Mar 02 2016

THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS

 

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

Section A –  The UK State and Britishness

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

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

 

A. THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS

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Introduction

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

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

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

 

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

In some ways the position of black people in the UK from the late eighteenth century, addressed in Virdee’s book, represents an updated version of the toleration that appeared in the early days of capitalist development. This toleration was extended both to religious and ethnic minorities who performed a significant economic role within certain states. Such toleration was found in some city-states, e.g. Venice [4]and then in some mercantile capitalist states, e.g. the Netherlands, England, then the UK. These states produced regulations and developed practices that altered the status of those they tolerated, either for better or worse.
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Feb 24 2015

ROLLING BACK SCOTLAND’S ‘DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION’

Allan Armstrong (RCN) updates his socialist republican analyses of constitutional developments in the UK and Ireland, in the led up to the May 2015 Westminster election.

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ROLLING BACK SCOTLAND’S ‘DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION’

1. British unionists and Scottish nationalists attempt to derail Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’

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There are several important features to the political landscape we can currently see in Scotland and the wider UK. One key feature is the shock that the ‘Yes’ campaign gave to the British ruling class and, in particular, to their representatives in the mainstream unionist parties.

The referendum campaign had conjured up a ‘democratic revolution’, beyond either the control of Westminster or Holyrood. Voter registration was 97% and voter participation was 85%. Scotland experienced a wave of public meetings, canvassing, street stalls and cultural events, along with a huge volume of electronic correspondence and face-to-face conversations throughout the campaigning period.

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Sep 12 2014

BETTER TOGETHER, UKIP, THE ORANGE ORDER AND THE UK STATE – What they have in common

Allan Armstrong (RCN) digs a little deeper into the provocations being mounted by UKIP and the Orange Order on the weekend (12-13th September) before the Scottish independence referendum.

 

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You’re dead right about that, Nigel!

This weekend the people of Scotland face the double whammy of Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and the Orange Order, in their bid to save the Union. Farage is holding his ‘pro-Union’ rally in Glasgow tonight. The Orange Order is marching to support ‘British Together’ tomorrow in Edinburgh. The two events are not unrelated.

‘Better Together’ have tried to distance themselves from UKIP and the Orange Order. However, both UKIP and the Orange Order draw much of their sustenance from the most reactionary features of the UK state, which ‘Better Together’ also defends.  These consist of the monarchy and the anti-democratic Crown Powers, the established Protestant establishment, the Union brought about by conquest or intimidation, the British imperial tradition with its legacy of countless wars, Trident and of course its symbol – the Union Jack, known in much of the world, with very good reason, as the ‘butchers’ apron’.

The SNP government has not broken with all these features of the UK state. However, the referendum vote this Thursday is not for the SNP, but for the chance to create a politically independent Scotland. All those thousands of people, who have been mobilised throughout Scotland, in the biggest campaign for democracy seen in the UK since the Irish War of Independence, can become part of a wider campaign for a social, secular and democratic Scottish republic. A ‘Yes’ vote opens up that opportunity. Amongst those registered for the Yes campaign are the Radical Independence Campaign, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Greens and Women for Independence.

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Sep 03 2014

UP TO AND BEYOND THE SEPTEMBER 18th INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM – A socialist republican perspective

Allan Armstrong (RCN) has written an account of the Scottish independence campaign since the SNP launched its official ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign in 2012 up until the last two weeks before the September 18th referendum. This is based on several contributions Allan has already made on this blog. It is also a contemporary update of his historical piece, The Making and the Breaking of the UK State (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/01/11/internationalism-from-below-2/). This article also looks at the possibilities beyond September 18th.

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UP TO AND BEYOND THE SEPTEMBER 18th INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM – A socialist republican response

 

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a)                   The Scottish independence referendum – not an exercise by the UK of the right of self-determination

b)                   The SNP leadership’s strategy

c)                   Cameron’s strategy pushes Labour into the frontline of the defence of the Union in Scotland, whilst he controls things at a UK level

d)                   Attempts to widen the political base of support for the Union

e)                   The new challenge to social liberalism and the ‘New Unionist’ settlement from UKIP, the Tory Right, the Ulster Unionists and Loyalists

f)                    Enter the unexpected – a new movement from below

g)                   The lack of class confidence underpins both official campaigns and the inherited weaknesses of the Left affect RIC too

h)                  After September 18th

 

a)         The Scottish independence referendum – not an exercise by the UK of the right of self-determination

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Jun 26 2014

MAKING PLANS FOR NIGEL

Allan Armstrong (RCN) examines the situation Socialists face across these islands in the light of the recent European election and the ongoing Scottish independence referendum campaign. 

 

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A SOCIALIST REPUBLICAN ANALYSIS OF THE STATE OF THE UK AND ‘NEW UNIONISM’ IN THE LIGHT OF THE RISE OF UKIP AND THE FORTHCOMING SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

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CONTENTS

 

Introduction

 

1.         How the British ruling class sees their strategy for retaining control over    these islands

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