Don't Know About Ralph Miliband, but I Do Hate Britain

04/10/2013 11:30 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

What is there to love about a country that still glories in an empire that was an exercise in grand larceny, mass exploitation, human suffering, and cruelty? What is there to love about a country which still believes in bending the knee to that wretched institution, otherwise known as the monarchy, in the 21st Century? What is there to love about the unelected, unaccountable privilege exemplified by the House of Lords?

What is there to love about Thatcherism, the Tories, racism, inequality, poverty, homelessness, illegal wars, trade union bashing, and a ruling class of sociopathic reprobates?

The truth is there is more than one Britain, which depending on your class, economic circumstances, and background is either heaven, hell, or purgatory. The notion that there is one value neutral Britain which every British citizen or resident must identify with is proof that Karl Marx - current bete noire of the Daily Mail - was absolutely right when he said:

"The dominant ideas in any society are the ideas of the ruling class."

Expanding on this statement, consider the fact that the official history of Britain is one of glory, achievement and noble endeavour. This tiny island nation, we are taught, at one time controlled an empire that covered a quarter of the globe, spreading civilisation, free trade, democracy and freedom, British values that have shaped the world for the past four or five hundred years.

It is a nation that has excelled in science, engineering, industry and war, while the names of Britain's war heroes and statesmen - Drake, Marlborough, Nelson, Wellington, Churchill et al - are internationally renowned. British industrial might led the way for over a century in productivity, innovation and invention, and Britain's system of parliamentary democracy has spawned imitation the world over, as have British universities with their proud tradition of excellence.

Such is the greatness of this tiny island nation its mother tongue remains the international language of choice, spoken and understood by diplomats and government ministers of all the nations without exception.

It would be hard to find a published history that doesn't concur with the aforementioned in either detail or sentiment. And yet it is a lie, a fabricated, obscurantist version of a history that in truth should be a source of shame to every right thinking British citizen.

The British state came into existence with the passing of the 1707 Act of Union joining the English and Scottish parliaments. The monarchy had already been joined in 1603, but politically, economically and militarily the two nations remained distinct, each following their own course. Wales had already been legally annexed by England in the mid 16th century via the Laws in Wales Acts, and Ireland would not be brought into the orbit of what would then be known as the United Kingdom until 1801.

The impulse behind the formation of the British state was the desire of a rising merchant class, whose power and influence had grown with their wealth, to reap the rewards inherent in larger and more powerful military's ability to forge a larger empire by which to fund a nascent industrial revolution. The increased supply of natural and human resources required at home to fuel economic growth was also a key factor in the formation of this new political and economic entity. The resulting history since has been one of war, exploitation, plunder and pillage. From the triangular trade - in which African slaves were bought and then transported to work on plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas, with the goods produced subsequently transported back to and sold in Europe - to the opium trade in China, famines in India, concentration camps in Africa, the British state has engineered and perpetrated some of the most heinous and barbaric crimes against humanity ever recorded.

Yet those directly responsible, undoubtedly worthy of being labelled genocidal maniacs and mass murderers, are venerated.

Take Sir Charles Napier, whose statue sits in Trafalgar Square. This is a man whose legacy is written in the blood of the poor and wretched of India, where he spread British values at the point of a sword. It is written in the suffering of the poor and working people of this island, where prior to his posting to India he played a key role in suppressing the Chartist movement. Or what about Lord Curzon? He is another venerated British hero who made his reputation in India, brutally quelling revolt and unrest, before returning home to lend his efforts to the suppression of the movement for women's suffrage at the beginning of the 20th century.

Then of course there is Winston Spencer Churchill, the exemplar of that British bulldog spirit responsible for withstanding the might of Hitler's war machine, the inspiration behind Britain's survival during the dark days after the fall of France in 1940 and up to America's entry into the war in 1942. We are all familiar with the stirring speeches, the defiant V For Victory salutes. What is less well known is his role in the gassing of the Kurdish town of Sulaimaniya in 1925.

Back then, faced with a growing insurgency in the newly and artificially constituted nation of Iraq, Churchill, at that time Britain's Colonial Secretary, ordered the town bombed from the air with poison gas.

In truth there are so many episodes of cruelty and barbarity committed in the name of the British Empire, it is difficult to know where to begin and where to end. From Ireland to India, from Africa to America, a trail of blood and suffering has been the true legacy of an organised system of what can only be described as state-sponsored murder and theft. Every statue and monument in the centre of every British town and city, every grand building, palace, and mansion, all of them were financed by wealth pillaged from Britain's former colonies and colonised peoples.

It's a history that has continued almost unabated.

That a British government was able to take the country into an illegal if not immoral war in Iraq at the beginning of the 21st century, and was able to continue in power after being exposed as having lied and dissembled in order to do so, speaks to the culture of war and might-is-right that still exists in British society, one passed down from generation to generation and so lauded in the nation's culture.

Further, the anachronisms of empire still abound in British institutions that remain sacrosanct yet entirely unaccountable. These include the aforementioned nonsense that is the monarchy, the House of Lords, and the judiciary. On the surface they appear as quaint, even benign aspects of a heritage that makes Britain unique and distinct. However, unique and distinct are not necessarily positive virtues, and in the context of a society which values progress over regress, justice over injustice, they are positively negative.

Despite being the seventh largest economy in the world, Britain has some of the worst social indicators of any nation in Western Europe. It is home to the poorest pensioners; has one of the highest rates of child poverty; the most under-funded public health service; the most under-funded public education system; the lowest paid workers who work the longest hours; the highest paid corporate and management executives; and the highest prison population.

Following the brutal example of her US senior partner across the Atlantic, social and economic injustice is now wedded into the fabric of society. Indeed, the very notion of British society today, after three decades of the free market, is that of a conglomeration of individual self interest unhindered by any shared obligation or responsibility to the collective. The need to reverse this state of affairs has been exacerbated by a global recession that with a right wing Tory-led coalition currently in power threatens to make reality Thatcher's infamous statement that there is no such thing as society.

So, yes, I for one am proud to state that I hate Britain - the Britain represented in the pages of the Daily Mail.

It was Oscar Wilde who said: "Patriotism in the virtue of the vicious."

Who could possibly disagree with him?