Home > General Politics, Labour Party News, Terrible Tories > Difficulties with St. George’s Day celebrations

Difficulties with St. George’s Day celebrations

It has always seemed something of an irony that the imagery adopted by parts of the far right in the UK has been of a mythical individual, a foreigner, who never visited England. That England celebrates St. George’s Day as its national day has always struck me as somewhat absurd, bearing in mind the number of eminent Saints who graced these shores: the healing St. Cuthbert, the humble St. Thomas Becket who stood up to autocracy, or the learned humanist, Thomas More.

Why we have to have a Saint’s day as a national day is a debate for another time, but suffice it to say that the militaristic St. George complements the vision the political Right have of British history. In particular, it’s easy to see the difference between the Irish celebrating St. Patrick’s day and the English celebrating St. George’s day. As nations, neither Ireland, Scotland or Wales have much history of subjugating other nations to their power. England, on the other hand…

That’s not to say that the ‘loony left’ – that’s me – don’t object to overt and irritating celebrations of other national days. Overt patriotism bugs me, and it’s hardly ameliorated when the overt patriotism is essentially a celebration of several hundred years of butchery. I should be immune, having grown up between two armed camps where green, white and orange, and red, white and blue adorned even the kerbstones, but somehow that makes it even worse.

To the dismay of the hysterical anti-PC brigade in Sandwell, the local council has cancelled funding for a St. George’s Day parade. Suddenly a cause celebre, the issue is discussed on Stormfront, and has become part of a campaign by nationalist nutjobs, the English Democrats. This news has been picked up by our own Bob Piper and has received stinging rebuke from Tory Harry Phibbs of Conservative Home. One wonders if Councillor Phibbs knows what sort of company he is keeping on the issue.

He should do, if he reads his own comment box.

Phibbs, and the various further right commentators, skip over the part where Sandwell council actually organised an investigation into incidents that were reported from the previous years’ events. This included interviews with witnesses, as reported by the BBC. They also skipped over the part where Sandwell council pointed out it would be spending £38,000 on St. George’s Day celebrations, just not on the parade element; this would include a family fun day and a concert at the town hall in West Brom.

Hardly a case of criminalising Englishness, I would think. Phibbs asks, “do the Councl not see that cancelling the event is a gift to the BNP?” It’s a gift only when berks like you don’t report all the facts, nor correct some of the flagrantly ill-informed assertions in your comments post. The same goes for the local media, which had a details-light article on the subject.

Parades are a difficult issue; they tend to bring out the worst in people. In Northern Ireland, ordinary Protestant workers who don’t care about religion for 351 days a year get worked up over the course of the 12th of July fortnight and dangerous things happen. If the council thinks there are better, more family-friendly ways to celebrate St. George’s day, while still actually celebrating St. George’s day, isn’t that to be applauded? Especially by the Right, one would think, since they’re still getting the celebration.

Instead, Phibbs rather short sighted article tries to trumpet the activities of Conservative-run Calderdale….which, significantly, don’t include a parade. Sandwell and Calderdale actually share numerous features, such as entertainment at the city hall and the raising of English flags on April 23rd. If the Conservatives and their allies in the media ever wonder about the inscrutable actions of the ‘loony left’ (me again), perhaps they should first consider how their behaviour and misinformation contributes to the problem, rather than solving it.

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  1. February 19, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Some very good points. Phibbs was dead wrong in this case.

  2. February 19, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Sounds like a storm in a teacup.

  3. February 19, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    It is and it isn’t. Local issues, you’ll find, are often considered far above national ones when it comes down to voting patterns. Sure, you’ll get the voters who’ll talk about Trident, or the Iraq War, but most will talk about council policies and green issues and how these impact their everyday lives.

    Insofar as that is concerned, counteracting this narrative of a nation under seige is probably one of the most vital tasks facing the Left.

  4. February 19, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Agree completely with Dave. We let the local right get on with their nasty business at our peril, but challenging it is equally to our advantage, as long as we also seek to extrapolate nasty features to nasty systems whenever we can.

    That’s exactly what the right wing press do – take one example from a ‘loonie left Council’ and imply that a) all loonie left Councils do this b) all Councils are loonie left c) the only safe Council is a rightwing Council. It’s straightforward enough, we just don’t do it as well as the right wing press (though Dave has a plan – see previous post).

  5. February 19, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    All I need now is to sell a family painting for millions a la Anita Halpin.

  6. Stephen Gash
    February 20, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    So, having St George as England’s patron saint is absurd because he wasn’t English, but flying his flag is racist (that’s the usual bray, with apologies to donkeys).
    St Patrick was born in what is now England, probably Somerset, and St Andrew was Jew. So, adopting them as patron saints born out of their country of adoption is equally absurd.

    What the English actually celebrate is the spirit of St George, the defender of the weak against evil (George v the dragon – get it?).

    There has been an unjust onslaught against English culture over the last 30 years which has intensified over the last ten. All that has resulted from this is a rise in English nationalism. John Prescott, who happens to be “a proud Welshman” actually wrote “there is no such nationality as English”.
    Another Welshman, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, precided over attempts to stop the English flag being flown over English churches, and St George being dropped as England’s patron saint. What it has to do with him, omly he knows. I don’t know what flag Anglican churches in Wales fly, nor ones in Kenya, but I don’t really care.
    If people want to celebrate saints days, have fun and raise a bit of money for charity, where’s the harm?
    What Semple seems to be saying is, bigotry is nasty, unless it is his kind of bigotry, in which case it’s alright.
    If we must used the stale and hackneyed terms, “left” and “right” then I wouldn’t boast about being “left”, looney or otherwise. The left has killed more people than all other regimes put together.
    The hammer and sickle is probably its most appropriate flag, as it chops people down and hammers them into the ground.
    The ususal first tactic of the “left” is name-calling, such as “nut jobs”, then pie-throwing, then fists and boots, stones and murder.
    Sometimes it jumps straight to murder.

  7. February 20, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    *chuckles* I do get a kick out of this “the-left-has-killed-more-people-than-the-rest” malarky.

    When you come back with some sensible points, such as what this ‘unjust onslaught’ against English culture has been – with examples and relevant citations – then I’ll bother to engage with you.

    Until then, I’ll just point out that I’m not saying people shouldn’t raise money for charity or celebrate Saints’ days. It is, however, one of life’s little ironies that the far right, so anti-immigration, have appropriated the flag of someone who was, in fact, foreign.

    A bit like them listening to Rammstein because of the harsh sounding lyrics and militaristic rhythm, when the lyrics actually refer to gigolos and homosexuality and all sorts of stuff,.

    Or do you not understand what irony is?

  8. February 20, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    I’d say that I’m pretty patriotic, but mostly in the sense of folk traditionalism rather than in terms of backing imperialist narratives and the like.

    When I think of the country that gave birth to the levellers, effectively invented heavy industry (I could go on), I suddenly get a lot more rosy cheeked about coming from it. It particularly annoys me that the patriotism one sees on display is always *their* patriotism. Much the same goes for history.

    One thing that always gets me is the death of English recipes. My Nan knows how to cook loads of stuff that I’ve never heard of, because it’s been replaced with imported fast food. That’s just one example, but it fits a personal theme; in many ways I’m a proud cultural patriot purely as a reaction against the Americanisation of the UK. My dictatorship would bulldoze every McDonalds, and replace them with tea rooms and greasy spoons.

    “Yankee detectives
    Are always on the tv
    cos killers in america
    Work seven days a week”

  9. February 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Good points Miller and I agree. The problem, if there is one, is not attachment to England as a culture and a place, which is no better or worse than attachment to Scotland, Wales or Cornwall or anywhere else (and when I hear the left acknowledging that the Scottish role in the British Empire was enormous rather than dumping it all on the Enlglish I’ll be happy!)

    The problem is a historic attachment to a particular narrative of England, which is largely one of the right nd sometimes even the far right. If we don’t like this, we should reclaim England for those who are proud of its very different traditions, some of which you highlight.

    St George is a rubbish Saint. He was adopted by Norman-descended kings, who had spent over a century post-1066 colonising and slaughtering the English common folk. The original English patron saint was St Edmund, who actually was English and, unlike St George, never killed any Muslims. I vote that, if we need a saint at all, we have him back.

  10. February 21, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I don’t understand this nationalism nonsense. It was an accident of history that the Levellers’ and Diggers’ movements grew up in England rather than elsewhere. We can be proud to stand in the tradition of such movements – but then analogous movements exist elsewhere in the world and elsewhere in history…it’s inconsistent.

    Who cares which country your parents got frisky in one night long ago?

    PK, when you talk about attachment to a particular narrative of England, you are correct but you’re not telling the whole story. In a country where powers of mass communication are overwhelmingly controlled by organisations who hold to that right-narrative, things like the culture and the place are going to be claimed for the Right.

    It’s unfortunate, but unavoidable – and the examples discussed above, where a parade on St. George’s Day brought BNP members like flies to dung, demonstrates what I’m on about. If we’re going to celebrate those movements – the Diggers, the Levellers, the Chartists and so forth, why not celebrate them on May Day? As a celebration, May Day is irrevocably bound up with concepts of internationalism and socialism – and there’s little to be feared by celebrating the English (and Irish, Scottish and Welsh) elements to these concepts.

    If you ask me, we should have two or three major celebrations: International Women’s Day, May Day and the anniversary of the execution of Mr. Charles Stuart.

    Incidentally, this tie between ‘national identity’ and national ruling class is as much true for Irish nationalism as Welsh and Scottish, and these are some of the reasons why no one has ever heard me praise Sinn Fein, the SNP or Plaid Cymru. But to say that ‘the Scottish’ role in the Empire was ‘enormous’ is a bit preposterous:

    Imperialism was the ideal of the English ruling class, and to achieve it they subordinated Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They subordinated the English working class too, of course, but when the English are criticised for their imperial history on this blog, it’s not referring to the English working class. ‘The Scottish’ role as soldiers and sailors and such was no different to the Irishmen who served the Empire – are you going to tell me the Irish had an enormous role in the Empire too, or, like the case with the English working class would it not be better to agree that they simply died so their blood could water ruling class greed?

  11. February 23, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Well, arguably, Dave, the ‘English ruling class’ was not English at all, but Norman, Angevin and French. Post-1066, we had several centuries of rulers who did not even speak the same language as their subjects, and who appropriated their land and their rights.

    This – the old ‘Norman yoke’ – was one of the things the Levellers and Diggers revolted against, which is precisely why they could not have sprung up anywhere else; they existed, as all movements do (including, ironically, ‘internationalism’) within a very culturally specific context.

    As for Imperialism being the ‘ideal of the English ruling classes’ – you mean, surely, the British ruling classes. The Scots were hardly just footsodliers; they built the Empire, from the top, and were as keenly and profitably involved as the English (of course, the Irish weren’t; every national narrative is different, that’s the point).

    The Scots were neck-deep in the slave trade and the politics and economics of the era. They had a disproportionate number of generals, politicians, engineers and corporate leaders involved in Empire. In British Canada, for example, the two great fur corporations who were stitching up the country – the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company – were Scottish corporations.

    Ironically, this narrative about the Scots being a poor, oppressed people, dragooned unwillingly into a nasty English Empire, is a Scot Nat narrative, which you seem to have bought into!

    Having a pop at the English is always fun, I know – though kudos to you for at least having a pop at all the other nationalists too. The wider point, in my view, is that people have an attachment to their nationalities whether we like it or not; so the sensible thing to do is to take that as read and try and work with it. Internationalism, after all, is just another kind of tribal loyalty.

  12. February 23, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    You may be right about the Scottish thing and that’s an issue I may come back to another day. On the subject of the Levellers and Diggers, however, you are dead wrong. The crucial issue wasn’t this Norman Yoke business, but the autocratic project of the Carolingian state. The crucial issue was, of course, class.

    The peculiarly democratic form of Protestantism which was the ideology of the Levellers and their fellow travellers had originated in Switzerland and spread out amidst those particular classes which were attempting to resist the centralising efforts of various States – and this is particularly noticeable in England because the Tudors had weakened the monarchy, whereas elsewhere, e.g. France, since the Wars of Religion, the monarchy had not had quite the same difficulty in holding on to power.

    When I say ‘accident of history’, I’m not aiming at a postmodernism contingency-only model of history, I’m saying that there is nothing intrinsic to the character of the people of these islands which caused them to adopt those progressive ideas. Indeed the ideas came from Switzerland and they scared the shit out of every ruling class as they moved down the Rhine. Other ruling classes were simply more able to suppress such movements.

    This not to minimize the culturally specific attributes of each to which you refer – but it’s important to recognize the characteristics the Levellers shared with movements on the European continent and in North America. They were far from unique. They were, in fact, the answer of the toiling classes not only to a foreign monarchy, as you have it, but to the entire edifice of exploitation – which was as English as the maypole, and which, ironically, was trying to import ideology and institutions from the continent.

    Finally, on the subject of internationalism and tribalism, I suppose the question comes down to semantics. From what I’ve gathered of your previous usages, you impute to tribalism some sort of instinctive, unthinking content. Quite the opposite is the case with internationalism, which is based on the recognition of a shared and objective interest of multiple different subject positions.

  13. February 23, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Well, that’s the Marxist class-based, internationalist take on the issue, which has something to be said for it, but you need to be careful not to read into events of the past the politics of the present. The Norman Yoke was a big issue for the Levellers: EP Thompson is very good on this. Of course they were not ‘unique’ in the sense you allude to, but they had very English grievances.

    Don’t you think, incidentally, that suggesting that ‘exploitation’ is ‘as English as a maypole’ but that resistance to it is somehow not, is a little disingenuous?

    I think your problem with St George’s Day and other such celebrations of identity is that you automatically associate them with a narrative of exclusion and superiority. By contrast, you suggest we celebrate more leftist things such as workers day and womens’ day, and that we take an internationalist perspective.

    My point would be that ‘internationalism’ is as culturally-specific as nationalism: it’s the worldview of the left-leaning bourgeoisie in wealthy countries. That doesn’t make it wrong, but it does make it as prone to bigotry and intolerance as any other attachment.

    My wider point would be that people feel attached to their culture and to their history. I, for example, feel English. I feel part of the English landscape, I feel that English history is my history and if I leave England I’m forcibly reminded of what makes the place special to me. I’m not ‘proud’ of being English, because I don’t think you can be proud of something accidental, but I am happy with it, and at times I would like to be able to celebrate it, because celebration is fun and brings people together.

    This doesn’t of course, mean that I have anything to do with the English ‘ruling class’ (who in any case seem to be Scottish at the moment!), nor that I think England is superior (or indeed inferior) to anywhere else. It just means I feel part of a community and a continuity and that this feeling matters to me.

    I think it matters to others too, and that you need to recognise that. I would suggest it means a lot more to people than womens’ day, and that you can’t restrict national celebrations to those of a certain political hue.

    As for the BNP: yes, they are there on the bandwagon. We should get them off it by reclaiming England for all its people, which is beginning to happen now more and more. The BNP, after all, are also in favour of renewable energy, organic farming and an economic policy which is to the left of the Labour Party’s: should we avoid promoting these for that reason? Of course not.

    Identity matters to all of us, whatever identity we focus on. A mature society would recognise that and allow people to celebrate it, rather than seeking to repress it – a guarantee that it will bubble up, frustrated, with some nasty results.

  14. February 23, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Specifically on the challenge offered up by the BNP as they appropriate nationalist identity for their own narrrower ends, I have a follow up post on this in draft at my place, but I sense that the ‘fault line’ where we must challenge the BNP by developing an articulation of our own (i.e the broad left) about what it means to be British, is somewhere around the term ‘our way of life’.

    We should be contending that the BNP-laden ‘our way of life’ is one of pre-Enlightenment savagery, (though obviously with different words on the leaflets), and is counter to the culturally Christian (can of worms, open sesame)’our way of life’ of tolerant ‘love thy neighbour’ness.

    I think it is here, around who claims what rights over what heritage, that the left (and a woebegone Labour party seeminlgy helpless at the rise of a BNP which, as you say, has appropriated some stuff to the left of Labour to make it more saleable)should be making its challenge.

    If the left/Labour seeks to ‘accommodate concerns’, and such crap, without challenging what is clearly a very attractive discursive articulation of a) an appeal ‘our way of life” b)’our government is crap and has betrayed us’ (true enough in many ways); an c) the BNP are sort of socialists anyway. then we’re fucked, and the BNP will rise.

    As for levellers and diggers – my reading list added to, I suppose.

  15. February 23, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    You seem to have missed the core of my argument, or I haven’t done a very good job explaining it.

    There is no such thing as ‘the nation’; there is the nation-state – the geographical area which demarcates the extent of the authority of certain institutions. But by ‘the nation’, we’re referring to the idea of people identifying myriad cultural and political concepts with this nation-state. My argument is that this construct is ideological, and that it is predisposed to favour the political Right.

    When you say people feel attached to their culture and to their history, what culture and history are you speaking of? None of the four nations of the United Kingdom have a unified culture within themselves, much less a unified culture across the Kingdom. As for the history, I am moved to ask, history from whose perspective?

    Defending culture in the abstract is all very well, but when we sit down to pick out those bits of ‘culture’ which we prefer to other bits of ‘culture’, which is what ‘reclaiming’ St. George’s Day involves, we’re performing a political act. We can choose the most progressive elements, but this ignores the fact that we’re performing such a political act in entirely the wrong context.

    The very concept of the nation, of the identification of all these cultural artifacts and practices with the nation-state, is wrong. It is wrong in the political sense, in that a working class organised ‘for itself’ ultimately rejects the ideological construct of ‘the nation’ and it is wrong in the empirical sense in that there are parts of the UK, for example, which have more in common with Flanders than with other parts of the UK.

    Or parts of Scotland which have more in common with England than with the remainder of Scotland – and so on.

    The acceptance of this ‘wrongness’ is a step towards internationalism. And, incidentally, if you’re going to try and engage with me in the terminology of Marxism, I suggest you actually study some of the history. Internationalism is far from being the ideology of the ‘left leaning bourgeoisie’. It is the language of the international trades union movement and of workers involved in struggle.

    Why do you think that Internationalism is currently at its lowest ebb, mirroring the low ebb of the trades union and socialist movement? The Right like to suggest that socialism is a ‘middle class’ (whatever that is!) movement grafted onto the proles, but I wouldn’t expect that from you. As I said, and you didn’t pick up on, Internationalism is the identification that the working classes have more in common their own class across nations than across classes within nations.

    Far from being the preserve of wealthy countries, Internationalism meets its fiercest tests in the poorest countries, where workers risk their lives smuggling out news of exploitative practices and in attending political meetings which invite labour organisers and speakers from other regions and nations, in Nigeria or China or in several Latin American countries.

    As an appendix, when I referred to the ‘edifice of exploitation’, I meant the people who carried out that exploitation, who were as English as the maypole and who were active participants in “Merry England”, as some later-day socialists took to calling it in the Victorian era and immediately after it, selling books on the subject which sold by the million. But we can leave theories of contained subversion for another day, I suppose.

  16. February 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I don’t see how you can have a ‘nation state’ without a ‘nation.’

    I don’t agree that nations don’t exist. You might not want them to, but they do. I also don’t agree that people have more in common with those of the same class elsewhere in the world than they do with those of different classes within their own nation. I know it’s a leftist tent, but based on my experience, I don’t really buy it. I am very cautious of global generalities.

    All nations are ‘imagined communities’, but that is not the same thing as ‘imaginary communities.’ The concept of a nation is certainly a construction, but it’s a construction which has to be built on firm foundations for it to last. England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland were all grafted together from more diverse and complex entities, but there was a core of cultural and historical homogeneity at their centre which made them last for so long.

    I don’t buy the idea that the very concept of a nation is inherently ‘right wing.’ It’s not inherently anything at all, it just is.

    Internationalism, of course, has the word ‘nation’ at its very centre. One does not preclude the other. It’s possible to feel and express solidarity with people in other nations without having to deny or suppress the existence of your own. Everyone comes from somewhere.

  17. February 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Even Benedict Anderson understood that these ‘imagined communities’ were not ‘imagined’ by all ‘parts’ of a nation equally; a nation is created by power relations and our conception of each nation is equally dependent upon power relations.

    The nation-states of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales came into existence not as the result of cultural homogeneity but as the result of conquest. Cultural homogeneity was then superimposed upon them, with each area perhaps maintaining survivals of an older age or adopting new customs at a greater or slower speed than others.

    These are very material reasons for cultural variations – but they don’t, at root, challenge the universality of exploitation and therefore the universality of class.

    Finally, nothing ‘just is’.

  18. February 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    The universality of exploitation, Dave, like the universality of class, is an interpretation, not a fact. It stems from a particular political view which not everybody shares.

    And the nation state of England came into being not through conquest but through resistance – to massive Viking invasions which nearly destroyed the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and which resulted in a fightback which forged what we now call England. Without invasion and resistance to it there would have been no England. Sounds almost like a radical narrative, that …

    I’ve noticed that your responses here – which began with your observation that you didn’t ‘get’ nationalism, – have stemmed entirely from the intellect. A liberal scattering of theories and book titles is all most impressive, if a bit laboured, but unless you can engage with this on an emotional level, you will never ‘get’ it, because that’s where it comes from. People feel an emotional connection to places, to cultures, to a group belonging and to some sense of continuity – particularly in such a fast-moving world.

    You may regard that with contempt, and those people with pity (ah, that false consciousness.) But you can’t wish it away because it is part of being human. People have been trying for 300 years, and it seems to be stronger than ever.

  19. February 23, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I do engage with all of this on an emotional level – but there’s absolutely zero about emotion which cannot be quantified in every respect like the responses of intellect. Incidentally the two are not as distinct as you seem to suggest, according to the neurological sciences anyway.

    I don’t regard people who justify things on the basis of emotion with either pity or contempt: they’re simply wrong. If you genuinely think emotion can’t be grappelled with, examined and understood, then this is where our discussion ends because we agree to disagree.

    Three things remain:

    First, exploitation is an empirically verifiable fact. This was the whole point of Marx’ Capital. To lay political economy on a rational, material basis so that it could be better understood and so that appropriate action could thus be entertained. There is such a thing as surplus value and that surplus value is not controlled by workers; that is what I call exploitation.

    You can call it something else, but even if the word ‘exploitation’ is changed the concept remains the same.

    Second: the nation of England was not born of ‘resistance’ and moreover that ‘resistance’ sounds very like the sort of nationalist pap which we’d do well to get away from, as it is completely unhistorical. The nation of England didn’t begin with this act of invasion and resistance between the Vikings and Saxons anymore than it emerged from the invasion of the Romans and the resistance of the Celts, or the invasion of the Normans and the resistance of the Saxons.

    I would be hard picked to find one element of England today which stretches back in continuous form to the time you suggest. The whole thing sounds suspiciously like a creation myth of the sort which most societies like to invent about themselves, in order to read the things widely perceived as national characteristics into the past.

    Finally, I note that, although we’ve kept the debate civil, once more you launch something of an ad hominem attack.

  20. February 25, 2009 at 2:33 am

    I think that internationalism is about expressing the ideal that there should be fraternal relations between nations, that as working people we have more to unite us than divide us. I think there is the possibility of a rights-based civic national identity – devolution in Scotland and Wales has led all political parties to express their Scottish and Welshness

    Paul’s book on England was about articulating the national-popular (to put it in Gramscian terms) by examining struggles against corporate power that are taking place across the country. The Real England that emerges is, to quote Billy Bragg, “the green field and the factory floor”.

    Remember, the first accusation of our rulers when we’re fighting for our rights has always been to claim that really we are hoodwinked by outside agitators, etc. That there is something alien about social justice has always been used against us: early struggles for democracy being linked with possible French invasions, supposed Moscow-controlled trade unions, and so on. The security services even went as far as to get their high-placed agent within the NUM to go to Libya in the middle of the miners strike so that TV pictures could be beamed back of the “enemies within” meeting with enemies without…

    The Englishness expressed by the Diggers, the Levellers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and the Chartists is very different to the “Britishness” supported by our rulers today. Do we eschew all expressions of national identity, or engage with the articulation of a progressive patiotism?

  21. February 25, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I’ve posted two replies to this post now, both identical, neither of which have appeared. I wonder why that is?

  22. February 26, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Paul K

    I had a similar problem with a couple of contributions a month or two back. They were quite long ones and I wonder if the system just couldn’t cope. Dave confirmed they had not arrived with him for moderation etc.

  23. February 26, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    The following is Paul Kingsnorth’s comment that wouldn’t appear. I have a busy next few days, to round up a set of posts for the Carnival of Socialism and to write my own article – but I promise to come back to this. -DS

    Good points, Charlie – thanks. My position, I think, is that the old fundamentalist leftist take, articulated here by Dave, that nations don’t exist, that they are myths constructed by the powerful to keep us in our place and that only ‘internationalism’ can save us is deeply flawed. It’s flawed because it denies the need to belong to a place which you call home, and to a group of people with whom you identify. I have never seen any contradiction between belonging to a nation and expressing solidarity with people and peoples from other ones. I’m with the Zapatistas on this one – cultural identity and global justice are not somehow opposites, they are both essential for human dignity and contentment.

    Dave – in response to your points:

    “the nation of England was not born of ‘resistance’ and moreover that ‘resistance’ sounds very like the sort of nationalist pap … etc etc”

    You’re wrong about this. This is all straightforward (‘empirical’) historical fact. Before the invasions by the Great Viking Army in the ninth century there was no nation or state called England – there were 8 Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. All but one, Wessex, was overrun by the Norse invaders. Wessex, under Aelfred, managed to hold the Vikings off, just. Aelfred’s son pushed them back and his grandson, Aethelstan, finally regained control of all the former Anglo-Saxon territories, unifying them in 927 into a kingdom called Englalond – England.

    “I would be hard picked to find one element of England today which stretches back in continuous form to the time you suggest.”

    Then you don’t have an appreciation of historical continuity. If someone from pre-conquest England was to be transported to the England of today he might find more he recognises than you suspect. The monarchy, for example. The English church, with its bishoprics at Canterbury and York. The English bible. The English language, which despite substantial change is still based very largely on Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. Place names. The boundaries of the kingdom. The farmed landscapes of Devon and Cornwall. I could go on.

    It’s continuity, you see: the development of a people. Orwell was rather good on this: “What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840?”, he asked. “But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person.”

    All nations employ mythology, and a degree of dishonesty, in their creation and continuity – but if those myths don’t have a firm basis in either fact or common folk belief, they don’t last. Mythology does not invalidate nations as real, living things, any more than the mythology of the left, which is legion and just as dishonest, invalidates your political beliefs.

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