“I think there is an enormous amount to be proud of in what the British empire did and was responsible for” - David Cameron in Amritsar, refusing to apologise for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre (in which a British Army regiment fired indiscriminately at a large crowd of unarmed protestors, killing in the region of a thousand people).
With all due respect, Mr Cameron, go to hell. There is not “an enormous amount to be proud of” in the British empire, the defining characteristics of which were genocide, theft, mass murder, rape, exploitation and policy-driven famine. To take pride in the empire is to rejuvenate the myth of the white man’s burden; it is to affirm the ‘civilising mission’ of colonialism and slavery; it is to state the superiority of Anglo-Saxon blood over that of the people of India, Ireland, China, Afghanistan, Palestine, Africa and the Americas.
What is true is that Britain’s colonial theft was so lucrative that it gave rise to important new developments in technology as a result of the vast accumulation of capital. These developments are an objective reality, and can (and should) be put to use in the service of humankind. However, you would have to be a hardened racist and reactionary nationalist to have ‘pride’ in the circumstances that gave rise to them.
Everything that Cameron said in his speech in Amritsar (for example his refusal to return the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond “confiscated” by the East India Company) was sickening empire justification, based on outright lies and dubious historical revisionism, no better than holocaust denial. If it were just the rantings of a lunatic, it wouldn’t be anything to worry about, but in truth it reflects an increasing trend, as can be seen from all the propaganda surrounding the royal wedding, the jubilee, the olympics, etc. As the recession deepens and the economic basis for any kind of social peace disappears (ie as people increasingly have no jobs, hope or support networks), this empire ideology serves to strengthen the national identity, to keep the white lower classes on message, to marginalise non-white communities, and to prevent any kind of unity of oppressed against oppressors. Oh, and to emphasise ‘Britishness’ in advance of the referendum on Scottish independence.
It’s not just Cameron; it’s the entire ruling class, including Labour. We need to understand it and fight it.