Left Views of Dismantling the Union

slr-col-ad-2.jpgI promised to return to the debate last Saturday at the Convention of the Left about the break up of the UK, which was sponsored by Scottish Left Review..

Although the attendance of between 60 and 70 people was reasonable, it is a shame that more socialists from England didn’t see this as an important debate that is relevant to them.

Gregor Gall made the point that the discussion needed to be informed by actual knowledge of the developments, politics and situation in Wales and Scotland; and as Frances Curran of the SSP pointed out, the political context in Scotland is considerably to the left of that in England, and that is connected with the way the national question has impacted on every aspect of Scottish society.

Leanne Wood AM, a Welsh Assembly member for Plaid Cymru explained this clearly. Plaid is an explicitly a left wing party, with an aim of improving the lives of the ordinary people in Wales. Given the disillusion in Wales with the Labour Party, Labour were unable to form a government in Cardiff, and therefore have a coalition with Plaid – the One Wales agreement – that has already made some gains in clawing back space from Westminster’s presumptions towards private finance

But the powers of the Welsh Assembly are too limited to take the sort of action required to safeguard the welfare and livelihoods of the people of Wales. Hence the demand from Plaid for a referendum for greater powers.

Chris Harvie MSP, from the Scottish National Party explained how the process had gone further in Scotland; there is a very real prospect of the Scots voting for independence, and the type of impact this would make can be measured by the facts that an SNP government would require Britain to remove its nuclear weapons from the Clyde.

One of the contributions from the floor argued that the British state would never allow an Edinburgh parliament to do that, and other speakers from the floor argued that the power of the British capitalist state required that there should be a symmetrical challenge from the labour movement organised on a British wide basis.

Of course, there is no reason why Scottish independence should cause the trade unions to fracture. However, the interest of the English based Brit-left in real unity with the Scottish working class can be gauged by the near silence from London based political groups on the united strike by 200000 workers in UNISON, the GMB and UNITE in 32 local authorities across Scotland on 24th September.

One very (unintentionally) amusing speaker from the floor asked why the Scots and Welsh should be allowed to leave Britain, if a majority of British people didn’t want the UK to break up. He argued rather strangely that Fianna Fail had originally been a socialist party (news to the Irish comrades present), and their subsequent descent into being a conservative party was the consequence of nationalism, and the SNP and Plaid would inevitably follow the same path. (Note, that the implied logic of this position was to oppose the independence of the 26 counties). When challenged by other speakers from the floor, he defended himself by saying he had studied history at Oxford.

The question of overlapping British and English identities is an important one. I made the point that while Scottish and Welsh people are much more likely to articulate their sense of identity in national terms, the fact that English people don’t is not because they are less affected by national identity, but because they assume Britishness is the natural state of affairs that foreigners deviate from! British national identity shouldn’t be confused with internationalism.

I would argue that where British is used as a synonym for English, then this is actually disrespectful of the Welsh and Scots, as we are implicitly saying that the different aspects of their culture and history don’t matter as much as English history and culture. The specific application of Britishness should be for those parts of our culture and history that we share, and which are usually irretrievably bound up with the legacy of Empire. (It is a supreme irony that it is the unionist Tory party that abolished so many of the British institutions that reinforced the union: the National Coal Board, British Rail, British Steel, etc)

Chris Harvie observed that the Scots have always themselves had an ambivalent attitude to Britishness, because they were happy enough to be confused with the English as long as there was a commercial profit in it. He also pointed out that the tradition of Little Englandism in the nineteenth century was actually not a xenophobic one, but a type of liberal isolationsism that opposed foreign military adventures.

Rupa Huq played a very important role in the meeting as the party pooper! She said that she was uncomfortable with separatism and felt that the demands for an English parliament are reminiscent of Powellism – specifically a racialising of politics.

Leanne Wood responded that in fact the only Asian members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are members of the SNP and Plaid Cymru. But nevertheless, Rupa’s point is a substantial one, that for many people in BME communities, they consider themselves Black British, and redefining the nation as English can appear to exclude them. While it is important not to get the tiny English Democrat Party out of proportion, they constantly make immigration a key issue they campaign upon. Of course, the external projection of imperial power was British, and those people from the former colonies coming to the metropolitan centre of the Empire’s “Motherland” will have seen themselves primarily as coming to Britain, while the distinctions between the nations of this island will have been entirely secondary.

A Welsh woman, living in Manchester asked how the identification of English nationalism with far right politics could be avoided. A good question, and I replied that I thought this issue wouldn’t go away by ignoring it, and contesting the content of national identity and patriotism was better than giving the far right a free run on the issue. The work of Billy Bragg in popularising a certain type of progressive English identity is important. And we should not overlook the advances that have been made in shifting the nature of support of the England football team, where the “No Surrender” brigade have been marginalised, and for example Mark Perryman’s work with England fans is a very important example of what can be done.

Sadly, I had to leave straight after the meeting, due to other commitments, and I didn’t get to chat with people, which was a great shame. Thank you to all the speakers, all of whom had traveleld a long way to be there. Hopefully there will be other, future events where we can jointly promote the cause of breaking up the old Empire state of Britain.

96 comments on “Left Views of Dismantling the Union

  1. we have the oil, self determination for Orkney and the Shetland Islands

    So if you think your going to get your hands on it in Edinburgh dream on

  2. Britain is a purely English idea. In effect Britain is just something that has been forced upon the Welsh, Scottish and Irish by the English with the act of union, they didn’t want it then and they don’t want it now. As an internationalist i would actually support Scottish, Welsh and Irish independence as it means that maybe one day in the future that we could come back together in a democratic way on terms acceptable to the working class in all 4 countries. The left in this country should now start referring to itself as the English left just as in the other countries in “Britain” you have the Welsh, Scottish and Irish left. In fact the English left should now try and accelerate the break up by demanding an English parliament.

  3. Speaking as an Orcadian – I was born there and half my family still live there – there is curently almost no demand for Orkney Independence. Even the OIM (Orkney Independence Movement) in its heyday never raised the demand for Independence for Orkney in its election literature, just “more control of our own affairs”.

    However if the people of Orkney or Shetland voted for Independence – as they have a right to do like anyone else – then good luck to them. If the oil is adjudged to be in their territorial waters then its their’s. C’est la vie.

    I’m sure the good people of Orkney or Shetland would be better custodians and administers of the oil wealth – and in a much more socially-inclusive and internationalist way – than is currently done by the oil-sucking corporate-fucking war-mongering parasites in Westminster.

    The bottom line (for democrats) is that economic concerns are subordinate to the democratic principle of the right to self-determination.

  4. mark anthony france on said:

    This is a really crucial debate…. I have tabled a resolution on this for possible discussion at Respect conference in oct. It calls for an English Republic and a new english parliament… it doesn’t mention socialism. am i a ‘bad boy’?
    must dash off to the chippy for my tea!

  5. “Britain is a purely English idea”

    Try telling that to Adam Smith or Hume or any of the other figures in the Scottish Enlightenment which was both very Scottish as well as co-inciding with, as well as expressing British identity. Its just historically inaccurate. Whilst I can see an argument about self-determination today, I don’t think Socialists get anywhere by misrepresenting the past. It ought to be possible for Socialists to politically be in favour of the break-up of Britain without purveying national mythology. This is also why I’m chary about re-writing English national identity as historically progressive…if it isn’t. I just don’t see how it helps. Anyone read Linda Colley on the emergence of British identity? I have’nt but I’d be interested to know what people think…

  6. Incidently, a good illustration of Scottish Britishness is the film “Tunes of Glory”, and the film Zulu is a celebration of the role of the Welsh in the Empire.

    Hence the old joke from Only Fools and Horses, where Grandad says that he loves that film where the tiny English garrison are fightiing off hordes of Zulus.

    Weren’t they Welsh? Del-boy asks.

    No, says Grandad, definitley Zulus

  7. Yawn, yawn, yawn, I’m surprised there were as many as 60 there, catching up on their sleep I suppose.

  8. I like Tunes of Glory. I thought it highlighted the Scottish-English class divide more than it played up Scottish Britishness though. Thought it was mainly about working class Scottish soldiers rebelling against posh English officers. Good film.

  9. #4, #7 I believe the original idea that there was a single “Great Britain” with no separate England and Scotland was promoted by James VI of Scotland on becoming James I of England, for obvious reasons. I believe the idea was more disliked by the English.

    Which has zero implications for the current political situation, just happening to be the historical facts.

    The point I think worth stressing on this debate is that the English left don’t need to see the need for, or get involved with English separatism, but they still need to plan ahead for a situation where Scotland asks for a divorce and we are forced to work out how rump UK will work. At that point the concept of an inclusive “civic nationalist” English identity not associated with chauvinism, racism or the little Englander mentality could come in very useful in avoiding unnecessary strife.

  10. Andy:

    Incidently, a good illustration of Scottish Britishness is the film “Tunes of Glory”, and the film Zulu is a celebration of the role of the Welsh in the Empire.

    Reply:

    Zulu, now there’s a movie. I saw it for the first time when I was in my teens, rooting for the plucky little band of Welsh heroes just as the story requires. I just saw it again recently and am happy to report that I was rooting for the Zulus.

    I thought the class divide depicted in the scenes between the characters played by Stanley Baker and Michael Caine excellent.

  11. It was a very interesting discussion and everyone was fully alert throughout. The upcoming referendum in Scottish referendum will quickly oblige us all to have an opinion on whether the British state is a good thing or not.

    One of the places it’ll be discussed is
    http://www.scottishsocialistparty.co.uk/republicansocialist/

    For reasons that are not altogether clear I’ll be representing England at the event.It’s a funny old world.

  12. Liam

    What better xample could there be that we aspire to an inclusive civil indentity for England, open to everyone and anyone who wants to live here..

  13. The other intersting quetion that wil be unavoidable is what happens to the six counties?

    Although the SNP seem to have studiously avoided the issue, the historical and cultural links of the loyalists are more to Scotland than England, while the political aspirations of the unionist establishment are with a Britain that will no longer exist.

  14. more interesting is what is the king George going to say on these matters. Remember RR supported new labour in Glasgow as it viewed scottish nationalism as the worse as against new labour!!and british imperialism.
    At the conference will their be a debate on the scottish and welsh question? will Liam or Andy argue against backing new labour in these countires? if the nationalists are the main challenger to new labour?

  15. I attended that session of the Convention of the Left and it was largely a terrible reminder of how little the left in England has learnt over the past 20 years. I wish Andy et al all the best in trying to build that progressive coalition but the sects were there in force and they weren’t for listening.
    Had they listened, they’d have heard that administrations in Wales and Scotland are enacting the kinds of social democratic policies that Respect/CNWP et al can only dream about.

  16. Just accept the fact that when Scotland opts for independence then there will be no “United Kingdom” -and the stupidity of having a UK Parliament enacting legislation for the unfranchised people of England will be obvious to all; whether you be left, right or centre of the political divide.

    To some it is obvious now, but it may take others a little longer

  17. It’s early days, but thank god the left are finally waking up to England and the iniquities of partial devolution!

    It has always amazed and frustrated me how many on the left have (with apparent clear conscience) supported additional spending for wealthy Edinburgh to the detriment of more deserving areas in England and Wales.

    Maybe it had more to do with the career ambitions of such notaries as Brown, Campbell, Darling et al, than a redefinition of left wing principles. If so, it makes the actions of those who supported them all the more shameful.

  18. #15. Although I normally contribute to this blog to disagree with you, on this occasion Andy you are completely correct about the Irish dimension to all this. It is no accident that the Orange Order in Scotland were vociferous in calling for a No vote in the Scottish Assembly referendum in the late 90s. They clearly recognised the proposed Scottish Assembly for what it was ie the thin end of a wedge that could culminate in the break up of the United Kingdom. Alan McCombes also makes this point very well in a paper he wrote just after the referendum.

    McCombes paper is online at http://www.scottishindependence.com/mccombes.htm

    Of course as well the Scots-Irish (the Ulster Protestants) there are also the Irish-Scots ie the substantial community of Irish Catholic descent in the West of Scotland many of whose ancestors migrated from Ireland at the time of the potato famine. People who unlike the Ulster Protestants did not arrive as colonisers and oppressors but as economic refugees from an oppressed nation. In summary to be a Marxist revolutionary in Britain today you have to be irreconcilably anti unionist. That means not only opposing the the union of Britain with the six counties and supporting Irish self determination it also means opposing the union OF Britain itself.

  19. Way-Uls, Way-Uls on said:

    #18 – Had they listened, they’d have heard that administrations in Wales and Scotland are enacting the kinds of social democratic policies that Respect/CNWP et al can only dream about.

    Hi Seren, you might want to consider leaving whatever planet you’ve been living on for the past few years and visiting Wales.

  20. Jim Monaghan on said:

    Andy, as someone from an ulster-scots background, I recognise the links to the ‘mainland’ among unionists to be links with British institutions not Scotland. That the genetic links are with Scotland and the cultural links overlap is the same as the links to the Republic of Ireland, USA, England.

    If Scotland became independent it wouldnt affect NI’s majority allegiance to the the crown and Britain, in my opinion.

    As the SNP are advocating a Scotland where the current monarchy would be head of state there would still be a constitutional link that would appease loyalists and NI would remain part of whatever new set-up was British and under the Crown. The religious implications of the CRown being head of state make that a more important question than in other parts of the UK.

    Perhaps the next time the Convention meet we can see the Scottish Green party and/or Solidarity part of the debate.

    “the near silence from London based political groups on the united strike by 200000 workers in UNISON, the GMB and UNITE in 32 local authorities across Scotland on 24th September.”

    I didnt notice that myself, what groups are you talking about? I would expect those groups who are particularly organised in England, like Respect etc, to mention it less, but the groups who organise across the UK, like the SWP, gave it prominence.

  21. Bill Scott on said:

    Tally the 24th Foot (2nd Warwickshire) were only technically an English regiment – they were really about as English as the Black Watch. They recruited mainly from the South Wales Border area (hence their change of name 2 years later) and the majority of the defenders were Welsh (only one Scotsman, John William Roy who got a DSM).

    The film was written by John Prebble (hardly an arch imperialist) and directed by Cy Enfield, a blacklisted Hollywood director. Buthelezi, at that time still an ally of Mandela and the ANC, played Cetshwayo. The film overtly attacks British imperialism and racism-

    “Damn the levies man… Cowardly blacks!” (Bromhead – English upper class officer played by Caine)

    “What the hell do you you mean, cowardly blacks? They died on your side didn’t they? And who do you think is coming to wipe out your little command? The grenadier guards!?” (Adendorff – the Natal Native Policeman and Boer)

    It’s meant to show the Welsh defenders’ AND the Zulus courage but also to be an attack on the whole concept of fighting wars (Q: “Why us sarge? A: “Because we’re here son”. Michale Caine asks: “So this was your first?”

    Stanley Baker, playing the other Brit officer, Chard replies: “Do you think I could stand this butcher’s yard more than once?”).

    Having said all that I still have a problem with the Zulus not having speaking parts allowing them to sayfor themselves why THEY were fighting.

    I agree with Kev that Tunes of Glory is not a celebration of, but an attack on, the whole concept of Scots’ Britishness (and military class consciousness).

  22. Although the SNP seem to have studiously avoided the issue, the historical and cultural links of the loyalists are more to Scotland than England, while the political aspirations of the unionist establishment are with a Britain that will no longer exist.
    - Comment 15 by Andy Newman

    Hence Alex Salmond’s visits to Northern Ireland, and the role of the Scottish Assembly and Government in hosting Northern Ireland Peace talks,
    and the SNP’s sky-high profile of anti-sectarianism and anti-racism campaigns, which are all in line with the SNP and the Scottish People’s own brand of civi nationalism.

    The Scots came from Northern Irealnd which is quite a big fact for the SNP to try and bury, I would have thought.

    Even the latest political headlines contradict this assertion that the SNP are somehow ashamed of Scotland’s culutral links with the 6 counties -
    Leaders hope executive will meet
    BBC Northern Ireland
    26 Sept 2008

    Also try -
    Scotland and Northern Ireland Links Strengthened
    SNP News
    20 Feb 2008

    Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond -
    “Today’s joint declaration is a commitment made from dialogue, effort and mutual ambition. It is a sign of our commitment to working together for the benefit of both our countries.”

    Northern Ireland’s First Minister Dr Ian Paisley MP, MLA -
    “Today’s meeting has been very productive providing us with the opportunity to learn from Scotland’s experiences of devolution.

    “The ties of culture, commerce and family that have long linked our two countries makes this as much a meeting of friends as of administrations.”

    Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA, -
    “Today’s meeting was very useful in building on the growing links between our two administrations.

    “We have also found ourselves working on developing relationships within these islands and there is no doubt that here too, a spirit of cooperation can ensure that we can achieve much which will be to the betterment of all our peoples.”

    The Saint Andrews Agreement was signed in Scotland.

  23. Britain is a purely English idea. In effect Britain is just something that has been forced upon the Welsh, Scottish and Irish by the English with the act of union…
    - Comment no.2 by Paul C

    Sorry Paul mate, but that is nonsense.

    In order to create their empire, the very first people the British had to subdue and conquer were the English.

    Read William the Bastard (aka William the Conquerer) and his campaigns of grim determination and savagery against native English resistence in the first couple of years of his reign. If that isn’t some outside alien force enslaving the native population, I don’t know what is.

    And so it continued on with the likes of the Enclosures Act, deracinating and ethnicly cleansing the English from their own land, destoying their communities, disrupting and destroying their native cultural traditions and shovelling this dross of humanity into urban hell-holes to rot.

    The interesting thing is that the British Royal family have been every nationality under the sun (including the Twder Welsh and Stuart/Stewart Scots) except Irish or English.
    When an English interloper did marry into the first rung of these outsiders, she didn’t last long. Diana was here name.

    Sorry johng, I have read Linda Colley myself but I’ll get onto it asap.

    all the best!

  24. JOe

    With regard to the six counties, I am not saying that the SNP don’t recognise the links with Scotland, nor have no view on deelopments within the six counties.

    The aspect I have never seen any comment on, is that if Scotland leaves the union, then what is left is no longer “Britain”. Every opinion poll taken in England for years has shown support for withdrawl from Ireland.

    An independent Scotland will be an historic defeat for the Ulster unionists from which they will never recover.

  25. #28 “An independent Scotland will be an historic defeat for the Ulster unionists from which they will never recover.”

    Andy, I don’t think the term defeat is helpful. The old union will have gone, so it will be difficult to see what there’ll be to be unionist with, but the Ulster Protestants have been around for 400 years and they aren’t going to be leaving. So they will “recover”, they will carry on, hopefully preserving some of the good aspects of the identity and shedding some of the bad, chauvinist ones. My view is that they will see the writing on the wall, sign up for a united Ireland, and thrive within it.

    In much the same way that I hope the break-up of the union will be the shock allowing the English to finally transcend imperialist attitudes.

    There are quotes above of a meeting between Salmond on one side, and on the other (on the same side of the table!) Paisley & McGuinness! Things have already moved on a long long way.

    Post-UK, all the nations of the British Isles will remain within a union – the European Union. And I hope some kind of additional local federal structure might be created to keep the nations talking to each other, and why shouldn’t the Irish Republic be part of that.

  26. #27 Joe 90 “the very first people the British had to subdue and conquer were the English”

    William the Bastard was of course a Norman, we might call him a Frenchman whose grandfather had immigrated from Denmark. And he did indeed subject the English to the Norman yoke, and the ruling class of England spoke French until the 14th century. So I agree with your comment, but not with your use of the term British.

    The people who have the prior claim to call themselves British, ie the Celtic inhabitants of the Roman province of Britannia, are the Welsh and the Cornish.

  27. Joe 90,… The machinations of William Conqueror certainly highlights one aspect of the creation of “Great Britain/UK”, might one suggest that Cromwell too, set much foundation , particularly in respect to the acquisition of Eire…, (And the fomentation of ire, as per one wit in a Dublin tavern.)

    Just a few brave souls left alive, as the fighters began to sing…
    Love of conquest hither brought them,
    But this lesson we have taught them,
    “Cambria ne’er can yield!
    Mind you, in “Zulu”, they use different words.

  28. Let’s be clear on this – there’s no rewriting history in the attempt to articulate an inclusive English identity. Billy Bragg, the Imagined Village project, etc. – it’s all about viewing history from below.

    I’m disappointed Rupa hasn’t engaged more critically with the question of devolution for England within the context of a federal Britain, which might be more acceptable for those opposed to Scottish & Welsh independence.

  29. #30 “they (Ulster Protestants) will carry on, hopefully preserving some of the good aspects of the identity and shedding some of the bad, chauvinist ones.”

    What are the ‘good aspects’ of their identity?

  30. There are of course those of us who are Marxists and internationalists and oppose the Break-up of Britain into smaller capitalist states, and the self-seeking nationalists making a political career out of these demands.

    Er, to start with: me.

    Seehttp://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2008/09/27/breaking-the-conventions-of-the-left/

  31. I’m not sure that its really possible to present national histories or indeed identities as being ‘peoples histories’ without distorting history (sorry this is in response to a post I can’t find where someone said that Billy Bragg’s position was not parochial but ‘history from below’).

  32. There is of course a polemical tradition of socialist history writing of this kind, which like Billy Bragg’s position, is certainly well-intentioned, but also I think historically questionable.

  33. I don’t think the English Left have to call for English independence at all – I think it would create a cognitive dissonance for them and it is an unfair expectation. I do however think the debate around the national question is imperative. I think when you approach the national question from a position that it is all reactionary nationalism then you can’t see or hear what others are showing you or trying to tell you.

    Being British is greater than just being from Britain it is an expression of colonialism and imperialism at its worse. Many Scots and Welsh just don’t feel British or want to be British any more – including socialists.

    I reject Britain and all she stands for – I have no problem with the collective history of the British working class – the working class on these isles have only ever existed in the concept of Great Britain.But that does not mean that must determine our future. Workers should always be united when fighting for progressive demands but Britain is not progressive in any way. The break up of Britain does not mean the break up of the working class and our institutions but maybe it might free some of them to be less institutionalised.

    If Scotland becomes independent then the English left can debate and discuss what (if anything) it means for them. In Scotland for me – it would mean business as usual, as a socialist it means fighting hard to represent our communities and work class communities, raising conciousness, socialism would benefit the world! not just Scotland, for goodness sake. It should not mean never talking to anyone from England again!

  34. “If Scotland becomes independent then the English left can debate and discuss what (if anything) it means for them”

    That strikes me as a fair position. I think Cats point about cognitive dissonance is also a fair one, but I would also say that I don’t think its true that identifying as British rather then English expresses a kind of metrepolitan colonial position. In general people on the (far) left say this because of points earlier made about the history of identity politics and racism in Britain (its also just true that ‘English’ for many, and here I include myself, doesn’t mean much. Possibly because I’m half foreign inn’it). Whether rightly or wrongly. The (sensible)far left critique of the left Scottish Nationalist position was also never motivated by chauvinism. It tended to be motivated by the belief that the combination of class and nation in the Scottish context tended to represent softer positions on class in actual on-going class struggles (in my own memory I can recall the debates around Ravenscraig during the Miners Strike). As the political terrain shifted you find people like Neil Davidson amending the position on the question of Scottish independence as the slogan comes to represent something different. But still being cautious about more traditional functions of the slogan. Ironically the nadir of my own tradition on this question (the infamous no, nay, never slogan on the front of Socialist Worker in the late 1970s) was motivated by the position of Scottish comrades in the then SWP for whom the slogan of Scottish independence was wrapped up with ‘tartan tories’: with largely English comrades forming the opposition to what they rightly saw as lunatic ultraleftism (actually I attended Neil Davidson’s talk at this years Marxism on nationalism where he was far more caustic about some of this stuff then I suspect any English comrade would feel comfortable being: but that tends to be the way with Socialists). So much of the rhetoric being thrown around in these discussions about chauvinism or the like, strikes me as unserious. Of course this may not be true with mainstream Labour unionism. But then thats as true of the Scottish Labour Party as it is of the English one. I don’t think anyone is likely to accuse George Galloway of being an English nationalist. In that sense the position of socialists in both England and Scotland is as ambiguous as was the position of the respective bourgoisie’s at the time of the Act of Union. Its just misleading to present this as a divide between English and Scottish socialists. Its not. Its a kind of three way divide between those who think the demand is progressive and progressive by virture of the kind of nationalism Scottish nationalism represents, those who think it might under certain circumstances be progressive for tactical reasons, and those who probably do have illusions in the importance of political unity for class unity. I think very few people on the left are secretely humming ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ as they raise worries about the implications of the demand. More likely they’re worried about living with a Tory government. I guess my position would be best described as Independence without illusions. I don’t see independence, in itself, as likely to represent a huge threat either to dominant chauvinisms or indeed capitalism, as some seem to.

  35. Nowhere within the discussion above on “independence” can I discern a single reference to the EU. It’s as if it has no bearing on the matter. All the parties in Scotland that support “independence” either explicitly or implicitly support membership of the big business driven EU. Therefore under any reasonable definition of “independence” it must be concluded that none of these parties genuinely support independence for Scotland.

    E.g. their “independent” Scotland would be severly curtailed in public expenditure by EU rules, barred from directing support to local industrial regeneration, would be unable to remove VAT (the flat rate rich man’s tax) from, say, home fuel bills etc etc…

    Where’s the independence there?

    The real question must be why all these “independence” supporting parties duck this central question? Is it a sin of omission or a sin of commission?

  36. Well for a long time a left that had lost confidence in the ability of class to trump capitalism looked to the European union as a kind of civilizing curb on Thatcherism. This was always the traditional critique of the far left towards Tom Nairn type positions on the break-up of Britain. In other words there is a connection between these positions in some peoples heads. A small social democratic scotland within a larger social democratic EU opposed to a more transatlantic conservative Britain orientated towards the US. The fly in the ointment is that in Europe much of the left see’s the EU as a driving force for greater economic deregulaton etc…Its just that Britain was further down the line. Then of course you have the anti-EU politics in Britain dominated by the right who want a closer connection with the US. I think if people can talk seriously about hegemonising English nationalism they might as well talk about hegemonising anti-EU politics. There are more concrete examples around Europe (most recently Ireland) of this kind of thing happening. But certainly I’d be interested in the position of socialists who see independence as a crucial campaigning issue outlining their position on the kind of issue which recently confronted Ireland. Its worth reminding ourselves that the EU is growingly involved with the US in terms of militarism etc. Of course we are in a bit of a fluid situation at the moment.

  37. Johng wrote “Ironically the nadir of my own tradition on this question (the infamous no, nay, never slogan on the front of Socialist Worker in the late 1970s) was motivated by the position of Scottish comrades in the then SWP for whom the slogan of Scottish independence was wrapped up with ‘tartan tories’: with largely English comrades forming the opposition to what they rightly saw as lunatic ultraleftism.”

    I’m not sure this is exactly true. In point of fact there were many comrades of Scottish origin who wished to see a more flexible attitude towards the national consciousness of people in Scotland. And many of those most adament in their opposition to any such expression as to the national feelings of workers in Scotland were English.

    Can’t say I remember any particularly bad headline on SW. Refresh my memory Please.

    Frankly I find even the most clumsy ultra-left expression of opposition to Scottish and for that matter Welsh nationalism better than the grotesque pandering to what is after all an ideology of class forces who are deeply anti-socialist that characterises those clowns who backed the SSP/Solidarity. Are such comrades ashamed of their real views on nationalism?

  38. okhotnik za fashistami ha ha ha on said:

    “Zulu” was an ideologically uncertain film – it still had touches of imperial derring-do, (the totally fictional “Men of Harlech” singing, for example) and it is noticeable that the clergyman (Otto Witt, played by Jack Hawkins) who calls for peace is effectively discredited by being shown to be a closet alcoholic.

    “Zulu Dawn” came out 15 years later and did try to present the Zulu viewpoint, but it is an inferior film.

  39. #30 “they (Ulster Protestants) will carry on, hopefully preserving some of the good aspects of the identity and shedding some of the bad, chauvinist ones.”

    #33 What are the ‘good aspects’ of their identity?

    No doubt there are many, and I’m sure Martin McGuinness would be pleased to list them for you.
    A peace deal has been signed, and has stuck, and this is the time for everybody to say nice things about each other.

    It was mentioned earlier that the English left are behind the times and unaware of the new mood in Wales and Scotland. It wouldn’t do for the same thing to apply to Northern Ireland. I mean, what do we want, war to break out again?

    This is by the by, but it occurs to me that today’s left (in England at least) occupies the social & political space that would have been filled by various Protestant sects in earlier centuries. Has anybody ever written anything on the similarities?

  40. Anonymous on said:

    #44 Nobody wants sectarian killings to break out again in N.Ireland. But what has that to do with some sort of Ulster ‘identity’?

  41. #45 Anti. Are you saying that the Ulster Protestants don’t have (or aren’t entitled to) some kind of “identity”, or are you saying that the “identity” exists, but doesn’t have any good aspects? Or are you just objecting to use of the term “identity”?

    Happy to debate, if you can explain what you’re driving at.

  42. One of the interesting aspects of this debate on the break-up of Britian is the atttitudes of sections of the left towards “democracy” – and by democracy I’m specifically referring to universal suffrage.

    There doesn’t seem to very much discussion or debate on the left on the concept of democracy – as an evolving dialectical concept rather than something fixed and unchanging.

    There is even a disdain for democracy – calling universal suffrage, incorrectly, “bourgeois democracy” (which was in fact what we had PRE-universal suffrage, and which the likes of the Chartists fought against).

    Universal suffrage and Marxist revolutions are incompatible. The latter would be a step backward for working people who fought and died for universal suffrage and wont give it up without a struggle. This is why working people all across Europe wont give Marxist revolutionaries the time of day. They instinctively recognise a threat to their hard-fought for democratic gains when they see it.

    The left has missed this point competely. Universal suffrage makes Leninism, vanguardism, and workers revolution 100% redundant. It was only in the very early years of universal suffrage – its teething years – that fascist revolutions and communist revolutions – were able to wreck the aspirations and hopes invested in universal suffrage. Neither would been given the time of day where universal suffrage has been won and has been consolidated.

    Apart a few weeks in France 1968 – which went nowhere in the end – can anyone think of any country in Europe where a workers revolution has moved to overthrow a state where universal suffrage exists?

    It doesnt happen. And it wont happen. Because working people instinctively know that a workers revolution would lead to a lower form of democracy – a one party dictarship perhaps – or a variation on the sort seen in Russia, China, Cuba. Revolutions in those countries were a step forward ONLY because they didnt have universal suffrage.

    In countries where universal suffrage is still in its infancy different forms of protest and political experimenation will still be seen. Interestingly, in the likes of Venezeula, the democratic baby is not being thrown out with the socialist bathwater.

    Neither Marx nor Lenin ever knew nor understood the realtionship between universal suffrage and the working people. How could they? They lived in a different era.

    The left can argue all it wants that “no it wont be a one party state, it’ll be alright on the night” but no one is listening. And quite right too.

    The challenge for the left across Europe is to seek to engage with democracy – as they find it, and it’ll be different in, say, Scotland, England, France, Catalonia or Portugal – and change the nature of universal suffrage so that it becomes a participatory democracy rather than a passive “cross in the box every four years” democracy. To go from Democracy 1.0 to Democracy 2.0

    This is a big challenge. For example, it questions the role of strike actions. It legitimises strikes into exactly what they are: no more and no less than leverage for immediate gains and NOT preparation for a workers revolution via a generalised strike movement.

    The old left who chase strikes hoping for the big one – the generalised strike that will lead to workers revolution are deluded. Universal suffage has negated this, dialectically. Which is exactly the way dialectics work, as I’m sure Marx himself would have agreed with, and saw the beauty in this, if he’d been alive today.

    The break up of old states into new democratic spaces – when universal suffrage is taken as the starting point of a new democratic space – gives us that opportunty to apply out collective imaginations to develop democracy/universal suffrage into what it could be. To treat democracy as a creative art in itself.

    Universal suffrage doesnt end with local and national elections. It ends in the local community and especially in the workplace. And that’s a vision of real socialism in action – a much more revolutionary form of socialism than Marxist-Leninism is able to conceive of.

    * * *

    (This is a summary of some of the ideas contained in a longer essay called “Democracy and The New Left” which is a work in progress.)

  43. Mike I was referring to the debate that took place at an SWP conference in the late 70′s on the referendum. The CC of the time opposed the view that this was a straightfoward ‘tartan tory’ versus ‘socialist’ issue wanting a more nuanced position on the national question. Comrades who led the charge against the CC on this (and won) were Scottish comrades. Its not of course unusual in the history of the socialist movement for comrades from countries were the national question is raised to be harder on it (think Rosa Luxemberg who actually opposed Polish self determination on the basis that the Polish movement was dominated by Aristocratic reactionaries, basically accusing Lenin of bolstering reaction in Poland in order to combat chauvinism in Russia) and nor is it unusual for comrades opinions from that country to be treated with respect. This was done but the conclusion was a mistake. Socialist Worker consequently led with the headline ‘No, Nay, Never’ during the referendum. Acknowledged by most as a ‘nadir’ and a dreadful mistake.

  44. Inigo Montoya on said:

    # 51 – Hah! Mike, I like you, despite you’re craziness and unfathomable distance from activity in the class struggle.

    I remember writing something equally as banal and self-important as Kevin Williamson’s contribution above several years ago whilst trying to argue against the idea of revolution. I even called it “Evolutionary Socialism” (before I had read even read Bernstein) and thought I was quite the clever puss. Actually, I wasn’t saying anything any number of other idiots had said over the years and I was no more correct than any of them. In fact, I was a great deal less correct on many issues.

  45. So those of us who arent in the irrelevant wee circles of Marxist revolutonaries are “idiots” are we, Inigo?

    Doesnt sound like you’re “quite the clever puss” anymore.

    Good luck in your search to be “correct”.

  46. Jim Monaghan on said:

    Andy: “An independent Scotland will be an historic defeat for the Ulster unionists from which they will never recover.”

    I think that is far from being true. The term ‘ulster unionists’ is a term applied to all protestants in Northern Ireland and it is a mistake to think that all take the same thing from their ‘unionist identity’.

    I think you are referring to a vocal unionosist and loyalist position of allegiance to the crown and therefore to it’s powers, just as the break-up of Ireland didnt end that viewpoint, there is no reason to believe that those parts of protestant culture in the province will not adapt and survive after the break-up of Great Britain.

    What will dramatiaclly change things in Northern Ireland is far more tied up with events across the whole island of Ireland and in westminster, that events in Scotland.

    Following the Belfast Agreement we have a situation where the republic of ireland do not ‘claim’ Northern Ireland, endorsed by 94% of voters in the Republic.

    By the end of this Labour govt we might see the end of the act of settlement, urged on by the current heir who claims he would rather be ‘defender of faith’ than ‘defender of THE faith’.

    The fear of being ‘taken over’ by Ireland, and support for the protestant crown are two pillars of the identity that I think you are alluding to.

    But the establishment of the Northern Ireland assembly is the biggest change, for all it’s flaws and, in theory at least, far more relevant to how Northern Ireland develops than what happens in Scotland.

    It is entirely feasible for the Uk to split up and for the loyalist voice in Northern Ireland to remain strongly linked to the British Crown and firmly against assimilation into Ireland, and that can remain a popular mindset and/or identity whether Scotland and England are in a union or not.

    The main Antrim and Down protestant population has been there for over 300 years, they are no longer immigrants, and their links to Scotland are historic like the links between all of the British Isles and Europe, but not central to the culture or identity of that population.

    If anything, Scotland leaving the UK might entrench loyalist and unionist positions. It is what happens in Northern Ireland that will loosen the old ties, or not.

    But don’t think that hundreds of years of history and prejudice can be swept away by a constitutional change in Great Britain.

  47. I’m familiar with Kautsky’s book, Mike. It has much to admire in it. He deals with a different era in a different context, though and the language is written in the political Esperanto leftists still speak in (among themselves). But the work has limitations and his understanding of the hierarchical centralising anti-democratic aspect of Marxist-Leninism is not fully developed.

  48. Mike v2.0 on said:

    I think I’m a different Mike of which you speak, Inigo Montoya. Although I could of course also be crazy. I’ll change my name for avoidance of confusion.

    Kevin – there is indeed much to admire in Kautsky’s book. I would commend Chapter 8 in particular, where he asserts that “democracy” (which he curiously doesn’t actually define) is a precondition for economic liberation rather than the other way round, and that once that is achieved socialist measures can be peacefully implemented and capitalists compensated for their assets. I think we can all see that history has borne that out.

    His understanding, in the crisis of the early 1930s, of the respect for democratic norms held by capitalists when their position is under threat is also particularly powerful.

    “Only in politically backward country does fascism constitute a promising instrument for the exploiters. In the democratic states of Western Europe and in the Anglo-Saxon world the capitalists resort more to economic than military instruments.”

  49. Kautsky is definitely worth reading. I’m not sure if he’s on the reading list of most left organisations. If Lenin called him a “renegade” then that would be the matter fully investigated and closed.

    Then again, anyone that His Royal Highness, Vladimir Lenin, called a “renegage”, must have something going for them

    Two of the first “political” theory books I read were by Tony Benn: “Socialism” and “Democracy”.

    It is still interesting to note that he didn’t feel the need to merge them into the one text…

    But as you say, Kautsky didnt develop what he menat by “democracy” just as the revolutionary Marxists of the time didnt develop what they meant by “social democracy”.

    Instead revolutionary Marxists got stuck in the cul-de-sac of “reform or revolution” as if politics, life and social change could be simplified to just two opposing concepts. Like, eh, Good or Evil perhaps…..

  50. Kevin Williamson says “Universal suffrage makes Leninism, vanguardism, and workers revolution 100% redundant. It was only in the very early years of universal suffrage – its teething years – that fascist revolutions and communist revolutions – were able to wreck the aspirations and hopes invested in universal suffrage. Neither would been given the time of day where universal suffrage has been won and has been consolidated.”

    Does he not miss the point that the dictatorship of the bourgeosie is exercised through universal suffrage only when their rule is unchallenged? After all, the weimar and spanish republics – not to mention Chile – were such democracies but when economic and political conditions made bourgeois rule less assured other ways of exercising the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie were pressed into service.

  51. mark anthony france on said:

    I am just going to go on a subjective and personalised rant here…. basically because I can… On Friday night my mom had another stroke, on Saturday afternoon after he came back from the hospital, I spoke with my dad on the phone…. he said he was “tired, so very tired”. A few hours later he too suffered a massive stroke no mobility and his voice has gone.

    I am 130 miles away on JSA and have no way of going to his hospital bedside. My dad is a very soft, gentle and compassionate man born in Birmingham in 1939 worked at the Autin Longbridge plant for 27 years before getting a job as a Labour Party Organiser at the height of Thatcher’s offensive in the early ’80′s. My Dad was never a Revolutionary, never studied Marxism, never even read much.

    His ‘socialism’ was instinctive natural, he was also a natural atheist, he was’nt easily drawn into hero worship or celebrity…. his disdain for consumerism was shown by his ability to switch TV Channels automatically to ensure he never ever saw an advert.

    My Dad was English and hated the concept of the Royal Family. He didn’t have an analysis of British Imperialism but did understand that the Empire was based on brutality and oppression. His Englishness was always culturally and ethnically inclusive and he played a role in ensuring that the Labour Party he built in the 90′s in Huddersfield reflected the diversity of the local working class.

    Then the ‘Blairites’ came my dad was “purged”, forced into early retirment by a bunch of middle class arseholes and thrown into economic hardship. Systematically, the New Labourites destroyed and threw away everything my dad had worked for.
    Forced to retreat into ‘private life’ my dad had to become a full time carer for my mother after she had a series of severe strokes while the Twin Towers fell in New York. 7 years on this tall, gentle socialist has been silenced this ‘tower of strenght’ has fell.

    Barry France is not dead yet and the simple, straight forward form of Social Democracy that he advocated and tried to build through the Labour Party all his life lies in ruins.

    The last Demonstration my dad went on was just over 2 years ago… he packed up my mom’s motability scooter onto the coach from Huddersfield and as a couple they joined the thousands of Stop the War Demonstrators in Manchester on the Time to Go Demo outside of Labour Party Conference.

    Millions of people like my mom and dad have seen their hopes fondest hopes and aspirations dashed on the Rocks of New Labour.

    They now lie in a new PFI built hospital staring blankly, hoping that MRSA won’t finish them off.

    One of the last conversations I had with my dad was about the long, traditions of English Working Class Democratic Radicals and how these traditions were submerged by empire. We talked of identity, race and class. We talked with tears in our eyes of how basically, bullshitters and bullies dominate the world of work and how they came to dominate the labour movement.
    We talked of how the academically educated dismiss the voices of ordinary experience. We talked of the coldness and lack of comradeship on the left, we talked of the selfishness of consummer society gone mad. We talked of the possibility of a new world and a new country that would emerge from the break up of Britain. We talked of England and we talked of Love.

  52. Mike v2.0 on said:

    It would indeed be no good to simplify politics, life and social change to just two opposing concepts. If you were in that cul-de-sac, you might end up making claims that universal suffrage renders “workers revolution 100% redundant” always and for all time.

  53. Bill Scott on said:

    #60 Can’t really say how moving I found your posting Mark. Like your own Dad mine was never a Marxist nor a revolutionary but always a socialist. He was a house-painter and only ever gave me one book to read. It was Tressel’s “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists”. Not a bad grounding for the humanist based socialism we both believed in. He cared deeply about his family, the community he lived in and working folk everywhere.

    My Dad died a year ago today and we had very similar conversations about New Labour’s betrayal of his generation and their ideals – though he remained a unionist whilst I favoured independence. Nevertheless we had a mutual respect for each other’s point of view as both were based on our hopes and fears for other working people.

    My Dad was failed by the NHS – he had lung cancer stemming from asbestos in both lungs – that went undiagnosed and untreated for five months in which we watched him going through agony whilst his doctors thought it might be a shoulder strain. A scan would have determined it right away but those cost money and he wasn’t worth anything so he never got one.

    Don’t get me wrong the care he recived in his final week in the Western General Hospital was exemplary – just what the NHS should be – but his own GPs and the PFI Edinburgh Royal were appallingly uncaring of his deteriorating condition.

    The last few days of my Dad’s life were precious to my Mum, myself and my brothers and sisters as we got to say our farewells.

    Mark I’d send you the money to go and see your Mum & Dad if only I knew your address. You can e-mail me here -billscott44@hotmail.com – and we can try to set something up. Believe me it’s not charity it’s just common humanity.

    If not my thoughts are with you and your Mum & Dad. Their love shines through and lives on in you comrade.

  54. You’ll be familiar with the the idea of sophistry then Mike?

    If someone was to say that there are only two kinds of democracy – “universal suffrage” and “communism” – then that would be indeed be simplistic. Democracy takes many shapes and forms. “Universal suffrage” is only a the starting point for inclusive democracy and in its early versions is still a long long way from a participatory democracy.

    Humanity has outgrown both fascist and communist revolutions – the evidence would strongly suggest so – both of which are thoroughly bourgeois in every sense, especially the way that their hidden agenda was always to put an educated party cadre into power using the angry masses as a social battering ram.

    The Bolshevik Party and the Nazi Party had something else in common: organisationally both were versions of the French Jacobins, whose bourgeois ideology and methods they evidently modelled themselves on. Lenin and Mao, Hitler and Mussolini: the Robespierre wannabes.

    I can understand why petty bourgeois types are attracted towards Bolshevism and revolutions. The one thing about the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie is that they always want to run everything and to control everything. So they find their niche in life within revolutionary Marxist parties. Life at “the top table”, eh? The speechifying, the positions of authority, the hectoring and lecturing, getting to pour wisdom down the throats of the uninitiated party members.

    The best of them, you know the sorts, the party celebrities, may even get “taken seriously” by the bourgeois media (oh the self-justification, the self-importance, look, the big important bourgeos media want to speak to litle ole me, and through me, US, the revolutionary party!). There’s even a political career if they play their electoral cards right.

    Lots of fun.

    But its nothing to do with real life nor real change.

  55. Pete Brown on said:

    This has beena fascinating debate Kautsky was, for whatever reason, persona non grata for a long time but re-reading, thanks Mike, his comments on democracy alongside the thoughts of Kevin Williamson I am reminded of an early debate (for me) with a leading member of the SSP.
    The conversation was in the run up to the 1998 elections for the Scottish Parliament, I asked the comrade what were revolutionaries doing fighting a bourgeouis election. The answer was interesting in that the SSP programme was revolutionary, as indeed it was, and the voters would see what a revolutionary change could bring.
    Sheridan was elected in that first election for a Scottish parliament on that revolutionary ticket. Four years later the SSP had five MSP’s all elected on that same revolutionary ticket, reformist measures were beginning useed to bring about a revolutionary change it could be argued, is this the strength of universal suffrage? (We know it all collapsed soon after and that is not part of the debate here).
    Kautsky talks of the 19th Century fight for democracy by revolutionary means, are we now in a position where through ‘universal suffrage’ we should perhaps be fighting the revolution?
    Again kautsky talks, correctly in my opinion, about strikes and insurrection as tools of democracy but as we have seen capitalism has used universal suffrage and democracy, quite brutally at times, to put down strikes and insurrection.
    Perhaps what we need is some clear defintion of what we mean by democracy and universal suffrage before we totally dismiss the idea of revolution.
    For if by democracy we mean the ballot box and a cross on a piece of paper every few years and by universal suffrage we mean the currently controlled sections of many societies who are allowed to apply that cross to that piece of paper then we will never achieve a socialist society.
    One of the main reasons for the early success of the SSP was a limited form of PR that is not available evrywhere, but on the other hand a recent limited extension to universal suffrage in Austria, votes for 15 & 16 year olds, perhaps helped usher in large advances for the fascist right.
    Nick Wright offers us a salutory warning in his last paragraph – where now for Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador?

  56. Pete – The questions that you’re asking are good ones. But dont hold your breath if you challenge the orthodoxies of the traditional revolutionary Marxist left. Or even if you want definitions that the left can agree upon.

    Its like trying to discuss the existence of God with a Jehovah’s Witness. Their ideology has been internalised and fixed as an article of faith. Everyone else is just wrong. And if they keep evangelising their tiny numbers will one day explode into a majority as the kingdom of heaven/world socialism approaches.

    Its not just definitions of “democracy” and “universal suffrage” but also definitons of what is meant by abstract concepts like “socialism”, “capitalism” and especially the term “the working class” – all of which get thrown about like ideological confetti.

    I’m guessing but for many on the revolutionary Marxist left definitions of these terms are culled straight from Holy Scripts written by the Apostles of Marx. The Torah is not to be challenged.

  57. Kevin Williamson:

    The Bolshevik Party and the Nazi Party had something else in common: organisationally both were versions of the French Jacobins, whose bourgeois ideology and methods they evidently modelled themselves on. Lenin and Mao, Hitler and Mussolini: the Robespierre wannabes.

    Reply:

    It’s now official: Kevin Williamson has swapped his brain for a mince pie supper.

  58. Jim #54

    “It is entirely feasible for the Uk to split up and for the loyalist voice in Northern Ireland to remain strongly linked to the British Crown and firmly against assimilation into Ireland, and that can remain a popular mindset and/or identity whether Scotland and England are in a union or not.”

    But who would they be in “union” with?

    Has anyone asked the English whether they want union with the six counties?

    This does become an important political question, and remember the current settlement in the North of Ireland is partly based upon finanical incentives that derive from Britain. Surely the palusibility of Ulster unionism depends upon there being a Britain that requites their love? If neither an independence Scotland nor an independent England wanted union with the six counties, how plausible is their position?

  59. Jim Monaghan on said:

    “But who would they be in “union” with?”

    The Crown, England perhaps, right now they are in a union with Great Britain, whatever happens in Great Britain, I am sure ‘britain’ will still exist as will the monarchy.

    “Surely the palusibility of Ulster unionism depends upon there being a Britain that requites their love? If neither an independence Scotland nor an independent England wanted union with the six counties, how plausible is their position?”

    How plausible has their position ever been?

    I think it is a jump from discussing the possibility of an indepedent Scotland to an independent England. Their may be a mood for financial autonomy and constitutional reform in some emgliah people but I dont see any need or any call for England not to be ‘british’.

    There is much more to Britain than just the largest island, Great Britain. If you are talking about the future of a unionist position if England seceded from Britain then I agree it would make their position a strange one, but you were talking about Scotland being indpendenet of Britain. In the case of Scotland being independent of the UK, most likely still under the same monarchy if the SNP were in power, then I dont see it having the catastrophic and final affect that you predict.

    “Has anyone asked the English whether they want union with the six counties?”

    That’s not the point, if Scotland breaks from the UK that does not leave England independent of Britain. Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Falklands etc are not in the UK but are British.

  60. mark anthony france on said:

    It seems simple to me:

    Britain grew out of the consolidation of the dominance of the English ruling class who cemented their own power via the outcome of the English Civil War… the most radical components of that struggle were either wiped out and or co-opted into an Imperial adventure in Ireland. The processes that led to the formal creation of the British State included the undermining of Grattans Parliament in Ireland and the subsquent supression of the United Irishmen Rebellion in 1798. The English radicals inspired by Paine and the French Revolution and their Scottish and Welsh counterparts were out manouvered by the Act of Union in 1801 and the project of building an Empire.
    The emerging working class in england engaged in heroic struggle perhaps still best recorded by EP Thompson in “The Making of the English Working Class”. Being the first modern ‘proletariat’ without the benefit of dialectical materialism as a guiding thread did not prevent these people from challenging their oppressors or formulating an alternative. This working class in England recognised its own mongrel make up and welcomed leaders of Irish origins and former african slaves. In Chartism it created perhaps the most complete sustained and sophisticated mass working class movement ever seen.
    When Engels wrote the Condition of the Working Class in England 1844 he understood imediately the profound importance of the experiences this new class was undergoing. When Marx settled in London the most important contacts he made were with the demoralised and disoreintated leaders of the old Chartists.
    The Defeat of the Universal Sufferage movement and the destruction of the political confidence and consciousness of the English working class enabled an emboldened ruling class to expand the power of Empire.
    The Working Class in England became quiescent and complict in the imperial project for a generation and when it did begin to stir it was led by a labour aristocracy that never guestioned the Union only seeking crumbs from the Imperial table. The working class in England became a prisoner of the Union and even ceeded the actual work of building its basic self defence organisations the unions to a layer of activists whose capacity for struggle was usually formed in the crucible of their Irishness, Scottishness or Welshness. Englishness without the voice of the workers who lived in England became a confection hijacked by layer of comfortable affulent apparachniks of empire and imposed with little resistance on the rest of the English in the same way Received Pronunciation was imposed on the BBC.
    After the Collapse of Empire the colonial chickens came home to roost an tranformed again the ethnic make up of the working class in England.

    Imperialist Economism a peculiar brand of legal marxism that dressed up its revolutionary rethoric in excuses for lack of solidarity with living anti-imperialist struggles that fetishised trade union struggles but abstained from pushing the logic of those struggles into the mass political organisation of the working class the LP. This Imperialist Economism was the dominant for of ‘marxism’ in England and produced numerous competing sects that unfortunately chewed up and spate out 10,000′s of would be English Revolutionists innoculating many against political engagement ever again. This same dominant form of English marxism did not genuinely engage with or champion the huge emerging social movements of women or black people but was parasitic upon these developments. This English marxism pedantic in the extreme prefered to lecture and propogandise to getting it’s hands dirty in the struggles of ordinary people. This English marxism refused to discuss difficult issues except in the abstract avoided any debate about psychology or mental illness despite the abundant evidence that Consummer Society itself seemed to depend on creating mental illness. This English marxism the part-time hobby of many a mediocre teacher, petit local authority bureaucrat or isolated academic has proved itself to be absolutely useless.

    It seems simple to me;
    The Irish are well on their way to resolving, the unfinsished national revolution and the end of the Union will aid this process. Socialists inside and outside of the Sinn Fein tradition have a lot to gain from pushing this struggle to it conclusion.
    The Scots too are busy breaking the Union and Socialists have bright prospects if they champion independence.
    The dynamic established in Wales is also clear and Socialists in Wales have bright prospects too.

    In England the prospects are not so bright… partly because of the fractured and atomised nature of indentity both individual, and cultural, collective and national makes building any sense of community and common purpose very difficult.
    What seems clear is:
    The English Civil War still has some unfinished business to complete.
    The Glorious [counter] Revolution of 1688 needs to be reversed
    The Act of Union 1801 needs to be scrapped
    The Demands of the Great Charter need to be popularised again including annual parliaments.
    The British Labour Party is dying
    A new party of all the working class in England needs to be built.
    This party should be Republican, Socialist and Internationalist and champion the fullest extension of participatory democracy now in all institutions of public life and civil society in England.
    This new party should be inclusive, democratic, non sectarian and open to new ideas it must not be strangled at birth by ‘english imperialist economism dress up as marxism’. This new party should be a radical departure from any preceeding organisation form that has been used to date.

  61. Jim

    I didn’t say the effect would be “final and catastrohic”, I said it would be an historic defeat. And it would be.

    Your understanding of Britishness is a subtle one, but you haven’t been paying attention to the debate among the English left if you think that subtlety is appreciated south of the Border :o)

    Without Scotland, the whole nature of Britain and Britishness changes. If you have been following what the Unionist left in England say, the subtext is that they don’t really understand that England is different at all from Britain (marvellously expressed by a comment by Rupa Huq over at Harry’s place who genuininly thinks Andrew Murray is an English tennis player, who she used as an exmaple of why British and English are interchangeable terms). The politics and culture of Ulster Unionism is incomprehensible from this perspective that sees England and Britain as being exactly the same thing.

    If Scotland leaves the UK. then Britain (or at least the UK) will be in the process of becoming England. There is very little space for the Ulster Unionists in the redefined political map of England. I think you underestimate the degree to which the unionists are out of kilter with England.

  62. Jim Monaghan on said:

    “I didn’t say the effect would be “final and catastrohic”, I said it would be an historic defeat. And it would be.”

    Andy, I wasn’t directly quoting you, but a historic defeat from which they wont recover is pretty final and quite catastrophic.

    From where I am sitting the idea of England and Britain being the same thing isnt a new concept and it would be pretty much business as usual.

    “If Scotland leaves the UK. then Britain (or at least the UK) will be in the process of becoming England. There is very little space for the Ulster Unionists in the redefined political map of England. I think you underestimate the degree to which the unionists are out of kilter with England.”

    I dont think that I underestimate anything Andy, I think you underestimate the ability of the loyalists to adapt their position to a new environment.l It would be a long process before Britain ended, even if Scotland did seced in the coming years.

    Support for an independent England comes largely from those who are against public spending and believe the nonsense about Scotland getting rich of the english taxpayer. Much of it can be allayed by democractic reforms and further devolved financial autonomy.

    We pigeonhole and stereotype the unionist communties in Northern Ireland to an extent that we wouldnt with others. 95% of Northern Ireland’s people are not members of the orange order.

    In this thread we have had people describe my family and ancestors as oppressors or invaders when the main bulk of the northern ireland protestant population are working class people who moved to antrim and down to work on farms dring the hamilton/montgomery venture rather than the failed royal settlings and plantations. They have now been there for 300 years and the identity that you refer to has changed alot back and forth over that time, in response to other events, it will again.

    It is not something I am proud of, but anyone expecting the collapse or orangeism, loyalism and/or unionsim follwing scottish independence shouldnt hold their breath.

    I dont think the mood for an independent england is about being independent of britain, or is far advanced as you make out.

    If Scotland became independent many of those seeking english independence, mostly from the right, would see that as england being free from tax-subsidy munching scroungers and the call for england’s independence would die down a bit, in my opinion.

    But, even if the UK split, I think that the same people that vote unionist right now would vote for a pro-monarchy, anti irish unity party as they do now, orange walks would still pull a big crowd and northern ireland would still be under the crown for a long time.

  63. Jim

    We may be at cross purposes here. The political project of unionism may well survive as you describe. But it ceases to be a union based upon an actually existing economic and social union with England, and becomes a fairy-story.

    You are also correct that demands for English independence are from a political fringe – indeed I am not aware of any political organisation calling for that (as opposed to an English parliament, or minimally an English grand committee in Westminster). But that shouldn’t be confused with support within England for bankrolling forever the nostalgic hobbyists of Ulster loyalsism. For sure, Scotland leaving the UK wouldn’t automatically change everything; but the anachronism of the loveless marraige between the six counties and England would become much more glaringly obvious. Ian Paisley is seen many conservative patriotic people in England as a troublesome foreigner, not as a fellow thinker or compatriot.

    If Scotland secedes from the union, that doesn’t leave Britain unchanged. It leaves England overwhelmingly dominant, where almost nobody wants union with the six counties; nor feels much cultural or historical link with unionism in the six counties – that boat has sailed.

    Last year, or maybe the year before, I saw an Orange parade through the streets of London. Going by the banners, they were almost all Scottish and Irish, and they looked as out of place in London as a Bavarian Ump-pah band in Lederhosen would have done. I heard a passer-by shout at them “fuck off back to your own country” as they paraded past with their union jacks.

    Even from the point of view of the Conservative party, the Ulster unionists are an anachronistic embarrasment.

  64. mark anthony france on said:

    Since the long drawn out peace process that stepped up a gear after the destruction of central manchester it is much more easier to talk about Irish history to english people who previously would have been mobilised by the early version of ‘the war on terror’… 20 years ago anti irish racism was so prevalent and hostility to the campaign of the IRA so vicious that to question any of the mainstream assumptions in england about Britains role in Ireland was to invite a punch in the face or in more extreme cases to be kicked into oblivion.

    Just last week i was able to have a conversation with an ex member of 2para who served in the north in the mid 70′s about the failure of the Bloody Sunday Enquiry to report he recognised that him and his comrades were pawns in a dirty war…he still has family members serving in Afghanistan and he viewed the US military as monsters… he told me how much he valued the black and asian friends he now had and that he had mixed race grandchildren. He looked back on his past loyalty to Queen and country as something anachronistic…. he was a person who 20 years ago would have been prepared to kill me for the socialist republican convictions that I still advocate today. Today this chap and me found we had many, many things in common. As was famously said “a week is a long time in politics” if i was to continue this dialogue with this once proud British Empire Loyalist and discuss the collapse of Bradford and Bingley…. the greed of wall street and city of london bankers and the need for an end to imperialist wars…. i suspect he would not only listen he might even agree.
    It is interactions like this that illustrate the depth of change that may be occuring in the levels of consciousness of millions of people and profoundly driven by the global economic crisis.
    In Deepest Worcestershire something is changing, am I alone in experiencing this or do other people across England recognise this process. If this process is not peculiar and isolated but common and general what does this mean.
    Soon a new type of bourgeois offensive will start.
    There is a window of opportunity to gather many, many people to resist this.
    How do we do this?

  65. To try and engage with sections of the M-L-T left about their attitudes towards democracy is a bit like asking certain people to stand their hand in the pub. They look away, change the subject or give you abuse! Pubs, eh?

  66. mark anthony france on said:

    #76 kevin williamson… Yes I gave up talking to Marxists in Pubs about 20 years ago and as I am on JSA my trip to the pub with my wife is only once every month for 4 real ales and a dance to a live band for free…
    But strangely enough ordinary people I know are talking quite a lot about ‘Democracy’ inside and outside of pubs.
    10’000s of people up and down the country [england] have been in and out of various ‘marxist’ groups over the past 30years or so and been ‘confused and demoralised’ by the experience… yet many of them retain a radical committment to socialism in their hearts and an understanding that it is by empowering their neighbours and friends to find their own voice that change will come….
    Today… in the midst of the current global crisis many of these people will be looking for a way to contribute to change…. but they will avoid like the plaque…any groups acting as a self appointed vanguard.
    I wish I had the money for a drink!

  67. Couldnt agree more Mark. Get some great discussions in the pub after the football on politics, democracy and such like. Nobody gets too upset, no subject is off limits, and no one falls out … possibly cos no one is in a political party with a “line” that must be defended. Or maybe cos Hibs fans are the real vanguard of social change.

    If yer ever up in Scotland I’ll buy you a pint.

  68. mark anthony france on said:

    #78 Kevin… I’ll buy you pint [of local cider!] if your ever in Worcestershire!

    Out of interest the Respect Renewal has posted the following “resolution seeking support” on the Conference section of its website…

    Resolutions seeking support
    These resolutions have been submitted by individual Respect members seeking to get the support of at least five other members for the resolution to be submitted to the national conference.

    Respect Conference
    Recognises that our organisation is a specifically English Party. We do not organise in other parts of the UK, Scotalnd, Wales or Northern Ireland. We believe that the Act of Union that formed the constitutional basis of the British State was an historic injustice imposed on the people of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.
    We will take part in the growing debate about the future of England. We favour the establishment of an English Republic and a new English Parliament.

    Submitted by
    Mark Anthony France
    Bromsgrove
    Worcestershire

    Will be interesting if a few other members backed it and there was some time for discussion … what do you think of it?

  69. Adamski on said:

    #79 What’s so bad about Welsh workers that you want to segregate your struggle from them?

    I’m sure Andy will sign your resolution, but be careful Galloway may blow a gasket, as you may be aware positions on the Welsh scence and Welsh Language democratically agreed by Welsh members of Respect in 2004 were forced to be withdrawn because apparently GG had a tantrum.

    I have no deep seated attachment to the ‘union’. The criteria for independence is whether it will further working class emancipation of prove an obstacle. One should note that the nationalists in Wales promise less than was achieved by the British working class in 1945 with the building of the welfare state.

    Talk of the iminent break-up of Britain seems a little far-fetched and seems to rely on over-hyping up some reforms that have been introduced by devolution. One should note that the majority of Welsh people in recent opinion polls oppose independence, and almost half of Plaid voters surprisingly were registered as even supporting the Assembly having more powers (personally I think it should).

    One should also note that the Welsh Assembly is nowhere near as combative in fighting for left wing politics, as say, the GLC or even David Blunkett when leader of the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire (hard to imagine that Blunkett was ever on the Labour-Left now). Not surprising when the First Minister of Wales has no opinion on the Iraq War and thinks that global warming could be good for tourism to Wales.

  70. Adamski on said:

    #80 Sorry I meant that a recent opinion poll suggested that almsot half of Plaid voters didn’t favour Wales having a parliament like in Scottland.

  71. mark anthony france on said:

    #80 Adamski bach! lovely to hear from you. My mom’s welsh born in the Rhonda and my dad is of Roma Heritage and there is a lot of Irish connections too [My grandad looked very much like a chimpanzee cause of bowed ricttey legs so I never had a problem with the "theory" of evolution as I thought the transition from ape to human had acutally occurred in one generation in my family!]
    Like loads of British Workers my families sense of Identity came from their work not the accident of birth or family heritage… in the 70′s my mom and dad were proud Brummies working in the unionised factories of Birmingham with sense of how wonderful the achievements of British Social Democracy were compared to the experience of their parents in the 30′s and through the War.
    I’ve put the resolution forward just to “run it [the cross of st george that is] up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes it”! It’s a simple resolution drafted in 90 seconds I actually disagree with the formulation “a specifically English Party”…. when I think about it I don’t want any arguements about the meaning of “specifically” or about “Party”. Basically, it’s about recognising practical reality that Respect exsists [sporadically] in England and saying that it will participate in debate on this matter.
    I don’t know anything of the history of Respect in Wales as my involvement prior to helping out in local elections in Sparkbrook and Springfield earlier this year was limited to helping out Huddersfield Respect in local elections in 2006 [the difference was of course in Huddersfield the candidate only got a handful of votes and in Brum the candidates did well and one was elected.
    The Break up of the Union is not on everyones lips at the moment …. but just as an example of what is when I was getting my lottery ticket at ASDA this morning the woman on the till with out any promting said “I heard off someone today that the government is going to stop the Council Tax for two years” …. I said “no that is just Cameron the Tory leader say they might stop council tax increases for 2 years… the truth is more like what Frazier said in Dads Army WE ARE ALL DOOMED!”…. We had a good laugh and just as I was going the person in the que behind me said … “I heard that the irish are getting free prescriptions like the welsh and the scots… why can’t we”…. the mexican wave of radicalisation[moaning spread down the que and the next elderly lady said “Nye Bevan would be turning in his grave…. all perscriptions were free when he sent up the NHS”… the woman on the till who knew of Dads Army asked “who was Nye Bevan”…
    I couldn’t continue with the discussion as I was late for my Job Interview as a Dole office Clerk at the same office i sign on at. I did think of making an final aside like “I think we are all going to need free drugs to survive this crisis!”
    All the best with eco socialist warrior activity in wales…Adam….. Sorry that the recession will mean loads of English camping in Tenby as they can’t afford two weeks in Mexico any more.

  72. Jim Monaghan on said:

    Andy: “We may be at cross purposes here. The political project of unionism may well survive as you describe. But it ceases to be a union based upon an actually existing economic and social union with England, and becomes a fairy-story.”

    But it doesn’t. Scotland seceding from the UK does not automatically end the link between Northern ireland and Britain, it just means a different relationship between NI (still in the union) and Scotland (formerly under the union, still under the crown).

    “But that shouldn’t be confused with support within England for bankrolling forever the nostalgic hobbyists of Ulster loyalsism.”

    You intersperse loyalism for unionism and the political entities of a unionist state for the extreme displays of support for that state. There is far more than just noatalgia or hobbyism to this union. For a start there is the breakthrough belfast agreement, under which there is a guarantee that the constitutional arangement of NI will not change without the mandate of the majority of it’s population, and the unanimous decision from the Republic that they no longer ‘claim’ the northern six counties.

    A start to the break-up of the union will only entrench and strengthen both the loyalist and unionist position in NI, in my opinion. This is shown by the move, during the devolution project, to the DUP from the UUP.

    “For sure, Scotland leaving the UK wouldn’t automatically change everything; but the anachronism of the loveless marraige between the six counties and England would become much more glaringly obvious. Ian Paisley is seen many conservative patriotic people in England as a troublesome foreigner, not as a fellow thinker or compatriot.”

    Yes, but paisley has retired and was always supported by far less people then stood against him. I don’t believe that there is a loveless marriage between Ni and England, Thatcher was able to use the war in NI to stir up national jingoism just as much as she could re the falklands.

    “If Scotland secedes from the union, that doesn’t leave Britain unchanged. It leaves England overwhelmingly dominant, where almost nobody wants union with the six counties; nor feels much cultural or historical link with unionism in the six counties – that boat has sailed.”

    I think you misunderstand ulster unionism as a whole and the relationship between the unionist population and the symbols of the tribalism that defines politics in the country.

    It will be supporters of unionist parties, who fear the Republic and/or catholicism, who will stand alongside other workers in strikes in that region. Very few of them are orange, very few came to ireland as oppressors or robbers, most carry the same amount of prejudice and ignorance as working class english people.

    “Last year, or maybe the year before, I saw an Orange parade through the streets of London. Going by the banners, they were almost all Scottish and Irish, and they looked as out of place in London as a Bavarian Ump-pah band in Lederhosen would have done. I heard a passer-by shout at them “fuck off back to your own country” as they paraded past with their union jacks.”

    I dont get the relevance of that. I dont take a march of the BNP as an good example of english or british nationalism or unionism.

    In the summer I see an orange band EVERY WEEK, going right past my window, next year my town will host Scotland’s biggest walk, but the few thousand scots and irish (and english) orangemen, represent a very small percentage of the unionist vote in NI.

    “Even from the point of view of the Conservative party, the Ulster unionists are an anachronistic embarrasment.”

    Belive me, from where I am sitting they can be an even bigger embarrassment. I have been brought up my whole life surrounded by these people and they are the very people who populate the labour party and the trades unions in my area, their anti-catholicism is matched by the little englanders where you are, and ultra-nats in scotland.

    The tribal badges and rituals that define a thinly disguised war are only part of what makes NI british (not english or scottish).

    Currently there is a very uneasy peace in NI, anyone who visits will tell you that peace is a carefully monitored and engineered veneer in many places. There are now more “peace walls’ than before the Belfast Agreement, less extreme sectarian violence but no actual drop in overall sectarian violence. Protestants and catholics are retreating into there own areas more than they have for a long time.

    In that atmosphere, I believe that any perceived collapse of the UK would lead to a more determined than ever unionist agenda, fearing the loss of what defines them culturally.

    But, in the long run, unionism will re-define itself to the new situation, as it always has.

    BTW, Paisley is not a member of the orange order and the order specifically banned pastors of his church officiating at parades and orange services, the order instructed members not to vote for his party, the DUP.

    Recently, more orangemen have voted for paisley and his politics which is a sign of a redefinition of orange loyalism towards a harder line, and also that they are willing to change political allegiance when the situation determines. That they overcome a 50 year feud with paisley without a problem suggests that they are open to change, but not in the way that you envisage. However, their move to the DUP (not all of them) comes at a time when they are less influential than ever and have less members. They do have enough influence and votes to change the DUP’s position as the main unionoist party back to being the second biggest so, the leader of the assembly might just be more influenced by the orangemen than any political leader there since the abolishing of stormont in the early 70′s.

  73. Jim

    You just don’t get what I am saying.

    that is illustrated by the fact you don’t see the relevance of me saying that an Orange march in London is an anachronism.

    You yourself give further evidence in support of my position by saying that Orange marches are in your town every week. Well there is no where in England that that is true, and no political mileage at all in anti-catholic prejudice in England for anyone in the political mainstream, or even for BNP supporters.

    The period that you refer to of Thatcherite jingoism over the war in Ireland comes from another political era, and there would be almost no votes in it for Cameron’s Tories.

    I mention Paisley just as one example, but there is no love in England for any Unionist politicans from Ireland – they are largely seen as intransigent scroungers, across the political spectrum. And the West Lothian question will become even more acute when it becomes the East Belfast question. Why should Northern Irish politicans be able to vote in Westminster on domestic legislation that only affects England?

    If Scotland leaves the union, the mainstream political debate in England will certainly question the current relationship with the six counties, especially if Scotland doesn’t pick up any of the bill for the subsidies.

    You talk of the unionists in Ireland becomeing even more strident in their worry about lost identity, but this would put them on an accelerating track away from the mainstream of political and cultural life in England.

    All of your argumenttation is about how people in Northern Ireland willl react, but that is the factor that will have least ipact on what actualy happens. Once Scotland leaves the union, the issue will be decided in England, by whether the English wish to maintain the union with Ireland; and the glue that held that together in the past is no longer there.

    Whst is likely to happen is an unseemly scramble from Dublin, Edinburgh and London to try to pass the six counties to anybody else but them.

  74. Jim Monaghan on said:

    “You yourself give further evidence in support of my position by saying that Orange marches are in your town every week. Well there is no where in England that that is true, and no political mileage at all in anti-catholic prejudice in England for anyone in the political mainstream, or even for BNP supporters.”

    You make the mistake of thinking that orange parades are the same thing as political unionism. There are orange marches every week in my town because the band and local lodge make a point of having a short walk before getting their bus to wherever the parade is, the members of bands are not all orangemen, the local orangemen are mostly members of Labour and are active in labour locally, they always have been. Orangemen in NI would see Labour as the enemy, the orange situation in Scotland is different from that in NI.

    I believe that you have very little knowledge of the working class in Northern Ireland and the political forces and reasons behind unionism.

    As for your predictions then we will have to agree to disagree. Unionism in NI will be around as a main political force for a long time, whether its public face is the orange order, a political party or its main symbol is pro-crown, anti-catholic or whatever, remains to be seen, but over three hundred years it has changed to survive and will again.

    We are not battling some petty prejudice dressed up in regalia that displays itself in parades and football matches, the battle is the same as it is everywhere, the battle against the division of the working class down ethnic, religious or other lines.

    Orangeism and loyalism, are just window dressing, the particular tribal symbols used at the time, unionism is a strongly held political outlook that prevails in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, where support for the political union is still in the majority in all four countries.

    In Scotland the face of unionism is labour, in Ireland it is often the bigots on marches. In England it is every major political party.

    Here in Scotland there was a time when unionism was expressed by the tories and some right wing ‘protestant’ parties, Labour and the left supported home rule in the main at the start. Now unionism survives bolstered by labour and the left, In Ireland the same arguments will be made in different forms in the future.

  75. Jim: “I believe that you have very little knowledge of the working class in Northern Ireland and the political forces and reasons behind unionism.”

    Actually, I have very little interest in political forces and reasons beind unionism in the six counties, and you underestimate how alien that all is to either mainstream politics or the left in England. You started this debate by objecting to the lack of knowledge and interest about working class Irish culture and politcs from other potsrs here, but actually there wuld be no more interest in or kwoledge about the politcs of unionism in Irelnd if this thread had been on an English Tory website

    You say: “Unionism in NI will be around as a main political force for a long time, whether its public face is the orange order, a political party or its main symbol is pro-crown, anti-catholic or whatever, remains to be seen, but over three hundred years it has changed to survive and will again.”

    Be that as it may, that is not the question I have offered an opinion over. What I have discussed is the degree to which that has a political resonance in England.

    Your mistake is here Jim, when you say: “unionism is a strongly held political outlook that prevails in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, where support for the political union is still in the majority in all four countries. In Scotland the face of unionism is labour, in Ireland it is often the bigots on marches. In England it is every major political party.”

    While that is formally true, the political content of unionism is different in each of the four nations, as the specific imperial dynamic that pushed them together no longer operates. In England in particular, there has been an almost complete eclipsing of Anglicanism as a political force, that in past times also promoted the whig tradition of the union being about protestant virtue. And the type of Powellite Empire-loyalist Tory is also a virtually an extinct breed.

    In England nowadays unionism has a political content based upon i) inertia; and ii) confusing Britishness with Englishness; iii) conservatism based upon the institution of Crown and the specifically English institutions connected with the union.

    But British Englishness is diverging based upon a very different social dynamic, not least that England is a much more racially and culturally diverse country, and London is an international city. It is interesting for example that opinion polls in England give much higher levels of support for independence for Scotland and Wales than the peoples of scotland and Wales themselves have, and the last opinion poll I saw gave 84% of English favouring withdrawl from the six counties.

    the paradox is that unionism is a very strong and deep assumption in political and cultural life in England, but its support is relatively shallow – the English really don’t care what the Scots, welsh ands Irish do.

  76. Jim Monaghan on said:

    “Actually, I have very little interest in political forces and reasons beind unionism in the six counties, and you underestimate how alien that all is to either mainstream politics or the left in England.”

    I dont underestimate how alien the sight of an orange walk is to England but you underestimate the extent to which the situation of working class protestants in NI is very much the same as working class people elsewhere.

    “Be that as it may, that is not the question I have offered an opinion over. What I have discussed is the degree to which that has a political resonance in England.”

    Then we ARE at crossed purposes. I am replying to your point that independence for Scotland would be a defeat from which unionists in NI will not recover. I think that the fact that they survived Ireland’s independence and the fall of the british empire, and a civil war for 30 years, might just mean that they could survive Scotland’s independence.

    “In England nowadays unionism has a political content based upon i) inertia; and ii) confusing Britishness with Englishness; iii) conservatism based upon the institution of Crown and the specifically English institutions connected with the union.”

    In Northern Ireland it is mainly option iii) although Northern Irish and British institutions rather than English.

    “the paradox is that unionism is a very strong and deep assumption in political and cultural life in England, but its support is relatively shallow”

    But their support for all things British is obvious and shown in every social attitudes study and poll. One I read last week said that 60% of young English people think that foreigners are diluting our ‘british culture’ and taking ‘british jobs’.

    In fact, I think England shows a higher support for the monarchy and the british institutions than Northern Ireland does, due to NI having more who are specifcally against than England.

    Scotland leaving the union wont end that or the equivalent in NI.

    That would do for most NI unionists, a union based on them being in charge, a link with “britain’ through institutions and the monarchy, and more political devolution (as long as they are charge of the devolved power).

    David Trimble (former uup and now tory) announced recently that the tories would stand in every seat in Northern Ireland with the support of the UUP. The UUP are the party formed out of the orange order and were the main political force in NI until very recently, when the unionist population, feeling their ‘way of life’ was under threat, moved towards the more openly loyalist and sectarian DUP. One lot of unionists are becoming more entrenched while the others are joining UK mainstream politics, possibly the next government.

    “In England in particular, there has been an almost complete eclipsing of Anglicanism as a political force,”

    I wouldnt say that England was a particular case given that in Northern Ireland anglicanism isnt a political force either :)

    Andy, I think we are at crossed purposes here and probably going nowhere, my view of working class protestants in NI is that they are no different from the same in England. The political link direct to Westminster is less important to them than the crown, and institutions like the forces etc. I dont think that there is any reason to believe that political independence for Scotland will mean that unionism will not remain the strong force that it is and cant see it is any reason to think it would be “defeated”. When NI had it’s own full parliament it was at it most sectarian, backed by the full might of having a built in majority. Strangely, the nationalists might just need the UK to protect power-sharing rather than see the four nations in the UK become independent.

    I dont recognise your views on the English opinion as they contradict what I read elsewhere. But, I have to say that I am less likely to know the mood in England than you are. Although I can read, and we do have TV and internet up here so I am not totally oblivious to English politics.

  77. Jim

    I remember talking to the London correspondent for a German newspaper who said that the huge diference between being in Britain and any of the other foreign assignments he had had, is that in France for example, the newspapers reflect the political opinions that were actually discussed and articulated in the bars and over the dinner table. In England, the commentariat reflect an ideological consensus that has little connection with the political views of even their own social class, let alone the wider population.

    In particular, any discussion about Britain and British institutions will be all smoke and mirrors when conducted in England, because the majority of English people simply never give any thought whatsoever to the fact that Britain and England are different things. Arthur Aughey discusses this issue from a unionist perspective, and as an ulsterman, in “the Politics of Englishness”. Britain is popular becasue it is taken utterly for granted that this means England’s own best interests. So when right wing English people say they want “British jobs for British workers” they don’t mean Belfast, or even Glasgow.

    We are not called “Perfidious Albion” for nothing – this reputation is based on hard experience from European allies who took the English at their word, and beleived the flowery language.

    You are correct that Northern Ireland could be a self governing province within a looser residual United Kingdom. But the question is, would it be self financing? If it would be self financing, then yes that project could run indefinitly. But are they actually expecting the English tax payer to subsidise it? Quite aside from the direct spending of the British state in the six counties, there is also a huge subvention from Westminster to buy the peace currently, and mundanely under the Barnett formula the six counties are subsidised by England and Wales.

    If SCotland left the union, I dont see how the financing of the six counties could be avoided as a political issue.

  78. Jim Monaghan on said:

    “In England, the commentariat reflect an ideological consensus that has little connection with the political views of even their own social class, let alone the wider population.”

    That is true, or not true at times, in any country, England is not unique in that. But, I was joking re England as I lived in England for years, still do business there, have many friends and family there and live not that far from the border really.

    “In particular, any discussion about Britain and British institutions will be all smoke and mirrors when conducted in England, because the majority of English people simply never give any thought whatsoever to the fact that Britain and England are different things.”

    Yes, and in Northern Ireland there is little thought given to the difference between Britain as in the whole Island of Great Britain or britain as in a symbolic representation of security in the form of institutions and crowns. Those dilemmas exist everywhere and I cannot see anything in these points that lends any evidence to the idea that Scotland breaking from the UK will end NI unionism.

    If the majority have given it little thought then it would mean that we are a long way away from England withdrawing from Britain.

    “You are correct that Northern Ireland could be a self governing province within a looser residual United Kingdom. But the question is, would it be self financing?”

    No, that is another question altogether. Is the falklands self-financing? Will the UK without Scotland dump the falklands? Surely your argument would apply across the board and not just to NI? The commonwalth would end in the same scenario?

    If not, I can only assume that you think that Scotland is somehow a supporter of NI unionism and that their position is weakened without that Scottish support. The cultural and historical links through things like orange parades may give an impression of loyalism or unionism being supported from Scotland but it would make little difference as the supporters of Ulster unionism in Scotland are either supporters in the way that the BNP and others are in England, dont number many, and the there are pockets like where I live and parts of lanarkshire where people in that tradition acrually came here from Northern Ireland, so they are like ex-pats everywhere, big on ‘preserving culture’ and displays of that culture.

    These pockets exist in Liverpoll and Southport down south too, and the supoport for ulster loyalism from right wing british ‘patriots’ exist in England too.

    “If SCotland left the union, I dont see how the financing of the six counties could be avoided as a political issue.”

    It wouldnt be avoided, nor would financing of falklands, military bases abroad and many other things, but it is a jump from there to a defeat from unionism from which they will never recover.

    Andy, are you going back over previous posts and editing them retrospectively? Your previous posts seem to have changed slightly.

  79. “Andy, are you going back over previous posts and editing them retrospectively? Your previous posts seem to have changed slightly.”

    No – I am not. except for occassional correction of typos, and that sort of thing.

    The relationship with the Falklands is an entirely different issue from the six counties:

    no Barnett formula
    much much lower financial cost
    No Falklands MPs sitting in Westminster
    Minimal political footprint in public consciousness
    no perceived difference between England’s interest and british interest

    If you are saying that the union with the six counties has a future on the same lines as the bored indifference that there is for the contunied relationship with the Falklands, then this is not possible in the long term, because the six counties are part of the UK, hold British passports, vote in Westminster elections, and are funded from the central exchecquer.

    Your assumption seems to be that Scotland leaving the union will have no impact on how the English assess the United Kingdom. This cannot be the case, the protracted public debate that will happen in Scotland in 2010 will inevitably have an echo in England; despite the indifference most of the left have for the issue.

    The prevailing more conservative view is likely to be England First. Political loyalty to aspects to Britishness that are not the same as Englishness is very weak. The fact that you point to the support for Ulster loyalism from the ultra right illustrates the point of how utterely marginal such views are in England – for even within the BNP’s support, this is seen as a largely irrelevant issue. As I said before, the last opinion poll I saw showed 84% in England in favour of withdrawl from Northern Ireland.

    I am not discounting the degree of conservatist British nationalism in England, or alliegance to the idea of Britain being a big world power; but the whole political logic of the union is about England/Wales and Scotland. Take scotland away, and the idea of a union with the six counties becomes a much less attractive proposition.

  80. Jim Monaghan on said:

    “The relationship with the Falklands is an entirely different issue from the six counties……If you are saying that the union with the six counties has a future on the same lines as the bored indifference that there is for the contunied relationship with the Falklands…”

    No, I am saying that there are many ways in which Northern ireland’s identity as ‘british’ and it’s ‘union’ can be developed. I am not predicting that NI will become the falklands, I am predicting that unionism in NI will not be over the minute that Scotland becomes independent.

    “Your assumption seems to be that Scotland leaving the union will have no impact on how the English assess the United Kingdom.”

    No I am not, I am making no such assumption. What I am ssuming is that the English will not aoutomatically cease to see themslves as British or want to dump the rest of it’s partners in the union, british territories abroad or the rest of it. You talk about the merging of english and british identities as something that is a puzzle to be untangled and/or a problem. I dont think may english people have much of a problem with it, if the British army still exist, and the monarchy, most of them will see nor problem with being british and english. I just dont see the collapse of britain happening following scottish independence. It didnt collapse following the loss of India, Ireland or amy other part of it.

    “The prevailing more conservative view is likely to be England First. Political loyalty to aspects to Britishness that are not the same as Englishness is very weak. The fact that you point to the support for Ulster loyalism from the ultra right illustrates the point of how utterely marginal such views are in England – for even within the BNP’s support, this is seen as a largely irrelevant issue.”

    It is marginal in some ways, the tories are reportedly about to ensure a minsterial position in the next government for the DUP. It is seemingly a very popular move in the party most likely to form the next govt.

    The support for ulster loyalism as such in scotland is equally as marginal. I dont see that the overall british position re ulster changes if the UK then becomes just England, NI or Wales.

    “the whole political logic of the union is about England/Wales and Scotland. Take scotland away, and the idea of a union with the six counties becomes a much less attractive proposition.”

    Yes it does, but there is a wide difference between “a less attractive opposition” and the instant demise of unionism. And “political logic” is not the best context to judge unionism in NI, in my opinion. To most in NI they are in a union with Britain, not Scotland, Wales and England.

  81. Quo Warranto on said:

    Comment No 3
    Those war-mongering parasites in westminister were I believe lead by a SCOTSMAN going by the name of Tony Blair and backed up to the hilt by another SCOTSMAN named Gordon Brown, yes the are stupid english Mps as well but we consider them quislings of the worst kind

  82. thomas b on said:

    Just commenting on the arguments between Andy and Jim,
    I have noticed the fact and as usual the ignoring of irish catholics. Your talking about unionists position in the UK and how the independence of Scotland would affect Ni.

    Is it always about keeping unionists happy, catholics who represent nearly half and are a majority in 4 of the six counties, have a right to be happy, and only a united ireland can do that, so no matter what its a push and pull situation, as they dont care about the union. After all Ulster has 9 counties and is a Irish Gealic Province like the other three .So the word Northern Ireland would be less offensive.