Nationalism and social democracy…

Colin Harvey examines some of the drawbacks for Irish Nationalism in following a purely nationalist (ie exclusivist) route in politics. He notes however that in terms of Northern Ireland that so-called Nationalist politics has largely adopted social democratic views on a range of issues. He argues that nationalism needs to concentrate on delivery of rights for all (even Unionists), if it is ever to win it’s longer term democratic argument about the constitutional future of the state.

  • Tom Griffin

    Good article. Perhaps nationalism, with all its negative connotations, is the flipside of the more popular concept of democracy.

  • Jim Bob

    A bit more work needed in that article.

    The reality of course is that it is within Ulster Unionism that you see real Nationalism at work. Most obviously in the DUP, but in the UUP too. Ulster nationalism

    That’s why Harvey was unable to find the usual nationalist pathologies within the SDLP or Sinn Fein, but instead found a broad and progressive left of centre approach. The SDLP and Sinn Fein quite simply aren’t nationalist parties.

    But if he were to look to the DUP and UUP he’d find all the nationalist pathologies he could handle.

    Easy peasy…

  • Mick

    JB:

    “The SDLP and Sinn Fein quite simply aren’t nationalist parties”.

    How so? I’m interested in your working out.

  • Jim Bob

    “The SDLP and Sinn Fein quite simply aren’t nationalist parties”.

    How so? I’m interested in your working out.

    ===========

    Because as Harvey has pointed out they don’t fit the right-wing ethnocentric profile normally associated with nationalist parties, whereas you will see that profile within Ulster Unionism.

    Most nationalisms are in fact supporters of the state structure within which they exist. They’re generally people who think the state has gone too soft, is letting in too many immigrants, and they often believe that they’re the only sort of people who ought to have any rights in the state to which they belong.

    They’re the sort of people who would say:

    “Ulster is ours!”

  • middle-class taig

    Couldn’t agree more with Colin Harvey. There’s practically nothing which links the kind of nationalism which exists in France, Italy, Germany, Spain with northern nationalism. In fact, those nationalisms are much more akin to unionist nationalism and FG/PD nationalism.

    Good article. A coherent thesis seldom argued because people are too busy tring to smear northern nationalists. Well done Colin.

  • Gonzo

    Because as Harvey has pointed out they don’t fit the right-wing ethnocentric profile normally associated with nationalist parties, whereas you will see that profile within Ulster Unionism.

    You are kidding, ain’tcha?

    There are as many Little Irelanders in Irish nationalism and republicanism as there are Little Ulstermen in unionism.

  • GavBelfast

    Are Basque nationalists, including their more extreme exponents (ETA and their version of Sinn Fein) right wing then?

    Of course, three of the four main Southern parties are definitely right of centre.

    Are the SDLP really left wing? Are Sinn Fein genuinely socialist? I think not.

  • kitty

    “Most nationalisms are in fact supporters of the state structure within which they exist. They’re generally people who think the state has gone too soft, is letting in too many immigrants, and they often believe that they’re the only sort of people who ought to have any rights in the state to which they belong.

    They’re the sort of people who would say:

    “Ulster is ours!”

    Excellent point.

  • David

    Irish nationalism still believes that unionists (whether they want to be or not) are part of the Irish nation and that the island of Ireland is the national territory of the Irish nation. This type of view is classical European style nationalism. European nationalism has been liberal and democratic more often as it has been exclusivist and supremacist.

    Unionism is not a nationalistic ideology, its concepts if anthing are pre-nationalist. It regards alliegance to a state as its main form of political expression. The nation in unionism is a product of the state, while in nationalism the nation is the cause of the state.

    The labels “left wing” and “right wing” have very little meaning nowadays. The suggestion that nationalism must be “right wing” is quite a problematic one. In many European countries Conservative (“right wing”) and Socialist (“left wing”) parties have similar policies on most economic issues.

    Liberalism in its continental European incarnation is basically Thatcherite economics and yet in most of Europe this free market orientated ideology is regarded as “left wing”.

  • trev

    Is there such a thing as a left wing unionist party ??

  • Jim Bob

    To Gonzo:

    “Because as Harvey has pointed out they don’t fit the right-wing ethnocentric profile normally associated with nationalist parties, whereas you will see that profile within Ulster Unionism.”

    You are kidding, ain’tcha?

    There are as many Little Irelanders in Irish nationalism and republicanism as there are Little Ulstermen in unionism.

    ================

    That’s not reflected in the policies which is the best objective assessment.

    We could argue about personalities, but even there I think it’s clear that many Unionist personalities are much closer to the “nasty” nationalist profile than anything from the SDLP or Sinn Fein.

    It’s not just in politics of course. There’s a cultural component to Ulster Unionism based on the place being constructed for and run by them for so long which makes them more likely to suffer from this nationalist pathology.

    If it makes you feel any better, you saw the same phenomenon in the South, less evident today than it was, but there were some Fine Gaelers in the past whose extremist right-wingism would make an Ulster Unionist blush.

  • David

    The Progressive Unionist Party claim to be left wing.

    The identification of any NI political party as “left wing” or “right wing” doesn’t mean very much when they are not really organised around those sorts of issues. There is a variety of views accross the socio-economic spectrum in most NI parties.

  • Jim Bob

    To David:

    “Irish nationalism still believes that unionists (whether they want to be or not) are part of the Irish nation and that the island of Ireland is the national territory of the Irish nation. This type of view is classical European style nationalism”

    =========

    It’s not actually. Nationalisms are typified by their exclusions.

    That both the SDLP and Sinn Fein are inclusive of the Protestant and Unionist tradition is testament to the fact that they’re not simplistic nationalist parties.

    If Ulster Unionism itself had been as inclusive of Catholics in the North we’d never have had to suffer the conflict we did.

    Even the UUP’s idea that “decent” people vote for them is symtomatic of a mentality that needs to catch itself on. On this occasion they’re pointing at the DUP, but Unionism as a whole has always thought that they were morally above their Catholic fellow citizens.

    It’s about time Unionism looked at itself in the mirror for a change.

  • brian

    “There are as many Little Irelanders in Irish nationalism and republicanism as there are Little Ulstermen in unionism.”

    I take it you are referring to the PD brand of Little Irelander. Of course Michael McDowell is the poster boy of 26 county republicanism, an unashamed Little Irelander who would gladly lay down someone else’s life to preserve its integrity. The thought of re-admitting the six counties, under the leadership of a left-of-centre SF, gives him the vapours. Hence his opportunist alliance an SDLP who share the same objectives, if for different reasons.

  • David

    Jim Bob:

    “It’s not actually. Nationalisms are typified by their exclusions.

    That both the SDLP and Sinn Fein are inclusive of the Protestant and Unionist tradition is testament to the fact that they’re not simplistic nationalist parties.”

    You are mistaken in thinking that exclusion is the primary feature of nationalism.

    A desire to incorporate another group into the nation when it doesn’t want incorporation is just as much an act of nationalist extremism as excluding a group that doesn’t want exclusion.

    For example, when the Romanian government in the 1970s forced Transylvania’s ethnic Hungarians to learn Romanian and prevented them speaking Hungarian this was not a tolerant inclusive program to “include” Hungarians in the Romanian nation, it was an act of ethnic extremism.

    Your assertion that SDLP/SF are “inclusive of the Protestant and unionist tradition” is also quite bizarre. I see a lot of talk in nationalist circles of uniting Protestant Catholic and Dissenter in the common name of Irishman, that is all well and good. There are some Protestants who are nationalists, just as there are some Catholics who are unionists.

    Most NI Protestants are not nationalist but are unionist. When it comes to the SDLP/SF “inclusion” of the unionist (as opposed to merely Protestant) tradition, then we come back to the old ethnic extremist policy of imposing the nation on groups that do not feel that they are part of it, which is a fairly standard ethnic extremist action. The one feature of the “unionist tradition” that cannot be accommodated within nationalism is its defining feature, its unionism. Irish nationalism is inclusive toward unionists in the way that Romanian nationalism was towards Hungarians. If the minority group gives up the main defining feature of its identity then it will be accepted within the nation.

  • Jim Bob

    “You are mistaken in thinking that exclusion is the primary feature of nationalism.

    A desire to incorporate another group into the nation when it doesn’t want incorporation is just as much an act of nationalist extremism as excluding a group that doesn’t want exclusion.

    For example, when the Romanian government in the 1970s forced Transylvania’s ethnic Hungarians to learn Romanian and prevented them speaking Hungarian this was not a tolerant inclusive program to “include” Hungarians in the Romanian nation, it was an act of ethnic extremism.”

    ===================

    That’s not Nationalism. It’s more properly called Statism. Closer to Imperialism etc.

    Nationalism is about excluding people. It’s always about that.

    “Your assertion that SDLP/SF are “inclusive of the Protestant and unionist tradition” is also quite bizarre. I see a lot of talk in nationalist circles of uniting Protestant Catholic and Dissenter in the common name of Irishman, that is all well and good.”

    But the point is that both SDLP and Sinn Fein policies are directed towards that goal of inclusivity. Unionist policies are about no more than preserving their own tribal status within what they believe to be their own ethnic homeland.

    “There are some Protestants who are nationalists, just as there are some Catholics who are unionists.

    Most NI Protestants are not nationalist but are unionist. When it comes to the SDLP/SF “inclusion” of the unionist (as opposed to merely Protestant) tradition, then we come back to the old ethnic extremist policy of imposing the nation on groups that do not feel that they are part of it, which is a fairly standard ethnic extremist action. The one feature of the “unionist tradition” that cannot be accommodated within nationalism is its defining feature, its unionism.”

    Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein have accepted the “Union” insofar as that’s what NI people support.

    Unionist nationalism still hasn’t done any reaching out.

    Indeed Unionist nationalism seems to make a virtue out of antagonising their fellow Catholic citizens.

    The problem in NI from its inception has been the intransigence of Ulster Unionist nationalism.

    It’s about time you faced up to that obvious fact. It’s in not facing up to it that you continue and exacerbate the strife.