Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Nationalism and Globalisation: Two Snapshots in Time

Mason's blagged his way into a party:

Another obvious social and political fact resonating off last night's events is how Spain has modernised socially. I watched the match in a bar full of Catalan people, some of whom had been on the million strong demo in favour of independence from Spain the day before, carrying banners saying "Adeu Espana". As they surged onto the street last night they were all for Spain, and they were met by the entire staff of a Pakistani-owned pizza shop called Al Capone's, who surrounded me shouting (in English): "We are Spanish, we are Spanish. We Love Spain!". On the streets where the Catalan flag and language were once repressed, people used both to celebrate the Spanish victory. In a landscape shaped by inquisition-era Catholicism, gay men leapt around in the fountains wearing only bathing trunks bearing the word "Espana".

Basically, as in the Facebook profile option, "it's complicated" - and there is no going back.
But, ah, it ain't so complicated everywhere. Or at least not complicated in the sense of seeing new juxtapositions of attitudes and identities emerging, which manage to be both dichotomies and overlaps. Hyper-modernity carries with it a trailing gown of history's unfinished business in some places.

So we have football fans acting out their (temporary) role as joyful nationalists in one place, and the representatives of two* national traditions acting out their role as anything but joyful football fans in another.

(*No, I've not signed up to the BICO line. But you have to admit that in Northern Ireland it's taking a while for 'all that is solid to melt into air' as Marx put it, and a grudge, held long enough, looks powerfully like a nationalism to me....)


  1. '...a grudge, held long enough, looks powerfully like a nationalism to me.'

    I can throw away all those theoretical and historical books that try to account for nationalism. This is it. Nationalism is a grudge held long enough. Quite brilliant, Charlie.

    I saw Paul Mason on Newsnight last night. I'd have preferred more from him in Spain than the rather bland discussion in the studio on the NHS reforms.

    I'd be surprised though if football's global brand brings anything but a temporary settlement in Spain. There will be a few hangovers in Barcelona and Madrid this morning and all the same old problems. But they will have something new to argue about. As everybody in the East End of London knows, West Ham one the 66 World Cup. In Catalonia they know that it was Barcelona that won it in 2010.

  2. Rab
    I think you're right about the temporary effect of sporting triumphs on senses of national inclusivity.

    Just imagine if there had been a British team in 1966, not an English one. Hurst would never have got on the pitch: Denis Law would surely have played, and Hunt (or possibly Gilzean) would have come in if Greaves was misfiring. A place would have had to be found for Jim Baxter. Ball wasn't obviously better than Jimmy Johnstone and Billy McNeill was miles better than Jack Charlton.

    None of which, I suspect, would have had the slightest effect on delaying the rise of the SNP.

    & simply because it is impossible to imagine even Alf Ramsey thinking Peters was better than Best doesn't mean that a sense of unity and harmony would have settled over your own home turf either.

  3. I Just can't believe how he got away with blagging his way to watching the Final in Spain with a load of semi-naked people, and said so little in his report! No doubt the report on the Economy next week will be worth the trip.

    I think Marxists have generally underestimated the power of Nationalism as an ideology. It goes back to before class society, and also even today it can be a progressive force. Generally Marxists have either taken a sectarian attitude to workers who hold reactionary ideas (that was the case for some at LOR), and the attitude towards soldiers and military action leaves the field open to nationalists and fascists, or else - and this is usually the flip side of that latter coin - they have collapsed into being bourgeois or petit-bouregois nationalists themselves in providing politcal cover for all sorts of reactionary "anti-imperialists".

    I think Paul's analysis of Spain - as far as we've seen so far - underestimates the problems it faces. Like other Southern European states it really is not benefitting from an export boom. The austerity measures will raise unemployment, which is at Depression levels already, and the Cajas will probably require substantial recapitalising even without a Greek default. That together with the fact that Spain has always had strong regionalist movements that today tie into a logical trend towards regionalism within the EU as the flip side to the need for a closer federalism, means that it is like a powder keg. I remember in the 1970's when English people had their holiday homes in Wales burnt down for instance when Welsh people found they could not buy houses themselves. There has not been a proper crash in Spanish property prices yet, when it comes it will be dramatic, and will take many of the Cajas with it.

    30 years is not a long time, and just as Gerry Adams once said about the men with guns "They haven't gone away you know". Nationalism, and racism has been on the rise throughout Europe. Conditions of such instability could be just the ground it needs to breed in Spain. Its one reason I've decided to hold off moving for now.

  4. Hi Boffy,
    I always feel a bit guilty when you comment, because I read so many of your posts and think, "Hmm, let me ponder on that for a bit...." and then never come back to your blog to say anything. I still haven't worked out what I think about your suggestion here* http://boffyblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/how-to-pay-for-deficit.html for instance - much less think through how I feel about your series commenting on Purdy and Prior's 'Out of the Ghetto', which greatly influenced me when I was young. But it's all in there in my head marinating away, anyway. One day it will pop out.

    I'm not au fait with the details of Spain's current economic situation except in the most general sense. but, I agree, in principle housing bubbles simply aren't sustainable over a long term period and this will be the death of various Cajas, which I believe are basically the local version of building societies/local banks. & no doubt this will have various baleful effects beyond the purely economic should it come to pass. Heightened national/ethnic tension is certainly possible.

    But - and it's a fairly big but - there are those who argue that some nationalisms such as Flemish and Catalan don't grow out of disadvantage but of relative advantage: these nations may have a history of being oppressed but the basic motive force of current nationalist tinged discontent is to cut free from their poorer neighbours in what they claim (not always fairly: cf the Italian Northern League) are multinational states.

    So nationalism is complex and not to be reduced to sloganeering (not that I'm accusing you of doing so). Well, unless its my slogan that Rab apparently likes its not anyway :)

    * I'd be really grateful if someone could explain how one embeds a link in a word in Blogger comments the way one does with hyperlinks in main postings.I've looked and looked for guidance but can't find it.

  5. Charlie,

    First on this last point, I'm assuming you mean linking say to my blog post cited above. The format is a "<" symbol followed by "a href=" followed by the url, followed by ">", then the word label you want to give it, closed by "<" followed by "/a" and closed by ">". I've had to enclose the symbols with quotes otherwise it thinks I'm inserting a link. Hope that's what you were after.

    On the paying for the deficit, I wish someone WOULD comment. I've put it forward in several places. I've spoken to Paul mason about it in e-mails, and I'm waiting for him to get back to me.

    Its not just the "nationalism" in Spain. One of the things that struck me in Paul's report was the degree of contradictions exposed e.g. the gay/Catholic Church contradiction. This reminds me of lots of other historical situations where these fractures existed, and were in part a sign of a rapidly changing society, of mobile populations in a number of ways, and who lacked anchors. That has often been a scenario for revolutions, but it is also a scenario for counter-revolutions, or reactions in the literal sense of the word.

    On the affluence thing. That is what I meant about the rise of regionalism. It could arise in the UK. Most of the affluence is in the South-East, which is also where the Tories get most of their support. A problem I've identified in a PR system, because its also where the majority of the population live. London already has its own Government. If the rest of the country starts to suffer, how long before people in the South-East complain about bailing them out - as the Germans have done about Greece. Alternatively, how long before the rest of Britain where the Liberal-Tories writ does not run, begin to demand control for themselves?

  6. You mean like this Boffy?(This is me testing your helpful explanation).

    I think the thing about insisting all private enterprises created 10% more shares, handed them over to the govt and the govt then selling them for - your estimate - £100 billion is that it seems very odd to non economists of both Right and Left. The Right would cry theft, and the Left might wonder why you would want to sell them. But the reason I haven't replied is simply because I, as a non economist, can't work out if this would be inflationary or not.

    I'm a Londoner, with a pride in my City (but not the rest of the South East). I've often made the quip about wanting to start a party called Plaid Cockney. But I think you're right - the real Plaid and the SNP will grow as they are 'natural' foci of opposition to this cutting coalition.

  7. Charlie,

    Glad that helped. The Right already argue that Tax is theft. To the Left I suppose my argument as elsewhere would be why do you want the Capitalist State to own these shares? is your preference for State Capitalism greater than your concern to avoid the cuts?

    No, its not inflationary. It doesn't involve creating any extra money. It could be argued that if a lot of British consumers bought these shares, then that would reduce aggregate demand, by the amount they so spent. However, many of the shares would be bought by overseas investors, or by Pension Funds, who would have been making those investments anyway, so no additional withdrawal of demand results. Moreover, the reduction in demand from consumers would be matched by the money received by the Government, who would use it to pay off its creditors - who presumably would spend it - rather than paying them by cutting spending, which would immediately reduce aggregate demand.

    In short, its not inflationary because it doesn't involve printing money, and its not deflationary - does not reduce aggregate demand - because it avoids cuts, and the money received is recirculated. Its like Marx's response to Weston about wages and inflation. Rising wages do not cause inflation. They represent a temporary transfer from Capital to Labour. This does the same.

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