I am a Nationalist

Pic Bill FlemingPic shows  Yes Scotland supporters in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh

There you go – I’ve said it. I subscribe to a political philosophy that (in the context of the Scottish Independence debate at least) dare not speak its name. The very word itself has become a term of almost universal opprobrium. Whether it’s Scot Nats, Cybernats or Brit Nats the very word ‘nationalist’ has become a meaningless playground insult intended to deny standing to whoever it is aimed at.

The force of that opprobrium is such that most people who I know feel the need to preface any statement in support of independence with the comment ‘I’m not a nationalist, but…’. Now anyone who has had a basic introduction to the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming can tell you that the moment you insert the word ‘but’ into a sentence it completely negates everything that precedes it. To say ‘I’m not a nationalist, but…’ is simply to say ‘I’m a nationalist’.

And it’s not just on the pro-independence side that we can find such linguistic confusion. One of the favourite refrains that I’m sure we all hear regularly is ‘I’m not a nationalist, I’m an internationalist’. It’s an oxymoronic statement that ignores the simple fact that the very word ‘international’ means ‘between nations’. By its very definition it’s impossible to be an internationalist without recognising that different nations exist and that, presumably, one respects the differences between those nations.

So why the near universal rush for everyone to disassociate themselves from nationalism? The obvious and simple reason is because in the UK we have been indoctrinated into believing that nationalism is simply a synonym for fascism. Presumably this is why Johann Lamont feels perfectly comfortable making statements such as:

‘Yes, conference, the next year is about defeating the politics of nationalism – a virus that has infected so many nations and done so much harm. An ideology that never achieved anything.’

I don’t doubt the sincerity of Lamont’s beliefs so let’s start by identifying the areas where I agree.

I agree that nationalism is an extremely dangerous idea. Put simply nationalism is the extremely dangerous idea that countries should be governed according to the democratically expressed wishes of their citizens and not in the interests of a miniscule power elite.

If you want to know how dangerous an idea nationalism is then simply consider the fact that if I were writing this article 200 years ago then I, and anyone who helped published this piece, would have been subject to arrest, tried for sedition and almost certainly sentenced to transportation to Australia. That was the exact fate that befell many of those 19th century radicals who represented the closest thing that Britain has ever had to its own nationalist movement. They include the Scottish lawyer Thomas Muir and the other members of the Friends of the People, and movements such as the United Irishmen, United Scotsmen and United Englishmen.

Now don’t get me wrong – it took quite some time for me to come round to thinking of myself as a nationalist. Like most people I had come to unquestioningly accept the received wisdom that says that nationalism is a regressive force. The turning point for me came a few years ago when I was talking politics with my German partner. I made some flippant, offhand remark about German nationalism having paved the way for the rise of Hitler. She simply looked at me with a bit of a pitying expression on her face and replied ‘You do know that in Germany the nationalists were the people who were fighting to establish the first ever German democracy don’t you?’

That one statement sparked the realisation that I actually had almost no knowledge or understanding of what nationalism really is or how it had come to exist. And so I went away and started doing my homework.

It turns out that we can answer that question pretty easily – the American Revolution is the genesis of nationalism as a political movement. Driven by the writings of radicals such as Tom Paine, the American Revolution was the first stand against the monarchical rule that had dominated Europe for millennia. The American revolutionaries looked back to an era before Europe was ruled by petty tyrants and modeled their system of democratic government on the Greek and Roman republics of classical antiquity.

The American revolutionaries brought together numerous strands of political thought that had developed across Europe and that made their way across the Atlantic as radicals and authors headed west seeking an escape from oppression or censorship at home. The success of the revolution placed the United States in the vanguard of history, influencing the whole of world politics down to the present day. It became a catalyst that encouraged nationalist ideals to spread like wildfire (or like a virus you might say).

The French Revolution followed hard on the heels of the American Revolution. From there the idea migrated back across the Atlantic again where it inspired the Black Jacobin movement in the Caribbean. General Toussaint Louverture led a slave uprising which successfully brought about the emancipation of slaves and which would eventually establish Haiti as the world’s first ever black-led republic and only the second republic in the Western hemisphere (after the United States).

From Haiti the baton passed to South America, where Simón Bolívar led the revolution that liberated large swathes of the continent from Spanish Imperial rule. Almost every country that now exists in the whole of the Americas owes its existence either to a nationalist revolution in the 19th century, or to a nationalist movement in the 20th century.

Next up came the European Revolutions of 1848. In France the Emperor Louis Philippe was toppled and the Second Republic emerged. In what we now call Germany the nationalist movement attempted to unify the numerous small kingdoms that had been left scattered by the end of the Holy Roman Empire. A parliament was created in Frankfurt – the first institution to fly the red, black and gold flag of the German republic. It was also the last to do so until the creation of the Weimar Republic in 1919. In Hungary the people rose up against the Hapsburg Empire and attempted to win their independence from Austria. They were defeated after Russia started preparations to invade Hungary with 30,000 troops to crush the rebellion and ensure that Hapsburg rule was maintained.

The revolutions of 1848 failed to bring about permanent democratic change, and so the Imperial powers of Europe continued lumbering along until eventually they began to collapse in the conflagration of World War One. The First World War was the beginning of the end for the old imperialist world order, and the Second World War put the final nail in that particular coffin.

From 1945 onwards post-colonial liberation movements around the world set out on an irreversible journey towards winning their independence from the European powers. If you believe that nationalism is ‘an ideology that never achieved anything’ then I suggest that you try explaining that to people in India, or Kenya or anywhere else across South Asia, South East Asia or most of Africa. I suggest you try explaining it to the Kurds – a people who have been imprisoned, tortured and in some cases ethnically cleansed across four different countries during their struggle to win rights to their own self-determination. Explain it to those who have died on the streets of Egypt and Syria over the last few years as they attempt to overthrow the rule of dictators. If you doubt the achievements of nationalism then simply ask yourself what the ‘N’ in ‘A.N.C.’ stands for.

Robin McAlpine of the Jimmy Reid Foundation puts all of this quite brilliantly:

‘One of the things which it’s become normal to say is ‘I’m not a nationalist, but…’ and the question that I ask in return is ‘So what are you? Do you support a Kingdom, an Empire, Theocracy, Fascism, Anarcho-syndicalism? Which mode of organising the whole of society is it that you favour?’

 

So how did we wind up in the position where nationalism seems to be one of the most reviled political stances in Scotland? In my experience a great many people who wish to disassociate themselves from the concept do so from a broadly Marxist viewpoint – hence the constant refrain that Scotland’s independence will be an abandonment of working people in the rest of the UK. And yet Marx and Engels were perfectly willing to align themselves with nationalist (or as they viewed it ‘Bourgeois’) revolutions as a means of accelerating the journey towards workers revolution. Indeed the very last page of the Communist Manifesto proclaims their support for the German Revolution of 1848 for precisely that reason.

Another of the favourite reference points for those who describe themselves as ‘internationalists’ is George Orwell’s Notes on Nationalism. And yet the very first thing that Orwell says in that essay is that:

‘… there is a habit of mind which is now so widespread that it affects our thinking on nearly every subject, but which has not yet been given a name. As the nearest existing equivalent I have chosen the word ‘nationalism’, but it will be seen in a moment that I am not using it in quite the ordinary sense, if only because the emotion I am speaking about does not always attach itself to what is called a nation — that is, a single race or a geographical area. It can attach itself to a church or a class, or it may work in a merely negative sense, against something or other and without the need for any positive object of loyalty.’

He makes it very clear that what he is trying to criticise is not nationalism in the sense in which existed as a historical movement in the 19th century, but rather any form of blind adherence to a supposed set of values whether they be religious or political. In 1945 Orwell didn’t have a word that would suitably encapsulate the concept that he was trying to describe, but we do – ever since 1979 we have referred to such tendencies as ‘fundamentalism’. Yes – Orwell does make criticisms of Irish and Scottish nationalism in that essay. And in the very next sentence he goes on to make the very same criticisms of British nationalism, a concept that at that point in time had scarcely even been articulated.

The thing that worries me at the moment is that a great many people who are campaigning for the preservation of the Union seem to have their concepts confused. Many in the Labour movement scarcely seem to recognise that the whole of socialism essentially grew as an extension of the nationalist struggles of the 18th and 19th centuries. Instead what we continually hear about is their ‘patriotism’, how proud they are to be Scottish.

I’m not proud to be Scottish. Why on earth should I consider myself to be better than anyone else on this planet just because I happen to have been born on one or the other side of an imaginary line across the landscape? Yes, there are a great many people who happen to share that accident of birth with me who have gone on to achieve great things. At the same time, however, there also are a great many people from my country who have been responsible for massive injustices around the globe.

For me the source of the confusion stems from Orwell’s classification of ‘nationalism’ as an aggressive, expansionist force whilst he views ‘patriotism’ as an essentially defensive, protective mechanism.

I adhere to the view that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. It is nothing more than a blind, unquestioning faith that those in authority must be correct because they have draped themselves in a flag, or because they can lay claim to some god-given right to rule. Nationalism, on the other hand, questions authority and insists that society should be governed on a democratic basis.

Yes – I am a nationalist. But I will never be a patriot.

Comments (137)

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  1. I am a nationalist and have been all of my life,ever since I thought about it.

    1. francotton says:

      “And yet Marx and Engels were perfectly willing to align themselves with nationalist (or as they viewed it ‘Bourgeois’) revolutions as a means of accelerating the journey towards workers revolution. Indeed the very last page of the Communist Manifesto proclaims their support for the German Revolution of 1848 for precisely that reason.”
      But Scotland in 2014 is not Germany in 1848. There was no bourgeois nation state in Germany at the time, the bourgeois revolution had not happened there. Germany was quite late and it didn’t happen until 1870. Then Germany became a bourgeois nation state and underwent a huge industrial expansion, leading of course to two world wars as a bit of a nasty side-effect. The bourgeois revolution involves creating a capitalist economy. Scotland already has that. It was progressive as far as Marx and Engels were concerned because it was a step forward from feudalism. In a capitalist economy a working class is created. Scotland has had that for a long time. In fact England had it’s bourgeois revolution 200 years earlier and although Scotland was not independent it wasn’t exactly a colony either, and it had a similar ecoonomy to England’s, i.e. capitalist.

      1. David Morgan says:

        I think we need to be really clear about definitions here. The term ‘bourgeois revolution’ is not a synonym for ‘industrial revolution’. A bourgeois revolution is a violent uprising against a prevailing Monarchical or Imperial system. The American and French Revolutions are the prime examples of such uprisings. There has never been a permanently successful bourgeois revolution in the UK – the Chartist movement is probably the closest we ever came to such a thing.

        The unification of Germany in the 1870s was in no sense either a nationalist or a bourgeois revolution – it came about as the result of Prussia’s victory in the Franco-Prussian War, leading directly to the creation of the German ‘Second Empire’, in which the Kaiser had supreme authority.

        You’re certainly correct that the policies of the Second Empire paved the way for World War One, but I would contend that if the Revolutions of 1848 had succeeded then it’s highly likely that that conflict would never have happened. That’s not to say that there would never have been any sort of conflict between a German Republic and its neighbours but history would certainly have been very different.

  2. The Oxford Dictionary (my default reference, if only for journalistic reasons), defines “nationalist” as “A person who advocates political independence for a country.” What’s interesting is the example they use: “a Scottish nationalist”.

    There is, of course, the variant definition, that I think is worth remembering: “A person with strong patriotic feelings, especially one who believes in the superiority of their country over others.” That reminds me of quite a few folk, on both sides of the indyref argument! 😉

    1. David Morgan says:

      Absolutely. I think the trouble is that most people have come to take that second definition as the only definition of the word and that in itself if dangerous, because it severely clouds or distorts our perceptions or understanding of history.

  3. Will McEwan says:

    Thank you. Thank you. I am a nationalist since I could think. My grandfather was a nationalist. My father was an Irish and Scottish nationalist. My mother was a nationalist. My wife is a nationalist. My sister is a nationalist . My grand-daughter is a nationalist.

    1. David Morgan says:

      Cheers Will

  4. rambling_idiot says:

    Aye, fuck it, I’m a Nationalist.

    1. David Morgan says:

      🙂

  5. David Morgan says:

    Reblogged this on Another Scotland.

  6. I too am a nationalist.

    Nationalism is not a bad word, but one which should be embraced. It’s a great thing to be proud of your country and to want your country to take responsibility to govern itself. It’s a great thing to stand up and be counted, and to allow your voice to be heard, and to fight for the freedom, which our forefathers fought and died for.

    It’s a wonderful thing to strive to reclaim and protect our incredible history, our beautiful culture, our heritage and most importantly to wish to strengthen our national identity. The issue of national identity is an important one, because we are currently losing this, which is incredibly sad, and the only way to retrieve this, in my mind, is to vote for independence on September the 18th.

    And no, as nationalists, we are not “living in the past” – far from it. We have the intellect to envisage a brighter future in a free and independent Scotland, because we have courage of our convictions and we have belief in our ability to govern our country in a much more efficient manner.

    We have faith to break free from our captors and will no longer forgive Westminster for the years of hardship and abuse that they have forced us to tolerate. We will no longer be ruled by the greedy, thieving Westminster mob.

    So it’s sad that people like Lamont use the word ‘nationalist’ as some form of derogatory term. Because, in my mind, a nationalist is simply an intellectual being who wishes to escape the clutches of an evil and corrupt regime.

    1. David Morgan says:

      Dunno about the ‘captors’ bit, but Scotland (and the UK as a whole) is really unusual in the extent to which we continue to be governed by largely unreformed ruling elite.

      When we look at the history of radical reform movements in the UK over the last 300 years then one thing that comes through clearly, time and time again, is that none of the freedoms that we enjoy today was ever given away freely. It took the actions and protests of a great many people over hundreds of years for us to reach the point where we’re at just now and even then Scotland can still be seen and described as just about the last feudal country in Europe.

      To me independence offers the only chance of realist and major reforms in our lifetime – for all the people of the UK.

      1. spikey1one says:

        I agree entirely, the problem is that Elite ‘puppets’ like Tony B.Liar destroyed so many of the freedoms that we once took for granted. The current crop of ‘low life’ that call themselves politicians and claim to be looking out for the ‘peoples’ interests, are just the Elite’s thugs bent on robbing us of our few remaining rights, so long live the nationalists.

  7. DaveyM says:

    Interesting piece overall, but citing NLP as the source of wisdom concerning the function of words is not the best way to support an argument.

    1. David Morgan says:

      Yeah – it’s not necessarily the most creative line in the whole piece, but it does a job 🙂

  8. So unlike most below the line I’m not a nationalist – I’m a Yes-leaning anti-nationalist, as I’ve written here.

    https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/03/21/why-anti-nationalists-should-vote-yes/

    I don’t want to make the case against nationalism in this instance, but I do want to clarify its meaning.

    Nationalism has two principal meanings. The first is: a sense of affinity with, support for, or belonging to a nation (which, incidentally, I have!). But the primary currency of the term comes from the second meaning: as a political ideology which holds that nationhood is the necessary and appropriate foundation for territorial sovereignty – that a nation *should* have a corresponding territorial sovereign state. In other words, that by virtue of Scotland being a nation it should *on those grounds* be a sovereign state. This is what I reject.

    I support independence on strictly pragmatic grounds as offering, in this historical moment, a more effective means of organising against neoliberalism. If I’d been alive in 1945 I would have opposed Scottish independence, believing (as I would have then) in the emerging power of the British state to fight for a common good. The democratic structures of the British state are in 2014 beyond likely repair. An independent Scotland promises a better model, at least north of the border. But I don’t think that Scotland has some national essence that qualifies it for sovereignty.

    To be sure, this view probably puts me in a minority. The paradox is that nationalists on both sides share so much in common. When Johan Lamont believes that the very existence of Britishness authorises the continuing existence of the United Kingdom, she is no less of a nationalist than Salmond. As I see it, we still can fight for a new social order within revised territorial borders; but nationalism on either side simply doesn’t need to be part of the independence question.

    1. Robert Graham says:

      well mostly agree we all have our own view on the type of society we want or wish to see call it what you want it seems the electorate south of the border are going off on some weird me first grab all you can hate johnny foreigner trip that should have been moderated by both Labour and Liberal parties now it seems to be a fight to go further right than even Margaret Thatcher tried .when you included J Lamont thats when i am afraid we part company i can’t think of a worse person to include in any discussion on anything especially something so important as Septembers vote some people say she’s as thick as the proverbial short plank and a total stranger to the truth along with her party of traitors i am not inclined to totally disagree with the sentiment only my opinion like it or not .
      signed a Nationalist and proud of it

    2. David Morgan says:

      Hi Fraser – great to hear from you. I remember reading your piece when it was posted, and had a slight tiz over whether or not to even carry on with this piece after you beat me to the draw 🙂 Reading back over it just now it feels like they make really good comparison pieces though – there’s a lot I think we agree on and a lot that would be greater to discuss further.

      I guess my take on the Nation = Territorial Sovereignty question is to ask what we’re defining as ‘the Nation’. I guess my thinking is fairly heavily shaped by the Benedict Anderson ‘Imagined Communities’ model, namely that all ‘nations’ are simply collections of people who, for whatever reasons, collectively choose to think of themselves as ‘a community’.

      For me the important questions that stem from that are ‘who is that community supposed to include / exclude?’ and ‘how large or small should that community be – what is the best size of country for enabling things to get done?’.

      The answers to those questions have really changed over time. In the Germanic Confederation in the 19th century people believed that the answer the first question (‘who should the nation include?’) was ‘anyone who speaks German’. I think it’s important to note that that was originally intended to be an inclusive definition. For all that skeptics talk about Nationalism being a force for separation a great many Nationalist movements have been built around overcoming difference and trying to build unity. In the 19th century the Germanic Confederation was made up of 51 separate states (most of which were monarchies some of which were free cities). Those tiny states were largely at the mercy of the much larger empires that surrounded them – France on one side, Prussia and the Hapsburg Empire on the other. The belief of the Nationalists was that the ongoing mediaeval nature of that setup left the people that made up the German Confederation weak, exposed and largely unable to defend themselves against these other great powers that they were surrounded by. Their proposed solution was that a modern democratic state should be created, and that the basis for organising that state should be that it was made up of people that spoke German.

      In that era of competitive, warring, monarchical states bigger was inherently better. Bigger meant strength, it meant access to greater resources. That was the philosophy (and the need) that drove the growth of European Imperialism. But all expansionist Empires are inherently doomed to fail. They continue growing and growing until they no longer become manageable (or ‘controllable’) and eventually they will inevitably begin to break down into smaller units.

      That’s the juncture that I believe we’ve arrived at in Scotland and in the UK. One of the most common strands of Unionist rhetoric is to continually keep beating out that 19th century idea that we live in big, frightening, nasty, uncertain world and that is better to remain together because unity means strength. But strength against who? Who is going to attack us? If Scotland becomes independent are the French going to start sailing up the channel to raid our merchant shipping in the Baltic?

      In the 18th century the Union helped to serve a purpose in terms of ensuring security. But in the globalised world of the 20th century the threat of domestic invasion is scarcely an issue. Unionists attempt to argue that globalisation is a reason why independence should not happen. I take the contrary view that globalisation is very reason why the return of independence has never been more likely or more possible.

      In the 19th century it was important to be part of a big country because bigger meant stronger. But those are not the challenges that we face in the 20th century. The global challenges that we face now require the ability to think and act quickly and it far easier to do that in smaller communities where there is high degree of interconnection between the inhabitants. As a great many people have already pointed out Scotland is almost the ideal size of community for being able to get things done – provided the people on the great have the power and authority to make decisions for themselves.

      And as far as the first question goes – ‘who should make up that community?’. I think for a long while now it’s been clear that in a country that has suffered mass emigration for anything up to 500 years and that is on the brink of a potential population crisis the only rational answer to that question is ‘anyone who wants to live here’.

      1. David Morgan says:

        That should of course read ‘provided people on the ground have the power and authority to make decision for themselves.

        I’m conscious that’s a really long-winded response that might engage directly with what you were trying to draw out. It would be great to hear more about how you think we should be determining where the boundaries lie when it comes to effective governance.

  9. Reblogged this on Crow House Kitchen and commented:
    This encapsulates my feeling on Nationalism nicely.

  10. Alex Buchan says:

    Where to begin! This is such an important subject. Yes I too have noticed that people say I’m not a nationalist but… I honestly don’t mind that. Everyone has to find their own way of framing their support for independence. Also saying I’m not a nationalist but… is a rejection of the BT argument that this is about the nats versus the rest of Scotland. In fact, I would like some of the Yes publicity to contain quotes from people saying I’m not a nationalist but… in order to show that support for independence extends well beyond the SNP’s membership.

    However, the unionists parties are getting quite nasty in their denunciation of Scottish nationalism and there could be very serious consequences. I saw a you tube video of a panel discussion on the referendum at the British Academy in London. Even though Adam Tomkins on the panel had commended the SNP for its civic nationalism two of the audience showed their hysterical hatred of Scottish nationalism and this didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows.

    The unionist parties are stoking up a lot of potential for future hatred. If there is a yes vote I suspect this will be less of an issue because if half of the Scottish electorate vote for independence then one is saying that they are all nationalists, so a yes vote will take a lot of the sting out of it. But If there is a no vote I suspect this will become a massive problem because the unionist parties will want to try to hammer home their advantage by stigmatising Scottish Nationalism and the problem will be to keep things from getting extreme on both sides.

    The other problem is that it will have been presented in England as nasty nationalists trying to break up the country so there will be even more Jock baiting and lack of understanding between what Scots really feel and what the rest of the country perceives. It will also be the backdrop to attempts to curtail the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Labour’s proposals already envisage removing local government from the Scottish Parliament’s control by having a direct link between local government and Westminster. These were all the reasons why I wasn’t in favour of a yes/no binary referendum, but now we have one we have to win it. No other option is tolerable.

    I’ve always been a nationalist, but I’ve lived outside Scotland quite a bit and, from that perspective, can see that there is a lot wrong with Scotland. People who are nationalist and think Scotland is superior or who have no ambitions for changing Scotland are as far removed from me as people who are unionists. So to discuss nationalism we need to acknowledge that there are negative and positive form of Scottish nationalism

    1. David Morgan says:

      Hi Alex – great to hear from you.

      I was actually pretty nervous about publishing this piece because it feels like what I’m trying to convey runs counter to the established discourse around the subject. It certainly doesn’t wind me up that people choose to say ‘I’m not a nationalist, but…’ and I totally understand where they’re coming from. I just wanted to try and dig a bit deeper below that and question some of the received wisdom that is doing the rounds. And I’m really pleased to see that there’s some great, mature, well reasoned perspectives coming out through the comments thread.

      I think your experience with the British Academy thing really gets to the heart of some of my motivations for writing this piece. I live in England myself and it’s always an interesting experience to watch peoples reactions if the discussion around Scottish Independence comes up. In the space of the last couple of months I’ve had conversations where I’ve started speaking about how I’m pro-independence and people have almost recoiled in horror. In one instance one of the people I was speaking to looked like he might even want to take me outside and punch me – fortunately I think I’ve managed to expand a few peoples thinking about the subject though 🙂

      It’s that kind of reaction that really got me thinking though. What is it that is shaping peoples perceptions in that way? Why should people take such offence at the idea that some people in some counties might prefer to govern themselves rather than being governed by people in another country?

      That really got me on to questioning the labels that get bandied about, not just in this debate but also more generally. So much of what gets said about the pro-indepenence movement is not based on anything that we might actually say, do or believe in – it is simply an external projection of other people’s fears that is cast upon us because those doing the projecting have been conditioned in such a way that they are unable to see things from the other point of view. Hence my interest in trying to undercut those perceptions now, before we get to the point of actually making the decision.

    2. Alex Buchan says:

      Hi David

      I really appreciated the article and link to Robin MacAlpine’s brilliant explanation of why the arguments against Scottish independence are so dated.

      There’s a few points I want to take up. I think there is a problem talking about English people’s projections. Firstly it’s quite patronising and secondly its not very Marxist. I’m not saying that you are not right that there are projections, just that it is not helpful in my view to view things in that way. I think it is ironic that you quote Orwell but not Nairn. Nairn’s analysis stands as the most incisive Marxist analysis of British nationalism and Scotland place in relation to it.

      Nairn points out that the UK state has unique features, one of which is the importance of obscuring debate in order to keep the real nature of the British state obscure. The British state therefore relies more heavily than any other Western democracy of the elite controlling the limits of what is permitted in terms of political discourse. The fundamental nature of the British state is one of adaptation to any perceived threats to that elite. This is done by assimilating movements where possible, as happened with the Labour party, and crushing threats where this is not possible, the crushing of the miners is an example of the later.

      The system has tried both tactics with Scottish nationalism. The establishment of the Scottish parliament and the return of the stone of destiny are examples of the former, the present onslaught against Scottish nationalism is an example of the latter. Just as Thatcher neutered the unions by defeating the miners, the present Westminster establishment is united across the parties to execute a rerun of this by striking a terminal defeat on the SNP through a referendum defeat as the first step in completely discrediting Scottish nationalism. The present ideological war against Scottish nationalism is the necessary prelude to this, just as anti-trade union rhetoric was in overdrive leading up to the miner’s strike. Therefore English people are caught up in this just as they were caught up in anti-union feelings, so to talk about projections deflects from what’s really going on. Nairn’s writing makes all this very clear and predicable.

      1. David Morgan says:

        Sorry if I gave the impression that I was talking specifically about ‘English people’s projections’ – that certainly wasn’t my intention. Indeed I know plenty of folk down here who absolutely get what’s going on and who are backing us to the hilt.

        I should also note that those ‘projections’ are just as prevalent within Scotland (ie Scottish unionists projecting onto nationalists) as they are anywhere else. It’s just that there’s a greater degree of distance when viewed from outside Scotland, so fewer people here have access to channels of information (such as Bella) where those attitudes might be questioned.

        And yeah – it’s great that you bring Nairn into the equation. I’ll need to go back and do a proper refresher on a lot of that stuff to get back into the specific detail of it, but yeah we’re definitely talking about systems of manipulation and control exercised by the ruling elites, often through ownership of the media.

        We can see the same process at work in the whole of the debates around Immigration / Europe / UKIP. If any of these discussions were carried out with proper reference to the historical reasons of why we arrived at where we are now (or even proper reference to basic factual information) then I think we’d see a very different kind of discussion taking place.

        I don’t think there’s anything that intrinsically sets Scottish public opinion apart from the rest of the UK on these issues, but I do think Scotland benefits from having a broader media platform on which to discuss them. Or if not a broader platform, then at least one that is not driven so heavily by a centralised London news-agenda.

      2. Alex Buchan says:

        Thanks for the clarification which also makes my point about the problems of a no vote because a general revulsion against nationalism won’t be restricted to England but will be prevalent in Scotland as well.

    3. Alex Buchan says:

      I should add that I feel that the miner’s leadership seemed unaware of the nature of what was going on and played perfectly into the image that the establishment wanted them to play. I, actually, feel that Alex Salmond is in danger of doing the same thing. To respond to the no currency union ploy by saying Scotland wouldn’t honour debts, was exactly what the UK establishment would have hoped he would say, because it aids them in their propaganda onslaught. The forming of opinion in England does count because it will shape the nature of the political narrative at Westminster after any no vote. Scotland may feel sullen about it being portrayed as such in England, but like union members, Scots will be politically very weak because they voted no and therefore set the scene for ruling Scottish nationalism out of future political discourse. The attempt is to make ‘nationalism’ like ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’, something that isn’t seen as a serious political position for anyone to take. The ultimate aim is either destroy the SNP on make it change its discourse to one of gradualist constitutional change. Britain’s allowance of a referendum on the future existence of the British state was always going to come with a high stakes for both sides. All the examples given here of individuals commenting on their experience of countering extreme views against nationalism shows the magnitude of the issue. We are not going to be able to go round every person in Britain and explain that it is not what they think.

      1. David Morgan says:

        Very true. This is where the difficulty lies, and where I have to sympathise with the SNP a bit. It doesn’t matter what approach they take the other side will just attack them with the counter-argument. If the SNP say ‘White’ the unionists will say ‘Black’ and if the SNP say ‘Black’ then the unionists will say ‘White’.

        This is obviously the difficulty with the currency debate. It frankly doesn’t matter what option the SNP went for the opposition was always going to trash it anyway. And they absolutely have to stick to the currency union line now, because if they did come out and say what we all know (which is that Plan B is to create a new currency and just peg it to Sterling) then they’d be trashed for that as well, but would have been seen to surrender ground in the process.

        We might not be able to get round every person in Britain, but if we can get round enough people in Scotland before the 18th of September then the result might just encourage others elsewhere to start asking some more questions.

      2. Alex Buchan says:

        Thanks for responding. I am using the analytical tools that Nairn’s analysis furnishes us with in order to tease out more long term strategic aims on the part of the British State, instead of getting caught up in the details of the present campaign. We could equally say that it didn’t matter what Arthur Scargil said, the press would have distorted it, so the dynamics are the same. I’m not really interested in scare mongering, but I am interested in not blindly hoping for the best. I’m personally involved in the campaign but appreciate that the vote cannot be predicted and that the demonising of nationalism will be the biggest hurdle to getting a yes vote. Gramsci’s analysis of the importance of the propaganda war is as relevant today as in his own time and the Italian communists paid a terrible price for not realising that. I appreciate that there are too many uncertainties to see what lies beyond a no vote but it’s obvious that the vote will change things and the SNP will have to rethink their strategy and deal with the fact that independence has been ruled out. The SNP may in the end be forced to come out and say we are no longer nationalists but….

      3. Alex Buchan says:

        Or more likely they will be forced by a compliant media into saying that “we accept the Scottish public have rejected nationalism but…. This is the uncomfortable truths that nobody on the nationalist felt want to have to acknowledge. In the end this is a propaganda war and one side will win either way, even if we hope that it doesn’t matter and the fight goes on as if nothing’s changed. Votes do have effects. We are not Canada, this is not Quebec. The British state is a different beast from the Canadian state; just look at Ireland where the national question is still not full resolved.

  11. Muscleguy says:

    In New Zealand the National Party is the Centre-Right political party. Generally shortened to the Nats or occasionally the Tories. Over in Australia they have the Liberal National Party which is also of the Centre-Right. To be against New Zealand or Australian nationalism is to be in essence an Imperialist. But if the few of those around think that GB would have them back they are dreaming, anymore than that the rest of population would vote for that.

    The SNP is bucking the trend in terms of being a more Social Democratic party doesn’t mean the N in the name is any more meaningful in terms of Nationalism than those in Australasia. So I don’t see how voting SNP makes one a nationalist in the pejorative sense. Party names can become fairly meaningless anyway. Since when was Labour a real party of the working classes? for eg. One Nation Conservatives, those who are left, are appalled at the inequality both in individual incomes and between regions and countries of the UK (with some blindnesses notwithstanding). The neoliberal libertarians have taken over.

    1. David Morgan says:

      I think it’s really interesting, and really important, to get other (non-UK) perspectives on the subject. So many of these terms have completely different connotations depending on where you come from.

      One really interesting thing that’s come up for me is just how right Marx & Engels were in describing nationalism as a ‘bourgeois revolution’. If you go back and actually read someone like Tom Paine it very rapidly becomes clear that this guy was not a socialist by any manner of means – far from it. He was seriously against government control over peoples lives and seriously in favour of having as little taxation as possible.

      If you go back and read some of that stuff you can really understand how modern-day Tea Party types can justifiably claim to be going back and resurrecting the original spirit and principles of the American Revolution. You can also see similar things coming through if you go back and read John Stuart Mill – so many of those people who were considered revolutionary or radical in their day really can seem quite reactionary at times by the standards of modern-day Scotland.

      I’m increasingly coming to understand why Labour’s continuing attempts to paint the SNP as ‘Tartan Tories’ don’t really seem to get very far. My theory is that the SNP is probably more like a ‘Liberal’ party in the original, 19th century, meaning of the term. In historical terms they’re probably more closely related to the Whigs than they are to either the Tories or Labour – and that’s where the real threat to Labour lies, because historically Scotland was very much a Whig-voting country.

      The problem for Labour have now is that we’ve become so used to this bi-partisan Labour vs Tory dynamic in Britain that they have no idea how to face off a serious challenge from a genuinely Liberal position.

  12. I say that I am a Scottish Nationalist and an Internationalist. I love the Nationalist vision of being a nation among and along with other nations as equals. I love the fact that we have South Asian Scottish Nationalists, Filipino Scottish Nationalists, English Scottish Nationalists etc.. I love the fact that we are an intra-ethnic, intra-cultural nation, embracing the cultures of those who have immigrated here or their parents or grandparents have immigrated here, while retaining our traditional cultures (plural). I love the fact that we welcome immigrants who bring their cultures to enrich our traditional cultures.

    I cringe when our Scottish Government leaders proclaim that Scotland can be a beacon to the other nations of these islands of Great Britain (great in size in contrast with Britain (Brittany). If we can be mutual stimulants to better things. that will make me happier than being a beacon.

    1. David Morgan says:

      Love it. I can’t wait for the day where we’re finally able to shed that ‘Wha’s like us?’ inferiority complex and we can stop going on about how ‘world-class’ we are at everything, and how everyone else loves us so much.

      Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get on with being a normal country, happy to live alongside others and comfortable with it’s place in the world?

      I think Tommy Sheridan said it recently – ‘We’re no better than anyone else.. but, hey, we’re no worse than anyone else either’.

  13. Sean says:

    I had a recent argument with a Labour MP who said he found nationalism sinister and that was why he was voting No. So I pointed out that the mosr recent nation to face a UN Human Rights investigation is Sri Lanka, where over 50,000 people died in the final months of the civil war, most by government artillery aimed at civilian targets. The full name of the country is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. I asked the Labour MP if he found anything ‘sinister’ about ‘democratic socialism’. Flummoxed.

    1. David Morgan says:

      It’s incredible how much fear and misperception are influencing peoples opinions at the moment. Like you say the labels don’t mean anything – it’s actions that count.

      That raises a question though – what would iScotland’s full official title be? I guess if we retain the monarchy it would be the ‘Kingdom of Scotland’, if not the ‘Republic of Scotland’. Which do we prefer?

    2. I am a Sri Lankan and I am sorry to say but I have to disagree with you, the civil war had nothing to do with socialism. It was just that an ethnic minority( tamil indians from india) wanted to claim the northern part of the country but the Sinhalese nationalists did not want to let the northern part of the country divide away from the rest of the country a and they considered anyone who disagreed with them to be unpatrioric/enemy of the state/non- nationalists. And I am sorry to say that any country can put the words ‘democratic’ or ‘socialist’ in their name and that does not mean anything- I mean I don’t think there are many countries that there are many countries that have got the words ‘undemocratic’ and ‘unsocialist’ in their names. I mean even North Korea has got the word ‘Democratic’ in it but that doesn’t mean anything, I am sure we can agree on that at least.

  14. Davy says:

    *If you doubt the achievements of nationalism then simply ask yourself what the ‘N’ in ‘A.N.C.’ stands for.*

    The “nation” of “south africa” that was created just over a century ago by borders created and enforced after the brits and boers had fought over who’s possession it should be.

    “Nations” are mainly determined by man-made borders.
    Supporting “nations” is supporting borders between peoples.

    I support “independence” for the part of this island that goes by the name scotland as a means of dismantling the imperial british state……. and hopefully , in the long , long term a world without borders or “nations”

    1. David Morgan says:

      Interesting. I think we might have different perspectives, even though we both have similar motivations in our support for independence (indeed dismantling the imperial British state is one of the main reasons I support independence).

      In one of the replies above I was speaking about how many independence / nationalist movements have been geared as much around unification and bringing people together as they have been around separation. The ANC is a case in point – my understanding is that much of the founding ethos of the ANC was that all of the various tribes, kingdoms and peoples of what we now call South Africa should come together and unite in order to resist colonialist exploitation by the British & Dutch. It was an attempt to resist the ‘divide & conquer’ tactics that had stood imperialism in good stead the world over.

      As such I’m sure we could find some parallels with the situation in the German Confederacy in 1848, where nationalism was a force that was trying to strengthen the resistance to outside attack and exploitation. Always good to remember that it’s the ‘African National Congress’, not the ‘South African National Congress’.

      As much as I’m sure we’d all love to live in a world without borders it still begs the questions ‘who makes the decisions?’, ‘who has control?’. Even if we abolished all of the nation states in the world tomorrow we’d still be faced that issue.

  15. setondene says:

    I guess we nationalists need to underpin our ‘creed’ with a strong moral foundation. Nothing else is acceptable IMHO.

  16. andygm1 says:

    I suspect that the reason so many people say, “I’m not a nationalist, but . . . ” is because the Labour Party in particular have expended a considerable degree in effort over the last fifty years or so in comprehensively smearing the term ‘nationalist’. So much so that to call oneself a nationalist in Scotland is rather like saying ‘I believe in persecuting minorities’.

    I am a nationalist, but I rarely mention that to most family and friends because so many of them have been indoctrinated by the Britnats. I believe that Scotland is a nation and should govern itself rather than being used as a source of financial and human capital by the British Establishment for the benefit of London and the ‘Home’ Counties.

    1. David Morgan says:

      I also suspect that it’s a function of the ‘glorious isolation’ that we’re supposed to occupy within the British Isles. In terms of history teaching we have virtually no real understanding of the history of those countries that are closest to us Europe, let alone places on the far side of the planet.

      There is a very odd trope on the left that says ‘post-colonialist nationalism abroad = good, nationalism at home = bad’. As far as I’m concerned they’re the same thing – organised resistance to dominant power.

  17. Davy says:

    David Morgan wrote : “As much as I’m sure we’d all love to live in a world without borders it still begs the questions ‘who makes the decisions?’, ‘who has control?’. Even if we abolished all of the nation states in the world tomorrow we’d still be faced that issue”

    Hopefully we , the people , could find ways of working this out with authentic participatory grass roots democracy within , between , amongst and across communities , regions , cultures

    1. David Morgan says:

      Great! I think that’s what I’m really keen on driving at. The more I learn about the prospects for the ecology over the next 50 years, the more I’m convinced that radical localism is the best way for us to tackle those problems. It’s going to require sustained effort from every part of society in order to turn these problems around, and the only way we’re going to convince people to engage with that is if they can see and reap the direct rewards of the effort that they’ve put in.

      The thing that excites me most about the prospect of Scottish independence is that we can stop ‘hoping’ and start ‘doing’. There’s work to be done!

      🙂

      x

      1. Davy says:

        I agree David , and would radical localisms connected regionally and then globally not make borders , nations and nationalisms eventually redundant
        🙂
        x

  18. Macart says:

    I’m a nationalist *Waves*. 🙂

  19. I guess there are many more appropriate words to define what is advocated here: autonomy, self-rule, self-government, voluntary communities, panarchy, and so on and so forth. As for historical nationalism, that is nationalism in theory and action, I point out to these wonderful essays as a contribution to the theme:

    (1862) Lord Acton, Nationality (http://www.panarchy.org/acton/nationality.html)

    (1882) Ernest Renan, What is a nation? (extract) (http://www.panarchy.org/renan/nation.en.html)

    (1926) Carlton Hayes, Nationalism as a Religion (http://www.panarchy.org/hayes/nationalism.html)

    (1941) Carlton Hayes, From Nationalism to Imperialism (http://www.panarchy.org/hayes/imperialism.html)

    The definition by Ernest Renan seems to me particularly interesting : « A nation’s existence is … a daily plebiscite. »

    1. David Morgan says:

      Brilliant – thanks a lot for that Gian Piero. I’ve already digested Renan’s stuff, but the others are new to me. I’ll be diving headlong into those 🙂

      I also think Rabindranath Tagore has some very interesting views on the subject. On one hand he was against Nationalism – which he viewed in terms of an aggressive, expansionist European imperialist force, driven by industrialised capitalism and backed up by an empirical approach to philosophy and science that served to dehumanise the individual. On the other hand he was a supporter of the Indian independence movement and a major influence on how it developed.

      He tried to argue that the countries of the East needed to come up with their own form of nationalism grounded in the spirituality of traditional religion. He gave a series of lectures in Japan in the 1920s that implored the Japanese not to go down the road of mimicking the competitive nationalisms of the West. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and we all know what came of it.

      I think it’s really interesting reading in terms of thinking about a non-competitive mode of nationalism that isn’t driven by the need for perpetual growth that underpins capitalist consumption.

  20. One of the interesting factors here is that the emergence of nationalism in the modern sense of popular sovereignty within a self-defined territory…between 1776 and the “spring of the peoples” in 1848…by any measure comes well after the Treaty of Union in 1707…which was the amalgamation (if you ask the Scots ruling class) or absorption of (if you ask the English Ruling class) into a new oligarchy – the British Ruling Class.

    Who have always been both profoundly anti-nationalistic and anti-democratic.

    1. David Morgan says:

      Cheers Peter. It’s a really fascinating stage in history and I’m keen to try and probe further back as well.

      I guess we can see some of the first moves towards this period during the time of the English Civil War – or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms as we should more accurately describe it. After all, this was a century of conflict that blew up out of the inherent social, religious and political tensions that emerged following the Union of the Crowns and monarchical attempts to create a single unified state (followed rapidly by Cromwell’s imposition of the Commonwealth). I’d also really like to look more into the history of the Dutch Republic which is also an important precursor.

      The more I read the more I start to realise how the experience of Scotland and the Scots is fundamentally tied in to a lot of these developments. The Romantic movement in Germany was a central driving force in the Nationalist movement of the time, and it was heavily inspired by the explosion of the romantic myth of Scotland. Scottish influences in the American Revolution have already been pretty well charted.

      I really have the feeling that we’ve come full circle and that Scotland once again stands on the brink of being able to re-shape how people think about the world and their place in it. There are plenty of people out there who are actively willing us on.

  21. Alex Buchan says:

    I’ve found this post and the other post by Fraser MacDonald really helpful in clarifying my thinking, and it has made me realise that probably the most important thing between now and September 18th is to be savvy enough to appreciate the incredible power of the “I’m not a nationalist…… but I support independence” argument in busting open the main argument of the no campaign that this is all about nationalism. Trying to explain the relevance of nationalism, as Robin MacAlpine does in the clip, is powerful, but I noticed that it seemed to annoy Joyce MacMillan in the foreground, rather than win her over. So I think the most powerful thing that can happen is people standing up and saying “I’m not a nationalist but..” because it acts as a bridge to others and shows that the yes campaign is open and non-sectarian. The BBC has persistently refused to let Scottish Green MSPs onto Question Time, even though, they have 2 MSPs and various councillors. One can only assume it is because they appreciate the impact of this. The Greens are regarded internationally as progressive and so to have a Green MSP arguing for independence would do more to change attitudes outside of Scotland than anything else, yet the BBC continues to bar this from happening.

    1. David Morgan says:

      You’re bang on the money. I was really in two minds about whether or not I should even write this piece, since it could potentially leave the door open to being accused of all sorts. At the same time though I do think that it’s really important for us to be able to explore this stuff in depth.

      If there’s one thing that we really need right now it’s to find a way in which we can be comfortable with inhabiting complexity. The whole Project Fear campaign strategy is based around exploiting people’s lack of knowledge when it comes to technical subjects such as monetary policy and currency. We fear what we don’t understand, and Better Together are relying on playing to those fears in order to win the day.

      Perhaps part of my motivation in these pieces is to try and expand everyone’s thinking so that when we’re faced with these issues in the heat of debate we have something that we can fall back on and use to try and shift peoples perceptions. And you’re right – that’s where the ‘I’m not a nationalist, but…’ line comes in useful in terms of showing people that you’re just like them and that you share the same values and concerns.

      The thing that I wanted to try and do with this piece was to back that up further by questioning the underlying assumptions that even drive us to make that statement. If we can start unpicking people’s perceptions of what Nationalism even means or represents then we could be in a very strong position to turn the tide.

      That takes time though, and in the short term I’m sure you may be right – that the direct and simple message is the most straightforward and effective. I do have to say though that I’m really pleased with the way in which this comment thread has turned out – it’s been one of the most stimulating, thought-provoking, and above all respectful discussions that I think I’ve ever come across in the last 2 years of debating. It really does make me optimistic that a space has been created where this kind of complexity can be explored without the hyperbole and name-calling that I’m sure we’ve all become thoroughly sick of.

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        David I’d like to thank you. When I’ve been at RIC events where people premise their remarks by saying “I’m not a nationalist but..” it irked me because I wanted to say “why buy into the British unionist definition of those who have campaigned for independence for years”. But because of this chance to respond to your article I can see that my reaction is a hangover from the days of feeling beleaguered, and feeling the need to fend off criticism. But we can chose not to feel that; to be open to all opinions about nationalism or anti-nationalism, because ultimately the only thing that matters is a commitment to democracy. I can now say that I don’t feel the need to define myself either way because, like others I also want to see far more localism in an independent Scotland. I was only ever a nationalist because I saw it as the most effective way to bring about change, but in an independent Scotland I wouldn’t be a nationalist, why would I; what would it mean in those circumstances? I take my hat off to Peter Arnott. He is absolutely right, it was the Scots Ruling Class who denied us democracy, its got nothing to do with the English. Its the system that stinks, and that system holds back England, Wales and Northern Ireland, just as much as us, but our best bet of bringing down that system is to campaign vigorously for a yes vote in September. There’s no contradiction in my mind.

  22. David Morgan says:

    Looks like we also have some interest from abroad – the link at the very foot of the page is to a Portugese blog that’s picked up on the article. If anyone happens to be a fluent Portugese speaker it would be great to get an accurate translation of it.

    According the Babelfish the piece reads (approximately) as follows:

    The games with the words are not always harmless. Sometimes the misunderstanding about the meaning and scope which gives a particular term can help convey the wrong idea. Is the case of nationalism.

    If anyone finds that something as important as the valuation of their culture, their origin or their land causes can feel superior to others, You can put themselves and others in serious conflict. Question: nationalism is a good thing or a bad thing?

    The problem of nationalism is reappearing everywhere in Europe. Next door, in the Spanish Kingdom in Catalonia, there’s talk of a referendum to determine its citizens on independence. And, in the so-called United Kingdom, in September will make even a referendum on Scottish independence. The need to seek to better understand the concept of nationalism is on the agenda, because any step that in the field of politics always has implications, and these are sometimes different paths of those who initially predicted.

    Let suggest reading the text I’m a Nationalist, David Morgan, left in Bella Caledonia, in favour of Scottish independence, as much as we were not able to understand. The link is this:

    https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/04/03/i-am-a-nationalist/

    The European Union, it might be better to say the European Commission, which still has the “our” Barroso has taken a stand against these manifestations. Already mentioned in relation both to Catalonia and Scotland, which, if opting for independence, will be automatically excluded from the organization. And that readmission will be a complex process. Of course, here also is a question likely to be seen in a variety of ways.

    But the way the issue has been addressed by the European authorities authorizing the saying that are not favourable to this type of demonstrations. It won’t be hard to find out differences between this attitude and the socket, for example, in the case of Kosovo. Also for this, will be of any advantage look increasingly on this question of whether we should be nationalists. Or Patriots, taking here note that David Morgan, to continue quoting, rejects belong to this second category. Will be different be nationalistic, of being patriotic, as he says? One thing is certain: it’s not just a matter of semantics.

  23. Davy says:

    Alex Buchan wrote : “I was only ever a nationalist because I saw it as the most effective way to bring about change, but in an independent Scotland I wouldn’t be a nationalist, why would I ”

    I can agree with that sentiment , which could be called being a pragmatic nationalist in order to gain independence ( but could also be called an independence supporter ) – as opposed to an essentialist nationalist who supports “their” nation , right or wrong , good or bad , up to blindly killing or dying for “it”.

    Without wanting to de-rail this discussion – but it is relevant in discussion on identities – I think it is worth comparing with Jeffrey Weekes term of “necessary fiction” relating to (homo)sexual identity , in that it is only necessary to assert a sexual identity of being attracted to same gender because of prejudice against it……………if and when there is no prejudice against same gender attraction , then having straight/gay sexual identities will become redundant – as people will just fancy…..people

    1. Alex Buchan says:

      I think that’s an interesting angle. Being Scottish has always for me felt like an unnatural condition; to have a consciousness of your identity as Scottish and for that identity to be projected back to you in so many instances in a distorted way by others who do not share your identity and who are unable to appreciate your experience. It could be said that everyone experiences this to some extent, but I think that misses the significance of both the experience of being gay and of being Scottish. In both cases it is a collective as well as an individual experience, as it is in the case of people who are black in Britain. All of these cases have led to a struggle for justice and recognition. I think this also helps to clarify why Scottish Nationalism is open to criticism, because, as Scots we may be a minority in the country we find ourselves in, but we are not a minority in Scotland. Scottish Nationalism can therefore appear to be a chauvinism inside Scotland, which is why it is problematic. For instance, Scottish Nationalists have taken action against English people living in Scotland as in the campaign against white settlers, which, coming from the North East, I’m aware of the issues which surrounded that. I think this dual position of being a minority in one context and a majority in another also makes it difficult for us to perceive that our struggle has universal aspects of fighting for justice, which are shared by other minority groups. I feel we could learn a lot from these other movements. One of the things that really pertinent to this discussion is not accepting the majorities definitions. In our case that would mean not accepting that in our case nationalism means chauvinism, not accepting that this referendum is about nationalism, not accepting the stereotypes (which we ourselves often go along wit) that we are (take your pick); stingy, dour, thick, more prone to being violent, more prone to being alcoholic, have uncouth accents, permanently cold, windy, wet, have a chip on our shoulders etc etc.

  24. David Morgan says:

    I think that’s a really interesting line of thought Davy. I’ve got a passing acquaintance with some of those strands of thought around the ‘performative’ aspects of sexuality or gender so I appreciate how it’s relevant.

    Expanding on what Alex is saying – I think that these questions around the ways in which Scotland’s peoples and cultures are depicted has been a real undercurrent running through the last year or so. One that I think a lot of us have shied away from discussing head on. It was really interesting to see comedian Fern Brady calling it out on Channel 4 News the other night…

    “Put it this way – I get a lot of laughs at gigs in England playing up to Scottish stereotypes and doing a sort of ‘blackface’ for English people and slagging off being Scottish. And I don’t like it – I feel like we’re colonised by England and I just find it depressing, because I’m not a self-loathing Scot.”

    Now I’ve got quite a lot to say on the ‘colonised’ subject (which you can catch up on here ) but the whole subject of representation is something that I was toying with writing about a few months ago. I’ve started referring to the whole ‘Braveheart / Haggis / Kilts / Bagpipes’ trope as ‘the Minstreling of Scotland’ so it was refreshing to hear in that clip that I’m not the only one who’s feeling or thinking that.

    I also think it’s interesting to listen to the way in which some Scots Unionists talk about Scottish (and even more particularly Gaelic) culture. When they talk about anything that we might broadly describe as ‘traditional’ culture they often attempt to dismiss it as a ‘White Heather Club’ fantasy of a romantic past.

    And yet the irony is that that entire romantic idea of Scotland was something that was completely invented by Unionists (particularly Walter Scott) and projected onto Scotland, largely from outside. Indeed that whole conception of Scotland is one of the main things that Scottish artists have rallied against for at least as long as Nationalism has been a political force in Scotland. Was MacDiarmid romanticising Scotland in A drunk man look at the thistle? Was Edwin Muir romanticising Scotland in Scotland’s Winter? Was Gray romanticising Scotland when he wrote Lanark?

    What I was trying to say in The Branded Hand was that we can’t allow these sorts of external projections to start defining our own attitude towards ourselves and our history. Sure – we may well have been the junior partner in the British Empire but we can’t allow ourselves to forget that we were up to our necks in that enterprise. One of the reasons why I want to see independence is because we’re long overdue a reckoning with that whole history, and it’s never going to happen as long as we continue to pass off the blame on others.

    1. Alex Buchan says:

      Fern Brady is absolutely brilliant in that clip

  25. Reclaiming the N word? Not easy.

    In The Branded Hand you talk cogently and with refreshing candour about the mythologising of Scotland as a nation and people characterised by noble victimhood. You rightly point out that in reality Scotland was a full and disproportionately influential partner in the moral turpitude of empire and slavery, in no way could she be considered a vassal state or colony of England.

    In this piece however, a narrow definition of nationalism seems to have allowed you to equate Scottish independence with the struggles of Kenya, India and other colonies to free themselves from bloody and oppressive imperial rule. If, as you acknowledge, Scotland has indeed been a full and willing partner in the union rather than a colony, then this comparison seems peculiar. For those states, as well as being an understandable outpouring of repressed identity, nationalism was encouraged as a unifying and galvanising force, useful in the early years of independence but inherently dangerous and volatile afterwards as Africa and the Indian subcontinent can attest. When you scratch a bit deeper it really is difficult to find a positive example of nationalism (you could even argue that American hubris and the folly of “American exceptionalism” can be traced directly back to nationalist foundation myths)

    Whilst you are technically correct to point out that it is oxymoronic to represent nationalism v internationalism as a dichotomy, in doing so you miss the essence of the sentiment in the modern era. New borders simply skew the power balance between capital and labour even further. Globalisation has seen neoliberal free market orthodoxy complete its domination of the world – money, goods, capital and labour move freely across borders. People, wherever they may be, are merely resources or consumers to be utilised in the global market. In this new environment where capital is truly global, social justice can only be achieved if labour cooperates globally. Drawing new lines on a map simply makes that harder. Labour is weak, divided and powerless.

    Putting aside the fact that your narrow definition of nationalism disregards the word’s historical and semiotic baggage and the fact that nations and nationalism are concepts which concern the accentuation of identities of difference, your definition seems merely to be a synonym for self determination. Something Scotland already has as much of as say South East England.

    1. Hi Mark,

      Some really interesting points there. Global capital loves us to think that states are our enemy and cannot be a vehicle for positive change, while totally relying on state’s laws and enforcement to secure their dominance over our attempts to reshape society in the interests of everyone and not just the few.

      Rather than awaiting some global movement that will somehow make change happen (how, and through what means?) surely the need is to reclaim states so that they are working in the interests of society not the financiers.

      If so, then the two yes/ no questions are:

      – Is the British state likely to be a vehicle for achieving that?
      There is no evidence of that since 1945, and it now appears to be completely captured by the financiers.

      Can an independent Scotland be a vehicle for that?
      Clearly it can (a fair voting system, a strong social democratic tradition, no House of Lords, getting rid of Trident, etc). It’s up to us whether we make sure that happens, but we stand a much better chance if we extricate ourselves from a British Imperialism that ordinary people in Scotland and England were as much a victim of as a part of, from the clearances to cannon fodder.

    2. David Morgan says:

      Hi Mark

      It’s good to get some critical perspectives on this and it’s also good to know that people are reading across the previous stuff as well.

      When I was writing the piece I was conscious that the comparison with other nationalist movements could potentially be interpreted as an attempt to equate their struggles with the issues that we’re grappling with in Scotland. As I make clear in The Branded Hand that’s certainly not my view.

      Every one of those movements has it’s own particular history, issues and battles which it’s important to acknowledge. I’ve obviously generalised to a certain extent but I wanted to offer some kind of illustration to challenge the homogenising narrative that frames ‘Nationalism’ as an existential evil – an attitude that both ignores and diminishes the experience of formerly colonised countries across the globe.

      I don’t think that there is any contradiction in advocating Scottish independence whilst simultaneously acknowledging our past history as global colonisers. Indeed Kenya is a case in point – Scottish regiments were actively involved in putting down the Mau-Mau Rising and Scottish commanders were responsible for ordering some of the worst atrocities of the conflict. Like a great many people in the Scottish independence movement over the decades I advocate for independence as a means to ensure that precisely that kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

      The questions around the nature of globalised capital are really interesting, and they’re something that other folks have asked me about outside of the comments thread. As Justin points out the existence of ‘the state’ is generally seen, by both sides of the ideological divide, as the main tool for resisting globalised capital. This forms one of the main aspects of the Leftist critique of EU membership, although personally I’m pro-EU membership myself. It’s a topic that I need to get into delve into properly again before I get into the detail of debating it.

      Lastly with regards to the ‘synonym’ question – I think that’s an interesting opportunity to broaden the discussion to other examples such as Canada, New Zealand or Australia. Those are all countries where the dominant culture developed as a direct extension of the cultures of the colonisers. And yet they all opted to become independent rather than continue being subject to Westminster rule. Does that mean that opting for self-determination was a meaningless gesture on their part?

      In fact I’d say that the experience of those countries in coming to terms with their colonialist past and the treatment of indigenous peoples could offer us plenty of lessons in Scotland.

  26. Abulhaq says:

    As we well know small nation nationalism is usually a response to big state predatory imperialism. It is concerned with survival of identity, culture, language and indeed the very right to exist as a people. It is the dynamic of reawakening and renewal. We have no reason to justify or excuse or elaborate on our use of the term. It is axiomatic.

  27. garyhoadley says:

    So if Scotland gets independence. Will that mean they no longer receive money from England?

  28. lizard100 says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

  29. simplygauche says:

    Thank you for articulating a concept I always find maddening to express:)

  30. The extremity of emotion around the word nationalism was tainted during the war. It was and is an admirable and important quality, however extremist views of any dogma are ill-advised and sometimes, downright dangerous. Tread the middle path, is sound, be proud of your country, or nationality, or ethnicity. Unfortunately, some may use this as an excuse to shove it down other people’s throats for their own extremist interpretations. Great thought provoking post. I hope Scotland’s succeeds in its self determination.

    1. David Morgan says:

      Thanks a lot. We’ve still got a lot of work to do but some kind of change is definitely in the air 🙂

  31. biorprevforever says:

    Full happy

  32. The whole ‘Scottish Independence’ debate is a phoney bone of contention. A ‘phoney bone of contention’ is a supposedly controversial issue (one which grabs everyone’s attention and provokes emotion – which lowers people’s capacity for rational thought) which serves to reinforce a false underlying premise and thus further a hidden agenda.

    “Should the government decide which children work down mines and which children work in factories or should children be allowed to choose which one they prefer?” – This is an example of a phoney bone of contention. Whichever side of the argument you defend you are helping to reinforce the underlying premise that children should do forced labour.

    The false underlying premise in the “Scottish Independence’ debate is the idea that Scotland severing ties with the UK has anything to do with gaining ‘independence’.

    In reality both ‘sides’ are now under the increasing fascist/ communist control of the EU who now make up about 70% of all laws anyway.

    The EU has been hard at work centralising political power across Europe to create a pan-European dictatorship for more than 50 years, initially by stealth under the guise (ie Trojan Horse) of ‘free trade’. Politicians involved in the initial ‘common market’ propaganda of the 70’s recently admitted the plan had always been political centralisation of power all along. As this agenda has become more advanced and more obvious we have seen countries (ie by which I mean the general public) resist being taken over by this Orwellian cabal of unelected central planners thousands of miles away, and we have seen several strategies to ensure their resistance is neutralised so the agenda can keep moving forward.

    When the Irish voted ‘no’ in their referendum they bombarded them with propaganda and then held another referendum. The ‘ruling elites’ who are behind the EU literally won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Barroso himself described the EU as “The New Roman Empire” (it’s on youtube) going on to say the EU was the first empire in history to be constructed without firing a single shot. By this he means the Empire was (and is being) constructed by stealth – by infiltrating, bribing and twisting the arm of each nation’s government so they will hand over power to the EU in stages – rather than by actually having tanks and armies physically marching across borders.

    The UK has always been resistant to a full blown EU takeover. The fact that we are a bunch of island nations separate from continental Europe probably has something to do with it. No doubt the plan is to divide the UK up into ‘bite sized’ chunks and thus weaken resistance to the EU that way (classic ‘divide and conquer’ strategy). If Scotland achieves its precious ‘independence’ the Scottish economy will immediately go down the toilet and Scotland will become the ‘Eastern Europe’ of the UK. At this point the EU will probably offer financial aid in return for Scotland ‘integrating’ with (ie surrendering to) the EU.

    Scotland will then find itself covered in nuclear power stations (low density population = negligible public resistance) which will conveniently make use of the new pylons supposedly installed to carry vast amounts of electricity from those silly thingies which we abandoned 200 years ago because they were rubbish at producing power … you know “windmills” LOL. Scotland will become the primary nuclear industrial power generation hub (and shortbread and whisky supplier) for mainland Europe.

    All this picking apart of the minutiae of various political stances is a giant distraction from the bigger picture. Left / Right ‘politics’ is itself just another giant phoney bone of contention. No matter what ‘political stance’ people take they can’t help but reinforce the underlying premise that violent rule of the people by a tiny mafia cabal is legitimate behaviour.

    ‘Nations’ are nothing more than human tax farms. The EU is just a more efficient human tax farm created by integrating many smaller farms (countries). The EU is just a mega-farm, like the ones where the cows stand on a giant moving platform and are milked by robots (no seriously, that’s what mega farms are like these days).

    If you accept being a tax cow on the farm called a ‘country’ then you are inevitably going to end up being a tax cow on a more bigger, more centralised, more efficient mega farm called ‘the EU’ and eventually ‘Global Government’. This isn’t a conspiracy it’s just good farming practice! ‘Economies of scale’ and all that. The ruling class are farmers of human productivity, that’s all they are. Parasites.

    You cannot talk about independence while simultaneously advocating being violently ruled! That’s just silly.

    Independence means independence. It must apply to the human level or else it means nothing. Whichever phoney ‘side’ of the debate you are on have a go at answering the following questions – if you think you’re intellectually/ morally brave-hearted enough 😉 (sorry!)

    1. Do you as a human being have the right to take other people’s property/ wealth by force and coerce them by force?
    2. Can you grant rights to other people which you do not have yourself?
    3. If you answered ‘no’ to the last two questions how do you explain the contradiction of ‘voting’ for people (that’s all a government is: a bunch of people) to coercively and violently rule over others and steal their property each week?

    If YOU don’t have the right to violently coerce other people and steal their property, it follows that THEY don’t have that right either, and it also follows that YOU cannot grant THEM that right either. In short, NOBODY has the right to violently coerce other people and steal their property.

    But all political debate and all political action is based on the false premise that they DO have that right, and that the general public DON’T have that right but that the general public CAN somehow grant that right (which they do not have) to the ruling political class. It’s completely bonkers. It’s a bunch of BS.

    And so it is pointless and extremely dangerous to discuss ‘politics’ without first addressing the fundamental question of basic human rights and basic universal morality. Naturally, those who seek to rule by force desperately want everyone to focus on the ‘phoney bones of contention’ (AKA ‘political debate’) and NEVER address the fundamental issue – the only issue which really matters – which is the issue that some people will always want to use coercion and violence (the initiation of force) to achieve their objectives in life….. and if we let these people get away with it – or worse if we encourage them to behave that way – they will just take the ball and run with it …… and cause total financial/ social/ moral collapse as a result (see: history).

    Future generations won’t know whether to laugh or cry when they look back at history and find people ASKING or even DEMANDING to be violently ruled and treated like cattle……….. while talking excitedly about ‘independence’. It’s pure Monty Python stuff (except the consequences are not so funny).

    1. waltsamp says:

      I wonder if you have thought that Scottish independence possibly does not have anything much to do with Scotland but is simply a further step in the disintegration of the British Empire that began with the American revolution. Also, I am curious about what would be your basis for fundamental human rights and universal morality.

      1. I don’t actually think the British Empire was ever fully disintegrated. Sure, the overt, in your face control of other countries was abandoned, because it was just too expensive to run. But the British ruling classes (the so called ‘elite’ banking families and royal aristocracy) left behind a system they could still influence – if not outright control…. and far more cheaply and efficiently.

        The US is an obvious example of this. The ‘special relationship’ just means the same elite families control both nations, particularly when it comes to banking and war (banking and war being two aspects of the same basic business enterprise). Therefore whoever is placed ‘in power’ in each country’s government is always going to appear to be getting along just fine, regardless of their supposed political position (left, right, up, down etc).

        National boundaries are mostly there for the general population (the tax cattle). You also need strong national identities (and religion helps too) in order to pit nations (and religions) against each other in ‘wars’ which is one of the ‘elites’ favourite business strategies to make lots of money and further enslave governments via national debt (payable to them).

        But really, above the level of governments these national boundaries are very fluid. It is rather like a bunch of competing mafia families. They might all have their own territory and they might all compete with one another, but at the end of the day they have the same agendas and will rally around to protect each other for the sake of their collective interests ie staying at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. The same elite banking families funded both sides of WW2. There are no ‘nations’ as far as they are concerned. They are the league and nations are the football teams. It’s all one single business enterprise to them.

        “.. Also, I am curious about what would be your basis for fundamental human rights and universal morality….”

        Adopting the concept of Universally Preferable Behaviour would undoubtedly solve 99% of all moral dilemmas in the world.

        If the human race could just agree on the BASICS ….. that coercion, violence, murder and theft are universally immoral (even when the perpetrators happen call themselves ‘government’) then that would give us an unrecognisable world of peace, plenty and happiness.

      2. waltsamp says:

        I went to the link you gave me to Universally Preferable Behavior. Frankly, I was disappointed. I thought you would look for something that deals realistically with our human condition. It is not our behavior that is at the root of our problems but our defective thinking. We need a way to get rid of our pride, greed, envy, self-righteousness and all the rest of our ontological problems. In short, we need to become like someone totally good. I suspect you are probably not open to being told that Jesus Christ is who you should look to for what you want in the way of moral goodness. However, I think I should point out that UPB is more suited to lab animals than for people seeking a basis for morality.

  33. Peter35 says:

    Wow. I had no idea this was happening over there. I thought that most people would be proud that that Scotland would be it’s own country. I guess not. Over here in America, I guess I can define the word nationalism in our society as a group effort to do something for their own country, but to also feel proud for your country.

    1. David Morgan says:

      Hi Peter – great to hear from you.

      There are many, many layers to the way Scotland has developed through the centuries ranging from; religion, loyalty or opposition to the monarchy and views on class politics (along with many other factors). People’s views on independence can be influenced by any of these factors and not necessarily always in ways that others might expect. On top of all of that there are also regular everyday questions around whether or not people think they will be better off in their everyday lives.

  34. awax1217 says:

    Everyone should be proud of their country. America always had the distinction of a mixture of other countries and people tend to have pride in both.

  35. waltsamp says:

    Had your research on nations taken you to the Bible you would have found that “nations” are the way God identifies groups of people. It also tells us they each have a responsibility toward God. This concept is explicitly contained in the American Declaration of Independence.

  36. murphyji says:

    I don’t know, nor do you at this point, whether the referendum will favour the YES vote, but I do know that the act of pursuing Scottish Independence has raised lots of questions on nationality and our perception of what that means, as is adequately articulated in your piece. This has seismic implications for N.Ireland which has always looked to Scotland as loyalist brethren and fellow flag wavers. An independent Scotland will see the blue of the Saltire ,St.Andrews Cross, drain from the Union Jack and N.Irelands Loyalist flag protest drained of meaning. Oh no, oh YES!

  37. Yeah everyone loves their country very much. Must be a nationalist. newblogforeveryone.wordpress.com

  38. Reblogged this on benlivres and commented:
    I am a MOROCCAIN

  39. ginnia2 says:

    Reblogged this on ginnia2 and commented:
    Cool

  40. ha12ut says:

    Interesting read.

  41. corvus13 says:

    Reblogged this on Aegis Americana and commented:
    Take a look at this article on Nationalism! It really brings out both the positives and negatives on how we identify ourselves as one group or another. But it definitely should never be a barrier to building understanding between people. Its important, because the challenges we face need everyone, and such action begins with trust!

  42. OllyTemur says:

    Well said about using ‘but’ that negatea everything you said 🙂

  43. “I’m not proud to be Scottish. Why on earth should I consider myself to be better than anyone else on this planet just because I happen to have been born on one or the other side of an imaginary line across the landscape?”

    Why would being proud of your heritage require you to consider yourself to be “better than anyone else”?

    After reading your post, and understanding your position on the word “but”, your last like seems to be telling us to negate everything before the “but”, yet this line makes that difficult to grasp: “I adhere to the view that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. It is nothing more than a blind, unquestioning faith that those in authority must be correct because they have draped themselves in a flag, or because they can lay claim to some god-given right to rule.”

    Should I understand that after explaining “but” causes us to ignore whatever came before in the sentence, you didn’t mean that regarding patriotism? Or, that you are a patriot, which seems impossible after your “patriotism is the refuge of scoundrels”.

    I wonder if you didn’t try to get too clever for your own good.

  44. Andy says:

    I appreciate you reframing the word nationalist a really insightful post thanks.

  45. lmarks04 says:

    Isn’t everyone a nationalist as long as you don’t hate your country?
    Dailyquizquestion.wordpress.com

  46. I like many am a nationalist.
    This is a well written and thorough article. With much historical information I did not know or equate with nationalism.
    This is because I see nationalism as protecting those things that makes Scots, Scots. Its not about removing our link to England, that’s just a bonus, but about saving Scotland from becoming a minor county in the state of Europe!

  47. Reblogged this on Treebeardgarden's Blog and commented:
    Are you a nationalist?

  48. I’m not a “strict” nationalist, in some cases I think that independence is good and can bring benefits to the country we’re talking about but in others I don’t. What do you think of Ukraine situation. Do you support the independence of the cities that are now claiming for it, do you support Moscow or do you support Kiev?

    1. David Morgan says:

      That’s a tough question. It’s an enormously complex situation (like all such conflicts) and I don’t feel as though I have enough knowledge of the history, or of events on the ground, to allow me to comment meaningfully.

      One thing that I would do, however, is to try and avoid characterising things in terms of ‘taking sides’. In the long run these matters have to be decided through some form of self-determination on the part of the people involved. I think it’s hard to have confidence in any political choice that is made in a situation where troops have already been deployed.

      The great misfortune for the various peoples of the Ukraine is that they’re caught between two governments, neither of which could really be described as paragons of virtue.

      1. I agree with you. Taking sides cannot be the solution, it never was and it won’t start to be now. However I think that has already been made. We watched the American Vice President saying that America won’t stand “humiliations” to another countries, the Ukraine “president” saying that he is developing a “war on terror” (as some has called it some years ago) and the Russian Federation moving troops into the frontier. Everybody is waiting for a mistake from the other side to have a reason to attack. I can’t believe this is happening in the XXI century. Have passed 14 years of the First World War and I was hoping people had understood what cannot be done after all this conflicts. Dialogue is the only possible and reasonable solution. We cannot forget that Ukraine citizens need to be protected as all citizens of all countries in the world. I hope that someone will stand up and say that this cannot happen but I doubt.

    2. David Morgan says:

      I should also say that the Ukraine situation provides us with a stark illustration of the greatest problem inherent in the ‘nation-state’ system – the challenge of defining the boundaries of a country and which communities form part of the country.

      For those us in Scotland its a sober reminder that we really are unbelievably fortunate to be conducting this whole process in a democratic and peaceful manner.

  49. Reblogged this on ADOLFO ZAPATA blog and commented:

  50. patilnitesh says:

    hi there …….R u the Nationalist?

  51. Good article
    Greetings from the next state in Europe.

    Catalonia

    A proud Catalan

  52. Every one should be a nationalist and should love his own country. Valuable article I have ever read here. Thank you.

  53. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Here in North America, nationalism means aligning oneself with the agenda of the national government, over those of provincial or state cultures and administrations. This is not simply love of one’s country or identification with it. It distorts the political independence and social integrity of peoples, especially those at a distance from the power centres in the East. It is and has been the agent of colonialism. It greatly distorts the flow of capital and ensures that national interests prevail, often over those of the people in any particular culture or area. Sound like the UK that Scottish nationalists are trying to escape? I think so. In Germany, in my grandfather’s time, nationalism meant government of the state by the nation, with the state being the political apparatus and the nation being that group of citizens deemed (by their own definition) to be the people. By the end of World War II, some 3,500,000 Germans were citizens of this nation. All of them were men. They were the only people who could vote or hold government jobs. If one was not not deemed to be a member of “the people”, which this nation defined on rather artificial racial grounds, then one was denied citizenship and stripped of even the most basic of human rights: identity as a human. The Nationalist Party of Germany has inherited this legacy. To see the effects of nationalism, check out the history of Silesia: it went from a unique multi-cultural state between Prussia, Poland and Austro-Hungary, lost part of its identity under nationalism within Prussia, more under nationalism of Prussia into Germany, and all the rest of it under the nationalism of the 1930s. Nationalism is a form of political organization, and one, the record shows, that doesn’t always serve the people well. I wish Scotland independence and self-determination within an expanded post-national structure, but I do wish it a better political structure than state nationalism. Oh, and do check out John Lukacs. He has argued many times, usually very well, that since 1942 all governments in the world have been variations on National Socialism, and that includes the greatest enemy of National Socialism at the time: Stalin’s USSR. As for the French Revolution, do check out the role that British foreign policy played in the formation of the Freemasons on the continent, and the agitation from them for revolutionary democracy. In terms of UK foreign policy, nationalism was a means of weakening continental strength. Beware. In the German sense, it was not a desire for unity as one people that prompted the formation of the country in 1871, but the disaster of the Battles of Jena-Auerstedt and, perhaps especially, the Battle of Nations in Leipzig in 1813, which saw butchery on an unprecedented scale, and most of it between German mercenaries, sold into soldiery on the one side, and German mercenaries, sold into soldiery on the other, killing each other in the name of Napoleon and international politics which had nothing to do with them. Building a nation was a defensive move, intended to prevent that lunacy from happening again, and a means of creating the peoples of the Holy Roman Empire German Nation into a people that could stand together for their common cause. It was not intended as a means of breaking down the aristocracy but of giving it a new mission. There is, however, no such thing as a “German”, except within the relations of a variety of peoples to the national state. There are Saxons, Thuringians, Danes, Hugenots, Celts, Romans, Latvians, Prussians, Poles, Austrians, Bavarians, Swiss, Italians, and many others, many of which don’t get along and who have very little culturally in common except for the support of a state infrastructure and the security and prosperity it can deliver. It has nothing to do with loving one’s country, though. It’s a political stance.

  54. elizabethedd says:

    “Why on earth should I consider myself to be better than anyone else on this planet just because I happen to have been born on one or the other side of an imaginary line across the landscape? Yes, there are a great many people who happen to share that accident of birth with me who have gone on to achieve great things. At the same time, however, there also are a great many people from my country who have been responsible for massive injustices around the globe.”

    I love this. While I was studying aboard in Scotland I was called so many names because I am an American. Just because I am from America does not mean I am like all the other Americans you hear about. I am a college student who is just trying to make the world a better place.

    Love this post. I really, really, really wish I could go back to Scotland. Such a beautiful country.

    1. David Morgan says:

      Hi Elizabeth

      Sorry to hear about those occasions where you had a hard time. It’s odd, but I think that there is a bit of an underlying strain of anti-Americanism in certain aspects of Scottish culture. It would probably take a whole post in itself to explore it though.

      Glad to hear you’re still keeping in touch with the place though 🙂

  55. glennalan75 says:

    A great article. You are right to point out that nationalism and internationalism go hand in hand. I consider myself a cosmopolitan of sorts. As such, I am critical of the nation as the basic unit of politics. I think this causescall sorts of problems. If I am an African due to my birth, why is it fair that my life chances are significantly less than someone born in Scotland or the UK? Nations project certain privileges… And from a natural (not legal) justice point of view I have issues. My issues with nationalism theref
    ore can not simply be corrected by clearing up any issues around defination etc.

  56. Of Scot heritage, I’ll be visiting with my family in June. First visit in many generations, in fact. So looking forward to it! Perhaps we can chat on these interesting topics, who knows.

  57. jmverville says:

    Good piece. I enjoy nationalism and am, more or less, a nationalist. But I am specifically right wing… I appreciate your histoy on it.

    There has been an effort to sully nationalists and portray them to be synonymous with Fascists because the very capitalistic conservatives recognize us as rivals to their power base and to the social leftists / Marxist sympathizers they would just as same, from the start, bury us all.

  58. Nationalism comes from the word “nation” which is synonymous to borders, protectionism, divisiveness. But then again, Nationalism from a more powerful and aggressive entity seems to be called tyraanny. Scotland is fighting fire with fire by reacting to British nationalism or English nationalism with their own brand of Scottish nationalism. Unless the Brits learn to unlearn nationalism, they will just spark nationalism in the isles. Just my two cents worth

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