In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Salmond’s voyage to Oceania

Posted by seumasach on February 12, 2012

Cailean Bochanan

12th February, 2012

A couple of months back the Scottish National Party’s defence spokesman. Angus Robertson MP, outlined a new strategic direction for Scotland. Scotland was to embrace a Nordic identity.

“Angus Robertson, a prominent MP in the British Parliament and a leading member of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, has issued a call for Scotland to embrace its long-latent “Nordic” identity and to join with neighbouring Norway and nearby Iceland — as well as Canada and all other Arctic nations — to “properly engage with our wider geographic region.”

This is not just, or not even primarily, about the Scandinavian social model but part of a geopolitical and defence agenda:

“a more northward military focus “would absolutely be a priority” for an independent Scotland.”

Also reported was that

“Along with this new, Scandic, approach to diplomacy and trade is a defence strategy designed to dovetail with the Norwegians, the Swedes and the Danes and provide Scotland with the sort of defence forces which the other Scandinavian countries have pioneered.
This means small, high-tech, deployable forces designed to look after our corner of the world which, along with the Norwegians, Danes and Swedes, means the High North and Arctic – not the plains of Germany, the deserts of Irag or the mountains of Afghanistan”

This all sounds very homely, very couthy, defending our own bit hill and glen, if we leave aside the reference to Obama-style special forces and the rather obvious Pentagon jargon. According to Robertson, these security perspectives are uniquely Scottish, stemming from Scotland’s newly discovered links with Scandinavia and are “not even on the U.K.’s radar screen,”. Perhaps, then, he wasn’t in the House of Commons on the 8th November, 2010 when the then-Defence Secretary, Liam Fox referred to a remarkably similar security perspective:

“I shall point out our commitment to the submarine programme and to the aircraft carrier programme, and explain how we intend to ensure that across the range of capabilities the United Kingdom is a sound and secure NATO partner. The purpose of the meeting in Norway is to ensure that we deepen our bilateral relationship with Norway, that we create a NATO entity that Finland and Sweden feel a little more comfortable with, that we give further security to article 5 in the Baltic states by being a nuclear power as part of that grouping, and that as a NATO grouping we are better able to deal with regional disputes with Russia.”

This had followed on from a NATO “Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North” in January, 2009 and “National Security Presidential Directive 66 on January 12, 2009” in which the United States claimed “broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region [which] include such matters as missile defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations” and was followed by a summit, the first Nordic Baltic Summit, hosted by David Cameron (the Norway meeting referred to by Fox, involving only defence ministers, had prepared the ground for this) seeking “alliance of common interests” with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Voice of Russia interpreted this as follows:

“Europeans have decided to watch the Russians in the Arctic and how they behave there closely. The idea of creating an Arctic ‘mini-NATO’ was discussed at the [Nordic Baltic] Summit in London on Wednesday. According to analysts, the heightened activity of North Europe is explained by an increased interest in the Arctic and its natural resources.”

It is indeed no secret that NATO has intensified its activity in this key strategic area where two NATO sub-groups, the Nordic and the Baltic Battle groups, already exist.

That the SNP is just tamely following behind NATO is a great disappointment to many of us who had hoped that the SNP was taking us away from NATO towards a pro-European, social-democratic agenda. Indeed, opposition to NATO is believed to be a key plank of their policy. This is what the base of the party seems to think but, as we have seen with the Liberal-Democrats and Milliband’s Labour Party, what the party’s base thinks is of no significance in contemporary Britain: a higher loyalty drives their leadership in all cases including, evidently, that of the SNP. Not a day passes without the SNP abandoning what they were presumed to stand for: the SNP will preserve the pound as our currency, Salmond has even revived the old imperial term , the Sterling area; they won’t be scrapping Trident only seeking to persuade the UK government to abandon it- a futile task: the SNP reaffirms its commitment to the monarchy: the SNP wants a “social union” with England: the SNP seeks and welcomes greater commitment from the UK government to military bases in Scotland such as Lossiemouth and Faslane; the SNP has outlined Scotland’s Strategy for Stronger Engagement with the USA ( stronger, even, than that of the UK?) The SNP is the independence party which doesn’t want to break up the UK. It has redefined independence to mean devolution, a devolution which fits in well  with the Tory reconfiguration of the UK constitutionally, the decentralisation of the British state and internationally, the reorientation of the British state towards the Anglosphere. The betrayal of the SNP is another episode of the “parcel of rogues in a nation”, the warping of the Scottish nation into a wider imperial agenda, but this time not for imperial advance but imperial retrenchment, not the glittering prize of the New World Order but the wooden spoon of Oceania.
For, although not abandoning the quest for global hegemony, it is now clear that a fall-back position is being prepared in the face of a series of reverses. The campaign against the eurozone has run out of steam, Cameron’s bluff has been called and fears have surfaced of Europe adopting an independent defence and foreign policy with the defeat of Sarkozy in the French presidential election. NATO’s Nordic Baltic strategy,featured above, looks like one of skirmishing desperately around the fringes of a Europe already moving under Franco-German leadership towards closer ties to Moscow. Furthermore, the remodeling of the Middle East and North Africa under the cover of the Arab Spring has run into a dead end. The situation in Libya, and NATO crimes there, will surely return to haunt the aggressors, and not just Russia and China but most of the Global South have awakened to the danger of resurgent imperialism and made a stand in Syria against Western sponsored terrorism. The alliances which Anglo-America have brought into play look notably unstable. We are far from the First Gulf War where the coalition against Saddam clearly reflected the undisputed preeminence of the USA. If anything these alliances reflect the vacuum resulting from the ebbing away of US power. Several countries, France, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia have opportunistically come to the fore: they may equally easily go their own way and we may yet see the Arab Spring fulfill its potential in overthrowing the Gulf monarchies, especially as their role in unfolding events is increasingly exposed. In both the “High North” and the Middle East Anglo-America finds its advance blocked by Russia. Hence, the intensifying Cold War rhetoric but, in contrast to the Cold War, Europe is no longer locked into “the West”. Anglo-French pressure may have bounced them into shooting themselves in the foot once again in agreeing to sanctions against Iran but they won’t continue indefinitely to act against their own interests: expect blowback from the incredibly ferocious Anglo-American campaign against the Eurozone to assert itself soon. We can expect major geo-political shifts with the result that the New Cold War will have as its Iron Curtain not the Elbe but the English Channel. This retreat into the Anglosphere brings us towards something resembling the division of the world in Orwell’s 1984 which pitted Oceania against Eurasia and East Asia.
If this is what the Anglo-American leadership are opting for it is a very strange choice for the pioneers of globalisation, but globalisation is no longer advancing on their terms: they have therefore begun to abandon it. As well as being a strange choice it is an irresponsible, even irrational one. The former white colonies of Great Britain, with one or two free-riders, may constitute a powerful military alliance but all the world’s great centres of industrial production and most of the centres of agricultural production lie outside their territory. The Anglosphere could well serve as a centre of global empire but not at all as the rump of one. The US/UK, in particular, are completely dependent on the wider world for food and consumer goods, for energy and for the drip-feed of incoming capital flows. They have no chance at all of surviving independently. What can they be thinking of?
The Anglo-American elite reveal some unusual features. Britain, in particular, reveals an unnatural degree of internal cohesion in its elites. Surely, after the disaster of Iraq, the ongoing disaster in Afghanistan, our policy of aggression in the midst of economic meltdown would be questioned by some, splits would appear in the ruling class, new policy directions would emerge somewhere in the political spectrum. The complete opposite has happened: we have seen a complete closing of ranks- scarely a voice has been raised in opposition to the ongoing bailout of the banks nor to our intervention in Libya and Syria, nor to our disengagement from Europe. This is striking political success: oligarchy is meant to be prone to internal dissention. Shakespeare’s history plays attest to that but the British oligarchy overcame their fractious tendencies and acquired organisational and ideological unity of a high degree as they morphed into an imperial leadership. Imperialism and war are the basic condition of their survival even as they are forced to take a step back, even as the dream of global hegemony is revealed to be a mirage. What we have from them now is not rational consideration of policy opotions but merely the mindset of the obsessive, the monomaniac. As if the ship of state were in the hands of a Captain Ahab, hunter of Moby Dick.
The lack of attainable goals will induce a paralysis in the Anglo-American ruling class, a class that exists only for its own survival and appears to have congealed into a caste. Its unity is as I say a kind of political achievement but it is a problem for the rest of us, for the people in the anglosphere and for the rest of the world. They have become the main obstacle to the successful resolution of this crisis, the unification of the world through cooperation between nations on the basis of equality. Instead they seek a new division of the world and an Orwellian strategy of international tension, of a permanent military stand-off if not of permanent war itself. Humanity cannot endure such a situation: the need for peace and international cooperation, for the peace dividend, has become an imperative. What can we do?
The need to by-pass US/UK has been the the pragmatic response of most of the international community for some time. India, Russia, China and most of the Global South are ignoring the foolish Anglo-American attempt to isolate Iran: Iran has more friends and trading partners than ever. Creative ways are being found of by-passing the dollar: India is paying partly in Rupees for Iranian oil. Currency swaps, barter and bilateral trade deals have been in vogue for years. Awaiting the new international system so badly needed i.e. awaiting the Americans, ad hoc solutions are coming into play. On the European front great benefits can be expected from the exclusion of the UK from Eurozone forums. As the UK can no longer play its wrecking role “at the heart of Europe”, Europe will begin to fulfill its potential and break away the Western Alliance: the huge, historic step of a new security arrangement involving Russia comes ever closer.
Inside the Anglosphere things can only go from bad to worse for the people. They also cannot await for their rulers to come to terms with the new realities. They must organise themselves at community level, using, for example, local currencies to survive austerity and inflation. Its no surprise that the anarchists are coming into their own: contemporary Britain owes something to their inspiration seemingly. How to survive in Anglo-America reduced to penury by thirty years of “creative destruction”- talk about a challenge! Of course, they can vote with their feet and get out and we can expect a lot of this in the UK whose citizens have the right to reside anywhere in the EU. Dossing in the south of France has already proved a popular choice. A good case can be made that the UK will actually constitute a humanitarian disaster, one that will merit the direct intervention of our neighbours. A people’s assembly has been called in Edinburgh in March. This is the right idea; it should sit as a permanent body. The people’s parliament is the appropriate form of organisation when we have a government which no longers rules but merely shores up vested interests. It must declare on all policy issues including, even especially, foreign policy and the great issue of war and peace. Here it must go beyond the limits of anarchist or grassroots thinking and move towards assessing Britain’s geo-political dilemmas and assuming diplomatic responsibilities: it must reach out to the wider world and enter into dialogue with the international community, representing Britain where Britain is no longer represents us. We are talking about a form of dual power in the UK and that must be our goal in the short-to-medium term: we cannot wait for oligarchs in paralysis, catatonic elites. In seeking to represent the British people in the international arena we are kicking through an open door: the world community awaits interlocutors in Britain to resolve outstanding questions. This process will prove fruitful and synergistic. By bypassing the existing power structures in Britain we subject them to unbearable pressures: either they are bounced into a complete policy about-turn or they will fragment. It is worth remembering that although they are the 1% they have an inordinately large pay-roll, a nomenklatura on which they depend to bully, brainwash and bamboozle the people. This is the section which will start to break away first leaving the oligarchy proper hopelessly exposed,hopelessly at sea. We will win the battle for hearts and minds. Real underlying changes in political consciousness are already there but cannot manifest themselves on account of the blanket cover provided by this group, “journalists”, academics, “economists”, experts, assorted “revolutionaries” and politicos, trolls, wreckers and provocateurs.
The Oceania option is the option of the UK elite. What could be a more dramatic confirmation of this than its adoption by the SNP, the most radical mainstream political current in the UK, one which even laughably compares itself with the Irish republican tradition and already has the blessing of the likes of the Socialist Worker’s Party on the basis of its supposed anti-imperialism. Illusion and fantasy have taken over from reasoned political judgement. The terrible reality of Oceania, our fate as real-life proles in an Orwellian dystopia, must burst this bubble world and elicit a clear and concrete response: we must take those steps necessary to survive thinking and acting locally and globally.

4 Responses to “Salmond’s voyage to Oceania”

  1. jon said

    this article was written with permission with those that fly in cloud cuckoo land. i don’t like the idea of nato. but then if it wasn’t for nato we would all be part of the soviet empire. so maybe i’m a dummy as well

  2. seumasach said

    Yes, but being part of US empire is OK isn’t it Jon? That this is the underlying leftist view in Britain is exactly what I’m pointing out

  3. “Indeed, opposition to NATO is believed to be a key plank of their [SNP] policy.”

    Opposition to NATO is no part of SNP policy. That policy is for an independent Scotland to withdraw from membership of the nuclear-armed alliance, but to maintain close links through such things as NATO’s partnership for peace programme. The characterisation of this perfectly reasonable and totally legitimate policy as “opposition” smells of British nationalist propaganda.

  4. seumasach said

    Quite correct, Peter- I merely pointed out that a large section of the SNP base thinks they are in a party which opposes NATO

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: