Nationalism anathema to Orwell & co

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George Orwell disliked nationalism, as evidenced by his fighting against Franco’s nationalists in Spain and his 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism. Yet Alan Bissett quotes Orwell’s name in his letter (1 May).

Orwell defined Nationalism as “identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests”.

The recent furore regarding Alex Salmond and Russian president Vladimir Putin displays this blindness as Nationalists/Vote Yes campaigners bend over backwards to support Salmond’s position and besmirch any critics.

Too many SNP supporters put the SNP/Yes campaign beyond good and evil and refuse to accept the possibility that they could be wrong in any aspect of the independence debate. If they cannot answer their critics the final sanction is inevitably to call the critics ­“bullies”.

Neil Sinclair

Clarence street

Edinburgh

I’d like to congratulate Alan Bissett on his restrained response to James MacMillan’s outrageous diatribe (Perspective, 30 April). James MacMillan just stopped short of describing Bissett and other members of the National Collective of Artists and Creatives for Scottish Independence as “supporting evil”.

He certainly deliberately attempted to associate them with fascist ideologues.

I write from a “don’t know” perspective so have no axe to grind but I was appalled at the arrogant, almost slanderous tone of MacMillan’s piece.

Many of us “don’t knows” are being pushed towards the Yes camp by the negativity of the arguments from the other side. This attempt to associate independence with fascism is surely one of the worst yet.

Alan Ness

Orchard Bank

Edinburgh

I am not sure what John Steinbeck, Margaret Atwood, ­Benjamin Zephaniah, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison or Pablo Picasso would make of Alan Bissett calling them in support of his “Artists and Creatives for Scottish Independence” pressure group. They are all foreign artists whom you would expect to have a detached view (if any view at all) on Scottish independence.

Any possible conclusion on their collective commitment to the cause is further complicated by the fact that two of them are reliably reported as having been dead for the better part of half a century.

I am, however, certain that George Orwell, another dead artist on Mr Bissett’s list, would be justifiably horrified at having his memory ­traduced in this way. Orwell may have been indelibly English upper-middle-class with some of the social attitudes of that segment of society, but his politics were resolutely internationalist.

In his famous essay Notes on Nationalism, he distinguishes between “patriotism” – love of one’s country and culture which recognises faults as well as strengths – and “nationalism” which he defined as “power hunger tempered by self-deception”.

Perhaps Alan Bissett was not aware of Orwell’s virulent opposition to his own nationalist ideology when he decided to press the English author to the cause.

Now that he knows the facts, there must be Scottish artists who could replace Orwell on Mr Bissett’s list of ­famous artistic supporters of our very own parochial nationalist campaign: Pat Kane perhaps?

Alex Gallagher

Phillips Avenue

Largs