Friday, September 25, 2015

Prods vs Papes in Glasgow (1982)

From the May 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1878 the City of Glasgow Bank crashed to financial ruin. In the same year the Scottish Roman Catholic Hierarchy was restored by the Pope and Charles Eyre became Archbishop of Glasgow. Protestant extremists, such as members of the Orange Lodges (who even today see almost every calamity as part of a global papist conspiracy), probably saw some connection between the two events. Whatever they thought they were certain of one thing: the restoration of Catholic Hierarchy was nothing less than "papal aggression". In response they protested in Glasgow Green. The Army was sent to prevent rioting but fortunately, for Glaswegian working-class skulls, the troops were not called into action.

The main factor leading to both the restoration of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and the religious intolerance in Glasgow was the vast influx of Irish immigrants who, since the 1840s, had been entering the industrial areas of Britain to escape the famine. From December 1847 to March 1848 alone, about 43,000 Irish arrived in Glasgow, "a mass of broken wretches".

These immigrants were generally unskilled workers who had been forced to live in conditions even more squalid and degrading than those of the indigenous proletariat. They were able, therefore, to subsist on lower wages and consequently occupied the worst slums in the city.

It is a matter of fact that competition for employment between the Irish and the similarly unskilled Glaswegian workers led to a fall in wages for the latter. The native workers did not fail to notice this and, in their brutalised ignorance, blamed the Irish. That the majority of these unfortunate Irish workers adhered to the Roman Catholic brand of religious superstition, instead of the Protestant, was yet another focal point for hatred. The presence, too, of immigrants from the North of Ireland led to violent feuds of the Orange and Green variety among the Irish themselves. Added to this was the quarrelsome nature of the various Scottish Protestant sects who were already squabbling among themselves and were quite prepared to enter into hostilities with the adherents of the "one true church".

Nowadays, in Glasgow and the South of Scotland in general, fewer people are committed to any form of religious superstition; "of 20,000 Roman Catholics registered in Clydebank, only about a third attend church regularly" (Current Account, BBC1 Scotland, 25 February, 1982). Similarly an even greater proportion of those describing themselves as Protestants will only be seen inside a church at their funeral.

This decline in church attendance may seem encouraging, but unfortunately "religious" bigotry still flourishes among many of these non-churchgoers in the form of allegiance to certain football teams" Glasgow Rangers ("Prods") and Glasgow Celtic ("Papes"). These unfortunate and bigoted workers blame each other for all manner of social problems and it is almost incumbent upon Socialist Party of Great Britain speakers in Glasgow to criticise King Billy, the Queen, the Pope and the Catholic church in one breath lest, by reference to one alone, it is assumed by one side that we are in alliance with the other. Sellers of the Socialist Standard in Glasgow pubs must beware of the occasional IRA-supporting Catholics and UDA-supporting Protestants, neither of whom will hesitate to kick one's head in if given the chance; and there are certain pubs, particularly in the East End, into which we dare not go. Regular readers of the Standard will recall that our propaganda meeting of 29 July last year (the Day of the Nonsensical Nuptials) was disrupted by a frenzied gang of Orange thugs and it is a likely attack upon us by some papal-jerseyed hooligans which will prevent us from holding a similar meeting on June 1 (the day of the mumbo-jumbo at Bellahouston Park).

A woman from Livingston, West Lothian, told us (Current Account, BBC1 Scotland, 25 February 1982) that she has no need to think about anything she finds too complicated " . . . the priests, the bishops, the archbishops and the Pope are better equipped to deal with this kind of thing. To advise me". An old man, asked what his religion meant to him, was not quite sure except that he knew it was "great"  . . . "You must go to the chapel". When asked if he had ever rebelled against the church he replied: "No! Rebel? No! No!", as though shocked that anyone could conceive of such a thing.

A widow then informed us that her wayward husband's death-bed return to the faith convinced her of the existence of god. Although she was prepared to listen to other people's opinions, she was not prepared to change her ideas in any way: "I do respect other people's religions . . . I am willing to listen to other people, but I feel, basically, we were all Catholics at one time and . . . it's more the pity that they lapsed from our faith, for maybe good reasons, but basically we should all be Catholic and there's nothing in our religion that I want to give up." ("No Surrender!" seems to be a Catholic slogan as well as a Protestant one.)

The above examples of Catholic "thought" clearly illustrate the harmful effects of religious belief. The Catholic church and the Orange Lodge are very good at producing ignorant, docile and fervently religious wage-slaves, and so long as workers remain in these organisations so long will they neglect to deal with the cause of their poverty.

A leaflet, issued by the Orange Lodge in protest against this month's Papal visit and the Catholic Church's insistence on having its own schools, declares: "As absolute ruler of the Roman Church, Pope John Paul II bears the ultimate responsibility for this disgraceful school "apartheid" (Leaflet:Why Should We Welcome This Man?—He is no Friend of Ours). But responsibility for this lies with those workers who believe the superstitious twaddle preached by the Pope and who therefore find it necessary to obey his instructions to send their children to schools which specialise in the Catholic form of indoctrination. The Protestant variety of religious indoctrination is carried out, not only by their churches and the state schools, but by the juvenile section of the Orange Lodge.

Pastor Jack Glass (who thinks even Ian Paisley is "pro-romanist") also sees the Pope's visit as a major problem, so much so that he stood in the recent Hillhead by-election as the candidate for the Protestant Crusade Against the Papal Visit (388 votes—lost deposit). Another group of religious maniacs has been holding a series of meetings with titles such as "The Papal Visit Examined Doctrinally; the Papal Visit Examined Politically" (Glasgow Evening Times, 6 march 1982). They say: "Does not the sacrifice of our martyred forefathers suffer a grave insult by the permitting of the Pope to come . . . ". On March 24, in Bellahouston Park, about 20 Protestants tried to prevent the uprooting of some trees for the Pope's visit and one woman was arrested while trying to chain herself to a tree. It is most regrettable that so many members of the working class consider it worthwhile to waste so much of their time. It is also regrettable that so many others are eager to see the Pope and will pay £5.00 each to hear his inane incantations.

Socialists hope that the Pope's visit will fail; we hope the lapsed will stay away from the church and that believers will continue to decrease in number. There are no reasonable grounds for belief in the supernatural, or in gods, just as there are no grounds for belief in the existence of pink elephants, leprechauns, fairies or flying pigs. Socialists actively oppose all forms of religious superstition not only because such beliefs are unscientific and act as a barrier to understanding the society in which we live and its historical development, but also because of the socially divisive nature of religion. Workers who suffer from the delusions of religion are prepared to kill their fellow-workers in time of war; there are churches in America where blacks are not allowed; women are often considered subordinate to men and the Catholic Church will neither allow its women to become priests nor decide how many children they will have (although many Catholics now ignore the Pope's ruling on the latter).

The Catholic Church, with its roots in feudalism and its still feudal structure, has adapted very well to capitalism. It has shareholdings in many major companies throughout the world including those producing armaments. Nowadays the Vatican is a major financial institution and it is not surprising that the Pope is such a vehement supporter of capitalism. Only three years ago Pope John II warned his priests in South America against a too injudicious support of workers and peasants in their struggles against poverty.

Had not the Catholic Church an appalling record as a force against social progress, were not the Pope a peddler of reactionary views and religious nonsense, socialists would still not welcome him. Like his opponents in the Orange Lodge, he is no friend of ours.

Johnny Cadillac


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