Can Nationalism and social justice mix?

Intertesting piece from Alan Bairner, a Scottish academic writer on sport and politics in, who reflects on the sometimes uncomfortable mix of national and social politics, whilst sitting with the Irish contingent of cricket supporters at the first Ashes test in Lords earlier this year.

The saying “You can choose your friends but not your family” applies equally well to your compatriots. In the case of Ireland, it was for this very reason that James Connolly wrote in Shan Van Vocht (1897): “As a socialist I am prepared to do all one man can do to achieve for our motherland her rightful heritage — independence; but if you ask me to abate one jot or title on the claims of social justice in order to conciliate the privileged classes then I must decline.” Connolly recognised that national self-determination can be a first step towards social justice but there are always enemies closer to home.

I’m also indebted to him for a great Scots quote: “Here’s tae us. Wha’s like us? Gey few and they’re a’ deid!”.

  • Hmm…

    It’s sometimes argued that nationalism can help to reaslise social justice ‘in one country’ because it helps to sustain the requisite solidarity to take the sting out of any redistributive policies. Maybe.

    If social justice involves treating everyone as an equal, then it’s wrong to make expceptions for your fellow countrymen, so cosmopolitanism is the way forward.

    How ‘nationalist’ nationalists here are isn’t entirely clear. It’s not inconsistent with moral cosmopolitanism to want a united Ireland as means to greater social justice. Whether that judgement is correct is another matter 🙂

  • Nestor Makhno

    The claims of Irish nationalism (and Ulster unionism) grow increasingly anachronistic as globalism becomes the dominant force in defining the terms of the political and social justice debate – here in Ireland as much as anywhere else in the world.

    It seems somewhat petty – not to say irrelevant – for local politicians to be arguing over which form of local administration (whether London, Dublin or Belfast-based) can best safe-guard our ‘first world nation’ rights – when so much of what we assume to be a non-negotiable standard of living is dependent on cheap labour in China and cheap oil from Saudi Arabia (both reliant on repressive regimes with an almost total disregard for individual human rights).

    Since the 1970s the traditional industrial classes have more or less been off-shored to faraway places where we don’t have to listen to their complaints –leaving the rest of us with some peace and quiet to worry about important things like when IKEA is coming to Belfast.

  • Dessertspoon

    Yeah when is Ikea coming to Belfast? 🙂

  • Dandyman

    It’s not lads, it’s coming to Dublin. Didn’t ye hear? The minister for the Environment Dick Roche was decent enough to make a ‘one-off’ exception to the ‘strict’ limitations on the size of retail outlets allowed according to planning regulations in the republic… when IKEA threatened to locate their Irish store in Belfast rather than Dublin.

  • Nestor Makhno

    At least it’ll be better than taking the ferry to Glasgow.

    Errr, damn it, I just lost my social justice focus yet again…

    Now where was I?