Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Black soldier in a Canadian 'Scottish' regiment

What follows is a comment left on a previous post on Sons of Malcolm about George Galloway taking a colonialist brit unionist position on Scotland. And after it is the reply from my good brother who runs Not-A-Dinner-Party blog. It is of interest to all anti-imperialists across the world, especially those in the 'west'.
Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm

'Scots were involved in colonial slavery'

"Sukant don't forget the role of Scotland in imperialism as much as they like to forget and hide it. The Scots were as involved as the English..Glasgow was built on the slave trade and it's main shopping streets are named after Scottish slave traders (such as Buchanan Street) who were involved in the tobacco trade - about 1 in 3 slave traders in the West Indies were Scots and Robert Burns almost left to run a plantation himself. I'm Jamaican and have a Scottish surname as a result of their involvement. The rebuilding of Edinburgh was financed on the profits that banks from the city invested in slavery and the other ventures of the BRITISH empire such as the exploitation of India. Scotland is the wealthiest part of the UK outside of London, the reason for this is the legacy of the British Empire that Scots enthusiastically took part in (such as the individual who owned my ancestors). They like to hide behind England on this issue, but they played the exact same role."

REPLY: 'Contradictions of Scots does not mean forfeiting an anti-imperialist position on Scotland'

He has a point of course, but it has to be seen within the same context as Irish or Indian involvement in British colonisation/slavery of Africa and the Americas/Caribbean.

But It is correct to raise it, Scots & Irish settlers were central to the slave trade in the US, albeit first as slaves themselves, but later as slave owners themselves. The confederate flag is based upo n the Saltire and the Ku Klux Klan was named in honour of Scots/Irish clans.

And you know yourself India's role in the British Empire's colonisation Africa and the Caribbean both as soldiers, settlers, merchants and middle-men.

However he clearly knows little about the economy of Scotland. It has much higher levels of poverty than England, lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality. Obviously not as stark as in 3rd world colonies, but still representative of Scotland status within the Union. And of course we are poor because our resources are stripped and used to fund English governments, just as our kids are sent to fight their wars, just as our ancestors were shipped off as slaves and then cheap labour to build their Empire. A double edged sword as I point out above, as some of those slaves then became slave masters - however in the US, after the Native American reservations, the poorest people in the US are the "white trash" descendants of Scots and Irish slaves in the deep south. But you got a whole load of messed up contradictions amongst them that are well known!

Clearly Scots have to address their contradictory and complex role within the British Empire and slavery, and their role in the subjugation of Ireland long prior to the Union even (Many Lowland reiver clans, who had themselves fought the English mercilessly whenever they attempted to invade Scotland, would also go on to become mercenaries for England in it's colonisation of Ireland and many remained as settlers - today's Ulster Scots.) but to refuse support for the independence of the first colonies of Empire because of the contradictions of how they were used and adapted to their place in that Empire is an absurdity. Was Irish independence not worthy of support because of the role Irish settlers in slavery and genocide in the US and Australia? What about Indian independence on similar grounds? Should Arab unity and liberation not be supported because Arabs colonised North Africa and enslaved and expelled its people? What about African independence, it was after all Africans who sold other Africans to the British in the first place, supplying the demand of an Empire which industrialised, globalised, commodified and justified what was previously an internal slave trade within Africa.

The British Empire was so successful for so long because it understood how to exploit these contradictions for its own ends, to elevate one group of its subjects to use them subdue others. The US Empire has perfected this technique. Which, using the logic of this guy would beg the questions, why should the people of the world support Black Liberation within the US when the US Army is disproportionately made up of Black and hispanic soldiers? Blacks and hispanics in the US are in the top ten percent richest people in the world. Simply because they live in the US.The foot soldiers of Empire, making up its most brutal cutting edge, are most often drawn from its oldest victims. The poorest and most exploited and marginalised people in the belly of the beast are still fat and corrupted from the beasts feasting on the the rest of the world. These contradictions need to be recognised and understood, and deepened and exploited to our benefit, to tear the beast apart from within itself. Not used as an excuse to essentially surrender to the status quo and let Empire off the hook because some of those contradictions don't personally sit well with you.

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