When corporatism is the new colonialism, it’s too late for nationalism to be the answer.

Marine Le Pen, the SNP and the Conservatives seem to think that taking back control is about getting smaller. The international corporations and the global banks seem to have a different view. There danger lies.

The nationalist answer is a perceived solution to the wrong problem. It is not government we need protection from – we at least get to elect them, however imperfectly, from time to time. It is rather we need to protect ourselves from the large banks and international corporations that shift monies to avoid taxes, upset local markets, seek interest at every opportunity, rent out trademarks and stifle the small companies which are so vital for our domestic futures. These corporations are the true citizens of nowhere and with their incorporation they acquire a legal identity that is very similar to that of an individual, but whereas an individual marries and sets up home, brings up children and then dies, the corporation does little of this.

It can set up home with a few strokes of the keyboard and it has the right to life everlasting. It never has to die.

In the age of the jet engine and the internet, hard national borders may offer some small inconvenience but will not stop increasing colonisation by these ethically empty behemoths. And the nation state is likely to become more and more ignored by these same corporations. Just look at Google. The Chief Executive himself flew over to meet the EU commissioner but a UK Public accounts select committee had to make do with their UK based ‘president’ who was unsure of what he was paid and pretty much everything else.

A reaction to make your country smaller and less cooperative when corporations are getting larger and larger must be mistaken. Like hiding under the bedclothes and hoping they will go away. They won’t and they are already well entrenched.

Yet Britain – or more properly England and Wales – thinks leaving the EU is a good idea and Scotland thinks the same about leaving the UK. Marine Le Pen thinks Frexit would also be a good idea (although – and this is a different subject – she is right about leaving the Euro; if the ECB limits money and is not a lender of last resort then France might as well be on the gold standard).

Nationalism is not only hiding under the bedclothes, it is also a wonderful romance that is only a little more than two hundred years old. Just think, the British national anthem didn’t exist till the eighteenth century (and ironically is sung to a tune of Scottish origin). Belonging was more county than country until the Canals criss -crossed the land and as we all know that time was always local before the arrival of the Railways. First World War British battalions (which were county based) were routinely unable to understand each other. Napoleon’s creation of France involved the slaughter of many of France’s minorities and was no golden time.

And these relatively recently formed nations are are the oldest nations of the EU and are now experiencing some form of identity crisis. All the better for the global corporations. Whilst we are wondering who we are and where we fit in, they will be delighted to exploit our lack of agreement and take all they can whilst we are distracted.

France shares long land borders which Le Pen thinks are too open to German exports. But without neighbourly cooperation France will have much more difficulty filtering out the world banking. Scotland may work at getting its own currency but it will still be a minnow next door to England. Britain or what may be left of it will still be a minnow against any sort of European Union. As Pierre Trudeau remarked of Canada’s next door neighbour;’It is like being a mouse in bed with an elephant’. With, in all cases, one country roughly ten times the population of the other.

If we want to save ourselves from the colonisation of the corporations we have to stick together. As all four nations of the British Isles have extensive experience in the exploitation and colonisation of other countries it is a mystery why they would wish to throw away their defences in such a cavalier way. Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book. If we have already done the dividing the global corporations will be pleased to do the ruling for us.

The corporations know that size matters. So should we.


  1. Cat Menzies -

    I agree with much of this and would argue that in some ways these ‘diminishing acts’, for want of a better word, are simply expressions of discontent that draw attention away from the more salient issues. As a Scot who swithers greatly on the issue, one of my fears is that if don’t recognise this, independence would just replicate many of the problems we face, and create a whole lot more besides.

    A key problem at the UK level is representation and that affects us all regardless of where we live and is a source of much of this discontent. In the last election 39% voted for the Tories so what most of us share in common is that we voted for candidates representing parties that are not in government. That should unite us, but for some reason it doesn’t. Wouldn’t it be better if it did? And why doesn’t it?

    I would suggest the answer lies primarily in three things: firstly, we live in a highly centralised (and forever centralising) state and consequently have little ability to exert influence even at the local level; secondly, and very importantly, we know nothing about each other or what our commonalities might be because the media fail to portray this, and this is true in and across all the UK’s constituent parts and within and across regions; thirdly, we are encouraged to identify along certain lines and these then create barriers that hinder us from making these unifying connections that might better all our lives.

    Should we not be breaking down these barriers? Should we not be rejecting this partitioned media view of communities and joining them up instead?

  2. Peter May -

    I agree very much that we are over centralised and that includes both government and media.
    To some extent there is the realisation that most of the UK is anti-Tory, and until we get a better voting system we have to vote tactically if not through a Progressive Alliance then at least personally. We need to get used to the idea that it is essential that – even whilst holding our noses – we vote against something rather than for something, because in many constituencies that is the way the system works.
    I also think that independance would come from local banking. Follow the money! I don’t mean Fred the shred’s Scottish bank, I mean county banks rather like the sadly no longer Airdrie savings bank or Cambridge & Counties Bank. Personally I’d like to see them controlled by the region’s local authorities specifically for the improvemnt of their own region. Once they have their own bank they’d be unshackled from Whitehall – or even Hollyrood – and could create their own money to be spent locally. They would probably have to be run as a not for profit and could never sell out to anyone, so the control would always be local. Once Whitehall discovered local money means local control they’d probably outlaw it but whilst they are distracted by Brexit…

  3. Grim -

    Your inclusion of the SNP shows a serious amount of naivety or lack of information.
    The SNP are Pro member state status for Scotland in the EU. That’s not what you describe. As for county, well the big EU member states killed off the EU of the regions so the clear response is that if want representation in the EU, then you must become a member state.
    The UK govt doesn’t represent Scotland and even worse is removing us from the EU.

  4. Peter May -

    Agree with much of that. Although you might not know that Cornwall County, for example, gets most of its income from the EU.
    And the fact remains that an independent Scotland is far from certain to be an EU member. Additionally, exiting the UK will be expensive and disruptive – meanwhile Scotland will be wide open for all corporate comers.

  5. Andrew Dickie -

    On the corporatism question, I can across this interesting post via FaceBook


    On Peter May’s regional Bank idea, I couldn’t agree more. If only Gordon Brown had had the vision to totally nationalise HSBC, transform it into a National Investment Bank, with HSBC Branches transformed into Local Investment Banks under the National umbrella, but managed locally and democratically through reinvigorated local government organisations, perhaps based of the Regional Development Agencies and Assemblies as REAL elected bodies, or better still, by Regional Parliaments.

  6. Peter May -

    Andrew, I largely agree and hope to provide a more expansive blog over the weekend.
    And I know they are all much of a muchness but I’m pretty sure you mean RBS not HSBC!

  7. PJ -

    Bit of an insult to the Irish, as well as a stretch of the truth, to accuse the nation of complicity in the crimes of the British. Is the Duke of Wellington an Irishman now? Were the sonderkommando also Nazis? The Irish struggled mightily and repeatedly to escape the bloody empire and were among the longest suffering on the receiving end of it.

    And it’s because Ireland is small and understands being bullied and colonised that it is gladly a member of the EU, which people see as a way to hold corporate behemoths to account on a wide variety of fronts.

    1. Peter May -

      Palmerston was an Irish peer and the Duke of Wellington was indeed born in Ireland. The idea that the Irish were somehow not complicit but that the the dead of the Peterloo massacre were is more romanticsm I fear. I’d suggest a better interpretation is that neither were complicit as the British empire was not founded under a democracy but an aristocracy.

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