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From: Irish Political Review: Editorials
Date: April, 2018
By: Editorial

Some Bizarre Theatre From Britain!

Some Bizarre Theatre From Britain!
A British spy—who spied on Russia was found out and convicted of treason in Russia, but was repatriated to Britain in an exchange of spies—was poisoned in England at the military town of Salisbury within a few miles of the British military poison centre of Porton Down. The substance was said to be a rare military poison invented in the Soviet Union.
There is an international organisation with responsibility for the monitoring of such poisons. Britain did not initially refer the matter to it. It identified the poison very quickly, presumably because it possessed some itself, and suggested that poisoning of the repatriated spy was done by the Russian Government either by direct action or by criminal negligence in letting it out of its control. It put out a public challenge asking it to say which it was, or else to give some other explanation.
When Moscow did not comply with the 48 hour ultimatum, the British Government said that this proved that the Russian Government was likely to have done the poisoning and it expelled 23 members of the Russian diplomatic body, but not the Ambassador, and the British Foreign Secretary said that all the expelled diplomats, or virtually all of them, were spies, and that the expulsions would disrupt Russian espionage in Britain for a generation.
Washington, after some hesitation, said that the British opinion that the Russian Government did the poisoning was "plausible".

Why did Putin decide to try to execute this British spy whom he had pardoned in 2010 when offering him in an exchange of spies? Was it that he had reason to think the Spy Sergei Skripal had, in breach of an agreement, become dangerously active again? Nobody in the British Government, Opposition, or media, had even hinted at such a thing.
The only motive suggested for Putin doing it just now is that he was fighting an Election and wanted to make sure he would win.
But all other British (and Irish) comment on the Russian Election ridiculed it as a faked affair that Putin could not possibly lose.

Another suggestion was that Putin wanted to let it be known how traitors abroad would be dealt with. But a discreet assassination by some other method, which could not be sensationalised as the rare military poison has been, would have achieved that purpose: the message would have got through to those to whom it applied.
Why did Whitehall only refer the matter to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons after being challenged to do so? An international indictment would surely have had more weight. Was it not confident of getting an OPCW indictment?

A number of factual assertions have got into circulation, without factual contradiction, from beyond the British information/propaganda system, which do not fit well with the British line. One is that the inventor of the poison in the Soviet Union went into the service of the United States as the Soviet state was breaking up (as Nazi personnel with anti-Communist expertise of various kinds did in 1945), and that he published the recipe for the poison.
It is also asserted without contradiction that the poison was made in a Soviet factory located in Uzbekistan—and that the factory was decontaminated by the United States, which means that the US took possession of it.
The few spokesmen for the Russians interviewed on the BBC reject the assertion that the poison is a Russian invention. It was Soviet. This is treated as an absurd quibble. And so it is from the view the UK and EU have chosen to adopt towards the Russian remnant of the Soviet Union that has unexpectedly proved to be viable. But the Russian State knows very well that it is not the 'Soviet Empire', and it is determined to make a go of itself on different foundations.

Baroness Chakrabarti—a Labour peer with a civil rights background—has become part of the British Establishment, and she appears to be of the opinion that it is legally of no consequence that the state in which the poison was invented no longer exists. She shares the Government's view that responsibility passed on to Russia as a kind of successor state.
Russia founded the Soviet Union, but it is not a successor state in any meaningful sense. It is only a survivor that was not intended to prosper by the forces that pulled the Soviet Union apart.
Russia now appears to be developing as a nation-state. It was not a nation-state when Home Rule Ireland went into ecstatic alliance with it in 1914, as a willing component of the British Empire, for the destruction of Germany. It was a miscellany of peoples of various kinds in an Empire autocratically governed by the Tsar. The Bolshevik Revolution took command of the Empire and subjected the various peoples to hegemonised national developments. In 1941-45 it extended its power by defeating Nazi Germany—which Britain had collaborated with for five years before suddenly deciding to make war on it and bungling that war. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1990, the national developments it had fostered all proved to be more viable politically than did the Russia that had fostered them. What Putin has done is develop a national body politic in Russia.

Capitalism was established in the Russian region of the disintegrating Soviet state by transferring State assets into the private ownership of President Yeltsin's friends, making them Oligarchs. These Oligarchs were not capitalist entrepreneurs. Their idea of enterprise was to affiliate with, and sell out to, Western multi-nationals. For a period there was in a real sense no national government in Russia. That was the era of 'democracy' that preceded Putin's 'tyranny'. Social welfare collapsed and the population declined.
In the course of pulling Russia out of plutocratic anarchy and forming it into a nation state capable of electing a government, Putin has made wealthy enemies, tacking his way amongst the Oligarchs, allying with some in order to curb others. There are many immensely wealthy Russians in London, some still having connections in Russia and at least tolerating the national system and others entirely hostile to it. The latter have been given time on BBC to explain that the Kremlin is run by a gang of criminals.

Twenty years ago, in the period of anarchy, there were a dozen or a score of political parties contesting Russian elections. They were parties with no continuity from one election to another. There were many ephemeral parties, but there was no party system and therefore no national body politic. Practical democracy requires a small number of major parties with some degree of history behind them, so that voters are in a position to make a choice to some purpose.

There is now a national system of state that is likely to prove durable. For that system to be governed by means of an effective electoral choice between parties, there needs to be a choice of parties with programmes designed to function within the established system, aspiring only to make marginal differences to it. The parties opposed to Putin's party are fundamentally opposed to the system which he has established and are therefore not competitive within it.

It was accepted in Britain (the prototype party democracy), during the party crisis following the collapse of the Liberal Party in the Great War, that elected government in a Parliamentary system required a basic ground of consensus between the parties. The Labour Party may have had a different idea to start with, but it soon shaped itself to the requirements of the system.
In Ireland after 1932, Fine Gael shaped itself to the post-Treaty system introduced by De Valera. This was after losing a series of elections over fifteen years, during which it had described Fianna Fail rule more or less as the rule of Putin's party in Russia is now being described in the West by his party opponents.
*

English democracy is unique in the world—and it is well aware of the fact. And yet it treats itself, paradoxically, as the norm to which the world should shape itself. Ireland has in recent times absorbed English assumptions and prejudices, and its elite displays English reflexes in their attitude towards the world. It should have been sympathetic towards Mugabe's repatriating to Zimbabwe of the land stolen by Rhodesia within living memory. But it wasn't.
It would have been if its members lived in the history of their own development. But they don't. They set about discarding their own history about forty years ago. That was their bizarre response to the War in the North.
They entered Europe along with Britain, in the Joycean spirit of escaping the nightmare of history that they had become for themselves. They became European in the British medium. Britain was at the heart of Europe (subverting it), enabling West British yearnings to disguise themselves as Europeanist. Brexit shocked them, but they still have a very long way to go before they let go of the false understanding of Britain which they devised for themselves and are able to see England as it is.

The objectionable methods by which Putin is trying to develop a Russian national body politic are as nothing compared with the methods of total nationalism by which England constructed itself throughout the 18th century and in the 19th, within the security of Imperialist world power under which it phased the populace gradually into the Parliamentary franchise.
Imperialism was the context of democratisation. It was within the context of populist Imperialism in the 1880s that the ruling class began to see democratisation of the Parliamentary franchise as a safe political project. Functional democracy was based on Imperialism in Britain, and not only in Britain. And what led to the subversion of formal Empire was not the democratic opposition from within but the loss of power suffered in two unnecessary and badly-managed World Wars.
About fifty years ago there were mainstream English historians who described the reality of democratisation as being connected with Imperialism. That is no longer done, but the Imperialist mentality has a deeper grip on the popular mind now than it had then. In those times it was widely recognised that there were very different ways in which humans might live legitimately. But no longer. Milton's injunction that England must teach the nations how to live has taken root, and the English fashion of the moment becomes a universal human right warranting interfering with all who do not follow it.
The leading fashion of the moment in this regard is homosexual marriage. Only fifty years ago, homosexual practice was a crime punishable by imprisonment with hard labour, and there was a suggestion that the beastliness of Nazism had its source in the homosexualism that was rife among the Brownshirts. But, if action is ever taken against Putin, "gay rights" will figure in the indictment. (This is even though homosexuality is legal in Russia and there are homosexual venues: however, homosexual 'propaganda' is not permitted. Does anyone remember Mrs. Thatcher and her textbooks now?)

Members of the Irish elite are very British in this respect. But, if one of them appears on the BBC's Question Time, it is immediately clear that their Britishness is spurious. They don't fit in. They are a novelty. Any Northern Sinn Feiner would fit in much better. And Ulster Unionists, out of the backwoods, fit in perfectly, as to the manner born.
Maread McGuinness MEP of Fine Gael, the 1st Vice President of the European Parliament, appeared on BBC Question Time on 15th March, and was made much of. Had it been proved beyond reasonable doubt that Putin had poisoned Skripal? Well, she knew nothing about it really, but she was sure nevertheless: "Look, I'm no expert in these issues, but I have to believe what you [turning to Tory Minister Chris Grayling] are saying in terms of the security services".
Of course the Russians denied it:

"I listened to the Russian Ambassador to the UN, and he didn't pull his punches last night… And used some very harsh words about the British Intelligence Service… But, if not Russia, who else?"

She didn't know, but couldn't admit, in the presence of British certainty, that she didn't know.

At the same time she didn't want there to be any consequences of the certainty that Putin did it. If there was action on that certainty, the affair would not blow over quickly—and a renewed Cold War would not be a nice thing—

"and you know that the European Union, because of the Crimea, put sanctions on Russia. In a sense we had to do that. But it has emboldened, perhaps, the Russian spirit. Europe took a hit at the time, with products not allowed into Russia. I'm not sure what will happen next because of this incident."

Why did the EU have to put sanctions on Russia because of the Crimea? Because it had enacted a coup d'etat against the elected Ukrainian Government—whose election was not disputed at the time of the election—because it made a trade agreement with Russia along with one made with the EU. There was a strong Irish presence in the coup d'etat. The embers of Ukrainian Fascism were fanned into flame. When the EU began to have doubts about what it had started, it was brushed aside by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State to the de facto President of the World, Barack Obama, who said "Fuck the EU!", and she gave anti-Russianism its head. The coup Government, fuelled by the revived fascism, announced extensive anti-Russian measures. If Putin had let the thing run on, NATO would soon have been surrounding the Russian Naval Base in the Crimea, and post-Soviet Russia would possibly have become a "failed state"—like Iraq and Libya. What Putin did was enable the predominantly Russian population of Crimea, in the face of the generalised anti-Russianism of the coup, to attach itself to Russia.

The EU swallowed its pride over being fucked (raped?) by Washington, and became self-righteously indignant over the Russian breach of the democratic 1945 settlement of Europe—that was made possible only by the Russian defeat of Fascist Europe. Hitler had about a dozen European allies in his invasion of Russia. and the conditions under which Europe settled down for forty-give years under 1945 arrangements was the extensive nationalist ethnic cleansings, and population movements in European countries to the east of Germany, that were carried out in 1945-6 under the authority of the United Nations—which in practice meant Moscow and Washington.
It is only now that these extensive national-democratic ethnic cleansings are beginning to be written about—by academics only. Political Europe remains in denial about it.

The Question Time panel also included Afshin Rattansi, a Russia Today presenter with his own programme, Going Underground. He was there to demonstrate British fairness. His comments were strictly curbed by Chairman David Dimbleby, while Mairead was encouraged to ramble on—but he did succeed in mentioning the Ukrainian coup. And he angered Mairead by suggesting that the EU demanded a hard border in Ireland: "Europe has not threatened—do you understand anything about the Customs Union and the Single Market?"
The Chair did not want this point to be developed and so it was lost. Rattansi possibly meant that Britain after Brexit could leave its trade borders with the EU open—why not?—and that the EU as a Protectionist body could not agree to this and would insist on borders. What other meaning can there be in Britain's insistence that it would have no interest in establishing a trade border in Ireland after Brexit, and would not do so?

The grand theatre about Russia's nerve gas invasion of Britain—and that has been the tenor of media commentary in Britain—served the useful purpose for Theresa May of eclipsing controversy over Brexit, unifying both her party and the nation across party lines, with a few honourable exceptions. When the body politic recovers from its nationalistic, xenophobic anti-Russian binge, the controversy over Brexit terms will not seem so important any more.

PS
One of Putin's defeated rivals, Ksenia Sobchak, was brought on BBC's Newsnight to add another voice of certainty to the opinion that Putin poisoned Skripal. Introduced as a Russian Reality TV personality who stood "as a Liberal protest candidate", she said that she admired British justice very much, and therefore she was astonished that Theresa May could have come to her verdict so quickly. She was sad to see May descending to Putin's level.

The critical thing in the incident appears to have to do with a state reaching to kill enemies who have been given refuge in another state. To our knowledge, Israel was the first state which did that systematically. It scarcely bothered to pretend that it was not doing it. And we do not recall that Britain, or the EU, or the UN ever made an issue of it.
President Obama murdered Ben Laden in another state in preference to kidnapping him and putting him on trial.
Britain de-legitimised the Syrian state a few years ago and urged its overthrow. Many British citizens went there for that purpose. Now that Russia has prevented Syrian from going the way of Libya, some of them will be coming home. And there has been public discussions in British parliamentary circles about whether it might be more expedient to find ways of killing them in Syria instead of having to cope with them when they come home.

The Skibbereen Eagle Returns
Ireland wasted its moment of power when it took the lead in diverting the EU from puting Britain on the spot about a Brexit border in Ireland and focussed discussion during a long day and part of a night (22nd and 23rd March) on getting token support from the EU for Britain's feud with Russia.
The EU, in exhaustion, agreed to withdraw its Moscow Ambassador for consultations, which was hailed in Britain as the EU breaking off diplomatic relations with Russia. The following day the Brexit business was rushed through the European Council to Britain's satisfaction.
Recent Irish Governments have forgotten what Ireland knew in the past—that relations between states are impersonal, and there is no reward for subservience.

John Bruton, who would have preferred that there should be no Irish state for him to have been Taoiseach of, explained in the Independent the following day that what Ireland did was offer Britain a gesture of emotional sympathy against Russia, in order to help it to feel at home in Europe so that it can give up Brexit. Below are some extracts from his piece:

"…My feeling is that the decision to opt for Brexit was based on a deep seated wish to assert an English sense of identity.
Just as Irish nationalism in the 19th and 20th century defined Irishness as being in contrast with 'Britishness', Englishness today is being defined, in the minds of many in England, as being in contrast with continental Europe, as reflected in the European Union…
"In the absence of a major crisis, or of an heroic exercise of political leadership in Downing Street, rational argument, on its own, will not reverse the course towards a progressively wider gulf between the UK and the rest of Europe, during and after Brexit…
England needs an emotional European solidarity over Russian activities is the sort of things that can help Britons feel more European reconciliation with Europe [sic] .
European solidarity with the UK over the Russian activities in Salsibury is an example of the sort of thing that can help Britons feel more European [sic]…
If the UK is to reverse course, it will need time… An extension of time under Article 50… might be considered.
One might consider if there are gestures that can be made toward the UK that do not damage the integrity of the EU, but which would make the UK feel more at home as a member…" (Irish Independent 24.3.18)


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Don't Curry The Yoghurt. Pádraig Ó Mathúna
March Brexit Summary. Dave Alvey
The Skibbereen Eagle Returns. Editorial
The Russian Revolution. Brendan Clifford (100th Anniversary, Part 5)
The Days Of Orangeade And Lilies. What A Nerve! Wilson John Haire (Poems)
Response To A Yeatesian Regurgitation Of A Markievicz Myth. Manus O’Riordan
Biteback: Remembering The R I C! Philip O'Connor
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