Prospect and the Sufis

Since you ask, I haven’t seen the new conservative intellectual magazine Schwerpunkt. I did, on the other hand, notice the current Prospect – not one of my usual reads, as it generally comes across as New Labour at prayer.

Well, Prospect was running a poll to determine the world’s leading intellectual. They last did this in 2005, when good old Noam Chomsky won, prompting a bit of consternation amongst the liberals and leading directly to the Grauniad’s infamous hoax interview with Chomsky. So Prospect might have been expecting trouble when they ran this again.

The results are in and, as it happens, all of the top ten are Muslims. The runaway winner is Turkish Sufi cleric Fethullah Gülen, whose followers number in the millions and who has close links to the ruling AK Party, although he’s not very famous outside Turkey. Runner up is Bangladeshi microfinancier and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, followed by top Islamic theologian Sheikh Qaradawi. Not that I’m having a go at any of these characters – and Tariq Ramadan, certainly, would have been one of my picks – but this is all rather curious.

So curious, in fact, that Prospect has had to run an explanatory note. You remember a few years ago when the BBC World Service ran a poll to find the best record of all time, and imaginative Irish lobbying won it for the Wolfe Tones? It seems something similar happened this time. The poll got mentioned in a mass-circulation Turkish paper with links to the Gülen movement, and those Turkish votes just flooded in. Presumably this boosted the other Muslim contenders.

The white blokes don’t even begin to make a showing until number 11, where our old friend Noam pops up, followed by Al Gore. And at 13 we find eminent Orientalist Bernard Lewis. I suppose, although Bernard is both eminent and influential, the Turkish vote couldn’t have hurt in his case, as he has close ties to the Ankara establishment, and his contortions over the Armenian genocide have come in handy for Turkish nationalists over the years.

You know, what struck me most was a little juxtaposition. In my newsagent, the latest Prospect was plonked down right next to ailing lads’ mag Zoo, which is apparently having a big boobs poll. I didn’t have the heart to pick up Zoo, so I can’t tell you whether its discerning readers judged Lucy, Sophie or Saskia to have the world’s best outsize knockers. But maybe something along those lines could be Prospect‘s next poll. God knows, it might save them some embarrassment, as these highfalutin intellectual polls always seem to come back and bite them.

Jings an’ crivvens!

There’s a mural in Derry bearing the likenesses of Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa, which I must say is a little hard on poor old MLK. But the big news is that, Mount Rushmore style, another saintly figure has had his face added to the mural. Yes, it’s St John Hume. Many of John’s comrades in the SDLP might raise an eyebrow at the thought of John as a living saint, but trying to battle the irresistible force of Derry civic boosterism might have taxed King Canute.

What’s more interesting in the world of murals is what the Prods have been up to. There are a few optimistic souls who reckon that loyalist areas of Belfast could be made attractive for tourists. One of the things that’s stood in their way has been the fact that much of loyalist Belfast is adorned with murals of balaclava-wearing gunmen. All right, some of the renderings are so inept that the gunmen look more like the Black and White Minstrels, but you get the drift. Anyway, there’s been a bit of a drive underway, backed by the grantocracy, to replace paramilitary-themed murals with murals depicting Protestant culture.

I don’t know, Protestant culture. I hope this doesn’t come across as a sectarian point, but Belfast Presbyterianism has never been very keen on culture. Imposing public buildings, yes. Anything that looks a bit arty-farty, no. And the best efforts of the Ulster Scots fraternity haven’t changed things much. Maybe it has something to do with Prods hanging stubbornly on to their barbaric practice of giving their children the Broons Annual for Christmas.

Another problem is that a lot of your culturally significant Belfast Prods either a) weren’t very unionist or b) got the hell out of Belfast at an early age and never came back. Often both. So, for instance, Van the Man has been very resistant to moves to turn him into an icon of Protestant culture. No, it’s best to wait until your icons are safely dead. That might explain the rash of George Best murals, when the guy never came here when he was alive, and was given to opining on the need for an all-Ireland football team, a particular bugbear of the loyalist proletariat. But now that Bestie has shuffled off this mortal coil, all is forgiven.

What prompted these thought was the PUP’s unveiling of a mural of CS Lewis, another unlikely hero. All right, so Lewis was an East Belfast Prod, a significant populariser of Christian thought and the author of the world-famous Narnia novels. But the overwhelming impression I always had of Lewis – except that he would have made a good villain in Inspector Morse – was that he wasn’t very attached to his roots. His youthful atheism may, in fact, have had something to do with intense exposure to dour Belfast Protestantism. Surprised by joy, forsooth.

(Although, I must say, I rather enjoyed The Screwtape Letters. Theology goes so much better with a little humour.)

This all strikes me as a little desperate. Assuming that copyright issues can be resolved, wouldn’t it be an idea to have murals of more authentic representatives of Prod culture – say, the Broons and Oor Wullie?

More gems from the socialist feminist archive

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about reading The Bustelo Incident is that Myra Tanner Weiss quotes at length from Carol Hayden’s thesis on the Zhenotdel, which I’d heard of but have never actually got round to obtaining. That’s one for the future, I suppose.

People who’ve read about the Russian Revolution will, I suppose, be vaguely aware that the Zhenotdel existed, but unless you’re a great aficionado of the thought of Alexandra Kollontai you’re unlikely to know much about it. This is a pity, as there’s a story there just dying to be told. A case in point, which is in the quoted sections, is the pioneering work the Zhenotdel did amongst Muslim women in Central Asia in the face of extreme hostility from the local population, often violent and extending to outright murder. If that work is known now it’s for the occasional mass unveilings, which would have been the Zhenotdel’s headline-grabbing manifestations. But behind that was a lot of serious spadework in terms of health provision, community education and organisation that allowed a whole layer of Muslim women to empower themselves and challenge the existing power relations in their communities.

The Zhenotdel, of course, was closed down by Joe Stalin in 1930, simultaneously with the Communist Party’s various national minorities sections such as the Jewish Yevsektsiya. Historically speaking, it can be seen as part of the Stalinist drive to eliminate any actual or potential sources of opposition within the party. What’s interesting is the two arguments deployed by the Stalinists. The first was that the Revolution had got rid of the underlying cause of women’s oppression, and any remaining disadvantages suffered by women were mere epiphenomena that would gradually disappear in the course of socialist construction. The second argument was that the Communist Party was a revolutionary party, and women and minorities had full equality within its ranks. Since women were equal, they had no need to caucus, and if some stubbornly continued to want to caucus, that just proved they were divisive, sectarian, individualistic, petty bourgeois and probably anti-party elements. QED.

If you’ve heard one or both of those arguments from 1930, in more or less the same language, from people who pride themselves on their anti-Stalinism, then you, my friend, have hit the target, rung the bell, and may collect a cigar or cocoa-nut according to choice.

But back to Myra Tanner Weiss. Here she is taking Evelyn Reed to task on the question of developing leaders:

Finally Reed deals with Women Leaders. And here she says:

“The Woman Question is analogous to the Negro Question in this respect: that in the former it is the women, in the latter it is the Negroes, who must take the lead. The party as a whole carries forward our general Marxist positions and program on these as well as all other questions. But the leadership of women and Negroes, in a personal, directional sense, must come from those who are directly involved.”

All very well and good if somewhat obvious. But then Reed goes on to say:

“Since the interests of the party are paramount, however, if this leadership gets off on a wrong course, it must be corrected by the party. [Of course.] The primary duty of women and Negro leaders is first of all to be Marxists, and only after that women and Negroes. Certain failures of Negro leaders in the past [???] were dues, among other things, to the fact that they did not understand this elementary principle of the class struggle and were therefore not genuine Marxists.”

Nature has it the other way around. We are first female and black before we become Marxists. And with the prejudice in society, and we are still a part of that, men and whites rarely let us forget it. Blacks were generally called to speak when black issues were involved. And the same with women. Otherwise don’t interrupt the white male “Marxists” who deal with the “big” social questions.

Reed would not know about that because she was never in that “leadership”, at least in the Fifties, although clearly she should have been. In the Political Committee which had the responsibility of “guiding” the organization between conventions and plenums in the Fifties, I believe I was the only regular member who was a woman, and we had no blacks. A few made alternate status. But that was all. And by the Sixties, Dobbs manipulated the Committee to get rid of me, leaving it all white and male at the time.

And if some Negro leaders failed to be first “Marxist” and then black, and simply walked away, they were only doing what many women did, including the one woman among the 18 who were imprisoned during World War II and our first candidate for Vice President of the United States, the very able leader, Grace Carlson.

Now that’s something of a cautionary tale when it comes to the principle of colour-blind or gender-blind organisation. Sounds great in the abstract…

You know, a few years ago I had a conversation with a veteran female Marxist, who told me that her experience of autonomous organisation was that she felt it to be ghettoising. This was fair enough, but she then devolved to a position of arguing that autonomous organisation was a priori ghettoising. And in fact, even though her group had no women’s caucus, she still found herself being bummed off with “women’s issues”. It wasn’t even constructive work either, more along the lines of writing articles and doing meetings on Madonna. Perhaps she found it a consolation that she was firmly ensconced as one of her group’s two or three experts on gender politics, and if any young women in the ranks had different ideas, they had no mechanism to express them.

Let’s conclude with the immensely engaging figure of Clara Fraser. Clara thought more about these issues than most, and if you’re interested you derive some benefit from looking at her organisation’s publications. But I just want to take a look at Clara’s legendary article on the LaRouche movement. Fair enough, LaRouche himself was probably sui generis, but he wasn’t so sui generis as to be completely beyond parallel.

First Clara sets the context:

By 1970 the women’s movement was in full sail. And the male Left, new and old, didn’t like it. We were demanding that they change their ways and learn to share power with the second sex. They didn’t want to change.

We were denounced: we were divisive, subjective, petty-bourgeois, off-balance, off-side, unable to differentiate between “primary” and “secondary” questions, etcetera and ad infinitum. The campus male charismatics were particularly affronted; they secretly agreed with Stokely Carmichael that the “proper position for women in the struggle is prone” (except for secretarial and organizing duties).

Maybe a little telescoped, but there’s a lot of truth in that. And then Clara explains LaRouche’s right turn in Nietzschean terms:

The Leader must be Superman, Siegfried incarnate, and the Superman must be served by good girlies who appreciate the honor and know how to bow and scrape. Superman is the hope and salvation of the revolution; woman must cast off her intrinsic sinfulness and restore VIRILITY to her Master.

I think Nietzsche gets an undeservedly bad press, due mainly to the appalling would-be followers he’s attracted. But Clara is really onto something in flagging up the way that a certain top-down conception of leadership dovetails very nicely with a fierce attachment to penis privilege.

Just a little observation of my own – there’s a certain type of lefty man who makes a huge rhetorical deal out of being hyper-PC and the sternest critic of sexist thought crimes. Very often, it’s these guys who turn out to be the worst chauvinists in practice. I’m sure you could all name one or two off the top of your head. It really does come down to being able to walk the walk.

How do you solve a problem like Uncle Bob?

And so the cries of “something must be done” reach a crescendo. I must say, though, that while what’s going on in Zimbabwe is appalling enough, it’s hard not to feel a little cynicism about some of the international chest-beating. Why now, and why Zimbabwe? When I ask why now, I mean that anyone with eyes to see had long since known how rotten the Mugabe regime was. Back in the 1980s, on Mrs Thatcher’s watch no less, the old man was responsible for a truly horrific scorched-earth policy in Matabeleland, not to mention loudly proclaiming his intention to set up a one-party state, and few people in the corridors of power batted an eyelid. Is it mere coincidence that he became a pariah precisely when he started expropriating the white farmers?

And I also ask, why Zimbabwe? There are other places in Africa just as bad or worse. DR Congo springs to mind as being a genuine hell on earth, where literally millions have been slaughtered, yet nobody seems in a particular hurry to help the Congolese. Certainly they don’t get anything like the news coverage. I’m not disputing for a moment that there are genuine humanitarian motives involved here, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that a lot of folks in Britain have never forgiven Mugabe for defeating Good Old Smithy.

Anyway, in some cases cynicism is absolutely the correct response. New Labour, for their part, are as cynical as a bunch of Italian footballers. Here’s Gordon Brown championing free and fair elections in Zimbabwe when he’s just been glad-handing some pretty grisly Middle Eastern despots. And, when you hear Paddy Pantsdown talk about military intervention, the first thing that comes to mind is that the former king of Bosnia must have his eye on another imperial sinecure.

But let’s set all that aside for a moment. Assume that you’re a well-meaning interventionist. What actually can be done? As I see it, there are three options, none of them particularly appealing.

Number one is to send in the troops. The immediate problem there is that the British armed forces are already overstretched, and the Yanks too focused on Iran. It also might look bad if a mainly white British army starts going around invading African countries. The French, of course, are a lot less PC about this. If Zimbabwe was a former French colony, the French paratroops would have landed long ago, possibly with an Irish battalion in tow. But the Brits are sensitive to the optics.

The second possibility is an African intervention. This seems to be the people’s choice at the moment, hence all the pressure on Mbeki. The template would be the Tanzanian invasion of Uganda that got rid of Idi Amin, although in terms of outcomes replacing Amin with Obote was a bit like replacing Tiberius with Caligula. The advantage would be that an African force wouldn’t look like recolonisation. It’s also true that there is little love lost between Mugabe and the ANC. (This goes back to Cold War days, when the ANC and Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU were backed by the Soviets, while ZANU maintained links with China.) But the South Africans these days prefer diplomatic solutions, and aren’t keen to repeat the apartheid regime’s adventure in Angola. What’s more, some of the surrounding countries have regimes that may be worried about what hopes an intervention for democracy in Zimbabwe might stir up at home.

Option three is to privatise the intervention. One thinks of Mr Tony Blair’s inspired decision to hire a bunch of spivs to invade Sierra Leone. The ignominious failure of the Wonga Coup in Equatorial Guinea has made that kind of free-market interventionism look pretty bad for the time being. More realistically, there is the possibility of arming and training Zimbabwean refugees for a guerrilla struggle. That would require the support or at least the acquiescence of the South Africans, who don’t seem very interested, and the possibility of your Zimbabwean allies developing their own agenda.

So things aren’t looking too good for the advocates of humanitarian militarism being able to do anything more than wring their hands. Even if they succeeded, Iraq and Afghanistan – not to mention the Ethiopian experience in Somalia – show that it’s one thing to knock over a Third World despotism, it’s another thing entirely to put something workable in its place. And don’t forget that, though Mugabe has now entered into liberal demonology in the same role once played by Saddam and Milošević, there’s no such thing as a one-man regime. There is also the ZANU-PF apparat, the police, the army, and last but not least the heavily armed and unpredictable veterans’ movement. And are we even clear about how much direct control Mugabe has over the various parts of the regime? It’s at least a possibility worth considering that, with the veterans’ movement, he’s created a Frankenstein’s monster just like the British did with the UDA.

No, it’s likely that any real change is going to have to come from within Zimbabwe. The country’s working class has a very strong recent tradition of militancy, despite the MDC having done a lot to demobilise it, and it’s always possible that there will be another upsurge in struggle. There are signs of fissures within ZANU-PF. There’s also the real possibility that the Zimbabwean army might start kicking up, especially with the legacy of Mugabe’s vanity intervention in the Congo. All in all, when it comes to kicking out the despot Mugabe, the Zimbabwean people have plenty of resources of their own. We shouldn’t be kidded into thinking of them as just passive victims waiting for the white man to save the day. If we accept that logic, you might as well just re-establish Rhodesia.

Beyond the defence of neutrality

Here’s a question that arises sort of tangentially out of the Lisbon referendum. What actually does the state’s neutrality policy amount to these days?

On the face of it, not very much. The longstanding Irish commitment to the UN mission in Lebanon is one thing. Irish troops in the Kosovo occupation force are something else again. And that’s even before we get onto the Irish involvement in Sarko’s little Beau Geste adventure in Chad. At this rate, there soon won’t be a theatre of conflict in the world where the Emerald Isle doesn’t have a military contingent. It’s all a bit of a turnaround from the de Valera days.

Of course, what we have going for us is the massive public support for the maintenance of neutrality. Hence the government’s gyrations over USAF use of Shannon. Hence Bertie managing to simultaneously support and oppose the invasion of Iraq, although that also has something to do with Bertie’s native cuteness. Hence we get the “Partnership for Peace” or an observer’s seat at the WEU rather than an outright push to get into NATO. Even the Desocrats are chary of publicly mooting that one.

Actually, the line-up of the parties is rather interesting. The Fianna Fáil position, as far as I can make it out, is that if the UN Security Council rules an intervention to be humanitarian, that’s good enough for them. Fine Gael, on the other hand, are cleaving closer to a Euro-militarist position, sometimes being cheeky enough to suggest (but not too loudly) that an EU army could be a counterweight to US hegemony. Greens, republicans and leftists are almost unanimous in supporting strict neutrality. The Labour Party seems to veer between these three positions according to whether or not the moon is in Jupiter. But yeah, this is one of those rare issues where progressives can make the running and be confident of public support.

What’s perhaps even more depressing than the crabwise slide into military entanglements is the failure to capitalise on neutrality, compared to how other smallish countries like Sweden or Finland have managed to build up a distinct profile in the world. At least in Frank Aiken’s day there was some lip service paid towards the notion of positive neutrality, even if it never added up to a hill of beans. Nowadays there isn’t even that, only the fond hope that latching onto the EU will see us right.

And this is actually despite Ireland having had huge potential advantages in the post-Emergency period. There was the great wave of decolonisation in Africa and Asia, and the subsequent growth of non-alignment, where even an old fraud like Marshal Tito could cut an anti-imperialist dash, but successive Dublin governments showed little interest. Add onto that the enormous wave of Irish missionaries and aid workers migrating into the Third World, whence the well-known phenomenon to Irish people travelling abroad, that even in some benighted backwater in Cambodia or Peru you’re liable to bump into an Irish nun at any moment. It’s a potentially vast human resource, but, again, our bien pensants have preferred to ignore it. Diaspora politics these days is reduced to chumming up to Irish-American plutocrats.

So you have there the basic building blocks for what could be an imaginative, progressive foreign policy enabling a small state to punch about its weight. Unfortunately, and this shouldn’t really be a surprise, the Dublin political class is about as interested in an imaginative, progressive foreign policy as Kim Jong Il is in international treaties forbidding the counterfeiting of other states’ currencies. It’s really much easier to just suck up to Brussels, kid yourself that you’ve a special relationship with the Yanks, and indulge in faintly embarrassing paddywhackery about the alleged massive global appeal of Irish cultural production.

This could actually be a little bit of a gap in the market for the Irish left (very broadly considered), if only they’re willing to show a little bit of imagination and step outside their comfort zone. We’ve just seen in the Lisbon referendum how figures like Patricia McKenna and Joe Higgins, neither of whom is even an elected representative any more, could make an impact on the public agenda out of all proportion to what their results in the last election would suggest, just by effectively articulating a popular position that found no real echo in the political mainstream. Shouldn’t it be possible to think about what a progressive foreign policy might look like, and begin to try building some public sentiment around that? Not quite as easy as building a No in the referendum, but surely it’s worth a go.

Once more on the European cargo cult

Well, with Biffo Cowen having been explaining the Irish electorate to the assembled heads of government in Brussels, it’s perhaps worth returning briefly to the theme of the EU, at least as it’s seen in Irish politics, functioning as a cargo cult. Actually, the myth of “Europe” has become very much ingrained in the popular consciousness as in the simplistic equation Europe = Prosperity. It’s also a crucial part of the Eurocrats’ sales pitch to the like of the Bulgarians and Croats – knuckle under, accept a little pain at the outset and, who knows, in a few short years you too could be on the pig’s back.

Does this hold water? A serious historical analysis of the southern Irish economy is sadly lacking, or at least I haven’t come across one. But I think there’s some faulty causality here, of the type that spawns cargo cults.

It would be interesting to go back in time twenty years and ask people whether the EEC had brought prosperity to our wee island. In fact, membership was to a large extent a counsel of despair – having abandoned the project of economic independence, the Dublin government saw no alternative to following the Brits in. But this wasn’t followed by economic expansion. What it was followed by was the collapse of important native industries like sugar and paper, thanks to the removal of subsidies and protectionist barriers. And this then led into the crisis of the 1980s. There were other factors at work – basically the global recession plus O’Donoghuenomics – but the destruction of the Irish industrial base didn’t exactly help.

On the countervailing side we had the structural funds and the CAP. Whether those compensated for the industrial collapse is debateable. What’s not debatable is that these goodies were restricted more or less to two sectors – road-building and the big farmers.

But can Europe take the credit for the Celtic Tiger? Maybe in an indirect sort of way, coming out of Maastricht, when there was an idea that the Single Market would be supplemented by protectionist barriers being set up around the EU. That then led to a rush of investment from American corporations looking to establish beachheads within the EU. But there are a few counterintuitive points worth considering. One is that none of this would have been possible without the Greenspan boom in the States. Another is that the inward investment was overwhelmingly American with an admixture of Asian – not much came from the continent. Finally, there was a lot more American investment in Britain – it’s just that the small size and low starting point of the Irish economy allowed for a far more dramatic per capita impact.

So, where are we now? The American boom seems to be dying on its arse, and the downturn there has already started to have a depressing effect here. The structural funds have run out. The fisheries have been decimated (notice that every area that’s dependent on fishing voted massively against Lisbon), and Mandy Mandelson seems hell-bent on destroying Irish agriculture before he’s done. Put that together with the people who didn’t benefit all that much from the boom in the first place, and you’ve got the outlines of the working-class and small farmer No.

And what remains on offer? A continuance of (pardon the mixed religious metaphor) voodoo economics based on the idea that a combination of neo-Friedmanite nostra and sheer bluff can see us through the rocky times ahead. And the loss of an automatic EU commissioner, which might not seem important to the big countries, but to the smaller countries looks very much like the big players carving up an institution where everyone is supposed to have a voice. As for the supposed progressive measures around workers’ rights and the environment, where is it written that we are so backward we can’t do these things on our own, but need to have them imposed from Brussels?

For more on the Lisbon vote, the compulsively readable Slobodan Antonić has some pertinent thoughts.

World’s Worst Columnist strikes again

It looks like this blog may have to reinstate our popular feature Gail Walker Watch, if only because of the drivel quotient Gail has reached when we haven’t been watching her. Since Gail’s hero GW Bush has been in town, we might have expected some barrel-scraping, but it looks like Gail has actually gone through the bottom of the barrel and is scraping the ground beneath. I mean to say, I don’t much like Bill Clinton, I like Bob Mugabe even less, and I know I’m not anti-Semitic, but Gail seems to have insinuated that anyone less enthusiastic than herself about W shares all these traits and more besides. Although she remembers enough journalistic law not to mention anybody specific who might feel they had been libelled.

So read the column, and if you feel insulted, you might like to consider dropping Gail a line at the Telegraph. But only if you feel personally insulted, and not if you feel Gail has insulted your intelligence. We don’t want the poor woman’s inbox bursting into flames.

On the other hand, I have a constructive suggestion. If Alan (Not The Minister) Johnson is reading this, he may want to offer our Gail a regular berth on his rigorous, peer-reviewed journal Democratiya. God knows, she’d fit right in.

The girl the boys can’t hear…

Arabella Weir’s classic Fast Show character, prefigured from the annals of American Marxism. The following paragraph comes from The Bustelo Incident by Myra Tanner Weiss. The unedifying episode in question is something I intend to come back to by and by, but for the time being, take it away, Myra:

The oppression of women always included silencing us. The ways in which this was done were myriad. The broad historical ones we are all familiar with. The bourgeoisie has the power. It controls the media. It can and does say what is to be published, seen and heard. To this we can add that men predominate in these positions of power and all others – the labor bureaucracy, the Churches and other cultural and scientific institutions. So women get a double whammy. All this affects the most ordinary human relations in our patriarchal society, even our conversations. The men are talking and a woman says something. The talking politely stops until she finishes. Then it resumes as if she had not spoken – as if the discussion had just experienced an interruption. The men address each other and just ignore the women present. Or if the woman expresses a disagreement, dares to contradict the men, she must be prepared for a real bashing. And so her participation finds a thousand defensive clauses to ward off the blow. I may be wrong. Of course, I’m not sure. It may not pertain. I hope I don’t sound silly. You may be right, but. And when a woman meets the man as his equal or superior in whatever field, all the alarm signals go off. It’s not just ordinary competition. From a woman self-confident assertion is almost castrating to the male – as if sexual competence is threatened unless the man is confident of his “superiority”.

Call me cynical, but I’m fairly confident there are a few lefty women out there who have just experienced a shock of recognition…

The inconvenience of democracy

Well, that’s us told. No less august an organ than the Grauniad saw fit, in its leader on the Lisbon referendum, to describe the Irish electorate as “a horde of Goths”. Saturday’s paper also contained opinion pieces from Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tóibín, of which there’s little to be said except to refer the reader to Des Fennell’s old book, Nice People and Rednecks. God knows why, but our elite seem to be perpetually surprised that there are more rednecks about than nice people.

We’ve also seen various European politicos holding forth, most notably Denis MacShane and Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Of this pair it can fairly be asked, could you possibly find a bigger pair of wankers to fight the EU’s corner? More seriously, their general point was that it’s unfair for 1% of the Union’s population to hold the other 99% hostage. Perhaps it’s escaped the attention of our progressive internationalists that the other 99% weren’t allowed a vote. It’s an odd situation where that tough old conservative, Czech president Václav Klaus, emerges as the champion of democracy. But perhaps it makes my point about liberal elitism.

But this really takes the biscuit. For those of you who aren’t regular readers of the Irish News, Tom Kelly is the paper’s premier purveyor of Humespeak. And there’s nothing more elitist than Humespeak. St John himself used to say that, as the unionists wouldn’t reform, the only thing for it was to appoint plenipotentiary commissioners to force them to behave. You got rather a lot of this during the peace process. Mark Durkan used to attack British direct rule ministers on the grounds that they had no democratic mandate in the North, which was true, and then bathetically go on to demand a government of technocrats and experts who had no mandate anywhere.

So, what of Kelly? Well, he has a theory and a solution regarding the No. His theory is that the Irish punters are so happy with the EU that they can’t be bothered getting off their arse to vote for the Lisbon Treaty. His solution is to rip up the Constitution. Not the EU Constitution, mind, but the Irish Constitution, with its pesky provision that the great unwashed get to have a say on matters as important as EU treaties. Here’s Kelly:

The reality is instead of just licking their wounds the government needs to address the root problem which is a constitution that is, in part, no longer fit for purpose.

This continued requirement for referendums is an anachronism, especially if voting is not made compulsory.

In a state the size of the Republic where voting is not mandatory but referendums are required on complex issues, manipulation by lobby groups from the extreme right and left can swing the vote.

Of course there are those who claim this would be a dissolution of our civil liberties but yet the Yes campaign supporters represent numbers way in excess of those who bothered to vote Yes or No in this recent campaign.

So, the proposition might have been lost, but according to the seasonally adjusted figures, Lisbon really had a majority. Shyeah. Actually, the whole column is replete with gems like this. He also holds forth on the usual characterisation of the Noes as a bunch of cranks:

Sinn Fein will benefit little from their efforts but at least they had the sense to keep the northern leadership away from this campaign. The rest of the rag-tag bunch of No campaigners would make great candidates for an Irish version of Big Brother.

And we have this jaw-dropping non sequitur:

For the government it is humiliating but for Fine Gael and Labour their pro-European credentials are severely tarnished.

For the left, Europe is always problematic as many members of the Labour movement are unenthusiastic about the European ideal – unless of course it is dominated by a hammer and sickle.

Proof if proof was needed that John Hume’s very sound European credentials were not via the imprimatur of the great socialist bloc in the EU.

Huh? Is Kelly trying to stake out a position as the SDLP’s answer to Jim Gibney? Apart from Kelly’s apparent delusion that Fine Gael is some sort of neo-Bolshevik party, wouldn’t it be terrible if Mark Durkan’s mates in the Party of European Socialists came across this sort of flapdoodle? Next time Mark goes to a grand international conference, people like Denis MacShane might be looking at him funny.

Yes, as so often where the EU is concerned, Brecht was ahead of the game with his quip about the government abolishing the people and electing a new one.

Are you listening, Jose Manuel Barroso, Javier Solana, Peter Mandelson? Your boys took one hell of a beating!

The Lisbon Treaty may not be quite definitively sunk – these Euro-treaties have a habit of coming back from the dead – but yes, it’s definitely holed beneath the waterline, thanks to the one EU state where the constitution requires the plebs to have their say, much to the frustration of both the Eurocrats and the Dublin political class. This is all to the good.

And quite apart from the actual merits of Lisbon, the No side deserved to win, simply because they tried to have a dialogue on what the Treaty was all about. The Yes campaign, as far as I could see, was based mainly on mobilising clientelist networks and on selling the idea that we needed a Yes to retain some influence in Brussels, or more crudely that we owed Brussels. The whole thing was symbolised by the hapless performance of Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, who is very far from being a stupid woman and who has spent her share of time in EU negotiations, but who didn’t appear to know how many commissioners Germany had.

Also a very clear class divide in the vote. The top No-voting constituency was Dublin South West (effectively Tallaght). Look down the list, and you’ll notice the other high No votes coming from working-class areas of Dublin, or from the poorer rural areas out west like Donegal, Mayo and Kerry. On the other hand, only three constituencies returned a Yes vote in excess of 60% – unsurprisingly, these were Dún Laoghaire, Dublin South and Dublin South East, the most prosperous constituencies in the state. This is relevant in terms of the media reaction, which has been most entertaining.

Yes, there was a lot of bafflement about. After all, the Treaty was backed by all parliamentary parties except the Provos. It was backed by IBEC, by ICTU and, after a little grumbling, by the IFA. It was backed by virtually the entire print media. The No campaign, on the other hand, could very easily have been portrayed as a bunch of cranks and malcontents on the political fringes. And yet the Noes won. And so there has been not only bafflement but sheer blind rage as well. We might have expected Stephen Collins to set about Mary Lou McDonald with the old verbal cudgels. It was more surprising to hear Electric Enda being bitch-slapped all over RTÉ for his failure to deliver the votes of his hillbilly constituents in Mayo.

I think the point is that, for the Irish body politic as a whole, and the D4 caste in particular, the EU has assumed the status of a cargo cult. And I mean that quite literally. The belief is that, as long as we continue to worship the Napoleonic monstrosity, and perform the necessary ritual of voting Yes in Euro-referenda, the big metal bird will fly overhead and disburse goodies to a grateful people. You get a lot of this attitude in Eastern Europe as well, by the way. I think part of the intensity of feeling in D4 and D6 is that “Europe” has replaced Britain as the source of the cultural cringe.

This, meshed in with the general elitism of liberals, is probably the explanation for why the Dublin commentariat are spitting blood. I recall Des Fennell’s observation that the tofu-eating South Dublin neo-democrats, secure in their sense of their own moral superiority and entitlement to be running the state, literally go haywire when the broad masses have the temerity to disagree with them. This then feeds into the discourse about how backward, conservative and unenlightened Ireland is, and how we need to situate ourselves in the “European mainstream”. Which would be easy, if it wasn’t for skobies and bogmen ruining the party in these damned referenda.

A lot of this is just bollocks. You can add on the tendency to ascribe every progressive move in modern Ireland – the legalisation of homosexuality, for example – to “Europe” either directly or indirectly. Now that is not just bollocks but offensive bollocks, based as it is on the idea that Irish people are incapable of enacting reforms under their own steam.

So we’ll see how this goes. Barroso and Gordon Brown have been proclaiming that the ratification process will go on, suggesting that the other 26 states will finish the process and then the 26-county electorate will be bullied into voting again, just as with Nice.

You might not be aware of the small Pacific island nation of Palau. Short version – the Palauans, who had never done anything to offend anybody, were colonised by the Spanish, then by the Germans, then by fascist Japan. After 1945, the islands became a US colony. In the 1970s there were moves towards independence, but a problem arose in that the Palauans had adopted a clause in their constitution declaring their country nuclear-free, while the Yanks (under the terms of the Compact of Free Association) wanted the right to station nukes in Palau if they ever felt the need. So the Palauans couldn’t become independent until they had removed the offending clause from their constitution. This process took twelve years, eight referenda and the assassination of two presidents until Washington got the right answer and the Palauans got their (tributary) independence.

See Palau? That’s us, the Palau of Europe. One can only hope that we show as much ornery stubbornness as the Palauans did – they may not have won in the end, but they wound up Washington big time and made a stand for the rights of small countries. All we need to do is get over the idea that there is no alternative.

As ever, good commentary on this from WorldbyStorm, and Gray Falcon has an East European perspective.

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