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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: July, 2020|
Fianna Gael etc.
The Anti-Sinn Fein Fianna Gael Government is being set up after much difficulty. The Green Party had some difficulty about ceasing to be a widespread movement and narrowing itself down to be a party instrument for use against Sinn Fein, particularly since much of its electoral support came from the Sinn Fein surplus.
But, if all that Fianna Gael has said about Sinn Fein over the past sixty years was in earnest, it is vital that it should be kept out of Office. Professor Dermot Keogh of Cork University—who has had the ideological formation of so many politicians—declared at the time of the British Embassy burning in 1971 that it was a Fascist organisation intent on establishing a Fascist state, and we do not recall that anybody in the Establishment ridiculed him for saying it.
For Keogh—and for Micheál Martin—the present situation must appear to be a reproduction of the German situation of 1933. If the Green Party does not sacrifice itself to the anti-Sinn Fein cause, what is to be done? The obvious answer—call another Election—is the wrong answer. Hitler was consolidated in power by elections.
This Fascist scenario is a fantasy scenario, sincerely constructed by hysterics as a mode of evading the question of what Northern Ireland was, and how on earth a 28-year War against the British State could be sustained by two-fifths of the NI population and fought to a viable reform.
Meanwhile Mary Lou has been trying to charm the Ulster Unionists. She has expressed appreciation of their resistance to Rome Rule and said they had a case. She said that,
"while aware of Northern Ireland being what she called 'a cold house for Catholics', she added: 'There was merit when our Unionist friends feared and said that 'Home Rule was Rome Rule'. We have to say that out loud, because that did nobody any favours, and I say that as a Catholic, and I know lots of people who are Catholics do recognise that that was wrong—and actually damaged everyone, and I think it damaged the Church too'…" (Belfast Telegraph, June 22).
Religion was to some extent an element in the differences between the two peoples in Ireland, but the rejection of Roman Catholicism by Ulster Unionists was different in kind from tis rejection by elements in Sinn Fein in recent times. Ulster Unionism was what it called Christian. Christianity was deeply ingrained in it. And, when Sinn Fein campaigned for homosexual marriage and free abortion, it met with no friendly response from the anti-Romanist Unionist. Sinn Fein had to look to the British State to impose its liberal programme on Ulster Christianity. It could not carry it within the devolved system.
Sinn Fein anti-Roman Catholicism does not establish ground of agreement with Ulster Unionists, but reinforces the ground of difference.
And the Roman Catholicism of the South had no independent institutional base from which it was imposed on the populace. It rested only on public opinion. The priest never had any resource against the people. And the elaborate structure of the Church that accompanied the post-Famine national development was something new which was adopted as an effective means of eroding British hegemony. The Irish Republican Brotherhood aspired to establish some kind of anti-Catholic nationality but it was completely ineffective. Britain dominated and oppressed the Irish as Catholics and it was as Catholics that they freed themselves.
A hundred years ago Britain gave Ireland a Catholic Viceroy to govern it as the 4th Home Rule Bill was enacted—the one which the Irish refused to implement. This was intended to be an epoch-making event–the abolition of one of the remaining Penal Laws which would enable Ireland to surrender to the embrace of Empire under a Catholic representative of the Protestant monarchy.
If the Irish did not submit to the embrace, they were to be governed outside the British representative system as a Crown Colony. In the event, something altogether different happened, and the institution of a Catholic Viceroyalty was forgotten.
The classic Crown Colony was Hong Kong—a piece of China which the British hung onto when it was obliged to abandon the major project launched by the Opium War, a war waged by a Liberal Government from 1839, to compel China to make itself a market for opium produced in British India. It held Hong Kong under the fig-leaf of an imposed Treaty.
When the time on the Treaty ran out, Hong Kong had ceased to be Chinese in anything but a racial sense. Britain might have held it on much better grounds than the grounds on which it had conquered it, but it decided to return it to China. Its position in Asia had been comprehensively undermined by its 2nd World War, in which it chose to antagonise Japan in order to get American support for its war in Europe, which it was unable to prosecute with its own resources. So it dressed up its weakness in moralistic finery and demonstrated how meticulous it was in observing Treaties by handing it back.
The ill-gotten goods were returned with great ceremonial display by the last Viceroy, Chris Patten, who was a Catholic. A transition period was arranged so that Hong Kong could be re-assimilated gradually into the life of the Chinese state. But Lord Patten decided to make Hong Kong a democracy in the course of handing it back.
Democracy is a form of government. Hong Kong as a Crown Colony had no responsibility for its own government. Government was strictly the business of the Crown. The freedom of Hong Kong was the freedom of capitalist enterprise under State structures maintained by an external Power.
The artificiality of Hong Kong life was maintained by Peking for a while but, when the process of incorporating it into the Chinese state began, it was met with capitalist Utopian demonstrations of resistance, encouraged with worldwide publicity by the British media. And, when Peking availed of the opportunity of the Corona Virus to impose political lockdown on the demonstrators, Lord Patten declared that an International Treaty was being broken and that something must be done about it. The implication of what he says is that Britain has not relinquished sovereignty over its Crown Colony but has placed it under a kind of joint sovereignty with Peking, and that Britain as joint sovereign has responsibility to police the implementation of the agreement it made with Peking. Peking dismisses this as nonsense.
Britain might have held Hong Kong without war a generation ago, but it had the bright idea of returning it to China as an element of anarchic capitalist democracy that would subvert the Chinese State. The only way it could now prevent the anarchy it bequeathed to its Crown Colony from being snuffed out is by making war on China. The will to do it is there, but the means were thrown away when Britain broke its alliance with Japan at the insistence of the United States. It is now reduced to bluster and complaint—and fantasy.
Professor Matthew Goodwin, a Fellow of Chatham House, appeared on Sky News on May 26th to explain what made Britain great in the world was its culture of fair play and living by the rules. This is the fairy story that England likes to tell itself. And it tells the world how modest and self-effacing it is because the world somehow fails to notice these attributes of the English character!
"England is like a prostitute who, having sold her body all her life, decides to quit and close her business, and then tells everybody she wants to be chaste and protect her flesh as if it were jade". So writes He Manzi in the Shanghai Liberation Daily, with reference to Britain's discovery of a passion for democracy in Hong Kong under Chinese rule, having denied it democracy under British rule. (Quoted from the Dictionary Of Insulting Quotations by Jonathan Green.)
Lord Patten set up what he called "democracy" in Hong Kong when handing it back to China in 1964. If he had been in earnest about democratising government in capitalist Hong Kong, he would have established it as an independent political entity, instead of handing it back to a State which he regarded as "totalitarian". Democracy is a way of governing a state. Elections to something that is not the Government of a state do not constitute a democracy. The purpose of the pseudo-democratisation of Hong Kong was to establish a point of antagonism within the Chinese state that would be useful for propaganda purposes.
The West is concerned that the growth of Chinese influence in the world is undermining Western values. What is particularly obnoxious about Chinese activity around the world is that it empowers the former colonised states by offering real development along with mutually beneficial trade. It does not interfere in the internal political structures in the states with which it has a relationship.
Chinese intervention in world affairs exists only because Western values determined that China could not be let be. It was interfering with nobody else when a British Liberal Government made war on it in the 1830s, in order to compel it to accept and facilitate the sale of opium products from British merchants in India, under a system sponsored and organised by the Imperial administration.
The War Minister for the first Opium War was the most influential of all Liberal ideologues, Macaulay. The First Opium War was followed by others. The British example was followed by others. The Chinese State was broken down and its place was taken by a series of War Lords.
When an effective Chinese State was eventually restored, after the 2nd World War, it was through the growth of a Communist movement. The West was therefore hostile to it on two counts: for being Communist and for being an effective State. For a while China had the protection of being in a bloc with the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union fell apart, it had to be able to stand alone against the immense power of the triumphalist West. It was able to do so. And, since it was able to defend itself against the West, it was a danger to the West.
That is how things are in the world brought about by Western liberalism.
If the Opium War is mentioned, Britain yawns. It was so long ago!
For China it marks the beginning of modern times. It is current affairs, whereas the Slave Trade, which is so much in discussion just now, was over and done with before the assault on China was launched. But we have not heard it mentioned.
Where does Ireland stand in all of this? After all, it has captured a seat on the Security Council. Has it ceased to be what it was for so long, "an alien of the West"? Is it now part of the pack?
When the modern national movement was being shaped by Young Ireland the destruction of China was under way. The Nation, its paper which circulated around the whole country, commented on it. Official Ireland has consigned The Nation to the rubbish-bin of history. It might now be prudent to retrieve it. The Chinese have been forced onto the stage. They are not going to go away.
"Church bells rang out across Hungary last Thursday. Citizens stopped work, stood, and bowed heads for a minute's silence…
"Commemoration, not celebration. One hundred years ago the Treaty of Trianon was signed by the victors of the first World War, reordering what was left of the Austro-Hungarian empire. As Versailles was to Germany, the treaty of Trianon is known to Hungary as the bekediktatum, or 'dictated peace', a grave 'historical injustice'… The reversal of the treaty is the cornerstone of prime minister Viktor Orban's far right narrative" (Irish Times, June 8th).
So the Irish Times is of the opinion that Trianon was not a dictated peace!
Well, it would, wouldn't it? It became patriotically Irish when Sinn Fein was broken by the Irish 'Treaty', submitted to under threat of "immediate and terrible war" by the Empire, if it was not submitted to. The 'cancer' of Republicanism had not been rooted out in response to the Easter Rising, as the paper had demanded, and it saw a rigorous enforcement by Britain of the dictated arrangement—which it pleased the British to pretend was a Treaty—as being the way in which its particular interest in Irish affairs could be redeemed at a moment when all had seemed to be lost.
And the paper saw the Egyptian Election—called by General Sissi following his coup d'Etat, and prolonged by scrutinised voting day after day, until Sissi won it—as a democratic election. Its editorial on Sissi's power-grab was called Hardly A Coup!
Of course Sissi was upholding liberal values in the face of Moslem Democracy.
Hungary, in its understanding of things, was a piece of "what was left of the Austro-Hungarian empire".
What had happened to that Empire to leave pieces of it lying around, needing to be dealt with by Britain? The British war propaganda described it as the "prison house of nations", so those imprisoned nations followed the example of the Irish at Easter 1916 and tore it apart with national rebellions?
That is what the British propaganda suggested should happen. But it didn't happen. There was not a single rebellion in the Hapsburg Empire during the Great War. But there was a national rebellion, launched from Austria against Britain's ally in the Great War For Democracy And Nationality, the Tsarist Empire—the Polish Rebellion. And it was backed by Germany. And we seem to recall that James Connolly hailed the Liberation of Warsaw.
The Hapsburg Empire had no national rebellions to put down, as Britain had. It survived the stresses of the Great War with ease. But the British Empire decided to destroy it, late in the War, when it refused to desert its German ally and make a separate peace. That was at a moment when Britain thought it might lose the War, which it had launched in the expectation that it would "win it by Christmas".
America saved it—won the War for it and went home. Britain then, in complete freedom, set about destroying the European order of civilisation which in August 1914 it said had been its purpose to save in deciding to make war.
If there is meaning in the word Evil, then it must be said that what Britain did with Europe in the moment of its triumphant dominance in 1919 was pure Evil. And the worst of it was the breaking up of the Hapsburg Empire and the setting up in its place of a series of nationalist states without regard to their viability.
A British writer on nationalism and nations, Ernest Gellner, who has been much referred to by academics in Ireland, has the interesting idea that nationalism creates nations, rather than nations giving rise to nationalism. That was certainly the case with the array of nation states set up by Britain in place of the Austrian Empire. They had not created themselves. They had been thrown together recklessly by Britain, just because it was in punitive mood. And then they had to give themselves internal unity by means of intense nationalism.
And the worst thing of all was that they all had a commercial idle class which could not integrate with them on nationalist grounds. The Jews were a people of the Empire, dispersed throughout the Empire. They were not nationalists in the new Versailles nation-states that took the place of the Empire. The nationalist bodies ruling those new states were not roundly developed nations. Nationalist development lay ahead of them and the Jews of the Empire lay across the way as an obstacle. Anti-Semitism was inherent in the situation.
Britain had further aggravated things by adopting Zionism into its Imperial programme. It treated the Jews as a unity, conferring on them the status of a nation, giving the Jewish Agency a voice at Versailles (which it denied to the Pope or the Irish), giving them State rights in Palestine, and establishing the Zionist Organisation in hegemony over Jewry.
That is to say: it set in motion an irredentist Jewish nationalism which hindered what possibility there was of the Hapsburg Jews being absorbed into the series of new nationalisms of the Versailles nation-states.
In the diaries of a Hungarian Jew, recently published in English translation, it is recorded that a Hungarian friend of his, a famous poet, assured him that he was "no more anti-Semitic than is proper”, and the translator and Editor, a son of the Jew, leaves the remark stand matter-of-factly, without moralistic comment (see A Nation Adrift. The Wartime Diaries Of Miksa Fenyo).
Britain propagated the ideology of nationalism in its Great War in order to justify the breaking up of the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires, while stamping on it within its own Empire. And it set up nation-states where there were no corresponding nations, and then deplored the nationalisms that it had deliberately brought about. It thought it could treat the world as its kindergarten and instruct it about behaviour.
Imagined nations, and invented traditions, were notions that were very popular with floundering Marxist intellectuals in the 1980s and 1990s. Professor Comerford of Maynooth even wrote a book on the invented Irish nation late in the day. The writers usually said that they did not mean what the words apparently convey—but, if they didn't, then they meant nothing and were only using catchy phrases in salesmanship. (Invented tradition was the gimmick of Eric Hobsbawm, who was also the author of The Forward March Of Labour Halted. As a Communist ideologue, it had been his business to keep Labour going forward. When he failed in that, he got himself a position on the other side with invented tradition.)
Those terms apply literally to the Versailles states. Various bodies of people were thrown together in imaginary nation-states and were told to invent appropriate traditions. And, if the states didn't work, that was because of Corruption and Dictatorships. But the reverse view is much more plausible: corruption and dictatorship were what enabled them to work after a fashion, because they were fundamentally incoherent.
The major invented nations were Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia was the invention relevant to Hungary. Millions of Hungarians were included in it as punishment of Hungary for having been a pillar of the Hapsburg Empire. Millions of Germans were also included, as were large numbers of Poles—and the Slovaks denied that they formed a common nation with the Czechs.
The Hungarian case against Trianon was viewed differently in England from the German case against Versailles. It was given newspaper publicity, and the famous English novelist—author of the Scarlet Pimpernel novels—Baroness Orczy, wrote a Pimpernel novel about Hungarians being rescued from the Czechoslovak terror.
The Czechoslovak invention was pulled apart in 1938—not only by the Germans, but also by the Hungarians, and the Poles, and the Slovaks. It was restored in 1945, with the assistance of massive ethnic cleansing, but it fell apart again when the Soviet regime fell.
Britain launched its second World War against Germany a year after Munich, and Hungary naturally got engaged on the German side when it became a war with Russia. It was conquered by Russia a few years later, the conquest at the time being described as a 'liberation'. It was under Russian control for almost half a century as part of the defence system against the West, and its autonomous national development was stifled. In 1956 a movement which would have transferred it to the Western sphere if allowed freedom to develop was suppressed by force. Its free national development did not begin until the 1990s. An attempt is now being made by the EU to curb it.
The "invented nation" doctrine was formulated within the thin veneer of cosmopolitanism. The vast majority of the peoples of the world never lived in that veneer. Many of those peoples are now beginning to live publicly the national lives which they have always lived privately.
The Irish Times complains that Orban has conferred active Hungarian citizenship on Hungarians living abroad. It sees this as tending to undermine a pillar of EU membership, "a promise by acceding countries to accept the permanence of each other's borders as they find them, like it or not". But we do not recall the Irish State repealing Article 2 of its Constitution, asserting sovereignty over the Six Counties, in 1972—or the Irish Times supporting the demand that it should do so.
The editorial concludes:
"Trianon may have been an injustice, but the nationalist conceit that history can simply be rewritten or erased is a poison to the body politic. One that the EU was precisely created to lance."
In fact a primary purpose of the founders of what became the EU was to put an end to the game of balance-of-power intervention, which Britain had been playing against Europe for centuries, preventing it from ever finding its own basis of settlement. They had direct experience of what it had done with Europe in 1919-39 and were determined to sideline it in 1945.
The Europe of The Six, which made the Treaty of Rome, had a coherence of purpose which was dissipated when a later generation let Britain in, and random expansion followed.
The Six, leaving aside the oddity of Luxemburg, were all Imperialist states whose Imperialism was in recession, and Luxemburg was deeply into international Finance Capitalism. They had never been as dependent on Empire as Britain was, and they were in transition towards the construction of a European system that could live out of its own resources. The admission of Spain, Portugal and Greece did not alter the texture of the alliance. (The Greek Imperialism had only been a brief episode in 1920 when the Greeks, egged on by Britain, attempted to wipe out Turkey—and were left at the mercy of the Turks by Britain when they failed.)
The admission of Hungary, Poland, etc.etc.etc was different in kind. These were not Top Dog nations. They had been peoples within large political entities. They had recently become nation-states and it was the collective business of each to fill itself out as a nation. And, by comparison with the somewhat jaded culture of the post-Imperial West of Europe, they were old-fashioned.
The Irish Times editorial of June 26th is very concerned that the Polish Presidential Election will give encouragement to Orban's movement in Hungary by strengthening family values at the expense of 'LGBT rights".
LGBT rights are a novelty that appeared in the last ten or twenty years in Anglo-Saxon culture, which has no aptitude for letting things be. John Milton, the Cromwellian, asserted that the English were chosen by Providence to direct the world on how to live and it is ingrained in English culture that the way England chooses to live at any moment is the way the world ought to live, and that the world is wrong and is deserving of punishment if it lives otherwise. And this remains the case, even if England changes its mind about what the right way of living is!
Liberal England criminalised homosexuality in the late 19th century, and imposed draconian penalties on it. It was wrong in England and therefore it was wrong everywhere.
About a century later England de-criminalised homosexual practices, and therefore it was wrong that they should be criminalised anywhere. The Taoiseach recently apologised to homosexuals for the Irish anti-homosexual laws—laws enacted when Britain governed Ireland.
Homosexual practice was decriminalised in England but the advocacy of homosexuaility to the young was made illegal. It was to be treated as an abnormality to be tolerated. And that was the only right way for a while.
Then Britain decided that there was no such thing as sexual normality, except for certain unmentionables, and the concept of homosexual marriage was enacted in law, and marriage as an institution for producing and raising children was declared to be in no way more valid than marriage which was not based on sexual difference and therefore could not produce children.
This view is fairly obviously related to the condition of an immensely wealthy society (living on arrangements made in the world when it was a powerful Empire), which no longer reproduces itself, but depends on large imports of people from family-based societies.
But these old-fashioned societies are held to be delinquent, even when the keeping up of the population of post-familiy societies depend on them. They are in breach of universal LGBT Rights, and deserve anything that may be done o them.
The EU elite of post-Imperial countries certainly have a problem with these bustling new nation-states, which have an old-fashioned future before them.