Progressive Patriotism

Rebecca Long-Bailey, candidate for Leader of the Labour Party in Britain has made use of the term ‘progressive patriotism’ inviting a barrage of commentary, criticism and moaning. One can interpret the term in a multitude of ways, but if one is a Marxist, culture and ideology must be understood as phenomena reproduced from a) the productive forces and b) the existing relations of production. In a capitalist society, the productive forces and social relations are run by the bourgeoisie. Culture and ideas are therefore linked to the interests of the bourgeoisie.

A concrete example of this cultural hegemony is the means and ways by which British Empire and American Empire justify their imperialism. The language and the vast array of propaganda that permeates universities, media and community is designed to ensure that the interests behind the domination of other communities and countries has a basis and rationale. In the colonial period, racism and racial science was designed to ensure that the good Christian ethos of the marauding, raping Christians from Europe was not infringed upon other humans – so their humanity was stripped from them.

How is this relevant to the questions raised by RLB? It is relevant because the dominant concept of British identity is inextricably linked to Empire. It is linked to domination. It is linked to the British Army. It is linked to the British identity of monarchy, empire and destruction and dislocated from working class struggle. It is linked to all that the Communist movement considers negative and inhumane. Why is British identity linked to such things? The reason is rather simple. To co-opt, befuddle and disorganise the working class, the hegemonic ideas of Empire were spread to every corner of the British islands and abroad. British Empire therefore constitutes a very large part of British identity.

The interpretation that one can opt to take from the commentary made by Rebecca Long-Bailey is that she, alongside the left wing of the Labour Party of Britain have a desire to redesign the concept of ‘patriotism’ to reflect and represent solidarity, justice and radical social democracy. To connect British identity with the victories of the working class in Scotland, England and Wales. This is an interesting initiative, not only because the State and the many ivory towers of university thought will rally against it – but also because only the working class in Britain can ultimately dismantle British imperialism and make peace with the victims of Empire. In order to do so, any ‘progressive patriotism’ must confront monopoly capitalism, imperialism and loyalism for these have no place in the patriotism of the working class.

In order to do so, the Labour Party will have to confront it’s imperialism and participation in the carving up of the world alongside it’s evil American allies. The Labour Party will have to become the beacon of hope by disengaging from NATO and all military adventurism. London will have to cease being a center for finance capital and financial domination. Reparations to it’s former colonies will have to be made. These examples relate to the foreign policy of the British state. What of the internal cultural changes that exist in British society and need to be tackled? How will the Labour Party tackle them?

Up until now, the counter-culture of working class culture has been developed in various groups only informally connected to the Labour Party by virtue of their individual membership. Festivals such as 0161, pages such as Red London, clubs like Solstar Boxing Club, music events like Redtek, umbrella groups like Football Lads and Lasses Against Fascism are all fantastic and meaningful examples of tackling ‘imperial’ British identity. It’s important, I think, to identify who is responsible for the creation of imperial identity, who is its victim and what the synthesis is. The scientific basis of racism is colonialism and imperialism, racism is a necessity for it to exist. So what is the scientific solution for tackling phenomena such as racism? The examples I mention above link and conjoin physical activities with progressive politics, synthesizing outdated prejudices and in effect, overriding them. This is merely one set of examples, I will provide another British example. One of the first experimental tours 0161 London held in East London commented on the fact that the Communist Party organised a tenant association in the 1930s and it assisted a well known family who were members of the British Union of Fascists. They stopped the eviction and the family burnt their BUF membership cards. What can we take away from this? Concrete political work fused with political analysis and unity of the working class defeats fascism.

Truth be told, I am wary when ‘patriotism’ is a subject raised in the imperial core countries, for the only patriotism has been the hegemonic patriotism of the ruling class. However, the development of a ‘counter’ patriotism rooted in proletariat culture, working class objectives, uprisings and the struggle for the social ownership of capital can be a very positive and necessary contribution, if it’s merely a slogan, then it is worth nothing.

In Ireland, the word ‘patriot’ has largely been dominated by American style conspiracy theorists who promote ideas ranging bound up in online conspiracies ranging from outright Nazi ideas about the Great Replacement to anti semitic nonsense about George Soros. None of these conspiracy theories of course talk about capitalism or capital, but that’s a side note for another day. In Ireland, ‘patriotism’ has been ‘Republicanism’ and Republicanism, since it’s popularization by Theobald Wolfe Tone has always taken tones that draw from the French Revolution and the slogan liberte, egalite, fraternite. In Ireland, Republicanism has always been against the interests of Empire and against oppression. In Ireland, Republicanism has been linked to the many struggles taking place around the world, so through practice, it became anti-racist. The content of Irish Republicanism has also had significant input from James Connolly, who in his wisdom realised that national liberation was worth nothing without the social ownership of capital, or more precisely, socialism. He distinguished bland nationalism from socialist republicanism by contrasting ownership of land, employment, food production and financial domination between an Irish capitalist and an English capitalist and concluded that the net result would mean little change for the small farmer or urban worker.

In short, the substance of ‘patriotism’ is defined by the method of organising society and the substance of the political organisation championing such patriotism. The capitalist class has a patriotism of its own, created to suit its class interest, to suit its domination of the workers, to suit its domination of the proletariat. The patriotism of the working class, as seen all over the world in Socialist countries is emancipatory, it is one of justice, freedom, democracy and the social ownership of capital. Contrast the two, judge it on its merits.

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Right to revolt.

The right of revolution as a philosophical concept has been abstracted in historical texts from the necessity of revolution as a materialist analysis of historical class antagonisms

When reading texts on the concept of Law, the question of natural justice has always been an entertaining one to consider. Based in a mixture of religious, philosophical and cultural ideas, natural justice is, in summary, the collected law making and giving experience of society transformed into a form of custom and practice that is then interpreted by an individual, an institution or a combination of both. Usually used in a reference for fairness. In practice, it is a secondary tool to the ruling power of whichever land. In Ireland, the judicial system was mirrored from the homogeneous judicial system that Ireland was colonised by, the British one. The British judicial system in turn, was crafted, cleverly to represent the interests of the aristocratic and land owning class.

What concerns and interests me most however is the abstraction of legal concepts from their socio economic material reality and the contradictions contained within it. The dialectical nature of the law, is overlooked and supplanted by a simplified interpretation of the Law which without a hint of irony benefits the ruling class. More specifically, interest lies in this concept of the right to revolt, or right to revolution, an idea that made significant traction in the so called ‘Age of Enlightenment’. Let me offer a slightly more alternative view that might be of equal interest to the reader.

Since society moved from a primitive hunter gatherer method of organisation to a feudal one through a variety of transformations, one key aspect that we have all heard of to justify feudal rule is the ‘Divine Right of Kings’. In China, it was titled ‘Mandate from Heaven’, in other places around the world it was titled differently, but it’s central point was that it permitted the person with the ‘divine right’ or ‘mandate’ to be the absolute ruler of all where they claimed. It justified their rule, despite it stemming essentially from being a more ruthless or craftier warlord. It created a cultural and philosophical explanation for why they ruled, because they ruled. This is the chronology of the circumstances and conditions.

In exactly the same condition, opposite ideas, carried by rebellion, insurrection and revolt began to manifest themselves. These ideas gained traction in societies that had developed access to education and literacy, they didn’t simply come into being, they had to be recorded, considered and thought about. What is curious though is that if you give online records a quick breeze, the right to revolt as a concept originated from the right to be ruled properly, rather than the fact that you ruled absolutely. It was a very dialectical resolution of the question of rule: If I am to be ruled ‘absolutely’ then I should be ruled in a proper manner. Curious, isn’t it?

As all contradictions however, once the synthesis of being ruled properly emerged, then emerged the next glaring contradiction: If the right to revolt exists from improper rule, what other cause can justify revolt and what is improper rule? One can labour extensively on these questions but they have always been dominated and marked by a class narrative. For nobles the right to revolt stemmed from their ability or inability to exercise power and influence over the monarch. For petty tradesmen and merchants, the right to revolt stemmed from their desire to earn an ever greater profit. For the industrialists and bankers, the role of the absolute monarchy was merely a question of political and economic influence. Philosophical explanations for rule and revolt tailed the confrontations of warlords, industrialists, kings and queens until Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels provided a scientific breakdown of history and put these questions into place.

The history of all hithertho existing society, is the history of class struggles.

Karl Marx

In such an environment, ideas in Ireland were also crafted. The British Empire, much like the American Empire, French Empire, Spanish Empire, Portuguese Empire, Dutch, Swedish, Russian and so on, all had to create a justification for their right to colonise and exploit. They circumvented their hypocritical religious teachings of love and kindness mechanically. They said that the humans they raped, destroyed and pillaged were not humans and therefore the criteria did not apply to them. A simple solution to what could have been a complicated problem. Empire and the dominant mode of thought produced justification for the misery it inflicted on the people. Capitalism does this today in as many equal ways, many of which are there to distract the oppressed from the very real misery that is inflicted on them.

In Ireland, the system, it’s ivory tower universities and all that entails it have created justification and reasoning for their rule not by insisting that the rule is just, but by insisting that we, the people are a part of the ruling process, that in fact we rule ourselves and that there are no ‘rulers’, there are no classes, they’re gone and anybody who insists otherwise is a Communist. If problems emerge, we are also therefore collective responsible because we are a part of the decision making process.

The process portrays class analysis of social and economic differences as redundant and embraces effectively the same ideas Mussoloni, Franco and Hitler transformed into more thorough political systems and machines. We all serve the ‘interests of the nation’ together and the interests of the nation happen to coincidence with the interests of vulture funds, bankers and multinational corporations.

We are told that the rule of the State in Leinster House is ‘just’ and that if it wasn’t, the judicial system that’s totally inaccessible to ordinary people would keep it in check. That power is separate, therefore it would hardly ever go wrong, and if it did, we can fix it. A pyramid of semi truths and lies to justify the rancid exploitation and prostitution of Ireland and its people, much like telling young people that emigrating abroad is just an adventure. Ireland is neither representative nor democratic of the interests of those who make it a wonderful place to be. It is not rewarding of its workers or caring for its people. Ireland is a hostile place for the majority, a land of opportunity for minority.

In such circumstances, we could revert back to ancient philosophers or even more contemporary ones and say to ourselves: If we are not ruled properly, should we not have a right to modify or change that rule? Bourgeoisie etiquette and parliamentary procedure stifle this by stating that we are already invested in the management of our own affairs. We aren’t. The institutions, the orders, the economy is all theirs and we the people have little to no input. In such circumstances, the people are confused and misled by these endless lies, propagated through the papers, the education system and the media. In such circumstances, it is the duty of the Communist Party and the Communist movement to pierce through them, identify them and reveal them. It is the duty of the Communist movement to assert the right of the people to revolt and prepare revolution, not simply as an abstract philosophical concept, but together with an understanding of the history of society and the social phenomena of society.

We, Communists, are for a participative and pluralistic democracy. One that may not fix the issues we face today immediately or overnight, for no system can do so, but that can place human suffering, destitution and poverty at the forefront of our struggle and provide for us the means and tools to do so. Defects in the method of Socialist organisation will always exist, but they will exist not under a veil of illusory democracy, but in the full view and grip of the working people of Ireland.

Soviet power is not a miracle working talisman. It does not, overnight, heal all the evils of the past – illiteracy, lack of culture, the consequences of a barbarous war, the aftermath of predatory capitalism. But it does pave the way to Socialism. It does give those who were formerly oppressed the chance to strenghten their own backs and to an ever increasing degree take the whole government of the country, the whole administration of the economy, the whole management of production, into their own hands.”

Lenin

A Workers Republic under the triple lock of British, European and American imperialism is not possible.

A Workers Republic under the Blueshirt regime and the Irish parliamentary system is not possible.

A Workers Republic with six counties of Ireland partitioned and occupied is not possible.

A Workers Republic through peaceful means is not possible.

A Workers Republic cannot and will not be a capitalist enterprise.


Recommended reading:

The Reconquest of Ireland by James Connolly

State and Revolution by Lenin

What is Soviet Power? by Lenin

Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon

How Africa was Underdeveloped by Walter Rodney

Read these in 2020.

Comrades,

Thanks all for following my little blog for the last few years. It’s slowly grown bigger and my ideas have developed as I’ve written. This is the purpose of a blog I think and the benefits of hindsight. I urge anybody and everybody to sit down and write when they can.

#1 Revolutionary Suicide

Think everybody should read this book at least once, in my case, I feel like I read it once a year.  It is a journey of political development and one many young men can relate to (hopefully more than Jordan Peterson garbage).  The journey of somebody with no politics from a deprived community into a revolutionary capable of organising others and most importantly explaining society and the social phenomena of capitalism in digestible terms.

 

#2 The Reconquest of Ireland

If you haven’t read James Connolly, then you’re missing out and likely bordering on becoming a crusty. You need to read James Connolly.  The Reconquest of Ireland, while a little romantic, outlines the necessary struggle for the emancipation of the working class on a political, cultural and economic level. Also written in a highly digestible and easily read way.

 

#3 Foundations of Leninism

Sometimes starting off with Lenin is an arduous task. So start off with Stalin, who writes in an accessible and simplified manner. Foundations of Leninism summarises the ideas of Lenin into one handy pamphlet. It shouldn’t be used as the all talk, but more an introduction to Lenin and the growth and development of your ideas.

 

These are your mandatory reads for 2020. Two of them are available online, you’ll have to hunt down Huey P. Newton elsewhere.

 

Happy holidays!

 

AGITATE

EDUCATE

ORGANISE