The Wood for the Trees. Another Massive Leap for Progress. Or, More Ignoring of Imperialism. January 5, 2012Posted by Garibaldy in Commemoration, Republicanism.
The recent trend for commemorating WWI as a good thing because Catholics and Protestants/Unionists and Nationalists both fought in it is something that drives me absolutely nuts (previous rants include this against Myers, this in praise of Nadine Coyle, and this. Usually we are spared this rubbish apart from the run-up to November 11th, but Belfast City Council’s decision to invite an Irish minister to its Somme commemoration has brought it back into the spotlight.
The motion, from former Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy of the SDLP (and former member of the Republican Clubs to save anyone else the trouble of pointing that out), was unopposed, with PSF abstaining on the grounds that this should have been dealt with by a sub-committee that exists to deal with the forthcoming centenaries (kicking off this year with the Ulster Covenant). There’s a thread about this on Sluggerotoole that makes for depressing reading. Amidst all the sound and fury, no reflection on what the war actually meant, nor what it was about. One of the greatest disasters in human history, the very epitome of all that is wrong with imperialism, reduced to a petty squabble about here.
This is the reality of politics in Northern Ireland still. Empty gestures that are in and of themselves are often either meaningless or – as in this case – utterly reactionary, and serve only to reveal how either variety of nationalism (British or Irish) on offer in the north is inherently limited in its potential to be progressive. So wrapped up are they in their combat with one another, any place for consistently progressive politics, for secularism, for class politics, gets squeezed out almost entirely by all-too-often sectarian forms of populism. See the 11 Plus debacle for a fine example. Unfortunately, this is what the people want, and this is especially what the middle and lower middle classes represented best by the DUP and PSF especially like. In my opinion, anyone who considers themselves a principled progressive who can look at these maps and think about the commemoration of WWI in positive terms because of nationalism and unionism in Ireland is kidding themselves. I’ve mentioned this before, but in 2003, The WP in Waterford opposed the erection of a statue to a VC winner by proposing a memorial to all the victims of imperialism. No doubt in my mind which is the progressive option, and which is the message most fit to build class unity across the island.