Thursday, October 12, 2017

Caledonia and Catalonia

A useful article on the Counterpunch website about Scottish and Catalan nationalism by Boris Kagarlitsky, a historian and sociologist who lives in Moscow. It is worth quoting extracts.
"...The situations of Catalonia and Scotland are, in fact, similar in two respects. To begin with, in both places we are dealing with the revolt of the rich against the poor. More developed regions with a high standard of living do not want to give up their resources to support less prosperous and backward provinces. ”We don’t want to feed Andalusia anymore”, they say in Barcelona. “We don’t want to feed Belfast anymore”, they say in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The local bureaucracy dreams of having an exclusive control over the financial flows. The reluctance to share with the neighbors is being justified by cultural and racial claims. “We are the real Europeans, not provincial islanders, like the English”, they say in Glasgow. “We are the real Europeans, descendants of Goths, not dirty descendants of the Arabs, like the Spaniards”, they say in Barcelona..."
"...The unexpected aspirations of Scotland and Catalonia for independence have one more, less public, though no less significant underlying reason. For many years, both regions have been implementing European Union programs aimed at creation of a new system of institutions, separated from the regional state and directly tied to the Brussels bureaucracy. This is the essence of the program entitled “Europe of the Regions”. Every Scottish county has a program financed by the EU, while England or Northern Ireland do not get help on a comparable scale. Brussels was consistently and consciously created the “Scottish factor” as a counterbalance to Britain, which traditionally opposed the Eurocrats.

Of course, like any nationalism of a small nation, the ideology of Scottish and Catalan independence appeals to various injustices of the past, representing its nation or territory solely as a victim. For Scotland this does not work very well, since the last serious oppression of the Scots happened in the middle of the XVIII century. The main oppressors were not the English, but the Scots themselves, the inhabitants of the lowlands, who were settling scores with the inhabitants of the mountains, who, previously had been robbing them. Now, in the process of enclosure these were the inhabitants of highlands, who were ruined so much that they had only two options – to sign up with the royal army or brew a local moonshine that became known throughout the world as Scotch whiskey. In the next two centuries, the Scots became the most privileged population of the British Empire, constituting a disproportionately large part of its military and civilian elite, forming key cadres of the colonial administration in India and Africa...

...The transformation of national discrimination from real experience into a political myth is the most important factor conducive to the rise of nationalism. Those who are discriminated against are fighting for the abolition of discrimination, whereas the nationalists turn the grievances of the past into symbolic capital to justify their ambitions...Catalonian rebellion, like Scottish separatism is the uprising of the rich against the poor, the protest of a liberal society against the remnants of a redistributive social state...  This is a continuation of the general logic of de-solidarisation, privatization and fragmentation characteristic of neoliberalism. It was this political economic logic that underlay the collapse of the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.  This logic assumes not only rejection of solidarity based on class and rejection of common humanistic values, but also substitution of the national values by the ethnic ones. It is ethnic nationalism that proves to be an ideal “substitute” for class or civic solidarity. It preserves the necessary sense of “community” for people, while narrowing it down to the size of an imaginary large family...

...Rosa Luxemburg cautioned other leftists of the dangers of flirting with the petty-bourgeois nationalism of small nations...Alas, the modern European left, which developed in the context of deindustrialization and decline of class solidarity, is itself a product of neoliberalism and is completely imbued with the spirit of petty-bourgeois romanticism. Therefore, the left does not dare to openly say that the nationalism of minorities in no less damaging for the working class cause than any other nationalism..."

Socialist Courier blog finds much of worth in the analysis. Sadly, his conclusion does not stand up to closer scrutiny. 

"...The success of Jeremy Corbin and his renewed Labor Party in Scotland returns class agenda to the region once considered the backbone of the labor movement. Nationalist demagogy quickly loses appeal among the masses whenever a real, substantial left alternative appears..."  

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