Dec 08 2016

FROM THE GPO TO THE WINTER PALACE

Rayner O’Connor Lysaght (Socialist Democracy-Ireland) has written a pamphlet entitled From the GPO to the Winter Palace, outlining the period between the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and the 1917 October Revolution in Petrograd. As part of our 1916 Rising centenary postings,  Rayner’s talk given to the Irish Labour History Conference in Dublin on Saturday, October 22nd. is given below.

 

FROM THE GPO TO THE  WINTER PALACE

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Comrades, Friends, I will begin by making a brief comment on the centennial year that is now more than three quarters complete. Like most of you, I approached it with foreboding, which seemed justified with the twenty-six county Government’s notorious video last year, no more than to be expected from that gang, of course. Happily, in general, matters have improved considerably, mainly, it would seem, because the said Government has taken a back seat to let the people run things.

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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.
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Feb 07 2015

STORMONT HOUSE DEAL

Below are two articles from the latest edition of Socialist Democracy (Ireland). They provide an account and analysis of the Stormont House Deal between the UK government and the DUP/Sinn Fein coalition in Stormont over the implementation of Westminster imposed cuts, against the background of threats to stand down Stormont.   (http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/Bulletins/SDBulletinJan2015StormontHouseDeal.html and www.socialistdemocracy.org/Bulletins/SDBulletinJan2015SectarianismAndAusterityTwinPillarsOfReaction.html)

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1. STORMONT HOUSE DEAL – Twin hammers to smash the workers

There is no disguising the calamity facing workers in the North. Benefits for the poor and sick are to be slashed. Thousands of public sector jobs are to go and the services themselves cut back. Public resources are to be auctioned off. The plan means terrible suffering – much greater than that in Britain because it will be applied in a shorter timescale in a situation where there is little local industry and levels of poverty are already very high.

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Jul 30 2012

MARTIN McGUINNESS SHAKES HANDS WITH ELIZABRIT


 

éirígí’s Rúnaí Ginearálta, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, has responded to the decision by the Sinn Féin leadership to endorse a meeting with the British queen, Elizabeth Windsor, commander-in-chief of Britain’s armed forces.

 

Mac Cionnaith said, “The decision by Sinn Féin to meet with the British queen is not in the least unsurprising, unanticipated or unexpected. However, that decision needs to be examined in a broader context.

“The Sinn Féin leadership previously took the strategic decision to gradually and consciously move that party away from its former role as a vanguard of the anti-imperialist struggle in Ireland. That leadership has also proven itself, in recent times, to be a willing ally of modern neo-con imperialists by assisting the undermining and subversion of anti-imperialist liberation struggles in other countries.

“One calculated outworking of that strategic decision in domestic terms has been the unprecedented acceptance and copper-fastening of partition by that party, and its consent to continuing British government control over part of Ireland, to such an extent that the party is now a willing and integral participant in operating the mechanics of partition and injustice.

“Paying lip-service to demands by families of British state violence for justice and truth while simultaneously acting as a prop for maintaining British injustice has now become one of the hall-marks of the Sinn Féin party.

“The reality of the unchanged nature of British control and the inefficacy of the Sinn Féin approach was highlighted on Monday (June 18th) when incontrovertible proof in the form of official British government documents revealed how, in July 1972, the state at the highest levels officially sanctioned the use of deadly force by its troops against Irish citizens and ensured that members of the Crown forces would receive indemnity from prosecution.

“Further evidence that the 1972 policy is not a mere “legacy issue” but an ongoing and central part of current British policy was demonstrated by the revelation on Wednesday (June 20th) that the British government had rejected a request by the families of the victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre for a public inquiry into those state murders.

“Sinn Féin has also moved away from its working class base and from any semblance of even a thin veneer of socialist politics to a position where it can freely and frequently advocate and ally itself with the interests of the domestic and international business and financial communities.

“It has consistently proved to be a willing tool in the imposition of private finance initiatives and the implementation of the British government’s austerity measures which penalise the young, the old, the sick, the unemployed and those workers on low wages. At the same time, that party has the audacity to hypocritically criticise other parties in the 26 Counties for implementing exactly the same policies at the behest of the Troika.

“In many respects, Sinn Féin today is mirroring and replicating the gradual and total abandonment of core Irish republican ideals in very much the same manner as was practiced by Fianna Fáil in its early history.

“Given that Sinn Féin has decided to target Fianna Fáil’s electoral constituency in the Twenty-Six Counties, it should be no surprise for anyone to learn that Sinn Féin’s current primary objective is to re-create and re-brand itself as some sort of 21st century version of Fianna Fáil with all that particular and discredited political direction entails.

“Meeting with and recognising Elizabeth Windsor as head of the British state in Ireland is but another step along the disreputable path of reformism and one more premeditated and calculated step further away from the revolutionary goal of establishing a free, sovereign and socialist Republic in Ireland.

“But then nothing else could ever be expected from a party which, when correctly politically analysed, amounted only to a modern form of old Catholic ‘defenderism’ and militant nationalist hibernianism.”

 

This article originally appeared on:-  http://www.eirigi.org/latest/latest220612.html

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THAT HANDSHAKE – AND THE NATURE OF ROYALTY

Most commentary on the royal visit the North have focused on the symbolic significance of the handshake between Elizabeth Windsor and Martin McGuinness.

For the remaining republicans, the handshake symbolized capitulation. The main significance was that Elizabeth was visiting as head of state and it is a traditional republican trope that she would be welcome once Ireland was united and independent. The current meeting could only signify acceptance of British rule.

Sinn Fein, on the other hand, argue that the Good Friday Agreement offers a mechanism for resolving conflict. In this context the handshake with British royalty was symbolic of reconciliation. The logic is consistent, although it would have helped if the unionists had agreed rather than maintaining a barrage of abuse.

As for most of the small socialist movement, the symbolism is empty, representing an outdated sectarian division that can be resolved by workers keeping their head down and building around “bread and butter” economic demands.

The literature of Marxism takes a very different position. The power of royalty is a material power, part of the mechanism of capitalist rule where it is retained as part of the state apparatus. There are no circumstances where the Marxists are reconciled to royalty and we always seek its destruction.

The capitalist state rules through a combination of social control and the use of force. Royalty plays a role in both.

As a mechanism of social control the trappings of royalty extend far beyond the royal family – to the aristocracy, the landed gentry and to the army of OBEs, CBEs and knighthoods that infest many social institutions such as the police, the health service and the media.

Nowhere is the culture of kowtowing to royalty more deeply entrenched than in the armed forces. It is not for nothing that the ceremonial uniforms that royals wear on state occasions represent different branches of the state forces or that they hold allegiance to the queen rather than directly to parliament.

Socialists who argued that this was empty symbolism because capitalism operates through parliament were ridiculed by the Marxist theoretician Leon Trotsky. This was only true, he argued, when capitalism had a firm grip on the working class. If the hold of parliament weakened then a whole extra-parliamentary and extra-judicial mechanism was at hand to stamp with an iron heel on the workers.

Of course there is one place where the social control elements of  royalty and the elements of force come together and that is in the North of Ireland. Founded on the last mutiny by the British army, sustained by unionist and loyalist political currents slavishly loyal to the crown, hostile to parliament and linked to armed force within and without the state apparatus – there was little doubt what Martin McGuinness was shaking hands with.

If there was, it should have been dispelled quickly a few weeks later, when Sinn Fein acted as police to ease the path of her majesties subjects as they yet again asserted their sectarian dominion through the 12th  parades.

 

 first published in Socialist Democracy (Ireland) bulletin, July/August, 2012, see:-

http://socialistdemocracy.org/Bulletins/SDBulletinJuly2012ThatHandshakeAndTheNatureOfRoyalty.html

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 ON MEETING MONARCHY


JCS meet Betty Battenberg republican style, July 1999

 

 “Fellow-workers, stand by the dignity of your class. All these parading royalties, all this insolent aristocracy, all these grovelling, dirt-eating capitalist traitors, all these are but signs of disease in any social state – diseases which a royal visit brings to a head and spews in all its nastiness before our horrified eyes” – James Connolly

So Martin McGuinness has finally met Betty Battenberg. It is obviously a matter for Sinn Fein who they meet but from the outside this looks like another ‘leadership initiative’ which has nothing to do with improving the material conditions of the working class or advancing towards the Republic. It does however put republicans outside Ireland in the position of having to decide whether to show solidarity with this act or not. For our part the James Connolly Society have been critical of the SNP leaderships decision to come out as monarchists and abandon their party policy of holding a post independence referendum on the future of the monarchy. This is because we believe monarchy, and hereditary power and privilege they represent, have no place in a democratic society and the role of republicans is to actively oppose monarchy and advocate the establishment of a republic where people are sovereign.

While Sinn Fein have not went as far as the SNP their decision to meet the British monarch is one many of us outside Ireland are unable to support. Many people have sought to justify this decision on the basis that the meeting is just symbolism. This is disingenuous in the extreme. While the constitutional role of the monarch in the UK state may be symbolic the British monarchy also plays a key ideological role. The monarch’s visits to Ireland (and Scotland) like their weddings or jubilees are used by the state to reinforce its influence and power. The monarchy serves to strengthen and legitimise British hegemony on these islands.

This meeting has been on the cards for some time and the JCS have been discussing its inevitability and its consequences. During one of these discussions one joker pointed out that I had actually led the way on this issue as I had met Betty Battenberg back in 1999. The occasion was the opening of the Scottish parliament and I should clarify something at this point by pointing out that we were not invited but thought we had something to contribute anyway.

“What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer, and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.” – James Connolly

The JCS thought it was disgrace that the British monarch was invited to open the new Scottish parliament and decided to let her know. At the same time the residents of Garvaghy Road were living under siege from so called ’Loyal Institutions’ such as the Orange Order and we decided support for the residents should be central to the protest. The whole story of that day has never been told and sadly there is not room to tell it here. However this protest was organised with the full knowledge of Sinn Fein who at that very time were in negotiations with the British government and Unionist leaders at Stormont. In fact the JCS had made a decision the previous evening to call the protest off if an agreement was reached in those overnight negotiations. On the morning of the protest we spoke to Sinn Fein who confirmed no deal had been reached and the rest as they say is history.

All the protesters were resplendent in JCS ‘Disband the RUC’ t-shirts and ‘End the Siege of Garvaghy Road’ placards. Evading the cops we made our way over the barriers and past the royal protection squad. Once I was on the carriage I saw old Phil trying to get out the other side and noticed Betty could not take her eyes off my Disband the RUC t-shirt. I only found out later that Charlie was sitting opposite. He was very quiet. I still had the placard in my hand and despite the best efforts of the armed cops in fancy dress on the back of the carriage me and Betty shared a moment.

The conversation must remain between the two of us (for now at least) but suffice to say I made my point robustly. Our discussion was interrupted by one of the JCS shouting my name and just as well really as I was about to be attacked by a horse or more accurately someone dressed as a Beefeater on a horse. At this point I decided to make my excuses and leave. What happened next is for another day but it involved special forces, a gun on a string, refugees in Kosovo, terrified cops, handcuffs that didn’t lock and Tommy Sheridan.

All of that was thirteen years ago and as many people never tire of reminding us much has changed in the intervening years. And indeed it has but much remains the same, such as the British state’s continued denial of the Irish people’s right to national self-determination. Another thing that remains the same is the JCS’ commitment to the political philosophy of James Connolly and our commitment to working with others to end the monarchy and breakup the British state. At this political-economic conjuncture the UK state is in constitutional flux and desperately trying to reconfigure itself for the 21st century. Now is the time for republicans to be bold, principled and ambitious not to pander to anachronistic and sectarian manifestations of Britishness and elitism such as monarchy.

Had Martin sought my advice one tip I could have given him was that if he wanted to speak to Betty Battenberg in a language other than English he would have been better brushing up on German. I also could have advised him that, in my experience of such meetings, republicans would be better taking the James Connolly Society’s approach rather than Sinn Fein’s when it comes to meeting monarchy.

“Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the race. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanising of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogised today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes.”- James Connolly

 

First posted on 107Cowgate at:- http://107cowgate.com/2012/06/27/on-meeting-monarchy/

 

 

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