Aug 05 2019

LOYALIST BONFIRE VICTORY IN BELFAST

Socialist Democracy (Ireland) reports on the latest UK state accommodation to Loyalism, during their annual Belfast bonfire rituals.

 

LOYALIST BONFIRE VICTORY IN BELFAST

Can this be compensated for by dreams of a future modernity?

 

 

In the aftermath of the paramilitary victory at a Belfast “11th night” bonfire, correspondents were quick to spread an emollient salve over the bruised egos of sections of the middle class.

Following UVF threats and the leaking of the names of private contractors charged with dismantling an illegal bonfire in the car pack of a local council leisure centre, police and council workers withdrew and triumphant loyalists went ahead with their bonfire.

A pyrrhic victory proclaimed the commentators. Society is moving on. The bonfires, and the Orange demonstrators generally, are becoming less popular and less respectable.

This is to confuse two separate things. The popular base of loyalism and its material base in mass Protestant employment in shipbuilding and engineering has declined. But this is not the sole element of their power. The patronage of the British state is still there and in fact is amply demonstrated by the council and the police in the current incident. The demonstrators were a few hundred. The UVF members are well known and their ability to intimidate is due to the level of impunity extended by the state. Support by the extensively bribed Orange leadership was lukewarm. Yet still the loyalists prevailed. Why?

Council policy is based around a £500 000 funding split between Sinn Fein and the DUP. The loyalist element of funding is not meant to stop bonfires, despite the obvious sectarian provocations, but to use a combination of bribes and pressure to house train the builders and reduce the obvious impunity with which they operate  The bribes for bonfire displacement are so generous that many of last year’s grants, awarded in July, were spent for Xmas festivities.  Impunity is demonstrated when firefighters routinely hose down homes at risk, but not the bonfires themselves.

The police story is that defiance of the law, intimidation and sectarianism are not matters for the police, but matters of dialogue in the wider community.

The new chief constable, Simon Byrne, proved his fitness for the job by explaining away their inaction. The UVF should watch out. The police had many specialist units to hand, operating undercover, and they would target the UVF throughout the year.

Unfortunately for Simon, the facts did not match the rhetoric. It emerged that the police had had a meeting with the leader of the east Belfast UVF. They explained that this was not a formal meeting. Graffiti threatening civilian contractors remained on walls for several days while police and council argued about responsibility. Above all stood the spectre of Cantrell Close. Two years ago the UVF forced catholic families out of an area designated as shared accommodation. The role of the police was to deliver the threats on behalf of the paramilitaries. The local DUP MP ran cover for the paramilitaries. The area is now routinely bedecked with loyalist flags and anti-IRA banners  each Twelfth season.

The immediate losers in this situation are Sinn Fein. Their tranche of bribes kicks in in August through the funding for  Belfast Feile week, when they must tell nationalist youth to attend pop festivals rather than proclaim dissatisfaction from behind bonfires. This task  has become much more difficult, but the propaganda element of the Feile has been stepped up, with claims that a united Ireland is just around the corner, historical reminiscences proving their revolutionary credentials and a fireside chat with the far right Nelson McCausland establishing their diplomatic skills in dealing with loyalism. The icing on the cake is the new James Connolly Centre, which they unselfconsciously proclaim as “Belfast’s latest visitor experience,”

Next year more desperate efforts will be made to tone down bonfire sectarianism, but the question of confronting sectarianism and state collusion in its expression will not arise.

The decay of the material base of much of loyalism and the new role of Sinn Fein have created a popular consciousness that a wave of modernism will transform  northern society.

This imagining is not new and is not true. Political institutions do not operate or else operate to share out bribes. Top civil servants run the state with a few Westminster politicians at their side. Civil  servants do not minute political decisions and police do not recognise sectarian intimidation. Brexit has already depressed the local economy and the savage austerity of the “Fresh Start” programme has yet to fully kick in.

A rosy glow of modernity and cultural diversity will not do. A consciousness of capitalist and imperialist oppression is a precondition for serious progress.

 

24.7.19

This article was first posted at:-

http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentLoyalistBonfireVictoryInBelfast.html

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also see:-

BRITISH GOVERNMENT EXPANDS POWERS IN THE NORTH

 

A QUIET TWELFTH

 

“WE ARE THE SACRIFICE”

 

NORTHERN IRELAND UPDATE – THE IMPACT OF REACTIONARY UNIONISM

 

 

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Feb 19 2019

BREXIT AND WHAT IT MEANS IN IRELAND

The E&L blog  has been reporting the situation in Ireland since we started up. However, during  current Brexit negotiations , the  ‘backstop’ has pushed the issue of Northern Ireland to the fore. We are publishing two articles which share a lot in common in their analysis of Ireland, but which offer differing perspectives on the role of the EU. The first is written by David Jamieson and first appeared on the Commonspace blog. The second is written by Allan Armstrong and forms the seventh chapter of his new pamphlet From Blatcherism to Maybynism.

 

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  1. ANALYSIS – MICRO-POLITICS ISN’T ENOUGH – WE MUST ADDRESS

THE  PARTITION OF IRELAND

 

Debates around the UK border in Ireland and the so called ‘backstop’ bring the crisis elements of the British state into sharper focus. Continue reading “BREXIT AND WHAT IT MEANS IN IRELAND”

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Oct 03 2018

REVIEW: BALLYMURPHY PRECEDENT (Channel Four)

The following review from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) is of the film Ballymurphy Precedent made by Callum Macrae for Channel Four.

 

 

A HIDDEN HISTORY OF BRITISH MILITARY REPRESSION AGAINST CIVILIANS 

The Ballymurphy massacre has the simplest of all dramatic structures. It is a narrative built around a chronology – a three-day assault by the British Army on a Belfast housing estate following the introduction of internment that left ten unarmed civilians dead and many others badly injured. This story is told through a mixture of stock footage, interviews, re-enactment of events and documentary evidence. Continue reading “REVIEW: BALLYMURPHY PRECEDENT (Channel Four)”

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Aug 01 2018

A QUIET TWELFTH

We are posting the latest update in out coverage of events in the Six Counties. This article was first posted by Socialist Democracy (Ireland) 

 

A QUIET TWELFTH
Capitulation to Orangeism pays off, but at what price?

 

                                                                                         Four Catholic families have been intimidated

                                                                                                       out of Cantrell Place in Belfast

 

The Orange marching season in the North of Ireland kicks off with Twelfth of July marches, preceded by the 11th night bonfires. This year the Twelfth demonstration passed almost without incident. The 11th night bonfires saw a rash of hijacking and petrol bombing in east Belfast and parts of County Down. These were protests following a court order applying fire safety rules to a bonfire. The Ulster Volunteer Force gangsters behind the hijacking believed as a matter of principle that the bonfires should be free of any legal impediment. Continue reading “A QUIET TWELFTH”

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Jul 19 2018

“WE ARE THE SACRIFICE”

Socialist Democracy (Ireland) updates us on the consequences of the continuing slide to Right in the Six Counties.

 

“WE ARE THE SACRIFICE”

Belfast bonfire, 2018

 

Irish nationalism endorses Orange intimidation

If one thing links the political systems on both sides of the Irish border it is political corruption. Corruption so open, invasive and blatant that it would be comic if not so harmful. However the northern corruption has the added dimension of ongoing capitulation to loyalism, a capitulation that offers effective impunity to loyalist groups and has now reached the stage where the paramilitaries, in collaboration with the Democratic Unionist Party, are given a free hand to write the rules to suit themselves, setting the scene for the coming bonfire and Orange marching festival. Continue reading ““WE ARE THE SACRIFICE””

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Oct 23 2017

NORTHERN IRELAND UPDATE – THE IMPACT OF REACTIONARY UNIONISM

Northern Ireland is one part of the UK state where the reactionary unionism which has come to dominate politics since the Brexit referendum has a much longer history. The coalescence of the reactionary unionism which underpins the Tory Party and that of the DUP has now taken the shape of a governmental alliance, headed by Teresa May and Arlene Forster,

The implications of this are shown in the two articles below, both form the latest Socialst Democracy (Ireland) bulletin The first shows how the DUP are complicit in helping the Loyalists further their longstanding policy of ethnic cleansing. The recent election of Emma Little-Pengelly as DUP MP at Westminster has been followed by a campaign to remove Catholic residents from a previously shared housing scheme  in her South Belfast constituency (until recently held by the moderate nationalist SDLP).

The second article highlights the inevitable trajectory towards a hard border in Ireland under Brexit. The DUP which supports Brexit (a minority position in Northern Ireland) claims it doe not want a hard border. If pushed, it would probably say it didn’t want ethnic cleansing in Belfast either ( if Catholics would just accept a second class status).  But maintaining support for Unionist supremacy, which means retaining the support of Loyalism, means that the reality on the ground is very different from DUP public statements made for the benefit of a wider media. 

 

1. THE ZOMBIE PEACE CALLS TO SAVE STORMONT

South Belfast Loyalists from ‘Village Team On Tour’.

For most of 2017 the Irish peace process has been in crisis and the northern assembly collapsed. There are frantic calls for restoration and both Sinn Fein and the DUP proclaim that their one desire is to agree a new executive. Continue reading “NORTHERN IRELAND UPDATE – THE IMPACT OF REACTIONARY UNIONISM”

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Aug 09 2017

A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

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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Apr 07 2016

THE CENTENARY OF THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916

As part of our celebration the 1916 Easter Rising, we are posting two new articles.  The first is by Allan Armstrong (RCN), and addresses Lenin’s response to in his Irish Rebellion of 1916 (which is also posted). The second comes from the latest issue of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) and looks at the situation in Ireland today, 100 years after the Rising.

 

1. LENIN AND THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916

The Dublin GPO during the 1916 Rising, painted by Robert Ballagh

 

In the midst of the First World War, following the Dublin 1916 Easter Rising, Lenin returned to the issue of national self-determination. He had already addressed this at the beginning of the year in The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination. Immediately before the Rising, he had also gone on to write The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up.
Continue reading “THE CENTENARY OF THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916”

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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

th-2

 

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.
Continue reading “THE UK STATE AND BRITISHNESS”

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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.
Continue reading “LIVING THE PEACE PROCESS IN REVERSE”

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