Monday, July 18, 2022

Highland Hypocrisy (2000)

From the May 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Spare a tear for that hard-up aristocrat John MacLeod of MacLeod. The poor man’s castle is badly in need of repair so he has had to put on the market his beloved Cuillins. This is an area of real estate consisting of 35 square miles of mountain range, bordered by 14 miles of coastline and two salmon rivers. So desperate for the readies is the poor fellow that he is prepared to let it go for a mere £10 million.
 “I regard the Cuillins as priceless”, he said. “They are part of my soul and putting them up for sale is an extremely painful experience. They are my ancestors. Our clan grew out of the history of the Cuillins” (Times, 23 March).
What the fellow doesn’t tell us of course is that, like all Clan Chiefs, his ancestors stole the land in the first place. The ownership of the land was vested in the whole clan until the Chiefs stole it from them. It is a process that is well-documented by Karl Marx in Capital:
“The Highland Celts were organised in clans, each of which was the owner of the land on which it was settled. The representative of the clan, its chief or ‘great man’, was only the titular owner of this property, just as the Queen of England is the titular owner of all the national soil. When the English government succeeded in suppressing the intestine wars of these ‘great men’, and their constant incursions into the Lowland plains, the Chiefs of the clans by no means gave up their time-honoured trade as robbers; they only changed its form. On their authority they transformed their nominal right into a right of private property, and as this brought them into collision with their clansmen, resolved to drive them out by open force” (Volume I, page 681).
The journalist John MacLeod mockingly describes how the title of “MacLeod of MacLeod” is another piece of robbery as the man exulting in that grandiose title was actually born John Wolridge-Gordon. Commenting on the proposed sale of the estate, he digs up some edifying information about how a previous MacLeod “great man” tried to raise money:
“In 1739 The MacLeod kidnapped dozens of his tenancy and attempted to sell them as slaves to Barbados” (Herald, 4 April). 
Richard Donnelly

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