Mar 02 2016

THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS

 

This article, written by Allan Armstrong (RCN) in 2015, has now been updated to include a new section 3 on Scotland. It has been moved from its earlier site.

Section A –  The UK State and Britishness

Section B –  From the Irish-British and ‘Ulster’-British ‘Insider’ to the Irish ‘Racialised’ and ‘Ethno-Religious Outsider’ to the new ‘National Outsider’

Section C – Britishness, the UK State, Unionism, Scotland and the ‘National Outsider’ 

 

A. THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS

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Introduction

The purpose of this article is to examine the concept of the national outsider in relation to Britishness, for the people of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This has been done through the further development of the concept of the outsider used in Satnam Virdee’s significant book Racism, Class and the Racialised Outsider [1]. Here he outlines the creation of the racialised outsider [2]. Mary Davis’ earlier, but also significant, Comrade or Brother? A History of the British Labour Movement (3),  wrote, in effect, about the gendered outsider, without using the term.

The first part of this article will look at the historically changing position of racialised and gendered outsiders in the UK before the second and third parts address the changing position of the national outsider. Here it will be shown how the post-war British Labour government provided widely accepted ‘insider’ Britishness status for those who held hybrid Scottish and Welsh and ‘Ulster’ British identities. This though excluded the Catholic Irish living in Northern Ireland, giving a continued basis for an Irish nationalist politics based on the Irish national outsider. For a brief period in the 1960s the development of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement raised the possibility of widening the sectarian nationality-based ‘Ulster’-Britishness to create a new more inclusive Northern Ireland-Britishness, However,  an alliance of the Ulster Unionism, Loyalism and the UK state  thwarted this, leading to the re-emergence of a reinvigorated Irish republicanism, which drew support from those still treated as national outsiders by the UK state.

Furthermore, in the context of a  continued imperial decline of the UK, the 1960s saw the existing Scottish-British and Welsh-British identities becoming more effectively challenged. This led to a prolonged attempt by the liberal wing of the British ruling class to try to democratise these identities within a political framework of Devolution. The failure of the Sunningdale Agreement in the face of reactionary unionism, and the 1979 Scottish and Welsh Devolution Bills through conservative unionist opposition, followed later by the lukewarm liberal unionist nature of the 1997 ‘Devolution-all-round’ settlement, have contributed to the emergence of significant numbers of Scottish and Welsh national outsiders in relation to the UK state, whilst still not fully integrating the previous Irish national outsiders. Today, the apparent inability of the UK state, with its strong conservative unionist, and growing reactionary unionist forces, to sustain a more widely supported political settlement has led considerably greater numbers to reject any notion of ‘Britishness’, particularly in Scotland.

 

1) The notion of ‘outsider’ and ‘toleration’ in relation to the role of the UK state in creating and maintaining Britishness

In some ways the position of black people in the UK from the late eighteenth century, addressed in Virdee’s book, represents an updated version of the toleration that appeared in the early days of capitalist development. This toleration was extended both to religious and ethnic minorities who performed a significant economic role within certain states. Such toleration was found in some city-states, e.g. Venice [4]and then in some mercantile capitalist states, e.g. the Netherlands, England, then the UK. These states produced regulations and developed practices that altered the status of those they tolerated, either for better or worse.
Continue reading “THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS”

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Dec 04 2014

EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION RIC 2014 conference special magazine

We are posting the two lead articles from Emancipation & Liberation, issue no. 23, produced for the 3000 strong Radical Independence Campaign conference held in Glasgow, in the Clydeside Auditorium on Saturday, November 22nd. The first is by Murdo Ritchie (RCN), the second by Allan Armstrong (RCN).

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WHEN DECADES HAPPEN – AFTER THE REFERENDUM

 

“There are decades in which nothing happens and there are weeks in which decades happen.” Lenin

When 1,517,989 voters (44.7%) declared they were prepared to abandon their primary, legal national identity to build a better Scotland, it was clear that Scottish national independence was coming. The defeated felt triumphant; the victorious worried.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement on the morning of the ballot declaration was filled with wishful thinking, “the debate has settled for a generation or as Alex Salmond has said, perhaps for a lifetime. So there can be no disputes, no re-runs –we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people.” The media may have declared the result decisive but the numbers and mood told otherwise.

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May 01 2014

‘EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION’ RIC SPECIAL BULLETIN, March, 2014

The RCN produced its first Emancipation and Liberation RIC Special Bulletin for the National Forum in March. It included the following articles:

1. Let’s all end our abusive relationship with the UK state

2.The Republican Communist Network and the Radical Independence Campaign

3. A Republican perspective is important for Scotland’s future

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LET’S ALL END OUR ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UK STATE

Osborne, Alexander and Ball’s ‘Dambuster Strategy’ to roll back the ‘Yes’ vote has highlighted the reality of ‘Scottish self-determination’ under the UK state. In effect, this ‘partnership’ leaves the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland trapped in an abusive relationship. Cameron’s subsequent ‘love-bombing’ reveals the classic behaviour of an abuser – but still represents an ‘apology’ beyond the capabilities of Johann Lamont and Labour in Scotland. Unless, we accept our subordinate part in their ‘order of things’ and bow before with rule of the City of London, and, if necessary, are prepared to die for ‘Britain’, then our currently allotted ‘allowance’ under this relationship will be curtly terminated.

But the UK is not a marriage between just two partners, however unequal. The British ruling class’s Union is designed to maintain their abusive ‘ p o l y g a m o u s ’ relationship with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK, being an imperial, unionist and monarchist state, with an established religion, has a whole panoply of powers, both under the Crown and Westminster, with which to promote division between the peoples, and in particular, the working class, living on these islands.

To prevent one ‘partner’, Scotland, from breaking free from this abusive relationship, Tory, Lib-Dem and Labour politicians have fallen over themselves act as mouthpieces for the City and big business. This has highlighted just who is in control. The UK’s longstanding treatment of Ireland should already have provided one warning of the violence the British ruling class can resort to. But isolating one partner, by cynically currying favour with the others, has all been part of their manipulative method, as Scottish people are now finding out.

However, the power of the British ruling class is not unlimited. It depends on the degree of real working class unity that can be achieved – not just within Scotland, but together with our other abused partners in England, Wales and Ireland. More people can see that ‘Better Together’ is part of the shared Tory, Lib-Dem and Labour pro-austerity, pro-war alliance. This will continue whichever party wins the 2015 Westminster General Election.

People outwith Scotland, are beginning to understand that the September 18th referendum is not primarily a vote for a rather timid SNP government, but for constitutional change. This will have far-reaching effects for the continued existence of the UK, and hence for the state which allows the British ruling class to maintain its abusive domination over the working class throughout these islands. We can counter their top-down UK state and British unionist alliance, through our own ‘internationalism from below’ democratic alliance.

This is why the RCN has initiated the following motion passed by Edinburgh RIC, which will be debated at the National Forum on Match 29th in Perth:-

“RIC agrees to provide speakers for events organised by socialist and radical organisations in England, Wales and Ireland where the issue of support for Scottish independence is being discussed.

Therefore, RIC supports the proposal being made by the Republican Socialist Alliance platform to the Left Unity Party that it organises a conference in England around the issue of support for Scottish independence.”

Allan Armstrong (RCN)

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THE REPUBLICAN COMMUNIST NETWORK AND THE RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN 

The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) has mobilised a large number of Socialists, Left Greens, Left Nationalists and other Radical Democrats in Scotland. The opportunity to exercise Scottish self-determination is the issue that has brought us together, along with a concern that the SNP government is prepared to settle for something well short of genuine political self-determination.

The possibility of writing a new constitution, reflecting the social needs of the majority of people is a heady prospect. Meetings and street activities have been held all over Scotland. There has been an outpouring of writing, other cultural initiatives and contributions on the social media. Such thinking goes well beyond the usual narrow concerns. It has led to a wide-ranging discussion over exactly what sort of Scotland we want to see, and what sort of wider world we want to live in. Continue reading “‘EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION’ RIC SPECIAL BULLETIN, March, 2014”

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Mar 15 2014

ON HOW THE VESTIGIAL LEFT IS FAILING TO UNDERSTAND THE POLITICAL LIFE OF SCOTLAND TODAY

Murdo Ritchie (RCN) provides his response to the Red Paper Collective’s critique of the Scottish SNP government’s White Paper.

 

THE RED PAPER ON THE WHITE PAPER

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HOW NOT TO UNDERSTAND CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Red Paper on Scotland, 2014

Red Paper on Scotland, 2014

 

As moves toward Scottish national independence happen, the “mainstream” camps have presented their visions, but on the fringes lots of different illusions reveal themselves.  Over the years, there have been some who have painted a picture that national independence would inevitably turn into the dictatorship of the proletariat or, at least, the very first steps towards it.  On the other side, some see only tartan Toryism and the destruction of all the labour movement has historically achieved across the United Kingdom.

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Aug 02 2013

BEHIND THE UNIONISTS’ ‘PROJECT FEAR’, THE UK STATE MASK SLIPS

Allan Armstrong (RCN) analyses two recent developments in the Scottish referendum campaign .

 

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The SNP government’s referendum on the future constitutional status of Scotland – ‘Yes’ for ‘Independence-Lite’ (or as Michael Russell terms it ‘Independence within the Union’), or ‘No’ for acceptance of the UK status quo – is still over a year away.

However, two events have occurred recently, which have considerable bearing on the conduct of the referendum campaign. It has been revealed that behind the scenes, some organisers of the mainstream unionist Labour/Conservative/Lib-Dem ‘Better Together’ alliance have dubbed their campaign ‘Project Fear’. Furthermore, the Guardian has reported that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been looking to ways of designating the Faslane Trident base sovereign UK territory, in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote. Faslane would become, in effect, Scotland’s own Guantamamo Bay.

This article examines the significance of these two events for socialists. Right from the start, ‘Yes’ campaigners have, with much justification, styled ‘Better Together’ the ‘No’ campaign, because of its overwhelming negative approach. Hardly a day passes without us being told about some new disaster that will occur, if people in Scotland dare to vote ‘Yes’. Therefore, the revelation that the main drive behind the ‘No’ campaign is ‘Project Fear’ is not that surprising, although somewhat embarrassing for its organisers.
Continue reading “BEHIND THE UNIONISTS’ ‘PROJECT FEAR’, THE UK STATE MASK SLIPS”

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