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Friday, 2 March 2012

Douglas Alexander’s speech to conference - takes refuge in the fiction of Labour internationalism

Douglas Alexander’s theme is simple – an independent Scotland would be narrowly nationalistic. The UK -  i.e. Labour in government or Labour influencing government in Westminster - is internationalist, not nationalistic.

The central theme is untrue, and therefore everything that flows from it is untrue. From the flawed premise, the flawed conclusions flow, in a gooey mix of sentimentality and nostalgia, an anecdotal, selective mix, posing as history.

The UK is a nation, behaves as a nation, but on occasion acts internationally from altruistic, internationalist motives. Scotland will be an independent nation, will behave as an independent nation, but on occasion, will act from altruistic, internationalist motives.

The other argument, that the UK can be more effectively internationalist because of its greater size than Scotland is an argument that can be honestly advanced, even though the facts of history do not support it.

Let’s take Alexander’s early examples -

Does he think that the Scots who were part of the International Brigade to fight fascism would not have done so had Scotland been an independent country in the 1930s?

Does he think that Scotland, never mind just the City of Glasgow would not have embraced Nelson Mandela in the 1980s? You have a short and selective memory, Douglas – I do not. The Glasgow decision was widely derided by the very nation he holds up for our admiration – the UK, still in the grip of its late Empire delusions and deeply confused about South Africa and Mandela. Of course an independent, internationalist, social democratic Scotland would have embraced Mandela.

Does he think that the morality of Gordon Brown in working to write off the debt of the world’s poorest countries – an admirable morality that regrettably was not matched by his or his government’s economic competence in their own country – would not be the same morality that will drive an independent Scotland, an inclusive Scotland that will embrace the very same Labour people that once had such values, and who will recover and reassert them in the new Scotland.

Does he think that an independent Scotland would not make the same demand that a Labour government made at the Gleneagles Summit in 2005? Of course it would, but more effectively than that Summit, when one considers what followed it – utter failure and near-global meltdown from 2008 onwards.

Alexander asserts, with justification, that he and his parent’s horizons – “like millions of their fellow Scots” – were never limited to one community or one country. Nor will they be after independence, Douglas, especially when freed from the suffocating jingoism and Little Englandism that is the UK.

And an independent Scotland will not express its wide international horizons by launching an illegal invasion and an illegal war that brought death and destruction to millions in Iraq, destabilised the Middle East and brought endemic terrorism and paranoia to the United Kingdom. Tony Blair’s immoral and destructive internationalism are carefully airbrushed out of Douglas Alexander’s high-minded and selective agenda.

From the Eurozone Crisis to the Environment, from Export Markets to Mass Migration, interdependence – not independence - is the hallmark of our age.”

So says Douglas – and he’s right. He has missed out the part that includes countries across the globe throwing off suffocating and corrupt regimes that stifle their instincts for a national independence allied to a recognition of true interdependence.

Alexander is part of a nation that is the rump of an empire that denied all of these freedoms, and imposed its exploitative will for centuries on large tracts of our world – a rump that currently has a Coalition Government that is deeply divided over Europe and that very interdependence that he extols. And his own party is not free from such insularity and euro paranoia either.

But Douglas Alexander does eventually drop the Labour –as-internationalist-party stuff, and gets to the nub of his real argument – bigger is better.

DA:If we want to advance international cooperation: Britain has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. A separate Scotland would not.”

Scotland at the moment has no influence at the moment as a result of that UN seat. It has had no influence under successive governments, and indeed it was the Labour Government of Blair and Brown that chose to ignore the UN and its mandate when they launched the Iraq War on a lie in conjunction with a right-wing American regime.

DA:If we want to strengthen our collective security: Britain has a permanent seat on the Council of NATO.”

The same arguments as above apply, Labour and Lord George Robertson notwithstanding. What has been delivered to Scotland by NATO? Defending it from a non-existent threat? Parking outmoded and strategically irrelevant WMDs in Scottish waters, making us a prime target for a nuclear exchange, and polluting our environment? Imposing a crippling financial burden on the UK as a whole and on  Scotland to support these weapons systems?

I have already said a fair amount about the internationalist fiction that drives – and has driven Labour – for most of its history. The nonsensical contradictions of Labour’s internationalist posturing were evident in the post-war period and during the Cold War. They reached their nadir in Iraq and Afghanistan.

See my blog of 10th January 2012 -

Labour's last redoubt - internationalism

1 comment:

  1. A brilliant summary Peter - it's good you are there to help steer the debate on a clear tide.