Friday, 22 June 2012

Localism and Scottish Christian Democracy: Neither Berlin nor Vienna. Neither Westminster nor Edinburgh

Earlier this year I had the privilege of acting as an election agent and election campaigner for my Dad who was re-elected for another 5 years as an Independent Councilor for our town. He was elected with nearly 2000 votes, an amazing result if you consider the fact that it's a small town and he does not belong to a political party. It was also a great result considering how dirty and negative the campaign was. Among the many slurs and insults directed his way (some sectarian in tone) was the claim that he is "parochial" and only concerned with serving his own small community where he grew up.  Although meant as an insult, this tag of Parochialism was actually a compliment to an Independent Councillor since his job is to serve the needs of the community first and foremost. Indeed, Parochialism is a by-word for Localism. The political principle of Localism is that which supports local production and consumption of goods, local control of government, and local culture and identity. Localism can generally be described as in opposition to centralism which is exactly where an Independent town councillor should be. (And lets not forget that it was localism and local democracy which defeated centralist-secularism on the issue of council prayers at Bideford Town Council in Devon.)

 Furthermore, one of the main aspects of Christian Democracy is the idea of "Subsidiarity" developed by the German theologian Oswald von Nell-Breuning and mentioned by Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno. It states that the functions of government, business, and other secular activities should be as local as possible. Indeed, one of the main concepts which underpins Christian Democracy is the subsidiarity based idea of devolving power to local level.  This however, is not necessarily an endorsement of Scottish Independence since Scottish Independence can be seen as a movement towards Centralism and a negative expression of Nationalism which goes against the Christian Democratic principle of Common Good and Solidarity. (A claim which I think is most unfair since it is a civic-nationalism which is being offered not a race based one.)

Nonetheless, the new Christian Democratic movement which seems to be forming in Scotland is against Scottish Independence. According to the SCO

The problem with new Scottish Christian Democratic movement's opposition to Scottish Nationalism is the fact that it sounds like a de facto endorsement of Unionism and Westminster Rule. This type of Unionism ignores the fact that many of the original Christian Democratic Parties in Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands were perhaps not Localist but certainly Regionalist in ideology.

However, the original Christian Democratic Parties emerged from the Rhenish and Westphalian Catholic heartlands in the second half of the 19th century as a response to Bismark's Kulturkampf. But these people had no strong attatchment to the concept of a unified Germany as we know it today. They were very Regionalist (or Parochial if you like?) in outlook. They had no desire to be ruled by either Berlin or Vienna. The same can be said of early Christian Democratic Parties in Belgium who had Flemish interests at heart or the CD parties in the South Netherlands. Parties such as
Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams in Flanders. A leftwing CD party with links to the Labour Movement and Trade Unionism. Or even the Katholieke Staatspartij) (RKSP) in The Netherlands or the Confessionele Katholieke Partij all with roots in the teaching of the Papal Encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno    

So in conclusion, any authentic Scottish Christian Democratic Party should be as hostile (or at least as ambivalent) to Edinburgh rule as it is to Westminster rule. Indeed, such issues should almost be rendered meaningless by the Christian Democrats desire for a State which create the conditions for civil society to flourish outside the boundaries of the state. We should seek to live a Christian life beyond politics and national borders. Also, the other concern I have about the new Christian Democratic Movement is it's complete lack of Working class credibility.  It's vital that we build up support from working class Christians within the Trade Union and Labour Movement just as the orginal CD parties did. The new movement seems to have overlooked CD's strong emphasis on the community, social solidarity, support for a welfare state, NHS and support for strong regulation of market forces. We must have an emphasis on the fact that the individual is part of a community and has duties towards it. The economy must be at the service of humanity not a vehicle for obscene greed and materialism as it is today.



  1. Hi there - I have just found your blog on a lazy weekend meander around inverclyde web stuff, and I have very much enjoyed reading some of your blog entries. I had never heard of distributionism before, although the idea of a halfway house between a planned and (rabid!) free-market economy is nothing new.

    I haven't read all of your posts yet, but there is obviously the thread running through them linking [German] social democratic politics with Catholicism, with a clear admiration for socially responsible government built on very small, local units. What do you think of the Nordic model of government? - because this seems to me to be the best fit with your political aims, although the religious element is absent in this model.

    As I say, I have not read all of your posts yet, but I have not yet come across a mention of modern Nordic government - why is that? Is it because you are not that interested in the experiences of non-Catholic nations or that you don't accept that your preferred form of government can exist without Catholic Church guidance?

    By Nordic government, I mean the consensual liberal model developed in the early 20th century in Scandinavia in response to urbanisation and emigration, and now prevalent in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.



  2. Just read my comment and it comes across as a bit aggressive - not my intention! Just curious.


  3. Hi! Thanks for the comment. My blog is mostly cultural and slightly political. My main interests are German Immigration to the UK and Catholic Social Teaching. To be perfectly honest I'm not an expert on the Nordic Model nor do I have any personal interest in it or link to it. I am aware of the basics but I've always been deeply suspicious of the constant promotion of Scandinavian economics in the UK as something of a Utopia. In my experience this is not the case, in reality these economies tend to be small and very unique. Naturally, as something of a traditionalist, these regions are also a little too liberal both socially and economically for my tastes. However, having said that, the economies of Scandinavia are probably very close to the type of left wing Christian democracy I favour. Distributism is an entirely bigger more philosophical idea. With regards to the Church, I would not let the Catholic Hierarchy run a bath let alone have any influence on the running of a country. I am entirely against any kind of clericalism or theocracy and I say that as a sincere Catholic. I think that Catholic Social Teaching can have a wider influence outwith the community of believers. Let's not forget that The roots of the Labour Party owes more to Methodism than Marx. Cheers