The relationship between Scotland and Ireland has never been far from my thinking. I am the offspring of a Scottish mother Isobel and an Irish father Freddy. Both of them left the Catholic church and theism for atheism and became revolutionaries in that they were deeply influenced by the events surrounding the Russian revolution. I would term them “gut” socialists in that their own experience of life led them to socialist ideas, not the dry reading of theory. The poetry of “The Communist Manifesto” was powerful enough in itself. Even today it is a striking call for human liberation. Freddy was a propagandist. I often saw him as a one-man political party. He never waited for any party line.
It was him, more than my mother who was a very well read working class woman, who had more than a working knowledge of both Scottish and Irish culture and history. It was his life. He produced a novel, many plays, and numerous poems, but this I will leave for another day. I am only trying to relate the importance of the subject matter to my life.
There are core similarities between Scotland and Ireland that not merely have to do with the Gaelic language and its traditions. Frederick Engels in his “Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State” points to the structure of the clan system and even to “mother right” where goods were passed along through the female line. The relative closeness of primitive socialistic economic structures which bypassed much of the feudalism that had developed in England for centuries, (for a time both systems coexisted), caused John Maclean, the pioneer of Scottish socialism to create the slogan “Back to Communism, Forward to Communism!”
In my own studies of the Gaelic language. I found that there is no basic concept of ownership, like the Red Indians who could not grasp at least initially the idea of land ownership. it was alien to their thinking, The Gaels do not have possessive terms like my, his or hers,.. they say things are at, or on, or by. That is indeed one of the charms of learning the native tongue.
The beauty of Celtic culture is the stuff of legend, in this, it shares much with other aboriginal nations.
However, like large swathes of aborigine culture, it shares a great tragedy that has led to the Diaspora. We can find pockets of Irish and Scots all over our planet. Both the Irish famine and the Highland clearances, being prime culprits. Some of the saddest and most angry writing in the world’s poetry and song reflect these events. Not to mention other forms of literature. There are many great plays and novels on these themes.
Another aspect of Irish and Scottish history has been the “auld alliance” with France, in which successive rebellions against the British empire added misery to misery through failure and partial victories but not without much impressive heroism that has come to be a huge cultural force in the rise of the national consciousness in both Ireland and Scotland. This is the cultural backdrop to both countries relationship with Europe. It may not explain the pro-European affinities of both these Celtic nations but it cannot be dismissed as an influence. There is the radical influence of the French Revolution and its slogan of “fraternity, equality and liberty” which still haunts the financial oligarchies of this earth. The European Union ever more usurped by neo-liberalism has moved to the right with the notable exception of Portugal which has implemented some anti-austerity measures. European states do not all use a single social model, but welfare states in Europe do share several broad characteristics. These generally include a commitment to full employment, social protection for all citizens, social inclusion, and democracy. Examples common among European countries include universal health care, free higher education, strong labour protections and regulations, and generous welfare programs in areas such as unemployment insurance, retirement pensions, and public housing. Austerity is damaging this social model but even in Greece, it is at least ostensibly what is being rebuilt.
This social model contrasts with the American “way of life” which has a much weaker commitment to the welfare state. The so-called “special relationship” between the UK and US has been criticised because many US neo-liberal policies are transmitted to Europe by this route. There is a great fear that Brexit will be used as cover to allow whole scale privatisation of the NHS in England which will do untold damage to the funding of Health Service in both Scotland, Wales and the six counties of Northern Ireland.
The sterile debate about the EU has its root the Irish border. Both the Tories and the Labour Party want to leave the single market and have frictionless borders. Essentially they want to stay in the single market and leave it at the same time.
Traditionally, “England’s difficulty has been Ireland’s opportunity”. Scotland too can take advantage of this historic moment. Both Sinn Fein and the SNP are looking for referendums. Sinn Fein is calling for a referendum on Irish unity. The SNP are saying that leaving the single market is the cue for Scottish independence.
I agree. There is no doubt in my mind that a hard Brexit will be an economic disaster and break the law when it comes to the Good Friday Agreement.
Arguing that the EU is merely a capitalist club just corrupt as the UK is like not seeing the wood for the trees. The EU is the world biggest trading partnership, which if we leave, it will leave the UK competing with the EU. That is utterly insane, from a capitalist point of view. Socialism is a relatively weak force on our planet. We have a long distance to go before we have the basis of a needs-based democratically planned world economy.
What will help is Scotland and a United Ireland fighting for a truly social Europe. As Lenin said, and that doesn’t make it sacrosanct “Politics is the art of the possible”