Jan 16 2017

STORMONT’S “CASH FOR ASH” SCANDAL – continued

 Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has announced that that he is stepping down as Stormont’s Depute First Minister. This move has been taken to precipitate an election in the face of the DUP First Minister, Arlene Foster’s role in the  “Cash for Ash” scandal. McGuinness’s decision has been taken with great reluctance, since it puts into question Sinn Fein’s proclaimed strategy of sustaining the post-Good Friday Agreement institutions on the path to a united Ireland. As a consequence, in order to maintain Stromont’s constitutionally entrenched sectarian set-up, workers and nationalists have been asked to make bigger and bigger sacrifices. These have accentuated by the wider global economic crisis and the ongoing political crisis facing the UK state, in the aftermath of the Scottish independence and Brexit referenda. 

Socialist Democracy (Ireland) posted this article just before McGuinness’s resignation, as a follow up to an earlier piece, which we have already posted (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2016/12/17/stormont-executive-backrolls-loyalism/).

IMPUNITY – BUT AT A PRICE

Martin McGuinness announces his resignation as Stormont’s Depute First Minister

The facts of the latest scandal to hit the administration in the North of Ireland are easily stated. An energy saving scheme (the Renewable Heating Scheme or RHI) devolved from the British Treasury, spun out of control and ran up liabilities of almost £500 million. The costs arose in two phases. In the first phase cost controls were removed and the subsidy was greater than the cost of the fuel. In the second phase closure was delayed while hundreds of those in the know piled in to get a share of the free money.  The person who signed off on the scheme as relevant minister was Arlene Foster. The person in charge as First Minister when the costs ballooned out of control was Arlene Foster.
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Mar 02 2016

THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS

 

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

Section A –  The UK State and Britishness

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

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

 

A. THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS

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Introduction

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

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

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

 

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

In some ways the position of black people in the UK from the late eighteenth century, addressed in Virdee’s book, represents an updated version of the toleration that appeared in the early days of capitalist development. This toleration was extended both to religious and ethnic minorities who performed a significant economic role within certain states. Such toleration was found in some city-states, e.g. Venice [4]and then in some mercantile capitalist states, e.g. the Netherlands, England, then the UK. These states produced regulations and developed practices that altered the status of those they tolerated, either for better or worse.
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Apr 20 2015

LIVING THE PEACE PROCESS IN REVERSE

The following extract is taken from an article by Robbie McVeigh, entitled Living the peace process in reverse: racist violence and British nationalism in Northern Ireland, in the current issue of Race & Class (Volume 56, April-June 2015, no. 4).

Virtually the whole of the Left has ignored the broader implications of the new pan-unionist alliance (UKIP, Tory Right and Ulster unionists and loyalists), which is challenging the current British ruling class ‘New Unionist’ ‘devolution-all-round’ and Peace Process settlement from the Right. Robbie McVeigh, however, makes specific reference to the new political situation created in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum. In doing this he is connecting to the arguments made on this blog that have highlighted this. He specifically points to the history of British ruling class sponsorship of  such reactionary forces, pointing out, not only several historical precedents, but the current collusion between the security forces in Northern Ireland and racist and bigoted unionism and loyalism, including its paramiltary manifestations.

This extract is followed by links to other articles on this blog making similar connections.

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LIVING THE PEACE PROCESS IN REVERSE

Robbie McVeigh

Robbie McVeigh

 

“It is important to remember that loyalism is a core component of British nationalism. This is an assessment of loyalism as a historical political formation, both as part of the politics of the British in Ireland and also of Britishness itself. It is anti-democratic ,racist, authoritarian populism. Moreover, it isn’t simply something belonging to the most reactionary elements of the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland, it is a British phenomenon. In other words, it isn’t rooted in the most lumpen elements of loyalist paramilitarism – although these provide useful allies – but in the most developed forms of British nationalism. Its genealogy can be traced to Randolph Churchill, with his cynical strategy of ‘playing the Orange Card’, through Lord Claude Hamilton to Enoch Powell; from the Curragh Mutiny to the Ulster Workers’ Strike. When the British Establishment rejects the consequences of formal democracy, this is what it looks like: a toxic cocktail of racism, sectarianism, anti-Catholicism, unionism, jingoism, militarism and paramilitarism.
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Oct 24 2014

STUC AND ITUC (NORTHERN COMMITTEE) DEMONSTRATIONS ON OCTOBER 18th.

On October 18th  the TUC, STUC and ITUC (Northern Committee) held demonstrations to protest against austerity.

Trade Unionists For Independence (East Coast) distributed the  leaflet below at the STUC rally, It’s Time to Create A Just Scotland, held in Glasgow on Saturday, October 18th. It was attended by 3500 trade unionists.

Socialist Democracy (Ireland) wrote the second piece about the demonstration in Belfast. 

1. AFTER SEPTEMBER 18th – BRING REAL DEMOCRACY INTO OUR TRADE UNIONS

 

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The campaign for Scottish independence has been the largest movement for popular democracy seen in these islands since the Irish War of Independence. In terms of electoral participation it was unprecedented. Voter registration was 97% and voter turnout was 85%.

We faced the biggest ruling class offensive, backed by the UK state, since the Miners’ Strike. Only this time it brought together a combined Tory/Lib-Dem/Labour Better Together ‘No’ alliance, UKIP, the Orange Order, other Loyalists, British fascists, the BBC, the Pope and the Free Presbyterian Church, and the USA and China!

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Feb 11 2014

‘JUST SAY NAW’ TO GALLOWAY’S SECTARIAN BRITISH UNIONISM

Bella caledonia posted an article by Richard Cameron (RCN and Edinburgh RIC) outlining the politics behind George Galloway’s Just Say Naw Scottish road tour (see http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/02/03/just-say-naw-to-galloways-sectarian-british-unionism/). Given the short time to write this article a number of errors appeared, none of which affected the overall arguments presented. However, Richard has now had time to correct these and to add an addendum, What is meant by communalism? The amended article is posted below, with thanks to all those who contributed.

This is followed by a report by on the Edinburgh Just Say Naw meeting held on February 3rd written by Allan Armstrong (RCN) for Edinburgh RIC . This was first posted on  posted at:- http://radicalindyedinburgh.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/report-of-galloway-roadshow-in-edinburgh.html

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1. JUST SAY NAW TO GALLOWAY’S SECTARIAN BRITISH UNIONISM

ARemember George the anti-Iraq war campaigner – look at his allies now

unjtitled-2With the Scottish independence referendum less than nine months away, George Galloway is bringing his ‘Just Say Naw’ roadshow to Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms on Monday February 3rd. A seat costs £10 a head – nothing comes cheap where ‘Gorgeous George’ is involved!

Galloway has been dining out on the Left for a long time since his triumph at the US Senate hearing, almost nine years ago, during the Iraq war. Whatever political differences others on the Left held then, we could all cheer his performance in front of such a smug, then thoroughly riled, bunch of war-mongering US politicians.

However, since then, it has been all downhill for Galloway as a credible Left politician. His Westminster election victories, won on a Left populist mix of Islamic communalism and Old Labourism, leave nothing solid behind. He only held the Bethnal Green and Bow seat from 2005 until 2010, and, in 2015, will almost certainly lose the Bradford West seat he won in the 2012 by-election. In Galloway’s own mind, this has no doubt been largely compensated by his financial gains for being an MP (albeit mostly absentee), from earlier substantial libel awards, from good earnings on the celebrity speaker circuit and, of course, from his cringe-worthy performance on Celebrity Big Brother.

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Oct 03 2013

SECULARISM: TIME TO SEPARATE CHURCH AND STATE

This is an introduction given by Allan Armstrong (RCN) to the Edinburgh branch of the Edinburgh Radical Independence Campaign on Monday, September 30th. It is followed by some responses from other socialists.

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Two interesting articles were published last week. The first one in The Herald (27.9.13) highlighted the recent Scottish census, which pointed out that, for the first time, those professing no religion had emerged as the largest and fastest growing group in Scotland (37%). The second article in the Sunday Herald (22.9.13) highlighted the growing penetration of Protestant fundamentalist church activity in Scotland’s ‘non-denominational’ schools.

The best way to understand and deal with such issues is to take a secular approach. Twenty years ago, most people, especially on the Left, would have been quite clear what secularism meant. Secularism is the complete separation of religion from the state. People’s choice of religion or of no religion is a private matter.
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Mar 26 2013

Allan Armstrong (RCN) replies to David Jamieson (ISG) – part 1

David Jamieson of the International Socialist Group has replied to two contributions made by Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/01/23/david-jamieson-of-the-the-isg-replies-to-allan-armstrong/). These took a critical look at ISG member, James Foley’s pamphlet, Britain Must Break, and examined the prospects for the Radical Independence Campaign, and the role of the ISG within it, following from  the successful conference held last November 24th in Glasgow. The RCN very much welcomes the ISG’s preparedness to enter into such debates in a considered and fraternal manner. 

There are a number of elements to David’s reply, which will be dealt with separately. However, the most immediate difference  arises over how the RIC should organise. Once some of David’s misunderstandings about what the RCN proposes are cleared up, then it may be possible to  agree on the  democratic form of organisation we all require. This could help  the ISG, RCN and other participants move the RIC forwards  to a higher political synthesis,  using people’s  varied contributions  and experiences. In doing so, the RIC would break with the sectarianism and opportunism which has characterised so much of the Left’s practice up until now. The current crisis in the SWP highlights the necessity for this.

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Oct 16 2012

SECTARIANISM HARDWIRED UNDER THE ‘PEACE PROCESS’

COVENANT MARCHES PROMISE ENDLESS SECTARIANISM

The  period  following  September’s  mass  Orange  demonstration  in  Belfast  commemorating the signing of the Ulster  Covenant  the  event  leading  to  Ireland’s Nakba, the partition of the country and generations of violence, colonial rule and sectarian division was followed by widespread expressions of relief and hope for the future.

There had been no violence. The Orange Order had said they were sorry for  the hurt feelings of nationalists. They had even spoken to a priest. By and large they had obeyed  the determination of  the Parades Commission and, aside from the usual demonstrations of sectarian hatred outside two churches and one bandsman urinating on a church, things had gone well.

But things were bound to go well. The determination that the Orange Order “obeyed” was written by themselves. The sequence of events was as follows. The Loyalists had a clear run on the 12th July demonstrations. Parade Commission determinations were minimal and  Sinn Fein mobilized  across the  North to police any protests. One Loyalist band went viral on the internet doing a  war dance outside a Catholic church and singing the sectarian “famine  song”.  All this is perfectly routine,  other than exposure on the internet.

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May 18 2012

NORTHERN IRELAND – EDUCATION CASE STUDY ILLUSTRATES SECTARIAN REALITY



John McAnulty of  Socialist Democracy (Ireland) provides an example, from the Stormont administration of education, to show how the reformed set-up helps to maintain sectarianism  in Northern Ireland .

 

The journey from republicanism to administration of the Northern state rested on two main planks. One was the thesis first advanced by Michael Collins in relation to partition – that it was a transitional arrangement – a stepping stone to a united Ireland.

That plank was abandoned during the last election, when Sinn Fein came out of the closet as a populist Catholic party. What was left was a belief in the second plank – a belief that the Northern state can be gradually reformed – made more democratic and with greater rights for workers. It is a very popular and widely held view.

A key plank of this perspective was advanced by Sinn Fein when they took the education portfolio and announced that they would abolish the 11+. Alas, the reform fell on its face.

The Shinners were suckered out of millions for school building by the Catholic hierarchy, who first indicated that they would end selection and then expressed amazement at a “revolt” by Catholic grammars. The revolt was so acute that a member of the reform commission was simultaneously a governor of a “revolting” grammar.

Unofficial transfer tests were instituted. This being the North, the claim of a dying sectarianism was refuted when we ended up with two tests – one Catholic and the other Protestant.

At the beginning of May Sinn Fein education minister John O’Dowd attempted to breathe life into the reform by announcing that “action would be taken” against primary schools preparing pupils for the unofficial tests. The statement was purest bluster. The action proposed was writing a stern letter. The purpose of the statement was to remind Sinn Fein supporters of the party’s claims of radicalism.

Unfortunately for Sinn Fein, First Minister Peter Robinson also has obligations to the DUP. These are to assure them that Sinn Fein’s position is entirely subordinate and that the system of sectarian and class privilege that the DUP defend in education will be preserved. Within days he announced that there was no prospect of agreement on transfer and that he would take steps to introduce a single official transfer test.

So absolutely no sign of reform in an area where a large section of the population would support it. Even where reform is agreed, as with the creation of a single Education Authority, the process is hollowed out by building the old sectarian interests inside the new body. Even then fine tuning of the different class and sectarian interests means the agreement may never be implemented.

If reform isn’t working there are plenty of things that are working. The Sinn Fein programme of austerity and of privatization of school building and of nursery provision means thousands of teacher redundancies and many school closures, with the minister reduced to rare press announcements where limited spending is counted twice or three times to announce recycled  initiatives. The massive cuts agenda rolls on. In the absence of reform of the 11+ grammars will be protected and the cuts will fall on secondary schools and on working-class areas.

The mechanism that keeps the whole show on the road is the system of sectarian privilege sponsored by the British. Sinn Fein no longer blather about taking the first ministers position – such a development would be likely to collapse the agreement. Indeed recent amendments bar them forever from the justice ministry and they no longer bid for major financial ministries. The party has become a sinecure in education because of the endless opportunities for patronage. In outside society the community relations council report progress while recording the rise of sectarian peace walls from 22 to 88 and the increasing racism in civil society.

Claims of reform and of progress are now the new ideology.  Even suggestions by members of the administration of the humdrum banality of sectarianism and class war in golf clubs led to roars of disapproval and hasty retractions. All is well is the best of all possible worlds while sectarianism festers and austerity bites.

 16 May 2012

 

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