Jun 22 2018


Review of The Red and the Green – Portrait of John Maclean by Gerard Cairns

Gerard Cairns has recently published his informative and challenging new book, The Red and the Green – A Portrait of John Maclean. I have known Gerry since the early 1990s and I would find it hard to call him Gerard, so I will use Gerry for the rest of this review.

The book’s title reveals the two main aspects of Gerry’s assessment of John Maclean. The Red and the Green highlights Gerry’s research into ‘Red’ John and his relationship with the ‘Green’ or Irish community on Clydeside .[1] A Portrait of John Maclean examines Maclean the political activist and family man. It raises questions about how Socialists organise and relate to others, especially their partners and families. When assessing  Maclean, Gerry brings his own personal experience to bear. “This has been a very personal portrait of a man I have researched, studied, lectured on, debated for a long time.” [2] Thus Gerry’s book is viewed through the prism of his own life of political activism. Continue reading “ALLAN ARMSTRONG REVIEWS ‘THE RED AND THE GREEN’ BY GERARD CAIRNS”

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Aug 09 2017


Socialists are now confronted with the unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the re-emergence of British Left social democracy. This first part of this article by Allan Armstrong will examine the significance of this and make a critical appraisal of their future prospects in the face of the current global multi-faceted political, economic, social, cultural and environmental crisis.

Contents of Part 1

   1.      From May 2007 to June 2017 – the SNP rules the social democratic roost in  Scotland.

   2.     The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and British Left social democracy

   3.     The prospects for Corbyn and British Left social democracy when handling economic and social issues

   4.    The limitations of Corbyn and British Left social democracy when dealing with matters of state

             A.  Brexit

             B. The National Question

a.  Conservative, liberal and unionist attempts to maintain the unity of the UK state since the nineteenth  century

               b.  Corbyn and the National Question in Ireland

               c.  Corbyn and the National Question in Scotland

               d.  Corbyn and the National Question in Wales



1. From May 2007 to June 2017 – the SNP rules the social democratic roost in Scotland

i.     Following the demise of New Labour and its successor, ‘One Nation’ Labour, the SNP has been the most effective upholder of social democracy in the UK. In 2007, the SNP won 363 council seats; 425 in 2012, and 431 in 2017. In 2007, the SNP won 47 MSPs; 69 in 2011; and 63 in 2016, (still easily the largest party at Holyrood). In 2010, the SNP won 6 MPs; 56 out of 59 in 2015, but fell back to 35 in 2017 (still having the largest number of MPs from Scotland by some way). Continue reading “A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY”

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Jul 07 2017


Allan Armstrong was delegated at the RISE National Forum held in Edinburgh on 8th April to be its representative at the LUP conference on May 20th. Due to the General Election this was postponed to June 24th. Attached is the full version of the talk he prepared for the conference held in London. In the event, because of time constraints, the oral version was slightly abridged.

This was first posted on the LUP blog:- http://leftunity.org/rise-speaker-addresses-lu-conference/


I would like to thank the LUP for providing me with the time to address your conference as a visiting representative from RISE. Many of you here today are old enough to remember the heyday of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), which had a considerable impact throughout the UK. The SSP united the overwhelming majority of socialists in Scotland and at its height had 6 MSPs. It inspired the Socialist Alliance (SA) in England and Wales. Although the SP and the SWP managed to sabotage the SA, the SSP’s downfall was an almost entirely Scottish affair. This can be largely laid at the feet of a certain Tommy Sheridan.

After 2004, socialists in Scotland were very divided. IndyRef1, though, provided an opportunity for socialists to regain political influence. Young socialists, largely unaffected by ‘Tommygate’, initiated the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in 2012. This coalition, or united front, brought together, not only many of the previously divided socialists, but the Left in the SNP and the Greens and a majority not involved in any party. Continue reading “ADDRESS TO THE LEFT UNITY CONFERENCE ON JUNE 24th”

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Aug 29 2016


The Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) is to be relaunched in Glasgow on Sunday, September 18th. This body was first constituted on November 30th, 2005, on the initiative of the Scottish Socialist Party. The SNP gave its support, but then ensured that it was kept firmly at arm’s length whilst the party developed its own links with big business, and further accommodated to US and British imperial interests.

When the  SNP leadership eventually launched its own front campaign, ‘Yes Scotland’, in Edinburgh on 25th May 2012, the SIC took no part in this decision. For the SNP, the main purpose of SIC had been to tie up the Left and to prevent a republican alternative from emerging  – although the split that had occurred in the SSP certainly helped them in this endeavour.

Below we are republishing a pamphlet published in 2006 in response to the first SIC. This was produced by the RCN Platform in the SSP. The article anticipates some of the retreats the SNP went on to make to gain respectability, e.g. the climbdown over NATO.

Although today’s political situation is not the same as in 2005, there are still many things to be learned from this particular attempt to subordinate any independent class initiative to the political requirements of an SNP leadership, which represents the interests of a wannabe Scottish ruling class in the making.







The RCN has been pushing the SSP (and its predecessor the Scottish Socialist Alliance) to adopt a republican and internationalist strategy in Scotland since its inception. We initiated the 2005 SSP Conference motion, which was passed by a large majority of delegates.

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Aug 20 2015


We are posting this  review by Colin Barker (RS21) of Satnam Virdee‘s book Racism, Class and the Racialized Outsider. This book is an important contribution to the debates around race and class. It was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of rs21 magazine. It can also be seen at:– http://rs21.org.uk/2015/03/21/the-secret-of-its-weakness-racism-and-the-working-class-movement-in-britain/





Satnam Virdee has written an important book. It is a history of working-class struggles to win economic and social gains, and to gain access to democracy in Britain, viewed through the prism of ‘race’.

From the start, English and then British capitalism was founded on imperial expansion, drawing under its control large parts of the world, and ‘importing’ into its territory large numbers of people from the lands it conquered, colonised and robbed. Yet many accounts of British working class development are silent on the presence and the impact of migrants, their sufferings and resistance, and the vital ‘racial politics’ that shaped both the major waves of popular resistance and the troughs between them.

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May 11 2015


Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society in None of the Above calls upon socialists and republicans to have a closer look at the nature and record of the SNP. This was first posted at:- http://107cowgate.com/2015/05/05/none-of-the-above/

Murdo Ritchie (RCN ) in his Abandon the Mind-forg’d Manacles offers an alternative analysis of the rise of the SNP.




None of the above? This is the question I’ve been asking myself for the last few weeks. Or perhaps more accurately for the last few years. Having never been a member of a political party, I’m what pollsters call a floating voter. Granted, as someone who has been a political activist for nearly 30 years, I might not be the stereotypical floating voter but nonetheless I have no tribal loyalty to any political party.

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Oct 08 2012


A response to the Red Paper Collective’s

Power for Scotland’s People – A labour movement view

The ‘Independent Scotland Debate’ was organised by the Edinburgh Peoples Festival on September 9th. 86 people attended this well-conducted event in the Out of the Blue Centre in Leith. The speaker supporting independence was Kevin Williamson of bella caledonia, who argued from a Left nationalist perspective. The speaker opposing independence was West Lothian Labour MSP, Neil Findlay. Neil is also a member of the Red Paper Collective [1] (RPC), which includes British Left unionists in the Scottish Labour Party and the Communist Party of Britain [2]. Supporters of the RPC handed out their pamphlet, Power for Scotland’s People – A labour movement view [3], to elaborate on the points Neil made in the debate.

This website has already posted critiques of Left nationalist approaches to the SNP government’s 2014 referendum [4]. This posting is a critique of the British Left unionist approach outlined in the RPC’s pamphlet [5].


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Sep 16 2012



The Scottish government’s 2014 ‘independence’ referendum has produced a flurry of analysis and activity amongst the Left in Scotland. This has led several Socialist organisations to come together to promote the Radical Independence Conference (1) to be held in Glasgow on 24th November.  One of these organisations, the International Socialist Group (Scotland) (ISG) (2), has produced a pamphlet, Britain Must Break, written by James Foley, to explain its own thinking in adopting this course of action (3).

The RCN has already posted its own contributions to this debate online (4). We look forward to Socialist organisations’ assessments of our work in this regard. In the same spirit, we will comment on other Socialists’ contributions. Therefore, we welcome this pamphlet from James Foley and the ISG.

The purpose of this particular review and contribution is not to dismiss Britain Must Break from some ‘superior’ or ‘politically correct’ viewpoint, but to assess what is positive in it, to highlight areas where its arguments need to be further developed, but also to examine some possible false leads and dead-ends and to offer alternatives. By adopting such an overall approach, it is possible to see where the ISG’s pamphlet contributes to an independent working class perspective on the forthcoming referendum, or where it could pull the Scottish Left in other political directions.


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May 31 2012


This article was first written for socialists in England and Wales. It has been published on the commune website (see http://thecommune.co.uk/2012/05/25/what-can-we-tell-from-the-scottish-local-election/), and  issue 23 of Permanent Revolution, in slightly edited forms.

The Scottish local council elections, held on May 5th, have attracted much wider interest than would normally normally be the case for such an event. The primary reason for this is the mounting speculation arising from the SNP Holyrood government’s promised Scottish independence referendum in 2014. The media has become more aware that the current UK constitutional arrangements face a real challenge. Therefore, whenever any Scottish election occurs, the runes are carefully being read to see if support for independence is growing or falling away.

The usual presumption is that votes for the SNP can be directly interpreted as support for Scottish independence. There are a number of problems with this. A vote for the SNP represents different things in different contexts. This can be seen by examining the very different voting patterns in the Westminster, Holyrood and local elections; and also by comparing these to polls showing the levels of support for Scottish independence (however this is understood [1]).



2005 – % vote, no. of seats

2010 – % vote, no. of seats


17.7 (-2.4), 6 (+2)

19.9 (+2.3), 6 (0)


39.5 (-4.5), 41 (-5)

42.0 (+2.5), 41 (0)



2007 – % vote, no. of seats

2011 – % vote, no. of seats


32.9 (+12), 47 (+20)

45.4 (+12.5), 69 (+23)


32.2 (+2.9), 46 (- 4)

31.7 (-0.5), 37 (-9)


Local council

2007 – % vote, no. of seats

2012 – % vote, no. of seats


27.9 (+3.8), 363 (+182)

32.3 (+4.4), 424 (+61)


28.1 (-4.5), 348 (-161)

31.4 (+3.3). 394 (+46)


 Summary of TNS polls showing support for Scottish independence 


Aug. 07


May 08

Jun. 08

Oct.  08

Jan. 09

For independence







Against independence







Don’t know








May 09

Nov. 09

May 11

Aug. 11

Jan. 12

 May 12
For independence






Against independence






Don’t know








The SNP’s support in Westminster elections is much weaker than in either the Holyrood or local council elections. The reason for this is clear. It is impossible for the SNP ever to form a Westminster government. Even people who support independence (and all the polls since 2007 show support for Scottish independence lying considerably above the SNP’s recent best result at Westminster in 2011) are prepared to vote for anti-independence parties. Usually this means voting for Labour to keep out the Tories. The extent to which this is true was shown in the 2010 Westminster election, where Labour in Scotland bucked the British trend and actually increased its % vote [2]. They also won 42% of the vote compared to the SNP’s 19.9%.

However, in the Holyrood elections, the SNP has done much better. Their spectacular election victory in 2011, with 45.4% of the vote, came about because many non-independence supporters saw the SNP as a better bet than Labour when it comes to opposing the Con-Dem Westminster government’s cuts in Scotland (and this was in the context of the SNP having formed a minority Holyrood government since 2007). The SNP was able to position itself as a better social democratic-style party in Scotland than Labour (not a hard task!) In 2011, the SNP’s % vote went well above the support for Scottish independence suggested in the opinion polls at the time.

Now, when it came to the May 5th local council elections in Scotland (and here, unlike England and Wales, every seat was up for election), another factor has first to be taken into account. The turnout was considerably down on the 2007 election – from 52% to 38% – but that was because this time the local election did not coincide with the Holyrood election. However, the turnout was still 6% higher than in England, and this is not a usual characteristic feature of other Scottish elections. It is quite likely that the wider national interest generated by the looming Scottish independence referendum did account for this difference in turnout, although it is not obvious which parties benefited most from this.

On one hand, the supporters of the current Union, especially Labour, were quick to point to the ‘collapse’ of SNP support from the high point of 45.4% in the May 2011 Holyrood election, to 32.3% [3] in the May 5th 2012 local elections [4]. Yet, any comparison of the SNP’s support between the 2012 and 2007 local elections, especially when compared with Labour’s, shows that they actually performed quite well. However, to reiterate, the continued increase in support for the SNP at local council level is not the same thing as increased support for Scottish independence. Neither does the drop in support from the Holyrood election necessarily mean a decline in support for independence.

Therefore, the SNP leadership, on the other hand, was quick to claim how much better they did than Labour on May 5th, in terms of the % vote, additional seats won, and the total number of council seats they now hold. However, this can not disguise their real disappointment in not taking Glasgow from Labour. Glasgow City Council had become a byword for Labour corruption and sleaze.  The Scottish party leadership had been forced to step in and push for the deselection of 17 sitting councillors, who immediately defected in February, forming Glasgow First. This left the ruling Labour group as a minority administration. Yet, on May 5th, despite the SNP increasing its vote in the city by 8% and its number of seats by 5, Labour also increased its vote by over 3%, losing only 1 seat overall. They easily saw off the Glasgow First challenge (who only held on to 1 seat, showing they had indeed spent far more time looking after their own immediate interests, rather than showing much concern for their constituents [5]), and were able to once more form a majority administration in the city.

Nobody, not even Labour, had expected this, although they had fought back like cornered cats. They well knew that if Glasgow fell, the immediate danger was not so much a surge in support for Scottish independence. The problem for Scottish Labour was the likely ending of its longstanding and widespread patronage. This had launched so many careers – not just political, but also in administration and service management. Future career prospects were not looking too good after Labour had already lost control at Westminster in 2010, Holyrood in 2007, and so many Scottish local councils in 2007 – down to 2.

However, SNP Glasgow council group leader, Allison Hunter, came to Labour’s assistance. She belongs to the party’s ‘Ally MacLeod’ [6] wing. They believe that all you need to win is to cheer on your side the loudest, and ignore the opposition’s strengths (even if these do consist of relentlessly negative tactics).  Thus, just before the election, much to the consternation of the SNP national leadership, she very publicly stated that, “Glasgow would be a stepping stone to independence.” This turned out to be nearly as embarrassing for today’s SNP leadership, as Ally Macleod’s 1978 answer to the question, “What do you plan to do after the World Cup”, to which he replied, “Retain it”!

The SNP’s national depute leader (and likely successor to Alex Salmond), Nicola Sturgeon, had already claimed at their party conference earlier this year, that she thought that the SNP could take Glasgow. However, she made sure that she did not link this with any hype about the prospects for the Scottish independence referendum.

The SNP’s strategy is two pronged. The Scottish independence referendum represents just one of these. When the SNP formed a minority Holyrood government after 2007, they made no attempt at the time to implement their promised independence referendum. Then, they had the excuse that this would just be voted down by the mainstream unionist parties’ majority, and the last thing they wanted was to mobilise extra-parliamentary support on the streets, and upset those they were now assiduously trying to court.

So this period was marked by the public support given to Salmond and the SNP government by prominent business figures, including Sir George Matthewson of the Royal Bank of Scotland (something that proved a temporary embarrassment when the Credit Crunch struck!), Sir Brian Souter of Stagecoach, and Sir Tom Farmer of Kwikfit. However, as well as making it clear that they wanted the SNP to pursue pro-Scottish business policies, they also indicated that they wanted no major constitutional conflicts. For some, ‘Devolution-Max’ was their preferred option. A significant section of the SNP leadership think likewise – including most prominently, Michael Russell, current Education Minister, along with others, mainly, but not exclusively, on the SNP’s neo-liberal right wing.

Salmond’s first success, after 2007, lay in quickly silencing the ‘Independistas’, both inside and outside the SNP. They had formed ‘Independence First’, and initially called for an extra-parliamentary campaign to bring forward the promised independence referendum. However, Salmond soon persuaded them that waiting to achieve a Holyrood majority in 2011 was the best course. ‘Independence First’ disappeared, with more and more of its supporters falling in behind Salmond’s strategy.

When Salmond did achieve his sensational Holyrood SNP victory in 2011, the ‘Independistas’ began to think ‘he walked on water’. Some had been involved in the even lower-key Scottish Independence Convention, which the SNP leadership had joined to stifle. However, the strong likelihood is that this will go the same way as ‘Independence First’. Salmond launched the SNP’s official ‘Yes’ campaign [7] in Cineworld in Edinburgh on May 25th. After this, the ‘Independistas’ are most likely to concentrate instead on forming the ‘Tartan Army’ or ‘Ally Macleod’ wing of the official ‘Yes’ campaign [8]. They will be praised when the going is good and damned whenever their ‘Braveheart’ approach embarrasses the SNP leadership. They will not be allowed to have any influence on the SNP leadership’s own strategy, which means keeping Scottish business interests placated, and Scottish establishment figures appeased.

It has been clear for some time that Salmond would like the 2014 ‘Independence-Lite’ referendum to have a second ‘Devolution-Max’ question. This is because the second prong of Salmond’s political strategy is to develop a wannabe Scottish ruling class. The SNP’s current Scottish business (and global corporate) supporters want a Scotland that can compete more effectively on the global capitalist market (primarily by lowering corporate taxation [9]), and which still participates in the US/UK imperial policing of the world [10]. They also like the idea of retaining the monarchy, not so much out of any particular devotion to the queen (although Salmond himself seems besotted), but to reassure British unionists and to have those Crown Powers at their disposal, should things get too rough.

‘Independence-Lite’ already amounts to little more than ‘Independence within the Union’, with the SNP government’s acceptance of the monarchy, sterling (and hence effective control of the economy by the City [11]) and Scottish armed forces remaining under the British High Command. However, a ‘Devolution-Max’ option would provide a wannabe Scottish ruling class with an even less ambitious second option to help it gradually increase its influence, particularly over fiscal policy, if British ruling class opposition to ‘Independence-Lite’ proves to be too intransigent.

Yet, despite the continued attempts by Salmond to appease the British Establishment (including its Scottish unionist component [12]), the US state, and the global corporations (e.g. Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump), there is little indication that the current British ruling class and its British unionist leaders will play ball. Putting the unionist parties’ public bravado aside, the British ruling class is fully aware that the UK is a declining power. It now faces a prolonged period of economic crisis, and there is no room for an uppity wannabe ruling class wanting a greater slice of a diminishing cake. This is why the British unionist parties have chosen a strategy designed to give Salmond and the SNP government a ‘bloody nose’ in the forthcoming referendum campaign. In Scotland, it is Labour, desperate to cling on to all that patronage, which will take the lead in this. Indeed, Tories will keep a low profile north of the border!

If you only examine the clearly visible public politicking around the independence referendum, you could be forgiven for thinking that the British unionists have acted in a pretty cack-handed manner so far. They failed to prevent the SNP’s referendum from going ahead, and revealed in the process, their underlying hostility to the principle of national self-determination. Both Jeremy Paxman and Labour Lord Foulkes’ attempts to paint Salmond as Mugabe or Mussolini misfired spectacularly, especially when Salmond’s obvious role model is so much closer to home – Tony Blair!

However, what we are witnessing is the British unionists’ step-by-step withdrawal from their outer and not so well-held defences to their inner, very well-armed strongholds. Furthermore, you can not see all the hidden, behind-the-scenes, anti-democratic preparations going on, especially those sanctioned under the UK state’s Crown Powers. Salmond is astute enough to know, that any ‘Ally Macleod’-style, ‘attack, attack, attack’ tactics are unlikely to deliver a majority ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 referendum [13].

It looks as if Salmond’s hopes of a ‘Devolution-Max’ referendum option have been stymied by the inability of ‘civic Scotland’ (i.e. the Scottish Labour Party and STUC ‘in civvies’) to cooperate, and by the SNP’s own internal ‘Independista’ opposition. However, Salmond has lived through two other major SNP setbacks [14] (the first in 1979, straight after the first failed Scottish Devolution referendum; the second in 2003 the with loss of 8 MSPs in the Holyrood election). He knows that the SNP can still recover, if it champions certain class interests. Should the referendum independence option go down to defeat in 2014, Salmond or Sturgeon are likely to quickly demand the ‘Devolution-Max’ option, which some unionists have promised [15] after a ‘No’ vote. They can see the precedents for further advancing a national ruling class incrementally within the existing state established by Catalan Convergence and the Parti Quebecois in Spain and Canada respectively.

Therefore, Salmond’s longer-term strategy is to appeal to ever widening sections of the Scottish middle class (and hopefully even some jaundiced Scottish members of the British Establishment) to seek their fortunes in a future ‘independent Scotland’, rather than be held back by the increasingly reactionary British Establishment. What the business-savvy Salmond [16] proposes is not so much a hostile takeover of part of UK plc; but more a junior management partial buy-out, with the promise of continuing profitable cooperation in the future. The existing UK state institutions north of the border would then be marketed in ‘tartan dress’.

And, it is this desire to develop a wannabe Scottish ruling class that highlights the importance of the ability to dispense patronage in Scotland, whether at Holyrood or at local council level. Salmond, and of course Scottish Labour, both knew what was at stake in the May 5th election. This has been shown by the Labour Party’s subsequent determination to exclude the SNP from as many local council administrations as possible, even if this meant forming coalitions with the Conservatives in six councils – Aberdeen, East Dumbartonshire, East Lothian, Falkirk, East Ayrshire and Stirling [17]. The only apparent exception to this is Edinburgh – the sole example of Labour in coalition with the SNP – but even here, this was only after the Conservatives turned Labour down first!

Labour in Glasgow, though, already knew before the election that they had to see off Glasgow First, if they were to guarantee their more ambitious backers future access to the much greater rewards through cooperation with big business, compared to the smaller-scale, more localised spoils their former colleagues, now in Glasgow First, were so desperate to cling on to. Learning from this, the Glasgow SNP group quickly ditched its leader, Allison Hunter, after the election, and replaced her with the much more on-message, Graeme Hendry. He was quick to declare that,  “Our work begins now to put in place a team of spokespeople from this talented group which will continue to hold labour to account and start the process of developing ideas that will help this great city” – not a word about the forthcoming independence referendum there!

So, were the Scottish local elections just a two-team fixture – SNP and Labour? Labour were able to oust the existing SNP administrations in both Renfrewshire and Dumbartonshire. Renfrewshire had seen the threat of large-scale teacher strike action backed by local parents, in protest at a particularly ill-judged education cut; whilst the SNP in West Dumbartonshire had imposed drastic cuts on already hard-hit local communities. And the SNP was able to finally oust Labour in Dundee.

When in opposition, Labour opposed ‘SNP cuts’, just as the SNP opposed ‘Labour cuts’, when they found themselves in the same situation. Neither party publicly owned up to the second part of their policies – but ‘support Labour cuts’ or ‘support SNP cuts’ respectively! However, in West Dumbartonshire, the sitting SSP councillor, Jim Bollan, held on to his seat in Renton, in what was once the Vale of Leven’s ‘Little Moscow’. The ruling SNP group had suspended Jim for six months for his continued support for actions taken by his local community in defiance of the cuts. However, Jim’s very welcome victory was the only bright spot on another bleak electoral night for socialists in Scotland. The divisions caused by ‘Tommygate’ continue to bedevil the Scottish Left; whilst the absence of any effective action in defiance of the cuts, have left workers looking for ‘easy’ electoral alternatives, and hoping against hope that SNP or Labour election promises will be honoured.

One precondition for any socialist resurgence is the ability to become centrally involved in the resistance that is bound to arise. Most government cuts have been delayed for longer in Scotland, and have yet to be fully enforced. One obvious obstacle in achieving this is the various competing anti-cuts campaigns promoted by the socialist sects.

However, another precondition for significant advance is for socialists to appreciate the political significance of the Scottish independence referendum and its ability to produce a constitutional crisis for the UK state. The economic and political are not two separate issues, but are very much linked in the context of growing crises in both these spheres of capitalist control.

Therefore, the political situation could still change very dramatically before 2014. There is nothing inevitable about the domination of the campaign for greater self-determination by the SNP [18].  Socialists will need to confront both the existing British ruling class with its Scottish unionist supporters, and the rising Scottish wannabe ruling class and its SNP backers. Ambitious? Yes – but the nature of the times means that we have to raise our sights.

 Allan Armstrong, RCN, 24.5.12

[1]             The SNP government’s own proposals only amount to ‘Independence-Lite’, or ‘Independence within the Union’, although there is considerable support for more extensive self-determination, including a complete republican break with the UK state, amongst supporters of Scottish independence.

[2]             In Scotland, unlike the rest of Britain, the Lib-Dem % vote declined in 2010.

[3]             This does not take into consideration the additional SNP support has at national level in the Highlands and other areas, where non-party Independents are still a major factor at local level.

[4]             This does not take into account the difference in turn-out rates between local and national elections, and the future independence referendum will certainly be a national event. However, there is no particular reason to believe that the turnout factor in the local elections under-estimated the SNP support at this level.

[5]             One of those who fared badly was former Solidarity councillor, Ruth Black, who first defected to Labour, becoming closely linked to disgraced former council leader, Stephen Purcell. She received 48 votes!

[6]             Ally Macleod was made manager of the Scottish football team in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

[7]             The platform party, led by Alex Salmond, included Denis Canavan, former Labour MP and MSP, Tommy Brennan, former trade union convenor at Ravenscraig steelworks (closed under Thatcher), and several figures from Scotland’s cultural scene, of whom pride of place was given to the actor Brain Cox, who declared himself a former longstanding Labour member but still a democratic socialist now he supported Scottish independence.

[8]             This nature of this official SNP campaign will be instantly recognised and jealously regarded by the SWP and SP, who know a front campaign when they see one, given their own practice  in the Right to Work Campaign and the National Shop Stewards’ Network respectively!

[9]             Although, the SNP government has also paid a large government subsidy to the US-based anti-trade union employer, Amazon, to set up a new distribution centre in Scotland.

[10]           The SNP opposed the Iraq war but warmly supports the role of Scottish regiments in Afghanistan.

[11]             Edinburgh’s much vaunted finance sector is, in effect, a branch office of the City. This was  highlighted by the spectacular fall of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland, and the subsequent (Labour initiated) British government bailout.

[12]             One example of this has been the SNP government’s insistence that Megrahi was guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, and was only released from Barlinnie prison on “compassionate grounds”. The SNP does not want to alienate the powerful Scottish legal establishment, by suggesting they were complicit (with US and UK security service backing) in a miscarriage of justice at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. The ‘inherently compassionate’ nature of Scotland’sjustice system, compared to that in England and Wales, would not be obvious to anyone else who had been through it!

[13]             And, even in the unlikely event of this happening, the British ruling class would not just give up, and warmly embrace ‘Independence-Lite’. They will use all the constitutional, political (including their US connections) and economic power at their disposal to obstruct this. Indeed, they would be mightily aided in this, by the constitutional powers they still held in Scotland under the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’ proposals.

[14]             Although in both of these cases Salmond’s vaunting pride was not directly affected, since he was not the party leader at the time, something he was not slow to hint at!

[15]             Few people in Scotland take such promises seriously, after Sir Alex Douglas Hume’s promise that a ‘No’ vote in the 1979 Devolution referendum would lead to an incoming Conservative government bringing in a better devolution measure!

[16]             Salmond was an energy economics advisor for the Royal Bank of Scotland, after working for the influential joint public-private sector Government Economic Service.

[17]             The SNP are in coalition with the Conservatives in two councils – Dumfries and Galloway and East Ayrshire – and with a dissident pro-independence Conservative in Midlothian. However, the Labour Party claims to be anti-Tory on principle, whereas the SNP is anti-British unionist party. This stance does not rule out cooperation with Scottish members of any of the unionist parties, in a similar way that the SDLP and Sinn Fein were prepared to make deals with the Ulster Unionists, long before that was very reluctantly reciprocated.

[18]             Although, the likelihood of the British Left taking the lead from the Conservative/Lib-Dem/Labour unionist alliance opposition to the SNP is indeed remote, despite the victory of the Left populist and strongly British unionist, George Galloway in Bradford. His ‘real Labour’ electoral appeal did not work in Glasgow in the Holyrood election last year, in the face of competition from the ‘real social democrats’ of the SNP.

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Jan 20 2009

Internationalism From Below

The challenge to the UK state and British Empire from 1879-95

Contents of forthcoming book

  1. Introduction
  2. The growing conflict between liberal and conservative unionism in the period of New Imperialism
  3. Michael Davitt and the launching of the Irish Revolution in 1879
  4. Davitt adopts an ‘internationalism from below’ strategy to spread the revolution
  5. The struggle against coercion and for land triggers off a new movement in England and Scotland
  6. Parnell’s ‘counter-revolution within the revolution’
  7. Shifting the main focus of the ‘internationalism from below’ alliance to Scotland
  8. The ending of the liberal consensus in the face of the rise of the New Imperialism
  9. Davitt widens his ‘internationalism from below’ alliance, and brings in Wales
  10. ‘Internationalism from below’ and the weaknesses of Irish nationalism and British Left radicalism
  11. From land and labour struggles to the beginning of independent labour political organisation in Scotland
  12. From land nationalisation to the eight hour day
  13. Broadening the ‘internationalism from below’ alliance around the political demand for Home Rule
  14. 1889-92 – the new industrial and political offensive
  15. The rise and wider effects of New Unionism in Ireland
  16. The limits of Davitt’s politics reached as the Irish Home Rule Movement splits
  17. The thwarted hopes of New Unionism and the Home Rule Movement after the 1892 General Election
  18. The employers’ offensive and the retreat of New Unionism
  19. The final break-up of the ‘internationalism from below’ alliance
  20. 1895 – High Imperialism triumphant and the emergence of Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party

1. Introduction

Why should we spend time examining a period of history from over a hundred years ago? Perhaps the best reason is that, between 1879 and 1895, there are striking parallels to the situation we find ourselves in today. This was also a period of increasing inter-imperialist competition, as the previously dominant world power began to lose its leading position. In the late nineteenth century it was the UK that found itself in this new position in the world; today it is the USA, with the UK continuing to fall well down the global pecking order.

Furthermore, when we compare the situation in the UK, over the two periods, we can see the continuing significance of national democratic challenges to the unionist state. The Irish Revolution(1), which began in 1879, led to a questioning of the very existence of the UK, and to profound divisions amongst the British ruling class over how best to maintain its rule over these islands and their wider empire. The demands for national self-determination in Ireland, Scotland and Wales were linked to major social and economic struggles. Clearly, there are significant echoes of this situation today.

From 1875, under the impact of the New Imperialism(2), Disraeli’s Conservative government had begun to pursue increasingly aggressive colonial policies. These reflected the concerns of a British ruling class, now facing global competition from a larger number of European states. From 1879, however, a challenge developed to this recharged British imperialism. The new opposition drew its politics largely from the social republican tradition found in Ireland, and the radical tradition found in England, Scotland and Wales. It formed largely as result of the failure of traditional Gladstonian Liberals to uphold their earlier support for civil rights and opposition to colonial expansion.

Michael Davitt, migrant, former textile worker, Fenian and Irish Land League organiser, was the central figure involved. He attempted to unite land and labour struggles, across the four nations constituting the United Kingdom, and beyond into the British colonies and the USA. Davitt developed an ‘internationalism from below’ alliance to win wider support for the Irish National Land League (INLL), one of the biggest ‘lower orders’ movements in the nineteenth century UK. However, he deepened this alliance in England, Scotland and Wales, by contributing to the development of independent land and labour organisations in each of these nations.

The leader of the INLL, Charles Parnell, though, had other ideas. In 1882, he closed down the INLL in order to form a purely constitutional nationalist party, the National League, with the aim of winning Irish Home Rule. However, the first Irish Home Rule Bill, adopted by Gladstone’s Liberal government, was defeated in 1886, and a new government, led by the Conservative Lord Salisbury, took office.

Davitt now had to confront the thoroughly jingoist, racist and sectarian Unionist alliance. It would countenance no concession over Irish Home Rule, and revelled enthusiastically over every latest imperial exploit. This was the conservative unionist approach to maintaining British ruling class domination at home and abroad. It vehemently opposed the liberal unionist approach(3) with its support for home rule (devolution) for the constituent nations of the UK.

As New Imperialism increased its stranglehold on British politics, the Liberal Party, including many on its Radical wing, were drawn into its slipstream. A section of advanced Radicals, however, reacted against this and made the first tentative steps towards Socialism. Robert Cunningham-Graham and Keir Hardie were just two examples. However, many former Radicals (and Liberal Party members), who became Socialists, retained much of their earlier politics.

Furthermore, the Conservative Party, hitherto seen as a major impediment to any democratic advance, began to develop a Tory Democrat wing. Its supporters made appeals to the newly enfranchised workers. They were offered limited economic reforms in return for giving their support to British ruling class attempts to expand the Empire. Disraeli was one of the first to see the possibilities of harnessing the link between reform and Empire; but it was Randolph Churchill, who attempted to develop this further, by appealing directly to the working class. He also strongly linked expansion of the British Empire with the defence of the existing British Union. He looked to the local dignitary-led, Orange Order in Ulster, for inspiration in forming his pro-imperial, cross class alliance.

Many workers were drawn into Conservative Unionist and further Right populist organisations. They did hope to gain economically from the Empire, or to draw some psychological comfort by celebrating their racial or religious ‘superiority’. The growing number of wars directed against the peoples of the colonies took only a small number of British lives. The real cost was to come later, when the inevitable consequence of growing inter-imperialist competition led to the mass slaughter of the First World War. The leaders of the Conservative Unionists though, were then able to look with smug satisfaction as their Liberal, Irish constitutional nationalist, and some Labour and Socialist ‘opponents’, threw themselves into the promotion of the carnage.

However, back in the 1880’s, a few Tory Democrats, such as Henry Hyndman and Henry Champion, broke with the Conservative Party and became leading figures in the new Socialist movement. Like the former Radical Liberals, these individuals also retained aspects of their old politics, especially their lingering support for English/Anglo-Saxon/British supremacy and racism. Some of the clashes, which took place in the early Socialist movement, reflected this earlier division between Radical Liberals and Tory Democrats.

The infant Social Democratic Federation (SDF), formed in 1885, showed many of the characteristics which have plagued later attempts at Socialist agitation – whether to concentrate on direct action and socialist propaganda or to seek political office; and whether to seek constitutional change or economic reform. Failure to develop a coherent programme and an integrated strategy contributed to many of the setbacks and consequent splits amongst Socialists at the time, just as they continue to do today.

One of these breakaway organisations was the small but quite influential Socialist League (SL). It soon became divided between those who wanted to make propaganda for Socialism, and those, mainly in its affiliated Scottish Land and Labour League (SLLL), who wanted to orientate upon trade union, crofter and cottar struggles.

However, it was the launching of the Irish Land War, in 1879, and the formation of the INLL, which had largely inspired the formation of the SDF, as former advanced Radicals turned to Socialism. They joined the wider struggle against those forces, both Conservative and Liberal, either aggressively advancing the Empire and defending the Union, or meekly bowing before this new onslaught.

The social struggle was closely linked to the political battle for greater Irish self-determination. Furthermore, as new Land Leagues were formed in Scotland and Wales, the demand for Home Rule was taken up in these nations too. The majority of the independent Crofter candidates of 1885, and the new Scottish Labour Party, formed in 1888, supported both Irish and Scottish Home Rule.

Many key individuals, from the land and labour struggles of the 1880’s, contributed to the massive wave of ‘New (Trade) Unionism’, which burst out in 1889. They faced a similar situation to that faced by socialists and trade unionists today. Only then, socialists were up against the politics of Lib-Labism. Trade union leaders were still tied to an earlier Radical Liberal vision of a Free Trade Empire and a ‘fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

Today we are up against the politics of New Labour, with trade union leaders locked into ‘Social Partnership’. Sometimes these misleaders may still hanker back to the disappearing vision of the post-war, Welfare State Empire, when workers in the UK were looked after ‘from the cradle to the grave’.

Furthermore, prior to 1889, the vast majority of unskilled and casual workers lay outside the Old Unions. Today, union membership has shrunk back to a minority, mostly concentrated in the public sector. This has left vast numbers of private sector workers, particularly women, migrant and part-time workers unorganised.

Today, the majority of the British Left is tied to a Broad Left strategy of recapturing the ‘old’ unions by replacing their existing leaders with new Left leaders (many of whom are earlier Broad Left leaders!) In contrast, any contemporary ‘New Unionism’ would aim to thoroughly democratise existing unions and bring them under rank and file workers’ control; or, where necessary, build completely new unions to organise those workers now completely unorganised.

Nor is the Left nationalist notion of breakaway unions much use against the global corporations, which workers confront today. Yes, national (and sectoral) union sections need more autonomy, but unions should be as extensive as possible. The key issue is not the existence of union HQ flying a national flag (e.g. the tricolour or saltire), but the necessity for union sovereignty to reside with workers at the workplace level, not in the union HQs. The independent Scottish teachers’ union, the EIS, is one of the most fervent upholders of the embrace of government and employers, not so much in social partnership, more a morganatic marriage(4).

Today, some may take comfort from the fact that the majority of the British ruling class has opted for the liberal, and not the conservative unionist option, in order to maintain its rule over the UK, and its continued, albeit now indirect, influence over Ireland. New Labour promotes ‘Devolution-all-round’ (i.e. for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and the ‘Peace Process’ in Ireland, backed by the social partnerships of compliant trade union and demanding governments and employers.

Yet, the aims of today’s liberal unionists are the same as those of the conservative unionists of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. They both want to create the best political environment for their principal class backers. Today this means allowing corporate capitalists to lower wages, attack working conditions and undermine pensions, through deregulation and privatisation. It means fawning before the requirements of finance capital.

The British ruling class may indeed have learned some political lessons from their one-time support for intransigent conservative unionism. When Conservative and Liberal Unionists tried to face down the rising demand for Irish Home Rule, in the 1880’s, ‘90s and first two decades of the twentieth century, this eventually proved to be a disastrous strategy for them. By 1922, direct rule over ‘the Twenty Six Counties’ had been ended, and the UK state had begun to break-up.

However, the post-1922 UK-Irish ‘settlement’, imposed after the threat of a renewed war on the Irish people, seemed so permanent, that this lesson appeared to be forgotten by the late 1960’s. This was when new national democratic movements confronted the British ruling class. Initially this ruling class did flirt with both liberal centralist(5) and devolution(6) measures to deal with these challenges, which coincided with major working class struggles. However, once the ruling class had reasserted its control, under the two post-1974 Labour governments, it returned to the old failed conservative unionist strategy of defence of the constitutional status quo, backed by threats and coercion. Meanwhile, anti-trade union laws soon tamed most union leaderships. The TUC and the Labour Party leaders left the miners isolated, when they defied these new laws. The NUM faced the full panoply of state power between 1984-5. The Labour/TUC’s acceptance of ‘New Realism’ was but the beginnings of the road back to the Lib-Lab ‘Old Unionism’ of the nineteenth century, and its complete acceptance of capitalist rule.

Thatcher’s British Unionist ‘No, No, No’ intransigence first began under Labour, in the late 70’s in Northern Ireland. The attempt by Labour Irish Secretary, Roy Mason, to criminalise any effective opposition had its parallels in Forster, Gladstone’s Liberal Irish Secretary, and his introduction of coercion to Ireland in 1881, long before Lord Salisbury’s Conservative Irish Secretary, ‘Bloody Balfour’ was given free rein in 1887.

The failure of the UK state to meet the constitutional and economic reform demands raised by the Civil Rights Movement in ‘the Six Counties’, produced another period of constitutional instability, lasting over a quarter of a century. An overt and determined republican challenge emerged within the UK’s frontiers. Thatcher’s later attempt to deny any political self-determination, for either Scotland or Wales, made the ‘National Question’ an even wider and more volatile political issue.

This is one reason why the majority of the British ruling class unceremoniously dumped Thatcher in 1990 and, under John Major’s government adopted The Downing Street Agreement. The Conservatives were now committed to a liberal unionist strategy to defend the Union. When this proved too limited to contain the wider challenge, the ruling class turned instead to New Labour’s policy of ‘Devolution-all-round’. This is, in effect, a return to the old nineteenth century Liberal Home Rule strategy.

However, as with the nineteenth century division between Conservatives and Liberals, there is little difference today in the real aims of the Tories and New Labour. Both are committed to maintaining a British imperial presence in the wider world. Both accept that the British ruling class can now only achieve this as a junior partner to US imperialism. This leads to continuous wars, attacks on civil rights, austerity welfare provision, and the scape-goating of migrant workers. There is now a tension between New Labour and the Tories’ liberal unionism and their increasingly conservative militaristic imperialism. And, under today’s prevailing political conditions it is the liberal unionism which is more likely to give.

New Labour soon falls back on the nastier traits, usually associated with conservative unionism and imperialism. Indeed, as international competition becomes more pronounced, in the wake of the current Credit Crunch and the deepening worldwide recession, New Labour is preparing the ground for even more jingoistic, racist and sectarian forces.

The Immigration Minister, Philip Woolas, has shown that it is not only conservatives, who will stoop to the gutter, when it comes to racist attacks to divert attention from the real causes of the economic crisis. Meanwhile, the rise of the BNP, and the continued presence of malevolent loyalist forces in ‘the Six Counties’, show that even more sinister forces are lurking not far below the surface in the UK. Events in Berlusconi’s Italy demonstrate that it is but a short step to government encouraged racist assaults and murders of migrants and ethnic minorities.

As we try to build a new socialist movement, an appreciation of the Left’s politics, between 1879 and 1895, provides us with useful insights. The Radicals were then the dominant force on the Left, from whom the infant socialist and labour movements inherited much of their politics. The Radicals wanted to return to the mid-century ‘glory days’ of free trade and international peace.

Today’s Left includes those ‘Marxist’ Radicals – the entrants and outriders of the British Labour Party – who hope to re-establish the welfare state and to prolong the long period since 1945 without a world war. This is often tied to their Broad Left strategy for reclaiming the trade unions for ‘real Labour’. However, just as the rise New Imperialism, at the end of the nineteenth century, spelled the end of the old international ‘free trade’ capitalist order, so the development of corporate capitalist imperialism today means that the post-1945 social democratic world has changed irrevocably. New answers and approaches are required.

‘Marxist’ Radicals in the SWP and Socialist Party(7), often defend the formation and continued existence of the UK as a ‘progressive’ achievement. They claim this historical gain needs to be defended against the attacks of the nationalists in Scotland and Wales, completely failing to see the wider democratic issues at stake. They take some consolation in the ‘Peace Process’ in ‘the Six Counties’, which appears, for the time being, to have reopened the road for ‘bread and butter’ issues, i.e. traditional labourist politics.

When ‘Marxist’ Radicals are forced to address the major democratic and constitutional issues, they tend to follow their nineteenth century Radical predecessors. They either see the ‘National Question’ as a diversion form the ‘real struggle’, or give support to liberal unionist options to defend the UK.

Some ‘Marxist’ Radicals go further, but still only end up tailing the more thoughtful sections of the British ruling class, when they call for more powers for the existing devolved assemblies. A few would go so far as to advocate a new federal arrangement between the constituent parts of the UK. This last ditch liberal option has a long pedigree, whenever the British union state is under threat from national democratic movements. Others, however, hide behind the formulation of support for the ‘right of national self-determination’. The political effect of this is to leave it to the various nationalist parties to take the lead formulating the politics of the national democratic movements.

By examining past history, we can see that the politics of those advocating various ‘British roads to socialism’ are but continuations of an older British Radical tradition, which dominated the Left in the UK, in the late nineteenth century. Radicals tended to leave the political initiative to the Liberal Party and their Irish nationalist allies. Today’s ‘Marxist’ Radicals also take their political lead over the UK constitution from the liberal wing of the British ruling class, or sometimes, if unwittingly, from the nationalist parties – Sinn Fein, SNP and Plaid Cymru.

Yet, between 1888 and 1894, an alternative tradition developed, which recognised some of the weaknesses of the ‘Marxist’ Radicals. The Scottish Socialist Federation (SSF) was formed, which brought together SDF and SL/SLLL members, as well as other socialists, to try and go beyond the politics of Radicalism and the subservience of Lib-Labism. In some respects the SSF anticipated the Scottish Socialist Alliance, (SSA) formed in 1996, in the aftermath of the Anti-Poll Tax Struggle, along with the continued failure of the Labour Party to meet workers’ needs.

In the end, just as Davitt’s social republicanism collapsed into populist nationalism in Ireland, so the SSF, along with the Scottish Labour Party, it had backed, collapsed into the hybrid Radical/Tory Democrat tradition of ‘the British road to socialism’ found in the Independent Labour Party or the SDF. Today, after a major internal crisis, the SSA’s successor organisation, the Scottish Socialist Party, faces powerful pulls, in the form of Left nationalism and Left unionism.

By 1895, the limitations of Davitt’s politics had become quite apparent, as the British ruling class regained the political initiative and derailed the Home Rule challenge. Furthermore, Socialists, at the time, were unable to take the vigorous post-1889 New (Trade) Unionism challenge forward. It also went into retreat, taking on some of the characteristics of ‘Old Unionism’ once more. A new politics was needed to unite the political and economic wings of a wider working class movement.

However, it was within the SSF milieu that a real alternative began to emerge, in the figure of James Connolly. Like Davitt, he was a member of an Irish migrant family. Connolly’s family had settled in Edinburgh. He received his initial political training within the Scottish Socialist Federation and the Scottish Labour Party. He was to make a quantum leap in his political approach, though, when he moved to Dublin and founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in 1896.

Connolly developed the socialist republican politics needed to take Davitt’s social republican and radical ‘internationalism from below’ alliance on to a higher level, during the heyday of High Imperialism from 1895. Connolly’s consistent anti-unionism and anti-imperialism offered a clear strategy, which opposed both the Irish constitutional nationalism and the ‘British road to socialism’, which was supported by most of the British Left of his day. Instead, Connolly promoted a ‘break-up of the UK and British Empire road to socialism’.

In today’s world, imperialism still calls the shots. The continued existence of the UK provides the British ruling class with a powerful bastion of support. This unionist and monarchist state is fundamentally undemocratic. It gives the British ruling class a whole host of draconian Crown Powers to maintain its rule. Even the formally independent Irish Republic has to bow to British ruling class needs. This was highlighted by Irish leaders’ recent reluctant acceptance of the liabilities of UK-owned banks in Ireland. Nor did the Irish government get many thanks for their pioneering bank rescue plan to save domestic capitalism, much of which Brown and Darling so quickly copied and took credit for.

However, the current financial crisis has also highlighted the close links between leading Scottish nationalists and the British banks. In panic, they have quietly rushed into the arms of the UK government to develop a common approach to address shared capitalist concerns. Meanwhile, in public, the SNP and New Labour continue their political squabbles, jockeying for position to gain relative advantages for their particular capitalist backers.

British politicians, whether they are Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat, continue to argue with SNP politicians over the extent of power to be awarded to the devolved Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. However, they all agree that the monarchy and the ruling class’s Crown Powers have to remain in place, that the Bank of England will control the economy through the continued use of sterling, and that suitable arrangements have to be made to accommodate NATO and to protect US imperial interests. All these parties are wedded to neo-liberalism and are in hock to corporate capital.

The nationalist parties represented in the various devolved assemblies, in Holyrood, Cardiff Bay or Stormont, make no attempt to mount a joint challenge to continued British rule, or to the all pervading corporate capitalist power over these islands. Whilst Plaid Cymru leaders may be envious of the powers already devolved to the Scottish Parliament, it is pretty clear that, if parity were to be achieved, this would merely signal their intention to compete more effectively for inward corporate investment. When Donald Trump threatened to abandon his golfing complex project in Aberdeenshire, in stepped the then DUP Minister, Ian Paisley Junior, to offer an alternative site on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland.

Just as Davitt and Connolly realised, in their day, that they faced the combined forces of British imperialism (whether it be Conservative or Liberal) and Irish nationalism (whether it be Parnell or his successors), so socialists face a similar combined opposition of Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem unionists and nationalists today. By studying our class’s history, we gain the advantages of hindsight. This is why we need to look once more to rebuild an ‘internationalism from below’ alliance of republican socialists in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.


  • (1) ‘The Irish Revolution’ is the term given by Theodore Moody to describe the major period of social and political upheaval between 1879-82, initiated by the Irish National Land League and the ‘Land War’.
  • (2) New Imperialism developed in Europe, the USA (and later Japan) in the 1870’s. This followed the defeats of the Paris Commune in 1871, and the overthrow of the Radical Reconstruction (the concerted state-backed attempt to bring about black emancipation in the USA, after the Civil War) by 1877.
  • (3) Here, liberal unionism refers to one of the two overall approaches taken by the British ruling class to defend the Union. It is not to be confused with the Liberal Unionists, who were adherents of a conservative unionist strategy.
  • (4) A morganatic marriage was an arrangement by which a king had a queen who was entitled to none of his property and whose children had no inheritance rights. In other words she only had the right to be screwed!
  • (5) It was one of the ironies of history that Northern Ireland, ended up, in 1922, with the sole devolved parliament in the UK, in the form of Stormont, despite the Ulster Unionists’ earlier vehement opposition to Home Rule. This ‘Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People’, far from being liberal in inspiration, more resembled the old reactionary, pre-1801, Irish Parliament, in its attempt to exclude Catholics (or Irish nationalists) from any share of power. Thus, the Conservatives’ closure of Stormont in 1972 and resort to Direct Rule was initially a very weak liberal centralising political measure. However, responsibility for much of this ‘direct rule’ was undertaken by the British armed and security forces, negating any liberal intentions.
  • (6) The proposals for Scottish and Welsh devolution enjoyed wider support, both from liberal unionists and constitutional nationalists. However, political support for a liberalised and reformed Stormont was much more narrowly based, and found primarily amongst constitutionalist nationalists.
  • (7) Whilst the tradition of the Tory Democrats has virtually no remaining political purchase upon Socialists today in the UK today, it still perhaps enjoys a kind of afterlife in the Labour Unionism still found in the Socialist Party in ‘the Six Counties’. Here the SP has been known to flirt with plebian loyalism, particularly the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force.

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