Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Against the New Nationalism

I haven't really got much idea who Genevieve Maitland Hudson is, but reading this article of hers on Englishness was an incredibly refreshing change to the stream of false consciousness on the subject (I am being polite) recently from the likes of veteran lefty singer-songwriter Billy Bragg and Paul Kingsnorth - who I consider 'the poor man's George Monbiot'.

The recent nationalist turn is nothing more than an emotional means of stirring up patriotic spirit against excessive corporate growth, and there is nothing innately left-wing about that. The English organic movement, after all, was the brainchild of the far right. In short, the New Nationalism is really very like the old. It tends towards the parochial, the middle-class, the rural and the safe but it cloaks this unsurprising bent in the language of environmental politics. We ought not to let this deceive us.

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2 Comments:

At 4:22 am, Blogger Charlie Marks said...

That you've tagged this as both "Britishness" and "Englishness" is of significance, I think.

Both Kingsnorth and Bragg are in the business of promoting a civic national identity for people living in England. Nothing like the attempts by Brown and co. to get us flying the Butcher's Apron in our gardens, swear allegiance to the Queen, and support imperialist wars in the Middle East by using parading service-personel.

Whilst Bragg is a bit iffy on the question of devolution for England as a whole, supporting regionalisation, Kingsnorth is for an English parliament to mirror the devolved national legislatures in Scotland and Wales (though regionalisation and a parliament of England needn't be mutually exclusive).

If class conscious workers let national identity be defined in terms of race, religion, or culture, by the ruling class and its fascist allies and if we refuse to articulate the radical tradition of the working class in England (Diggers, Levellers, Chartists) then we're going to have a hard time fighting against the BNP.

Please take a look at my "What England means to me" article: http://charliemarks.wordpress.com/what-england-means-to-me/

 
At 2:17 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Cheers Charlie. I labelled this Englishness as well as Britishness as this blog has not tackled the English question before now.

You are argue that 'If class conscious workers let national identity be defined in terms of race, religion, or culture, by the ruling class and its fascist allies and if we refuse to articulate the radical tradition of the working class in England (Diggers, Levellers, Chartists) then we're going to have a hard time fighting against the BNP.'

I disagree with this. Socialists will have a hard time fighting the BNP if we drop our internationalism and class politics and try and fight them on the territory of the Right - the language of 'national culture' (whatever that is).

The banner of the English working class movement is not the St George's flag - it is the Red flag. And the English working class movement has always been influenced and influenced in turn by developments outside of the national boundaries of England - and also by immigrants from around the world. So a key Chartist leader was a black son of a slave from Jamaica - William Cuffay.

To move more up to date - take say, the Brixton Riots in 1981. This was a protest against the police in the tradition of the unemployed riots of the English working class movement - but did not feel the need to embrace any form of 'Englishness' at all - rather the black activists celebrated Pan-African and Rastafarian traditions. All this is well and good - and points to the future.

In your article you link to, you argue that 'devolution in England, far from being an irrelevant or reactionary development, would actually empower working people across the world.' Would it fuck. It might make for a more democratic system here in the UK - all well and good - but the idea that an English Parliament would empower anyone other than a new layer of bureaucrats is nonsense. It really makes no difference fundamentally to the struggle for socialism whether the British working class have to destroy separate Scottish, Welsh and English parliaments or one British State with the Queen at its head.

The future lies with workers councils - not with English parliaments.

 

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