I. Celtic Europe and the Third World
The basic global social struggle, the basic cultural context of resistance to and ravaging by imperialism, the basic tribal society in which the pattern of global Euroimperialism was set is that of the Celts. Everything that was done over the centuries to the “third world” by the European colonialists was first practiced against the Celtic peoples of Europe. The African slave trade, the genocide of Native Americans and the colonialist parasitism of India all had their precedents in Celtic Europe.
Celtic society was the first traditional, tribal, indigenous, non-imperialist obstacle to imperialism. Celtic culture was the primary alternative to imperialist culture. Celtic indigenous ties to the land were the first extensive impediment to the spread of imperialism.
The continuity between Celtic Europe and the third world of later centuries is clear in the language of the Greeks and Romans, who, sounding very much like the English speaking of the Irish, Scottish Highlanders or Welsh, described the Celtic peoples of Europe as primitive, savage, barbarian, bestial and insane. This also sounds remarkably like the European propaganda regarding Africans, Indians, Australians, etc.
As with the third world, the history we are given regarding the Celts is filtered by the interests of those in power, the imperialist forces bent on destroying them, from the second century BC in Gaul and Iberia to the nineteenth century AD in Ireland and Highland Scotland. The nature of the societies destroyed, and the atrocities committed against them in the process, and the motivation behind this millenia-old struggle are all hidden from the view of the public and the academic.
It is necessary to be informed regarding several themes of history:1. The chronic struggle between imperialist powers and the people who live on the land, in villages, with local cultures and agrarian lifestyles. This dynamic can be seen in Europe and also earlier, in Mesopotamia and Anatolia.
2. The constantly expanding nature of imperialism (capitalism). A defeated Empire has its ruling class and aspects of its social structure altered by conquest, but its expansionist nature is rarely altered except by social collapse.
3. The indigenous, traditional and tribal nature of Celtic society. Celtic Europe must be seen as being of a kind with the other indigenous cultures of the world oppressed by imperialism. Celtic Europe is not to be lumped together with Greece and Rome or with the Germanic and Slavic powers which supplanted it and were largely derived from it (Rome especially).
4. The continuity of peoples and of the ruler-rural dynamic, and hence of the atrocities against colonized peoples, in the Celts and other world peoples, for centuries and millenia. There is not a dysjunction of history in 1492 when European imperialism was carried to other continents. The expansion of Spain and later other European powers outside of Europe was part of a process which had begun two millenia earlier.
In many historical conflicts we see this same theme played out. The French Revolution, for example, was couched in terms of class struggle and of French nationalism; Celts were not mentioned. Yet the French peasant fighting for liberté was mostly the descendant of Gaulish tribesmen subdued by Rome, and he was fighting against a ruler of different ethnicity, an aristocracy largely of Frankish blood, who had replaced the Romans, if we cannot say evolved from them.
This is not the way we are taught to see history. We are taught that it was the French against the Germans, England against Spain. The story of the extensive and ongoing reorganization of society, of the constant expansion of the imperialist system and extension of its control further into the rural areas, into the social structure and culture of rural, Celtic-based Europe. History books do not even acknowledge the existence of this Celtic reality. Repeating the Græco-Roman propaganda, Europe is seen as uncivilized until the development of Greece and Rome. Greece is claimed as the cradle of Western civilization and culture. The image conveyed of ancient Europe is Roman. The Roman Empire is not described as the root of the feudal and then global imperialist systems which evolved in Europe, it is described as the root of European society and culture. The Celtic root of much of Europe’s rural culture is ignored. This is an utterly false perspective.
Celtic Europe was for its time highly democratic. Women had considerable power. There were women warriors. Every member of the society had dignity and rights. Yet we are taught that the cradle of democracy in Europe is Greece, in a society whose economy was entirely based on slave labor, and whose social organization evolved to constantly expand, incorporating “allies” as colonies and progressively parasitizing and castrating them culturally. Our history books tell us about Socrates, Euripides and Pericles, but little mention is made of the Athenian Empire.
We are told that European civilization is then based on that of Rome, itself based in turn on Greece. Rome represents the civilized, opposed to the barbarian, in our history books as to the Romans themselves. Rome disposed of thousands of people and animals weekly in the Colliseum for the entertainment and distraction of its alienated population. But while Rome is called the basis of Western civilization, the Aztecs, sacrificing to their gods atop pyramids, are called barbarians and savages, who had to be stopped by the Christian Spanish.
One of the great cultural and ethnic ironies of this history is that of the Germanic peoples. Many historians and anthropologists believe they are an early divergent evolution of Celtic or at least proto-Celtic peoples. The lifestyle of the Goths of northern Europe in the second or third century a.d., was indigenous, village-based, democratic in the Celtic way, agrarian and yet involved in widespread social relations based on trade and manipulated by tribal and clan ties. They were very much like Celts, in other words. Yet it was the aristocracy of various Germanic peoples who adopted Roman imperialism and imposed it on the people of Europe, and ultimately the world, after the Empire fell.
The root cause of this is to be found in the catastrophic arrival of the Huns in Central Europe in the third century. The Goths were dislodged by the invaders, and forced into a migratory lifestyle like that of their tormentors. Inevitably many were pushed against the Empire, some taken into it, and through generations of abuse, atrocity and dislocation perpetrated against them by the Romans, they became sufficiently Romanized that when the time came that the Germanic nations were taking power over Roman provinces, they perpetuated the imperialist social system of the Romans, in fact imposing a retrograde version in which the universal citizenship granted to all in the Empire in 200 AD was forgotten.
The Germanic powers who displaced Roman rule did not represent the return to power of the indigenous European peoples, of the social system from which they had earlier been deprived by the Huns. Though they hated Rome and were bent on its destruction, it was a Roman-based system they imposed on Europe. This was evident in the deterioration of conditions for the peasantry of southern Gaul when control passed from Romano-Gaulish authorities to Frankish ones. The relatively little known period of Celtic resurgence in Britain following the withdrawal of the Romans and before conquest by the Anglosaxons and quickly thereafter the Normans is another example of the contrast between indigenous and imperialist patterns of rule. The striking differences between Irish monastic Christianity and that of Rome is another.
Ultimately among the Germanics it was mostly the Franks and Normans who came to control Western Europe where Roman rule had been supplanted. They perpetuated the aristocratic, parasitic imperialist system of the Greeks and Romans, deriving from the same root as that of the Hittites, Hurrians, Persians and Brahmins. Based on patriarchy and caste, this system was of Indoeuropean (Aryan) origin. Celtic peoples, though speaking an Indoeuropean language and carrying many cultural traits of Indoeuropean origin, though in most cases little actual Indoeuropean ancestry, never practiced imperialism in this way. Celtic society, like early Germanic and Slavic society, was based on the land. It was indigenous. Celtic peoples were descended mostly from indigenous Europeans, and the bulk of their culture as well. In Celtic Europe, the Indoeuropean tripartite class system, Indoeuropean languages and de jure patriarchy constituted a veneer laid over indigenous social patterns and practices which were very ancient, tribally based and organized, and with many practices derived from earlier matriarchal social patterns.
The Greeks and the Romano-Latins derived from them never assimilated indigenous social patterns. They remained ruled by an aristocracy obsessed with its racial purity, maintaining itself distinct from the people, a distinction which with their imperialist expansion became ethnic, ancestral and often even linguistic. The Indoeuropean cosmology was imposed, in all its patriarchy and absolutism, and indigenous cosmologies suppressed. For example, the Greeks demoted the indigenous goddess Athena from Earth Goddess and Mother Goddess to the patron of a city, promoting in her place the incestuous and ever philandering Zeus and his dysfunctional family.
The spread of the Græco-Roman system meant not only a change in rulership and social customs. It entailed a complete reorientation of all labor and production to serve imperialist interests. Formerly self-sufficient and interdependent agrarian villages were transformed into slave plantations producing wealth for the elite of the Empire. Celts who succeeded in this system did so only by adopting Roman ways and serving Roman interests. Those who did not could survive only as slaves or virtual slaves in the Roman world.
The Romanized peasants in this system did not become homogenous with the Romans, as historians often suggest. They remained distinct from them, and they remained distinct from the Germanic aristocracies who replaced the Romans. We are to believe that England and France are an amalgam of the list of peoples who have migrated into those lands, that they are only “English” or “French” now. Yet in fact, there is strong historical continuity with the ruling classes of these two nations with the Normans and the Franks, respectively, and of the bulk of their populations with the Celtic Britons and Gauls. Where there are exceptions to this among the peasant-derived classes, as in the Danes of Yorkshire or the Angles of Northumbria, it is where those immigrant peoples retained their indigenous culture and lived as peasants, to be dominated by the aristocracy, not to be a part of it.
II. The Big Lie about “White” People
The big lie perpetrated on modern society regarding Celts and regarding the nature of European society and culture, is that European people represent a unitary group, usually referred to as “white”, and that they are opposed by their cultural if not biological nature and by history to the rest of the “non-white” world. By this lie, the people of Europe are deprived of the truth of their own history and identity. They are thus being told that they are all Romans. What was done to their ancestors is hidden. This is cultural genocide, and it has been going on since the days of early Rome.
Even in the USA, the “white” population is characterized as the “majority” and the “dominant” group. Yet the deep divide between rulers and the masses existed and exists in the USA, and often Celtic identity is directly involved in this. Celtic peoples were discriminated against in the American colonies. Peoples derived from earlier Celtic peoples who’d already been assimilated into “English” or “French” ethnic identities still were the workers and indentured servants for the descendants of aristocrats and gentry. And those who still were “fortunate” enough to carry their Celtic ethnicity, such as the Irish, were still being abused in America and demeaned with the same slurs used against them nearly two millenia earlier by the Romans.
This false identification with the conquerors, with the rapists of your ancestors, is a powerful tool of control for the rulers. In the USA it has long been observed that, for example, the aristocracy in the post-bellum South sorely oppressed and abused the “poor white” population in large part by juxtaposing them with the “Negro” population, convincing the poor whites that their common interest and identity was with the white aristocracy based on their common “whiteness”. This thinking requires that the poor white ignore the fact that he is economically and socially in virtually the same position as the black, and that logically his interests would lie in the recognition of common cause with that black population rather than with the white rulers who oppress them both.
National identity serves this same purpose. Celtic-descended English peasants and Celtic-descended French peasants killing each other on the field of Agincourt to dispute the interests of their respective Norman and Frankish aristocracies were deceived as to their own true identity and as to their true and natural social alignments. Quickly these truths regarding the social alignments under imperialism were revealed when in Europe following the rise of French Republicanism, which threatened the interests of the aristocracy, the various national aristocracies united and worked with a single purpose against all revolutionary, democratic or republican forces. The French Revolution was in fact a resurgence of Gaulish power and culture, of indigenous power and of peasant power, and as such there was nothing specifically “French” about it; it appealed to the oppressed majority of every European nation, of every duchy and principality, and it threatened the aristocracies of all of Europe, from England to Spain to Austria to Russia. In their opposition to Republicanism, they were largely successful, in that the French Revolution was modified to suit the needs of the bourgeoisie, and Napoleon who attempted to carry the Revolution to Europe on the backs of the French army, was defeated.
The consciousness of this contradiction of interests, between those expressed by the aristocracy and assimilated by many of the masses, and those true interests of the masses, was expressed succinctly in the comment by a black American during the 1960’s, objecting to black Americans going to Vietnam to fight for a system which consistently oppressed and excluded them, that “the Viet Cong never called me ‘nigger’.” If only the English peasants had refused the call to arms against the Scots, realizing that the Scottish drive for independence did not in fact threaten their interests. Logically the English peasantry should have risen up against the King in support of William Wallace. The French workers should have flocked to establish unity with Algerian resistance fighters. The poor American farmer should have allied with the Native tribes being exterminated in his name. The Hutu and Tutsi masses should have recognized their common interest in combatting the global economic forces which inhibit the economic development of both groups.
Instead, we see the poor English absorbing the anti-Gaelic bigotry fed to him by the aristocracy. We see the French in nationalist fervor against any who oppose the “interests of France”. We see poor white Americans and even black Americans actively engaged in the slaughter of Indians. We see the Hutu massacring the Tutsi en masse on world television.
The European-derived peoples of the world have been told these lies for a long time. They are taught the histories of the aristocracies who conquered and oppressed them, and trained to identify with them. They are taught that they are the heirs of Rome. They are taught that their ancestors had no culture worth mentioning until the Greeks taught them civilization. They are taught that the national adventures and interests of Spain, France, the UK, the USA, etc., are on their behalf and concordant with their interests. They are taught that their ethnic identities correspond to nation-states carved out of aristocratic spheres of influence (“England”, “France”, “Spain”, etc.). None of this is true.
Nor is it true what many non-Europeans are taught and come to believe: that Europe oppressed them, that the “white people” were imperialists. The only accurate way to view Euroimperialism is as a system whose exploitation and oppression of the people of Europe was of a kind with that of the third world. The correct view of the European people, of the commoners, is as conquered, colonized and oppressed people.
Modern capitalist economies have created middle classes in the wealthier countries who are taught to identify with the nation, with the aristocracy. Many in the middle class tacitly participate and support the imperialism of their own people and of the world. In their ignorance, they do not see that the national identity they cling to was created by the aristocrats and does not represent their true identity. They do not see that this system which now uses them as wage workers and consumers treated their ancestors the same way it treated the third world. They do not see that in many ways their rise to the middle class was only possible when the aristocracies found someone else—the non-European peoples they “discovered”—to form the oppressed productive base of the system.
As this Euroimperialist system has come to dominate the entire globe, and as it creates massive ecological and social crises in its wake, it is imperative that this group of people, Europeans of commoner stock, who constitute the vast majority of “white” people, become conscious of their own history and identity if they are to participate meaningfully in the evolution of a better world system in the future.
III. Things Nobody is Taught about Celtic Europe
1. Celtic society extended across Europe, from the British Isles to Iberia to Germany to the Balkans. It included even Galatia in Anatolia, SW Asia. A system of trade and cultural exchange existed throughout this area, though the Celts had no empires and virtually no cities. This society showed great continuity with prior European indigenous cultures, but it also included technological and social innovations of Indoeuropean origin. These included warfare in the form of cattle raiding, and later Celtic towns in Europe include defensive features. These are the origins of the European castles, walls and moats which protected ancient and Medieval rulers and cities. They also included ironworking and superior equine technology.
2. The Romans actively engaged in the destruction of Celtic political and social power in Europe. Regardless of the excuses used by Julius Cæsar and others, the goal of the Romans was consistently that of destroying Celtic society and assimilating its people and resources into the Empire.
This began with the Cisalpine Celts, Gauls of northern Italy. They were an obstacle to early Roman expansion in Italy. In 390 BC they occupied Rome. But in the ensuing generations, the Romans progressively curtailed their power. Even at this early stage, the Romans had mastered the arts of political intrigue and manipulation, which would serve them so well as they spread across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Southern Gaul (Gallia Narbonnensis) was next “pacified”, followed by Celtiberian Spain. It was Julius Cæsar who would complete the conquest of Gaul, and initiate Roman expansion into Britain.
The Romans required the partial urbanization of conquered peoples. In Britain, the Romans controlled the towns, and the rural Celtic kingdoms were consistently seen as a threat. Pax Romana required that all peoples be “reduced”, as the Spanish would later call it, by being brought into towns where they were controlled and controllable. This entailed a requisite Romanization.
All social institutions central to Celtic society were methodically destroyed by the Romans. The most notable of these was the Druids. The Romans fanatically rooted out and destroyed all priests and all of their temples. Druidism was eradicated so thoroughly that today nobody can speak with much certainty about any aspect of this religion of Celtic Europe. Celtic tribal and clan loyalties were also targets. This persecution of social structures and institutions continued into recent times with the English eradication of the clan system among Highlander Scots in the 17th and 18th centuries.
3. Celtic society and culture in Europe showed continuity with the European indigenous past, going back into the Pleistocene. Though Celtic language and culture can be traced back to the Indoeuropeans of the steppes, unlike the Indoeuropean (Greek) immigrants into southern Europe, the Celts moved through central and western Europe interacting and trading with the indigenous people, with whom they rapidly became mixed. Celtic society therefore was not in the manner of Roman society, something imposed from the outside. It was rooted in the land, and in the ancient people who had lived in Europe since long before the first Indoeuropean left the steppes.
The Indoeuropean Celts had brought iron technology, improved horse technology and their language(s) and other cultural traits into Europe. The La Têne Celts who traded with the Greeks through their colony of Marsalla (Marseilles) spread ironworking through northern Europe, but, long before them, there were earlier waves of Celtic migrations and diffusions into Europe. Anthropologists cannot at this point say with certainty when the cultures they excavate in Europe first were Celtic. Nor are we certain at what point to call a people “Celtic”. When they speak a Celtic language? Archæology cannot help us with this, as language is not preserved among pre-literate people. When they have adopted particular aspects of identifiably Indoeuropean or Celtic culture? This is a complex question. Some believe that Celts were in Western Europe by 2200 BC. Others believe that the Hallstadt Celts were the first legimitate Celtic presence in Western Europe, a millenium and a half later. Some scholars suggest that peoples such as the Picts, who seem to be strangely Celtic and non-Celtic at the same time, represent this early Celtic migration, and the Gaels a later one, keeping in mind that while we speak of migrations, we still find in the center of Gaelic Ireland virtually no Indoeuropean genetic ancestry. Nor is there appreciable Indoeuropean ancestry in Wales.
In fact, for most of the history of Celtic migrations, we are probably speaking of the movements of peoples whose tribal groupings and culture as well as genes descend from pre-Indoeuropean Europeans. They are Europeans who now speak a Celtic language. Europeans had a long time to assimilate the culture of the immigrating Indoeuropeans. They entered Europe slowly, and in the times of the Kurgan culture, they (Indoeuropeans) had inhabited the European plain as far west as East Germany. Indigenous Europeans had been dealing with these Indoeuropean Kurgan people for a long time.
And so, can we say that the Celts originated in the Kurgan culture? Probably. Just where in that vast area they lived is not known. The Kurgan people extended from the European plain to the steppes of Central Asia. Undoubtedly they are the origin of at least the later Indoeuropean migrants, the Persians, Indics, Greeks, Celts, Germanics and Slavs. It may be that earlier Indoeuropean peoples who left the steppes and were known in ancient times, such as the Hittites and Hurrians, represented a pre-Kurgan or very early Kurgan phase. This is not known. There is still argument over the place of origin of the Indoeuropeans. Most argue for either the steppes northeast of the Black Sea, the northern Caucasus, or eastern Anatolia. [Paysan believes they are from the steppes NE of the Black Sea.] It is on the steppes that the Kurgan culture developed.
There was certainly no indication that the Greeks or Romans saw any kinship or common history with the Celts of Europe. They considered them subhuman, though of course they assimilated many Celts into the Empire, and in the conquered Celtic provinces assimilated Celts held high positions of economic and political power. Even by Roman times there was no other cultural grouping which was more indigenous than the Celts, with the exception of the Basques. Only they retained and still retain, in a linguistic territory much reduced from that of Roman times, a language which descends from those of pre-Indoeuropean Europe. Other than the Basques, by 500 BC the indigenous Europeans of most of Iberia, France, northern Italy, Britain, Ireland, southern Germany, along the Danube, and in the central Balkans were Celtic.
4. Celtic culture is the root of most of the culture of Western Europe. Most of the customs and traditions of the English, Castilian, French and German peasantry can be traced to Celtic culture, and most of that further back to indigenous pre-Celtic European cultures. The Celtic view of a tri-partite godhead (held in common with the Vedic Indians) was perhaps the strongest influence on the adoption of Trinitarianism as Christian dogma. Celtic spiritual and magical practices were the origin of all the paganism and witchcraft so severely repressed in the Christian era in Europe, yet at the same time are behind many of the rituals and trappings of Christianity. Celtic vocabulary permeates the Western European languages. The very suffix “burg” or “berg” in the names of towns and cities is Celtic.
When central control has been weak, the Celtic aspects of culture resurface. In Medieval Europe, the culture of the peasants traced mostly back to Celtic times. The same people had lived on the land for millenia, and their culture was not easily supplanted by that of Rome. Roman culture, and that of the nations which succeeded it, was based on the aristocracy and in cities. The further from the city you look, the more indigenous and Celtic things are. This is true today as in Roman or Carolingian or Renaissance times.
IV. Conclusion: Continuity in Transformation
As a model of the people conquered and abused by imperialism, the Celts are exemplary. They were the first largescale cultural group to be so treated by Euroimperialism. Their resistance and its general longterm failure also foretold the future of a myriad of other groups large and small who have been ravaged over the ensuing millenia.
But more than an example, the Celts provide an ongoing illustration of the process. The brutality against them did not cease when Rome fell. In addition to the fact that most of the Western European peasantry were descendants of Gauls, Britons, Celtiberians, etc., all Celts, those who retained specific Celtic identity were targetted on the basis of that ethnicity. The histories of the Highland Clearances following the Scottish defeat at Culloden Moor in 1749, and of the Irish Potato Famine, more a genocide in reality, are illustrative of this, both occurring at times when most people’s histories have taught them that the only people being treated in such a way were Native Americans or African slaves.
The marginalization of peoples by imperialism, kept poor and out of the mainstream, but available to be exploited as needed, has been going on since imperialism arose. In the case of the Celts, they have participated on the losing end of this process for millenia in Europe. And even where they’ve gone when fleeing starvation or when, as was often the case, forcibly evicted from Europe, this dynamic has been repeated.
This is true certainly in the USA in the case of Appalachia. The “white” settlers of this region being mostly Celtic, and the region itself being mountainous and of difficult access in pre-automobile days, Appalachia quickly became and remained a marginalized and oppressed region. It’s culture and people were belittled in the popular press and literature, yet they were doing the labor which enabled Middle America to grow and prosper. From Appalachia came the lumber and coal on which modern America was built. Yet Appalachia remains poor, its population for the most part emigrating if they wish to avoid poverty. Once out of Appalachia, the Appalachian has historically found that any display of Appalachian culture or identity will be negatively received, and must be suppressed. [Paysan’s own father took classes in dialects in order to lose his Appalachian accent and speak mainstream American English as he entered the white-collar world, outside of Appalachia, of course, with his GI Bill education after WW2.]
In all of this we see the echoes of the Romans in Gaul, of the English in Ireland. Appalachians are not executed for speaking their dialect, as Scots and Irish were for speaking Gaelic, but the pattern is the same. To escape from marginalization and poverty, assimilation is required. One must become a “white American” (= Roman). To hold to any vestige of Celtic culture, even the hybrid Appalachian version, is to set oneself against the system, to be less in its eyes.
And the characterizations of Appalachians echo precisely those of Celts in Europe thrown at them by Romans and English. They are degenerate, uncivilized, primitive, irrational and savage. As we are told that Europe before Greece and Rome had no civilization, so Appalachia represents a lack or degeneration of culture. Few are aware of the Celtic, Cherokee and other origins of Appalachian culture. But, after all, the Celts and Cherokees were both “uncivilized”.
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