There’s nothing less nationalist than wanting to end the British nation-state

Westminster at sunset

Sam Coates

Last week the First Minister said that nationalism was “inherently right-wing”. Whenever arguments like this get thrown around, there’s no shortage of people to point out that if you support the continued existence of the UK, you’re expressing support for British nationalism.

But I want to turn this argument on its head – that there’s nothing less nationalist than wanting to see the break-up of the British nation-state. In fact, it’s a fundamentally internationalist project.

The British state as it exists today emerged to administer a global empire – namely, to extract as much profit from other nations and people for British capitalists as possible, and to contain any rebellions of peoples that threatened this process.

It was not designed as a democratic system – instead, when working class demands for the right to vote threatened a revolutionary situation, democratic aspects were grafted onto a much older set of institutions to retain legitimacy.

 

Rigged

But the attitudes that underpinned that old state remain. Rather than being a government for the whole population, with a few exceptions in history, the UK government has always protected the same narrow interests as was the case during the empire. When you account for who wields influence in society, the nominally democratic exercise of general elections is little more than seeking consent to rule every few years.

Ordinary people’s views are not sought outside of elections, while it’s easy to point to countless examples of policies implemented in the interests of the rich and powerful minority, making a mockery of the claim to be a functioning democracy.

The programme of neoliberal reforms from the 1970s onwards has never had broad public support. Aside from a few programmes like the Council house sell-off, the public opposed the privatisation of state-owned industries and of tax cuts for the rich. The public stopped supporting austerity several years ago and want real terms increases in levels of public spending. They want key strategic industries to be publicly owned, they want to see an end to private involvement in NHS services. They want serious action on the climate crisis. But none of these things are guiding principles of government policy.

The centralised nature of the British state has allowed elites to impose policies benefiting them, impoverishing the majority of us through mass inequality and continual attacks on public services.

There are numerous ways that this influence is applied. There is a lack of transparency of UK government meetings with most lobbyists, allowing corporate interests to push their favoured policies in secret. The rich are able to make unlimited donations to political parties, allowing them not only to exert influence over a party’s priorities, but to influence the result of elections themselves by bankrolling that party’s campaign.

The public is aware that much of this is happening. The most recent polling from Hansard showed that 63% think Britain’s system of government is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful, and 47% felt they have no influence at all over national decision-making.

This leaves those of us who want to change in a bind. The structures of the state and political system more broadly are rigged against us, helping the Conservatives to keep winning elections despite worsening conditions for the majority. But this lack of democracy at home underpins injustice whose tentacles reach across the globe.

Regressive

The UK state is working perfectly well for those it was designed to serve – as an outpost for a global oligarch class. This is why there are also global implications also dismantling it.

While the political empire is no more, the UK state helps cement unequal power relationships all over the world that benefit global elites. Trade and aid policy promotes programmes that prioritise multinationals over local industry and populations. UK territories scattered across the globe form a network of tax havens, and aiding money laundering  – so that the UK has been described as the most corrupt nation in the world. Then there’s the subsidising of and lobbying on behalf of the British arms industry that supplies repressive regimes.

Dismantling the state enabling such economic exploitation both here and globally would have a positive impact felt way beyond Wales. That’s one reason groups like Undod, of which I’m a member, are working to win a Wales that is the antithesis of the UK I’ve described. If you agreed with what I’ve said, do join them.

Wales’ departure from the union would mark the final end of one of the most regressive states to exist in human history, but you don’t have to be a nationalist to think this would be a good thing. You only need to believe in a better future for everyone, all over the world.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

29
Leave a Reply

avatar
11 Comment threads
18 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
John EllisSteve DugganPlain citizenDafydd ClwydCeri Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Tudor Rees
Guest
Tudor Rees

Followers of the Labour and Liberal parties seem to find it easier to identify with the indigenous peoples of America, Australia, Polynesia, India and Africa etc than with those of us who live in Wales! James Fox on Radio 4. “Continuing his exploration of the collision of the West and Pacific culture, James Fox explores how, ever since Captain Cook’s voyages 250 years ago, the West has created a myth of Polynesia as paradise and, in doing so, destroyed the riches of indigenous culture.” It is interesting that at times, even Westminster Conservatives have shown more insight into the desire… Read more »

Ben Angwin
Guest
Ben Angwin

Inability to embrace non-Left views is Welsh indy’s core barrier.

Rather than accept a new state requires some right-wing values folks would deny they’re nationalist out of bias. Nationalism is a conservative thought, and you have not sinned against morality. It’s okay.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

You have a point: the ‘national party’ ground in both Wales and Scotland is currently, to outward appearances, entirely dominated by the social democrat/socialist perspective. In the event of ultimate independence – or even of a more authentically federal UK – it’s surely inevitable that one or more political factions representing a more right-wing stance would emerge. But for now, at least to someone like me who’s dissatisfied with the status quo but thus far disinclined to wholeheartedly nail my colours to any of the alternatives on offer, it rather looks as if there’s little appetite for ‘indy’ of any… Read more »

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

Underlying – what strikes me at least as! – this shewd exposition is the hard fact that in reality, whether or not you agree with the specifics of Mr Coates’s thesis set out here, at this political moment there’s actually no option on offer between ‘nationalism’ and ‘internationalism’. The political space for that is absent.

The real time choices are between the status quo, which especially currently is a particularly hard-nosed form of traditional British nationalism, and something which has the potential to be different.

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

Shrewd exposition?! Wine bar waffle. Coates’s piece is very largely a fact free zone.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

What prompted my ‘shrewd’ epithet was the preamble suggesting that ‘… that there’s nothing less nationalist than wanting to see the break-up of the British nation-state. In fact, it’s a fundamentally internationalist project.’

He has a point.

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

On that one point I entirely agree. The rest not so much.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

I’m not entirely unsympathetic – judging from the drift of your posts and assuming I’m reading them rightly – to where you seem to be coming from, as my response on this thread to Ben Angwin might indicate.

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

I see that and thank you. The left seems to think any questioning of their fact free nostrums must be immediately vilified by reference to fascism, racism, anti transgender ism etc etc so they don’t have to justify the centuries of failure, poverty, institutionalused corruption etc their chosen system produces. They compare modern democratic mixed economies to some Utopia which is always only a few years away under socialism (like nuclear fusion or Swansea winning the Champions League) but are unwilling to examine in any critical detail, beyond an emotional or sentimental level, what their much vaunted economic model would… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

You might add, they think abortion is a tremendous step to the future, instead of rank
failure. They would never agree, ( and maybe even you won’t?) that we live in a kind of apostate christendom. They are determined to learn the hard way; such is Pride!

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

Traditional Christianity in Britain these days, generally speaking, rather reminds me of the snail you think you’ve spotted in the garden near your cabbages; but when you investigate you find that there’s no actual snail, merely the empty shell.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

Not for the first time I find myself somewhere in between! On the one hand I’ve more than once had the experience of debating anissue with someone on the definite left and been angrily dismissed as some sort of moral leper for dissenting from, or even questioning, some aspects of their assertions. On the other hand I’d accept that comparing, say, the late departed Mr Corbyn’s vision of socialism with the effective state capitalism of the former Soviet Union, the ‘GDR’ and, even now, China is to liken chalk to cheese. Mr Humphrys points to another aspect of what strikes… Read more »

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

As a man I’m quite happy to support a woman’s right to choose, and any man who would dissent from that is promoting tyranny. A woman’s body is hers alone, and she has as complete sovereignty over it as much as any man had over his own body.

I think you’ll also find that many supporters of a woman’s right to choose would be most offended to find themselves described as coming from the political left.

There are perfectly adequate regulations in place regarding abortion, and that has been decided based on science rather than lurid evangelical Christian propaganda.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

I’ve no problem with the notion of ‘a woman’s right to choose’ in circumstances when her own life is the sole factor. But I take the view that in the case of a pregnant woman that’s no longer the case.

I absolutely don’t accept the implication that this ought to rule out abortion in any and every circumstance. But I do believe that it makes a difference,

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Well I am guilty of putting this too bluntly and simply. Perhaps I will come back to
it later. Suffice it for now to state that electing to forget the origins of Western
civilization means that apostate Christendom falls short of what it could deliver.
Those who advocate teaching Welsh history should demand All of our history.
Funny also, that the Right and left agree with secularism, but little else.

Sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sibrydionmawr

Maybe perhaps because they are unhelpful comparisons? The reality of course is that they weren’t communist, and weren’t particularly socialist either, but rather state capitalist, so much more similar to the present situation in capitalist economies – the state may not own the means of production, but the huge global corporations most certainly do, and they are analagous to the state as far as workers are concerned. The Indian state of Kerala seems to do quite well with it’s mild form of communism, as did Bologna in Italy for many years. If you’re so set on promoting a capitalist alternative,… Read more »

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

So what are you actually proposing Sam? You repeat the hackneyed cliches about global elites, British corruption, mass inequality yadda yadda yadda, what are you putting in the place of the current system. Everyone of your statements criticising the current system can be demolished (eg “the programme of neoliberal reforms since 1970 has never had broad public support”. How come a succession of Conservative governments and the successive Blair administrations kept winning General Elections precisely on those neoliberal policies and living standards, earnings etc have kept rising? General elections are where broad public support is vital or you don’t get… Read more »

Johnny Gamble
Guest
Johnny Gamble

USA is a Nation of States. The UK is a State of Nations. Very big difference, no need to say anymore.

Quiet observer
Guest
Quiet observer

Great stuff, very accurate and factual.

Sian Ifan
Guest
Sian Ifan

Intellectualizing the ‘lock down’ when for majority of our people none of it really matters, they are more concerned with SURVIVAL and post Covid 19 the concern will be the ECONOMY and how many of the ‘Intellectualizers’ are up for working toward ECONOMIC SURVIVAL? At end of the day yes it’s Socialism and Internationalism via ‘CO-OPERATIVE COMMUNITIES that counts. Welsh Nationalism has failed replaced by the new ‘freemasonry’ of Y CRACHACH NEWYDD (Eternals) which cares little for a Welsh/Cymric ‘SHARED MEMORY, so now our people have more a ‘Shared Memory’ with English people solidified in a dozen plus ways that… Read more »

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

This article makes many good points but devolves into the usual critique of the Westminster system – we agree, we always agreed, what else have you got? Internationalism? OK, let’s put that into place in our bright, shiny new natio…oh, we don’t have one yet. Further, it is the writer and those who would agree with him that see the breaking up of the union as ‘fundamentally internationalist project’, so in that particular bubble, it must seem like the whole movement is such. It isn’t. Plenty of people seem to want to see indy for a variety of reasons, coming… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

I agree. Plaids refusal to take a broad road, has resulted in fragmentation which hampers our chances greatly. The founders of PC were nothing like the present, who entered the party and took it left. I support individual
actions within PC, Gwlad, and most of all WNP, but would prefer unity. Policy divisions after Indy, please.

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

See, I’m not sure. I can envisage an up-swell in support for the WNP in urban centres and former industrial areas due to their more populist vision. Plaid may well move a little closer to the centre and, if the WNP don’t go full on with attacking Plaid over everyone else, soak up Lib-dem and centrist Labour support. Tory support in Wales seems to be a ‘well, who else?’ vote as opposed to all-in support for the conservative and unionist party. If we got 60-70 percent of Wales voting for indy supporting parties, even if there were three hundred of… Read more »

aledgwynjob
Guest
aledgwynjob

Sam makes some decent points here about the real nature of the UK beast that controls us. A haven for global oligarchs and a veritable viper’s den of corruption? No doubt about it. But, i’m a bit puzzled by this idea that Wales has got to be part of a kind of internationalist front to bring it down. And that we’ve got to think ‘beyond Wales’ itself, for it to be meaningul and purposeful. If Mark Drakeford’s intention in that interview was to put patriots on the backfoot as regards nationalism, it seems he has managed to achieve it, if… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

You should all join WNP, or remain a think tank. You have very brilliant members, but not a chance of power.
I do not say this against you, but you will just have to believe it. I am not a member of WNP btw.

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

There’s a fracture in the vote for you – two populist/nationalist centre-right parties for indy? Why? Maybe I’ve missed some key difference between the two but they seem pretty close. If there was a viable centrist/liberal/libertarian pro-indy party, (Mirroring the familiar Westminster options, but pro-indy), that’d be most welcome.

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

Very interesting. I know nothing of Gwlad at the moment but I am willing to learn more.

Dafydd Clwyd
Guest
Dafydd Clwyd

You may be right in that it isn’t just nationalists who oppose the British nation state. However you imply that those who oppose that particular state are not nationalists but internationalists. I find that disrespectful for true nationalists who have been the ones fighting against the British nation state longer then anyone else who has come on board for the fight. I welcome all in am alliance to bring the state down regardless of motivations. But as a Welsh nationalist my opposition to said state is rooted in my nationalism and to deny the struggles of the nationalist cause is… Read more »

Steve Duggan
Guest
Steve Duggan

Sam, I admire your ethos and that of Undod. The launch of the organisation last years shows us what strength the Welsh independence movement now has. However, I to agree with j humphrys on here, we now have yourselves, Plaid Cymru, Gwlad, WNP, YesCymru and probably others too – all fighting for the same cause. You all need to talk and pool resources , you all want a better Wales – work together, put aside any differences in order to achieve the greater good. If we are to serously detach ourselves from the corrupt Westminster system let’s do it together.