Monday, 27 May 2013

A gentle polemic on the notion of national identity

On Facebook recently I have been having a 'debate' with Allan, a thoroughly decent man with one great weakness-he stood as a UKIP candidate on May 2nd.

He genuinely that there is space to debate our differences and perhaps even believes that they are in some way reconcilable,that they are only differences of stress and emphasis and really we are all operating in the same political arena.

Sorry Allan we are not.Our world view is as far apart as it possibly can be,our starting point is completely different and our end point will never coincide.
Let me explain why.

You think and write about a 'United Kingdom' as some sort of commonality between us, that we live in the same nation state and therefore we have common interests that promote a sense of nationhood and a sense of 'national identity'.
From the outset you know I'm a Scot, that is a culture and a language that I am familiar with.However that does not mean that I embrace all things Scottish, pipe bands and tartan and tins of shortbread and the martial story!
The great Scots poet Hugh MacDiarmid described all that tosh as the 'kailyard' and he always summed up that image of Scotland as one embodied in the dreadful 'Sunday Post' and its homely pithy third rate Presbyterian monoculture.
I am a Scot by accident of birth, that is all.
The Scotland of stirring highlanders killing folk in far off lands for 'King and Country' is not my Scotland, any more than the aristocratic parasites that own vast areas of that country,greedy landlords who cleared people off the land to allow their fucking sheep to wonder untrammelled.

The fact that the Windsor family claim to love Scotland because their granny preferred a big hairy highlander who looked suspiciously like Billy Connolly to an effete German princeling is of no iterest to me whatsoever.

My only commonality is based on class.
It is the relationship to people who earn their living and contribute to the common good that determines my world view.
And as it with Scotland so it is withy everyone else.I have far more in common with the teacher or the bricklayer or the lorry driver or the farmhand anywhere else in the world than I have to the Edinborough banker,the London stockbroker or the Russian oligarch!

My world view is an internationalist one not a nationalist one.that's  why I have more in common with the European worker or the Asian worker or the Latin American worker than I'll ever have with the Scottish, English or any other elite.

You will probably as would I fight for my country?
Well,I'm no pacifist,but I'm no bloody sheep either, and I would view any conflict,not in national terms but in class terms.
Would I have fought in World War One-no, it was an imperialist war that was only about the conquest of territory for the greater good of the competing capitalist classes,nothing more,nothing less.
World War Two was very different,it was a struggle between two ideologies,and fascism was determinedly anti people.It's worth remembering however that in the lead up to WW2 there were many in the British ruling class who wanted to do a deal with Hitler,many of the Tory cabinet were desperate to appease Hitler and who can forget the 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts' front page in Lord Rotheremere's 'Daily Mail'.

Every other conflict since then has been in the interests not of the British people but in the interests of the multi-nationals.
Allan you mentioned the Falklands,well that cost 300 young men from this country to do what?
Preserve the political reputation of a discredited Prime Minister and look after the interests of the oil companies in the South Atlantic! real patriots would have not sent those young men to dreadful deaths  for no purpose.It would have been cheaper to ghave given every resident of the Malvinas a million quid and all the sheep they could eat and allowed them to resettle elsewhere.

And whilst on that subject the billions being spent on a new nuclear deterrent that this government can only use with the permission of the USA could be far better used to rebuild our infrastructure and our public services.

I'm sorry Allan I don't buy into your patriotic schlock

Can I finish my rant with a quote from another great Scots poet of the last century,the incomparable Hamish Henderson, who in 1960 wrote 'Freedom come all Ye'

Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pit heid an clachan
Mourn the ships sailin doon the Broomielaw
Broken faimilies in lands we've herriet
Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair,nae mair
Black an white ane til ither marriet
Mak the vile barracks o their maisters bare." 

You see Allan it is my view that your leader is just one more xenophobic braggart,and in the end I prefer internationalism and solidarity to what UKIP has on offer.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Now the carnival is over.....

The County Council elections were a tragedy for Northampton in every sense.The re-election of a Tory administration means more of the same.An economic strategy based on cutting services and boasting that what people want is even more cuts so that they can use the money they save in paying low rates to do what?
It is obvious that the rural areas like South Northants,with some of the most expensive properties in the country will be happy with their low rates and thatched cottages and a police officer guarding their garden gnomes 24/7.
But for the urban areas like here in Castle ward we can expect further reductions in services,less street lighting,no youth service,privatised schools,and the usual paraphernalia of the Thatcher legacy.
And what is worse still we have no voice to speak up on behalf of our communities.
Hee in Castle Ward we have lost an outstanding Independently minded Councillor in Tony Clarke.The former Labour MP for Northampton South and an excellent advocate who articulated the needs of this poorest of areas.
The Labour Party in Northampton have proved to be a startling failure of will,a bunch of New Labour clones and retreads who are unable to speak on behalf of their constituents.
In castle Ward(but really the bulk of St Crispins )  Winston Strachan was elected, a nice man whose heart in in the right place but has spent the last four years on the County Council  behaving as if he had taken a monastic vow of silence.
Apart from the group of Corby Councillors we have nothing,there was a time that Labour could win the County Council with the majority coming from Northampton.
With all that is happening nationally,with the coalition in tatters and the Tories savaged by UKIP what does the labour Party achieve in Northampton.
A whole gain of three seats!Even the bloody Lib-Dems have done better than the Labour Party.
We were promised a bunch of bright young things who were going to challenge the Tory hegemony.
Fat chance!
What we are seeing is the legacy of New Labour,or rather old Keeble and a party so enfeebled by in-fighting and bitter internal feuds that just when there is a need for a strong fighting force to rattle the windows and kick down the doors of County Hall we have.......a vacuum where a political party should be!

A few days ago I drew attention to the NBC's Labour Group's feeble effort in opposing the 'Bedroom Tax'- a trivial battle that they managed to loose.
I feel desperately sorry for the comrades in Corby who once again have to carry the weight of expectation because Northampton Labour Party are simply unable to deliver a coherent message.

If Winston's leaflets were typical of the stuff the party was putting out then frankly they deserved to fail.The desire to find the centre ground has robbed the Labour Party of any capacity to fight on behalf of the people.
Neil Kinnock once described Labour local government as the 'battered shield' to defend the people against the Tory attacks.Here in Northampton we don't even have a battered handkerchief !

Yet the opportunities to defeat the Tory coalition are legion, as they split between themselves in the coalition and the UKIP wing of the BNP in suits assaults the Tories from the far right,now is the time for the left to do what it is doing all over Europe .To present a genuine popular socialist alternative to the crisis of capitalism.
By that I do not mean a call for a one day general strike,or even an insurrection on College Green or even the elevation of St.Dennis Skinner to a secular papacy.
The opportunity at last is to bring together all the disparate forces of the left.Those brave but seriously weakened 'forlorn hope' comrades still in the Labour party, the left groups operating in ideological bubbles,the Greens,the single issue campaigns and all the other merry pranksters of radical intent.
There are new red shoots tarting tom emerge, the Ken Loach Left Unity initiative and the creation by Unite the Union of Community branches  represent the coming together not simply of an extra-parliamentary opposition but maybe even the creation of a new force of progress.
This may be the best chance the left has to re-group into a movement that can change the world,or at least our little corner of it!
It may also be our last bloody chance.
"Then  Comrades come rally....."