Nov 04 2019

BREXIT MARK 2 – BORIS DISPELS THE FOG TO REVEAL CLASS WAR – an Irish perspective

Many both on the Left and amongst the Irish and Scottish nationalists have welcomed the break between the Tories and the DUP, following Boris Johnson’s perceived cave in before the EU, over the border. They believe that the road to Iris reunification is now open. This article from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) argues from a much more cautionary stance.

 

BREXIT MARK 2 – BORIS DISPELS THE FOG TO REVEAL CLASS WAR

– an Irish perspective

 

Boris addresses DUP conference during his now abandoned ‘No Surrender’ days.

 

Over the years of the  Brexit campaign the Tory leadership have been careful to avoid any explanation of the goals of the project. One element,  anti-migrant sentiment and racism, was already in progress following Theresa May’s former leadership of the Home office. For the rest, democracy was defined as never questioning the thin majority of the Brexit vote. For May, “Brexit means Brexit”. Johnston’s mantra was “get it done”. Now the proposals put forward by Boris Johnson are finally beginning to clarify the details of the class divisions on which the process is built.

The first clarification is that the struggle is essentially an English civil war with everyone else reduced to the role of spectator. Theresa May puts forward a soft Brexit. Europe agrees. Boris Johnson puts forward a harder Brexit. Europe agrees. The internecine struggle continues in Britain.

Although Boris and his friends continue to dodge the consequences of Brexit, arguing instead that any deal is better than no deal or that we should get things done without considering the consequences, the changes to the agreement spell out their aims. Britain will leave the customs union. Rules about a level playing field will be moved from the legally enforceable text to the meaningless initial policy statement.

These changes reveals the main goal of Brexit for the right wing. Conciliation of racism alongside abolition of workers rights and a sweatshop economy that will “make Britain great again”.

The area of greatest concern to Irish workers is the new proposal around the status of the North. Mainly this is a fudge and so it is designed to sow confusion, but it is possible to work out the details.

The main focus is on the Democratic Unionist Party. Their discomfiture is seen as good news for nationalists and as bringing a United Ireland closer. This view is based on a superficial analysis and a strong concern in Irish nationalism to avoid any scrutiny of their own role. In Westminster the elevation of Boris and deepening divisions leave the DUP as one voting bloc among many. This is a much more realistic portrayal of their status than the deference  shown them by an overly cautious Theresa May.

However the key thing to understand is that the Good Friday Agreement did not put the DUP in charge, despite a raft of concessions to keep their support, the outcome of the Good Friday Agreement was to leave Britain in charge, something made evident by three years of undeclared Direct Rule and a recent Westminster decision to implement changes on abortion and gay rights over the head of the DUP.

The new Brexit drive sees Britain and the North of Ireland leaving the EU while the 26 county state remains inside. Presenting this as a step towards a United Ireland is perverse.

Once we blow away the impressionistic fog the central element of the new deal in relation to Ireland is that the backstop is gone, replaced with a ramshackle fudge directed by the changing needs of the Westminster government.

This change was enabled by Leo Varadkar.  He talked tough and wrapped the green flag around himself.  He had unwavering support from Europe but, as Brexit drew nearer, the role of the Irish capitalist class, described by the poet Yeats as to:” fumble in the greasy till, and add the halfpence to the pence,”  reasserted itself. To avoid economic discomfort Varadkar tossed away the backstop, accepting that the six northern counties would leave the EU with Britain. The DUP complaint is about a border in the Irish Sea. This obscures the fact that there will be border checks in Ireland also – the only promise is that they will not be on the border itself.

The best way to understand the unfolding events is it an episode in an ongoing political disintegration.

The European project is in decay after a decade of austerity and ongoing stagnation. Europe’s chief concern is to make sure that Britain is not rewarded for Brexit and that other states are dissuaded from leaving. This strategy has been successful but at the price of a sharp move to the right by Europe as a whole. Its conciliation to racism and national chauvinism means that the strategy of “ever closer union” is now dead.

The British ruling class responded to austerity  by conciliating the forces of racism and reaction. No one questions the economic damage that this strategy will do. It’s necessary to press ahead with it if the Tories are to maintain the support of growing right-wing forces. They hope that a sweatshop economy will  increase profit rates and secure their rule.

The Irish economy has been summed up by many commentators as essentially a tax haven. Politics is a sink of corruption, with one commentator satirically remarking about a recent protection racket that he did not see why the gangsters should not avail of the same impunity granted to every other sector of Irish society. Government policy is  centred on supporting transnational capital, the European Central Bank, and the vulture funds. The economy overall is heavily skewed towards transnational corporations, with a dual economy of majority transnational and minority local firms. The overall effect is that the outcome of Brexit would lead to a 6% decline in the transnational economy. However the minority native economy would sink by almost half in the event of a hard Brexit. Faced with this possibility the class interests of Dublin capitalism come to the fore and blowhard language about facing up to the British vanished.

Sinn Fein emerge as simply dependent on local capitalism, echoing Fine Gael. They support the deal using the same fevered arguments as the Brexiteers – having a deal is better than no deal.

The emergence of the DUP as an appendage of British imperialism caused more of a stir because they were able to talk themselves up as the power behind the throne in Westminster. Now they are only one right wing bloc among a stew of such Tory groups. The refusal of a unionist veto over the terms of Brexit is a terrible blow to them, but the idea that the unionist veto could extend over all of Europe was totally implausible.

The cry is that this is the beginning of the end for partition. The truth is that the existing petition of concern, that gives unionism a veto over nearly all political issues, would have had to be modified to produce a functioning administration. The Good Friday Agreement has multiple safeguards around “equality of the two traditions” that would protect Unionist interests. In any case a genuine movement in opposition to partition is required as opposed to the current Sinn Fein playacting within the terms set by Britain. The claim to be the leading unionists in Ireland could credibly be made by Irish capitalism, who have made it absolutely clear that nothing as simple as a majority vote, even one confined to the North, would be enough to assure a united Ireland.

The main evidence against the united Ireland hypothesis is it has not arisen in the current debate. The Tory Party has put the DUP firmly in their place, but there is no suggestion of leaving Ireland. As indicated above, Dublin surrender of the backstop increases the political force of partition. Now Sinn Fein whisper about a border poll, but as this is at the whim of the Secretary of State it has no weight.

The overwhelming effect of the Brexit circus is to mobilise the right while confusing and demoralizing the left and the working class. The latest proposals by the British government are starting to dispel that confusion and expose the real aims of Brexit; accommodation to racism and a suppression of working class rights.

That greater clarity should help move the opposition from parliament to the working class and from European austerity versus British austerity to the struggle for a European solidarity based on the needs of the working class.

 

26/10/19

 

This was first posted at http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentBrexitMarkII.html

________________

also see:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/09/11/a-nation-once-again/

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/04/15/british-government-expands-powers-in-the-north/

BREXIT AND WHAT IT MEANS IN IRELAND

“WE ARE THE SACRIFICE”

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2018/02/25/the-end-of-the-road-the-irish-settlement-founders-on-the-rock-of-language-rights/

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2017/08/04/taking-a-closer-look-at-the-reality-of-northern-ireland/

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THE FUTURE IS ORANGE!

 

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Oct 22 2019

THE CONTRADICTIONS UNDERLYING BREXIT AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE

Allan Armstrong sent  this article to Conter, on September 13th, hoping  to open up one of the debates on the Left in relation to Scottish independence, before and during the Radical Independence Campaign conference in Glasgow on October 26th. There has been no acknowledgement of this article by the Conter editor, despite Allan being a member of RISE, Conter‘s main sponsor. This seems to reflect a unwillingness, highlighted at the founding of RISE, to discuss controversial  issues.

However, since then articles have appeared in Conter, or by RISE members writing for CommonSpace, which have been pro-Lexit. Allan’s article was written in an attempt to ensure that a fuller range of Left opinion was addressed on a specifically Socialist site claiming  to promote wider debate. This could then contribute to  the best traditions of RIC, where such controversial issues have been openly debated. A Left that is afraid to debate issues, in a democratic and respectful manner, is doomed to irrelevance.

Fortunately, both Socialist Resistance (http://socialistresistance.org/the-contradictions-underlying-brexit-and-scottish-independence/18211) and bella caledonia (https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2019/10/24/republican-internationalism-from-below/) have now posted this article. 

 

THE CONTRADICTIONS UNDERLYING BREXIT AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE

 

To date articles in Conter addressing Brexit have concentrated more on the neo-liberal opposition, and those on the Left perceived to be tail-ending this section of the British ruling class. There has been no real analysis of the aims of the hard right and national populist advocates of Brexit, whether the Boris Johnson-led Tories, or the Nigel Farage-led UKIP and now his Brexit Party. Brexit  has not been adequately placed in the context of the global rise of right national populism, highlighted by Donald Trump’s ‘Brexit, plus, plus, plus’, US presidential electoral victory in November 2016.[1] These people are still seen by some on the Left as political outsiders, despite now having their hands  on the US state’s anti-democratic presidential powers and the UK state’s anti-democratic crown powers. Nor have the machinations of such ‘left’ Brexit union leaders as UNITE’s Len McCluskey been addressed.[2]

 

The RIC conference on 26.10.19

The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) has formed an important arena for discussing such issues.[3] Indeed RIC’s Scottish internationalism is highlighted on its banner – ‘Another Scotland is Possible; Another Europe is Possible; Another World is Possible’. Hopefully, the October 26th RIC conference in Glasgow will extend this opportunity for discussion related to the situation we now face. Understanding the political forces, which the Left is up against, is essential, not only in the UK and wider world, but for us in Scotland, when we consider the future for Scottish independence.

For the political terrain has very much changed since 2014. The assumption underlying the ‘Yes’ campaign was that if Scotland became independent, the new state, along with the the rest of the UK (rUK), would remain part of the EU. This would ensure the continuation of existing economic and social links between Scotland and particularly England. A key consequence of this understanding was that EU membership meant there would be no physical border between England and Scotland. This is why one of the central aims of ‘Project Fear’ was to say that Scottish independence would be incompatible with membership of the EU.

Hard border in Ireland

Today, following the 2016 Brexit vote, and May’s and Johnson’s push for a hard Brexit, it is quite clear that the UK’s separation from the EU could lead to a hard border between the UK and Ireland. The opposition of a section of the hard-right Tories, the DUP and the Brexit Party to this border being in the Irish/Celtic Sea, would lead to the re-erection of customs and police posts between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.  Like Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, Scotland and England have a land border. If the UK was to leave the EU, then any successful attempt to win Scottish independence would necessitate customs and police posts, unless Scotland was to follow the same economic and social path as the rUK.

If the prospect of the re-imposition of a hard border in Ireland has caused consternation, then the prospect of Scottish independence whilst the rUK was outside the EU would lead to considerable concerns in the Scottish/English Borders. Towns like Carlisle and Berwick have significant Scottish economic hinterlands. And, of course, there are considerably wider economic and social links and implications too. Therefore, it is easy to see why the SNP leadership has put the UK’s continued membership of the EU, and hence opposition to Brexit, at the centre of its current politics.

But the SNP leadership’s neo-liberal internationalism comes at a considerable political cost. The EU is not a state – it has no army, police force or local bureaucracy. All of these things are provided by the member states. And this highlights the real nature of the EU.  It is a treaty alliance of existing states.  And as Scotland and Catalunya have recently found to their cost, the high sounding, political principals proclaimed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, can be ignored by member states. The UK and Spain did so when they conducted their ‘dirty wars’ in Northern Ireland/Ireland and in Euskadi. The UK and several East European member states have pursued vindictive policies against the longstanding Gypsy and Traveller minorities. And, despite the formidable barriers to asylum seekers and other migrants, represented by the Schengen Agreement (but which are still not high enough for the Brexiteers), right populist governments in Eastern Europe and in Italy have pursued particularly vicious policies towards those migrants who have made it in. The ‘hostile environment’ encouraged by successive Eurosceptic UK governments, pledged to EU exemptions, is hardly much better.

Sovereigntists?

There has been Scottish nationalist opposition to the SNP government prioritising an anti-Brexit strategy. Some have termed this as coming from the ‘’sovereigntists’. This is a very ambiguous term, since in a key sense we are all sovereigntists. The British Right uphold the sovereignty of the Crown-in-Westminster. The hard right Tory government is currently trying to stretch this to the limits of the crown powers to impose a very hard or a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Liberals (in all the mainstream parties) uphold the sovereignty of parliament, i.e. Westminster, particularly the House of Commons. But they are finding, in their opposition to Brexit or a hard Brexit, that this notion of sovereignty does not form the basis of the UK’s unwritten constitution. The queen upheld Johnson’s hard right executive  not the ‘liberal’ House of Commons legislature. Right nationalists uphold the sovereignty of their national state, making this a higher principle than any other form of sovereignty. This can lead to support for one party, personal, or military dictatorships. Radicals support the sovereignty of the people above all these other forms of sovereignty.

The revolutionary left, however,  has upheld the idea of the sovereignty of the commune (dating back to the Paris Commune of 1871), or of soviets (which existed in the infant Russian Soviet Republic up to 1921, before this gave way to one party sovereignty). However, in the absence of any longer lasting communes or soviets, the self-proclaimed revolutionary left has either opted for abstract propagandism (making propaganda for these two types of sovereignty), or decided to support right, liberal, national or radical versions of sovereignty in the meantime, hoping to use these constitutional frameworks to build their forces for the future.

In the confused circumstances prevailing at present, the actual political nature of those who have been labelled Scottish ‘sovereigntists’ is not yet clear. However, they seem to be best characterised as aspiring national sovereigntists. Some support opposition to Brexit, not on any internationalist grounds, but because this highlights a Scottish difference with the English. They often tend to see this situation as lying in deep-seated ethnic/cultural differences rather than in contingent political terms.  This opens up the possibility of ditching the civic Scottish national politics, which has characterised the overwhelming majority of the ‘Yes’ movement, and of mounting an ethnic Scottish nationalist movement. Groups openly advocating such a stance, such as Soil nan Gaidheal, and others flirting with such ideas, such as Scottish Resistance, have remained marginal – so far.

English nationalism

However, the rampant right English nationalism of the campaign which the Tory hard right intend to mount against the EU, and against any national democratic challenges from Scotland, Ireland and Wales, will create the political conditions for a more ethnic Scottish nationalist response. One indication of this has been the letters to the Scottish press suggesting restricting the franchise in any future Scottish independence referendum. In changing political circumstances, such ethnic nationalism could draw in more significant forces, such as Stuart Campbell’s right nationalist Wings over Scotland. And what would be the consequences of a post-trial Alex Salmond adding his support to such forces, backed by Putin’s Russia Today?[4] Such a scenario could set back the Scottish independence movement for some time. For, whatever the Left thinks about Salmond’s links with the Royal Bank of Scotland, and his earlier support for a hyper neo-liberal ‘Celtic Lion’, he was central to the move of the SNP’s move from being an ethnic to a civic nationalist party. This very much benefitted the IndyRef1 campaign. Salmond’s abandonment of this principle would represent a real setback.

The atmosphere on the popularly based ‘All Under One Banner’ marches could also change. To date they have been very open marches. The overwhelming majority of those carrying saltires have welcomed red, Catalan, Basque, Irish, Welsh, English and many other kinds of flags on the marches.  A rising pro-Brexit English nationalism could lead though to ‘All Under One Banner’ being less a campaign under the Scottish democratic banner of independence, and more a campaign under the ethnic Scottish banner of ‘All Under One Saltire’. The SNP leadership’s current dilemma of being unable to obtain a credible UK constitutional opening for Scottish independence, will reinforce the frustrations of many rank and file SNP members, and others in the independence movement.

Furthermore, the SNP, like other neo-liberal supporters of Remain, is  unable to adopt a critical stance towards the EU’s own neo-liberalism, highlighted by the Troika’s draconian imposition of austerity upon Greece. Nor can they challenge the anti-democratic, existing state nature of the EU treaty alliance, highlighted by the jailing of Catalan republicans in Spain. Thus, the SNP leadership leaves the wider political initiative to powerful EU member states like Germany and France, whilst still being unable to do anything about Catalunya, the victim of another unionist and imperialist monarchist state.

Reactionary unionism

Nor do the SNP leadership have the politics to confront a reactionary British unionism, which would mean a fundamental challenge to the UK state. They are still desperately looking for liberal unionists to provide them with a constitutional road to IndyRef2. But the days of majority British ruling class support for liberal unionist constitutional solutions have gone. And Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s suggested opening up of such a path is based on Labour electoral opportunism, not on any principle of democratic self-determination. The British ruling class could easily blow this prospect out the water, assisted by the crown powers and conservative unionist Scottish Labour.

The Brexiters, though, want to leave the EU in order to further reinforce an already very undemocratic UK state. The roots of the current constitutional mayhem go back to the post 2008 crisis of neo-liberal hegemony and the mounting challenges to New Labour’s liberal unionist, Irish Peace Process and the Devolution-all-round settlement of the late 1990s.[5] In the face of so many challenges, the hard right Brexiters  are determined to defend the interests of the British ruling class in today’s turbulent crisis-ridden world.

The Brexiters also want to introduce a gastarbeiter system of migration controls, which would extend the draconian 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts to EU citizens living and working here. This would end the levels of pay, working conditions, residency rights, social welfare benefits and trade union organisation, which over 2 million EU citizens currently share with the rest of us. And this division would go on to undermine the position of most working class UK subjects too. We are to be locked into a low wage, lousy conditions, offshore British economy, with reduced worker, consumer, environmental and social rights.

The Tory neo-liberals’ ‘hostile environment’ was just a foretaste of a possible right national populist future. The deaths of Jo Cox MP, Arel Jozwik and Dagmara Przybysz were not the desired outcome of the mainstream Brexiters but were nevertheless a direct consequence of the racist politics they pursued. You only have to look to the links between reactionary unionist and hard right, Brexit-supporting, DUP and the hard-core loyalists in Northern Ireland, to see how such a symbiotic state/non-state relationship can develop.

Whilst larger sections of the British ruling class have been won over to increasingly hard Brexit options, the notion of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit still seems to be against their interests. Indeed, liberal opposition is being expressed within the very undemocratic institutions of the UK state which have also been utilised by the Brexiteers. Therefore, beyond the privy council, resistance has been found at Westminster and the House of Lords, and amongst senior judges and civil servants. What on earth gives Johnson and the hard right Brexiters the confidence to think they can succeed against such opposition?

Those who are looking to the City to put a stop to a No Deal Brexit, are likely to be disappointed. Both the more pro-EU and the pro-Brexit financiers have resorted to hedge funds to cover themselves and make a fortune in the event a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. So, the hard-right Tory government has relatively little to fear from this quarter. At least £3B has already been wagered on a ‘No Deal’ Brexit.[6] Sajid Javid’s planned corporate and high earners’ tax reductions will blunt the opposition of some of the less ardent neo-liberal Remainer and soft Brexiter members of the British ruling class.

Politically though, Johnson, Rees-Mogg,  et al are betting on Trump, the most powerful man, in the most powerful state in the world, to help them promote ‘America First/’Britain Second’ global hegemony. If leading sections of the British ruling class feel they no longer have sufficient political clout on the EU top table, then many are still quite prepared to accept a political status for the UK, somewhere lower that of Alaska and Puerto Rico in their dealings with Trump. They see this as a price worth paying to maintain the institutions, privilege and pomp inherited from the British Empire.

Reactionary unionism

There are two politico-economic options for the UK at present – either in out or of the EU. If the Left were to advocate its own Scottish national sovereigntist policy, this would put it on the political terrain of trying to out-nationalist the nationalists. In the absence of an international revolutionary situation, this would seem to mean advocating  a national statist, ‘socialism in one country’ path – looking perhaps to Cuba, Venezuela, Putin’s Russia  and maybe Iran and North Korea for trading partners (Xu Jinping’s rising imperialist China would be as tough a proposition as Trump’s USA!). This does not seem to be a very inviting prospect, except perhaps for those ardent national sovereigntists from an old official (i.e. state-backed) Communist Party background. They have never found red/brown alliances a problem – as with the Stalin-Hitler Pact; Mao’s support for Savimbi’s largely tribalist UNITA in Angola; and post-CPSU Putin’s courting of the Front National and Jobbik.

Therefore, it is not on the political terrain of Brexit (or Scoxit) that the Left should be challenging Scottish national sovereigntists. We need to remain democratic internationalists and challenge internationalist pretensions of the neo-liberal internationalists. The response of the neo-liberal few in the USA, UK and EU to the 2008 Crisis showed they have abandoned any pretence that their wider institutions are for the benefit of the many. They have laid the grounds for the less hypocritical right national populist few – they just don’t give a shit. Trump and  Johnsons’ backers  want to pave the path for a global economy, where the last vestiges of shared international political and economic institutions or agreements are overthrown and replaced by state-by-state deals, the better to enforce untrammelled US corporate power, backed by the increased threat or use of US military might.

However, the millions of EU citizens living and working in the UK, and of UK subjects living and working in the EU, already form the basis for a wider European solidarity and citizenship.[7] This is why they are in the front line of the attacks from the hard and far right. We need to protect this legacy of the EU. This was never the intent of the EU’s ‘internationalism from above’ advocates. This new multiculturalism was developed in everyday life by workers, students and others on a practical ‘internationalism from below’ basis.

And in Scotland, as in Catalunya, there are already  millions who can see through not only their anti-democratic unionist states – the UK and the semi-Francoist Spain – but the major shortcomings of the EU based on existing states. When this political understanding is linked to the economic struggle against austerity, the social struggle for oppressed minority rights (and in the case of women, oppressed majority rights), or the political struggle against imperial wars and military alliances such as NATO, then a democratic and internationalist Left strategy should be to the forefront.

Meanwhile in Scotland and the UK, we cannot leave it to the uncertain outcome of the political firefights between the neo-liberal and right populists within the state’s profoundly undemocratic institutions. One of the greatest working class victories, was when the threat of much wider strike action led to the release of the five imprisoned Pentonville dockers in July 1972. Under the crown powers, an official solicitor was suddenly conjured up, so the British ruling class could save face. But the incoming 1974 Labour government thought that this proved the benign nature of the UK state. They even sanctioned the crown’s ousting of Gough Whitlam’s fraternal Australian Labour government in 1975. More recently, Jeremy Corbyn, whilst not bowing before the queen, saw nothing anti-democratic in attending the privy council in November 2015.[8] Yet this privy council has just sanctioned the proroguing of Westminster.

In the UK state senior military police, judges and civil servants all swear an oath of loyalty not to Westminster, never mind the people, but to the crown.  When we mount our independence campaign, including civil disobedience, we should not be fobbed off with official solicitors, or anybody else brought out of the crown closet.

Our republican ‘internationalism from below’ support for the break-up of the UK state, needs to be part of a wider challenge to their crown powers. This is in the best political interests of our class and for genuine democracy, not only in Scotland, but in Northern Ireland/Ireland, Wales, England, and the rest of the EU, and beyond too.

 

Allan Armstrong, 12.9.19

 

References and Footnotes

[1]                For an analysis of such developments see Allan Armstrong, National Populism at

E-Books

 

[2]                Ian Allinson, An Open Letter and Petition to Len McCluskey

  http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2018/08/27/open-letter-and-peitition-to-len-mccluskey/ I

Ian Allinson, Grassroots UNITE candidate attacks Coyne’s and McCluskey’s capitulation to Anti-Migrant Politics

 

GRASSROOTS UNITE LEADERSHIP CANDIDATE ATTACKS COYNE’S AND McCLUSKEY’s CAPITULATION TO ANTI-MIGRANT POLITICS

[3]                I was involved in the early debates with Lexiters in the Radical Independence Campaign. I debated with Donny Gluckstein of the SWP at the Edinburgh RIC branch in June 2015:-

http://radicalindyedinburgh.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-eu-referendum.html

and with Neil Davidson of RS21 at the national RIC conference held in Edinburgh in February 2016.

 

A POLITICAL COMPARISON BETWEEN THE 2012-14 SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE AND THE 2016 EU REFERENDA CAMPAIGNS

[4]                Of course, the Scottish Left has already been here with the Tommy Sheridan fiasco. Although to Salmond’s credit, he resigned from his party whilst his court case is pending.

[5]                For an analysis of the politics and events leading to the UK’s constitutional crisis see Allan Armstrong –It’s the constitution stupid – After the Boris ‘coup’ let’s fUK it! on

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/08/30/after-boriss-coup-lets-fuk-it-its-the-constitution-stupid/ blog/2019/08/30/

[6]                https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/09/09/hedge-funds-wager-3bn-pound-plunging-year-amid-no-deal-brexit/

[7]                Allan Armstrong, The Reality of the European Democratic Revolution,

THE REALITY OF THE EUROPEAN DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION

[8]                Allan Armstrong, A Critique of Jeremy Corbyn and British Left Social Democracy,  Part 1, 4Ba, xlii

A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

___________

also see –

REPUBLICANS ADDRESS THE ‘NO TO THE COUP’ DEMOS IN DUNDEE AND EDINBURGH ON AUGUST 31st

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Sep 11 2019

SCOTLAND’S SECRET SHAME

The issue of ‘sectarianism’ in Scotland has raised its head again following loyalists attacks on republican marches in Govan on August 30th and Glasgow city centre on 7th September. Whilst the attacks  made by the loyalists were on  legal marches, politicians and the media have  predictably fallen back on the ‘sectarian’ two tribes approach. This attempt to cover-up the central issue, the nature of Northern Ireland’s and Scotland’s relationship with the UK state, has a long history, as shown by the response of  Jack McConnell 

Emancipation & Liberation is publishing an abridged version of an article written in 2006 by the late Brian Higgins, which addresses the issue of ‘sectarianism’. The full version of this article can be seen on the Intfrobel.com website, where it was published for the first time this August.

(https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/scotlans-secret-shame-1.pdf)

______________

SCOTLAND’S ‘SECRET’ SHAME

 

 INTRODUCTION

The issue of religious sectarianism in Scotland has been raised by Jack McConnell’s 2005 Valentines Day Summit, and by the BBC’s Panorama programme, Scotland’s Secret Shame, on Celtic and Rangers, broadcast soon afterwards.  Tam Cowan has even (if unintentionally!) added impetus to this debate, illustrating the significance of the subject.  He invited Jack McConnell on to his Offside programme (BBC Scotland, 6.3.06,  a satirical rant at Scottish football and the SFA. He questioned McConnell about ‘Scotland’s Secret Shame’ by famously asking him, “What’s secret about it?”  Cowan 1 – McConnell 0.  More seriously, we have UEFA making a bizarre ruling over Rangers supporters’ sectarian behaviour, at the Championship League matches against Villareal.  They initially washed their hands by declaring such behaviour to be “related to a social problem in Scotland”!

 

PART ONE

THE KICK-OFF

1. SCOTLAND’S SECRET SHAME – BRITAIN’S POLITICAL BLAME!

Scotland’s secret shame – No, we’re not talking about the nominal Scotsman, Fettes-educated liar and mass murderer, Tony Blair; nor his right hand man, Scotbrit Brown, who together stole last May’s General Election with only 36% of the vote.  This is about a burning political and social issue, which has too often been neglected in the past and needs to be addressed by socialist republicans in Scotland and further afield today and tomorrow.

Sectarianism and bigotry are very controversial issues in Scotland.  They were given a very high political profile with Jack McConnell’s Valentines Day Summit in 2005.  He mainly laid the blame for these problems at the door of Celtic and Rangers football clubs and their supporters.  Sectarianism and bigotry in Scotland were also given a Britain-wide media prominence in the BBC’s Panorama programme, Scotland’s Secret Shame, shown soon after, on February 27th.

 

‘JACK OF HEARTS’ VALENTINES DAY ‘LOVE-IN’

McConnell chose a good day to massacre the truth!  There were some very strange bedfellows around the table at the Valentines Day Summit.  Yet this only shows that a British-wide consensus and political popular front exists around some very false notions of sectarianism and bigotry.

This is highlighted by the most the recent and prominent campaign in the field – ‘Nil by Mouth’.  They make the same mistake in attributing these evils to Rangers and Celtic football clubs and their supporters.

The press also takes this line, particularly tabloids like the Daily Record.  One moment they are piously pronouncing against sectarianism.  Then the next, they use Celtic and Rangers to fan the flames of bigotry, often through the use of lurid and screaming headlines.  They rarely let the truth get in the way of a ‘good’ sectarian story, particularly before and after matches at Parkhead and Ibrox. The result of this is to make the problem appear to be a ‘sporting’ rather than a serious socio-political issue. This lets the politicians off the hook and this is no accident.

 

THE BBC’S SCOTLAND’S SECRET SHAME AND BLAME GAME!

BBC’s Panorama programme went Britain-wide.  It made Scotland look like a sectarian hellhole, little different from Northern Ireland.  Therefore, how lucky Scotland is to be part of the Great British Union!  The Scottish Parliament can take heart from the less sectarian atmosphere in England and get the support of a sympathetic and understanding Westminster government, under the paternalistic leadership of Tony Blair and New Labour!

Once again, this programme saw the main problem as lying in the working class and Celtic and Rangers supporters, in particular.  However, it did also mention certain links with Ireland!  But it didn’t follow this through.  Instead, the journalist, Graham Spiers, showed a middle class prejudice (which is quite common) by branding Rangers and Celtic supporters as “uneducated`”.  What he really means is there are not many university-educated chaps like him among the ‘lower orders’.  He forgets that the working class is ‘educated’ by middle class, press, television and radio hacks like him steeped in class bigotry and prejudice.  They resort to finger-pointing to disguise their own role in all this.

One unintentional moment of light (blue) relief in the programme was provided by a Rangers Director.  He gave us the new football phenomenon – “the ninety minute bigot”!  Just as ridiculously, we ask, “What if the game goes into extra time!”  The programme’s title also begs the question, “What is secret about the problem?”  – only its true causes.  But on the real causes of bigotry the programme did little to enlighten us.

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2. FOOTBALL IS A POLITICAL DIVERSION – ‘RELIGIOUS’ SECTARIANISM AND BIGOTRY ARE NOT THE REAL PROBLEM

The British establishment and its media use football as a smokescreen to hide the real causes of sectarian strife and bigotry in Scotland.  The existence of Celtic and Rangers football clubs and their supporters may appear to be the most visible embodiment of sectarianism and bigotry in Scotland.  However, they are but the expression of a deeper and more widespread problem.

Scotland has indeed had a past marred by religious sectarianism and bigotry. As recently as the 1920’s the Church of Scotland took a bigoted and racist stance against Irish Catholic immigrants.  There were mass Protestant anti-Catholic parties in both Glasgow and Edinburgh in the 1930s.  The Orange Order then had a solid base of support within the Church of Scotland and the Tory Party was linked to the Ulster Unionist Party.  There has been job discrimination against Catholics in quite a number of areas, particularly shipbuilding. Some of these attitudes still (ma)linger on in Scottish society.

Nevertheless, loyalist unionism never came to dominate Scottish politics as it did in Northern Ireland. The Labour Party in Scotland was always open to Catholics. The Labour Party won control of many Scottish councils, including the largest, Glasgow.  It has also formed seven British governments since 1945. This meant that Catholics had avenues of economic, social and political advance, which certainly didn’t exist in Northern Ireland.

Scotland has no gerrymandered Protestant and Catholic ghettoes.  The Orange Order has no significant representation in the Scottish Parliament or base of support in the Church of Scotland. The Tory Party has long broken its direct links with the Ulster Unionist Party and has fielded Catholic candidates, aiming to get the Catholic middle class vote.  Scotland has had a Scottish Secretary, Helen Liddell, from a Catholic background; so indeed is the current First Minister’s wife, Bridget McConnell. Even Rangers now field Catholic players.

It is a misrepresentation of reality, to lump together the following as examples of an ongoing religious sectarianism with its roots in Scotland’s Presbyterian past:- the undoubted and sometimes shocking violence that occurs around ‘Old Firm’ matches; the demand for official permission for Irish republican marches; the intimidation associated with the Orange marching season; and the unsavoury Scotland/Northern Ireland loyalist links, highlighted by Johnny Adair’s current residency here.  The songs celebrated at either end of an ‘Old Firm’ game are neither psalms nor hymns. The flags being waved are ‘national’ not denominational.

 

 THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM – THE BRITISH STATE’S ATTEMPT TO MAINTAIN CONTROL OVER IRELAND

There has been a huge decline in religious influence on the state in Scotland. The numbers identifying with the major Christian denominations and attending their churches, especially the Church of Scotland, has continued to decline.  You have to look elsewhere to see why so-called ‘sectarian’ strife is still to be found in Scotland.  The root cause lies in continued British rule over Northern Ireland. Scotland and (Northern) Ireland have long had close economic and social links. Irish tenant farmers and later, workers (both Catholic and Protestant), came to Scotland from Ireland looking for jobs.  Some of the divisions and conflicts over national identity have been imported over here. The Orange Order is one organisation which was imported from the north of Ireland to Scotland.  It has been a central and continuous influence in promoting sectarianism and trying to maintain Protestant privilege.  It still wants the UK to be an officially Protestant state with a Protestant monarch.

The British state has actively promoted sectarian division in Northern Ireland, in order to maintain its control.   Sectarianism is designed to pit Protestant against Catholic, and worker against worker.  In the past it split the Irish-Irish from the Irish-British; today it tries to sustain a division between the Irish and the Ulster-British.  What we are seeing in Northern Ireland is a national struggle, not a religious struggle.

The most advanced element in the struggle to create a united Irish nation, has always upheld the original republican demand for the unity of ‘Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter’.  This is anti-sectarian by definition.  The most reactionary element today defines itself as Ulster-British, an identity which only includes Protestants, and is therefore sectarian by definition.  This Ulster-Britishness can only be maintained by the continued partition of Ireland; the continued occupation of the north by the British army; a loyalist statelet, police force and militia; a loyalist paramilitary reserve; and the continuous celebration of Orange triumphalism.

Yet, despite loyalism’s somewhat embarrassing public image, it still provides part of the forces necessary to maintain British rule.  British Direct Rule and military occupation were not enough to suppress the Irish republican opposition.  And, despite some woolly-minded and sentimental thinking, the British state has no intention of giving up control of ‘The Six Counties’.  To do so, would be to signal to the world, the weakness of British imperialism and the likely end of the UK itself.

 

OFFICIAL ANTI-SECTARIAN CAMPAIGN PART OF BRITISH STATE’S STRATEGY TO MAINTAIN UNIONIST CONTROL THROUGHOUT THE UK

The timing of the Establishment’s newfound concern with the problem of “religious sectarianism and bigotry” in Scotland is also significant.  For most of the period of Ireland’s struggle against the British state, Scotland could hardly be described as Ireland’s ally. Scottish regiments could be relied upon to uphold the Union when asked to serve in Ireland.  As late as 1955, the Scottish Unionist Party (then still linked to the Ulster Unionists) could win over 50% of the vote.

Many Catholics, in both Northern Ireland and Scotland, saw the wider British state as a possible ally.  This state might be able to contain the official loyalist unionism found in Northern Ireland and the unofficial, but nevertheless, still menacing loyalist unionism found in the Central Belt of Scotland.  The Labour Party enjoyed massive support amongst Catholics in Scotland because it was seen to be both anti-sectarian and liberal unionist.  The British state also had greater resources to address the economic and social problems, which affected the Catholic working class particularly badly in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

However, with the decline of the British Empire, the UK’s continued slide in the world’s economic league, and the cutbacks in the British welfare state, support for the Union and a British national identity have declined sharply in Scotland.  Republican sentiment has grown, particularly since the 1980s.  The British state has had to undergo extensive constitutional change to try to hold the UK together.  New Labour took office in 1997 committed to a New Unionist policy of ‘devolution-all-round’, for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Each devolved assembly is meant to take responsibility for maintaining the Union in its own territory, in return for some local legislative or administrative autonomy.  By far the biggest problem facing the UK state has been the setting-up of a stable regime in Northern Ireland.  The very purpose of that statelet’s continued existence has been to buttress Ulster Unionist/Protestant supremacy, as a guarantor for the continued Union.

Ever since the Civil Rights Struggle, events in Northern Ireland have found an echo in Scotland, amongst both Irish republican and nationalist supporters and amongst loyalist and Orange Order supporters.  Now, however, there is a British-backed ‘pacification process’ in place, highlighted by the Good Friday Agreement.  But the UK government has failed to get its central building block in place – a power-sharing Executive leading a reformed Stormont.  Therefore, the Scottish Executive has been given the task of quarantining Scotland from any political repercussions over here. This is why, McConnell is portraying the continued ‘troubles’ over here, as an issue of sectarianism and bigotry rooted in Scotland’s religious history, in general, and Rangers and Celtic Football Clubs, in particular.

 

 NEW LAWS AGAINST SECTARIANISM TARGET THE REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION

Since the Valentines Day Summit, the Scottish Executive has passed new laws. These allow the police to target clubs and pubs displaying ‘sectarian’ material.  This has led to a number of traditional Irish pubs having posters showing the Hunger Strikers removed. None of the removed material attacks Protestants. This shows the hollowness of the official claims to be combating religious sectarianism and bigotry.  The targets of the official clampdown are Irish republican symbols of resistance to British occupation and rule.

Revolutionary republicans and communists reject the ‘plague on both your houses’, it’s a ‘tribal war’, or ‘it’s all due to football’ approach to the issue of sectarianism and bigotry in Scotland.  This is the approach adopted by the British Unionist politicians and the liberal media which bows to their agenda.  It is an approach which disguises the political reality, both in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The pretence of dealing equally with ‘two warring tribes’ is highlighted by the orchestrated media hounding of Republicans in Northern Ireland.  They have not been responsible for a single attack on British state forces, loyalists or Protestants in Northern Ireland since the second 1997 Ceasefire.  In the meantime, loyalists have killed innocent Catholics and Protestants, mounted viciously sectarian campaigns around the annual Drumcree march, at Harryville Church, Holy Cross Primary School and are currently pursuing their campaign of ethnic cleansing, directed at Catholics in Ahoghill and at Asians and others in South Belfast.  Even a full scale armed loyalist riot, directed at ‘their own’ police force, the PSNI/RUC, in a fit of pique at being denied the right to intimidate and harass nationalists in North Belfast, was handled as if it were a minor breach of the peace offence!

 

SILENCE FOR THE POPE – WHY?

 Organisations like Nil by Mouth, no matter how well-intentioned, ignore the wider context, when they seek official support for their opposition to ‘religious’ sectarianism and bigotry. Treating the problem as if it is religious in origin can also be totally counterproductive.  A good example of this was the official decision to have a minute’s silence at some S.P.L. matches after the death of Pope John Paul. The same press which promoted the minute’s silence then turned on the fans who broke it, accusing them of religious intolerance and lack of respect!  It is absolutely intolerable that a minutes silence was demanded for an extremely reactionary old man who lived in Rome and had no connection whatsoever with Scottish football or any team within it.

Given this official high-level equation of Celtic with Catholicism, Rangers fans could be forgiven for thinking that Celtic’s board, team and supporters are all lined up behind the Pope!  We doubt that any of the Parkhead players would subscribe to being one of the ‘Pope’s Eleven’ – they’d rather be one of Gordon Strachan’s!  Neither Celtic, nor any other Scottish team is a Catholic club.  So why the minute’s silence – other than an excuse to stoke up resentment and bigotry.

 

PLAYING UP RELIGIOUS SECTARIANISM – IGNORING ANTI-IRISH RACISM

Funnily enough, on the occasion when real bigotry and anti-Irish racism are blatantly on display, the same media ignores its significance.  The hounding of Celtic’s Portadown born Irish Catholic player, Neil Lennon, on and off the pitch, by loyalist bigots, is a disgrace. He is also subjected to vile anti-Irish racist abuse at most grounds he plays at.  None of this is ever officially reported or campaigned against in Scotland.  However, following the cause to its roots, would not take you to Scotland’s old Presbyterian religious sectarianism.  It would take you to Portadown, that ‘Little Rock’ in Ulster and the festering sore which is the product of continued British rule in Northern Ireland.  This is not something the Scottish establishment and mainstream media want to highlight!

Anti-Irish racism is not even recognised as a problem in Scotland. Indeed, it is tolerated.Tam Cowan, who is about as funny as a boil on the arse, sometimes uses his Wednesday column in the Daily Record to crack anti-Irish jokes.  Therefore, the official (and hypocritical and limited) anti-racist campaigns show their own blind spot.  Whereas British imperial power has retreated from Asia, Africa and the West Indies, it has no intention of finally abandoning its first colony, so anti-Irish racism still has its uses over here.

The real divide is not a religious one between Protestant and Catholic, but a political one between British unionist and Irish republican.  Many loyalist bigots find it difficult to understand the difference between Irish republicanism and Catholicism, infamously hating ‘Fenian bastards’.  Yet the nineteenth century Irish Fenian Brotherhood included both Catholics and Protestants and was strongly opposed by the Catholic hierarchy.  Of course, it is very much in the interests of the British establishment to portray a national democratic struggle as a religious sectarian squabble.

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3. THE BRITISH STATE IS OPPRESSIVE AND DIVISIVE

There are those on the revolutionary Left who maintain that the formation of the British state was a liberating and progressive development.  It led to the Industrial Revolution and a united British working class.  We profoundly disagree with this.  There has never been anything progressive or remotely liberating (except for the ruling class and capitalists) for the vast majority who lived in the British state and its empire.  Just think of those slaughtered for opposing British rule and wanting independence. Remember those millions who died in the 1914-8 “war to end all wars” to maintain the British Empire and its class rule and extreme privilege.

Today, British trade unions are in chains, shackled by the most draconian anti-union laws in Europe.  Migrant workers and asylum seekers are harassed by British officials and locked up in British detention centres.  Travelling people are hounded around Britain and working class youths are subjected to vilification, curfews and ASBOs.  Ask any of these people how ‘progressive‘ the British state is.

 

RELIGIOUS STRIFE AND VIOLENCE NOTHING NEW

Religious strife, and sometimes, extreme violence between Catholics and Protestants, is nothing new in these islands, nor indeed Europe and elsewhere. Such strife was a fact of life long before Celtic and Rangers were founded.  Catholics and Protestants found themselves on different sides in political battles in the past.  The Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603 led to another attempt to achieve centralized political control of these islands.  One area where resistance was particularly strong, was in the clan-based Gaelic (and Catholic) social order in Ulster.  King James, acting on behalf of both the English and Scottish ruling classes, transplanted largely Lowland Scots Protestant settlers in this area to counter the rebellious natives.

In the 1639-50 Civil War of the Three Kingdoms, Irish Catholic Royalists faced both Scottish Presbyterians and English Puritan Republicans.  Yet, even then, the most advanced class elements were able to overcome some of the false divisions encouraged by the ruling class of the day.  The revolutionary democratic Levellers in England refused to go to Ireland to put down ‘Catholic’ rebellion.  They preferred class solidarity to religious loyalty.  We could do with similar ‘levelling’ today!

The 1707 Act of Union was used by the ruling classes of England and Scotland to cement a Protestant British identity, making it easier to unite the lower orders behind the British Union and to provide cannon-fodder for a rapidly expanding British Empire.  This Empire was based on expanding capitalist trade, agriculture and manufacture. Those pre-capitalist societies, which got in the way, were mercilessly suppressed and subjugated.  This led to the outlawing of much Gaelic culture.  This followed the earlier suppression of Catholic worship in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands alike.

 

THE ORANGE ORDER – DEFENDING PROTESTANT PRIVILEGE AND THE BRITISH STATE

By the end of the eighteenth century, these divisions were being overcome, when many Presbyterians and Catholics, and even some Anglicans, in Ireland joined to form a united front to oppose British rule.  The United Irishmen had the Protestant, Wolfe Tone, as one of its leaders. This new-found, anti-sectarian class unity led the British ruling class to give its backing to the newly formed Orange Order in order to uphold God and the Crown, Britain and the Empire.

In the past, the British ruling class found it convenient to blame all opposition to its rule on ‘Papist plots’.  The Orange Order has continued with this line, long after the British ruling class turned to other scapegoats – Jacobins, Bolsheviks, or Islamic extremists today. Even when founded in 1795, the Orange Order’s knowledge of real history was slender.  The Dutch Orange, King William fought the Battle of the Boyne (the site is now in the Irish Republic), in 1690, with the blessing of the Pope of the day, in a European power game; certainly not to defend some distant Protestant ‘colony’ in Ulster.

The Orange Order, and the closely associated loyalist paramilitaries, have a history of instigating pogroms, or ethnic cleansing, directed against Catholics, republicans and nationalists, and those living in mixed partnerships and families.  In return for privileges in job and housing allocation, the Orange Order loyally enforced the rule of the British Crown and state in ‘the Six Counties’.  It was the British Establishment figure and Orangeman, Lord Carson, who created the armed Ulster Volunteer Force, in 1912, to prevent even a liberal unionist measure, Irish Home Rule, from being implemented. British senior military officers in the Curragh Mutiny backed him.

The loyalist forces were mobilised once more, when a large majority of the Irish people voted for Sinn Fein independence candidates in the 1918 General Election.  Over the next few years, loyalists managed to carve out that Six County political slum, which was ruled through Stormont, as a one-party sectarian statelet for the next fifty years – fully subsidised by the UK Exchequer.

Whenever there was a possibility that Catholics and Protestants might unite to fight against exploitation, the Orange Order and loyalist forces moved in, to line-up the Protestant workers behind the Unionist bosses once more.  This happened when Catholics and Protestants united and fought over unemployment benefits in the 1930s.

In 1972, loyalists once more showed their opposition to any liberal reform of the Union, when they mobilised the Ulster Workers’ Council (Catholic workers not invited) against the power-sharing (middle class Protestant and Catholic) Sunningdale Agreement.  The British government backed down surprisingly quickly in the face of this particular ‘strike’, showing no inclination to uphold the rights of the ordinary person ‘to go about their normal everyday business’!  Obviously, this particular strike didn’t represent a move to the Left.

 

LOYALIST REACTION TODAY – THE BRITISH FACE OF FASCISM

Today there are few jobs and houses on offer, so loyalist privilege consists more of the ‘historical right’ to triumphantly parade and march all over the political hopes and aspirations of Catholics, nationalists and republicans and trample these into the ground.

The Orange Order has many of the hallmarks of fascism in its organisation, politics and practices.  Father Alex Reid got it quite wrong in his recent attack in Belfast on ‘Nazi’ loyalism. Ulster Loyalism is not a nasty German import, but a very British homegrown product that preceded Nazism by over a decade.  Loyalism doesn’t need goose-steps and swastikas.  It has the lambeg drum and the Union Jack.  Loyalism has and will use all means it considers necessary to maintain its ‘religious’ and ‘racial’ purity, i.e. its Britishness.  The only ‘democracy’ it is interested in, is that which gives it an inbuilt veto to protect its privileged position within Northern Ireland.  It point-blank refuses to recognise anything which does not go along with this.

There is no ‘British road’ to real democracy and freedom for the people of Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England.  The example of Ireland shows the sort of allies and measures the British ruling class is prepared to adopt if we ever make serious moves to break free from their UK. state.  Real democracy (i.e. rule by the majority and not an elite class) can only be achieved by revolutionary working class struggle and unity.

 

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                                                                                      PART TWO

THE SECOND HALF!

1. FOOTBALL – THE NEW OPIATE OF THE MASSES

Marx was absolutely correct when he said that “religion is the opiate of the masses”.  It was one way countless millions of workers and their families escaped from the hell on earth of their daily existence at that time.  They were led to look to a life after death, which would be heaven, compared to the one on earth!

Religion is still being used as a socio-political opiate in some countries. However, it no longer has the same influence or following in the West, particularly Europe, as it had in Marx’s time. But today football is truly global and supported by billions worldwide.  The majority of these are working class and football now serves a role similar to that which religion used to.  It enables billions to escape the drudgery, and in many cases misery, of their daily lives by going to football matches, or by watching it on TV at home, in pubs or cafes, or by reading about it.

Big business is well aware of this and has moved in big-time.  They economically control, exploit and market football on a massive global scale.  They also exploit the competitive nature of the game politically and use their media to pit country against country in a very nationalistic and racist way.  Just look at the press and TV when England plays Germany, France, Italy or Turkey.  Some British papers, such as the Sun, even have separate editions so they can play off England against Scotland in England and Scotland against England in Scotland, whenever matches between these two countries occur!  Of course, they then blame the fans if they resort to violence in response to all the media’s nationalist and racist hype.

Football has become a microcosm of the worldwide class system. Far from things getting better in their ‘free market’ economy, the rich clubs and players just get richer; whilst the poorer clubs just get poorer!  Even Gordon Taylor, Secretary of the English players’ union, gets £650,000 a year salary – so he too is big business!

Now things are so bad that Russian billionaire, Abramovich, who got his money by the ruthless exploitation of Russian workers, is the most powerful figure in English football (don’t tell us the FA run the game!).  He effectively bought Chelsea the Premiership title last season and is doing the same again this season.  Oh, how the Russian poor could use Abramovich’s millions.  Cue Mr. Murray and Mr. Desmond, the filthy rich, biggest shareholders of Rangers and Celtic respectively.

Multinational business has taken hold in Scottish football too, as can be seen with Romanov’s takeover of Hearts.  No doubt Lithuanian workers would appreciate getting their hands on some of Romanov’s millions.  (Where are the Bolsheviks when you need them!)  Romanov now wants to take over the Bosnian team, Celik, too – no relation to the Glasgow club!

 

CAPITALIST ECONOMICS – A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR CORPORATE HOUSES

Celtic and Rangers are both corporate businesses, the same as most other professional football clubs.  Like all big clubs they mercilessly exploit their fans.  The firms they employ to make merchandise, use cheap, sometimes even child slave labour.  The big clubs make obscene amounts of money from this. Some of the money goes towards players’ wages, but we never hear of big-earning players complaining about this. Isn’t it strange how football players seem to be exempt from being taken to task, or questioned about their social attitudes, or their political opinions.  Stars and superstars, in particular, are not judged by ‘normal’ standards.

 Celtic and Rangers football clubs are not the causes of religious sectarianism and bigotry.  However, both clubs well know that the existence of these evils raises passions which heighten the tensions and increase the competition upon which their profits thrive.  Of course, the club owners are not too concerned about this reality.  They aren’t to be found on the terraces and streets, or in the pubs and housing schemes, where working class people bear the brunt and pay the price of ‘religious sectarianism’ and anti-Irish racism.

Outside political pressure may have forced the clubs to sponsor official anti-sectarian campaigns, but these don’t address the central problem already outlined. They also know this is a political problem which it is not their business to address – and they won’t. After all, it will take a political and social revolution to change the situation and their businesses would go with it!

Even if a total clampdown on all the authorities’ perceived ‘sectarian’ displays, singing and behaviour was successfully imposed in the football grounds, this would not eliminate it, but displace it elsewhere, since football itself is not the cause of the problem.

 

POLITICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CELTIC AND RANGERS SUPPORTERS

Supporters of both Celtic and Rangers come mainly from the same working class base. Yet, there is a political difference between the supporters of the two clubs.  The British establishment is well aware of this too.  Its current anti-sectarian campaigns make sure they don’t tread on any sensitive toes.

The political parties in Scotland have largely abandoned one-sided religious sectarianism.  This makes it easier to stand above the fray and manipulate both sides for divide-and-rule purposes.  Labour draws its support from both mainly working class Catholics and Protestants, and the Tories from mainly middle class Protestants and Catholics.

Rangers supporters sing “God save the Queen”, “Rule Britannia”, of guarding Protestant “Derry’s walls” and being up to their knees in “Fenian blood”, and other such touching ditties.  Celtic supporters mainly sing ballads associated with Ireland’s struggles for freedom from British rule, including the more recent Republican struggles. They sing about those fighters murdered, imprisoned or deported for defying the British state.  Some of this is sentimental republicanism.  There is also a reactionary anti-Protestant Ancient Order of Hibernian contingent among the Celtic supporters.  The AOH tried to mimic the organisation and style of the Orange Order, but for Catholics.  Fortunately the AOH is very small and is opposed by all sincere republicans.

However, by and large, the potential for support for Scottish republicanism and for freedom from the British Crown and state is much greater amongst Celtic fans. Socialists know the difference between selling papers outside Parkhead and Ibrox!  And, if your paper has the title ‘republican’, you would only try selling it outside Ibrox if accompanied by a Citizen Army!

 

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2. THE NEED FOR A REPUBLICAN UNITED FRONT TO COUNTER

THE BRITISH UNIONIST POPULAR FRONT

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, its anti-democratic Crown powers, its continued imperialist role in the world, and its state-promoted reactionary British identity, all need to be opposed consistently. From the extremes of Ulster loyalism, through the Tories and New Labour, to the Lib-Dems, there is a British unionist consensus over the need to defend the UK state. The SNP only seeks to give some of these imperialist institutions a thick coat of tartan paint.  That is why they defend her majesty’s Scottish regiments so vehemently.

Others, on the Left, such as the SWP, believe the British state can be pressured in a progressive direction, effectively making them part of the British popular front.  You are either for the break-up of the British state or you are not. The SWP’s sister organisation in the North of Ireland omitted to mention the presence of British troops in their General Election manifesto!  There is a very broad Right, Left and Centre, British unionist popular front.

This can only be countered by a Socialist Republican United Front of political organisations in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England committed to the defeat of the British unionist state and its Crown Powers, and to the establishment of democratic secular republics in each of these nations. Communists would be able to show that the only final guarantee of all our freedoms – national, religious and sexual – is the creation of an international socialist society which finally ends the capitalist exploitation which underwrites all oppression. Forward to real political, economic and social freedom.

 

A NOTE OF HOPE IN THE POLLS

People all over the world are fighting back – from Venezuela and Bolivia to Iraq and Palestine.  In ‘sectarian’ Scotland two recent polls reflected some of this.  49% voted for a republican president against 37% for a prime minister (appointed by the Queen).  In the second poll in the Scottish Socialist Voice, a staggering 17.5% of people in Scotland already support the SSP’s core aim of supporting an independent socialist republic of Scotland. You could start a revolution with that.

So let’s get out there and start beating the big Scottish socialist republican drum and drown out the noise of those drumming and marching to a different tune.

 

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also see:-

Allan Armstrong – The Making and the Breaking of the UK  State, chapter xiii)  The contrasting political nature of the effects of ‘New Unionism’ in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales at:-

THE MAKING AND THE BREAKING OF THE UK STATE

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For more articles by Brain Higgins see the links provided at:-

BRIAN HIGGINS – A PERSONAL AND POLITICAL TRIBUTE

 

 

 

 

 

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Sep 11 2019

A NATION ONCE AGAIN?

There has been a lot of  talk recently about the inevitability of a united Ireland after a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. This article from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) provides a more cautionary note.

A NATION ONCE AGAIN?

Dream and reality in the United Ireland discourse

 

 

What do you learn when Irish nationalist sources start to pontificate about the inevitability of a united Ireland? The first thing you learn is that the forces involved have no new ideas or a new strategy for achieving their aim.  The second is that they urgently want to distract attention from their own sheer incapacity.  The torrent of output about this issue today speaks volumes about the weakness of the various currents. Continue reading “A NATION ONCE AGAIN?”

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Sep 02 2019

REPUBLICANS ADDRESS THE ‘NO TO THE COUP’ DEMOS IN DUNDEE AND EDINBURGH ON AUGUST 31st

On Saturday 31st August demonstrations were held throughout the UK to protest at ‘Boris’s coup’. Mary MacGregor addressed the rally held in Dundee. Allan Armstrong addressed the rally held in Edinburgh.

 

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Speech by Mary MacGregor

 

Comrades and friends,

We are living through extraordinary times. We live in a time where children go hungry, where the poor go to food banks to get by, where  many live in despair and succumb to addiction, where mental health problems have reached epidemic proportions and where we are ruled over by a privileged, unelected elite. Continue reading “REPUBLICANS ADDRESS THE ‘NO TO THE COUP’ DEMOS IN DUNDEE AND EDINBURGH ON AUGUST 31st”

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Aug 30 2019

It’s the constitution stupid – After the Boris ‘coup’ let’s fUK it!

Allan Armstrong gives his response to the latest constitutional crisis hitting the UK state

 

It’s the constitution stupid – After the Boris ‘coup’ let’s fUK it!

 

Contents

  1. A constitutional and legal coup under Crown-in-Westminster sovereignty
  2. The UK’s growing constitutional crisis, the retreat of neo-liberalism and liberal unionism and the growth of right populism and reactionary unionism
  3. The continued rise of right national populism and the hard right in the UK
  4. The May 23rd Euro-elections – Farage’s right populist victory paves the way for the hard right take-over of the Tory Party
  5. The asymmetric polarisation of UK politics
  6. From Maybynism to Borisbynism? – Labour’s role in helping to move official politics to the right
  7. Neo-liberal attempts to turn back the right populist challenge over Brexit
  8. The right and centre Remainers take politics to the streets
  9. The Lexiters’ (and Irexiters’) economism and abstract propagandism
  10. The emergence of left Remainers, Another Europe Is Possible, and their turn to the streets
  11. Conclusions

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  1. A constitutional and legal coup under Crown-in-Westminster sovereignty

The decision taken by Boris Johnson and his backers  to prorogue Westminster on the 28th August represents the culmination of a prolonged constitutional crisis, which began with the Scottish independence referendum between 2012-14, and has been accelerating in the aftermath of the Brexit vote in 2016. Today we have liberals (in all the mainstream British parties), and even some conservatives, bemoaning  the unconstitutional and illegal nature of the decision taken by the unelected prime minister, Johnson, along with privy councillor, Jacob Rees-Mogg (Tory MP representing the eighteenth century), and the unelected head of state, queen Elizabeth. However, the UK state, based on the sovereignty of the Crown in Westminster, with its armoury of anti-democratic Crown Powers, gives enormous power to the dominant section of the British ruling class. Proroguing parliament is both constitutional and legal. Continue reading “It’s the constitution stupid – After the Boris ‘coup’ let’s fUK it!”

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Aug 05 2019

LOYALIST BONFIRE VICTORY IN BELFAST

Socialist Democracy (Ireland) reports on the latest UK state accommodation to Loyalism, during their annual Belfast bonfire rituals.

 

LOYALIST BONFIRE VICTORY IN BELFAST

Can this be compensated for by dreams of a future modernity?

 

 

In the aftermath of the paramilitary victory at a Belfast “11th night” bonfire, correspondents were quick to spread an emollient salve over the bruised egos of sections of the middle class.

Following UVF threats and the leaking of the names of private contractors charged with dismantling an illegal bonfire in the car pack of a local council leisure centre, police and council workers withdrew and triumphant loyalists went ahead with their bonfire. Continue reading “LOYALIST BONFIRE VICTORY IN BELFAST”

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Jul 28 2019

PROMOTING REPUBLICANISM   

Murdo Ritchie addresses the Left’s failing to understand republicanism. This is deeply rooted in the Left’s  acceptance of the UK state for as a vehicle for its various economic and political projects. Murdo’s article is an update of his earlier piece (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/02/24/promoting-republicanism/)

 

PROMOTING REPUBLICANISM

                     

The advocacy of socialist republicanism has very few current precedents in the United Kingdom.  While many organisations can make claims to republicanism, in most cases this has been rarely developed and has often seemed like it was added on as an extra to more immediately pressing concerns.  It should be no real surprise that an anti-political, economic reductionism (economism), or a separatism that sought an end to London rule, and many other perspectives have used the term emptying it of any real understanding or meaning.  Very often when UK subjects are asked to give a meaning to the idea of republicanism, they confuse it with Irish nationalism. Continue reading “PROMOTING REPUBLICANISM   “

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Jul 16 2019

BRIAN HIGGINS – A PERSONAL AND POLITICAL TRIBUTE

 

 

Communist, Republican, Trade Union Militant,

Scottish Internationalist, Glasgow Bear

 9th February 1941 – 2nd June 2019

 

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BRIAN HIGGINS

A PERSONAL AND POLITICAL TRIBUTE

Brian made a big impression upon whomever he met. Nigel Jeffrey, who encountered him on the picket line during the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike wrote, “Brian Higgins stands out because he was 6′ 6″ plus… He was a big lad as broad as he was tall… There must have been half a dozen police went for this Brian Higgins and snatched him… He was shoving them off left, right and centre.” [1] Continue reading “BRIAN HIGGINS – A PERSONAL AND POLITICAL TRIBUTE”

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Apr 15 2019

BRITISH GOVERNMENT EXPANDS POWERS IN THE NORTH

The following article from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) highlights the impact of the reactionary unionism in Northern Ireland.  The Good Friday Agreement,  with its official  recognition of Unionists and Nationalists in a reformed Stormont, acted as liberal mask for the continued sectarian order in Northern Ireland. This placed the UK government in the position of ‘neutral’ arbiter, the better to ensure its continued rule. With the DUP now in alliance with May’s post-Brexit vote Conservative government, reactionary unionists see no need to maintain the liberal facade. Growing UK centralisation of power was always a central feature of Brexit, and its implications are not confined to Ireland.

 

 

BRITISH GOVERNMENT EXPANDS POWERS IN THE NORTH

A common myth regarding the northern state is that it has been without a government since the Stormont Assembly and executive collapsed in early 2017.  Accompanying this is the claim every that every ill in society (from sectarian intimidation to a failing health service) is down to (or at the very least made worse) by the absence of devolved government.  What usually follows from this is a call for Stormont to be restored as a means to bring about some improvement.  This is a call that is made unambiguously and unconditionally by the trade unions. It is also a call that is made by the left groups (albeit dressed up in rhetoric about fighting austerity or securing civil rights). The underlying assumptions here are that the political institutions brought into existence by the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) can shield the working class to some degree or even be a vehicle for reforms. Continue reading “BRITISH GOVERNMENT EXPANDS POWERS IN THE NORTH”

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