Friday, 19 February 2010

Merrie England?

Liz Davies's article in the Morning Star today(available at http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/87003) discussed the special relationship between Britain and the USA and demonstrated what the Binyam Mohammed case tells us about this relationship.

David Miliband's 'insistence that only the US could decide what information is and is not revealed' is disturbing to say the least. Not only is it sick that our government feels that torture can be justified, but the willing of the British government to bend over backwards for the USA and, at the drop of a hat, put the interests of the USA first says much about our government's respect for its own citizens. Forget that a British Citizen was kidnapped, flown half way across the world and tortured, the USA's national security is at stake here people!

It is a terrifying thought that our government would put the interests of another country above those of its own citizens. Yet this precedent appears to have been set.
A Hamas official is assassinated in Dubai, the killers used fake British passports. The Dubai authorities (and lets be honest the entire planet) say they are 99 per cent sure it was Israeli agents. Given Mossad's record of carrying out audacious assassinations around the globe, especially given that in 1997 a Mossad assassination team were discovered to have used false Canadian passports in an attempt on the life of another Hamas official.

Now did the British government issue a fiery statement condemning the assassination, the use of fake British passports and demand answers from the main suspects? no. In fact, the British government has quietly given a kind invitation to Israel to dicuss the matter. As the front-page in the Morning Star pointed out this morning, 'The "invitation" was in stark contrast to the treatment of the Iranian ambassador recently, who was summoned to account for his country's actions and publicly hauled over the coals'. But hey, this is politics in the Middle East, Israel is infallible.

I feel that the public's perception of this complete lack of any national sovereignty is only benefiting the far-right. There are real fears that Britain is just not standing up for itself on a national stage, and in the context of Argentina refusing to back down over it's plans for shipping arond the Falklands, the government could pursue a 'Thatcher moment' to restore national pride. This would of course be a complete disaster, but it could be a solution that our government will take. Just like Thatcher, it doesn't matter if you whore itself out to US imperialism and demonstrate a willingness to sell off our industry to the highest paying bidder, you just need a little war.

Instead of idiotic postures about not supporting England in the World Cup, the left needs to project an alternative nationalism, a progressive nationalism. I recently visited the newly re-opened People's History Museum in Manchester. It is a fantastic place(http://www.phm.org.uk/), and the material it covers provides us with the tools we need to place our radicalism in the politics of our indigenous labour movement. The museum covers everything from the the Chartists and the Peterloo massacre, to the early trade unions, friendly societies and the campaign to bring home the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Right up to the General Strike, the Spanish Civil war, the foundation of the NHS and the Miner's Strike. The People's History Museum looks at the main events and movements within the history of our labour movement and asks the visiter to spot the themes brought up by figures from Tom Paine to Tom Mann and to Tony Benn.

Peace, justice and equality are not alien concepts, despite what the enemies of reason may say, progressive politics are what made and what can make our country great. And we have a rich history to draw examples of this. The left needs to present the British electorate with a progressive patriotism, that will reject imperialism and refuse to take part in it's wars. Only popular sovereignty can stand in the face of global neo-liberalism and protect our industry and our public services. We have a vision of Merrie England and its green and pleasant land, we must get our vision out to the people and not allow the right, who have sold this country down the drain, to push nationalism.

In a speech to a Chartist meeting in Manchester, that is one of the finest parts of the People's History Museum, Ernest Jones stated:

"MR. CHAIRMAN, and men of Manchester! From 18,000 pulpits 18,000 parsons are this day preaching the gospel of the rich. I stand here to preach the gospel of the poor. Surrounded by the Temples of Mammon, I stand here to preach the democracy of Christ—for Christ was the first Chartist, and democracy is the gospel carried into practice. . . .

Some tell you that teetotalism will get you the Charter: The Charter don't lie at the bottom of a glass of water. Some tell you social co-operation will do it; co-operation is at the mercy of those who hold political power. Then, what will do it? Two years ago, and more, I went to prison for speaking three words. Those words were: "Organise—organise—organise." And now, after two years, and more, of incarceration, I come forward again to raise that talismanic watchword of salvation—and this day again I say: "Organise! Organise! Organise!" You cheer: it is well! but that is not enough! will you act? We've had cheering enough—I want action now!. . . ."

That was back in 1850, but the message is just as relevant to 2010. Cheering is not good enough, we need to organise, we need to act. Sign the People's Charter( http://www.thepeoplescharter.com/), find your local People's Charter group, if there is no local group, organise one!

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