understanding in order to help workers discard harmful popular prejudices. If we don’t do that, then there’s really not much point to our existence, since it is only through discarding the prejudices that keep us shackled to imperialist ideas that we will be able to build a movement capable of smashing imperialism and building socialism.

When we in the CPGB-ML argue against a ‘Yes’ vote at the coming referendum, we do so not because we wish to endorse the rule of the Westminster spivs or because we consider ‘rule from London’ a good thing, but because we wish workers to understand that it is not ‘the English’ who are their enemies, but the British ruling class. And because we wish to create a movement that is as strong and unified as possible that will have a fighting chance of overthrowing this wily class of bloodthirsty exploiters.

Say no to bourgeois nationalism, which ties workers to imperialism and turns us into tools of our own oppression. Say yes to working-class unity, yes to revolution, and yes to a socialist future for all British workers!

 

The national question in Scotland, Lalkar, September 2012
Scotland: a part of the British nation, Proletarian, December 2012
JV Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913

 

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“Cruising Into History” HSP’s 2004 Visit to Haiti

NOVANEWS

Cruising Into History - Haiti 2004
Dr. Ron Daniels, President, Institute of the Black World 21st Century, Founder, Haiti Support Project

January 1, 2014 marked the 210th Anniversary of the Haitian Revolution, one of the greatest events in human history. Never before had an enslaved people rebelled against their slave masters to declare their independence and establish a nation. Inspired by the exhortations and sacrifice of the spiritual priest Boukman and ably led by Toussaint Louverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe and Alexandre Petion, this is precisely what the enslaved Africans of Haiti achieved. They crushed the military forces of Napoleon Bonaparte at the pinnacle of his power and established the world’s first Black Republic!

As I have noted on numerous occasions, the Haitian Revolution was a bright beacon of hope to enslaved Africans everywhere because it shattered the myth of white supremacy at a time when the holocaust of enslavement was flourishing and fueling the economic development of Europe and the embryonic American nation. The improbable emergence of a “Black nation” and the symbol it represented for enslaved Africans posed a serious threat to a thriving enterprise in human souls, nourishing the commercial, financial and industrial development of erstwhile competing European powers. They had a collective interest in denigrating, demonizing, marginalizing and crippling this symbol of Black empowerment … and they did everything possible to achieve this objective.

But, the genie was out of the bottle. The efforts by Europe and America to demonize and suppress Haiti notwithstanding, the saga of the glorious defeat of the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte and the establishment of a Black Republic was indelibly etched into the “souls of Black folks.” If Black/African Haitians could defeat the European colonial slave masters (the Haitians also defeated the British and Spanish), there was a concrete example and thereby spark of hope that people of African descent throughout the world could defeat their white supremacist oppressors. It is for this reason that I have consistently argued that people of African descent owe a special debt of gratitude to the Haitian freedom fighters and Haiti for giving Black people back our dignity, hope, inspiration during the bitter season of enslavement and colonial domination. It is this debt that I contend must be paid by a collective/Pan African effort to resurrect the first Black Republic and return it to its rightful place as a bright beacon of hope for people of African descent and oppressed humanity. Repaying this debt is the driving, motivating force behind my relentless commitment via the Haiti Support Project (HSP) to educate, politicize, mobilize/organize Africans in America to become a powerful partner and force, respectfully contributing to the process of democracy and development in the first Black Republic!

Ten years ago, January 1, 2004, I had the honor and privilege of traveling to Haiti as a special guest, along with Danny Glover and Herb Boyd, to observe the official Bicentennial Commemoration of the Haitian Revolution. The proceedings were presided over by Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected President. What a memorable day! While there were dignitaries present from around the world, we were particularly proud of the fact that Erna Letemps, a Haitian American associate of HSP, drew the honor of singing the Haitian National Anthem on this auspicious occasion. In another unforgettable highlight of the day Leslie Voltaire, Minister of Haitians Living Abroad, arranged transportation for our party to travel to Jacmel to visit Haiti’s First Daughter, the highly acclaimed writer Edwidge Danticat. It was a wonderful afternoon. In an ominous sign of foreshadowing events to come, when our party returned from the visit with Sister Danticat, streets in downtown Port-Au-Prince were filled with bricks, bottles, debris and others signs of strife as forces opposed to President Aristide had turned out for demonstrations.

The day was also exhilarating because the Haiti Support Project was in the final stages of organizing perhaps the most ambitious and amazing tribute to the Haitian Revolution and Haiti ever attempted by African Americans – Cruising Into History, an effort to charter an entire cruise ship for a Pilgrimage to Haiti in August 2004 to coincide with Bwa Kayiman, the insurrection by enslaved Haitians, led by Boukman in 1891, which was the inspirational spark that ignited the Haitian Revolution. Cruising Into History (CIH) was envisioned as a spectacular but relevant/meaningful climax to a year of celebrating the Haitian Revolution. The goal was to mobilize hundreds of African Americans, Haitian Americans and friends of Haiti to embark on an extraordinary Pilgrimage to connect with our sisters and brothers in Haiti and build bonds of cultural, educational, economic and political solidarity; bonds that would contribute to the development of Haiti well into the 21st Century.

Consistent with HSP’s vision/mission of “building a constituency for Haiti” among African Americans and other people of African descent, CIH was conceived as a way, not only to take a cruise ship to Haiti to celebrate the Bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution but as a vehicle to provide massive public education about the history, culture and contributions of the Haitian people to the Black World and humanity. Because of the limited number of quality hotel accommodations in Haiti, particularly in the northern region of the country near Cap Haitien, the decision was to make a cruise ship the hotel. This region was selected as the focal point of the Pilgrimage because of its proximity to the Citadel, the magnificent mountaintop fortress built by King Henri Christophe to deter further French or European invasions after the Revolution.

Conceived by Black minds and built by Black hands the Citadel, which sits high atop a mountain, is one of the great monuments of freedom/self-determination in the world. As such, UNICEF has declared it one of the “wonders” of the world! The ultimate goal of CIH was to take hundreds of African-Americans, Haitian Americans and friends of Haiti to the Citadel to promote cultural-historical tourism as a socially responsible mechanism for people-based economic development. As organizers we also hoped to secure sufficient sponsorships to cover the expenses of the Pilgrimage and generate a surplus to create a financial foundation for the emerging Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) and the Haiti Support Project.

It was an awesome undertaking. To achieve success we had to persuade Royal Caribbean International, the only cruise line that travels to Haiti, to charter a ship to a relatively small, non-profit organization. Second, we needed to persuade 3,000 people in a skeptical public in Black America to sign-up for a cruise to “the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.” Finally, we needed to persuade sponsors that investing their dollars in a venture of this kind was a worthwhile proposition, one that was “safe” to enhance their corporate brand.

Given the occasion of the Bicentennial of the Haiti Revolution and the deep reverence for this historic achievement among Black organizations and leaders in Black America, we were fortunate to secure the endorsement and commitments of engagement/participation from a number of prominent African Americans. Marc Morial, former Mayor of New Orleans, who had recently been named President/CEO of the National Urban League, agreed to serve as Chairman of CIH (Marc’s family is of Haitian descent). Danny Glover, a passionate supporter of Haiti, eagerly agreed to serve as Ambassador-at-Large. Congress Members John Conyers, Maxine Waters and Sheila Jackson-Lee; Bev Smith, Talk Show Host, American Urban Radio Networks; Kwesi Mfume, President, NAACP; George Fraser, President/CEO, FraserNet; Susan L. Taylor, Editorial Editor, Essence Magazine; Leonard Dunston, President, National Association of Black Social Workers; Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts and Rev. Dr. Major Jemison, Progressive National Baptist Convention; Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, President, Rainbow/PUSH; L. Londell McMillan, President, North Star, Inc.; Haki Madhubuti, author, poet and President, Third World Press; Sonia Sanchez, author, poet; Dr. Adelaide Sanford, Vice-Chairperson, New York State Board of Regents; Atty. Faya Rose Toure, Founder, National Voting Rights Museum; Drs. Karl and Faye Rodney, Editor/Publishers, New York Carib News; Joe Beasley, Southern Rainbow/Push Coalition; and, Dr. Gilbert Parks, Chairman Emeritus, National Medical Association were among the African American leaders who embraced CIH.

The Pilgrimage also had strong support within the Haitian community, including the Government of Haiti. With the blessing of President Aristide, Leslie Voltaire, Minister for Haitians Living Abroad, became an active proponent for CIH. Guy Victor, Counsel General from Miami, and Harry Fouche, Counsel General from New York, were very supportive as well. The American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti endorsed CIH as did a number of Haitian American leaders: Edwidge Danticat; Jean Jean Pierre, artist, journalist, political commentator; Jan Mapou, Proprietor Libreri Mapou; Dr. Rudy Moise, President, Radio Carnival; Serge and May Parisien, National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians; and, Ricot Dupuy, Radio Soleil to mention a few.

This impressive array of African American and Haitian leaders was helpful in moving all aspects of CIH forward. But, Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line (RCI) was initially reluctant to take on such an ambitious and, from its perspective, risk-filled project. After all, what assurances did the company have that HSP could implement such a grandiose enterprise? And, if they agreed and the project failed, would it adversely affect RCI’s brand? Fortunately, though HSP’s relationship with RCI had gotten off to a rocky start, there was a reservoir of good will that was the basis for frank and productive discussions. A few years earlier, an HSP contingent aboard an RCI ship had been denied the right to leave its private destination at Labadee (which at that time was not even listed as being in Haiti) to travel to the nearby town of Milot for a tour of the Citadel. Though RCI had been advised of our intent in advance, apparently the Port Manager at Labadee was instructed to deny us permission to leave Labadee on the grounds of potential liability to the company should anything happen to our group.

This event generated a great deal of anger because the tour of the Citadel was the primary reason for taking the cruise. At the conclusion of the cruise, I shall never forget penning a Vantage Point Article entitled: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Maintains Neo-Colonial Enclave in Haiti. In addition to reaching more than 100 Black Newspapers across the country, I circulated the article to every major civil rights/human rights leader as well as faith, civic and fraternal organizations along with a letter of protest to Richard Fain, Chairman/CEO, RCI. Chairman Fain agreed to meet with an HSP team at RCI’s headquarters in Miami at which we articulated our embarrassment and outrage at being denied the right to leave RCI’s premises at Labadee, (also attending this crucial meeting were Maryse Kedar, former Minister of Tourism for Haiti and Director of Operations at Labadee and Michele Smith, Director of Communications, two sisters who eventually became allies of HSP in our efforts to build a constructive working relationship with RCI). While stating his reservations about our desire to venture beyond the walls of RCI’s compound, Chairman Fain listened with a sympathetic ear, expressed regrets about the incident and gave assurances that should we wish to leave the compound in the future, we would not have the same problem. True to his word, the next year an HSP contingent was welcomed ashore by Minister Leslie Voltaire and escorted to the Citadel for a guided tour by Patrick Delatour — an expert on the history of the fortress who would come to serve as Minister of Tourism, and Jean V. Geneus, who would eventually serve as Minister for Haitians Living Abroad under President Rene Preval.

The positive outcome of these events was the basis for the reservoir of goodwill with RCI. Nonetheless, the discussions were not easy. Among other things, HSP sought to overcome RCI’s reservations by pressing the case for the importance of the Pilgrimage as part of the Bicentennial Commemoration of the Haitian Revolution and the value of such a venture to RCI’s brand as it sought to expand its market share among African Americans. Apparently the same message was passed on to officials of RCI by some prominent Black leaders, most notably Kwesi Mfume, President of the NAACP, who was acquainted with HSP’s work in Haiti and our standing in Black America. Whatever the influences that turned the tide, officials at RCI eventually agreed to Charter a ship to HSP for CIH!

However, the terms and conditions for contracting the charter were challenging. When I first talked to the officer from RCI assigned to work with HSP on CIH, I mentioned the possibility of chartering “two cruise ships.” I could hear the utter disbelief and “get serious” attitude in her voice as she bluntly laid out the requirements for chartering a ship. HSP would have to produce a Letter of Credit of $2.5 million to insulate RCI from losses resulting from removing one of its ships from normal cruise rotation. And, the LOC had to be in place by a time certain or the offer would have to be denied. HSP and its supporters faced the daunting task of simultaneously promoting CIH to recruit 3,000 passengers to fill the ship, embarking on an improbable search to find an individual or corporation willing to put up a $2.5 million LOC and making our case to corporations/businesses in hopes of securing sponsorships.

I can confidently say, without fear of contradiction, that the public relations/outreach/mobilization campaign launched by HSP to promote CIH did more than any effort ever to educate African Americans about the history, culture, contributions and current status of the First Black Republic! Over a two year period HSP hosted major promotional Luncheon Receptions aboard RCI ships in Miami, New Orleans and New York. Other Receptions were held in Houston, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Brooklyn. Danny Glover, Marc Morial, Susan Taylor and Congressman John Conyers were frequent celebrity guests at these events.

The American Urban Radio Networks (AURN) took the lead as our national media partner with Bev Smith constantly utilizing her show to educate her audience about Haiti and provide information about CIH. AURN also ran celebrity PSAs to promote the Pilgrimage. In New York WLIB/WBLS regularly ran PSAs and provided opportunities for on-air interviews. WWRL and WBAI were also supportive. Radio Soleil took the lead in informing the Haitian community. In Philadelphia WHAT provided a similar opportunity. From WVON in Chicago, WAOK in Atlanta to stations in Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston, Cleveland and beyond, the radio stations and Black newspapers that supported CIH are too numerous to mention. If you listened to Black Talk Radio and read Black Newspapers, you heard about the history and culture of Haiti and the unique Pilgrimage being planned to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Haiti Revolution – Cruising Into History. Deposits were flowing in and people were signing up for a once in a life time experience.

The quest to secure the LOC proved very difficult. Working hand and hand with Wayne Thompson, IBW Board Member and the person with the most business acumen in our circle, we mounted an exhaustive effort to identify a person and/or company that would agree to provide the LOC. What seemed to us to be a simple proposition of recruiting 3,000 plus passengers to embark on this extraordinary cruise (which was the basic requirement to guarantee RCI sufficient revenues for removing a ship from scheduled travel rotation) was viewed in strict, risk aversion terms by virtually everyone we approached — Exciting project but not with my/our money as the guarantor. But, in a stroke of good fortune, someone referred us to a relatively quiet, little known (except in certain circles) philanthropically inclined businessman from Philadelphia named Dr. Walter Lomax.

I made a cold call. To my surprise Dr. Lomax, who was a major financial supporter of the Matah Network and other Black economic/business ventures, was familiar with my work via Vantage Point articles, which appeared in Black newspapers in Philadelphia. His wife Beverly was also a fan. I outlined the historical significance and rationale for CIH and detailed the requirements for the LOC. Dr. Lomax asked me to call him back after consulting with his legal advisor. When I followed-up, Dr. Lomax indicated that he would indeed prepare a letter of intent to provide the LOC to RCI. With time running out on this amazing project, this was just what the “doctor” ordered. We had what we needed to make CIH a reality. We faxed the letter to officials at RCI.

Despite the fact that HSP had identified someone to provide the LOC, RCI remained skeptical of our capacity to fill the ship and make the project a success. From their perspective, anything less than a stellar success would reflect badly on the RCI brand, particularly in its efforts to expand market share among African Americans. It was essentially a positive, not negative concern. Therefore, they offered an alternative proposal for moving the project forward. Rather than an entire ship, they offered a half-ship charter for up to 1,500 passengers instead of 3,000, and a LOC would not be required. There was one important catch. HSP would have to select a ship with an existing itinerary that included a stop in Haiti –as opposed to Haiti being the exclusive destination. Since non-HSP/CIH passengers would occupy the other half of the ship, the goal of cruising to Haiti, docking and remaining in the First Black Republic for three or four days was not possible under this arrangement. After consultation with friends/supporters, we elected to accept RCI’s offer for this less risky arrangement.

This decision was not without consequences. For a number of folks who had put up deposits, it was the opportunity to spend extended time in Haiti as part of the Commemoration of the Revolution that was the distinctive feature of CIH. This was particularly true of some Haitian American individuals and organizations that were supportive. When we announced the decision to accept the half ship charter, scores of passengers cancelled reservations and requested their deposits. It was a set-back, but our team, with the strong support of RCI, set about the task of recasting CIH as a Caribbean Pilgrimage that would climax with a triumphant stop in Haiti, the First Black Republic, to be welcomed by thousands of our Haitian sisters and brothers, capped by a tour of the magnificent Citadel. We selected an itinerary that included stops in Nassau, Bahamas and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. In each of these ports there would be a Welcome Ceremony and special cultural-historical tours. In addition, as had always been the plan, there would be cultural-educational workshops and cultural performances on the ship, celebrating the history and heritage of Haiti and the Revolution!

Now it was full speed ahead to make up for the passengers loss and reach the goal of 1,500. An extremely dedicated voluntary administrative team, initially consisting of Mary France-Daniels, IBW Board Member, Mawiyah Duperval, Founder, Haitian American Ministries, and Myrtha Wroy, an associate of Jan Mapou in Miami, busied themselves outreaching to organizations and individuals, collecting and recording deposits and working with RCI staff on the logistics and arrangements of on-ship programs and activities. Registrations were flowing and CIH was on the move! Unfortunately, there would be more storm clouds on the horizons.

As I related earlier, January 1, 2004, opposition forces filled the streets of Port Au Prince in an effort to discredit the Bicentennial Commemoration of the Haitian Revolution and demand the resignation of President Aristide. Over the next few weeks the conflict intensified as “rebels,” with the complicity of the U.S. Government, streamed across the border from the Dominican Republic to capture towns in the northern part of the country and march on the Capital. February 28, 2004, just weeks after the Bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution, Haiti’s first democratically elected President was deposed for the second time. The nation descended into chaos and the fate of CIH was once again in doubt. RCI suspended operations at Labadee – another set-back for a project intended to celebrate the history, culture and heritage of Haiti and enhance the struggle for democracy and development by strengthening bonds between Haitians and the sons and daughters of Africa in America.

My recollection is that HSP had signed up close to 1,000 passengers by the time RCI suspended operations in Haiti. What this actually meant was the cruise would go on but not make its scheduled stop in Haiti if the political turmoil continued into the summer. Our partners on the ground in Milot (the town located below the Citadel) were disappointed and anxious. They had spent months informing the people of the impending visit of hundreds of African Americans, Haitian Americans and friends of Haiti to their town en route to the Citadel. It would be the single most important visit the town had ever experienced. The excitement and anticipation were high. On the HSP side, the ouster of Aristide and the political turmoil prompted additional cancellations (which were still possible prior to the final deadline when HSP would be responsible for cancellations). But, with the installation of an interim Government and U.N. Peacekeepers dispatched to maintain order, RCI eventually resumed operations to Haiti.

CIH still had life but HSP faced new challenges and obstacles navigating very turbulent political waters surrounding the political crises in Haiti. Having passed the point of no return in terms of deadlines for cancelling the Pilgrimage and with our partners on the ground having invested so much in preparation for CIH, I felt it was important to proceed in a manner that would offer the “true believers” that remained on board a safe and secure journey – the experience of a lifetime they had been promised. It was also important to preserve HSP’s integrity as an organization committed to the principles of democratic governance in Haiti. Balancing these objectives proved to be extremely difficult. Indeed, questions were correctly raised by critics (there were some who felt that taking a cruise ship to a poor nation like Haiti was not in good taste) and supporters of CIH whether proceeding with such a high profile Pilgrimage would tacitly or explicitly provide legitimacy and credibility to a U.S. backed Interim Government in the wake of the ouster of Aristide.

In the most traumatic development in this regard, Danny Glover, Ambassador-at-Large for CIH, took a public stance that, as a matter of principle, he could no longer participate in the Pilgrimage as currently envisioned. Sonia Sanchez joined Danny in taking a similar stance. Edwidge Danticat also expressed her discomfort with participating in CIH under the circumstances. Without question, this was the most tension-filled moment of my life. Marc Morial, Chairman of CIH, Susan Taylor, Haki Madhubuti, L. Londell McMillan, Leonard Dunston, Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts and Rev. Dr. Major Jemison, Drs. Karl and Faye Rodney, Atty. Faya Rose Sanders and several other leaders expressed continued support for the Pilgrimage, particularly given the contractual obligations with RCI. Our team entered into an intensive dialogue with Danny Glover seeking to find a way to salvage his participation in the Pilgrimage.

After hours of serious discussions, we reached a compromise. In a painfully ironic twist, CIH would continue, but its stop in Haiti would be confined to “celebrating” at RCI’s facilities at Labadee with no participation of officials from the Interim Government or the U.S. Embassy. In other words, there would be no entry into Cap Haitien and Milot for a tour of the Citadel. Danny Glover declined to come on board the ship but agreed to meet the group and participate in the Welcome Ceremonies in Nassau and St. Thomas. Many of the organizations and individuals HSP had worked with on the ground to promote and arrange for CIH activities were deeply disappointed. Some felt betrayed. But, HSP viewed the compromise as the only principled and practical option given the political and contractual business constraints. Now we faced the daunting task of persuading the more than 500 true believers who remained committed to CIH to forgo the highlight of the Pilgrimage, entering the country to meet and greet our Haitian sisters and brothers and the tour of the magnificent Citadel.

August 14, 2004 a faithful 500 plus African Americans, Haitian Americans and friends of Haiti gathered in Miami at the RCI terminal to embark on CIH, the ambitious, much publicized, misfortune plagued, long awaited Caribbean Pilgrimage to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the glorious Haitian Revolution (the cruise dates were August 14th – 21st). It was quite a delight to finally meet friends/supporters of the Pilgrimage from across the nation whom our team had only known by phone or email. Now the challenge was to thoroughly explain the status of the Pilgrimage in light of the decision not to proceed into the country to visit the Citadel. After all, the opportunity to actually go into the country (beyond RCI’s private destination at Labadee) to see the Haitian people in their neighborhoods/surroundings and the tour of the magnificent Citadel was the reason the true believers had stayed the course [HSP could have potentially been sued for breach of contract]. Perhaps because so many of the participants were politically conscious and because there were leaders on board whom they respected, the decision was universally accepted.

By any reasonable measure, CIH was a remarkable Caribbean Pilgrimage. Facilitated by Atty. L. Londell McMillan, BET sent a film crew to record this historic journey with the expectation that excerpts would be aired on BET Nightly News with Jackie Reid. Wayne Thompson also recruited his niece, Monica Houston to record the Pilgrimage. At our first stop at Nassau, the group was officially welcomed by a high level government delegation led by the Minister of Tourism. True to his word, Danny Glover met us and participated in the Welcome Ceremony where he laid out the rationale for his decision not to partake in the program/activities/celebration aboard the ship. Most of the participants were just glad to meet a brother like Danny who exemplified the willingness to use one’s celebrity status to advance the cause of social justice and human rights for the oppressed. In St. Thomas, we were welcomed by Congresswoman Donna Christian-Christiansen along with officials of government and a marching band. Danny Glover had planned to meet the group in St. Thomas but responded to a request from President Hugo Chavez to visit with him in Venezuela.

On board the ship, the program proceeded under the watchful and approving eyes of Maryse Kedar, RCI’s Manager of Labadee, and Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the RCI official assigned to guide HSP through the chartering process. She had begun as a skeptic but embraced the project as she learned firsthand about its vision/mission, and attended some of the outreach events to promote CIH. The workshops and cultural performances were absolutely stunning. The Women’s Sister’s Circle with Susan Taylor, Dr. Adelaide Sanford and Dr. Cecelia Williams Bryant, wife of AME Bishop John Bryant, was extraordinary. Under the direction of “maestro extraordinaire” Jean Jean Pierre, the cultural programming was superb with performances by Erna Letemps and the Voices of Haiti, creative dancer Essailama Diouf and a dramatic production entitled Haiti Cherie.

One of the highlights of the cultural program was a brief presentation by the one and only Katherine Dunham, then in her mid-90s, who had agreed to be part of this historic journey despite the ups and downs of her health. It was in Haiti that Ms. Dunham had innovated the genre and technique that made her one of the most acclaimed dancers and dance instructors in the world. She received a thunderous ovation as she shared words of wisdom and inspiration with the group. As the ship slipped into the harbor at Labadee for the moment for which everyone had been waiting, Ms. Dunham’s health was too fragile for her to disembark. However, she was assisted to the disembarkation deck where she gave her blessing to the group as we departed for shore. Afterwards, peering pensively at the environs of the lovely harbor at Labadee, the legendary Katherine Dunham bid farewell to her beloved Haiti for the last time!

When we arrived on shore Mtumishi St. Julian, Executive Director of the New Orleans Finance Authority, blessed the occasion by pouring Libation, after which the Haitian American participants led the group in singing the Haitian National Anthem. The Welcome Ceremony included traditional Haitian drumming and dancing and a special presentation by school children dressed in their “Sunday best.” It was a wonderful program, but a cloud of sadness permeated the air because everyone realized that the ceremony was far less than what might have been. Indeed, the disappointment of our partners on the ground, the Local Development Committee of Milot, soon became evident when a large quantity of school supplies was presented as a gift from our group (each participant was asked to bring an “Education for Liberation” package of school supplies to comprise a collective gift for the school children in Milot). In a manner characteristic of the dignity and pride of the Haitian people, representatives of the committee flatly refused to accept the school supplies, declaring that their sense of betrayal by HSP could not be mollified by the presentation of such a gift, no matter how badly it might have been needed. They basically told Dr. Ron Daniels and the organizers of CIH that they could take the school supplies and shove them!

This was a serious crisis moment. At stake was months of building a trustful relationship with a hardworking, civic minded, dedicated group of men and women committed to improving the town of Milot. Lionel Pressoir, an enlightened Haitian developer and businessman, worked tirelessly to convince the Local Committee that CIH was a worthwhile project. Working together, the build-up to the CIH visit was months in the making and the excitement and expectations among the people of Milot, Cap Haitien and the region were sky high. Nothing like CIH had ever been experienced in Haiti, let alone in a small town like Milot. In anticipation of our visit parents had spent monies, normally set aside for uniforms, supplies and fees to send their children to school, to purchase merchandise to sell to the participants of CIH. Arts and crafts vendors purchased additional inventory for the occasion. It was going to be a banner day in terms of the injection of resources into the economy of the town and the area/region. The ouster of Aristide and the political turmoil notwithstanding, the cancellation of the CIH visit would have devastating consequences for the people and the town of Milot.

The evening before the landing at Labadee, HSP made a decision to quietly send Wayne Thompson, Marc Morial, Khephra Burns and his father into Milot with Lionel Pressoir to personally express regrets for the drastic change in the itinerary/program. To their dismay, they reported that the word about the cancellation had apparently not gotten out. All along the 20 mile route to Milot hundreds of local people, our Haitian sisters and brothers, were lined up along freshly cleaned streets and avenues waiting for the arrival of CIH participants. In Milot hundreds if not thousands had gathered for an event of a lifetime, only to be told that their African American and Haitian American sisters and brothers would not be coming to meet and greet them. After months of build-up, CIH would only touch Haitian soil at Labadee. One can imagine that there were some among the assembled multitude that felt the Local Development Committee had sold them a “bill of goods.” The credibility of the Committee as a force for positive change was definitely on the line. CIH could sail back to the U.S., but they would be left holding the bag; they would suffer the consequences for the broken promises of CIH. This was the backdrop for the bitterness directed at Ron Daniels and HSP during the Ceremony at Labadee.

Faced with this understandable outrage, I took to the podium, and with every ounce of integrity in my heart/soul, apologized to the representatives of the Committee for the tremendous bind our decision imposed on them. I explained that tragic circumstances beyond our control had compelled HSP to stop short of fulfilling the original vision of CIH in terms of our visit to Milot and tour of the Citadel. I reminded them of the bonds of friendship/family that were forged as we collectively worked on the project. I assured them that HSP would never betray them and pleaded for an opportunity to repair the damage done by our decision. I promised that HSP would work to raise funds to make the families and vendors whole who had sacrificed to purchase goods for the occasion. And, on the suggestion of Alix George, an associate of Lionel Pressoir, I pledged that HSP would organize a Pilgrimage in 2006, the Anniversary of the beginning of the construction of the Citadel, to promote cultural/historical tourism as a basis for people-based economic development in the town of Milot.

The Committee listened intently and skeptically at first. But, the bonds that had been forged during months of working together were too strong to simply dismiss an earnest and heartfelt apology and explanation for the damages done. The Committee accepted my apology, began to gather up the school supplies and load them for delivery to the school children in Milot. As participants dispersed throughout the RCI complex at Labadee to enjoy the many amenities, I sat quietly with the Committee as we began the painstaking process of what would become an even stronger bond of friendship, family and partnership in the years to come. I also sent word by HSP staff that it was imperative that the group have an emergency meeting after re-boarding the ship.

The emergency meeting was very emotional. However, to a person, everyone agreed that it was essential that every effort be made to make the people of the town of Milot whole for the sacrifices they made in expectation of the visit by CIH. HSP raised thousands of dollars that evening in contributions, book sales and pledges. The faith leaders on board blessed the offering, prayed that it be multiplied and laid hands on Ron Daniels to sanctify the work of HSP moving forward. With that, there was much joy in the group as we set sail for Miami after an emotionally stressful but climatic experience on the beaches of Labadee in Haiti. Upon our return to the U.S., HSP sent resources back to Haiti to repair the damages to families and vendors, to make them whole for monies expended based on what became the false promise of CIH.

It had been an arduous journey, a Pilgrimage with a purpose like none ever experienced by African Americans, Haitian Americans and friends of Haiti. A confluence of circumstances had prevented HSP from achieving its initial goal of a full ship charter or the maximum for the half-ship charter. And, we fell far short of the goal of securing sufficient sponsorships to cover costs and realizing a substantial savings to benefit IBW and HSP. At the request of Danny Glover, Richard Parsons, CEO of Time Warner, came very close to making the company a title sponsor for CIH, but he backed away because of the turbulent political situation in Haiti. L. Londell McMillan with North Star, Inc., Ingrid-Saunders Jones of Coca-Cola and Patrick Gaston, Verizon Foundation, graciously stepped up to the plate, but the combined total of their sponsorships was $27,500 – hardly enough to provide meaningful support for an institution post CIH.

These shortcomings notwithstanding, no one could deny that the 500 plus participants, mobilized for CIH was the largest group of African Americans to journey to Haiti for the stated purpose. And, in the end, thousands, if not millions, of African Americans and people of African descent in the U.S. who knew little or nothing about Haiti and its history and culture had been educated about the world’s First Black Republic. In 2006 HSP honored its word and returned to Haiti with a high-profile delegation to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the beginning of construction of the Citadel. On that occasion, the Model City Initiative was launched to contribute to the process of making Milot a Mecca for cultural-historical tourism as the foundation economic development for the area. This Initiative remains the centerpiece of HSP’s work in Haiti to this day. CIH had proved to be a worthy and worthwhile endeavor! As we look to the future, hopefully, hundreds more African Americans, Haitian Americans and friends of Haiti will join HSP in other extraordinary Pilgrimages to Haiti to uplift the world’s first Black Republic!

Cruising Into History Video

Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century

 

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Global Research

The absence of Americas so-called intelligence regarding the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over Ukraine in a 34 page Dutch Safety Board preliminary report raises serious questions about the credibility and legitimacy of both Americas political agenda, and all agencies, organizations, and political parties currently behind it.

The report titled, Preliminary Report: Crash involving Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flight MH17″ (.pdf), cites a wide variety of evidence in its attempt to determine the cause of flight MH17′s crash and to prevent similar accidents or incidents from occurring again in the future. Among this evidence includes the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), the flight data recorder (FDR), analysis of recorded air traffic control (ATC) surveillance data and radio communication, analysis of the meteorological circumstances, forensic examination of the wreckage (if recovered and possible foreign objects if found), results of the pathological investigation, and analysis of the in-flight break up sequence.

Satellite images are referenced in regards to analyzing the crash site after the disaster, however, no where in the report is mentioned any evidence whatsoever of satellite images of missile launchers, intelligence from the United States regarding missile launches, or any information or evidence at all in any regard suggesting a missile had destroyed MH17. In fact, the report concludes by stating:

This report is preliminary. The information must necessarily be regarded as tentative and subject to alternation or correction if additional evidence becomes available. Further work will at least include the following areas of interest to substantiate the factual information regarding:

  • detailed analyses of data, including CVR, FDR and other sources, recorded onboard the aircraft;
  • detailed analyses of recorded ATC surveillance data and radio communication;
  • detailed analyses of the meteorological circumstances;
  • forensic examination of wreckage if recovered and possible foreign objects, if found;
  • results of the pathological investigation;
  • analyses of the in-flight break up sequence;
  • assessment of the operators and State of Occurrences management of flight safety over a region of conflict or high security risk;
  • any other areas that are identified during the investigation.

With the black boxes in hand and a wealth of data from multiple sources both onboard the aircraft and from the ground in both Ukraine and Russia, the Dutch Safety Board was still hesitant to draw any conclusions and insisted that none be jumped to.

The report specifically mentions information collected from Russia, including air traffic control and radar data both of which were publicly shared by Russia in the aftermath of the disaster. The report also cites data collected from Ukraine air traffic controllers. The United States however, apart from providing technical information about the aircraft itself considering it was manufactured in the US, provided absolutely no data in any regard according to the report.

Missing US Intel Points to Fabrications

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Had the US actually possessed any credible information to substantiate its claims that MH17 was shot down by a missile, such evidence surely would have been submitted to and included in the Dutch Safety Boards preliminary reporting. That it is predictably missing confirms what commentators, analysts, and politicians around the world had long since suspected the Wests premature conclusions regarding MH17′s demise were driven by a political agenda, not a factually based search for the truth. The evidence that MH17 was shot down by a missile as the West insisted is missing because it never existed in the first place.

That the Dutch Safety Board possesses such a vast amount of information but is still unable to draw anything but the most tentative conclusions, exposes the alleged certainty of Western pundits and politicians in the hours and days after MH17′s loss as an utterly irresponsible, politically motivated, exploitation of tragedy at best, and at worst, exposing the West NATO in particular as possible suspects in a crime they clearly stood the most to benefit from.

Fabrications Establish Motive

In the wake of the MH17 tragedy, the West would rush through a series of sanctions against Russia as well as justify further military aid for the regime in Kiev, Ukraine and the literal Neo-Nazi militant battalions serving its pro-Western agenda amid a brutal civil war raging in the countrys eastern most provinces. With sanctions in hand, and the war raging on in earnest, the MH17 disaster dropped entirely out of Western narratives as if it never occurred. Surely if the West had solid evidence implicating eastern Ukrainian rebels and/or Russia, the world would never have heard the end of the MH17 disaster until the truth was fully aired before the public.

When Dutch investigators published their preliminary report, the West merely reiterated its original claims, simply imposing their contradictory nature upon the report most likely believing the public would never actually read its 34 pages.

For example, Reuters in a report titled, Malaysia: Dutch report suggests MH-17 shot down from ground, would brazenly claim:

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 broke apart over Ukraine due to impact from a large number of fragments, the Dutch Safety Board said on Tuesday, in a report that Malaysias prime minister and several experts said suggested it was shot down from the ground.

The title of Reuters propaganda piece directly contradicts its first paragraph which reveals experts, not the actual Dutch Safety Board report, claimed it was shot down from the ground, while the report itself says nothing of the sort. The experts cited by Reuters in fact had no association whatsoever with the preliminary report and instead are the same mainstay of cherry picked commentators the West constantly defers to while building up and perpetuating utterly fabricated narratives to advance its agenda globally.

The lesson to be learned from the MH17 disaster is that real investigations and their subsequent conclusions take time weeks or even months. Anyone drawing immediate conclusions within hours or days after an event like the MH17 disaster are exploiting tragedy at best, and at worst implicate themselves as suspects having created it in the first place to serve as impetus for further chaos, conflict, and confusion.

Those incapable of resisting the need to jump to conclusions are those who are least suitable to lead. The United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are at best tasteless, irresponsible, politically motivated exploiters of human tragedy, and at worst, the prime suspects of a heinous act of mass murder aimed at perpetuating their agenda of war and carnage in Ukraine and beyond.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on Dutch MH17 Investigation Omits US Intel. Fabrications and Omissions Supportive of US-NATO Agenda Directed against Russia

Zio-Nazi policy of incremental genocide continues

NOVANEWS
Israeli genocidal policies

By Jamal Kanj 

It goes without saying that Gaza has taught the Israeli military a new lesson: the days of swift Israeli wars are over. While mostly one-sided, Israel has never before fought a war that lasted 50 days. The Palestinians (besieged by brothers and foes) were of no military match to Israel’s most sophisticated US technology. But as in the 2006 Lebanon war, the human factor rendered the best technology obsolete.

There are many parallels between the 2006 Lebanon war and the recent conflict in Gaza. Regrettably, in both cases Israel’s wanton destruction was met with indifference by the Arab regimes.

It is no secret that some Arab governments were more interested in seeing Hizbollah degraded in 2006 than in protecting innocent Lebanese civilians. In the last two months, the Arab regimes too disliked Hamas more than they cared about Palestinian lives.

If winning or losing was measured by objectives, Israel was undoubtedly the bigger loser.

This time in Gaza, and unlike the last two confrontations in 2008/09 and November 2012 , the Palestinians seemed united at the negotiation table and on the battlefield. This ultimately forced the Egyptian mediator to back off from imposing Israeli conditions and to address the core issue that caused this war: the years-old Israeli military blockade on Gaza.

After reaching a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took to the airwaves, proclaiming a victory. On the other side, the Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the end of Israeli aggression and their own victory.

It is definitely debatable as to who won the war. If winning is to be measured by the number of civilians killed and the damage left behind, Israel is by far the winner. If winning or losing was measured by objectives, Israel was undoubtedly the bigger loser.

Israeli attempts to weaken Hamas failed. Hamas, which saw decline in its popularity before the war, gained impressive approbation according to the most recent polling. The organisation was persona non grata in Egypt, but now it appears to have reconciled with the regime.

In the face-to-face combat, and as technology becomes useless, the craven Israeli soldier was no match to the more determined Palestinian fighter.

It is just like the Israeli war against Lebanon in 2006, where instead of weakening Hizbollah the war propelled the party to become a major power-broker in local politics and emerge as a regional force to contend with.

In Gaza, the well-pampered Israeli soldiers were not prepared for the new tactics and the intricate underground fortification systems. In the face-to-face combat, and as technology becomes useless, the craven Israeli soldier was no match to the more determined Palestinian fighter.

According to eyewitness accounts reported in the online Daily Beast last week, one fighter codenamed Abu Muhammad described the underground war:

First we targeted the tanks and the jeeps with IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. Some of our people would come out of the ground, attack the soldiers and then disappear back into a tunnel and others surprised them from empty houses.

Following heavy military losses, Netanyahu ordered his army to withdraw. He pulled his negotiation team from Cairo and insisted there would be no ceasefire unless Israel’s conditions for the invasion were met: disarmament of Gaza, return the remains of the purportedly dead Israeli soldiers and destruction of underground fortifications.

After Netanyahu’s ceasefire terms were rejected, Israel intensified its air raids against civilians, targeting the homes of supposed Palestinian leaders and levelling large residential towers. Facing defiant Palestinians and his demoralised public, Netanyahu was forced eventually to accept a ceasefire, including the easing of the military siege on Gaza.

It would be delusional, however, to believe for a moment that Israel would honour its obligations under the ceasefire agreement. Losing in public polling, Netanyahu is predisposed to tighten, not ease, the military blockade, in order to placate his right-wing voters.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu lies to his people about winning a war without achieving one single objective and deceives the world with a ceasefire while maintaining a silent war of special “starvation diet” and carrying out “incremental genocide” against more than 1.7 million human beings.

 

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Zio-Nazi policy of incremental genocide continues

America Created Al-Qaeda and the ISIS Terror Group

NOVANEWS

Global Research

Much like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS) is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.

The fact that the United States has a long and torrid history of backing terrorist groups will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history.

The CIA first aligned itself with extremist Islam during the Cold War era. Back then, America saw the world in rather simple terms: on one side, the Soviet Union and Third World nationalism, which America regarded as a Soviet tool; on the other side, Western nations and militant political Islam, which America considered an ally in the struggle against the Soviet Union.

The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, General William Odom recently remarked, by any measure the U.S. has long used terrorism. In 1978-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism in every version they produced, the lawyers said the U.S. would be in violation.

During the 1970′s the CIA used the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a barrier, both to thwart Soviet expansion and prevent the spread of Marxist ideology among the Arab masses. The United States also openly supported Sarekat Islam against Sukarno in Indonesia, and supported the Jamaat-e-Islami terror group against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan. Last but certainly not least, there is Al Qaeda.

Lest we forget, the CIA gave birth to Osama Bin Laden and breastfed his organization during the 1980′s. Former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably a product of Western intelligence agencies. Mr. Cook explained that Al Qaeda, which literally means an abbreviation of “the database” in Arabic, was originally the computer database of the thousands of Islamist extremists, who were trained by the CIA and funded by the Saudis, in order to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan.

Americas relationship with Al Qaeda has always been a love-hate affair. Depending on whether a particular Al Qaeda terrorist group in a given region furthers American interests or not, the U.S. State Department either funds or aggressively targets that terrorist group. Even as American foreign policy makers claim to oppose Muslim extremism, they knowingly foment it as a weapon of foreign policy.

The Islamic State is its latest weapon that, much like Al Qaeda, is certainly backfiring. ISIS recently rose to international prominence after its thugs began beheading American journalists. Now the terrorist group controls an area the size of the United Kingdom.

In order to understand why the Islamic State has grown and flourished so quickly, one has to take a look at the organizations American-backed roots. The 2003 American invasion and occupation of Iraq created the pre-conditions for radical Sunni groups, like ISIS, to take root. America, rather unwisely, destroyed Saddam Hussein’s secular state machinery and replaced it with a predominantly Shiite administration. The U.S. occupation caused vast unemployment in Sunni areas, by rejecting socialism and closing down factories in the naive hope that the magical hand of the free market would create jobs. Under the new U.S.-backed Shiite regime, working class Sunni’s lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Unlike the white Afrikaners in South Africa, who were allowed to keep their wealth after regime change, upper class Sunni’s were systematically dispossessed of their assets and lost their political influence. Rather than promoting religious integration and unity, American policy in Iraq exacerbated sectarian divisions and created a fertile breading ground for Sunni discontent, from which Al Qaeda in Iraq took root.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) used to have a different name: Al Qaeda in Iraq. After 2010 the group rebranded and refocused its efforts on Syria.

There are essentially three wars being waged in Syria: one between the government and the rebels, another between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and yet another between America and Russia. It is this third, neo-Cold War battle that made U.S. foreign policy makers decide to take the risk of arming Islamist rebels in Syria, because Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, is a key Russian ally. Rather embarrassingly, many of these Syrian rebels have now turned out to be ISIS thugs, who are openly brandishing American-made M16 Assault rifles.

America’s Middle East policy revolves around oil and Israel. The invasion of Iraq has partially satisfied Washington’s thirst for oil, but ongoing air strikes in Syria and economic sanctions on Iran have everything to do with Israel. The goal is to deprive Israels neighboring enemies, Lebanons Hezbollah and Palestines Hamas, of crucial Syrian and Iranian support.

ISIS is not merely an instrument of terror used by America to topple the Syrian government; it is also used to put pressure on Iran.

The last time Iran invaded another nation was in 1738. Since independence in 1776, the U.S. has been engaged in over 53 military invasions and expeditions. Despite what the Western medias war cries would have you believe, Iran is clearly not the threat to regional security, Washington is. An Intelligence Report published in 2012, endorsed by all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies, confirms that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Truth is, any Iranian nuclear ambition, real or imagined, is as a result of American hostility towards Iran, and not the other way around.

America is using ISIS in three ways: to attack its enemies in the Middle East, to serve as a pretext for U.S. military intervention abroad, and at home to foment a manufactured domestic threat, used to justify the unprecedented expansion of invasive domestic surveillance.

By rapidly increasing both government secrecy and surveillance, Mr. Obama’s government is increasing its power to watch its citizens, while diminishing its citizens’ power to watch their government. Terrorism is an excuse to justify mass surveillance, in preparation for mass revolt.

The so-called War on Terror should be seen for what it really is: a pretext for maintaining a dangerously oversized U.S. military. The two most powerful groups in the U.S. foreign policy establishment are the Israel lobby, which directs U.S. Middle East policy, and the Military-Industrial-Complex, which profits from the former groups actions. Since George W. Bush declared the War on Terror in October 2001, it has cost the American taxpayer approximately 6.6 trillion dollars and thousands of fallen sons and daughters; but, the wars have also raked in billions of dollars for Washington’s military elite.

In fact, more than seventy American companies and individuals have won up to $27 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last three years, according to a recent study by the Center for Public Integrity. According to the study, nearly 75 per cent of these private companies had employees or board members, who either served in, or had close ties to, the executive branch of the Republican and Democratic administrations, members of Congress, or the highest levels of the military.

In 1997, a U.S. Department of Defense report stated, “the data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement abroad and an increase in terrorist attacks against the U.S.” Truth is, the only way America can win the War On Terror is if it stops giving terrorists the motivation and the resources to attack America. Terrorism is the symptom; American imperialism in the Middle East is the cancer. Put simply, the War on Terror is terrorism; only, it is conducted on a much larger scale by people with jets and missiles.

Posted in USA, IraqComments Off on America Created Al-Qaeda and the ISIS Terror Group

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