: OK I was riled - but the often heard chant of "you should learn your history" when there is a disagreement is irritating.
It can be yeah.
: I would not try to apologise for all of the actions of the British Empire. However, as the concept of "Empire" is inimical to socialism, it is very easy just to label it as a bad thing, the British as the evil bastards of the world (at least historically) and have done with it.
: It is this that I object to and why I think that historical debate of the empire on a "socialist" site will tend to have trouble maintaining objectivity.
Well, I can consider it objectively imperialism is wrong and the sort of people who think it did any good are very much mistaken in my point of view but then again it doesnt really matter to me if the people theiving my labour are from this country or another, in fact the forces of capitalism have developed to such an extent that they no longer need a country or nation to ground themselves in.
: I believe that a lot of good sprang from the empire. Before you dismiss this as fatuous capitalist apologetics, consider the wider perspective.
: The strong dominate the weak. According to Marxist theory, this still goes on today in a more insidious formm and it is only recently that the strong have ceased to dominate the weak in more obvious ways. Looking back through history, was there ever an example of a strong nation treating a weak neighbour benevolently? We can say, now, that this is wrong and I am all for working against this tendency. But this doesn't alter the fact that it happened.
: The Irish were weak. The British strong.
Consider the fact that time and again the english had to re-enfranchise the planters into an anti-irish culture to ensure they didnt decide they where now irish and then repeat that statement.
:The results inevitable. Furthermore, when the British became stronger than just about everybody put together in the 19th century, the potitical enlightenment that would have prevented domination by this powerful entity just didn't exist. This was a time when perfectly nice, right thinking peolple (for the time) believed blacks were sub-human.
Yes, I can understand that, I think J.S.Mill was a fine thinker but I think his anti-irish and anti-actholic rumblings where bang out of order.
: So when I say that the British Empire was not universally bad, it is in the context that, in a technologicallly adolescent world someone was bound to dominate. The structure for peaceful and constructive international relations did not exist except between those nations powerful enough to maintain a deterrent affect. From the posts I have read here, you will no doubt believe that such a system remains intact, except that the domination has a subtler form.
I've heard this argument before and I dont think it is sufficient to justify the theft of land and lives by the might makes right school of thought, I dont think that is possible to say it was ethically wrong but industrially or technologically right either, if you wish to employ the example of Ireland the British left and the Irish have created a technological and economic miracle that hasnt been at the expense of mutilated welfare and injustice to the lower classes.
: If someone was to dominate, better the Brits. Other than the Celtic, indiginous cultures were left largely intact and progress was made interms of infrastructure and education. Given the degree of domination we had ,I would say the most striking thing about the Empire was not the attrocities that did happen, but those that didn't.
Possibly this is true, I am satisfied from the point of view that Britain is now dead as a meaningful identity, the only thing holding it together was imperialism and consensual left wing politics, following the decline of empire and Thatchers militant, but typically english, smashing of the miners etc. wht do you have? Resurgent Pan-Celticism and the death of Britain, even the stupid ulster unionists, in their desperation to be anything that isnt Irish, have invented an alternative identity.
: I don't have the figures, but more people were probably murdered in Stalinist Russia in one year than at the hands of the Empire.
I dont deny that, all imperialism is terrible but I think there would have been far more deaths under imperial Britain if the technological advancements Stalin had at his disposal where at the disposal of the British Imperialists.
: Oh, and Ireland isn't an imperial issue; we were interefering in that nation's affairs from the middle ages as part of the predicable subjugation of a weak neigbour. Just as the Celts drove out the Picts and strong clans massacred weak ones.
I really dont agree with that, I mean you may be right for the medieval nuisance that England was making in Ireland or Scotland, who could forget 'Braveheart'?, but if it wasnt an imperial concern the english would not have been so keen to kill the 1798 rebels, they had French support, or contemplated invasion of Ireland with Australian support during WW2 to force them into the war.
There has always been the chance, although it is shrinking at a powerful rate, of Ireland becoming Britains Cuba or at least a backdoor to Britain for prospective invaders.