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A thesis… August 7, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Thought this here a somewhat unusual take. From the curious Unherd site, which I see has arch Brexiteer Giles Fraser as one of the contributors, Angela Nagle offers her thoughts on statues being overturned, linking Black Lives Matters protests, which she argues is an ‘imported moral narrative that turns the spotlight around on the reactionary masses who must, in the name of equality, learn to think of themselves as privileged’ with ‘targeting’ of the Sean Russell statue which she argues ‘Wrongly thinking that historical facts could ever stand a chance against the wrecking ball of the current international woke cultural revolution, some Republicans correctly pointed out that he was not doing so out of any allegiance to Nazism, having tried to secure arms from any nations that might give them’. From here she asks ‘why the woke cultural revolution sweeping Irish society would spare a single one of our national statues, monuments or heroes’ and on to ‘What about the special place given to the Irish language in state institutions, which it could be easily argued excludes and discriminates against foreigners?’

Does that seem like a bit of a stretch? Quite a few of us might think so. Focusing just on Russell there’s a real issue around the history there – as a republican socialist I think his mission to Germany was deeply problematic, that procuring arms from the Nazi’s is not something that can be easily written off, and I suspect many others would feel likewise. As Brian Hanley noted on a piece he penned here this isn’t simple historical revisionism.

Suggesting that people consider the consequences of this is not retrospective moralism; there were contemporary critics of this policy. The Communist party’s Irish Workers Weekly attacked the IRA during 1940 for wanting German forces to ‘come and devastate the land they talk of freeing’. (And this was during the period of the Nazi-Soviet pact.)

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1. sonofstan - August 7, 2020

I read that and was going to comment but felt it a stone best left unturned. The thesis is a bit mad, and one that was echoed rather unfortunately in that Imelda May poem, the notion that we’re a special kind of non-racist white people because history.

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2020

It’s funny, I know precisely what you mean re stones unturned. I think in part it’s becuase that blasted statue is almost literally outside my front door. I’ve liked some of AN’s work in the past and I actually don’t understand this one. I do agree too, I think the IM stuff is well meaning and utterly sincere, and on one level of course it is true we should at least try to have a better sense of solidarity but…

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2. benmadigan - August 7, 2020

‘What about the special place given to the Irish language in state institutions, which it could be easily argued excludes and discriminates against foreigners?’

irish language crieria for state institutions eg school exams are different for people brought up in the republic and those brought up elsewhere eg Northern ireland

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2020

Yeah it’s a terrible argument.

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Paul Culloty - August 7, 2020

Not to mention that an Irish woman of African heritage currently broadcasts on Raidío na Life:

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Paul Culloty - August 7, 2020

And Alex Hijmans from Brazil, who has written for various Irish-language publications for decades now:

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2020

Fantastic. I thought it a weirdly exclusionary argument. After all, if Irish is, as it should be, the shared heritage of all on the island, and if we have people who are of and in unionism learning it as they absolutely can and should if they want to and remain unionist if they want to, it is absolutely not an issue.

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3. Wiki Man Dave - August 7, 2020

A paranoid take indeed.

I think a lot of the ‘woke’ young people do internalise an american understanding of race alot but at the same time they are very conscious of Ireland’s status as a colony. They are last people who would support statues of James Conolly and Robert Emmet be taken down.

Anyway, it’s a long, long way to go from taking down a statue of Sean Russell, which hasn’t even happened, to removing the Irish language from state institutions. Focus on what’s actually happening instead of slippery slope silliness.

Theres a big point to be made about Americanisation and it isnt discussed enough. But the subheading was the only good thing about this article sadly.

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2020

I do agree there. The intersections of race and culture and indeed capital are going to be different in different contexts. Having worked and lived briefly but not too briefly in NYC and then later for a longer period in London it struck me the experiences of race were distinctive in different ways. Commonalities, absolutely, but also divergences. And naturally Ireland will have commonalities with both but also divergences in one way or another. So a one-size-fits all approach that suggests the US experience is the same as here is not going to be very useful. And in some ways may even restrict the ability to engage and deal with racism as it manifests in our society.

BTW I would put money on that statue still being there in a years time.

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Joe - August 7, 2020

BTW I would put money on that statue still being there in a years time.

But a bit rustier. The tomatoes are ripening.

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Fergal - August 7, 2020

Americanisation! Lol, as the kids say! Purely anecdotal but a nephew told me a few weeks back that all blacks in the the usa were poor, that there were very few if any poor whites?!!
When I asked him to back up what he said… he replied ‘it’s a fact’… anyway, the absence of class in the recent debates over race is telling… and isn’t this how America does politics? Culture… symbolism etc… The democrats can take as many knees as they want but Clinton made mass incarceration of poor blacks, Hispanics a reality…
When I mentioned class to him… he said it wasn’t relevant ?!? I think he needs to be sent to an education camp?!?

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2020

Class is key.

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neilmoxham - August 7, 2020

“I think a lot of the ‘woke’ young people do internalise an american understanding of race…”

No one in Ireland today would get away with refusing to allow Africans into their shop or bar, or suggesting that Chinese shouldn’t live in their area because they steal. But Travellers? they’re still fair game. It’s a disturbing blind spot on our collective sense of empathy and should be part of any protests about minority rights in other countries.

Come to think of it, there’s probably an argument for making Cant a leaving cert subject, compulsory or otherwise.

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WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2020

Yes. And isn’t it interesting how few people tackle that. Can I say a good word for the WSM which has been at the forefront of engaging with that particular form of racism.

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4. sonofstan - August 7, 2020

I’ve just finished reading Keith Kahn-Harris’s Strange Hate: Antisemitism, Racism and the Limits of Diversity where he attempts to work out a way around the impasse of being a left-wing, Labour supporting Jew, and deal with both real antisemitism on the left and right, and the hurt caused by false accusations of same. It’s a subtle book, one resistant to summary. One point that resonated though: once we start admiring ourselves for being anti-racist we are in danger of becoming what he calls selective anti-racists, where we tolerate, even celebrate minorities we admire while passing over less attractive ones. And mostly we celebrate ourselves for our ability to celebrate a spurious and not entirely inclusive diversity.
The other point that stood out: he points to the similarity between the antisemitism of the ‘Jewish world conspiracy’ variety and the more paranoid instantiations of Islamaphobia that sees a similar dark web of complicity between everything every Muslim everywhere does, and points out that nobody thinks of other ethno-religious groups in the same way, his example being the absence of any paranoia about an Irish catholic conspiracy to take over the world.

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5. CL - August 7, 2020

“Many Irish-Americans manage to sustain their self-image as doughty Irish fighters for freedom even as they clobber or kill people of colour for giving the white establishment grief. The attitude is deep-rooted….

Niall O’Dowd – “There are significant positives in Donald Trump’s new immigration plan and the Irish need to work with it…We need to talk about the 1965 Immigration Reform Act and how it betrayed the Irish, one of the founding groups of this country who contributed mightily to its success.”
As opposed to African Americans who have presumably been poncing off US taxpayers since their arrival.

There are large numbers of Irish-Americans on the Left who will have taken their place in recent weeks in protests against police racism and murder. But there’s a number greater by far standing four-square with the cops who killed George Floyd, dreaming dreams about the struggle for freedom in Ireland as they cheer on cops licking their lips, twirling their batons.”
http://www.rebelnews.ie/2020/06/24/eamonn-mccann-irish-racism/

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sonofstan - August 7, 2020

You’d have to hope the O’Dowd version of Irish America is fading.

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Jc - August 7, 2020

Angela Nigel has become ever stranger. A little while ago she published “The Left Case Against Open Borders” in a Trumpian online journal. An Irish person born in the US opposing immigration is a puzzling kind of “leftism”. Nagle has associated herself with a toxic collection of misfits who argue for the centering of a specifically white working class in American left politics. She makes jokes about people calling her a Strasserite.

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2020

Hmmmm that’s not a joke I’d want to have made about me! I saw that essay. Troubling.

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6. Colm B - August 7, 2020

Whatever the rebellion by mainly poor black people in the USA was, characterising it as some sort of creature of corporate wokness is hopelessly inaccurate, not to mention, reactionary.
Just because there is a liberal version of a struggle that is compatible with capitalism doesn’t mean that struggle isn’t necessary or isn’t progressive. Because liberal feminism is real doesn’t mean socialist feminism isn’t revolutionary. Because big business use multiculturalism to sell products doesn’t mean racial oppression isn’t real.
It’s amazing how some on the left insist that any oppression that doesn’t directly pertain to class should be downplayed. Marx had no such problem, forcefully challenging the anti-Irish racism of English workers because he saw how racism played a fundamental role in ruling class hegemony (Kevin Anderson’s ‘Marx at the Margins’ comprehensively outlines how Marx moved decisively to a position of recognising the importance and reality of national oppression etc.) Much of the problem stems from seeing class, race, gender etc as completely separate rather than crucial categories in the operation of capitalism, though in different ways at different times/places.
Class reductionism and hostility to struggles against oppression is a fatally flawed approach which can lead into a dangerous liaisons with all sorts of reactionaries. Recognising the hypocrisies and silly psycho-babble of liberal anti-racism, which casts racism as an individual moral issue rather than a structural one, should not blind us to the need to show solidarity with black workers and youth in their struggle against oppressive social and economic structures. Maybe less Angela Nagle and more Angela Davis?

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2020

+1 Class is key. Oppression is real. A working class woman of colour is likely to be the most oppressed member of the class in any given context. That’s just a basic reality and as Marxists it’s impossible to ignore. And as you say these are categories in the operation of capitalism. And solidarity above all.

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Pasionario - August 8, 2020

The new wave of progressive/ socialist Democrats generally gets this stuff right.

AOC, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar consistently draw attention to how particular forms of racist and sexist oppression reflect broader structures of economic injustice.

The error of Nagle’s approach is to assume there is a fundamental opposition between “identity politics” and “class politics”, whereas they should actually complement each other.

The mirror image of Nagle’s workerist class reductionism is the cynicism of parts of the Democratic establishment, which leans on identity politics to try and defeat leftists, as in Tlaib’s recent primary in Detroit, where the local party machine waged a racialized and xenophobic campaign against her:

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2020/08/03/bankole-focus-rashida-tlaib-brenda-jones-congressional-race-issues-not-xenophobia-keith-williams/5554612002/

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CL - August 8, 2020

https://www.democracynow.org/2020/7/24/aoc_ted_yoho_full_speech

“President Trump on Thursday slammed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as “a real beauty” who “knows nothing about the economy.”
https://nypost.com/2020/08/06/trump-calls-aoc-real-beauty-who-knows-nothing-about-economy/

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WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2020

Pasionario, why do we argue when we agree on so much? 🙂

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sonofstan - August 8, 2020

” Nagle’s workerist class reductionism”

Worse, it tends to smuggle identity politics back in while denying them: anytime I read the phrase ‘white working class boys’ you know you’re in the presence of a kind of whataboutery that is asking, sotto voce, “what about looking after our own?”

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Fergal - August 8, 2020

Yes, I think the Squad are great cos they joint up the dots on all fronts… class, race, climate, foreign affairs etc…
The piss Trump off but also the Democrat grandees like Pelosi…

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7. benmadigan - August 7, 2020

“Whatever the rebellion by mainly poor black people in the USA was”,

James Baldwin would probably say, as he said of the Civil rights movement in America, that it was just another “slave rebellion/insurrection”

See @ 4 min in in his speech in the link.
Well worth listening to the entire speech

https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/06/19/the-time-james-baldwin-told-uc-berkeley-that-black-lives-matter/

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