Showing posts with label protestants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label protestants. Show all posts

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Orange Pith


From the August 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Orange Myths

It is Sunday 7 July. In Portadown this morning a riot took place and working people, including policemen, were hurt; some were arrested. Another battle  . . . another myth . . . another contribution to the bitterness and hatred that divide the working class in Northern Ireland.

The government and police and wanted to ban this morning's march through the exclusively Catholic Obins Street district. The marchers, Orangemen going to church accompanied by bands playing sectarian tunes and flaunting sectarian symbols, refused to obey the Government, the police and the law despite their vociferous protestations of loyalty to all three. The police - probably working on the assumption that they could cope more easily with the Catholics than they could with the loyalists - gave in and the march took place. The holy men of the Orange Order marched defiantly through Obins Street to communicate with their god.

The Orange Order intend repeating this exercise on the twelfth and thirteenth of July. The police have issued a notice proscribing these marches and - to compound this lunacy - the Catholics have announced their intention of staging parades at the same time and on the same date.

Paisley and several other loyalist politicians and hate-mongering clergymen have let it be known that they will defy any Government order banning the march. In their eyes the issue is sufficiently serious to justify a civil war. Serious enough to endanger the lives, homes and liberties of working people, for, make no mistake, it is workers who would be asked to slaughter one another. Not because they suffer poverty or live in slums; not because they endure the miseries of unemployment or have mean lives. No. Paisley, who has used bigotry and hatred to become one of the best paid politicians in Europe, and his friends don't experience these things. What they are asking Protestant workers to spill their blood for is something really wholesome and important: the right to march through avenues of Catholics reminding them that their forbears were defeated in 1690!

We would ask our Protestant fellow workers to examine some of the historical facts that make up the myths and damned lies for which their leaders want them to kill and be killed. We have, many times, in the past, exposed the myths that make up the "principles" behind the IRA murder campaign and the fallacious reasoning used to inveigle Catholics into support of Irish Nationalism, so it cannot be said that in exposing the lies and deceptions underlying Unionism we have any sympathy whatsoever with nationalism or republicanism. Our purpose is to disabuse workers on both sides of the notions and fictions that keep them divided; to show that neither Unionism nor nationalism have anything to offer the working class and, to bring them to an examination of the cause of their real, common problems.

King James and King Billy

James II succeeded to the throne of England following the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685. A convert to Catholicism and a sickly pious man - following a life of profligacy and sexual abandonment - he was determined to re-establish the power of Catholicism in his kingdom. Within three years of becoming king, James' policies had provoked fierce opposition in England and fear and distrust among the Protestant population of Ireland. In 1688 seven members of the English parliament petitioned James' son-in-law, William, Prince of Orange, to become king of England. James reacted by allying himself with the French king, Louis XIV, who manipulated the situation to his own advantage by making England a semi-dependent of his own kingdom.

According to Orange fiction, James was the agent of Rome and popery. Nothing could be further from the truth. In seeking the help and support of Louis XIV, King James was allying himself with the pope's bitterest enemy. Louis, bent on European domination, had made Lorraine a subject state, had attacked Genoa and attempted to sack Rome. The pope of the period, Innocent XI, was outraged and humiliated. In 1686 some of the European powers, alarmed at the strength and ferocity of the French, entered into the Treaty of Augsberg. This Treaty, established specifically to resist the marauding armies of Louis XIV, was subscribed to by the king of Spain, the Emperor of Germany and by William, Prince of Orange. The nominal head of the Treaty powers was Pope Innocent XI.

So, rather than being an enemy of the pope, as Orange mythology asserts, "King Billy" was the pope's ally when, in November 1688, he invaded England and his armies were partially provisioned and equipped by the powers of the Augsberg Treaty - and he had the official backing of the Roman Catholic church! Contrary to myth, when they fought in the Battle of the Boyne on 30 June and 1 July 1690, King Billy was an ally of the pope and King James an ally of the pope's most bitter enemy, Louis of France. Indeed, when news of King William's victory over King James at the Boyne percolated through to Rome the pope ordered the singing of a special Te Deum in St. Peter's and similar celebrations and rejoicings were held in Catholic churches in Madrid, Brussels and Vienna.

James was a Catholic, of course, and William a Protestant but, as always, the politics and economics underlying their conflict rose above religion.

Religious liberty

What about the notion that King Billy established religious liberty in Ireland and saved the Protestants from persecution? Again, Orange fable stands historical fact on its head.

It was James, as the legitimate incumbent of the English throne, who signed the Acts of the Dublin Parliament, giving freedom of religion to all citizens. King Billy, too, when he agreed the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691, accepted that the various religious denominations should continue to enjoy the freedom of religious worship established in the reign of Charles II and under the Acts of the Dublin Parliament agreed by James. Later he established the Episcopalian Church and effectively outlawed not only Catholicism but Presbyterianism -  the religion of the great majority of Protestants in Ireland.

A Presbyterian clergyman in 1691 was liable on conviction of delivering a sermon or celebrating the Lord's Supper to a term of imprisonment and fine of £100 and they were similarly punished for performing marriage rites. There are many recorded convictions for these "offences" during the period, especially in the counties of Antrim and Down. In 1694 the Williamite government passed a Test Act which effectively precluded Presbyterians from offices under the Crown and a further Act of 1713 set a punishment of imprisonment for Presbyterians convicted of schoolteaching and banned the marriage of Presbyterians and members of the Established church.

The History of Irish Presbyterianism gives the political and economic reasons for the persecution thus:
Presbyterians, having no political power, had to submit to political persecutions. The feudal system which transferred ownership of the soil from the toiler to the landlord was one of many evils introduced by the power of England.
King Billy was the chief agent of that feudal power which persecuted, viciously and equally, both Catholic and Presbyterian in Ireland.

Driven out of Ireland

Such was the "civil and religious liberty" enjoyed by the then, as now, numerically strongest Protestant denomination in Ireland that, in the first half of the eighteenth century, almost a quarter of a million Ulster Presbyterians were driven out of the country. These went mainly to America, where many played a distinguished role in the war of the American colonists to gain political and economic independence from England.

On both sides of today's sectarian divide it is ordinary working people, usually the very poorest, who are the victims of both the republican and loyalist myths. The hate mongers and fable peddlers don't live in the slums and are rarely victims of the violence they so actively promote.

When Presbyterians march to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne on "The Twelfth" and the victory of King Billy over his equally degenerate father-in-law, King James, they are commemorating a victory which was as opposed to the interests of their forbears in 1690 as it is to their own class interests in 1985.

Richard Montague
Belfast Branch WSP


Monday, June 04, 2012

Give the Orange Lodge their marching orders!

 “Cathy cats eat the rats, Proddy dogs eat the frogs”

As part of the Queen's 60th Jubilee the Protestant, pro-monarchist Orange Order staged numerous parades and held street parties to commemorate the day.

The Orange Order has its origin in Ireland, where in the 18th century Protestant and Catholic farmers banded together in defense of each other in secret societies and informal militias. The structure of the Order was modeled after the Freemasons, and the name was chosen to show support for William of Orange, the man who had replaced James II in 1690. Early in their history, the Order was mostly an agrarian movement, and was not particularly popular with the gentry. They were seen as a potential problem. It was feared that they would turn on the aristocracy. This changed when the United Irishmen entered the scene in Ireland in the 1780s, with their revolutionary ideas, and posed an even greater threat to the gentry. The reality was that the Orange Order became a counter-revolutionary institution to target not just Catholics but also "disloyal" Protestants. It's formation and spread was encouraged by the British state in order to drive a wedge between ordinary Catholics and Protestants. The 12th of July was picked as the key date to provide an alternative attraction to the marking of Bastille day and in itself to mark the sectarian massacre that led to the formation of the Orange Order.
The Orange Order was born in Armagh in 1795 as part of an armed terror campaign to deny full citizenship rights to Catholics. This was in the context of struggles between landlords and tenants in the area of which the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh said "the worst of this is that it stands to unite Protestant and Papist, and whenever that happens, good-bye to the English interest in Ireland". Specifically the penal laws forbade Catholics from bearing arms, but radical (and mostly Protestant) volunteer companies in the 1780's had been recruiting and arming Catholics with the "the full support of a radical section of Protestant political opinion".  Catholics were driven out of Armagh by Orange Order pogroms but many expelled Catholic families were sheltered by Presbyterian United Irishmen in Belfast and later Antrim and Down, and the (mostly) Protestant leadership of the United Irishmen sent lawyers to prosecute on behalf of the victims of Orange attacks. They also sent special missions to the area to undermine the Orange Order's influence. The Orange Order probably played a key part in ensuring the failure of the 1798 rebellion. At the time General John Knox, the architect of this policy described the Orange Order as "the only barrier we have against the United Irishmen" after the failed rebellion he wrote "the institution of the Orange Order was of infinite use".

The strategy was simple. In order to prevent Protestant workers identifying with their Catholic neighbours the order offered an anti-Catholic society, led by the wealthy Protestants that offered all Protestants a place in its ranks, and the promise of promotion and privilege. The annual parades were a key part of this strategy, they filled two roles. They allowed the working class Protestant members a day in the sun to mix with their "betters" and lord it over their Catholic neighbours. At the same time, they exposed radical Protestant workers to accusations of being "traitors" for refusing to take part in the events. Much of the imagery of loyalism, the bonfires, the bunting and the painted kerbstones provide an opportunity to demand of every Protestant worker in a community "which side are you on". The lodge was also a place where workers could meet employers, and formally or informally receive job offers. While in rural areas employers would be aware of who was a member and discriminate in job applications against those who were not.

In the relevant stability after the defeat of 1798 the British and local ruling class felt they no longer needed the Order.The Order was banned in 1825, because the British government in Dublin Castle did not like the idea of another armed presence that was not under their control. Its survival during these years shows that the institution cannot simply be viewed as dependent on Britain or local Protestant rulers. It also fed off the historical legacy of sectarianism and annually offered a chance for the "little man" to feel big. In this sense the psychological attraction of Orangism for poor Protestants is similar to the attraction described by William Reich of poor workers/unemployed for fascism. The Orange Order's complex nature is also shown by later events in 1881 when it was possible for the Land league to hold a meeting in the local Orange hall at Loughgall. Micheal Davitt told the crowd that the "landlords of Ireland are all of one religion - their God is mammon and rack-rents, and evictions their only morality, while the toilers of the fields, whether Orangemen, Catholics, Presbyterians or Methodists are the victims".This danger of class unity saw the ruling class and British conservatives rapidly returning to the Order and the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland responded with a manifesto claiming that the Land League was a conspiracy against property rights, Protestantism, civil and religious liberty and the British constitution. When the question was put this way the Orange Order fulfilled its role and went on to provide the scab labour which attempted to harvest Captain Boycott's crops.

There were other occasions when the Orangemen organised resistance to certain events, such as when Daniel O’Connell organised a march in favor of Catholic Emancipation to Belfast, but for most of the period from 1860 to 1886, the Order had little significance. That changed in 1886 when fear of the Home Rule Bill became a factor. Henry Cooke, the leading voice for the conservative Presbyterian Church in Ireland, managed settle intra-Protestant problems between the Presbyterians and the "Anglican" Church of Ireland. The Presbyterians joined the Orange Order and it became the popular voice of Irish Protestantism. From here on, the Order was spread throughout the British Empire.

The Orange Order was first  was brought to Scotland by soldiers who had been posted to Ireland to help out against the 1798 United Irishman's rebellion that had been inspired by the French Revolution. Scottish soldiers serving with Fencible regiments, as well as the Regulars, were sent to Ireland to assist in suppressing the rebellion. In this task they often served alongside Orange Yeomanry. Ex-servicemen formed the first Scottish Orange lodges around 1807. However, early growth was very slow.  Indeed, the first recorded Scottish "Twelfth", held in Glasgow, was in 1821.There is no record of any civilian Lodge warrants being issued for Scotland by the Grand Lodge of Ireland in its first register (1798-1819), and the Lodges known to be working in Ayrshire, Glasgow, and Argyllshire all had military origins. In 1835, Scottish Orangeism also fell upon hard times because the Loyal Orange Institution of Great Britain and Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland were "dissolved" for their part in the "Orange Conspiracy". This was a bizarre yet treasonable plot to place the Duke of Cumberland (Imperial Grand Master of the Loyal Institution of Great Britain and the Loyal Institution of Ireland) on the throne in place of Princess Victoria.  In addition, the reigning monarch, King William IV was to be deposed for sanctioning reform! Civilian Lodges composed mainly of Ulstermen came in a later phase of development during the 1830s with the transformation of Scotland’s industrial landscape. The modern textile industry replaced handloom weaving, and the coal and iron industries developed, as did shipbuilding which brought Irish migrants to Scotland, including many Protestants. This scale of industrialisation ensured the survival of Orangeism.  Indeed, it has often been noted that Scottish Orangeism is essentially a by-product of the Industrial Revolution. Membership of the Orange Order was popular with the Lowlands' Protestants because it gave them a mechanism for personal success and fulfilment: membership could secure better jobs, and made up for a hard and unrewarding life with flamboyant titles like Grand or Worshipful Master. The Orange Order has 800 lodges in Scotland and probably 50,000 members today.

Politically, the Scottish Orange has been very active.Their 'Use and Wont’ campaign – to keep bible study in Schools, when in the 1872 Education Act  a “conscience clause” allowed withdrawal form religious instruction. – saw many Orangemen being elected to school boards in 1873.  During the Home Rule agitation, around 6,000 heard Carson at a meeting in Glasgow – where seven UVF companies were raised.  During the inter-war period, anti-Catholicism grew  increasingly prevalent in many areas of Scottish society. Protestant bosses told their foremen to give jobs to Protestants first.  In the 1920s and 1930s this got to a point where Catholics knew that if Protestants were competing for jobs, they did not even need to apply.  After the Great War there was even Protestant political parties in Scotland. The "Orange and Protestant Political Party" in 1923 defeated the sitting Communist MP in Motherwell and Wishaw to win its one and only seat. Ramsay MacDonald's cabinet had two Scottish Orangemen, Gilmour as Home Secretary and Scottish Secretary Sir Godfrey Collins. Protestant Action, an extreme group led by John Cormack, gathered  followers in Edinburgh during this time. While in Glasgow a similar Protestant extremist group, with Alexander Ratcliffe at its head , the Scottish Protestant League, managed to gain support. Ratcliffe was an anti-Semite and becaame a follower of Hitler. Another factor in the Protestant-Catholic relationship in the 1930s were the street gangs in Glasgow. The best known of these are the  Bridgeton “Billy Boys”. Billy Fullerton, their leader, was awarded a medal for strikebreaking in the 1926 General Strike. The Catholic equivalent were the Norman Conqs. Glasgow in particular was full of poverty and rife with gangs.  Men who feel a lack of identity sought it out in the Orange Order (where they could all be Protestant together). Then there were the football rivalries. Rangers and Celtic, Hearts and Hibs (Dundee Hibernian in 1923 dropped its Irish connections and became Dundee United).

With the growth of the labour movement and the Left, the Orange Order warned of a conspiracy of "Popery" and "socialism". Whenever radicalism Protestant workers linked up with Catholic workers and acted in their own class interests this threatened the unity of the Order. When in 1932,  the Falls and Shankill rioted together against unemployment, the Order warned "loyal subjects of the King, the vital necessity of standing guard against communism".

The differences between Catholics and Protestants have declined in significance. A survey of Glaswegians of both faiths showed a negligible one per cent could claim to have experienced employment discrimination first-hand. Catholics do not appear to be discriminated against in employment, education, the provision of public goods, and most of Scotland feels very strongly that prejudice is never justifiable. In fact, religion in Scotland really doesn't matter that much at all. Faith itself matters little to the secular people of today's Scotland.

  Stuart Waiton of Abertay University in Dundee writes:  “... that there are no real differences in the lives of Catholics and Protestants - and any differences that do exist are dying out fast...”  Research by Gillian Raab of Edinburgh's Napier University found evidence that intermarriage between Protestants and Catholics had largely eroded the causes for sectarian discrimination.

No-one is arguing  that sectarianism is non-existent but these days Orangemen are of less significance. No-one would claim that Scotland was a hotbed of neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, but you can find a few.  Likewise, you can still find the die-hard Orangemen, but they are a dying breed. Crimes motivated by racial/ethnic or sexual orientation origin are far more a problem in Scotland than crimes of any religiously motivated nature. Members of both Protestants and Catholics communities are now increasingly reserve their xenophobic hatred for newer migrants to Scotland

Socialists have no time for either the Union Jack or the Irish tricolour.


APPENDIX
 
The Anti-Irish Church of Scotland
The national church in Scotland today is the Church of Scotland, which is legally recognised as such. The Church of Scotland is the largest religious grouping in Scotland with 36% of Scottish population nominally as members. The second largest religious grouping in Scotland is Roman Catholicism, with 16% of the Scottish population, most of which are of Irish descent. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of the immigrants from Ireland were Catholic. From the 1960s, when almost everyone claimed a religious label, the “no religion” identity has grown considerably and people who profess no religion actually outnumber either those in  the Roman Catholic church or Church of Scotland in Scotland.

In 1922, incited by a kirk minister,  a Protestant mob stoned and bottled buses carrying Catholic women and children to the Eucharistic Congress in Morningside, Edinburgh. In 1923 an official Presbyterian campaign against Irish immigration not only demonstrated the anti-Catholicism present in the Presbyterian churches at this time, but also emphasised race and tried to portray differences as national, not just simply religious. This campaign has later become known as “the Kirk’s Disgrace”. It was about singling out an ethnic minority whose presence in Scotland was to be regarded as an evil, polluting the purity of the Scottish race and culture The campaign started at the Church of Scotland General Assembly, with a report called "The Menace of the Irish race to our Scottish Nationality " which protested that Catholics had “most abominably abused the privileges which the Scottish people had given them...Already there is a bitter feeling among the Scottish working classes against the Irish intruders. As the latter increase and the Scottish people realise the seriousness of the menace to their own racial supremacy in their native land, this bitterness will develop into a race antagonism which will have disastrous consequences for Scotland." At the same General Assembly, it was warned that the presence of “Irish Catholic aliens … would soon bring racial and sectarian warfare to Scotland”.

The expressions "racial supremacy" and "aliens" makes the report sound like it could have been written by Hitler's Nazi propagandists or white supremists of the American south. Yet this report by Rev. John White's Church and Nation Committee was accepted by the General Assembly and a sub-committee formed to promote the anti-Irish cause

Restrictions on immigration from Ireland and the revision of the Education Act were proposed and passed. As the campaign was adopted by more senior church figures, more emphasis was put on what was meant to be “respectable” arguments surrounding race and national character. In 1928 the churches presented their case to the government. They complained that Scotland had become a “dumping ground” for Irish immigrants after the USA had reduced their quota, and that 70% of parish and other relief funds, were spent on the Catholic Irish. The Church of Scotland's Church and Nation Committee called for the deportation of unemployed Catholics to Ireland - a country most of them by then had never seen. Scottish Catholics from the Highlands and Irish Protestants, however could stay, because  "they are of the same race as ourselves"

Attempts  to get government support collaped when first the Glasgow Herald demonstrated that the immigration was not at all as high as was claimed, and when the government after an investigation of their own refused to have anything more to do with this campaign. The campaigners then decided to redirect their efforts and the 1930 General Assembly decided that the church should instead focus its attention on businesses and have them “employ Scottish labour where such is available”.  Now that the Kirk understood that no government would halt Irish immigration then they would appeal to the patriotism of Scottish employers to practice job discrimination in their hiring.

In 2002 the General Assembly formally apologised for its actions and statements.

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.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The belfast poor

Up to 80% of children in west Belfast's most deprived areas are living in poverty, an academic has claimed.



Workless Protestant households are closing the gap with their Catholic counterparts - but it is a levelling downwards .



No gains for the catholic working-class community except for those government jobs for those so-called and mis-named freedom fighters now in Stormont and certainly no improvements for the protestant workers who shed their blood for the Establishment .

Now is the time to recognise class loyalty - not loyalism

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 ?

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...