Jun 05 2012

Pass the Sickbag!

Salmond and the Royal Jubilee

I am looking forward to a fantastic weekend of celebrations right across Scotland to mark The Queen’s 60 years of loyal service on the occasion of Her Diamond Jubilee. Her Majesty has been, and contributes to be, a great friend of Scotland, offering her subjects unparalleled dedication and integrity as she has carried out her duties throughout her reign. This week, the Scottish Parliament put on record its admiration, respect and gratitude for all that the Queen has done for Scotland, and this holiday will enable the people of Scotland to do the same.

Up and down the country, people take time to reflect on the contribution of their monarch to Scottish life as they enjoy the variety of events on offer. At her Majesty’s request, these will be of moderate cost and will celebrate those who have, in their own way, offered outstanding service to their communities.

Alex Salmond, 3.6.12, Sunday Herald

Salmond and the Royal Wedding

Salmond who is known to have a warm relationship with the Queen, especially their shared passion for horse racing, has been seeking to reassure the royals.

He says they would continue to play a significant symbolic role in Scotland, with the Queen becoming head of State. He first advised the Prince of Wales of his commitment to keeping Scotland within the Commonwealth during a private meeting over whisky and sandwiches at Balmoral in 1998, reflecting strong public support among Scots for the retention of the royals.

In an interview this week he spoke of his affection for the monarchy, saying he would have had the entire city of Edinburgh covered in royal standards to mark the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton if he hadn’t been so busy electioneering.

Isabel Oakeshott and Jason Allardyce, Sunday Times, 29.5.11

Royal Wedding Sickbag

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Jul 26 2002

Empress Brown’s Jingo Jubilee

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 7:36 pm

Terry Liddle (South London Republican Forum) describes the opposition to Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations

The year 1887 opened with rioting by the unemployed in Norwich. Two members of the Socialist League were arrested and later imprisoned. The Socialist League was a split by members including Eleanor Marx, from the Social Democratic Federation, Britain’s first Marxist organisation, William Morris and Belfort Bax, who could no longer stomach the dictatorship of H.M. Hyndman. By 1887 the Republican agitation of the 1870’s was but a memory but the tradition of staunch opposition from below to the monarchy was kept alive by the new-born groups of socialists, particularly the Socialist League. Some Socialist League members, such as Joseph Lane had cut their political teeth in Charles Dilke’s earlier Radical republican campaign. The Socialist League aimed at the realisation of complete Revolutionary Socialism.

On January 12th, 1887, at a Liberal Party meeting, the national anthem was hissed and members of the audience cried out for the Marseillaise. This was a period of labour unrest. In April 1887, William Morris, who edited the Socialist League’s paper Commonweal, travelled to Northumberland to address a crowd of 10,000 striking miners. A demonstration for the miners, organised by the Glasgow Socialist League, attracted 20,000 people. This was also the period of the grab for Africa, when the imperialist powers of Europe were annexing every acre of land they could occupy. War was raging in the Sudan, a war the socialists of the time bitterly opposed. At an anti-war meeting Morris caused a stir when he attempted to move an amendment stating that the Sudan had been invaded in the interests of capitalists who wished to exploit it.

Policy of coercion

In Ireland the government continued its long-term policy of coercion against nationalists. When William O’Brien and John Manderville organised a meeting to oppose this policy they were summoned. At a preliminary hearing in Mitchelstown, County Tipperary, scuffles broke out and the police opened fire, killing two men and wounding several others. O’Brien was later imprisoned.

In March of the same year, socialists organised the anniversary celebration of the Paris Commune. The English translation of the first volume of Marx’s Capital had appeared. On April 11th there was a mass demonstration, over a 100,000 strong in Hyde Park, against the Irish Coercion Bill. Under its terms the Irish Land League was outlawed. Any manifestation of Irish nationalism was treated as an outrage. Gladstone spoke for the Liberals, George Bernard Shaw for the Fabians and Tom Burns for the Social Democratic Federation. Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling spoke from the Socialist League platform.

The agitators of the Socialist League had been hard at it, speaking at numerous meetings, particularly those of the Radical Clubs. Aveling held a series of classes at Plumstead Radical Club. The Radicals constituted a working class left wing of Liberalism and socialists were trying to win them over. The Plumstead Radical Club, for example, would eventually affiliate to the Labour Party.

The Radicals felt a great affinity for the Irish. The Patriotic Club, nowadays, Marx House, held a meeting on Clerkenwell Green to protest the landlords’ rack-renting and evictions. A delegation of Radicals had visited Ireland to express their solidarity with the small farmers’ struggles there.

On May 14th, Victoria went to the East End to open the so-called People’s Palace. This was a bourgeois philanthropic scheme to bring art and culture to the deprived masses of the area, without, of course, improving their wages, working or housing conditions. All along the route she was jeered. To the socialists she was Empress Brown, a title given by William de Morgan, after she had been crowned Empress of India. It was rumoured that after the death of her husband, Victoria not only sought spiritual consolation from her Scottish servant, John Brown, a powerful medium, but also shared his bed, even having his illegitimate child.

William Morris first came into conflict with the monarchy in the 1870’s when he opposed the efforts of the ruling class to drag Britain into another war with Russia, something Victoria greatly favoured.

At last on June 21st there dawned the great day of Victoria’s golden jubilee. Some 26,000 children were entertained in Hyde Park and a twelve year old girl was presented with an award by Victoria in person. Crowned heads from Europe and beyond came to attend the celebrations as well as Presidents from several republics. An envoy from the Pope was also present.

Hypocrisy & corruption

At the bottom of the social pyramid, the jubilee was far from popular. The Metropolitan Radical Federation issued an appeal for an anti-jubilee service on June 19th. The Socialist League issued a leaflet subtitled A word on the class war, outlining the technological advances of the previous fifty years and saying that Victoria, a mean old woman, had not had a hand in any of them. At a meeting in Llanelli, Victoria’s name was greeted with hissing. Neath Town Council refused to pay for any celebrations and Cardiff Trades Council refused to participate. A meeting in Bristol, addressed by socialists, carried two militant republican resolutions.

Writing in the Commonweal, William Morris stated, The powers that be are determined to show what a nuisance the monarchy and court can be as a centre of hypocrisy and corruption, and the densest form of stupidity.

He returned to the attack in the issue for June 25th. Whilst stating that it would benefit socialists little if the abolition of the monarchy gave place to a middle class republic, he felt it necessary to vent his anger at what he called tomfoolery and monstrous stupidity.

At least some people benefited from the Jubilee – in India, 23,000 prisoners were set free.

The pioneer socialists had to fight hard to carry out their activities. Open air meetings were often broken up by the police and speakers fined. In November a demonstration to protest at O’Brien’s imprisonment was savagely suppressed and William Cutner, a member of the Deptford Radical Society, which had a staunch Republican tradition, was killed, along with two others. Cutner’s funeral was closed with a song penned by William Morris. Socialists continued to attack the monarchy. In 1893 two members of the Commonweal Group were heavily fined for flyposting an attack on a royal wedding. Kier Hardie lambasted the monarchy in parliament and in his paper, the Labour Leader. The socialists who controlled Battersea Council, refused to celebrate Edward VII’s coronation and Edward was attacked in the pages of The Socialist, which became the paper of the new SDF breakaway, the Socialist Labour Party. The Social Democratic Federation included the abolition of the monarchy and the Lords in its 1903 edition of its programme.

In the 1930’s the Daily Worker regularly published brilliant anti monarchy cartoons. These were the work of Desmond Rowney, who was killed in action defending Republican Spain.

By 1977, at the time of Mrs Windsor’s silver jubilee, republicanism outside of Ireland was at a low ebb. However, republicans gathered in the rain on Blackheath, to celebrate the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and the Chartist demonstrations held there in the 1840’s. An anti-jubilee event in East London was attacked by fascists. The SWP did a good trade in Stuff the Jubilee badges. These haven’t yet reappeared.

This time round the monarchist ardour is on the wane. A celebration of the life and work of the Red Republican, George Julian Harney, has already taken place. On May 30th, the Socialist Alliance will be holding an anti-Jubilee rock concert in Brixton. And there will be Thomas Paine and Charles Bradlaugh celebrations in June and a meeting on Bradlaugh in Bromley in April. On May 25th there will be a march and meeting to remember the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands. There will be a strong anti monarchist element in the Socialist Alliance local election campaign in May. The war in Afghanistan is far from popular and the prospect of war in Iraq even less so. Mrs Windsor’s jubilee could well be the last!

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Jul 26 2002

Linking republicanism and socialism in Scotland

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 7:30 pm

Allan Armstrong looks at recent debates in the Scottish Socialist Party over republicanism and the jubilee

Scotland is the part of the United Kingdom with the widest anti monarchist feelings, yet it is somewhat ironic that the Scottish Socialist Party, despite being the most influential socialist grouping in these islands, showed its usual reluctance to deal with the issue of the monarchy at our February Conference.

The reason for this is not hard to seek. Traditionally, Militant was notoriously unionist and anti-republican; so much so, that their partners in the Six Counties would rather be associated with the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party (linked to the pro-British Ulster Volunteer Force death squads) than with Republicans. The CWI, by and large, still adhere to this position, despite their more recent support for a break-up of Britain road through an independent socialist Scotland! Obviously there are major problems in trying to remain British unionist in Northern Ireland and Scottish nationalist up here. In the process of breaking from the CWI, the ISM however, has become aware of this political inconsistency and has recently tolerated Republicans on socialist platforms, provided they were balanced with loyalists!

However, this warring tribes approach also remains politically inconsistent. Yet it still marked the ISM contribution to the anti-Jubilee debate at Conference. The fact that Tommy Sheridan mentioned the previously dreaded R-word three times in his Conference introduction, still didn’t prevent other ISM comrades stating it couldn’t be used in Scotland, because it was too associated with Ireland. Although not openly stated, underlying such contributions was the fear that the use of the R-word could cost us votes, particularly in the west of Scotland.

The fact that republicanism has historically been an inclusive brand of politics, uniting protestant (anglican), catholic and dissenter, whilst loyalism has been sectarian and exclusive – protestant and Orange, is completely lost on those who uphold a warring tribes approach. Of course Irish republicanism has had its own struggles with sectarian Irish catholic nationalism and has not always been successful in these. However, this battle between non-sectarian and sectarian forces has been continuous. Needless to say there has been no such history within the forces of loyalism. Loyalism has been marked by a crude anti-catholic sectarianism and the worship of the monarchy and empire. The struggle between republicanism and loyalism has represented the struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor and between national liberation and imperialism. Refusing to take sides in such a struggle leaves the SSP disarmed when sectarianism does rear its ugly face in Scotland. It puts us in a similar position to those old socialists who used to say that you shouldn’t challenge a man who beat up his wife, if he was a good trade unionist at work!

The Edinburgh-led James Connolly Society has been at the forefront of the struggle against loyalism and its apologists in the old Edinburgh District Council and also against reactionary and sectarian catholic nationalism. Every year socialist speakers are invited from a wide variety of backgrounds – Labour, SNP, Turkish hunger strikers, black American women, as well as from Sinn Fein, to address the James Connolly Commemoration held in Edinburgh. Despite this CWI/ISM speakers have over the years tried to demonise the JCS as an anti-socialist and sectarian. It came as no surprise when, once again, they resorted to the same stale old arguments to remove any reference to joint work with the James Connolly Society from the anti-jubilee motion to Conference. Yet in 1992, before the Scottish Socialist Alliance had even been founded, the James Connolly Society stood a candidate in the St. Giles/Holyrood ward of Edinburgh on the following platform:-

  • for free speech, against censorship
  • for a £250 minimum weekly wage
  • for pensions and benefits at the level of the weekly wage
  • for a united Ireland
  • for a Scottish republic
  • against racism and fascism
  • abolish the monarchy
  • for socialism

Quite clearly this is a fairly sound republican and socialist platform. Yet, although the CWI and ISM were against any major republican protest, this could still have been won at the SSP Conference, if the SWP had placed its weight behind the motion. Unfortunately, the SWP were split. This partly reflects a quasi-unionist political training which draws on Neil Davidson’s theory that the Scottish nation merely developed as a component of a greater British nation state. In his book, The Origins of Scottish Nationhood, Neil has provided a leftist supplement to Linda Colley’s influential book about the development of Britain – the well named, Britons, The Forging of A Nation. Whilst Colley outlines the British ruling class’s success in promoting a top-down British identity through a wider loyalist mobilisation; Neil highlights the role of Scottish/British constitutional reformists in the construction of a British nation state. What is completely missing from Neil’s book is the role of Scottish republican internationalists, such as Thomas Muir and the later leaders of the United Scotsmen, who quite clearly drew upon a distinct Scottish revolutionary tradition to promote a new internationalism from below, in alliance with Irish, English, French and Dutch republicans, against Britain. Today we need a new republican socialist alliance from below uniting our class in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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Jul 26 2002

Jubilee: Wales

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 7:27 pm

Mike Davies reports on Welsh Republicans’ preparations for the Royal Visit: Jiwbili ych a fi!

Welsh Socialist Republicans have been at the forefront in building a coalition against the Queen’s Jubilee Jamboree in June. Cymru Goch, Earth First! activists, leading trade unionists and socialists have come together to form an ad hoc group called Stuff the Monarchy to oppose the event.

The weekend of the official celebrations will see a Republican Festival in a Welsh social club called Clwb y Bont, Pontypridd, which has been declared a people’s republic for the duration of the weekend. It’s going to be a vibrant exchange of ideas, debate, music, poetry and videos from struggles around Wales and the world. Speakers include socialist republicans from Scotland and Ireland as well as anti-globalisation campaigners, community activists, trade union militants and direct actionist greens.

The weekend will also be the final chance for campaigners opposing the Queen’s visit to Wales on June 11-13 to get organised. The Festival will also be an informal meeting place for like minded socialists committed to national liberation. We see this as a chance to break with the stale electoralism of the Welsh Socialist Alliance and build a real alliance of socialists, direct action campaigners, trade union militants and community activists who have not been enthused by the lukewarm reformism of the current WSA.

The traditions of republican resistance to the monarchy are well established in Wales. The traditional method for the monarchy to win over the rebellious Welsh was a subtle thing called the Investiture of the Prince of Wales. This imposition first happened soon after military conquest and was repeated whenever the natives got restless. In 1911 and most recently in 1969, there were protests from radicals opposed to British rule in Wales. This very crude symbol of Wales’ annexation by England (no-one seems to remember needing a referendum for that one) remains a live possibility for when Queenie pops off and Charles finally gets a day job. It’s possible that William will be made Prince of Wales, but much will depend on the kind of reception the royals get on their tour of Wales.

Our Stuff the Monarchy campaign isn’t just about the Jubilee – it’s about ensuring that Charles is the last Prince of Wales and urging his Divestiture. It will continue beyond the Jubilee frenzy being whipped up by the Palace media machine and loyal newspapers. They have a steep climb to convince an apathetic population – and a hostile youth – that Royalty means anything to Wales.

There are interesting developments beyond the orthodox (i.e. Brit) left – a new radical language movement called Cymuned (Community) has sprung up in Y Fro Gymraeg (the Welsh-speaking heartlands) with 1100 members in just 10 months. Its recent conference placed it firmly in the camp of non-violent civil disobedience with a commitment to oppose colonialism and racism. It stands up for the rights of a community – the Welsh language community of 500,000 people and specifically the 300,000 or so who live in majority Welsh speaking areas in the West – to exist. It pits that right against the right of an individual and freemarket forces to destroy a fragile community and culture. In these areas at least, it is becoming a mass movement against speculative housing developments that are far beyond the reach of low-paid young local people.

Similarly, campaigners against waste incinerators and further opencast mining in some our most deprived communities are taking new and novel forms of direct action and lobbying to get their message across. All are being ignored by the mainstream political parties.

These new movements are part of a trend against capitalist party politics, against globalisation and for an imaginative rethink on who controls our communities and world. The trend towards direct action rather than electoral success underlines the common consensus that if you vote for Tweedledee or Tweedledum, you end up with Tweedledummer.

Welsh Socialist Republicans who are casting off the tired old orthodoxies of the British left are well placed to take their part in this new alliance of rebel forces.

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Jul 26 2002

How republicans around Britain and Ireland are the jubilee

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 7:13 pm

Socialist Alliance in England

It is the queen’s jubilee time and the Socialist Alliance in England supports all republican activities which seek to expose the lack of democracy at the heart of British society. The jubilee does not end on June 4. That is just the beginning of the monarchist jamboree up to the 50th anniversary of Elizabeth Windsor’s coronation, which is in 2003.

Socialist Alliance branches should discuss ways they can raise republican sentiment where they organise: in the localities, trade unions and in the campaigns they support. Rather than celebrate an unelected parasite on a throne for 50 years and the constitutional system she represents, the working class and socialists should celebrate the republican tradition of Britain. The Levellers and Diggers, Thomas Paine, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, the Suffragettes, William Morris, Tom Mann, the formation of the Communist Party, the general strike of 1926 and even diverse characters from society from Oliver Cromwell to the Sex Pistols. We should take the opportunity offered us in the following weeks to make propaganda for a democratic republic, the abolition of the House of Lords, proportional representation and a democratic society.

For this to happen, the working class needs to take a lead on democratic questions. The Socialist Alliance has a role to play in this. Our activities against the jubilee celebrations should seek to raise republican sentiment among the working class and to organise republican and anti-monarchist events across the United Kingdom Socialist Alliance National Council resolution, February 2002. However the June extended Bank Holiday should not be the end of it. Socialist Alliance policy is to seek to establish an ongoing organised working-class campaign for a republic after the jubilee celebrations. On the basis of activities by republicans both in and outside the Socialist Alliance we should seek to build an ongoing campaign.

What you can do:

  • Hold republican social events on the June bank holiday weekend: picnics, Barbecues, street and estate parties. Get your friends, family & comrades together to celebrate republicanism.
  • Apply for funding for your republican activities from your local authority. You probably won’t get approval, but send a press release saying that legitimate activity relating to the jubilee year is being blocked by the council.
  • Demonstrate when the queen visits your area. To find out her tour dates go to: Golden Jubilee – now defunct
  • Hold a gig, invite local bands.
  • Hold a public meeting on republicanism, the monarchy and democracy.
  • Hold a Socialist Alliance members meeting on the question of the republican tradition.
  • Have a debate with monarchists.
  • Write letters to the national and local press. Don’t let the republican voice be silenced.
  • Raise the matter in your trade union.
  • Hold a public event/stunt at your local town hall against the monarchy. Invite the press.

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