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Showing posts with label democratic patriotism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label democratic patriotism. Show all posts

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Allan Massie and patriotism - who are the scoundrels?

Allan Massie had a piece in The Scotsman yesterday entitled False patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

His piece was inspired, if that’s the right word, by Ian Davidson’s description in the Commons of the SNP as neo-fascist. Massie appears to set out to defend the SNP against the charge. I waited for the ‘but’: it turned out to be a ‘nevertheless’, when he finally gets to his real agenda in the third column and the sixth paragraph.

“Nevertheless, there is one respect in which his accusation, however offensive, merits consideration.”

He focuses, not on SNP party officials, MSPs, MPs or commentators sympathetic to the SNP to support his charge, but on cybernats, a blanket term used pejoratively by unionists for any online commentator sympathetic to the nationalist cause. Since by definition online comment includes the spectrum of opinion from the moderate and considered to raving abuse, he will have no difficulty in finding such stuff, especially in The Scotsman’s online comment, which is ineptly and badly moderated by the newspaper itself, apparently using post moderation (and not much of that) rather than pre-moderation of comments. I stopped contributing online comment to The Scotsman for this very reason some time ago, after complaining unsuccessfully about this.

(The SNP government is bringing in a bill, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications {Scotland} Bill, to create two new criminal offences, the second of which concerns the sending or posting on the web of threatening communications of a religious nature, just one pernicious aspect of online abuse.)

Massie manages to ignore the fact of equivalent raving abuse from supporters of the union in The Scotsman, not to mention that mouthpiece of the Union, The Telegraph, where it even invades the letters section of the print edition. He takes issue with one aspect of nationalist comment,  the questioning of the patriotism of non-nationalists, and the tendency of nationalists to describe unionists as quislings.

This ugly word  entered the language during and after the Second World War, derived from Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian politician who collaborated with the Nazi occupation of Norway, ran the Quisling Regime on behalf of the Nazis, and was executed for high treason by his countrymen in 1945. The word now means a person cooperating with an occupying enemy, a collaborator, a traitor. It is certainly too extreme an appellation to give to a political opponent or to someone holding an office, such as Secretary of State for Scotland, that is perceived as having some parallels to the Quisling role.

I don’t think of myself as a cybernat, but I confess to having been tempted to draw such a comparison, and on occasion may have yielded to it, or come close, by loose use of the term.

For the comparison to be valid, the end of the Union and the independence of Scotland would have to be demonstrably the democratic wish of a majority of the Scottish people, that wish would have to have been denied or frustrated by the UK government, by either ignoring a democratic mandate or gerrymandering the political process, e.g. through the mechanics of a referendum, and the Secretary of State for Scotland would have had to be complicit in that process, something that hasn’t happened - yet.

So, I join with Allan Massie in condemning the indiscriminate use of the word quisling to describe the office of Secretary of State for Scotland, although I find nothing to admire or respect in that institution, the contemptible record of which has been documented in Diomhair and elsewhere. I have no respect whatsoever for Scots who choose to accept that office, and will rejoice when it disappears. Until that happens, I will continue to treat it and its incumbents with the contempt I feel they deserve.

I make an exception for the honourable memory of Tom Johnston, wartime Secretary of State for Scotland, the last and perhaps the only incumbent of that role to have acted totally in the interests of Scotland. A socialist, an internationalist and a great Scot by any measures, the things he achieved for his country - and he was never in doubt that it was Scotland - are beyond question.

Allan Massie manages in his piece to move seamlessly from appearing to condemn Ian Davidson’s unfortunate remark, as a Member of Parliament under privilege in the House of Commons, to conflating the most extreme remarks of sundry anonymous online posters to draw parallels between  some Scottish nationalists and Hitler’s Germany, anti-semitism, Franco’s Spain, and to describe them as “at least proto-fascists”.

I have something to offer Allan Massie that may assist him in understanding fascism, and identifying political behaviour that tends towards that ugly and, George Orwell notwithstanding, completely identifiable tendency.

Fascist states are obsessively militaristic in character, consuming a wholly disproportionate part of their national resources on armaments.

They appeal to a nostalgic and glorious past that has little to do with present social and economic realities.

They exalt the Head of State, whether monarch or dictator, and claim either a hereditary or nepotistic right to succession in key offices of state.

They maintain the semblance of a democracy, while effectively nullifying, or as they describe it, ‘balancing’ the democratic institutions with non-democratic, unelected bodies.

They have key linkages between the military and relevant sections of industry in a military/industrial complex. Defence procurement is perceived by the public as incompetent, when in fact it is mainly corrupt, and unfailingly enriches the politicians associated with it.

They claim a right to intervene by force in the affairs of other nation states, and occupy them, always with the claim that they are acting in the interests of the people of the occupied territories.

They have a cult of blood, death and sacrifice in which the Head of State plays a major role. They exalt the dead as heroes of the nation: the children of the governing elite are rarely if ever among the dead. They drape the coffins of the dead with flags.

They are given to militaristic displays at any and every opportunity. They blatantly use military contracts and jobs as a political lever to influence the vestiges of true democracy that remain in the state apparatus.

When the voice of the people is heard, either through popular protest or electoral success, a sustained attack is made by the fascist state on the legitimacy of such protest and electoral success, and the democratic mandate is challenged frontally. The fascist state exercise significant or total control over media.

The fascist state has an elaborate system of patronage, titles and honours to sustain its power and to limit the democratic mandate where it exists.

The fascist state will sacrifice any public service rather than contain its military ambitions or curtail the profits and privileged of the rich and powerful. It deeply distrusts the public services of the nation. It readily blames the poor and the vulnerable for the ills of the nation and holds them responsible for their own miseries.

All of the above characteristics are either currently present or developing in the state of the United Kingdom.

None of them are present in Scottish nationalism, the Scottish National Party, nor in the vast majority of its supporters.

Let me end by saying that I am in fundamental agreement with Allan Massie on one thing - false patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and I am clear on who the scoundrels are, even if he is not.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The words of a great English historian on a great Scot

George Macaulay Trevelyan was the great nephew of Macaulay and the last historian writing in the Whig traditions. The Whigs were the forerunners of the Liberal Party, but God knows what they would make of the present LibDems and apparatchiks like Danny Alexander.

Here is an extract from his History of England (1937) -

A guerilla chief of genius, a tall man of iron strength, who suddenly appears on the page of history, as if from nowhere, defeated at Stirling Bridge an English Army under its blundering feudal chief, the Earl of Warenne, of quo Warranto (link) fame. Thence William Wallace broke ravaging into Northumberland and Cumberland.

This unknown knight, with little but his great name to identify him in history, had lit a fire which nothing since has ever put out. Here, in Scotland, contemporaneously with very similar doings in Switzerland, a new ideal and tradition of wonderful potency was brought into the world; it had no name then, but now we should call it democratic patriotism. It was not the outcome of theory. The unconscious qualities of a people had given it reality in a sudden fit of rage.

Where is Scotland’s rage against what the Labour Party did to it over 13 wasted, blighted years and the ConLib coalition is doing to it now?

Where is our democratic patriotism now?

It cannot be summoned for the tattered, bloodstained flag of a vanished empire, Great Britain, great no longer…

It can be summoned for the spring of 2011 – a momentous year for the nation of Scotland.

Vote for your ain folk – vote for the Scottish National Party, not for The Three UK Stooges – Gray, Goldie or Scott.