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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: November, 2021|
The Political Arena
|The Political Arena: 1. Con-Celebrating Partition? 2. Iran. 3. Polly Toynbeeism in Afghanistan. 4. What is the EU?
The centenary celebration of Partition and/or Northern Ireland was commemorated/celebrated at Armagh Cathedral, the Ecclesiastical centre of both Anglican and Roman Ireland, presided over by the African Head of the Methodist Church in Ireland. Methodism, an offshoot of Anglicanism in the Puritan direction, is a free-standing, Congregational kind of religion. To the best of our knowledge it is not the state-Church anywhere, and therefore the event possibly symbolised the transition of Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic, to a post-religion era in which words written in stone three thousand years ago have passed through the rabbit-hole and acquired the magical property of meaning whatever, in the experience of the moment, you wish them to mean. We now have Wonderland Christianity.
On the secular side the celebration was rather lopsided.
The Queen agreed to be there. It was her business to be there. Being there is what she is paid for. Her existence is pedigreed and the thing was set up by her grandfather, or somebody thereabouts.
The President, however, said he would not go there because the celebration was an exercise in political spin, and the thing itself was nothing to celebrate. So he stayed home and went to the funeral of Manus O'Riordan instead.
It so happened that the Queen was only there in spirit. Of all the days of her life, that was the one day in which her body let her down and made her skip a duty of State. It told her she needed a walking-stick and should therefore make an urgent visit to hospital.
The Royal watchers of the British media had not been forewarned. They were taken by surprise and had not prepared the public for the disappointment of not seeing the Queen at Armagh. But, for days after the Armagh event, with the Queen back immediately at her duties, they worked manfully at making the case that it really had been necessary for her to go to hospital on just that particular day.
The Prime Minister, who is officially the Crown in Parliament, stood in for the Queen.
There was no need whatever for anybody to stand in for the President. The setting up of Northern Ireland certainly was not welcomed by the Dail in 1921. It was regarded as a profoundly anti-Irish act.
But, if somebody was to stand in for the President—and somebody did—surely it should have been the Taoiseach. But it was not the Taoiseach.
Why did he not go? It would have been the culminating action of his systematic demolition of the historical foundations of his Party. And he does not usually shun whatever limelight is available to him.
Was it that he felt, without Eoghan Harris clearing the way for him with mass propaganda, that he has become vulnerable; and judged that a visit to Armagh would provoke the remnant of the fast-fading historic party into action?
And it was not even the Tanaiste who went. It was only the third in command who went. That could have been interpreted as an insult, if there had been any real enthusiasm for the occasion.
Northern Ireland was set up in 1921 by the most powerful and active democracy in the world, the British State, to be an undemocratic enclave in the British state, whose Parliamentary franchise had been democratised three years earlier.
By means of the setting up of Northern Ireland, the electorate in the Six Counties—while remaining within the British state—was excluded from the process of electing a party to govern the state.
Ever since the end of the First World War, three parties had sought an electoral mandate to govern the British state: Tory Labour and Liberal.
All three withdrew from the Six Counties when it was made into Northern Ireland. Fanciful theories of democracy may regard that as a very slight thing, but it is what the actual democracy of the British state consists of. And, on the basis of it, the party system of the state, searching for votes, exerts a far-reaching influence on public opinion.
Public opinion in the British state is not formed independently of the parties by individuals reflecting on the world and then registered in elections: it is to a considerable extent shaped by the continuous activity of the parties. Electors in the Six Counties were excluded from that process by the formation of Northern Ireland.
The Government that did it had a reason for doing it, of course. It was part of a manoeuvre to break up the Sinn Fein movement of the time. But, it might be said, whatever the reason was, it was still an act of gross political responsibility. And it was scandalous that it should have been done by a democratically-elected British Government.
But, it might be said in response, the party-political system of democracy has irresponsibility built into it.
After all, Iran made a deal with what calls itself the Free World, under which it undertook to limit its nuclear development, and allow outside inspection at its nuclear facilities, in return for the Free World lifting the economic sanctions by which it was attempting to break the Iranian State and disrupt national society in Iran.
But then the United States had an election. A new President appeared. He revoked the deal, re-applied the sanctions, and dared the rest of the Free World to dispute the issue with him. It toed his line, knowing that it could only be 'Free' if it was in tune with the United States, and that the United States was the President of the moment.
Another election was held. A new President came in. He had condemned the action of the old President, and was expected to re-install the Agreement with Iran.
Iran had survived the calling-off of the deal, and the re-imposition of the sanctions—which of course had also restored its freedom of action in nuclear matters. And, learning from experience, it did not rush into the arms of the new President. It said that, in order to restore the Agreement, it must be guaranteed that it would not be revoked capriciously by another turn of events in American politics. But it was explained to it that no such guarantee could be given, because the United States was a democracy and was therefore incapable of giving any reliable guarantees.
We assume that the Iranian authorities were well aware of this feature of party-political democracy in the freest country in the world.
Twenty years ago the Republican Government in the USA and the Labour Government in Britain invaded Afghanistan, occupied it, and set up a new Government in it.
They did it so that they could catch the Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden, who, they said, organised the driving of a couple of aeroplanes into the Twin Towers and was hiding there. They had demanded that the Taliban Government, led by Mullah Omar, should hand him over. Mullah Omar asked for some evidence in support of the extradition demand. He was told not to be impudent, and the Taliban regime (which the USA had fuelled a few years earlier) was held to be a rogue state and was marked down for destruction.
At the time we summed up the invasion from the British side as "Polly Toynbee's War". She was very articulate in support of it as a feminist crusader.
The invasion was a great success. What else could it have been when tribesmen were assaulted by two states armed with nuclear weapons and every other known kind of military device?
Ten years later Osama was discovered in Pakistan. An American raiding party went in and filmed itself killing him—instead of capturing him—to Hilary Clinton's delight.
Two more years went by. Uncounted billions went into the creation of little Californian oases around Afghanistan, and the formation of a powerfully-armed Army to protect them. But it became evident that Freedom only existed in close conjunction with pieces of American military power.
The country remained with the Taliban and it exerted continuous pressure on the American enclaves. The British presence became token, and the Labour Party tried to forget that this was its War.
President Obama saw that the thing had become futile. Trump negotiated an American withdrawal with the Taliban. Biden put Trump's agreement into effect. It was expected that the State structures established by the US in Afghanistan would fight on for their existence—as the Communist State structure had done after the Russian withdrawal, when the Taliban (or Mujahideen) were being encouraged and supported by the US to bring it down.
But the US/Afghan State simply melted away. Afghanistan's President flew out of the country (with a big chunk of the Treasury) as the Taliban walked into Kabul. The only resistance to the Taliban was offered by surviving remnants of Osama's Al Quaeda. It remains to be seen whether the US will revert to inciting fundamentalist Islam against the 'moderate' Islam which got the better of the most powerful country on earth.
The critical thing about it all is the failure of Polly Toynbeeism. For twenty years the greatest military power in the world, with its NATO allies, and supported by the most seductive propaganda power in the world, attempted to engender Californian feminism in Afghanistan. The basic belief of the exercise is that, from the beginning of recorded history, women have been oppressed by men, and have been yearning to be free of men. This is now a basic belief of liberal democracy, which is close to becoming an obligatory universal belief.
But the experience of the 20-year effort in Afghanistan stands in gross contradiction with it.
A problem with this belief is that it is entirely unstable. A process of change is inherent in it, and it is continuously on the lockout for ways to change. Liberal democracy is not now what it was twenty years ago. Restoration of the conditions of twenty years ago, for which it destroyed States, would be experienced as intolerable oppression.
This matter has arisen in the conflict between the West European states which dominate the EU and the East European states which joined the EU at the end of the Cold War—particularly with Poland and Hungary.
The Hungarian Prime Minister was challenged in a long interview broadcast on Al Jazeera—the kind of interview one never sees on EU media—with the accusation that Hungary was breaking EU law. He went into the matter of law and showed that everything done by Hungary was well within its competence under the EU system.
But the EU said it was in breach of EU values?
His reply was that Hungary was in agreement with EU values as they were when it joined. It agreed with the founding values of the EU. But a group of EU states was moving away from the founding values, and were attempting to present these changed values as law.
And there is no doubt about it.
The trick of altering the founding values of the EU without political agreement and presenting the altered values as law is done by the European Court of Justice.
The ECJ wants to act as if it was of a kind with the Supreme Court of the USA. But that is not what it was set up to be. The EU is not a Federal State. It is an alliance of nation-states.
The United States established what it is by means of all-out Civil War. A President with the ambition of forging the alliance of the Colonies into a Continental super-state with unlimited authority waged war against colonies which wanted to secede from the Union and become independent states. He won the war and therefore the law found that the USA was an unbreakable Union.
But, in order to workable, the Union had to allow very extensive rights to its component states, with a Supreme Court to arbitrate in matters of general concern to the Federation as a State, and therefore to say what was law. Interpretation of law is law-making.
When some issue is in contention and is put to law, a decision will be made one way or the other by the appointed arbiter. Which way it is made will depend on the arbiter, rather than on an inexorable process of deduction. Either pleading can be upheld. The pleading which is upheld becomes the law, and this is presented as always having been the law. (And that is the principle behind Papal Infallibility in another sphere. If things are to hold together, there must be a Court of final decision.)
All of that is done openly in the United States. And appointments to the Court are openly political, with the President being free to threaten a Court which is out tune with Government policy by enlarging it, putting his Judges on it.
The EU is not a Federal State. It is not a State at all. It has no politically authorised system of law, except trade law. It added a Parliament to its institutions, to make itself look more like a State.
A Parliament on the British model has two functions: to appoint an Executive and to make laws.
The European Parliament is neither a Legislature nor the base of an Executive.
Insofar as the EU has a democratic foundation, it is that its Council consists of the leaders of elected national Governments.
But the Parliament, though it is not elected to appoint an EU Government or to make laws for the EU, has been trying to make itself into a Legislature by roundabout means.
It adopts resolutions which the ECJ, in a mood of judicial activism, takes as encouragement to assert its authority over the national States on matters that have nothing to do with trade. That is certainly not what it was set up to do.
Things began to go badly wrong when a failed German politician, with no experience in the rough and tumble of the real political world, was appointed President of the Commission. Ireland had an able and experienced Commissioner, Phil Hogan. The President of the Commission found that he had attended a golf dinner arranged by Parliamentary golfers which may have been in breach of Irish Covid guidelines, but was certainly not in breach of Irish law, or of any law to which he was subject as an EU functionary, and asked for his resignation.
She had no power to sack him, but the Irish Government did not stand by him, and he resigned. The Irish Government then had the right to appoint another Commissioner. But the President of the Commission stepped in and demanded that the Irish Government should give her two nominations from which she would choose one, and specifying that one of those nominated must be a woman. This was an innovation, with no basis in EU law or practice.
The message was well understood: unless you were a woman it would be pointless to be nominated. And there were no female quality Ministerial candidates to hand.
The Irish Government complied with this breach of precedent, in pursuit of political correctness, with the result that its replacement Commissioner is viewed as a second-ranker.
And the Irish Government has actively taken the part of the Commission President in her attempt to force what she considers to be EU 'law' on Poland and Hungary.
In all of this Ireland is behaving like a failed state, making amends for a disgraced past by being ultra-good in the hope of getting a pat on the head.
The leaders of the EU are, of course, heads of failed states: Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg. They are all post-1945 re-creations with pasts which they find it difficult to account for in terms of their present ideology.
They were re-founded after 1945 by politicians who had experienced the chaos of Europe under British domination and manipulation from the First World War through the chaos of the inter-War period and into the Second World War. They had held themselves slightly apart from the course of events, while being immersed in it. They knew what had happened and where responsibilities lay, and they were not guilt-ridden by the past.
But they were followed by a generation with kindergarten understandings of the world. The Europe made by De Gaulle, Adenauer, and De Gasperi has been taken over by that Toy-town generation of politicians for which the past is prohibited territory—except when it comes to demonising Russia—and for whom the abolition of hate from the world, announced by President von der Leyen, is a realistic objective.
The EU was held to the values of its founders, more or less, while the Cold War lasted. But then, after 1991, encouraged by Britain, it embarked on random expansion into former Soviet territory, and supported the transformation of NATO from a defensive military alliance against the defensive military alliance of the other side (the Warsaw Pact) into a force of world conquest which would operate wherever it found the opportunity, with the first object being the disintegration of Russia.
But now it is locking itself into conflict with its two major recruits from the former Soviet system, Poland and Hungary. And the interesting thing is that those two states seem to be entirely free of guilt feelings about the past as a result of their 45 years being worked upon by the Soviet system, which overthrew Fascism by winning the World War.
Facts seem to exert an influence, even if not recorded in academic history or spun as propaganda. And the facts are that the Nazi system was broken only by Soviet power, (liberal democracy failed to prevent Fascism and could generate no effective power to overthrow it); and, insofar as Jews were saved in large numbers from the Nazi extermination process, it was Communist power that saved them.
Emerging from under the wings of the Power that destroyed the Nazi system and saved the Jews, what have Hungary and Poland to feel guilty about? Their minds are free in a way that the minds of failed and re-imposed liberal democracies of western Europe are not.
They may detest Russia because of those 45 years, but they are different because of them.
And Poland feels free to stamp on Jewish-nationalist attempts to implicate it in the Nazi extermination process, and reclaim properties which were lost by Jews in Poland three regimes ago, while properties lost by Palestinians to the present Jewish-nationalist regime in Palestine are made sacrosanct.