Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Separatist solidarity and the SNP

O’Neill highlights the crude ethno-nationalist sentiment which informs an SNP aide’s recent analysis of the political situation in Northern Ireland, in the light of republican murders. A Herald article examines Mark Hirst’s comments and political reaction to them, both from his own party and its opponents. His argument can be summarised, in blunt terms, as advice to nationalists to outbreed unionists, switching strategy ‘from the bomb … to the bedroom’, as he charmingly puts it. It is not, of course, a unique contention in nationalist circles and it finds echoes on this side of the Irish Sea.

Neither the SNP, nor other modern nationalist parties in the main, expressly articulate such crude ethnocentric narrative. Hirst’s article has, however, prompted Scottish Unionist to consider the Scottish Nationalists’ tendency to endorse multiple separatist causes, throughout Europe and beyond. Far from restricting its ambition to the independence of Scotland, the SNP supports campaigns to dismember other parts of the United Kingdom, as well as Spain and Canada. Through its involvement in the European Free Alliance, the party associates itself with groups whose collective objectives extend to shattering the sovereignty of states throughout the EU.

This intra-nationalist solidarity is reciprocated and it is also replicated whenever separatist causes pursue similar tactics (except of course where they clash with other countermanding separatist causes). Take a drive through republican redoubts in Belfast and the walls are adorned with murals celebrating violent separatism throughout the world, be it in France, Spain, the Middle East or Latin America. Scratch a proponent of separatist nationalism and you will find he is predisposed to ‘fragmentation and emasculation’ of states far beyond his own (to borrow SU’s excellent phrase).

That, of course, simply reflects the inclinations of an ideology which, logically extrapolated, demands that political statehood must flow from any claim of national identity, even should it issue from the tiniest group.

An alternative view upholds the sovereignty of existing states under international law, expects those states to respect the minority cultures which exist within them and encourages recognition of multiple and nested identities. That way lies plurality and tolerance, rather than violence, or programmes to outbreed the neighbours.


Anonymous said...

Or conversely unionism seeks to stifle the expression of the various nations in Europe and the SNp are simply supporting parties that wish to liberate those views.

The difference is that the british fight in IRaq to allow internalised nations freedom (kurds, sunnis and shias) whilst suppressing benign political and civic nationalism in their own country.

Is the irony lost on you?

O'Neill said...

Is Mr Hirst's vision of how "Ireland" will be "liberated" an example of that "benign political and civic nationalism" ?

Chekov said...

"The difference is that the british fight in IRaq to allow internalised nations freedom (kurds, sunnis and shias) whilst suppressing benign political and civic nationalism in their own country."

Although I'm far from a fan of the conflict in Iraq, I don't recall dismembering the country numbering amongst the coalition's war aims.

yourcousin said...

The problem with your alternative view (and I'm not much interested in the SNP position) is that states are not and will never be totally static. Also while I would love to see the primacy of international law it is not something that is set in stone or even a field that is entirely flushed out (theoretically or logistically).

Because so often the states as currently constituted don't or haven't historically respected minority rights, let alone international law. I know we've done this song and dance before but, sovereignty comes with responsibilities, not just rights. And if states won't or can't meet those responsibilities then the people have the right to establish some new sort of sovereignty that will not only uphold rights but also enable the powers that be to fulfill their responsibilities.

Now quick disclaimer here. I don't support the ETA, PLO, Hamas etc. etc. I believe in the principal of consent for NI blah, blah, blah.

A note on Belfast murals. I took my wife (then fiance) down the Falls road and I found pro Basque fliers and some old pro Kurd graffitti. The only mural I saw was a pro Palestinian one on the way in from the M1. All of those causes are worthy of debate at least.

Your line about "countermanding separatist causes" made me pause and reflect that one of the big problems is found when you replace the "separatist" with "nationalist". This is the real problem. The Turkish government is so paranoid about anything un-Turkish that speaking Kurdish can be considered treasonous and that indeed there are no Kurds, just "mountain Turks". This is half the problem, (actually more than half) the dominant discourse refusing to acknowledge and respect minority cultures within a given state or competing nationalist narratives that vie for dominance. Be it the Serbs and Kosovo, Russia and her former holdings, Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland etc.

The quest should not be to cut off the heads of the Hydra (nationalism) but to turn it into something which can live side by side with other backgrounds and beliefs in peace.

Sammy Morse said...

Yourcousin - not that the Turkish government is perfect these days, but your view of Turkish government policy on Turkish Kurdistan is about two decades out of date. There are no legal restrictions on speaking Turkish and frankly, even when there were, they were never enforced except as an - inappropriate and immoral - harrassement technique against radical Kurdish nationalists. At least one modern PM of Turkey (Turgut Ozal) spoke Kurdish with his closest advisers in the office of the Prime Minister in Ankara. While Turkish policy in the South East has usually been cloth eared and stone headed, and on occasions brutal and thuggish, at the end of the day most Kurds have always voted for 'unionist' rather than 'separatist' parties.

Chekov - Palestinians are 'separatists'? Er, what? Given that they live primarily as stateless people either in exile or in territory which is occupied by Israel but not claimed as Israeli territory by anyone except the loony Israeli right, how does seeking to resolve their present wretched conundrum make them 'separatists'? If it does, what country are they trying to separate from?