CV-19 impacts: the merchants of grim privilege

In the face of the continuation of the CV-19 crisis the Tories attempt to deal with it by big talk, bluster, testing schemes designed by public relations firms rather public health professionals and the endless blame game.  The strategy is to set one part of the community against another either generationally or geographically.  They’ve worked out that the rich are not going to suffer. In fact under the cover of the augmentation of central state power they can hand out contracts and offices to their cronies and just blag it. This government is a disaster.  They should be forced to resign through popular pressure.  What lies at the root of the problem? You can read the pieces I’ve written about the Covid-19 crisis. The first was published on May 20th.

The latest actions taken by the government legislating, in contravention of the Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union, to secure the ‘unfettered’ passage of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will have a number of impacts.  The UK are unilaterally breaking an international treaty.  Although there are claims in respect of the Finance Act of 2013 that a similar rupture was made, this aspect of the government’s action is unprecedented. The meaning in terms of the international good standing of the UK government is unforeseen.  The primary impact will be on our EU member neighbour, the Republic of Ireland, because of the arrangements made in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 .  

The customs border between Northern and Ireland and Great Britain agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement involved certain goods and services being subject to mutually agreed control in order to decrease friction on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  This would have left certain aspects of life in Northern Ireland remaining subject to EU regulation.  The open nature of the Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland border is a key feature of the 1998 agreement.  

A major factor in the movement of the UK state towards membership of what was then the EEC was the framework it offered to ‘solve’ the Irish question. In fact a major element in the violent uprising by the Protestant/Unionist population in the North in the mid-1960s was the indication given of this move by the UK state when Harold Wilson, UK Labour Prime Minister elected to power in 1964, and Séan Lemass, Irish Taoiseach from 1959 to 1966, met to discuss membership.  This integration into the EEC, founded by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, threatened the political and economic privileges of the Protestant community there. These had been the key ‘give aways’ that had been confirmed during the division of Ireland, consequent on the national liberation struggle of the Irish people.  The struggle for Irish unity had been forestalled by the connivance of the UK state in setting up a client state in the North and reigniting the colonial settler ‘ascendancy’ of the Unionist population, a minority in Ireland as a whole but a majority in the six counties of the Ulster region.  It was the Republican movement’s response, initially defensive of the Catholic/Nationalist community of the North against the violence of the unionist attacks that developed into the complexities of the so-called troubles or what should be described as the continuing struggle of the Irish people for the liberation of their island from English imperialism.  The main settler colonial movement occurred under the Commonwealth government of Oliver Cromwell, granting land rights to protestants imported from the British mainland in the 1650s.  The traces of this history are seen in the reinforcement of the rights of this colonial operation by the campaign of William of Orange imported from Holland in 1688 to solve the contradictions of the English regime in its need for a monarch that was tied to Protestantism and that would respect the merchants and capitalist property rights.  The Tory party represents this historic imperialist interest and it is significant that it was the Labour Party under Wilson that started to make this EEC-oriented reform and it was the first major act of the New Labour government of 1997 under Blair that brought about the Good Friday Agreement.  The Conservative and Unionist Party has written into their historical DNA an assumption of power over England’s first colony and an inability to countenance incursions on a sovereignty that symbolically underlies the unity of the Kingdom.  The spectre that haunts the Tories is that of a united Ireland and this has been made to resonate even more strongly with the historic advance of the Sinn Fein Party in the recent Irish elections.  Sinn Fein means ‘ourselves alone’ and is the party whose military wing is the Irish Republican Army.  Johnson’ pre-emptive swipe against Starmer accusing him of consorting with IRA supporters should surprise no-one.  

As the post-imperialist crisis of the UK drives the weird Brexit Tory clique deeper into their bunker, they assert sovereignty over the first territories grabbed by the English. This will increase the racism that is in its very being and make it reach out, in a kind of death agony, to kith and kin worldwide. Unfortunately, in a strange irony, the great white supremacist dreamland of the United States may provide a major injury to its erstwhile monarchic oppressor, and latter-day client state, when it refuses through its Congress the lifeline of a beneficial trade deal because the Good Friday Agreement has been subverted, aggravating the Irish-rooted population there.  And perhaps this will help to make sense of the strange sequence uttered by Johnson, apparently rattled by Labour criticism of its class-biased examination algorithm, imputing anti-NATO sentiments in the same sentence as the IRA slur to the feckless Labour leader.  

If Johnson is losing it, what exactly is he losing?  His wits? Or the carefully crafted English imperialist project initially practiced so programmatically, criminally and cruelly against the inhabitants of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. A project started possibly even before Edward I (1272-1307) solved the Welsh question by military occupation and settling English farming families in Wales (the imperial technique copied by Cromwell in Ireland later) and building a succession of castles to protect this colonisation.  He insisted that his wife give birth to what turned out to be their son, the future king Edward II, in Caernarfon, establishing a symbolic connection that still has to be reasserted by the dreadful monarchs lodged in, and predating on, our society. 

By the way, it was this first Edward that made the first expulsion of Jews from a sovereign territory in 1290, using racist sentiment to his clique’s material advantage – simultaneously he abolished all debts to them. This act followed almost a century of state-authorised restrictions that enforced badge-wearing, stigmatisations and the humiliation of compulsory attendance at sermons by Dominican clergy.  This racism was a rehearsal for the programmatic version that justified slavery as the imperialist project spread its wings. The connection of Christianity to territorial belonging and the use of racist exclusion to create coherence in the emerging nation-states of Europe was also connected to the crusades.  Edward’s first child, Joan, was born in Acre in what is now Israeli-ruled Palestine.  But it shouldn’t be forgotten that an initial target of the first crusades were communities of Jews encountered in the path of the Christian armies. If anti-semitism has any home here it is historically in the sullen, mean bosom of the Conservative Party.

So as the union, based on primitive racism, religious exclusion, territorial appropriation and commercial expansion, begins to fall apart the fissures in Ireland hasten the independence movement in Scotland. The cause of freedom for the people of Britain –  I mean by this the human rights of all the people who live and breathe here, naturally including those recently arrived on no matter what means of transport – echoes the observation made by Karl Marx (in reference to England and Ireland) that a nation that oppresses another nation cannot itself be free.  This idea of freedom, that the recognition of the rights and being of the other can be a liberation for both and all, is a component in a cultural movement that accords with human dignity.  This can be so hard for a population, a part of which has been won over to believe that they share an advantage and a benefit with the peddlers of supremacism, those that would have us believe that there are chosen people and our future is secure with the merchants of grim privilege.

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