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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Nov 27 2014

A CONSTITUTION FOR THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND

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Steve Freeman is the convenor of the Constitutional Commission of the Left Unity Party (LUP). As a member of the Scottish Republican Yes Tendency, disbanded after September 18th, Steve has been arguing for the LUP to take proactive position on the issue of Scottish self-determination and in opposition to the Union.

Steve Freeman addressed last year’s RIC conference (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/11/25/2nd-ric-conference-after-the-uk-the-future-of-4-nations/). Along with others from the Republican Socialist Alliance, Steve organised the ‘London Says Yes’ rally (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/09/10/to-scotland-with-love-a-report-from-the-london-says-yes-rally-on-september-6th/) on September 6th.

The LUP held its conference between November 15th- 16th conference, but the leadership ensured that the draft constitution was not taken. Despite the LUP leadership’s continued appeasement of British Left Unionism, these  proposals for a Commonwealth of England have attracted wider attention. There are now other socialist republicans in the Republican Socialist Alliance, A World to Win, open Democracy, Chartist and Red Pepper who do appreciate the significance of what has been and is happening in Scotland. They understand the need for a united struggle against the UK unionist state and its imperial alliance with the US.

Therefore, in the lead up to the to the third RIC conference, and the session entitled ‘Extending Scotland’s democratic revival – Linking up progressive movements across these islands’, Emancipation & Liberation is publishing the LUP Constitutional Committee’s draft Constitution for the Commonwealth of England. Steve Freeman will be at the RIC conference on November 22nd.

 

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DRAFT CONSTITUTION FOR THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND

Introduction

The Scottish referendum provided an opportunity for the largest constitutional change in the UK since 1922 when the Irish Free State was created. The Act of Union (1707) is one of the pillars of the British constitution and its abolition would have had major and unpredictable consequences for the rest of the UK. A majority of Scottish voters rejected this at least in part because of the promise of greater powers. This has heightened the imbalance in the UK constitution and the contradictions of having a semi-federal system as highlighted by the ‘West Lothian’ question in which Scottish MPs vote on matters which affect England and not Scotland (e.g. NHS).

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