Showing posts with label bigotry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bigotry. Show all posts

Friday, May 04, 2012

Neither Orange or Green but Red

Even up to the present time, demonstrated by new laws to curtail bigotry and letter bombs mailed to the Celtic manager Neil Lennon and other Catholics, Scotland has been plagued by religious sectarianism. For many Scots "1690" and "1916" have had more resonance than "1314" or "1707". Many blame it on segregated denominational schools, some blame football supporters, the football clubs blame extremists and the extremists blame the Catholic schools, a vicious circle. Catholics make up only 16% of the Scottish population, largely descended from poor Irish immigrants, and still largely working-class. Though overwhelmingly of Irish extraction, even by 1900 most Catholics were Scottish-born. Yet they were still known as "Irish" up until around the Second World War. Despite this Scottish Catholics do not any longer largely define themselves as Irish anymore, but Irish symbolism and allegiances can still be witnessed amongst Celtic or Hibs supporters which can be seen more now about working-class alienation in modern Scotland, an alienation perhaps equally shared with their "loyalist" counterparts on Ibrox or Tynecastle terraces. Communal strive between the Orange and the Green was just as prevalent in other regions of mainland Britain eg Liverpool, however, that feeling of religious differences has faded and has effectively disappeared yet remains strong in Scotland. What often still matters in a lot of places in parts of Lanarkshire and West Lothian is whether you are a "Billy" or a "Tim", "Hun" or "Fenian" .

The Scottish Reformation did not launch a major religious civil war in Scotland. The biggest religious disputes here were actually been between Protestants: the Episcopalians and Presbyterians (the Covenanters). The war fought between James and William had little to do with Irish independence or religion.These two foreigners were fighting over the throne of England and influence in Europe. Catholics and Protestants fought for both sides. It was only after the abortive United Irishmen revolution over 100 years after the Williamite wars, the British founded the Orange Order pretending that the Williamite war was fought exclusively by Protestants on one side, and Catholics on the other. British government used religious differences as a political tool over and over again. It nurtured the Orange Order and related organisations that led to Protestant hatred of Catholics. In Glasgow in the 1790s, there lived no more than 39 Catholics in the town, but there existed 43 anti-Catholic societies. And paradoxically, on the other side, the Catholic Church was always the enemy of popular freedom movements throughout the world. In point of fact, most revolutionaries in Ireland were excommunicated by the church for their activities. It was only after Irish independence that the church authorities found a sense of nationalism in the scramble for political power and influence. Thus both sides played into the British governments hands. It is easy to divide and conquer when there is already religious tension. The religious card was played over and over again by successive British governments. It led to an institutionalised religious intolerance. The breeding and recruiting ground for religious and political extremism may have been the over-crowded and poverty-stricken streets of the Scottish slums AND there is a tendency to associate the  sectarianism in Glasgow as a working-class phenomenon, sustained by the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic, but in the inter-war period anti-Irish prejudice became much more pronounced and cannot be identified solely with working-class Orangemen. Prominent politicians, churchmen, intellectuals, and even the aristocracy all contributed to the growing perception of the Catholic-Irish as a threat, not just to the established Protestant religion, but to the "Scottish race".

Thomas Johnston, a leading labour personality of the times, was particularly dismayed by the religious sectarianism that existed. No sympathiser with Orangemen, he nevertheless tried to convince them without too much success that their Protestant heritage could find expression through the Left. In 1919 the Orange Order attempted to establish the strikebreaking "Patriotic Workers League" In 1923 the '"Orange and Protestant Political Party" defeated the sitting Communist MP in Motherwell and Wishaw to win its one and only seat. In 1923, the Church of Scotland published its report "The Menace of the Irish Race to Our Scottish Nationality". This document advocated deporting Irish natives receiving poor relief and job discrimination in public works in favour of native Scots because Scotland was "over-gorged with Irishmen". The Church of Scotland and United Free Church attacked the General strike with stories about "Catholic manipulation".  In the Depression years specifically anti-Catholic parties - the Scottish Protestant League (SPL) in Glasgow and Protestant Action (PA) in Edinburgh - took up to a third of the votes in local council elections. Ratcliffe of the SPL had previously been a member of the "British Fascists", along with Billy Fullerton of the Bridgeton Billy Boys. Fullerton was also a thug who was awarded a medal for strike-breaking in the 1926 General Strike. Ratcliffe became an anti-Semite and follower of Hitler in 1939, but by then his support was waning. Edinburgh's John Cormack of Protestant Action lacked such fascist connections, and even led physical opposition to Oswald Mosley on his visit to Edinburgh in 1934. The Blackshirts sympathy for a united Ireland and Mussolini's associations with the Vatican were too much for them to take. But Cormack's own violent incursions into Catholic neighbourhoods and combination of electoral intervention with control of the streets suggest at least an outline of a Protestant variety of fascism. Cormack remained a councilor in Leith for twenty years. Orangeism had long been a crucial element to working-class Toryism.The Orange Order leadership's Conservative politics can be stressed but it can also be contended that the Order's appeal to the working class was to a large extent based on issues such as education and jobs  and  the perceived Irish Catholic immigration, issues which did not break down neatly into party political terms.

The Masons were perhaps just as influential than the Orangemen in Scotland. Freemasonry still has a disproportionately large Scottish membership, and is strongly identified with protestantism. Though they did not go in for public displays of racism (or anything else) their rituals, loyalty to the Sovereign and networking amongst groups with marked establishment associations all reinforced a socialisation process. It kept the Catholic Irish as outsiders, excluded from influence and mainstream public life. Skilled positions in industry were also difficult to obtain. Bairds in Coatbridge, a town with a large Catholic population, did not have a Catholic member of the skilled engineers' union until 1931.

Religious divisions in European politics are not unusual, but the Catholic church's support in Scotland for the traditional Left is. The Catholic church hierarchy had previously always reserved strong opposition for its socialist opponents, and raised money for Franco in Glasgow Churches in the 1930s. They remained arch-enemies of those on the Left, organising against them both at elections and within the unions. But they could not prevent their followers from recognising a basic class interest and voting Labour, once the Irish question was effectively removed from Scottish politics in the early part of the 20th century.

John Wheatley formed the Catholic Socialist Society in 1906 and suffered the hostility of local priests who on one occasion incited a mob of several hundred to burn an effigy of him in front of his house while singing the hymn "Faith of our Fathers". Glasgow of that era was solidly Liberal due to the Liberal Party's support for Home Rule and it was the shift of activists towards the labour movement that led to a re-positioning of politics and religion. Until 1914 the main outlet for political activists within the Catholic community had been the United Irish League. The UIL expertly marshalled the Catholic vote to the ends of Irish nationalism. Ex-SPGB member Bill Knox comments in his Industrial Nation that "Irish Catholics might disobey their priests and the UIL and vote labour; however, it was a rare occasion, and was never repeated in local elections." Many Irish Catholics in Scotland were afraid that labour politics, dominated as they were by men of Protestant backgrounds might lead to secular education." The STUC in 1913 had voted for such secularism in all state-aided schools. Knox refers to the anti-Irishness of the likes of ILP hero Keir Hardie who described the typical Irish immigrant coal-miner as having "a big shovel, a strong back and a weak brain" and to Bruce Glasier who declared upon the death of Protestant Truth Society's, John Kensit, "I esteem him as martyr... I feel a honest sympathy with his anti-Romanist crusade"

Yet history changes. The 1918 Education Act, which brought Catholic schools within the state system in Scotland and guaranteeing their religious character, although provoking opposition, expressed in the cry of "No Rome on the Rates" was a transformative moment for the Catholic Church and Labour Party relationship. Although the Labour party had no responsibility for the Act, its general willingness to support denominational schooling encouraged an identification of Labour and Catholic.

There is "a strong socialist republican tradition running through the Celtic support" professor and play-write Willy Maley argues. In 1992, double the proportion of Scottish Catholics to Protestants voted Labour. Catholic support for Labour has always antagonised establishment Scotland, who have exploited the links whenever it suited them. The "Monklandsgate" scandal of 1994 falls partly within this tradition, though it was also aided by new critiques of Old Labour. Complaints by four Labour councillors in Airdrie (all Catholics) became sensationalised as allegations of Protestant discrimination. This rested entirely on apparent bias against "Protestant" Airdrie in favour of "Catholic" Coatbridge, both towns had "minority" populations of over 40 per cent.

One of the 16%% Catholics living in Scotland in the 21st century is more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than if you are a member of any other ethnic or religious minority. Catholics were victims in 58 percent of the 693 criminal offences aggravated by religious prejudice in 2010/11, the highest recorded number in four years. Protestants were victims in 37 percent of cases, while crimes related to Judaism comprised 2.3 percent and Islam 2.1 percent. 51 percent of hate crimes in Scotland occurred within the Glasgow area, a third of the charges were directly related to football. 

Of course, there are other forces at play here other than due to the tactic of divide and rule ,such as  the fact that Glasgow Celtic Plc and Glasgow Rangers Plc and the media corporations knew that there is a lucrative market for sectarianism. Also Professor Tom Devine of Edinburgh suggests that Scotland, so long a stateless nation, sought to over-invest in religion as a form of identity. In this regard the Socialist Party desires that the Scottish Protestant and the Scottish Catholic cast aside their religious and nationalist affiliations and identify and bound with one another on an economic basis, as part of the World's working class. In 1932 the workers of the Falls Road and the Shankill united upon class lines to fight for their own interests and made common cause against the ruling class, the one thing the capitalist class most fear - working class unity.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bigoted law

In updated guidance to police, Frank Mullholland, Lord Advocate, Scotland’s most senior prosecutor, has warned singing or chanting songs which “glorify, celebrate or mock events involving the loss of life” should be viewed as offensive. The ten-page report also says that “flags, banners, songs or chants in support of terrorist organisations” are “likely to be offensive”. Songs “which promote or celebrate violence against another person’s religion, culture or heritage” are also “likely to be offensive”, according to Mulholland. It is understood Mulholland’s guidance outlaws songs like the Billy Boys, The Boys Of The Old Brigade, the so-called Famine Song, and the chant “Ooh Ah, Up The Ra”, which is sung by Celtic supporters. Where the song is religiously prejudiced the relevant aggravation will be libelled.

Socialist Courier wonders just how many countries national anthems fall under that classification. "But we can still rise now And be the nation again!" A call for rebellion in Flower of Scotland? And verse 6 of God Save the Queen? "Lord grant that Marshal Wade, May by thy mighty aid, Victory bring, May he sedition hush And like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush"

Hibs fans Andrew Whitson and Paul Swanbecame the first people to be convicted under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act last week when they admitted singing songs that were “of a racially derogative nature” on a train between Ayr and Glasgow. They were fined a combined £380.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Whats fair and unfair?

The recent riots in east Belfast led to renewed hand-wringing about the "Protestant working class". Protestants are not the only ones to suffer deprivation. They've not been disadvantaged more than Catholics. As the anti-poverty strategy launched under direct rule in 2005, Lifetime Opportunities, put it, "the geography of deprivation has persisted stubbornly over the past 30 years". It is simply wrong for prostestant paramilitaries and loyalist 'community workers' to claim that Catholics have benefited from public expenditure largesse at their expense. The same - disproportionately Catholic - neighbourhoods in north and west Belfast and Derry top the league of social disadvantage as when the 'Troubles' began.

The whole idea of socialism is that we should show solidarity towards others, regardless of colour or creed, who face the same daily struggles as ourselves - that we can unite in support of collective political solutions to our individual problems.

Meantime, elsewhere, the chief executives at FTSE 100 companies saw their median earnings rise 32 per cent last year, treble the rise in share prices and well above workers’ average 2 per cent pay award, according to MM&K, a reward consultancy, and Manifest, a proxy voting agency. The corporate leaders’ median salary rise was just 2 per cent but total earnings were boosted by a 70 per cent increase in pay-outs under incentive plans and share option schemes. FTSE 100 chief executives’ pay was 47 times that of average employees in 1998 but had risen to 120 times by 2010, say MM&K and Manifest. Bosses’ packages have more than doubled in value over that period.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The red white and blue of Larkhall

The Scotsman describes the religious bigotry of the Central Scotland town of Larkhall where the colour green and the connotations lead to vandalism and the only "safe" colours is the red and white and blue of Glasgow Rangers and the Union Jack .

"...historians believe anti-Catholicism to have been greater in mining towns such as Larkhall, where Irish Catholics were used by pit owners to break strikes. So the fuel was as much economic fear as it was cultural dilution of Protestant stock, the idea which found support in sections of the Church of Scotland in the 1920s and 1930s..."

By playing the "orange card" the bosses employed the divide and rule tactic to weaken the Scottish workers and the consequences linger on to this day .

Isn't it time to discover class loyalty rather than loyalty to the crown ?