A nationalist movement by definition claims it is unique, which is what every nationalist movement has in common. From the self-righteous claims of American historical superiority and British traditional complexity – and by that I mean British nationalists have a tradition complex – to the ethnic “purity” of Serbian nationalism and the virtuousness of Greek nationalism, all have traits that play to the petty notion that all citizens of a nation think alike and will forever think alike.
It is also true that every nation-hating movement falls for similar traps. Roars of anti-Americanism go unchallenged for fear of accusations of being some hideous, moustache-growing neo-conservative with a neo-liberal agenda (to the point where “conservative” and “liberal” become synonyms). The phrase “British multiculturalism” is not as entirely paradoxical as it seems, since Britain deserves some credit for the better paradox of being a nation of nations, and hence can keep folk perpetually baffled at what “Britishness” actually is. Serbs joined Bosnians in the fight against Muslim genocide in the Nineties, and Greek nationalists are in a good position to have their voices heard on the just claim of the reunification of the Parthenon marbles, despite the best reasons for the reunification being aesthetic instead of nationalist.
The thesis and the anti-thesis have their irrationalities that swing like a pendulum, never quite reaching a satisfactory synthesis – every time a nation commits a moral atrocity, the anti-nationalists can feel morally righteous as they mock the blind madness of their enemies. And upon doing so they can fall for the nonsensical themselves, claiming that any action performed by the state must have some nationalist motive behind it and therefore be wrong by definition, and without a second thought.
Short line is, if you want clarity and irony, remove “nation” from your equation.
From what I can see within Scotland, a nation that happens to be my own, not one major party has had the strength or courage to call out on the ridiculousness of nationalism as a mover of working-class causes. Instead, they pander to it. Labour for example insists on “the patriotic interest of the people of Scotland”. What they really need to do is drop the words “patriotic” and “Scotland” from that phrase. Though I am aware that a politician’s job is to conform to public opinion, not to challenge it. So I am not optimistic.
It is not sufficient to say that bourgeois red herrings have lured folk who want change, and nor would it be sufficient to blame the effects of Thatcherism in the North, though both may be necessary. Plus you could add the nasty catalyst of a gigantic economic crash caused by a sub-prime mortgage bubble (“sub” prime, for fuck sake, this is why paying attention to euphemistic language matters, people!). But the blunter way of putting it is this: when socialism died, it took a lot more than socialism with it. International working class movements no longer had the same tenacity after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
As a result of no longer being able to unite the poor under a colour-blind, nation-blind ideology, their struggles became more localised. This is precisely why Scottish nationalists naturally offer next to nothing in the way of helping the English, Welsh and Irish working classes, let alone movements further than that: they have no desire on voting for anything that could help the struggles of others who are not Scottish. This is evident from their need to secede from a union that would provide them with such a vote of solidarity. We have to seriously ask ourselves how much measurable time the Scottish nationalists give to thinking about the struggles of the poor within the rest of the union in order to understand the problem.
Scottish nationalists have to insist that it is wrong to put international peoples before national people. It is not the poor of the world that are being screwed over; it is Scotland that is being screwed over and that is all that matters. I cannot count how many times the expression “because Scotland” has been used to justify any policy put forward by the SNP. Though this is nonsensical at its core, it should not surprise anybody. SNP stands for “Scottish National Party” and in naming themselves this the party have already committed a root fallacy. There surely must be more to your argument than “because it is best for Scotland”. Surely one must be able to see that this can be used to justify anything. I usually refrain from using the acronym “SNP” to hammer home this point. The words “Scottish National Party” need to be seen clearly so that they can be better discredited.
Needless to say, a break of unity and even a mere attempt to break unity can fuel the fires of sectarianism. The Orange Order may be pathologically “loyal”, but they are most certainly not “unionists” by any sense of the word. Nor are violent Irish Republicans interested in the concept of unity. Unity does not involve the severing of culture, nor does it involve the attacking of fellow countrymen based on what kind of Christian they are. Every time a line is drawn between Protestants and Catholics in amputated Ulster, a wave of rioting and bombing is bound to follow – whether it is restricting freedom of assembly based on religious belief or building apartheid-inspired obstacles laughably called “peace” walls in Belfast, which all originate from the gerrymandered constituencies. I say “amputated Ulster” not because Ulster was amputated from Ireland but because Ulster itself was amputated, as Stormont only affects six out of the total nine counties of Ulster. This is one of Britain’s greatest shames. Endless fractals are not the solution to the problem of sectarianism. They are the problem of sectarianism.
Scottish separatism will not reach such appalling levels of hatred if it were to amputate the nation from Great Britain since what they are calling for is not a toxic religious segregation. Though it is hard to avoid calling the movement a movement for amputation nonetheless: there is no border between Scotland and England, but there must be one; folk are made at home, but must now be made foreigners and outsiders; if there are others around Europe who want to secede as well, good on them. And thus, the Shetland Islands did talk seriously about seceding in turn to rejoin the United Kingdom after a Yes vote. Again, the sight of endless fractals must make anyone nervous.
It is easy to see why the rest of the union is not at ease with the Scottish National Party’s presence in this election. The fusion of a sans-socialist Left with nationalism has ruthlessly eaten away at Scottish Labour votes. This will no-doubt encourage Labour voters within the rest of the union to feel resentful and possibly strengthen their nationalist sentiments in turn. And with the Conservatives’ casting the Scottish National Party as folk who can make Labour dance to their tune, the portrayal of Scots as only having mischievous intent with supposedly no legitimate say in the union is subtly cast, making the pendulum swing once again.
It must also be remembered that parties in Scotland have their own Holyrood election just next year. In this respect, the Scottish National Party has to think tactically. I cannot be certain if Nicola Sturgeon actually said that she would prefer David Cameron as Prime Minister since it is one’s word against another’s. Though the conjecture of a Tory boogeyman and a possible European Union referendum is still nonetheless a solid one. Anti-Europe sentiment – also an anti-unity cause – will definitely sink the union if it is carried all the way. Scotland will most certainly vote for independence if the United Kingdom votes for independence. Why then would both of these movements not have a reason to sympathise with each other? The Scottish nationalists certainly had no problem supporting the Catalonian secession – indeed that was the only glimmer of recognition for a cause outside their borders. So it is by no means implausible to speculate how nationalisms feed off of each other, especially more so with the rise of right-wing sentiments across Europe as a whole.
I was expecting the expression “no true Scotsman” to resurface as a cliché between both sides during the independence referendum in the form of serious argument and/or satire. It did not. Normally I would celebrate since cliché is a stale, benign sign of an unthinking writer in itself. But in this instance it should trouble many writers that there was not such a debate over the expression. Indeed, Alex Salmond’s proclamation of “Team Scotland” against “Team Westminster” was the only instance of it I can recall, and it did not meet much scrutiny. That alone tells me we currently have no stomach to ridicule nationalist fallacies, and we damn well need it during this election.
What saddens me somewhat is that this is rather elementary stuff. Decent folk have to realise that there is a world beyond their borders.