By Sean Matgamna (first published in 2012)
In a hugely symbolic moment on 27 June, during a royal visit to Northern Ireland to mark her jubilee, the former commander of the IRA shook hands with the Queen.
The man who commanded the force responsible for, amongst other things, the death of the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten, exchanged a handshake with the woman whose armed forces murdered 14 innocent civil rights marchers in his hometown of Derry. This was, all proportions guarded, a real life instance of David Low’s famous cartoon “Rendezvous” in which Hitler (“the bloody assassin of the workers”) greets Stalin as “the scum of the earth”.
The response of the press, in Britain, Ireland and internationally, was very positive.
The Guardian thought “it underlined how far we have come since the Troubles”. The Mirror contained an unusually calm and rational article from Tony Parsons who described it as “the end of something — the decades of hatred, loathing and bloodshed” as well as “the beginning of something, too — when the raw wounds of the past can perhaps begin to heal”.
The Belfast Telegraph, traditionally a Unionist paper, hailed the handshake as “bridging a gulf that spanned centuries”. The southern Irish press was unreservedly impressed. The New York Times called it “a remarkable sign of reconciliation for both figures”.
The working-class socialist response to this would seem to be fairly straightforward. McGuinness claims still to be a republican in both important senses of the word. As a “capital R” Republican he appeared to make peace with the highest symbol of British rule while her state and government continue to “occupy” the northern part of Ireland and deny his people self-determination.
Even more objectionable is his apparent suspension of “lower case” republicanism — the rejection of rule by hereditary, unelected privilege. Contempt for such an institution should be taken for granted by even the mildest democrat.
Didn’t McGuinness, by shaking the Queen’s hand, acknowledge both her right to rule and her government’s sway in Ireland?
A glance at the fiercest critics of this historic handshake is a reminder that things are more complicated.
Before the meeting the Daily Mail advised the Queen to burn her gloves after carrying out her “distasteful duty”. The Sun’s front page headline declared “We don’t blame you for wearing gloves M’am”. The Times cartoonist provided an image of the Queen putting on four pairs of gloves before shaking the bloodstained hand of McGuinness.
The idea that there might be plenty of blood on the monarch’s hands too didn’t occur to any of them.
The Daily Mail was the one paper that didn’t deem the occasion to be worth a front page story. Inside, though, they brought us arch-militarist Max Hastings under the headline “I’m sorry, even in the name of peace, it was wrong to shake his blood-soaked hand”.
Hunting for evidence that McGuinness, the deputy prime minister and latter-day conciliator, remained “a fanatic”, Hastings alighted on his principled decision not to take his full ministerial salary (£71,000).
For me, that is evidence that Sinn Fein retains some connection with its mainly working-class base. For Hastings, it shows “certitude about his own moral compass” and this, he claims, is “the foremost requirement of a fanatic”.
On what appears to be the opposite side of the spectrum, McGuinness and Sinn Fein have been attacked by harder line Irish Republicans for yet another betrayal. Protests were held by dissident republicans, and senior SF councillor Alison Morris resigned in opposition to the event.
It’s important to register clearly what the critics are opposed to. On the republican side it isn’t seriously claimed that McGuinness or his party have become soft on the monarchy. For certain McGuinness and Sinn Fein have rapidly acclimatised to being part of the establishment and clearly enjoy being normal bourgeois politicians. What took place on 27 June was, however, more than just a further shift down that road.
The justification given by Sinn Fein had nothing to do with either the Queen or British rule. McGuinness described his move as “in a very pointed, deliberate and symbolic way offering the hand of friendship to unionists through the person of Queen Elizabeth for which many unionists have a deep affinity”. There is no reason not to take that rationale at face value. He went on to claim that this sort of symbolism had the potential to define “a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves”.
That view can be criticised as naive. It can be attacked as a top-down way of managing the communal differences without challenging the fundamental causes. In common with most elements of the “peace process” it seems to reinforce rather than undercut cultural division. It’s a different matter, however, to criticise it for “going too far” towards the unionists. The least bad fault with modern-day SF is that they are insufficiently intransigent nationalists. Yet that is the criticism most commonly levelled at them from the left.
And it’s hard not to take some pleasure from the visible discomfort this event has caused to the British right. The fact that their Queen has felt it necessary to shake the hand of the former IRA commander has opened a very old sore for reactionaries.
The most reliable of these, Peter Hitchens, summed up the problem in the Mail on Sunday. After a few predictable and gratuitous personal swipes at McGuinness he compressed all his familiar anxieties into this short sentence: “If anyone doubted that the Good Friday Agreement was a humiliating surrender by a once-great country to a criminal gang, they can’t doubt it now.”
The sort of Tories whom Hitchens and Hastings write for spent their formative years insisting that those who took up arms to fight British rule anywhere in the world were no more than criminals. They said it too of Mandela and the ANC. Time and again they have seen these claims crumble to dust as the era of direct imperialist rule has given way to triumphant independence movements. And it hurts deeply.
Hitchens’ adult life has been blighted by one episode after another of “humiliating surrender” by his “once-great country” to movements fighting to free their countries from colonial or racist rule (or “criminal gangs” as he prefers to put it).
But the Irish people have not yet won a united independent state. The British have not surrendered and nor would it matter much if they did. The key to Irish territorial unity is, and has for decades been, democratic unity between its people. What Martin McGuinness did on 27 June offended the sensibilities of democrats and socialists because of our contempt for the institution of monarchy. However, his motive at least was progressive.
It was also republican in the sense defined by the founder of modern Irish republicanism Wolfe Tone — “to replace the name Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter with the common name Irishman”. We should be bold enough to point that out.
These are all genuine:
It’s odd. I voted in the Westminster & Holyrood elections. Can’t remember anyone offering to fuck my life up.
Politics today: Insert silver bullet into single chamber, spin revolver, place barrel on temple.
Like King Arthur, summoned from sleep when the realm is threatened, our heroes awake from slumber:
Sturgeon wants an indyref without a plan on the basis Brexit is happening without a plan.
Spent all day (and many prior) trying to grasp the idea that the answer to nationalism is more nationalism. It’s an inscrutable mindset.
I knew life expectancy in parts of Scotland was lower than the rest of the UK, but a generation lasting 5 years is pretty bleak #indyref2
As a 24 year old it is nice to know I have lived for six generations. Mightily impressive. #indyref2
Not even an hour since the announcement and I’m already sick of this shite #indyref2
WELCOME TO BRITAIN. ALL REFERENDUMS ALL THE TIME. WE ALL HATE EACH OTHER NOW. NEXT WEEK A REFERENDUM ON GRAVITY. SEND HELP.
BMG poll for Herald: 49 per cent of Scots do not want a 2nd independence referendum before Brexit; 39 per cent do; 13 per cent are unsure.
I’ve already seen an international publication photoshop Nicola Sturgeon’s face onto Mel Gibson’s body. Please, not again.
#Indyref1 was flag-wavers screaming at a passive majority. #Indyref2 will be two lots of flag-wavers screaming at each other. I can’t wait.
2017-19 was going to be longest stint without a major UK election in half a decade so at least #indyref2 is job creation for journalists.
As Scotland pushes for #IndyRef2, what would Europe look like if all independence movements won? #maps
Above: Dugdale and Corbyn
By Dale Street (also published at the Workers Liberty website)
Only a fortnight ago Kezia Dugdale summed up Scottish Labour’s opposition to a second referendum on Scottish independence:
“[At this weekend’s Scottish Labour annual conference] I set out Scottish Labour’s opposition to another independence referendum. Scotland is divided enough already, without yet another attempt to separate our country from the rest of the UK.
The people of Scotland do not want another independence referendum. It’s time for the Nationalists to listen to the voices of ordinary working people. [Given the levels of poverty in Scotland], it would be shameful to spend the next few years talking about independence.”
Although it counted for little more than gesture politics, Scottish Labour underlined its opposition to a second referendum by launching an online petition:
“Sign the pledge against a second independence referendum and join the fight for a stronger Scotland inside a reformed UK, with jobs and opportunities for all.”
But last weekend Jeremy Corbyn visited Glasgow and told the media: “If a referendum is held, then it is absolutely fine, it should be held. I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”
“A spokesman for Corbyn” and “a source close to Corbyn” tried to minimise the damage.
According to the spokesman: “Jeremy reaffirmed our position today that if the Scottish Parliament votes for a referendum, it would be wrong for Westminster to block it. Labour continues to oppose a further referendum in the Scottish Parliament”.
But Labour has not taken a position that Westminster should agree to a referendum if Holyrood votes for it. And Corbyn’s argument that the Labour Party should not “prevent people from holding referenda” does not fit in with Scottish Labour’s opposition to a second referendum.
According to the “close source”: “Westminster blocking a second referendum would give the SNP exactly what they want – more grievance. Kezia Dugdale is absolutely right to oppose a second referendum at Holyrood and keep the pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to rule one out.”
But the SNP has an infinite supply of “more grievance” anyway. Their entire political life consists of conjuring up “more grievance”. And if Dugdale is right to “keep the pressure” on Sturgeon to rule one out, a second referendum could only be the result of a defeat for Scottish Labour – not something to be described as “absolutely fine”.
Corbyn, his spokesman and the close source all reaffirmed opposition to independence in the event of a second referendum.
But this faded into the background, overshadowed by (not entirely accurate) headlines along the lines of Corbyn: Second independence referendum should be held and Corbyn absolutely fine with a second Scottish referendum.
Corbyn’s opponents within the Labour Party were quick to exploit his statement: “Often asked why I resigned from Shadow Cabinet. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jeremy Corbyn. He’s destroying the party that so many need”, tweeted Scotland’s only Labour MP.
For the viscerally anti-Corbyn MSP Jackie Baillie it was too good an opportunity to miss: “This is a misguided and irresponsible comment from Jeremy Corbyn that is an insult to the dedicated work of Scottish Labour MSPs, councillors and thousands of activists who have campaigned against a divisive second referendum”.
Of course, Corbyn’s factional opponents within the Labour Party will attempt to exploit the issue.
And it would be legitimate to argue that Corbyn’s core argument is correct, i.e. Scotland’s right to self-determination means not just the right to independence but also the right to hold a referendum without having to seek Westminster approval.
Even so, Corbyn’s statement was wrong on any number of levels.
Despite the attempted spin of the unnamed spokesman and close source, Corbyn’s layback attitude to the prospect of a possible second independence referendum cannot be reconciled with Scottish Labour policy.
Corbyn’s statement clearly came out of the blue and without advance warning: Corbyn had not described a second referendum as “absolutely fine” when he had spoken at the Scottish Labour conference just a fortnight ago.
Although Corbyn was referring to what position Labour in Westminster might or should adopt towards the demand for a second referendum, his statement read – even without the additional spin by the media – as an endorsement in principle of a second referendum.
The statement confused “people holding referenda” with the SNP’s campaign for a second referendum.
Opinion polls suggest there is no popular support for a second referendum (at least in the short term). The SNP demand for another referendum is the product of its own one-trick-pony nationalist politics, not a reflection of public opinion. The SNP wants to hold a referendum, not “people”.
By appearing to legitimise their demand for a second referendum, the statement played into the hands of the SNP. Sturgeon’s mocking response to Corbyn’s statement was to tweet: “Always a pleasure to have @jeremycorbyn campaigning in Scotland.”
The statement also played into the hands of the Tories, who have already overtaken Labour as the official opposition at Holyrood. It allowed them to present themselves as the only genuine opposition to Scottish independence (which, in turn, is a further gift to the SNP).
Corbyn’s statement was also an extension of what is wrong with his approach to Brexit.
For Corbyn, it seems that once a referendum appears on the political agenda, the specific interests of the labour movement no longer count for anything. Instead, the labour movement should either submit to the result and vote with the Tories (Brexit) or submit to the demand for one and vote with the SNP (Scotland).
Above all, it is not “absolutely fine” if a second referendum were to be held. Irrespective of the result, it would divide Scottish society and weaken the labour movement – in both cases, probably for more than a generation – to an even great degree than the 2014 referendum.
The 2014 referendum was a profoundly divisive event. Previously coexisting national identities were pitted again each other. By elbowing aside class-based politics and voting patterns in favour of national-identity politics, it also resulted in a collapse of electoral support for Labour.
A second referendum would take that process a stage further. In fact, the impact would be far worse than in 2014.
In 2014 the SNP did at least attempt to run a campaign which was based to some degree on economic arguments (however spurious those arguments may have been). But identity politics will be at the core of a second referendum: bad English/British (racist and pro-Brexit) and proud Scot (pro-EU and inclusive).
What was fundamentally wrong with Corbyn’s statement was not so much his off-the-cuff speculation about what position Labour in Westminster might take about a second referendum. It was his failure to understand the poisonous political impact of a second referendum, whatever its result.
Corbyn was wrong. And no-one on the left should feel obliged to defend the indefensible.
The SWP calls for a new border between Scotland and England (Pic: Socialist Worker)
At last! The SWP have realised they should probably be calling for a Labour vote. However they reduce everything to Corbyn himself. They won’t support Labour in Scotland.
Socialist Worker explains:
The Socialist Workers Party has decided to suspend its membership of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
TUSC has provided a structure for trade unionists, campaigners and socialists to stand in elections against pro-austerity politicians.
It’s not a decision we take lightly.
We have been part of TUSC for over seven years, stood dozens of candidates and recorded some of TUSC’s better results.
We have worked with the other components of TUSC—the RMT union, the Socialist Party and independents.
We think it is right to cooperate with others on the left wherever possible.
Labour won’t be the vehicle for socialist transformation any more than Syriza was in Greece—and we still want a socialist alternative to it.
But we cannot support the decision taken at TUSC’s recent conference to stand in May’s council elections in England and Wales.
These elections will be seen as a referendum on Corbyn. It won’t matter if the candidates are right wingers. Every loss will be blamed on the left.
For TUSC to stand at this point welds together Labour supporters and is a barrier to united front work with Labour people.
Our small electoral united front would make it harder to achieve a larger united front with the Labour left.
At the Copeland and Stoke by-elections Labour’s candidates were from the right. However, Socialist Worker called for a vote for Labour. We don’t want Ukip or the Tories winning.
What’s at issue is how to fight cuts and work with Corbyn-supporting Labour members against those who ram though the attacks. And we know any victories for them would be used to unleash the dogs on Corbyn.
We have been proven right. If TUSC was winning substantial votes the argument might be different, but the results will be modest. There’s no shame in that. But it makes standing against a Corbyn-led Labour even harder to justify.
Our unwillingness to put forward candidates is not because Labour councils are doing a good job. They are ruthlessly imposing Tory cuts.
Many councils face a loss of 60 percent of their income between 2010 and 2020. Yet there have been no Labour-led national marches, no councillors’ revolt, no calls for defiance by councillors, unions and people who use the services.
Instead, at the last Labour conference, delegates and leadership united to declare it a disciplinary offence to pass “illegal” no cuts budgets.
What’s at issue is how to fight these cuts and work with Corbyn-supporting Labour members against those who ram though the attacks.
We believe the best way is to campaign in the streets and workplaces alongside Labour supporters.
None of us can predict future events. At some point, as part of the fight to move beyond social democracy, we believe it will be necessary to stand in elections again.
Were Corbyn to be removed and replaced by a right winger, the question of standing against Labour would return in sharper form.
We hope TUSC will continue to be part of the response.
In Scotland the situation is different. Labour is headed up by the anti-Corbyn Kezia Dugdale. The rise of the Scottish National Party has raised the question of alternatives to Labour.
We support Scottish TUSC candidates as part of what we hope will be a wider realignment on the left.
We wish the best to those who remain in TUSC and look forward to continuing to work with them.
Just to further underline their incoherence, the SWP also:
– Cites as one reason not to call for a vote for Labour in Scotland: the fact that Kezia Dugdale is anti-Corbyn (BUT, a majority of Scottish CLPs nominated Corbyn, not Smith. Most affiliated and registered supporters in Scotland probably voted Corbyn. Individual members in Scotland voted only narrowly for Smith rather than Corbyn. If members with less than six months membership had not been excluded from voting, a majority of individual members would probably also have voted Corbyn).
– Cites as the second reason not to call for a Labour vote in Scotland, “The rise of the SNP has raised the question of alternatives to Labour” … (BUT, it could equally be argued that the rise of UKIP in England has raised the question of alternatives to Labour).
– Argues that Labour in Scotland will not revive unless it comes out in favour of Scottish independence. (“There is no way back for Labour unless it breaks with its pro-Union stance.”)
– Demands a second referendum on Scottish independence (“We Need to Fight for New Referendum on Scottish Independence”). Current support for a second referendum: 51% against. 25% for.
– In the real world, the pretext for a second referendum is that Scotland voted ‘Remain’ but England voted ‘Leave’. But the SWP, of course, called for a ‘Leave’ vote. The SWP wants a second referendum because Scotland voted the wrong way in the EU referendum?
– In fact, the SWP’s idiocy goes a step further: it argues that the way to win a second referendum (in Scotland, where over 60% voted ‘Remain’) is not to demand continuing membership of the EU/Single Market: “It won’t be won by saying it is to secure access to the bosses’ EU single market.”
– What the SWP refuses to recognise is the obvious fact that those most enthusiastic about a second referendum are the ultra-nationalists. But the SWP pretends that the demand for a second referendum is ‘really’ the property of the most progressive-minded people: “For socialists the sight of independence rallies can sometimes grate a little with the display of Saltire flags and Scottish football tops. But the aspirations of the people who turn out at them is vastly different from that narrow nationalist perspective. The number of Palestinian flags and the rainbow flag of LGBT+ liberation present showed the grassroots movement for independence is marked by a progressive politics.”
- See also Tendance Coatesy, here.
By Dale Street
Last week turned out to be a particularly busy one for the flag-waving puddle-drinkers* who wallow in self-righteous denunciations of any slight – real or, more often than not, imagined –to the Holy Trinity of Scotland, the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon.
It began at the weekend with Sadiq Khan’s speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference: “There’s no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we’re English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion.”
The statement had been preceded by references to “Brexit, the election of President Trump in the United States and the rise of right-wing populist and narrow nationalist parties around the world.”
It was followed by criticisms of “some in Scotland who try to define London as your enemy … They make out London is always working to undermine Scotland. That is not my London and it’s not Labour’s London.”
Denouncing the SNP as divisive and nationalist and part of a broader surge of right-wing populism touched a raw nerve. But what did a Black Muslim mayor of the biggest city in Britain, elected in the face of a campaign based on bigotry and division, know about such things anyway?
A lot of Khan’s critics seemed not to have even understood (or wanted to understand) what he actually said: “SNP equals Nazis is Labour’s new defence of Britain? Do you oppose all nation states then? … He just called 50% of Scots racists. Some understanding!”
Instead of speaking in Scotland, Khan was advised to concentrate on the problems he had created in London: “I just don’t know who the hell Sadiq Khan thinks he is. He has already got London into a Bengali slum. He needn’t start on Scotland. He needs to go.”
Needless to say, there was no sympathy for those who defended Khan’s comments: “Load of nonsense. You’re defending a libelling scumbag who has come to Scotland and lied, as did Corbyn.”
In fact, the publication of an article defending Khan on the Guardian’s website triggered a fresh round of breast-beating indignation among nationalists who – when not engaged in unending attempts to gag critically minded journalists – excel in extolling their toleration of dissent.
“Sadiq Khan was not wrong to compare Scottish nationalism to racism or religious intolerance, at least not entirely. Someone has to say it: the parallels are clear,” wrote Claire Heuchan, “as a black Scottish woman I too fear the politics of division. Zeal for national identity inevitably raises questions of who belongs and who is an outsider.”
Within 24 hours Heuchan had been hounded off Twitter by cybernat abuse: She was an African who had no right to discuss Scotland, she was not really Scottish, and the University of Stirling should sack her (even though she was a student, not an employee, at the university).
Running true to form, Wings Over Scotland, the ultimate form of Scottish-nationalist low life, took the lead in abusing Heuchan: “What an absolute galactic-class cuntwit.”
The news that Heuchan had quit Twitter was the signal for another round of abuse and denunciations – of Heuchan herself.
“More MSM Yoon propaganda. Unqualified nonsense. … Her piece was sanctimonious self-regarding claptrap from a Unionist shill. It got the reaction you were hoping for. … I’m sure some people did step over the mark, folk are angry, but this cry victim shit is unbelievable.”
“Woman who linked racism with Scottish nationalism quits Twitter over severe case of embarrassment/shame There ya go, fixed. … Her accusations were disgusting and her views should not have been published. … Someone writes an awful uninformed piece of clickbait, is asked questions, locks her account and runs away. Fake news.”
By Wednesday it had become clear that the publication of the piece by Heuchan was part of a sustained attack by the Guardian on the SNP and its leader. The proof was provided by that day’s cryptic crossword.
12 across: Ruling nationalist’s way to encourage progress. And right next to that, 14 across: Carmen is close to perfect for discriminating fellow. Answers: “Sturgeon” and “Racist”. This could not possibly be a coincidence!
“So the racist crossword is real. Let’s be clear about this: the Guardian is pure British establishment. They are an attack dog for the UK. … Why did you imply in your crossword that Nicola Sturgeon was a racist? Why are you stirring it up? Call yourselves liberal?”
“This is a deliberate slur on our elected First Minister. Guardian: like the rest, no respect for democracy. … This is no coincidence. I worked for a crossword compiler and they are checked for possible ‘unintended’ inferences. … Why is this a conspiracy theory? It’s fact, not a theory.”
Inevitably, the cryptic crossword was not only the trigger for a second referendum (“This is today’s Guardian crossword. Time for #indeyref2.”) but also the trigger for yet another boycott campaign:
“I have cancelled my subscription today. Final straw: your outrageous clues in today’s crossword. … The Guardian never coming into this house again. … That’s the last donation to their news operation from me.”
(By this point in the week the puddle-drinkers had become so obsessed with the non-existent accusation that the SNP equals racism or the Nazis – please, take your pick – that they failed to notice that the answer to 1 down, which ran into “Sturgeon”, was “Prevent”.)
The week – and what a week it had been – was rounded off with the chance for yet another display of joyous, civic nationalism, occasioned by the Scottish Tories’ conference in Glasgow. It was too good an opportunity to miss:
“Let’s be clear. The Tory MSPs and Mundell launded by Ruth Davidson are the English Tory fifth column in Scotland. ‘Scottish’ in name only. … Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his father had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”
“Ruth Davidson should be hanging her head in shame to call herself Scottish. She is working against Scotland. There is a word for that! … Would be a lot better if Theresa May stayed in a nation that votes for her rather than come to lecture a nation that doesn’t vote for her.”
(Leaving aside the equating of voting patterns with nations, Theresa May has never actually stood for election in Scotland – a nation where the Tories are the second largest party in Parliament.)
Last week began with contrived self-righteous indignation at Sadiq Khan’s argument that Scottish nationalism was a divisive political force. (Although we all know: Scottish nationalism is not divisive; on the contrary, it is simply better than everyone else’s nationalism.)
The rest of the week was one long vindication of what he said.
is now a common term of abuse (for nats) in Scotland.
Nige and Dougie in happier times
The slow-motion car crash and hilarious pantomime that is the disintegration of Ukip seems to have been brought about in part at least, because Nigel Farage wants a knighthood, or perhaps a peerage. But preferably a knighthood, because a peerage would mean having to give up his cushy and well-paid seat in the European Parliament.
That’s right: Our Nige, Man of the People, the Outsider, the Scourge of the Establishment, wants a knighthood or a seat in the Lords!
When Douglas Carswell mocked the great Rebel’s ambitions, suggesting he should instead be given an OBE for “services to headline writers”, Farage was beside himself and publicly warned that the party will collapse unless its sole MP is thrown out.
Farage raged that Carswell had “sought to split and divide Ukip in every way imaginable” since defecting from the Conservatives in 2014. Farage said the leaked online exchange showed Mr Carswell was “consumed with jealousy and a desire to hurt me” and urged Paul Nuttall to expel him from the party.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Farage said: “As a party, how can we let a man represent us in the House of Commons who actively and transparently seeks to damage us?
“I think there is little future for Ukip with him staying inside this party. The time for him to go is now.”
Lord Pearson of Rannoch, Ukip’s former leader, initially tried to organise a peerage for Farage, backed by Ukip peer Lord Willoughby de Broke, last July in the wake of the EU referendum.
The plan were dropped when the pair realised Farage would have to resign as an MEP first before being allowed to accept a peerage.
Pearson then approached the Cabinet Office’s Parliamentary and political service honours committee about a knighthood for Mr Farage. It turned down the application at the end of July.
The peer then asked Carswell to approach Gavin Williamson, the Government’s chief whip, about appealing the decision to reject Farage’s application.
On December 30th Pearson emailed Carswell saying: “Dear Douglas, Could you let me know how your talk with Gavin Williamson went before Christmas? By phone if you prefer? Good wishes. Malcolm.”
Carswell replied the next morning on December 31 – the day the New Year’s honours were announced – saying: “As promised, I did speak to the government Chief Whip.
“Perhaps we might try angling to get Nigel an OBE next time round? For services to headline writers? An MBE, maybe?”
Pearson replied an hour later: “Dear Douglas, Let’s speak at your convenience. Ring me? Not sure an ‘Other Buggers’ Efforts’ quite hits the spot for Nige……..?! Malcolm”.
Farage said: “It could not be clearer that Douglas Carswell was negative in his response to the chief whip. He is consumed with jealousy and a desire to hurt both Ukip and me. What a sad figure he cuts.”
Pearson said the comments showed that it was “pretty clear [that Carswell] did not support” Farage’s knighthood.
He added: “It is true that I and others tried to get a knighthood for Nigel Farage and one way or another we failed, and we still think he should have one.
“I am not going to give up. I am going to go on and try to see whether we can get him a K in the Birthday honours in the summer.”
So much for the “radicalism” of Dulwich College educated ex-stockbroker Farage. Radicalism has a real meaning and tradition in politics and it couldn’t be further from Farage’s repackaged conservatism. So while we can all have a good laugh at Nige’s frustrated ambitions to join the aristocracy, our real job is to use this to drive a final nail into Ukip’s preposterous claim to represent the working class.
Andrew Coates nails the liars and fantasists of Socialist Worker:
Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.
Don’t lump together Brexit and Trump.
Socialist Worker. 21.2.2017.
There’s no shortage of things to be angry about at the moment—especially when it comes to racism and attacks on Muslims and migrants.
It can be hard to keep track of the outrages committed by US president Donald Trump.
And in Britain many politicians think the vote to leave the European Union (EU) is an opportunity to attack migrants and end freedom of movement.
Yet Trump and Brexit are not the same thing—and we shouldn’t lump them together.
There are similarities between the two. They both happened because sections of working class people kicked back at mainstream politicians after decades of attack.
Some did swallow racist myths pushed from the top of society.
But there is a major difference. There could never be a progressive case for supporting Donald Trump—but there has always been a left wing and anti-racist case against the EU.
Socialist Worker campaigned to leave the EU because it has enforced austerity and locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty.
It’s not true that the main factor behind the Leave vote was racism against migrants—as polls keep showing.
It was a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politicians.
There’s an anti-establishment feeling in Britain that can be turned into resistance.
But to do that means connecting with people’s anger—not dismissing it as racist.
It is no doubt important to emphasise that Trump, who strongly backed Brexit, is not Brexit, nor indeed is he Paul Nuttall, nor was he present, like Nuttall at the Battle of Hastings.
Yet one suspects that the SWP are stung by the loud noises of celebration coming from the Trump camp, and far-rightists around the world, from Marine Le Pen onwards, at the British vote to Leave.
It would be interesting to see the data that shows that the main factor behind the Brexit was “a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politics.”
It would be also interesting to see a Marxist analysis of the ‘elite’, what class it is, and indeed what an ‘elite’ in the UK is.
It would be perhaps too much to expect an account of how leaving the EU, and attacking migrants’ rights (in the UK and, for UK citizens within continental Europe) and ending freedom of movement within its frontiers, is going bring borders down and help, “locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty”.
No doubt the “The EU’s Frontex border guards stop refugees entering Europe by land – forcing them to risk their lives at sea.” will disappear as the UK……. sets up its own border guards.
How Brexit was going to be part of the the fight against austerity by consolidating power in the hands of the right-wingers now in charge of the UK Sovereign state, opening up the way for future trade agreements with the pro-Brexit nationalist Trump, is one of those mysteries of the dialectic.
One that shouting that Trump is not Brexit, and an analysis based on “kicking back” at elites, is not going to unravel.
As for people’s reasons for the Leave vote.
This is a synthesis of many studies (Wikipedia).
On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft‘s polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that ‘Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.”
Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that ‘One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”’
Immediately prior to the referendum data from Ipsos-Mori showed that immigration/migration was the most cited issue when Britons were asked ‘What do you see as the most/other important issue facing Britain today?’ with 48% of respondents mentioning it when surveyed.
In the SWP’s Alternative News Factory the third who were plainly anti-migrant have vanished, nor any consideration that this may have been a reason, if not the principal one, for a Brexit vote.
Perhaps the writers for Socialist Worker were asleep when the torrent of anti-migrant propaganda was unleashed in the country.
Now, how exactly is the SWP going to relate to the “anti-establishment” demand that motivated the others that “decisions taken in the UK should be taken in the UK” by these people ‘angry at the elites’?
More Nuttallaria from the excellent SKWAWKBOX:
In yet another blow to UKIP leader Paul Nuttall’s chances in the Stoke Central by-election later this week, the Chairs of UKIP Liverpool and Merseyside have both resigned. It’s extremely rare for this writer to be able to say ‘well done’ to anyone from UKIP, but both gentlemen have taken a stand on principle and that’s laudable.
As Politics Home revealed, Stuart Monkcom issued a statement on behalf of himself and Adam Hetherington, which reads:
Although the timing of our resignations is unfortunate in light of upcoming elections, both Adam and I wish to make it clear, where the painful subject of Hillsborough is concerned, with closure not yet in sight, this unprofessional approach and crass insensitivity from high profile people closely within and without Ukip is upsetting and intolerable.
We identify most strongly with all the good people of Liverpool and most importantly the families of the Hillsborough victims who have fought so hard and long for justice, in their condemnation of the way Ukip has handled these issues.
I felt supporting a libertarian party was the right thing to do in order to affect change in the political system in this country. Unfortunately that dream has been shattered and the potential of Ukip has been squandered by people who have demonstrated they are not fit to lead.
Nuttall’s campaign – and even his party – appear to have come apart at the seams. The SKWAWKBOX, which initiated this chain of events and added various links to it – especially the revelation that Nuttall and Nigel Farage had smeared the Hillsborough families in an attempt to get off the hook (a fact that is unlikely to be unconnected to today’s resignations, given the wording of the statement), is proud to have played its part in what should be a ‘dustbin of history’ moment for UKIP’s leader and hopefully even his party.
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Attendees of an alt-right conference in Washington, D.C., perform the Nazi salute to celebrate Trump’s election
DONALD TRUMP likes to think that he has not only won an election, but “built a movement.” And to judge by his first week in the White House, he has–just not in the way he thinks.
One day after the smallest public attendance at a presidential inauguration that anyone can remember, roughly a half million people turned out for the Women’s March on Washington to denounce Trump’s agenda of immigrant-bashing, misogyny and attacks on reproductive rights. It was perhaps the largest protest since the antiwar rallies during George W. Bush’s second term, and a number of speakers expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement against racist police violence. On the same day as the march, hundreds of “sister” events were held at the same time in cities throughout the U.S. and around the world (including Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt) with estimates of up to 3 million participants in total.
In short, Donald Trump may well be on the way to inspiring a new mass radicalization on a scale that American leftists have only dreamt of in recent decades. In 2016, millions of first-time voters came out in support of Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Party candidate who identifies himself as a socialist and has called for “political revolution”–a concept left vaguely defined, to be sure, but one that resonates with a generation that has grown up with no reason to think that either the world’s economy or its environment can take much more of capitalism’s “invisible hand.”
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JUST TWO months ago, the movement most associated with Trump’s name was the so-called “alt-right” of extreme reactionaries, including the neo-fascists who joined Richard Spencer in chanting “Hail Trump!” during a meeting of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist “think tank.” Another leading alt-right figure, Trump’s campaign manager Steve Bannon, now serves as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor, and has undoubtedly been the adviser urging Trump to think of his electoral success as proof that he is at the leader of a mass movement.
It is something Trump himself quite desperately wants to believe. Anyone paying attention to his campaign could see how deeply he craved the adulation of crowds that laughed, cheered and expressed rage in time to his moods. Someone once called politics “show business for ugly people.” By that standard, Trump is a star ne plus ultra.
But he is far from knowledgeable about affairs of state, much less about the complex ideological terrain of American conservatism. He enters office with a Congress dominated by a Republican Party that–as one of its leading strategists put it–only needs the president to have enough fingers to sign the legislation it gives him. Trump qualifies in that regard, so the Republican establishment thinks it can work with him. They can all agree on dismantling Obama’s health-care reform, cutting taxes, privatizing public education, restricting the rights of women and LGBT people and removing or preventing government regulation of the economy (especially of anything based on a recognition of man-made climate change), for example.
Most of this has been central to the Republican agenda for decades, along with support for military spending and an aggressive imperialist foreign policy. Carefully avoided, for the most part, is any explicit reference to race. The late Lee Atwater, an influential Republican figure, once explained that the old-fashioned race-baiting had become unpopular and ineffective, so the trick was to be more subtle. “So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff,” he told a political scientist, “and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, Blacks get hurt worse than whites…’We want to cut this’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.'”
Trump’s political ascent began with a variant on this tactic: he promoted the idea that Barack Obama could not prove that he was actually a U.S. citizen. But his campaign rhetoric against Mexican and Muslim immigrants was less “abstract” (to borrow Atwater’s term) about appealing to racist sentiments. This proved embarrassing to Republican leaders, but they were hardly in the position of taking a principled stand against it. At the same time, a tension within the American right had intensified under the impact of the world economic crisis: Republican propaganda might celebrate the wealthy as “job creators,” proclaim the virtues of small business ownership, and declare rural towns to be “the real America.” But the policies they actually advanced (and that the Democratic party under Clinton and Obama largely supported) have heightened economic uncertainty and inequality to extremes not seen since the Great Depression.
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SPENCER, BANNON and other alt-rightists understand their role as building up mechanisms of political and social authority over a population that will only grow more ethnically and cultural heterogeneous in the next two decades–while also being unlikely to recover its standard of living through the pure magic of the free market. They reject both neoliberalism and Atwater-style coyness about channeling racial hostilities.
Insofar as the conservative establishment has a body of ideas to shore it up, the influences come from a blend of Ayn Rand’s celebration of “the virtue of selfishness” with a belief that God dictated the Constitution, or at least had a hand in the outline. By contrast, the more sophisticated of the alt-right strategists are acquainted with Alain de Benoist’s ethnic communitarianism and Carl Schmitt’s understanding of politics as defined by the sovereign’s combat with an enemy. And they see most of the Republican leadership as being an enemy.
Donald Trump is no doubt entirely innocent of such esoteric concepts. He spent his first week in a simmering rage over slights by the media and fuming from an awareness that he entered office with the lowest level of public confidence of any incoming president (only to lose another three points since then). But he sits astride the fault line between members of Congress who see themselves as Ronald Reagan’s political heirs, on the one side, and those who share Bannon’s aspiration to destroy the Republican Party and replace it with something more vicious and brutal.
It is, in other words, a precarious and unstable conjuncture and one that can only grow more volatile as far-right campaigns mobilize elsewhere in the world. One thing that Marxists bring to the situation is an understanding that capitalism’s crises are always international–throwing down to us the challenge of finding ways to learn from and unify the forces from below that resist them. Millions of people in the United States are thinking about how to shut down Trump’s assaults on vulnerable segments of the population. And seeing millions more around the world take to the street in solidarity can only help as we relearn the truth of the old Wobbly slogan: An Injury to One is an Injury to All.
First published in German at Marx21 and in English at New Politics.
From Our Person in Stoke, Phil Burton-Cartledge at All That Is Solid:
Lies, Damned Lies, and Paul Nuttall
Where to you start with a politician like Paul Nuttall? Like a foul dinner that keeps repeating, his every action belches falsehood upon fib upon lie. Saying you played professionally for Tranmere Rovers and having a PhD when you didn’t and don’t is good knockabout for politics anoraks, but it’s serious when your habitual lying extends to the seminal tragedy of modern football. Claiming you were there, that “you are a survivor” when everyone is saying you weren’t, and saying you lost “close personal friends” only to row back reveals a slimy opportunist who has to turn to a dictionary every time integrity is mentioned.
Having finally seen Nuttall up close at Monday’s by-election hustings at Staffordshire University, I found nothing that challenged my earlier assessment of him. For example, after saying he wouldn’t have a problem waterboarding a 10 year old he immediately disassembled and denied saying it, just as my moggy gives me one of those looks after finding her piss again on the kitchen floor. If only someone had recorded it. He cannot help but lie. If he’d had Ready Brek that morning he’d say he had Weetabix.
I understand why Paul Nuttall lies, and that’s because he’s a nothing man, an empty vessel that eats, walks around, and draws breath. All that there is a desire to be important, a hunger to be noticed, and that’s difficult if there’s nothing about you worth noticing. Consider UKIP’s leading figures for a moment. Douglas Carswell is the intellectual. Neil Hamilton the sleaze. Suzanne Evans the Tory. And Nigel Farage the cigarette swilling, pint smoking demagogue. Each have definable and discernible qualities, however much you may dislike them. But Nuttall, what of he? He’s alright in the media, he’s bald, he’s a scouser, and that’s about it. There is no presence to the man, something that was clearly evident at Monday’s hustings where Labour’s Gareth Snell and the Conservatives’ Jack Brereton both affected more weight on the stage.
If you are a politician without qualities, you can do one of two things. You can drift into obscurity and quietly draw a salary, much like the rest of UKIP’s anonymous cohort of MEPs, or make stuff up to give your character a bit of, well, character. In this by-election, we’ve seen Nuttall indulge Nigel Farage cosplay with his tweed outfit and flat cap look. Where the bloody hell he got the idea from that this is an appropriate look for Stoke is beyond me. He has also been taking a leaf out of Tristram’s book, too. Readers may recall that the dearly departed was hailed as a breath of fresh air, as a national figure with all the London connections that would help the Potteries. And give Tristram his due, he helped put the city on the national media’s radar and a number of interesting and important initiatives were born of these links. Nuttall has latched on to this and now parades around telling everyone who will listen that he’s a “national figure” too. And because he’s a big cheese, everything is going to be fine. Really Paul, if you have to go round convincing folks you’re a Very Big Deal …
What I find interesting is this is more than a Paul Nuttall issue, the cynical lies he tells is a property of hard right populist and fascist leaders generally. Nick Griffin and his coterie were pathological liars. Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen of Facebook fash, Britain First, are compulsive liars. Marine Le Pen, just like dear old papa, lies, lies, and lies. And the Grand Poobah himself, Donald Trump, lies as easily as he breathes. What we’re dealing with here is not just the individual flaws of a deeply average and, actually, quite dim man but a sociological phenomenon common to a family of politics. As with everything else, Nuttall doesn’t stand out among his peers. He’s utterly typical and indistinguishable from them. The banality of evil, indeed.
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