Trident is a Strange Beast

13697294_1066047293475733_6975062052461811500_nA perverted potlatch, snake oil, charm to ward off evil. Like a protection charm that is worn around the neck while leaching poison into body and brain.

No one can think straight when they have been sold such a squandering of billions, such a harmful waste.

If it were just an embellishing charm that did no harm beyond poisoning its owner, diverting billions from meeting real needs and bolstering a post-Empire flagging ego, then that would be one thing. But it is more than that.

If it does not remain just a wasteful charm, then that means it will have become a furnace, part of a machinery activated to burn limb from limb billions of adults, children and creatures of all kinds. In all the politics it is almost impossible to even remember what this can do.

And its justification? Deterrence?

Now the Cold War is over, nothing would invite the emerging suicide bombing failed state’s pin prick match stick weapons to be trained on us more than us having a firework factory that can help combust the world.

Trident is supposed to project our power but it projects our powerlessness, our ‘punching above our weight’ imperial fantasies that are used to try to hide our inability to relate as equals.

But where does that come from?

What twisted experience of class, nation and domination means those who dominate our political system in the rUK will today vote through weapons of mass destruction? Why does commissioning weapons that would make all past genocides look sane bolster their pride rather than shame their humanity?

We can condemn other countries for seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction – even countries who have been our allies like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; and we can look uneasily at other such weapons-possessing countries like Pakistan, wondering how soon they will be in the hands of the suicide mentality unleashed in part by our wars launched under the pretext of stopping others possessing weapons of mass destruction they had already relinquished.

We can condemn others for seeking to possess these weapons. We can look uneasily at others who posses them, realising our possessing them makes us far more – rather than less – vulnerable. But why can we not meet the world as equals and devote these vast resources to life-giving activity including devoting them to building peace processes?

All nuclear possessing states will have their own perverse histories that have led those in power to believe they have a God-given right to possess a power that can destroy creation. What is ours? In particular, how is it that it is acceptable to so many English Labour MPs to vote for weapons of mass destruction?

I would start not with patriarchy or capitalism, but with something that looks so small and inconsequential and hardly even there: English identity.

Until recently there was hardly any space to even contemplate it publicly. It was taboo. But now, the disrupted sense of identity resulting first from the IndyRef process and now from the Brexit vote has caused progressives in England to suddenly understand why progressives in Scotland have increasingly supported independence for Scotland.

The disruption is of course not just to their sense of identity but to politics itself as the Brexit vote ushers in a nasty turn to the right in Westminster politics built on the “getting out of Europe, foreigners aren’t welcome here” mood music that is anathema to politicians and the general public in Scotland.

So what of English identity?

My partner pointed out the extraordinary words in the crescendo line in the song sung at the last night of the Proms, that annual celebration of BritEnglish identity. It is that “Britons never never never shall be slaves”.

It is the ultimate projection of the slave owner saying we will never never let you do to us what we daily do to you. Truly sickening.

But these words and that night point to precisely how getting to grips with the question of English identity is blocked.

It is by conflating English with British and so not even allowing an opening for seeing how the system conquers the English day by day by decade by century:

In English history the story goes that there were the Romans then Anglo Saxons conquering the British, then Normans conquering the English and establishing a class division, then the rising middle class English (Parliamentary side) fighting against the Catholic Aristocracy in a civil war, then a truce as that rising class combined with the aristocrats to drive the enclosures of the common land in these islands, drive the enclosure of so much of the world’s common land through Empire, driving people off their lands and using them as labour in the military and factories that drove Empire. And as this process continued, there was an increasing confusion of English and British identities right up to that flag waving last night of the Proms.

The Irish led the way out of Britishness, with the First World War as the context, the rest of the Empire soon followed, with the Second World War as the context, and now Scotland is trying to free herself, with the Third World War (Trident) as the context. Does it really require war to realise how to refuse to participate in the Empire building? To refuse those projections and insist we care for each other and ourselves?

But there is another level to this process. Which is that the BritEnglish have a twist not just to national but also to class identity that makes it almost impossible to begin to grasp what is going on:

The Tory reshuffle has brought the Thatcher-like grammar school crowd back to the top table, pushing aside the posh Eton boys who had retaken control after the Thatcher Major grammar school decades. How extraordinary that they can shift so seamlessly between the ‘presumptive right to rule of the Etonians’ to the ‘I made it to the top so why haven’t you?’ of the grammar school gang, and so appear to make radical changes at the top (just like the English Civil War) when the posh boys have messed up keeping everyone in line, only to better exploit (viciously come down on) those who are struggling to survive or seeking to change the system. (Even Tommy Sheppherd voices hope that Erasure May will be better to deal with because she is not one of the posh boys, seemingly forgetting she is just the other side of the same coin).

And in the midst of this, the reactionary part of Labour’s role (which is to appear to speak for the poor the better to manage them and make sure nothing changes) is made so clear in the vicious response by its rulers to Corbyn and his attempt to reject the BritEnglish mentality on Trident, and a host of other areas.

Corbyn, though, has clearly not been able to step free of the BritEnglish mentality enough to grasp what is happening in Scotland.

Like the No campaigning Scottish Labour Party, when he uses the language of ‘solidarity between workers across borders’ to object to independence, his deeply learnt BritEnglish mentality is in the service of those who want to stop any part breaking away from the Empire.

As we know, Marx and Lenin and Keir Hardy had no problem in recognising the need to see the struggle for self-determination and the struggle against class oppression as intimately linked. Because their era (from mid 19th to early 20th century) was close to the era where – across Europe – the independence struggles for nationhood were the struggles to assert the right of a people to determine their own government rather than be ruled by unelected powers. Nationalism as an expression of that liberatory push for self-determination and democracy rather than as hatred of foreigners the better to project our own self-loathing into others.

As a friend recently pointed out (thanks Nick), the Brexit campaign showed so clearly that all that projection of ‘nasty nationalism’ by the media elite onto Scotland was a projection diverting them/ us from facing up to the BritEnglish racism entwined in BritEnglish exceptionalism.

The BritEnglish share with America the self-poisoning of the ‘exceptionalist’ mentality. This Empire mentality is that “we have a right to rule over you, but you will never have the right to rule over us”.

It is perverse, and so unlike most European countries attitudes, including (now) post Empire Scotland, and maybe soon (if it can disentangle the twisted tortured contortion of identity and class self oppression) England too.

America is the only major country pushing for human rights that always refuses to be bound by human rights institutions like the International Criminal Court while insisting other nations leaders (particularly in Africa) be held accountable there.

Brexit is partly about rejecting the European Hunan Rights system, tearing us away from decades where the BritEnglish have struggled as they are supposed to accept they are a normal country like any other, but forever have to demand opt outs and special needs exceptions. The Special needs of the city of London’s financial class, of a country without a constitution, of an unelected House of Lords, a voting system that allows for no change, and a decimated local government level. The EU referendum campaign kicked off with Cameron returning from Brussels and claiming to have a deal that meant we were ripping the rest of Europe off so we should stay in. So much for fair play.

And no wonder the BritEnglish and the EmpireAmericans share an ideology of ‘exceptionalism’. If not, then Bush and Blair would be in front of the International Criminal Court in The Hague rather than just us dragging warmongers from ‘lesser’ nations there. If not, then we might have to relearn our equality.

Wanting to be ‘a normal European country’ is the oft heard cry of those seeking independence for Scotland. In response, the twisted logic of even progressives caught in perpetuating the BritEnglish contorted mindset is summed up by that picture of Ed Milliband at the Labour conference standing in front of a British flag bearing the slogan ‘One Nation’, while berating independence supporters in Scotland for their ‘nationalism’.

Trident is part of that twisted logic. Any Labour MP who thinks themselves progressive, let alone sane, yet votes for it, is part of that tradition of doing something to make yourself look big that just makes others see your impotence. Stand up for yourselves at last, you will never out-Tory the Tories. And you will not save jobs by voting for Trident (it’s billions could create infinitely more), but you’ll perpetuate a system that smashes workers rights to a decent job.

Visibly stating your humanity with a vote against Trident would be a great step to regaining trust. If instead your vote shows you only exist to manage, control and distract those who are not served by the Tory party, then you will continue being usurped by UKIP who do the same job in a very different way.

People need an alternative to a status quo that is failing them, and if Labour cannot offer hope (and given that the media hides the radical social justice message of the Greens) people will continue turning to the media-amplified UKIP message of hate to express their rage. A rage that is also bottled up in those Trident weapons: rage transmuted through magical thinking into an assertion of power that makes a societies powerlessness visible for all but themselves to see.

The English are exceptional, and in that are no different to any other people.

Disentangling the everyday feeling – of people, places, music, stories – that being English feels like, disentangling this from the learnt BritEnglish empire mentality, is not a small task, but it’s one decolonising people all over the world have to undertake, or else they continue being ruled by their old masters in new guises.

The magical charm may now cost £200 billion and rising, but it is still just a magical charm, whose only power is to disempower whoever possesses it.

Comments (20)

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  1. Alan says:

    The Ferret has an article today on Trident. Apparently the Tories gave away sovereignty over its use to the Americans decades ago. So now the Brexiters have taken back control from Brussels are they also going to take back control from Washington? What sort of idiot would not only vote for such a ridiculous system but would vote to spend hundreds of billions on a system controlled by someone else?

  2. Andrew says:

    Dear Justin Kenrick,
    Thank you so much for your article, you have put into words thoughts I barely know how to express and in so doing have informed, educated and clarified them.
    I do not think you are right about Jeremy Corbyn and he will support independence for Scotland. You write ‘…his deeply learnt BritEnglish mentality is in the service of those who want to stop any part breaking away from the Empire….’ but there is no factual reason to say this; ask the man what he thinks.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Hi Andrew

      I really really hope you are right. So far that is not what I’ve heard from him. And my point in including reference to him was to say that if even he, who is so consistently standing firm against all those vested interests, cannot grasp that Scotland becoming independent is one of the last few steps in discarding this aspect of Empire, then we can see how deep that contortion runs.

      I write to try to understand. If anyone knows any writing on this subject I’d be grateful to hear about it.

      1. Miss Behaviour says:

        So far his pronouncements have lacked clarity, primarily for the reason that he has been being briefed by SLab. My guess is, like most of Middle England, he has not been exposed to insights which will allow him to understand why Scotland is taking a different path. There is also difficulty in him doing so, for when he ‘gets it’, the penny must also drop that the Labour Party in England will be frozen out of power for decades.

  3. Stephen says:

    Pro Trident supporters will never accept what you say, claiming we possess an independent nuclear deterrent. They have to make that claim to justify the obscene level of money spent on it. But the acid test of its independence is a simple question. If circumstances, however unlikely, existed in which we had to use the deterrent against the US can we do so? The answer is no. We can use it against those targets deemed acceptable by the USA. Not Independent. Not ours. And for me, not wanted.

  4. Asty Taylor says:

    Thank you, Justin.
    Well written article. And thank you, Bella Caledonia.
    It is a pleasure to read thought provoking articles such as these.

    1. John Page says:

      Very much agree. Thank you both
      John Page

  5. bringiton says:

    I am sure that after the Romans left Caledonia,those Picts who had been in their employ continued to demand that the Antonine Wall be reinforced and extended to keep the savages out,no matter what the cost and it’s relevance.
    Very difficult for some people to adapt to changing circumstances and quite often results in incoherent anger at the prospect.
    Vote Roman.

  6. Brian Cahill says:

    Absolutely excellent article,

    Thank you
    Brian Cahill

  7. Wul says:

    When I heard Theresa May on the radio tonight telling us we must have this abomination in our waters, and our Parliament disagrees, and we will still be told to take it, my blood boiled.

    And then I thought “This is it!”. Surely this is it.

    If that pile of scientific, human-roasting evil serves one purpose it must surely be as a symbol of what our masters think of us. They store this piece of sick, imperial costume jewellery in our Holy Loch and tell us to be grateful for the work of maintaining it.

    Enough.

    1. Gordon says:

      #Wul. If only there was a significant amount of employment for Scots at Faslane. As I understand it, only 3-500 Scots work there and the base fulfils everyone’s needs. Hence we see boarded up shops in Helensburgh and very little economic activity. Most of those employed there come on a 5-day- week basis from other parts of the UK. Don’t let them balance the cost and danger of the weapon against the loss of (Scottish ) jobs. It doesn’t hold water. Other parts of the UK are benefitting from the wages and salaries earned at the base.
      I heard a caller from Barrow-in-Furness on the Call Kaye show, now retired in Scotland, inform us all that plenty Scots work down there on the Vanguard submarines to the extent that there are Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Hibs Pubs down there. His implied message was: If you want a job, Jock, get on your bike and earn and spend your wages down there.

  8. Nick says:

    Thanks Justin, I hear you saying that
    – The long shadow of empire continues to prevent an English identity from finding its peace in the world
    – Instead it pumps itself up and pimps itself out to our Atlantic cousins, whose narcissistic hubris Trump so brutally embodies, through an erectile dysfunction of violent weaponry
    – The task now for us all, through turbulent times: to grow up; integrate our projections (how hard that is); acknowledge where we can when my, our, self-centred egos thrash around in disconnection from centred loving selves
    All of which I find right.
    I am starting to become more curious, though, about my own tendency (in that conversation you mention) to put on a pedestal the dynamics of what may or may not be happening in Scotland. No doubt our confidence in our Gal-Gael identity has grown. Shadows still lurk though. On that one, I’m looking forward to reading Alastair McIntosh’s new book, a Poacher’s Pilgrimmage….

  9. Alasdair MacFarlane says:

    I listened to some of the trident debate today and caught a female labour mp citing the tragedy of Nice in an uncertain world to retain trident coupled with a small number of jobs in her Stoke constituency. Shocking, crass and completely inappropriate!

    The tory party does not need to vacillate between old etonians and grammar school aspirants, it can rely on the third class of tory, the red self serving, say anything tory.

    The only reason labour are voting to renew trident is that they believe they can never take the English people with them, so they just go along with the status quo, lazy politics, flowing and not leading and being dishonest with the electorate.

    When it comes to big decisions on Scotland, tories and labour are two and sometimes one side of the same coin!

    As for England, I have a certain sympathy for the average English person, their nationality has been abused and misrepresented by their ruling class, merging it with britain. They don’t intentionality steal Scottish success for themselves, they been brought up to believe that should be the case. Couple that with the lie that Scotland can’t support itself, you have the foundation for their possessiveness of Scotland and an inbuilt defence of union.

    Who benefits from trident other than the English ruling class and those they give the contracts to? You can understand why they wished it waved through today without scrutiny except for the SNP.

  10. Gordon McShean says:

    My last free excursion in my native land was in 1953, when I was 17; I cycled past Holy Loch with my wee sister. We didn’t know anything about Trident. We didn’t know much about many other things! It had earlier come as a surprise when my friend, then the National Secretary of the SNP, had recruited me to take part in raiding the cadets’ armoury at Johnstone. Our instructions were to bury the weapons so that they couldn’t be used to suppress nationalist demonstrators (you can read about this in my memoir). It was after Scottish police had dug the rifles up (and put Bill Brown, my fellow “radical” in jail) that the National Secretary advised me of his plans to escape to America. He suggested that I also might consider going into exile “for a wee while.” It was then that suspicious young nationalists began jokingly calling me “the terrorist,” and my arrest began to appear more likely. I’ve maintained my nationalist motivations in all the years since then (living and working in 3 different countries). The SNP has refused to acknowledge my existence – even after my National Secretary friend’s return from abroad. I’ve been advised that Scottish police still consider me a “person of interest.” I’ve had a few books published during these years, but attempts to get my Scottish memoir published have been dismissed by Scottish editors (you can only get it, RETIRED TERRORIST, from the private publisher, Trafford, in the US). Why do I tell you all of this? Because my life story demonstrates – just as the Trident business demonstrates -that Scots themselves (whether police or SNP folks) are always those the most active in suppressing any serious demonstration of Scottishness beyond the odd Highland Fling. Can the English be blamed for letting us suppress ourselves?

    1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

      Have you thought of publishing your experiences as if they were fiction, along the lines of ¨Scots on the Rocks¨ etc. ? I´m sure there would be a market and afterwards you could come out and claim that the story was in essence true. You could even go so far as to list the fictional elements. After all most of the history we´re taught is ´fictional´ in the sense of being selective and heavily biased by the politics of the time.

  11. John Monro says:

    Some years ago, and I mean 40 years ago, I would have supported Trident. I would have done so because I was callow, possessed a right-wing certitude and the Cold War was a reality. But now I have grown wiser, a confused left-winger, and I live at a time of greater peril for the world than ever we had during the Cold War years. The parallels of the first years of this twenty-first century to the first years of the twentieth are truly frightening. The possession of nuclear weapons and nuclear power makes liars of us all; the possessors of a power we are not capable of understanding or controlling responsibly. One of the greatest dangers of gun ownership in the USA is instantaneous self-administered oblivion. Almost certainly the greatest danger to our society is ourselves, from decay and rot in a society that is not amenable to self-repair so that the whole structure falls in upon itself. The peril from others is generally the delusion of the fearful and paranoid. I would expect Tories to support Trident, but to see so many nominally humane socialists support this unequalled mechanism for self-immolation of our country is very depressing.

  12. Douglas says:

    One of these days, the shit is really going to hit the fan….

    One of these days, Something Is Going To Happen…

    As for nations, they are constructs. Constructs of discourse. You only have to cast your eyes over the tabloid headlines to see England’s mainstream discourse.

    It is scary. An England lurching to the right is the last thing we need.

    And the parallels with the 1930’s are all too clear…

    There are days you just want to go back to bed….

  13. Pogliaghi says:

    I like the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction as potlatch very much. Nation states as members of a strange new tribe, showing their profuse wealth of war-making means in effusive nuclear offerings to each other, and to a war god… The Mars of today I suppose is Raytheon or Lockheed Martin.

    All I would say about Trident is, we know it’s not independent. It’s a high-tech military tithe to the American Empire. If we believe in the Pax Americana, let’s have a direct debate about it. Let’s not keep up the weirdo, quasi racist, essentialist nonsense of an Anglo-Saxon world police force, which lost all its mythological power with Bush’n’Blair.

    Right now in this time of crisis the Englunders’ perspective is one of base fear causing reversion to good ol’ Anglo Saxon behaviour; clinging onto their weapons and deferring to the traditional class elites which have always wanted them. But the real the elites particularly need WMD now is because Brexit significantly damaged the UK’s diplomatic exchange rate with the dollar. The Americans murmering darkly about the UK’s seat on the Security Council. Even the justification for Trident renewal is worse than ever then, being simply the politics of displaying crude brute force and currying favour through crony arms dealing.

  14. Edward Don says:

    The perfect storm is brewing with the Trident issue, among many other hot topic buttons, all coming to a head in the context of the current political and social upheaval.

    With continuing weakening within the UK economy and trust decimated for a generation, watch as nuclear weapons being hoisted upon the Scottish electorate, with Brexit, a vicious Tory government, and a SLP in absolute free fall. All the ingredients are here and the political cosmic forces are aligning for a landslide in the next, inevitable, Independence referendum.

    Let us not snatch defeat from the hands of victory. Let us temper Sturgeons SNP’s more neoliberal tendencies, including the current group of establishment lackeys advising her.

  15. old battle says:

    Rule Britannia was of course written by an 18thC Scot, James Thomson, part of that self-loathing culture very evident today.

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