Rule Britannia? was Re: upheavals in England, 1640 - 1848

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Thu Jun 20 23:43:28 MDT 1996

At 09:23 AM 6/20/96 +0000, Adam wrote:
>I don't think you can realistically argue that Protestant workers  are
>totally committed to British Imperialism. This statement just isn't based
>on empirical reality. Ultimately, the Unionist ascendancy rested on a real
>material base - if you were in the Orange lodge, this would get you a job
>in the shipyards and a house. This base has gone, and this has weakened
>the hold of Unionism. Paisley could never organise another sectarian strike
>like they did in the 70's. I think this is even reflected in Protestant
>paramilitaries political parties - they are, after all, attending negotiations
>with the Irish government !

Jeff and Adam have both taken up my comments  on the Protestant working
class and I will try and deal with them both  here.  Adam does not produce
any empirical evidence to refute my statement that the Protestant working
class is pro-imperialist.  though later on he seems to say that they have
chosen british nationalism asopposed to Irish natioinalism.

That was of course not the choice they were offered.  They were offered
material priviliges if they sided against the Catholic working class.  Apart
>from a very brief period in the 1930s they have chosen to desert their
fellow workers and to align themselves  with every filthy dirty reactionary
cause thatever there was.
BTW it is vital to realise that despite some window dressing unemployment
among Caotholics is still vastly greater than it is among Protestants.  This
is the material base of the Ulster statelet and nothing has changed.

Of course Adam is corrrect to emphasise the framgentation among the
Loyalist/Protestant community.  What is this fragmentation about?  There are
some of  the groups like the UFF who have among their ranks serial killers
such as the Shankill Butcher.  Even the arch pro-imperialist Connor Cruise
O'Brien admits that there is no equivalent on the republican side to a
phenomenon like the Butcher.  why is  this so? Because Irish republican
ideology is linked directly to the revoltu9ionary nationalist thought  of
the United Irishmen of the 18th C.  The current Protestant militias have as
their ideological predesccesors fascists and imperialists.  Their whole
thought is racist and directly reflects their consciousness as white settlers.

These groups are torn between Ulster nationalism and pro-british sentiment.
They will of course always chose to go with the British, but they may do
things like negotiate with the Irish Govt.  This  means bugger all.  It
merely gives them prestige and respectability.  It also helps advance the
British argument that the whole affair is one of the Catholics versus the
Protestants and they the British are the honest brokers caught in the middle.

Now there are Loyalists who do not advocate the solution of the Butcher. But
if you take the recent voting Patterns in Northern Ireland you will see that
the Protestant community is attempting to maintain its priviliges. Besides
the current facre taking polace in Belfast shows that there are indeed no
negotiations and there  is no peace process.  When the Loyalists say "No
surrender! Not an inch!", they mean it.

Adam I am delighted that your group can sell a radical paper to the
protestant workers.  You are correct when I lived in N. Ireland they would
have been assassinated for that.  But how many do you sell? 10? 20? 30?

Now Jeff has met some N. Irish Protestant marxists.  Actually I have met one
myself here in Brisbane.  But I betcha Jeff that you would be very hard
pressed to meet one in N. Ireland unless you want to count in the
Revisionist Historians that Hobsbawm has championed.
>Indeed. But we have to be honest and point out that they have no solution to
>current impasse - neither bombs nor negotiations are going to get anywhere.
>Even if there is a settlement ( say, under a Blair government ) , this
>will not solve ANY of the problems in Ireland.

Both Jeff and Adam press me on the question of solutions.  Jeff thinks that
if I discount the 1 million Protestant working class then no solution is
possible. Of course one must have a strictly non-sectarian attitude towards
Protestants.  And if anyone can show me concrete evidencve of a sectarian
statement by an Irish Republican then I will be astonished. I reject of
course the argument that to attack a sectarian state means that you are

Adam thinks bombs in Manchester achieve nothing.  Well actually they do,
y'know.  The splintering in the Loyalist community that he mentions, the
Anglo-Irish talks, the anti-discrimination legislation,  the involvement of
Clinton, the abolition of the N. Ireland Parliament etc these are all the
direct results of the IRA campaign.  It is simply not correct to say that
the military campaign of the IRA has achieved nothing or that it has made
the Loyalists more Loyalist.

One could argue that it has made the British working class less sympathetic
to  the Irish cause.  But when were they ever very sympathetic?  Not in my
life time.

But what is  the solution?  I agree that Blair will give us little by way of
change from Major.  He may even be worse.  Callaghan was certainly. The
best, very best, that the British and Irish govts can offer is some sort of
overcoming of narrow nationalism within a super state of Europe.  I am
cynical about the possibility for  the decline of regional tensions within
such a scenario.

Much better would be for the IRA to begin to realise what all the blood and
sweat and toil has actually been about.  My criticism of them is that they
have never really come to understand the nature of the struggle they were
engaged in.  Theirs is a nationalism which has not changed over the
centuries.  They got support in N. Ireland mainly because of the lived
experience of the N. Irish Catholic community, not as they think  because of
some abstract commitment among the people to a United Ireland..

But we can debate this another day if you like.  I will simply repeat what I
began this thread with.  The Irish Nationalist movement is pitted against an
extremely  ruthless Imperialist nation that is still drunk with fantasies of
racial superiority.  Sure the IRA  have botched the struggle.  But the
amount of support they have gotten over the years from British Marxists and
"revolutionaries" is not much to boast about.

Your comrade


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