Bella caledonia posted an article by Richard Cameron (RCN and Edinburgh RIC) outlining the politics behind George Galloway’s Just Say Naw Scottish road tour (see http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/02/03/just-say-naw-to-galloways-sectarian-british-unionism/). Given the short time to write this article a number of errors appeared, none of which affected the overall arguments presented. However, Richard has now had time to correct these and to add an addendum, What is meant by communalism? The amended article is posted below, with thanks to all those who contributed.
This is followed by a report by on the Edinburgh Just Say Naw meeting held on February 3rd written by Allan Armstrong (RCN) for Edinburgh RIC . This was first posted on posted at:- http://radicalindyedinburgh.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/report-of-galloway-roadshow-in-edinburgh.html
1. JUST SAY NAW TO GALLOWAY’S SECTARIAN BRITISH UNIONISM
A. Remember George the anti-Iraq war campaigner – look at his allies now
With the Scottish independence referendum less than nine months away, George Galloway is bringing his ‘Just Say Naw’ roadshow to Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms on Monday February 3rd. A seat costs £10 a head – nothing comes cheap where ‘Gorgeous George’ is involved!
Galloway has been dining out on the Left for a long time since his triumph at the US Senate hearing, almost nine years ago, during the Iraq war. Whatever political differences others on the Left held then, we could all cheer his performance in front of such a smug, then thoroughly riled, bunch of war-mongering US politicians.
However, since then, it has been all downhill for Galloway as a credible Left politician. His Westminster election victories, won on a Left populist mix of Islamic communalism and Old Labourism, leave nothing solid behind. He only held the Bethnal Green and Bow seat from 2005 until 2010, and, in 2015, will almost certainly lose the Bradford West seat he won in the 2012 by-election. In Galloway’s own mind, this has no doubt been largely compensated by his financial gains for being an MP (albeit mostly absentee), from earlier substantial libel awards, from good earnings on the celebrity speaker circuit and, of course, from his cringe-worthy performance on Celebrity Big Brother.
One indication of Galloway’s political decline, over the years, is the allies he now has in the ‘No’ campaign. The official Better Together/‘Project Fear’ leader, Alistair Darling, was New Labour’s Scottish Secretary in 2003. He gave his wholehearted support to the Iraq War. Tory leader, David Cameron, also backed the war. The Lib-Dems, then in opposition, briefly opposed the Iraq War, but today Nick Clegg wants to commit British troops to Syria!
And, of course, Hilary Clinton, a supporter of every US promoted war, including that in Iraq, is strongly behind the UK state in opposing Scottish independence. So too is Mariano Rajoy, Spanish PM and member of the rightist People’s Party. He follows Franco in denying Catalunya the right to national self-determination. He also backed the Iraq war.
B. And moving ever further right, backed by the British ruling class
But the mainstream ‘No’ campaign, with its official Labour (whatever Galloway’s own misgivings on this score), Lib-Dem and Tory backing, does not account for the full political breadth (or should that be lowly depths) of the anti-Scottish independence campaign.
Beyond the Tories lies the virulently anti-Scottish independence UKIP. Indeed, until fairly recently, UKIP wanted to close down the Scottish Parliament! UKIP are pulling both Tories and Labour further to the Right. ‘Blue Labour’, with its ‘UKIP-Lite’ politics, is far more influential in Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ Labour Party, than the marginal Left, or populist George for that matter.
UNITE general secretary, Len McCluskey and the Red Paper Collective project to reclaim Labour for the Left, was blown out of the water at Grangemouth by Miliband. Yet, in the British Labour Party leadership election in 2010, McCluskey supported Miliband as the favoured UNITE candidate, over the socialist, John McDonnell.
It was not the SNP who denied Galloway a venue for his ‘Just Say Naw’ roadshow in West Lothian (despite the completely false impression Galloway gave in his sectarian diatribe directed against the council). Labour run West Lothian!
Last year, the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) challenged UKIP’s British chauvinism, homophobia and misogyny, when Farage made his British media-courting visit to Scotland (1). He came to Edinburgh for publicity when backing UKIP’s candidate in the Holyrood by-election in Aberdeen Donside. Aberdeen lies 120 miles to the north of Edinburgh!
The BBC fell right in behind the British ruling class in their wooing of Farage and UKIP. In the future, the ruling class could well turn on Farage and UKIP, once he has served their purpose and shifted the whole of mainstream politics to the Right. We have recently seen how the Greek ruling class, facing an even deeper economic and political crisis, used Golden Dawn, before turning on them. They had served their immediate purpose in diverting enough attention from the Greek ruling class’s alliance with the Troika to impose a banker-controlled government.
However, right now, the British ruling class still has time for UKIP in its drive to push mainstream UK politics further Right. Thus, four British unionists, Right populist UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, Scottish Labour Depute leader, Anas Sarwar (who sends his two children to a private school) and Left populist George Galloway, were invited on to Question Time. To counter this, the BBC only invited two pro-Scottish independence advocates, SNP right winger, Angus Robertson, and independent campaigner and journalist, Lesley Riddoch. The pro-Scottish independence contributors were outnumbered 2:1 by the British unionists. Yet the SNP forms the majority official government in Scotland. This sort of treatment of the official government would never occur on the BBC in London.
UKIP has little backing in Scotland – not one saved parliamentary deposit, not one councillor. Their party machine has now fallen apart here. UKIP in Scotland depends on life support provided by the British media.
Galloway had already been seen off by the Glasgow electorate in his bid to win a Holyrood seat in 2011 – he did not even save his deposit (2). Yet, he used Question Time to support Farage’s right to publicly campaign unchallenged in Scotland. In effect, they formed a left/right populist ultra-British unionist ‘No’ alliance, to complement the more mainstream British unionist official ‘No’ speakers invited on to the programme (3).
Nobody was invited on to Question Time from the pro-independence Scottish Greens, who have 2 MSPs and several councillors in Scotland, nor from the pro-independence SSP, which has a councillor. Along with the Left wing of the Scottish Greens, they are both parts of RIC. Given that RIC’s challenge to Farage and UKIP was a central topic for this programme, the lack of any RIC speaker, and the choice of speakers taken showed the BBC’s pro-unionist bias (4).
But the BBC’s actions in this regard are just par for the course. It can produce more challenging programmes. Yet, whenever the British Establishment puts on the pressure, the ‘Beeb’ just rolls over, and does what is expected of it. Their supine record was highlighted by the sacking of journalist, Andrew Gilligan, over the Iraq Dossier (5). Now the BBC whips up anti-migrant feeling. On New Year’s Day, they sent camera teams to the Bucharest to film the ‘invasion’ of Romanians coming over here to get benefits. They could not find any new benefit-seeking migrants! BBC managers would not dare to doorstep those greedy bankers, whose actions have made the vast majority of workers worse off, and pushed some people to suicide (6).
C. Galloway’s hypocrisy over the right to publicly campaign
Nobody in RIC was denying UKIP’s right to stand in an election in Scotland, or to publicly campaign. RIC was just asserting its right to publicly challenge UKIP’s putrid politics, especially when so openly encouraged by the British ruling class and mainstream media. Far from RIC’s protest being motivated by anti-English sentiment, those protesting included English students living in Scotland. On January 21st, this year, Farage faced a similar protest in Margate, which he stated, “Was actually worse than in Edinburgh, because in Edinburgh they came along to make a noise”! Good to see the spirit of Wat Tyler still lives on in Kent.
Any socialist would have used their time to attack UKIP’s British chauvinism; their hatred for migrant workers; their homophobia and misogyny; their tacit support for the banksters; and point to the embarrassing number of far right politicians and candidates who have emerged in UKIP ranks, from open racists to holocaust deniers.
When Galloway stood in the 2011 Holyrood election for the Respect Party in Glasgow, he tried to deny the right of free speech to SSP candidates who opposed the dishonest Left populist celebrity politics of Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity. At a Solidarity supported rally, held in the city, Galloway virtually encouraged the audience to engage in attacks on other socialists. With Tommy away in jail, Galloway hoped to claim the celebrity socialist mantle in Scotland for himself. He still dismissed the prospect of an equal electoral partnership with Solidarity’s Gail Sheridan. Galloway’s misogyny is deep-rooted. His opportunistic electoral bid was firmly rejected by the Glasgow electorate.
D. And on to the ‘No’ camp’s wilder Right
But the chauvinist, homophobic and misogynist British unionism of UKIP does not constitute the furthest right limits of the ‘No’ camp. Beyond them lies the sectarian British unionism of the Orange Order and the Loyalists. Nor is the divide between UKIP and the Loyalists always that clear. UKIP’s chair in Scotland, Arthur ‘Misty’ Thackeray, has labelled Labour controlled Glasgow City Council as follows – “GCC actually stands for Gays, Catholics and Communists”!
The Loyalists morph into the neo-fascist British unionists of the BNP and SDL. The official ‘No’ campaign, UKIP, the Orange Order, the Loyalists (including their currently rampaging ‘Ulster’ brethren), BNP and SDL, all want a ‘No’ vote on September 14th. The official ‘No’ campaign depends almost entirely on the UK state machine and a pro-unionist British media to promote ‘Project Fear’. If they organised a public demonstration in support of the Union, people would very quickly see the ugly face of British unionism, as Loyalists and neo-fascists turned up.
The SDL have said they are coming to protest against Galloway on February 3rd. They are not protesting against Galloway’s support for ‘No’, which they are every bit as keen on, but his support for Muslims and Catholics (7).
Galloway will undoubtedly enjoy the publicity any SDL protest will give him. However, Galloway’s own politics do not really fundamentally challenge the politics of the SDL. The SDL is anti-Catholic and Islamophobic. Galloway attempts to counter this through his own flirting with Catholic ‘Hibernian’ and Islamic communalism (8).
The sectarian Catholic ‘Hibernian’ tradition has long-standing roots. It makes no effort to challenge the official sectarianism embodied in the UK state with, for example, its Protestant (Church of England) head of state. Instead, ‘Hibernians’ seek better deals for Catholics within the existing order. The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), tried to emulate the Orange Order, only for Catholic Irish nationalists. Joseph Devlin became the AOH Grand Master in 1905. It is not surprising that, in the First World War, he ended up acting as the chief recruiting sergeant for the British Army in West Belfast.
Galloway’s courting of Islamic communalism in Bethnal Green and Bow has become notorious. Most of the councillors in his Respect Party in Tower Hamlets and Newham soon deserted back to Labour, or even to the Tories. When they became disenchanted with Galloway, they settled back into an earlier form of Islamic communalist politics. Some Respect Party members also became involved in anti-Semitic activity (9).
It has become a hallmark of Galloway’s politics that he leaves nothing behind but an unseemly political mess. It did not take long after his most recent Bradford West Westminster by-election victory before all five Bradford Respect councillors proclaimed their resignation from the party. Galloway announced that, in effect, he was no longer getting enough of the national publicity he craves. He was now seeking a nomination for the London mayor election in 2016!
In Scotland, during the 2011 Holyrood elections, Galloway’s abysmal political sectarianism directed against socialists he disagreed with was partly overshadowed by his resort to crude Catholic ‘Hibernian’ religious sectarianism. He attempted to play the socially conservative Catholic card and to appeal to Celtic FC supporters on a sectarian basis. Galloway claimed a vote for the SNP would be, in effect, a vote for a new Stormont in Scotland. He argued that only a vote for himself and, implicitly Labour candidates elsewhere, could protect Catholics in Scotland from this prospect! (10)
E. The decline of religious sectarianism and its replacement by anti-Irish racism in Scotland
The problem with Galloway’s misleading picture of contemporary Scotland is that it is based on a political ‘understanding’, which fails to relate to contemporary reality. Furthermore, his emphasis on the anti-Catholic nature of the SNP is only partly true of that party’s past politics. When the SNP was formed, in 1934 (11), it absorbed the former Scottish Party (SP). Made up of dissident Conservatives, the SP indeed held the Northern Irish Home Rule Stormont parliament as their model for Scotland. A persistent anti-Catholic current remained in the SNP through William Wolfe’s leadership up until 1979 (12). It last showed itself in the Monklands 1994 by-election. More recently, SNP leader, Alex Salmond, has been trying, with some success, to woo the support of the Scottish Catholic hierarchy away from Labour – at least until the removal of Cardinal O’Brien from his post (13).
However, even from its earliest days, Catholics were found in the SNP and could take on prominent roles. The Catholic convert, Sir Compton Mackenzie, won the rectorship of Glasgow University in 1931 as a candidate for the National Party of Scotland (the larger nationalist party which merged with the SP to form the SNP).
Although, the SNP have developed a more Left economic and constitutional pitch than Labour, in their contest over shared social democratic politics; when it comes to social issues, such as gay rights and abortion, the SNP have tacked to the right of Labour.
However the Labour Party can not be equated with always protecting the rights of Scottish Catholics either. Outside the Clyde Valley, Labour has sometimes courted Loyalism, particularly in the Lothian coalfields. As recently as 1986, Sam Campbell, Labour Provost of Dalkeith and member of the Orange Order, was expelled from the party for making virulently anti-Catholic comments at an Orange rally on Leith Links. He later returned to Midlothian Council as Labour’s Equal Rights spokesperson!
Labour has never opposed the Protestant/Catholic divide on principled secular lines, but has tried to mediate between two sectarian approaches, opportunistically adopting ‘Hibernian’ or Loyalist colouring in particular areas. More recently, this has also been their approach to Muslims where they have adapted to Islamic communalism. The SNP leadership is currently attempting to duplicate Labour’s approach with some success.
F. The comparison between Scotland and Northern Ireland
Over the last two decades, however, there has been a gradual shift from traditional Scottish Presbyterian anti-Catholicism to a more specific anti-Irish racism in Scotland. In the nineteenth century, when Ireland was part of the UK, both Catholics and Protestants thought of themselves as Irish, either as Irish-British or Irish-Irish. Then Unionists and Loyalists played up the Catholicism of the overwhelming majority of Irish nationalists, in order to differentiate themselves.
Since Ireland’s Partition in 1922, however, a new division has emerged in Northern Ireland, between those upholding an Ulster-British identity (replacing the old Irish-British identity) and those now upholding an Irish identity. No longer needing to assert their own Irishness, Ulster Unionists and Loyalists, along with their Scottish allies, have concentrated less on their adversaries’ Catholicism and more on their ‘Fenianism’ – a specifically Irish (and originally anti- or non-religious) term.
In Scotland, that hybrid sectarian/racist divide was never able to entrench itself as firmly as it did in Northern Ireland. James Craig, Stormont’s first PM, declared that, “We are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant state” and that, “I am an Orangeman first, and a politician and Member of this Parliament afterwards.” Over here, both the Church of Scotland and other Presbyterian denominations have declined faster in numbers and influence than their Northern Irish counterparts. They have also become somewhat more liberal in the process, despite a rearguard reactionary backlash.
It is no longer the religious sectarianism, of the likes of the late Pastor Jack Glass, which dominates the thinking of the Loyalist opposition in Scotland. Scottish Loyalist organisations follow the anti-Republicanism and anti-Irish racism of the UDA and UVF.
There has been a considerable influx of Catholic migrants from Eastern Europe into Scotland recently, but they have not attracted the same ire from Loyalists as the Irish-Scottish – unless they wear a Celtic (‘Fenian’) scarf! Where there is anti-Eastern European migrant feeling amongst Scottish Loyalists and neo-fascists, these migrants are not thought of as Catholics, but ‘unwelcome foreigners’, along with Eastern Orthodox Romanians and Bulgarians and Protestant Latvians, all barely distinguishable from Catholic Poles, Lithuanians and Slovaks.
At the same time as specific anti-Catholic religious sectarianism continues to wane, a new anti-Irish racism is consolidating itself in Scotland’s legal system (14) The SNP government’s Offensive Behaviour Act of 2012 highlighted this. Celtic FC’s Green Brigade does not encourage religious sectarian songs, but Irish national and Republican songs. The Fields of Athenry condemns Trevelyan’s genocidal behavior, when he was in charge of disbursing aid to the victims of the 1845-9 ‘Great Famine’. There are certainly Green Brigade songs which celebrate Republicans who fought against the UK state and British Army. Yet those caught singing these Irish national or Republican songs face punishment for singing religious sectarian songs.
Now the Loyalists’ song repertoire certainly still includes religious sectarian songs. However, the notorious Billy Boys and Famine Song are specifically anti-‘Fenian’ or anti-Irish racist songs. The individual racist (and misogynist) Loyalist David Limond has just been jailed his for online physical threats directed against Irish-Scottish journalist, Angela Heggarty.
However, when it comes to British soldiers in a Scottish regiment publicly displaying an openly sectarian banner, ‘Keep Ulster Protestant’, at a Rangers/Stenhousemuir football game, their commanding officers are left unquestioned, whilst the soldiers are merely ‘reprimanded’ – or so we are assured. The imposition of the Offensive Behavior Act is decidedly more skewed against Irish-Scottish Republican supporters than Scottish and Ulster-British Loyalists and their UK state backers.
G. Galloway’s politics do not challenge but help to sustain reaction
In Scotland, Galloway has appealed to traditional socially conservative values of the Catholic ‘Hibernian’ tradition. ‘Hibernians’ might dream of a future society, where they come out on top, and are able to treat their former oppressors as they have been treated themselves. However in the actual circumstances ‘Hibernians’ live under, they have first looked for an improvement in their everyday lives and current status within the existing political and social order. Clearly, such politics is unable to fundamentally challenge sectarianism and racism, since it remains trapped within the existing parameters of the UK state’s divided political order. The political counter to Catholic ‘Hibernianism’ is secular republicanism. Historically this sought to unite Catholic, Protestant (meaning Anglican) and Dissenter (including Presbyterians). Today, this unity would extend to those of other religions and none.
Galloway’s unsuccessful sortie into Scottish politics, in 2011, demonstrated that the majority of Glasgow’s Irish-Scottish and Catholic population have moved beyond his sectarian ‘Hibernian’ thinking. Today, more and more Scottish Catholics question the social conservatism of the Catholic hierarchy. They have done this for some time over contraception. Recently, more socially liberal attitudes have emerged amongst lay Catholics over gay rights and marriage. The international spate of scandals over the role of the Catholic hierarchy in covering up, or being directly responsible for, sexual and child abuse has speeded up this process of lay Catholic liberalisation.
Indeed, when it comes to conservative and reactionary social attitudes, be it over abortion and the provision of family planning clinics, or promoting homophobia, there have been alliances, in the USA, Northern Ireland and Scotland between the now increasingly marginalised right wing Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists. Jim Dowson, a Scottish Loyalist and fundraiser for the BNP in Northern Ireland, tried to make contact with right wing Catholics, with the intention of violently targeting abortion clinics.
One reason that Galloway made his specifically Catholic ‘Hibernian’ pitch in Glasgow, is that much of the Muslim opposition to the traditional Labour supporting Islamic leadership in the city has found a voice in the anti-Iraq war SNP, a rather inconvenient fact for pro-Labour Galloway!
In England, Galloway has had far more success in attracting Muslim voters, disenchanted with their traditional leaders’ support for the Iraq war. Galloway’s own appeal, though, has played to, rather than challenging, traditional socially conservative Islamic values. Certainly, he has also come under attack from even more conservative Muslim spokespersons. This is partly because whatever sympathies Galloway declares for some traditional Islamic values, his own personal lifestyle contradicts many others.
However, even in those Islamic communities, where very traditional attitudes still remain, some of Galloway’s own socially conservative ideas have been rejected. This was highlighted when Salma Yacoob resigned from Galloway’s Respect Party over his glib dismissal of the rape accusations directed against Julian Assange (15). Thus today, amongst both Catholics and Muslims, more progressive thinking can be found. But Galloway still panders to the more traditional socially conservative values found in these communities.
Both Catholic ‘Hibernianism’ and Islamic communalism remain barriers in the way of developing a consistent anti-racist and secular politics, in the face of the continuing state promoted anti-Irish racism and the Islamophobia we undoubtedly have to confront in Scotland.
H. Why RIC will be demonstrating on February 3rd
Thus, Edinburgh RIC will not be deflected from its intention to challenge Galloway’s British unionist ‘Just Say Naw’ roadshow on February 3rd, on the grounds of some specious ‘anti-fascist unity’, despite the planned SDL counter-demonstration.
Instead, RIC will be pointing out that Galloway and the SDL both work within the political parameters of the British unionist ‘No’ camp. The fascism of the BNP and SDL does not draw its strength from German Nazism, but from British unionism and imperialism. The EDL idolises Winston Churchill, and the BNP won its first council seat in Millwall, heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe in the Second World. The BNP, EDL and SDL see their political role as defending the British imperial and unionist state.
The UK state invented concentration camps for use in South Africa, long before Hitler appeared. Both the BNP and SDL see the original UVF of 1912, formed in response to the challenge of the third Irish Home Rule Bill, as the precursor of a their own specifically British fascism. The UVF received the backing of the British High Command in the 1913 Curragh Mutiny. This puts an interesting light on the behavior of the British officers in charge of the Scottish regiment at the Rangers/Stenhousemuir game last year. In time of economic and political crisis, British unionism and imperialism provides the grounds upon which both fascism and anti-democratic British militarism can take root (16).
We can not rely on the British media denying Galloway’s reactionary views on the Union the oxygen of publicity on February 3rd. It still remains to be seen whether the media goes along with promoting Galloway’s latest political stunt. Given the media’s earlier promotion of the Galloway/Farage left/right populist, British unionist, publicity-seeking marriage of convenience, genuine socialists should be ready to counter their possible response.
Richard Cameron (RCN and Edinburgh RIC)
2. For an article on Galloway’s bid to become an MSP in Glasgow in 2012 see:-
4. Two comments on the bella caledonia blog criticized my giving examples of ITV bias rather than BBC bias. Thanks to mutley79 and rossim02 for bringing these to my attention. The removal of these two inaccuracies does not alter the argument I am making. However, here is further evidence of bias on BBC when under ruling class pressure. See:-
7. In the end the SDL realised that there was little point protesting against a ‘No’ speaker, who upholds the Union. Only a dozen turned up. See:-
8. Thanks to Callum McCormick and Iain Roberson for their comments on the bella caledonia blog highlighting the need to define communalism. See addendum below*.
10. Galloway’s resort to Catholic sectarianism (or what I term Hibernianism) has already been raised by Liam O’Hare on the bella caledonia blog. See:-
11. Thanks again to mutely79nfor pointing out the SNP was fouded in 1932 not 1933/
12. Allan Armstrong has helpfully provided evidence for Wolfe’s sectarianism. See:-
13. Thanks to Florian Albert , who has pointed to my mixing up Cardinal Winning with Cardinal O’ Brien. I have altered this accordingly and it does not alter the argument I am making.
14. Thanks to Tocasaid for questioning whether “anti-Irish racism is gaining ground in Scotland”. I agree that it is waning in wider society, even whilst hardening within a small but vociferous Loyalist group. The failure to recognise anti-Irish racism in the Scottish legal system, and the labeling of the vast majority of what the UK state in Scotland terms ‘offensive behaviour’ as ‘sectarian’ allows anti-Irish racism to persist. In particular it criminalises Irish republicanism and nationalism. At the same time even blatant and actual sectarian behavior by the British army is ignored. I have amended this sentence to make the difference between Scottish society and the Scottish legal system clearer.
15. A comment posted on the bella caledonia blog makes this point more strongly.
16. see British Nationalism and the Rise of Fascism, by Chris Ford at:-
What is meant by communalism?
Rather than begin with a fixed definition of ‘communalism’, this addendum will elaborate the concept and reality by providing relevant historical examples.
Communalism in the UK has been a product of the interplay between migrants and their families on one hand, and the state and wider communities on the other. Two good examples would be Irish and Muslim communalism. The first produced what is now a disappearing but not entirely extinct form of politics. The second is very much alive today. None of this is to deny the considerable differences found within both communities, allowing other forms of politics to exist and for conflict to emerge within communalist politics.
How does such communalism arise? It is a migrant community response to being treated as second class citizens (or subjects in the UK!). Migrants find difficulty getting jobs, or discover that access is largely confined to the worst jobs. The same goes for access to housing. When it comes to education, there is either little recognition of the history and culture migrants and their families come from, or distorted versions are promoted.
In response to this, migrants form their own networks for self-protection within the ‘host’ society. In the case of both Catholic Irish and Muslim Asians, the church or mosque has historically formed a prominent part in this process. These have helped newcomers by providing networks of support, help for getting jobs and houses, or succour in times of adversity. They have often offered wider cultural and recreational support (e.g. the setting up of Hibernian and Celtic football clubs). Given the hostility, and sometimes worse, migrants and their families have often faced from the UK state and from some members of the wider community, these religious (and other) bodies have, not surprisingly, often been given loyal support.
Communally based organisations, when they become more established, tried to seek political recognition within the existing order. A good example of this would be the role of the Irish National League (INL) in the Irish communities in Scotland at the end of the nineteenth century. The Catholic hierarchy attempted to keep a firm control over this body, and in the process took very strong action against anyone who challenged that control, or who campaigned against the INL’s chosen ally, the Liberal Party. The first three chapters of The Life of John Wheatley (successively, a member of the INL, Catholic Socialist Society and ILP) by John Hannan, gives a very good indication of the flavour of this. ‘Hibernianism’ was the political expression of Irish communalism.
A good account of the SNP leadership’s flirtation with Islamic communalism can be found in The illusion of freedom: Scotland under nationalism, by Tom Gallagher, specifically pp. 139-42. There is quite a lot in Gallagher’s interpretation of the political situation in Scotland with an SNP government I would take issue with, but the facts presented here make a convincing case for an unhealthy relationship between the SNP government and Islamic communalism. He ignores, though, its existence in an earlier and different form in Glasgow under the Labour Party.
Socialists, who believe that socialism is a real possibility, and not just a May Day dream (rather like Sunday Christians wanting a Christian order), have to develop a politics, which overcomes the ethnic, religious (and other) divisions encouraged under capitalism. We are not happy with a politics that looks no further than an accommodation within the existing social order. That is what communalist politics does – and also New Labour, One Nation Labour and the SNP leadership today.
Secularism (1) (limiting religious or atheist beliefs to the private sphere) is the approach socialists seeking a new society have developed to unite people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds. That biography of Wheatley (who eventually became Housing Minister in the 1924 Labour government) highlights the differences between those attempting a secular approach, which included other Catholics, and those pursuing a communalist approach in their politics. The Catholic Irish also were opposed by some Presbyterian Scots and Irish (particularly those in the Orange Order), who pursued their own version of communalist politics. The latter had (and continue to have) the added advantage that the UK state, they support, has anti-Catholic aspects to its constitution.
Those advocating a traditional communalist approach also give succour to religious politicians who attempt to defend reactionary social practices, e.g. towards women and gays – the latter highlighted by Catholic hierarchy’s and many Islamic leaders’ opposition to the recognition of equal rights for gays.
Prominent religious leaders also claim to be the sole, or sometimes the officially recognised leaders, within their communities. From the 1980s, both Tory and Labour governments and councils encouraged this in response to united, anti-racist opposition.
Victims of particular forms of abuse – e.g. sexual within the Catholic Church and enforced marriages (sometimes accompanied by rape) within some Muslim communities – are discouraged from seeking real justice. They are unable to appeal to those beyond their communities who uphold universal human values; or even to seek justice within the state legal system, for fear of being condemned for undermining their communities.
Bad practices with regard to human and individual rights are not confined to Catholicism and Islam, as the sickening case of rape-victim, Helen Percy, within the Church of Scotland shows, and the treatment meted out to the victim and those accusing ‘Comrade Delta’ of sexual abuse in the SWP.
However, it is heartening that those members of the Catholic hierarchy covering up abuse, are far more likely today to met by public protests from lay Catholic members, than from some latter-day Pastor Jack Glass.
The original article points to examples of Catholics and Muslims who have questioned their religious leaders’ conservatism or reactionary social stances.
1. For more on the RCN’s secularist approach see:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/10/03/secularism-time-to-separate-church-and-state/
2. EDINBURGH RIC REPORT OF GALLOWAY’S ‘JUST SAY NAW’ MEETING IN EDINBURGH ON 3rd FEBRUARY
On Monday 3rd February, George Galloway brought his ‘Just Say Naw’ roadshow to the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. There were over 150 people in attendance, including Labour Left unionist sympathisers, a few Scottish nationalists, Irish-Scottish republicans and members of the Edinburgh Radical Independence Campaign. Tickets were £10 a head, but in order to get a fuller house, free tickets had been released at the last minute. RIC was able to get some of these.
RIC debated how it should relate to this event. Quite clearly Galloway has been using his roadshow to try to poison the waters of the independence debate. He has made accusations of ingrained Scottish anti-Catholicism, only held back by support for the Union and Labour. This accusation had already spectacularly backfired, when he accused West Lothian council of sectarian bias, after they refused to provide a meeting place for his roadshow. West Lothian though is not an SNP-run, but a Labour-run council!
RIC realised though, that as well as some die-hard Labour unionists, Galloway could still attract others more open to debate. People remember his better days during the time of the Iraq War. Indeed, an obvious contradiction of Galloway so publicly throwing himself into the ‘No’ camp, is all the allies he now has in ‘Project Fear’. There is pro-war Labour Alistair Darling, and Tory David Cameron, as well as Nick Clegg, who wants British troops in Syria today! And to these people you can add the unofficial ‘No’ camp with UKIP, the Orange Order and Loyalists, the BNP and SDL!
RIC decided to hand out leaflets to those coming into and leaving the meeting to show that those supporting Scottish independence stretched considerably beyond, and to the Left of the SNP. RIC also held up to hold up two banners outside the meeting:- NO TO RACISM AND ISLAMOPHOBIA, NO TO AUSTERITY AND ILLEGAL WARS; YES TO INDEPENDENCE, ANOTHER SCOTLAND IS POSSIBLE, with the RIC logo prominently displayed.
However, there was an added complication. The SDL decided to show up to condemn Galloway as a ‘traitor’ because of his support for Muslims in Britain. The SDL has had some problems trying to inject the Islamophobia of its much larger parent, the EDL, into Scottish fascist politics. In the 1930’s Mosley had similar problems bringing his anti-Semitism to Scotland. The British right populist/fascist franchise in Scotland had already been cornered by Loyalist organisations, like John Cormack’s Protestant Action (which won over 30% of the vote in the Edinburgh local elections) and Kormack’s Kaledonian Klan. The prime basis for British fascism in Scotland has always been anti-Catholic and anti-Irish Loyalism, and upholding the Union. Since the purpose of Galloway’s visit was precisely to uphold the Union, only a dozen SDL members could see the point of a counter-demonstration.
However, to counter the tiny SDL presence, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) mobilised about 80 people. The resulting very one-sided shouting and name-calling amounted to ‘a dialogue of the deaf’. UAF insist the SDL are German-style Nazis, whilst the SDL hotly deny this. The SDL forgot to bring the Israeli state flag, which they frequently fly, but they joined in some of the anti-Nazi chants, started up by UAF supporters! This may indeed have caused some confusion amongst the ‘Nazi-haters’ in UAF. However, the SDL identify with the UK’s very own unionist, racist and imperialist tradition, with a special fondness for the very British fascism of the UVF and UDA. Yes, they still attract some old-style Nazis, but that is not the political trajectory the majority are following, anymore than the majority members of the post-1968 Communist Parties have all been Stalin worshippers.
Once the meeting started (cue – Gerry Rafferty’s Stuck in the Middle with You) Galloway began his perfomance well enough, with some knock-about humour directed against the SDL and Scottish nationalists. Had all Galloway’s remarks been in the tenor of those reported by The Herald journalist, Mark McLaughlin, then a good political discussion could have resulted. However, those who questioned Galloway turned out not to be supporters of the SNP, whom he had anticipated.
The questioners were Scottish internationalists, who think that the prospect of the break-up of the UK and its anti-democratic politics would be beneficial for workers in England, Wales and Ireland too. The UK state weighs heavily on all our backs. For Scottish internationalists the purpose of Scotland beginning a process of breaking away from the UK, is not to leave the people of England, Wales or Northern Ireland stranded in an eternal Tory dominated ‘Britain’. It is to provide an example so that others will follow.
Galloway could not cope with these arguments and just resorted to a combination of personalised abuse and puffing up his own political record and the role of Westminster. It is unlikely that even his keenest supporters were entirely happy with his personal attacks on socialists, whom he dismissed as “ultra-left”, and his calling SNP Depute Leader, Nicola Sturgeon, “Thatcher in a kilt”. The SNP has moved beyond being Tartan Tories to becoming Tartan social democrats. It just makes you wonder where Galloway’s attack on Nicola Sturgeon would place Johann Lamont politically!
Galloway treated each query as a stand-alone opportunity to put down the questioner. He also showed absolutely no regard for consistency from one answer to the next. Damning attempts by small nations to break free from unionist or imperial domination, he invoked James Connolly’s famous criticism of Irish nationalists, “If you hoist the green flag over Dublin castle, England would still rule you”. Yet Connolly famously led the worker-based Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Easter Rising to gain Irish independence. Galloway was especially enthusiastic about Castro’s Cuba. When Cuba fought free of US imperial control, it had a population not much larger than Scotland’s today. Cuba was then under the tight grip of the US state with its population of 150 million.
It is the politics of those fighting for emancipation and liberation, which will decide both their willingness to really challenge corporate capital, and to provide the inspiration for others in the world to do likewise. The UK state may be larger than Scotland, and the British Labour Party may organise over the greater geographical area of Great Britain. However, the UK state and British Labour are both totally tied into to US/UK imperialism and the banksters’ austerity programme. They form no basis for any challenge to the existing order.
It took a long time during the meeting, but in the end, Galloway did offer his alternative to those he dismissed as “ultra Left”. He asked his audience to reclaim the Labour Party. He put the blame for the problem that Labour faces in the hands of New Labour, who had stolen the party. He especially attacked Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling’s role in this, emphasising they are Scots! (It’s their Labourism not their nationality that’s the problem, George!). He thinks Miliband is an improvement, albeit saying there is need for further improvement yet. He completely fails to see that ‘One Nation’ Labour is merely ‘New Labour’ updated for a period of opposition.
As for Galloway’s strategy for reclaiming Labour for the Left in Scotland, he is living in his own ‘Brigadoon’. Len McCluskey, leader of the largest union in these islands, with millions of members in England, Scotland, Wales and the whole of Ireland, pursued such a strategy. Miliband killed this off, when McCluskey prepared the way for the Grangemouth fiasco. Meanwhile, Galloway can not even get back into the Labour Party as an individual!
However, if Galloway is serious, he would have asked his audience to come and sign up for a campaign to reclaim Labour, and to get him reinstated. Instead, he decided that signing his latest books formed the best conclusion to this roadshow. This, and the £10 entrance charge, probably tells you more about Galloway’s personal intentions than anything else.
The fundamental reply to Galloway is that, on September 14th, the people of Scotland are voting for constitutional change, not for Alex Salmond or the SNP. Back in 1979 and 1997, people voted for the Labour government’s constitutional changes, not for Labour. Labour’s Lord Robertson, later head of NATO, thought that after 1997 Devolution would see off the SNP. He was proved wrong. Salmond and the SNP leadership may also hold illusions that they will be the sole beneficiaries of any constitutional change in 2014. The Radical Independence Campaign not only thinks otherwise, but is prepared to organise to ensure that ‘Another Scotland is Possible’.
Allan Armstrong (Edinburgh RIC Minutes Secretary and RCN), 5.2.14
For a good report of the UAF SDL ‘confrontation’ outside the Assembly Rooms see http://athousandflowers.net/2014/02/05/no-one-could-agree-what-to-say-naw-to-in-edinburgh-on-monday/ However, ‘leon trotsky’ , who did not go into the meeting, underestimates the numbers who attended, so the Edinburgh RIC branch, which had members at the meeting, provides a better report of what happened inside.
For another report of the meeting see the article by Graeme McIver in The Point on:- http://www.thepointhowever.org/index.php/issues/215-curious-george-and-the-case-for-naw