The Slow Fix

FARAGE

The following article relates primarily to the political vacuum that exists in England in relation to the forthcoming local elections. It was first published on the website of the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA). The piece charts the decline of the BNP and the rise of UKIP.  As the party of fascism (BNP) is replaced by the more populist and palatable far-right UKIP, the article rightly asks the question, where is the left?

The Slow Fix

The decline of the BNP has given UKIP the chance to fill the yawning gap that exists in working class political representation. By way of contrast, the current incarnations of the left are failing, yet again, to make any impression. This is repeating the pattern of recent decades, where the right have consistently out-thought the left in terms of strategy. The ongoing capitalist crisis offers real opportunities for our side, but it also presents great dangers. If the left continues to shirk its responsibility by failing to fully engage with the working class, it leaves the path clear for the continued growth of right-wing nationalism.

The recent Eastleigh by-election, where UKIP came in second less than two thousand votes behind the incumbent Lib Dems, has confirmed UKIP’s rise to political prominence in the UK. UKIP have long been a force at European level, but this has largely been due to their being a single-issue, anti-Europe protest vehicle. However, they are now making an impact at the ground level of British politics. Where not so long ago UKIP had fewer councillors than the BNP (and indeed, the IWCA), in the local elections of May 2012 UKIP were able to field nearly 700 candidates nationwide (compared to the BNP’s 130) and secured 13% of all votes cast, up from 8% in 2011. In the upcoming local elections in May, they will be standing 1,700 candidates in three-quarters of the available seats, as many as the Lib-Dems and only 500 behind the Tories. The website politicalbetting.com states that ‘For UKIP to have the nationwide organisation capable of putting up candidates in three quarters of the seats is a massive achievement’.

More significantly, it is not just in middle-England where UKIP are breaking through, for their success in Eastleigh follows on from the second places they attained in the Middlesbrough and Rotherham by-elections in November last year, and Barnsley in March 2011, all Labour strongholds where UKIP comprehensively beat out the BNP. What explains this?

It is no coincidence that the rise of UKIP has followed on the heels of the decline of the BNP. In 2008 the BNP held 55 local and district councillors (link) and scored almost 70,000 votes in the London mayoral election, and in 2009 they won two MEPs in European elections where they netted a million votes nationwide. This earned Nick Griffin a spot on Question Time in November 2009, and the BNP then went on to poll over 500,000 votes in the 2010 general election. From this pinnacle, the BNP are now down to three elected councillors and their vote in the 2012 London mayoral election fell to below 30,000. In contrast to UKIP, the BNP are only standing 100 candidates in the coming local elections.

griffin_panel

At the time of the Question Time appearance the BNP appeared all set to mount a profound challenge to the political establishment, but all their forward momentum has been lost and they have gone markedly backwards, and their drop-off in electoral success has been matched by public in-fighting, splits and financial troubles. Why has this happened? For one, the political establishment – all three major parties, plus satellites such as Hope Not Hate – mobilised as one in response to the threat they perceived from the BNP. Resources were poured into key battleground areas (such as Barking and Dagenham), and almost certainly there was an element of state infiltration of the organisation, which helped to sow instability. This is how the political centre responds to any threat to its established order: on a lower level, the IWCA has been subject to similar treatment (link). The concern of Hope Not Hate isn’t to defend the working class from fascism, it is to defend the political centre from any ‘radical’ threat. For a time, the BNP benefitted from the ‘outlaw’ status conveyed upon them as the political establishment united against them, but eventually the weight of resources lined up against them began to tell.

Another aspect is the lack of political experience and capital within the BNP. Up until 1994 their priority had been fighting a costly and ultimately losing street war. It was only at the turn of the century that they fully committed to the electoral route, and they didn’t win their first councillor until 2002. They then reaped great rewards extremely quickly, perhaps too quickly: having reached the heights by the end of the decade, they did not have the know-how or the experience to train on. They had not developed the wealth of experience and personnel that, for example, the FN in France has over a period of more than thirty years. Bluntly put, the BNP do not have the resources, capability or know-how to fully capitalise on the opportunities available to them (again, the IWCA faces something not dissimilar, particularly where resources are concerned).  Finally, a large factor in the BNP’s vertiginous growth was falling for the temptation of spending money they didn’t have, resulting in the straitened financial position they now find themselves in.

UKIP hoovering up the BNP vote

However, just because the BNP have imploded doesn’t mean that the reasons behind their success have disappeared or that their vote has gone away. As the IWCA put it after last year’s French presidential elections: ‘despite these setbacks, the underlying conditions which facilitated the BNP’s rise are still there: disillusionment with the neo-liberal centre and a Labour party that has turned its back on the working class, producing a political vacuum. There is no reason to assume that the BNP is permanently impaired or cannot learn their lessons; but even if that were so, the opportunity remains for some other right-wing formation to fill the vacuum (it is notable that UKIP did well at the recent local elections, a new phenomenon for them)’ (link).

And so it is coming to pass. According to research conducted by Rob Ford of the University of Manchester, many UKIP loyalists ‘come from working class, Labour leaning backgrounds, and are deeply hostile to all the establishment parties… UKIP supporters’ views of all three parties’ leaders are strongly and persistently negative, and they are more likely to express alienation from politics and dissatisfaction with democracy… UKIP’s strongest support often comes from older working class voters, who often have traditional left wing loyalties’ (link).

It is something of a surprise that it is UKIP who are hoovering up the vote that previously went to the BNP: they have never previously expressed any interest in orientating toward the working class, and it would be instructive to know who or what pushed them in that direction (it is well known that it was Tony Lecomber and Eddie Butler, with Nick Griffin more in the role of beneficiary, who engineered that strategic shift initially within the BNP). Furthermore, UKIP have the distinct strategic advantage in that they have had a chance to observe the BNP ‘dry run’. They have had a chance to see what works and what doesn’t, and where to tweak the message as appropriate.

At the UKIP spring conference, their leader Nigel Farage began his keynote speech by attacking increased EU immigration on the grounds that it would lead to ‘massive over-supply in the unskilled labour market in this country at a time when we have a million young people out of work’, a clear populist move. Already they have made the ever-opportunist Lib Dems perform an about-turn on immigration, as well as forcing the Tories into pledging a referendum on EU membership. They appear to be better funded than the BNP, and their less toxic brand makes it easier to draw experienced operators away from the Tory party (link).

Another clear, and extremely instructive, example of UKIP’s new orientation, and the success it is bringing them in working class areas, can be seen in the ward of Gooshays in Havering, on the north-east edge of London. In 2002, the IWCA took just shy of 2,500 votes across the three seats in the ward, totalling 23% of the vote. When the local IWCA pilot scheme fell away, the BNP moved in and won the ward in 2006. The BNP have subsequently fallen away, and at the end of March the ward went not back to Labour, but to UKIP.

However, if UKIP’s success has derived from ‘borrowing’ the vote nurtured by the BNP, it means that if they are to maintain their position as the ‘radical’ alternative to the mainstream, they can never go back to their previous position as a middle-class, single issue protest party. If their current trajectory continues, then at some point their will on this matter will be tested: if they pose a genuine threat to the ‘old gang’ of establishment parties as the BNP did, UKIP too will find themselves under the same pressures the BNP faced. There was no doubt that the BNP were and are fascist ‘true believers’: it remains to be seen if UKIP are anything more than opportunists. If they are insufficiently firm and radical in orientation, they remain vulnerable to their ‘legitimised’ vote returning ‘home’ at some point. Having leap-frogged the BNP, UKIP are currently seen as Britain’s main anti-immigrant party: if polls are to believed they are standing at 17 per cent nationally, which puts them on par with other major far-right parties in Europe. Suddenly, it really is game on.

The slow fix

So if UKIP are partially ‘filling the vacuum’ (link) in working class political representation that up until a couple of years ago was being gradually filled by the BNP it begs the question: after 13 years of New Labour in power where they left no-one in any doubt as to their true colours (as former Labour minister Frank Field has recently remarked: ‘In my lifetime, we’ve moved from a Labour Party which was working class-dominated. Some trendy London middle class went along with it but [were] subjected, at least publicly, to the moral economy of the working class. We’ve moved to a stage where what was that minority is in a governing position, which imposes upon the working class its moral economy… there is a real crisis of representation.’); and five years into a renewed crisis of Western capitalism, why is the political vacuum among the working class being filled by parties of the radical right, not the left?

It was illuminating that in the Eastleigh by-election, alongside the strong showing of UKIP, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition received 62 votes. TUSC has the backing of the RMT and PCS unions, and left-wing organisations such as the SWP and the Socialist Party. With this kind of backing it is sufficiently resourced to make an impact. In addition to the 62 votes picked up in Eastleigh, in the Middlesbrough and Rotherham by-elections (where UKIP came in second) TUSC polled less than 2% of the vote. These are working class, Labour strongholds yet it is UKIP, not TUSC, who are challenging Labour. If TUSC can’t break through here, where can they break through? Why is it that UKIP are able to break through in these areas but TUSC cannot?

As its make-up suggests, TUSC’s orientation is toward the trade union movement and the Trotskyist left. However, trade unionism in the UK is now much emasculated, with the bulk of its membership and influence confined to public sector and/or white collar workers, and its concerns largely sectional. TUSC, then, represents a continuation of usual left-wing practice: long on megaphone sloganeering, short on addressing working class concerns or even any practical engagement with the extant working class itself. The 62 votes in Eastleigh (and the results they have gained elsewhere) stands in rather stark contrast to the results the IWCA has consistently been able to garner with far fewer resources, not to mention the results that the BNP and now UKIP have demonstrated they are able to gain in working class areas.

The IWCA is of the left, the BNP and UKIP are of the right, but what all three share is an awareness of orientating toward the working class, and of the necessity of addressing day-to-day working class concerns. There is a clear pattern: a direct strategic orientation first and foremost to the working class where they live – and not just where they work, and not just those in unionised occupations – bears fruit. It is a simple, straightforward strategic insight, yet it has eluded what is left of the left outside the Labour party. The failure of the left to grasp this simple lesson is allowing UKIP a free run to swallow up the vote the BNP previously broke away from Labour. UKIP are filling the vacuum because they are now the only ones who are trying, in any realistic sense, to fill it.

In particular, they are being allowed to lead the debate on immigration and frame the matter purely in nationalist, reactionary terms, with no countervailing perspective framing the matter in terms of class. TUSC’s manifesto does not mention immigration, it merely states ‘Defend the right to asylum’ (link). Prior to the onset of the economic crisis, the attitude of the liberal left was that any failure to support unlimited immigration was xenophobic and racist: it seems that even TUSC has realised this position is no longer tenable, but rather than address the issue in class terms they don’t address it at all.

By contrast, the IWCA has attempted to grasp the nettle, stating ‘UK plc wants a certain level of “quality and controlled immigration”, not because it is benevolent or kind hearted, but because this dampens wages down and keeps the working class insecure through the creation of what can only be described as a reserve army of labour: immigration is being used as a weapon of class warfare. The importation of skilled labour from overseas also represents a free gift to capital: why spend time and money investing in British workers when you can simply steal much needed skilled labour from poorer countries instead?’ (link, see also linklink and link). Such an approach could negate and undercut the supposedly pro-working class credentials of UKIP, forcing them to choose between their populist position on the one hand and their pro-business support on the other. When put to the test, it is fairly transparent which way UKIP would jump.

Both the neo-liberal right and the nationalist right over recent decades have dramatically out-thought the left in terms of political strategy. They have identified tactics, narratives and constituencies, while the left has succeeded in alienating its core constituency of the working class. Even a glib mainstream pundit such as the Independent’s Owen Jones has been compelled to concede that ‘the right have been winning the intellectual argument for over 30 years…  the left has been forced into an entirely defensive posture. “Stop privatisation”, “defend our NHS”, “stop the cuts”, “save comprehensive education”; stop the world, I want to get off. Contrast this with the booming right-wing intelligentsia, injecting the seemingly impossible into the mainstream, pushing the political goalposts ever right-wards’ (link).

Unless there is a change of strategy and orientation on the left, the process of ‘pushing the political goalposts ever right-wards’ will only continue. As has been shown, there is a means whereby the left can begin to compete, namely to ‘fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class’ because ‘in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement’ (link). As a strategy it  can be arduous, unglamorous and requires a long term investment – a slow fix – but it is the only way forward if our side is serious about rising to the twin challenges of capitalist crisis and growing right-wing nationalism, not just here but in Europe. The austerity clawbacks offer a once in a century opportunity and if the left as a whole continues to shirk its responsibility, the judgement of history will be merciless and the consequences will be profound.

Republic Day

April 24th Is Republic Day

The following article is by Tom Stokes. In it he sets out the reasons behind the campaign to establish April 24th as Republic Day. Today events are being held all across Ireland to mark Republic Day. Fittingly, in Scotland,  Republic Day celebrations will take place at the birthplace of James Connolly in Edinburgh’s Cowgate from 5.30pm this evening. As well as local republicans and socialists who will be in attendance, it should also be remembered that Edinburgh is less than one hour away from Glasgow by bus or train, so there’s still plenty of time for republican activists from the West of Scotland to get there and join the Republic Day celebrations.

Irish Republic

By Tom Stokes

Charles Gavan Duffy, editor of The Nation newspaper which he established in 1840 with Thomas Davis and John Blake Dillon, explained why they chose that particular name for the paper, saying “We desired to make Ireland a nation and the name would be a fitting prelude to the attempt.”.

The same thinking guides the campaign to establish April 24th as the new national day in Ireland, and naming it Republic Day is because we desire to remake Ireland as the true republic of the Proclamation, and applying that name to the national day will be an important aid in achieving that bigger objective.

While we may claim to be free citizens of an independent state, it is not the one conceived by both the Revolution of 1916 and the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The anniversary of these events on April 24th has always been ignored by the Irish State which has abjectly failed to complete the task of building the progressive, modern republic that was promised in the Proclamation.

The evidence of this failure lies all around us – one of the most unequal societies in Europe, a shambles of a health system, a social-class based three-tier education system largely handed over to the control of religious organisations, State oppression of women over many decades, the systematic cover up by Church and State of rampant abuse of children, business and political corruption and collusion resulting in massive costs to ordinary citizens, the handing over of national assets to private multi-national corporations, divisions deliberately fostered between public and private workers, urban and rural people and between social classes. More troubling is the recent abject surrender of Ireland’s sovereignty to the European Union/European Central Bank/International Monetary Fund Troika. Even worse is the attempt by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil to dragoon Irish citizens into acquiescing in another disastrous Act of Union to replace the one substantially dismantled by patriotic Irish men and women between 1916 and 1921, this time with an Act of Union with a European Union that has  recently taken on the appearance of being the Fourth Reich.

The newly elected President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, has placed creating a ‘real’ republic at the top of his agenda, while acknowledging that what we have now is not a proper republic. There was never any impediment from the beginning to the creation of that ‘real’ republic, other than the selfish interests of those who never believed in it anyway, were determined that their political class would govern even at the point of a British gun, and who created a counter-revolution in 1922 to crush the ideals contained in the Proclamation. Their political descendants have been, and are, every bit as self-serving, and have never shown the slightest interest in creating a progressive, enlightened republic.

While the Irish State studiously ignored the anniversary of the 1916 Revolution it promoted as our national day what was once St Patrick’s Day, a Christian religious feast-day, but has by now evolved into ‘Paddy’s Day’, a ‘fun’ day which is also a binge-drinking day. The image we send into the world, and to ourselves, fits with the negative stereotyping of the Irish as feckless drinkers who just like to party, hardly an image to sustain a proper national day, or a healthy nation for that matter.

The reasoning behind designating the anniversary of the 1916 Revolution and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic as Republic Day is that it would serve as a day of remembrance, understanding and celebration of that momentous event, and of the selfless heroism and integrity of the women and men involved in that strike for freedom. It is also so as to have at least one day in the year when the citizens might reflect on the sort of republic they live in, and how it might be improved, and on their role as autonomous citizens in shaping that republic. It is strange how, in a country with our particular history, these topics are rarely discussed by citizens in the way that they are in other countries with advanced democracies. While we have ‘Paddy’s Day’, the French have Bastille Day, the British have Armistice Day, the US has Independence Day, and India, inspired in its quest for independence by our 1916 Revolution and War of Independence, celebrates its Republic Day as the most important date in its calendar.

We cannot rely on the State to acknowledge the significance of that date, April 24th, and to make it our national day. On the contrary, the evidence is that the State, and the parties of permanent power, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil, will resist any calls to support this proposal. Therefore it must fall to the citizens, acting outside the institutional framework of the State, to apply pressure by acting in common cause and by pressing home the legitimate arguments in favour of establishing Republic Day as Ireland’s national day. In the meantime, acting in the spirit of the founders of The Nation we can make Republic Day a reality by making it our reality. If we say it is, then it is. We just need to spread that belief to the citizens in general.

This campaign, organised as a Citizens’ Initiative for Republic Day, is independent of all political parties, whose members are welcome to take part in or lend their support to the campaign as citizens. It is an inclusive campaign, and its banners will be the the Tricolour, the flag of the Irish Republic, and the Starry Plough – the three flags flown during the Revolution.

To mark this year’s Republic Day in Dublin, citizens are invited to join in the campaign by attending a ceremony at the graves of the executed 1916 leaders at Arbour Hill Cemetery (at the rear of Collin’s Barracks Museum) at 10.30am, from where participants will proceed to the GPO for 12 Noon where a commemorative ceremony will be held. Please attend if possible, and please spread the word on behalf of the campaign.

Interested citizens in other parts of the country are invited to create their own commemorations locally using monuments or other sites associated with the Revolution.

By working together to establish Republic Day as our national day we will help to bring the progressive, enlightened Irish Republic to life again.

See also – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Republic-Day-Ireland/117038468321983

“The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

(Paragraph four of the Proclamation of the Irish RepublicApril 24th 1916)

Irish Republicanism and the Politics of Identity

adams02

By HAL (@michael_hal)

At the recent Sinn Fein Ard Fheis Gerry Adams outlined the party’s future strategy in his Presidential address to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2013.

Sinn Fein’s plans centre on a campaign for a Border Poll which is the continuation of the party’s strategy of electoralism. Electioneering or canvassing in pursuit of the objective of a United Ireland has replaced the assertion of the right of national self-determination for the Irish people. Such a strategy reduces the demand for national self-determination to a whim.

The Good Friday Agreement put a qualified distance between Westminster and ‘the province’. A key concept enshrined in the GFA is ‘parity of esteem’ for the ‘two traditions’ in Northern Ireland. “Parity of esteem” is a deliberately nebulous concept. Surely ‘esteem’ emanates from within and cannot be bestowed externally by state agencies? But both republicans and loyalists have bought into the politics of cultural diversity and respecting traditions.

In essence the ‘peace process’ provided a framework that offered a way out for protagonists who were exhausted by the length of a conflict that had no end in sight. The new dispensation is a far cry from national self-determination. The issue of sovereignty is no longer debated with any vigour. Republicanism was an ideology that sought to transcend sectarian differences. Present day Irish republicans are enmeshed in a political system that perpetuates such differences.

However, in the absence of any practical alternative to Sinn Fein’s strategy and given the utter exhaustion of physical force republicanism it is perhaps time to conduct a debate on what Irish unity and self-determination mean today. Historically ideologically driven nationalism was linked to state formation. In his 1862 essay on ‘Nationality’ the English historian Lord Acton observed that: “The new idea of freedom made room for different races in one State… A nation was… a moral and political being; not the creation of geographical or physiological unity, but developed in the course of history by the action of the State. It is derived from the State, not supreme over it.” Ireland by that measure is a nation without a State. There is no unitary Irish state that encapsulates or embodies the will of the Irish nation.

Following the French Revolution in 1789 the ideal of citizenship was not based on race or ethnicity. Any individual born in France had the right to French citizenship. In Ireland the idea of one state for Catholics, nationalists and republicans and another for Protestants, unionists and loyalists represents the antithesis of statehood and citizenship. Incidentally this is why the idea of a ‘two state solution’ in Israel/Palestine is also a flawed one. Inclusivity is the hallmark of stable nation states. That is why identity politics which is based by default on competing identities leads to an impasse.

The historian R.F. Foster’s injunction to celebrate ‘varieties of Irishness’ is a pipe dream in the context of two states riven with antagonism. Both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland are failed entities. Both states cemented and reinforced sectarian divisions. That is why Partition was enacted.

The Free State of De Valera’s making was dominated by clerical and political elites and marked by censorship and nepotism. It offered the majority of its citizens a life of stultifying conformity and poverty or the boat out. Today the Free State is decidedly unfree. It is politically and financially bankrupt with its budget decided upon by EU oligarchs based in Brussels. In the North, the ‘Protestant parliament and a Protestant state’ envisaged by James Craig was a vicious little sectarian regime. This was the ‘carnival of reaction’ predicted by James Connolly. Partition is a blight and needs to be dispensed with, but before that can happen we need to create the political conditions that will bring that day forward.

We need to question the politics of national identity and cultural diversity. The loyalist flags protest is an example of identity politics in action. Identity politics and the politics of cultural diversity results in competing claims and a never ending demand for recognition. It freezes inter-communal relations in a continuous present of mutual distrust and hostility. It is an approach that embeds sectarianism.

Embracing identity politics is misguided. For example many Celtic fans lauded the late Paul McBride QC as one of our own yet he was one of the key instigators of the Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation and as such an authoritarian and illiberal.

It is important not to confuse expressions of national identity and cultural nationalism with assertions of political independence and self-determination. An identity can be adopted or assumed. It is transitory and superficial. Independence is a quality that is hard earned. You are either independent or not. Republican communities traditionally valued their political independence. They were defined by it. It was more than an identity.

State sponsored peace or state brokered institutional arrangements will never meet the needs of the people or match their aspirations. We need to aim higher. It is time to reassert the sovereignty of the people by rejecting dependency on the state. It is possible that in the future Ireland may look to Scotland for an example of an inclusive, independent nation state. The Irish in Scotland can play a leading role in making such a state. It seems clear that, whatever happens, the status quo is no longer an option.

Twitter: @michael_hal

 

FAC THE BILL – Support The Fans Against Criminalisation Demonstration

Scotland’s Met Of The North

POSTED BY  ⋅ 

Unelected and unaccountable Generalissimo Stephen House giving a Red hand salute or maybe taking oath to Betty Battenburg.

Unelected and unaccountable Generalissimo Stephen House giving a Red Hand salute or perhaps taking oath to Betty Battenburg. Offensive either way.

By Jim Slaven (@JimSlaven)

Tomorrow there will be a demonstration calling for an end to the criminalisation of football fans in Scotland. The demonstration will take place at George Square in Glasgow at 12 noon. Although organised by Celtic supporters in response to the behaviour of the police towards Celtic supporters this protest should be supported by all football fans and indeed by all working class people in Scotland. The mistreatment of football fans across Scotland is just one manifestation of the UK state’s attempt to criminalise and depoliticise the working class.

The protest also occurs at an opportune moment, coming as it does on the first weekend of the SNP’s new Met of the North police force. As has been evidenced many times policing in Scotland is already out of control so we cannot blame that on the new Police Scotland force. However the move to a national police force is another move which increases state power at the expense of the working class. We have already seen the head of the new force, Generalissimo Stephen House involved in a power grab from the policing authority.

Since coming to power the SNP have granted almost every item on the police wish list. From scrapping corroboration, ending the double jeopardy rule, legal aid cuts, scrapping not proven verdict etc etc all the changes disproportionately impact working class people and increase state power. The real issue here is not the Green Brigade or the behaviour of football fans it is the behaviour of the police and the abuse of state power being facilitated by political parties (and let’s remember the Labour party backed the Met of the North force).

Young celtic fans being 'kettled' on their way to a football match. Scotland, March 2013.

Young Celtic fans being ‘kettled’ on their way to a football match. Scotland, March 2013.

The increased harassment and intimidation of football fans by the police was of course predicted following the introduction of the Offensive Behaviour Bill.  The purpose of this dreadful piece of legislation is to be both broad in its interpretation but also narrow in its focus. Broad in the respect that it is worded in such a way that it is not clear to anyone what is and what is not offensive in this context. This deliberate vagueness allows the police huge scope by giving them the power to define what is and what is not offensive (to them).

In another regard the target of this legislation is drawn very narrowly indeed. While claiming to want to remove politics from football it in fact introduces, in a very overt way, politics into football and into the policing of football in particular. The SNP (and other parties) are quite happy to use advertising hoardings inside football stadiums to get their political message across so it is clear they do not object to politics and football mixing. No, the real purpose here is to remove any public support for Irish republicanism from Scottish football grounds.

In a mature political society the displays of the Green Brigade would have been welcomed as young people engaging in political activity. The displays might also have been heralded for their campaigning against injustice and imperialism. However in Scotland the Green Brigade displays were seen as supportive of Irish republicanism and in the new Scotland that is verboten.

It is for all these reasons; the criminalisation of football fans, the demonisation of the working class and the attempt to erase from public view support for Irish republicanism and national democracy in Ireland that we must fight back. Tomorrow’s demonstration must be the beginning of a broader campaign against the UK state and its proxy government at Holyrood. The fight back begins with football but it must be based on politics, more than that it must be based on working class politics.  What is required is transparency and accountability in policing and Scotland’s new Met of the North is a move in the wrong direction.

Irrespective of what team you support, support the demonstration tomorrow. 12 Noon, George Square, Glasgow.