Paisley: Relic of the Past or Harbinger of the Future?

LRB 1987 cover PaisleyI recently chanced upon this 1987 review by Charles Townshend in the LRB of Steve Bruce’s God Save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism. It now reads as a fascinating period piece. Just the previous month, Paisley had performed the first of his major protests at the European Parliament, heckling Margaret Thatcher. She was congratulating the EEC on its expansion to Spain and Portugal when he stood up, brandishing an ‘Ulster Says No’ poster, and shouted, “I would like to indict you, Mrs Thatcher, as a traitor to the loyalist people of Northern Ireland!”

“Eloignez-vous, Monsieur Paisley”, cried the Parliament’s Chairman, a rather distingué chap from Alsace with the improbably-spelled name of Pflimlin. He had once been Prime Minister of France, indeed the last to hold any real power under the Constitution of the Fourth Republic. He exemplified the sort of conciliating centrist that the colonels of Algiers feared would sell out, and so provoked the last successful coup d’état in Western Europe, lasting only two weeks in office before being ousted in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

It’s worth giving that context, because even in that world, already long vanished – one of European colonial empires and military coups in France – Paisley and his party seemed the last relic of a mercifully departed history. Horrifying even the right, he spurred leftish academics to competitive adjective use, aiming to outbid each other in horror: ‘authoritarian’, ‘fascistoid’, ‘reactionary’, ‘populist’.

Squint past the uniquenesses of Ulster fundamentalism, however, and 28 years after his altercation with M. Pflimin, Paisley seems the forerunner of the modern European populist-right: staunchly nationalist, fairly authoritarian, hostile to the EU, hostile to national minorities especially those seeking “special treatment for their religion”, but populist on the economy. And gaining huge support from people that the left liked to imagine should be voting for them. Political parties of that type are establishing themselves as permanent players in most European countries, and occasionally as powerful ones.

The religious side of the DUP was at least as much about anti-Catholicism as it was about pro-Calvinism. With the exception of the tiny Dutch SGP, the DUP were the last representatives of that sort of Reformation politics that survived the emergence of socialism, two world wars, and the ecumenical movement. It was socialism and, most of all, Soviet Communism, that ended intra-Christian sectarianism as a meaningful political force in most of Europe. If the Reds had ever stormed through the Fulda Gap, Catholic and Protestant religious revanchist pigs alike were going to end up in the Gulag. This was the world that gave birth to the almost painfully ecumenical Christian Democracy of the post-War period. It was a world that Macmillan and Heath in particular, wet Tories and devout High Anglicans, instantly felt at home in.

Something like the DUP, indeed the whole Orange-Unionist political complex, could probably only have survived in Northern Ireland, geographically isolated, culturally thran, and with the luxury of hiding behind somebody else’s nuclear umbrella.

The period after the fall of the Soviet Empire represented less the End of History than a very brief entr’acte, and religious conflict has refused to retreat into the past in the way progressives assumed it would. David Crane, reviewing Gerard Kilroy’s review of Jesuit martyr Edmund Campion for The Spectator last week reminds us there was a time “when English Catholics were considered as dangerous as jihadis”.

The DUP’s closest political parallel in Europe is, ironically the ultra-Catholic Law and Justice party that has just won Poland’s parliamentary elections, with its vitriolic opposition to Muslim refugees being settled in Poland being a major campaign plank. The only Catholic ever to address the DUP’s party conference as a supporter was a Polish immigrant and Law and Justice member. Paisley’s successor as DUP leader has come in for a bit of criticism for his own comments on Muslims, and those were tame compared to other elements of the DUP base.

In most of Europe, however, religion has little salience, and Church hierarchies at least tend to be rather politically correct. Hostility to Islam is proving a powerful political force not so much for the religious as the ardently secularist – especially in France and Belgium, where cuisine is close to being a religion, and Muslim children have started to be stigmatised in schools for not eating pork and on one occasion even had it literally forced down their throats. Even the great high priest of the godless and self-styled ‘Bright’ person has been less than culturally sensitive towards Muslims at times.

Swap ‘Muslim’ for ‘Catholic’ and suddenly it looks like the Paisley wasn’t so much a historical relic but the harbinger of a new type of politics.

After the First World War, Churchill famously complained about the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging from the deluge that had redrawn the map of Europe. That redrawing of the map was all about dreary steeples too – in Silesia, and the Burgenland, and bits of the Balkans where a few minarets were mixed in as well. Northern Ireland differed only from these seemingly exotic places in that its place-names were so much more familiar to an English politician.

That backwards Northern Ireland ‘religious’ conflict that seemed so anachronistic back in the 1980s was actually about many of the same questions of ethnicity and religion that consume Europe today: national identity and national minorities; the limits of cultural diversity; the extent of legitimate religious opt-outs from mainstream policies. Is our politics of the past Europe’s politics of the future?

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  • Smithborough

    “In most of Europe, however, religion has little salience”

    You do realise that Islam is a religion?

  • eireanne

    What a very confused – and confusing – post

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Although a practicing Catholic and a nationalist, out of curiosity I went to a Paisley rally in the Ulster Hall circa 1969/70. Paisley was at his fiery peak at the time. Naturally, I didn’t reveal my identity. The hall was packed. My main memory is Paisley screaming ‘Leave that man alone, leave that man alone’ when some (only some) of the attendance tried to assault Kevin O’Kelly, the religious correspondent of RTE. They were angry as there had been a bad IRA bomb a few days before. Paisley literally saved his life. I didn’t get the impression that Paisley was hostile to Catholics on ethnic grounds. He was hostile on religious grounds. He believed they were being led astray by the AntiChrist. At the rally he actually praised Cathoilics’ spirituality and urged his listeners to try to to convert them. If I’d stood up and announced that I was converting to Bible Protestantism (I didn’t), I’d have been hailed by all present. My ethnicity wouldn’t have mattered.

    The situation is different today. Christianity in Ireland is under assault from cultural marxism. It is imperative that all the Christian religions unite to fight against it. I’m not talking about a formal union, but cooperation and voting pacts. There are straws in the wind, for example the words of praise some Catholic priests have uttered for DUP ministers. The historic conflict between Catholic and Protestant in Ireland is nearing its end. Both are now under attack from militant anti-religion secularism which seeks to eliminate all religious influence in Ireland, north and south. In the U. States, even in those southern states where there was once a lot of Catholic/Protestant hostility, both religious groupings (at least those who are practicing) now generally vote for a conservative, regardless of whether he’s Catholic or Protestant, if he’s standing on a platform of opposition to the liberal agenda. I expect to see the same here in 10 to 20 years time.

    In Europe the main objective of cultural marxism is to eradicate Christianity. To this end, they openly welcome large-scale Muslim immigration into Europe on the grounds that it diminishes the influence of Christianity. The same leftists, who rail against Christianity having any say in the governing of the country are prostrate when it comes to Islam. Look at Rotherham. Look at Bradford. Under the influence of cultural marxism and anti-religion secularism, Europe has lost the will to reproduce. Birth rates have collapsed. Most countries in Europe are forecast to see a huge fall in population in the next century. The cunning plan the cultural marxists have to fill the void left by Europe’s declining population is to invite the noble warriors of ISIS to come and live in Europe. Muslim immigration into Europe is now on a scale that is without precedent. Combine that with Europe’s collapsing birth rate and the implications are obvious. Its looking more and more like Europe will have a Muslim majority in 100 years time. This is what Poland has rebelled against. Fortunately, I won’t be around to see it.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘Is our politics of the past Europe’s politics of the future’?

    Short answer maybe but probably not . But an interesting posit on the phenomenon of modern European populism be it of the Greek , Polish or any other variety . While it’s probably true that anti immigrant in particular anti muslim immigrant feeling is a common thread I suspect that economics is it’s raison d’etre everywhere . The emisseration of the middle and the further relative impoverishment of the weakest /poorest in western european democracies ( with a few notable exceptions ) is at the root of the growth of populism . The established political parties of the right and left and of the centre have shown themselves either unable /unwilling / or powerless to defend their voters against the all powerful global financial sector . Any rising tide of economic growth whether in Europe or the USA has left a majority of people behind while the few the cognoscenti the 5% rake in the billions . The American Tea Party or UKIP or other similar European parties may not have the answers to their countrie’s individual predicaments but they are sure they know the why !

    There are some who have said that western capitalism ‘behaved ‘ itself better when the Red Army and it’s 170 divisions were parked just 50 miles from West Berlin and the electorates in France and Italy were voting Communist in the 35 % to 45 % range . In today’s world North Korea for all it’s kleptocratic hereditary communistic insanity does not constitute an economic threat to anyone but itself . It’s nuclear bombs are another matter. The hundreds of millions of new middle income consumers in China and India etc are the driving force of economic growth and while India has self modeled itself as the world’s largest democracy , China is not in the least perturbed about being a one party authoritarian non democracy and a magnet for western capital investment . The UK’s bending over backwards at the visit of the Chinese leader is just the public face of the new paradigm in the world’s balance of power.

    In the period 1930 to 1939 Oswald Mosley became the British Mussolini . He was always destined to become Prime Minister people said but they were never sure whether he would be a Labour or Conservative PM. At that time populist parties had arisen out of the 1920’s and early thirties economic depression and what sent Hitler into the Reichstag eventually was the second wipe out of the German lower middle classes after 1929 . The first wipe out had been in 1922/23 with the huge inflation .

    There are limits to cultural diversity but they seem to be much more limiting at times of economic decline for the host population . West Germany in the 1960’s and 70’s welcomed millions from Turkey , Spain , Yugoslavia etc . The worst opposition to immigrants today is in East Germany and n the other former Soviet controlled east . It’s not entirely economic I’d qualify but Marx’s analysis still has application even if his prescription has been consigned to history for now anyway .

  • Gerry

    Paisley seems the forerunner of the modern European populist-right: staunchly nationalist, fairly authoritarian, hostile to the EU, hostile to national minorities especially those seeking “special treatment for their religion”, but populist on the economy.

    Apart from the Liberal touchstone de jour those are populist, not just ‘right’, themes. Take a look around.

    Hence the “gaining huge support from people that the left liked to imagine should be voting for them”.

    But even then, not everywhere. It’s just that ‘the left’ aren’t doing quite as well as they expected to in the circumstances.

    Swap ‘Muslim’ for ‘Catholic’ and suddenly it looks like the Paisley wasn’t so much a historical relic but the harbinger of a new type of politics.


    It’s anti-establishment/anti-elite [whatever that happens to be] that seems to be gaining most ground. And that’s patchy too. But it’s not new.

    Paisley was that. Until he became the establishment/elite that is…

    As for,

    Hostility to Islam is proving a powerful political force not so much for the religious as the ardently secularist

    Give it up, Gerry.

  • ivanpope

    Started well, revealed itself nuts by the end.

  • TruthToPower

    all is tribal. Even in GB there are huge numbers of people who would refuse to vote for the other side because their fathers would turn in their graves if they did

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘ Christianity in Ireland is under assault from cultural marxism’

    Nonsense – Catholicism is not under assault its just that people especially the young no longer believe as their elders did . They are following in the pattern of French , Spanish , German and British Catholics over the past 40 years . Ireland caught up with the European trend rather quickly and this was primarily but not solely due to the revelations of the RC Church’s cover up of criminality and abuse of children. The Protestant Churches (main denominations ) have either static or declining numbers certainly not what they had 30 years ago . Their membership has been affected by the same trends as the RC’s .

    ‘Under the influence of cultural marxism and anti-religion secularism, Europe has lost the will to reproduce. Birth rates have collapsed.’

    Nothing to do with cultural marxism and more to do with economic growth post WW2 and the mass distribution of birth control pills as well as people not earning enough to afford to raise a family or being unprepared to see their children living in poverty and having worse life opportunities than the previous generation had . . If Europe has lost the will to reproduce so too has Japan and the USA and other countries in the developed world . Without the contribution of immigrants and their generally larger families the USA and Europe’s populations would have declined over the past 30 years . In the Irish Republic not historically known as a major destination for immigrants in 20% of all births either one or both of the parents was born outside the state .

    Having killed off some 20 million Europeans in WW1 the early 20th century very Christian European powers decided to double up the numbers of dead dead with part two of WW1 known as WW2 where another 55 million were culled from the European population and also almost half of the world’s then Jewish population as well as other unworthy human beings such as socialists , homosexuals , jehovahs witnesses , gypsys etc etc . These events had demographic consequences .

    The Europe that emerged from the devastation of WW2 needed rebuilding but they had lost huge numbers of young people who could only be replaced by immigrants -the traditional method of growing a population being deemed too slow given gestation periods -infancy -childhood etc. In the early 19th very Christian and Victorian Age of course this would not have been an issue for it was considered Christian to employ 4 year olds in coal mine shafts or cleaning chimneys etc .

    Aren’t you very fortunate you were’nt around in the Victorian Age and had a life expectancy of 19 if you lived in Manchester or even better in 18th century Ireland where if you were an RC you were forbidden to practice your religion or if you were Presbyterian various legal restrictions prevented you having the same rights as an Anglican .

    Most of the current Muslim immigration is primarily due to the destabilisation of Iraq , Syria , Afghanistan , Tunisia , Libya etc all initiated by the combined forces of NATO i.e the USA and Europe .

    I’m sure most of the current refugees would prefer to have stayed where they were domiciled . It’s just that if you are being shot at and bombed on a daily basis for 10 years ( the Syrian case ) then eventually people pack up and leave for wherever they can go .

    I agree that long term demographic trends will create serious issues for both Europeans and Americans. But the solution is not the revival of religion .

  • I grew up in Ballymena (at the height of what the Sunday World would call the ‘Bible belt’ days) and had occasional contact with Paisley Snr as well as a huge amount of contact with deeply devoted Paisleyites.

    What often struck me was the childlike, somehow very simple and even naive side to some of the people I met at that time, who – like a teenager kept protected by his parents – lived in a way in a small Ballymena world surrounded by a smaller circle of family/ people who saw things as they did.

    I always saw this in Paisley Snr as well as some of his followers, and I wonder if the forthcoming Paisley movie will capture it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Greenflag, “The worst opposition to immigrants today is in East Germany and n the other former Soviet controlled east.”

    Not unexpected that the Eastern bloc in Europe should act so. George Watson’s excellent but controversial 1998 book “The Lost Literature of Socialism” provides a hearty corrective to the idea that all socialism must be essentially “progressive”. I quote from the Amazon write-up:

    “This is an examination of the foundation texts of socialism. It cites decades of “sloppy scholarship and deliberate censorship” and links socialism to conservative, racist and genocidal ideas. Drawing on sources from Robert Owen to Ken Livingstone, the author asserts that socialism was a conservative, nostalgic reaction to the radicalism of capitalism, and not always supposed to be advantagous to the poor. Two chapters study Hitler’s claim that “the whole of National Socialism” was based on Marx, and bring to light the common theoretical basis of the beliefs of Stalin and Hitler which led to the death camps.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    John, my own experience as an active member of PD of Paisley and his pet bulldog, Ronnie Bunting Senior, from that same period was rather less “media friendly”. There was no attempt when Paisley and his supporters confronted NICRA or PD marchers to control anyone. Far from it. Bunting was an old army friend of my grandfather, and on occasions I was pointed out to both Paisley, and to some of the more brutal followers for, I’d imagine, rather “special treatment” as a “Lundy”.

    Perhaps because you are evidently Catholic, there may have been a polite reluctance amongst any Pasleyites you encountered to use the sort of violently anti-Catholic, anti-Irish language that I’ve all too often heard, even within my own extended family. While I’d imagine that there are some of the more cerebral supporters who were hostile on theoretical religious grounds as you say, please do not imagine that this was in any way the rule across the greater body of supporters.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While I can completely verify your impression, CJ, I have also had some rather terrifying experience of my own of another very different aspect of Paisley and his supporters as an active member of the PD supporting Civil Rights in the late 1960s.

    The problem with trying to characterise any large group of people is that we reify agency into simplifications when we generalise, and any effort to simplify the very complex picture that a phenomenon such as “Paisleyism” presents must leave out something of what makes it what it actually is.

    That characteristic, “the childlike, somehow very simple and even naive side to some of the people I met at that time” exposes them to a tendency to look for naive black and white solutions and to see their opponents in unqualified terms. My own feeling is that the simple, easily understood world image Paisley peddled offered a straightforward set of “solutions” that ensured little need for his followers to either think things through or to change any of their inherited perceptions. This has failed them utterly in a changing world, and has ensured that instead of greeting new possibilities, they have become rigid about, and bitter against, all of those necessary changes that have ensued. Their very inflexibility and refusal to even discuss change has offered an easy opening for extremists to garner support from an otherwise rejected community. Like many of those who sought constitutional and agreed change in the late sixties, I abhor what has ensued on both sides, a rapid shift to extreme, irreconcilable positions. And today it is these extremists who appear to have won the argument, for after all, they rule us, with none of their basic preconceptions in any way altered.

  • David McCann


    Again the rules about language!

  • Gopher

    Those killed two world wars and the nature of protestant (sic) migration meant there was a proportinally higher loss to the educated. This coupled with the archaic administration of Northern Ireland meant there was fertile ground for Paisley, if it had not have been him it would have been another charlatan. It must be noted that the “Republican” supersition and its numerous enthusiasts meant that Paisley was hardly the last relic.

  • aquifer

    The ‘radicalism of capitalism’ is a useful phrase. When highly capitalised robot factories can produce so much, and financial bookmaking leaves the state to pay the losing bets, capital has little use for people, so the populists can pander and be listened to.

    Thatcher’s hero Hayek is worth reading, and is not himself a heartless market fundamentalist, advocating many welfare measures. His lived experience of Austrian socialism and then National Socialism, and study of German history, led him to the conclusion that involving the state in economic production would inevitably lead to oppression, also corruption and nepotism and probably war. He thought the market was a more reliable way to preserve freedom.

    Identity politics are what is left when democracy and the state are degraded and downsized per the wishes of narcissistic control freaks, party leaders as the agents of big capital or big labour.

    The market is an effective method of resource allocation, but social democrats seem to be unable to decide what to do with it for people. It as if they are mesmerised by the operation of big capital, alienated by their allegiance to organised labour.

    Of course they are also hamstrung by the culture of revolutionary tradition, of small cruel male juntas implementing sweeping change irrespective of the welfare consequences. Empirical Brits with a fond regard for ‘what works’ with first past the post, ignorant of continental theory.

    Coalitions pah. Human rights aye right.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Well said.

  • Nevin

    Why didn’t you delete Pete’s post, David? I used the ‘b’ word quite recently and my post was deleted ..

  • Gerry Lynch

    Nah, I’m just relieved that Pete didn’t link to six articles he wrote in the mid 2000s, each consisting of about a dozen links with little context, and shout at me for not reading them.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Really? I never knew.
    Seriously, outside some immigrant communities which are a relatively small proportion of the population, religion has little salience for most people in Europe. It has even less influence on voting behaviour, even for Muslims.
    Hostility to other people’s religion isn’t the same as caring about religion oneself, unless one believes that the new hyper-secular orthodoxy is itself a worldview reasonable comparable with a religion. I might say that, but then I’d have Pete Baker and the NI Atheist crowd shouting at me about the solipsism of my non-evidence-based sky-fairy. Or something.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Mostly pretty sensible, Greenflag. Reliable woman-controlled contraception has been around only since the 1960s, and birthrates declined sharply almost everywhere it was available more or less straight away. And not just in developed countries. This graph would surprise a few people as would this one

    Throwing the door of World War One on “very Christian European powers” is reasonable enough except the one European power that was already decidedly non-Christian by 1914, France, was an enthusiastic participant. It’s bonkers to say World War Two had much to do with very Christian anything – worship of the nation advancing into the progressive future, weird neo-Viking paganism and Japanese emperor worship do not Christianity make.

  • Gerry Lynch

    The Road to Serfdom is a genuinely great book, which isn’t to say everything in it has been proven right by 70 years of hindsight. I think my main critique of it now would be simply to say there is more than one road to serfdom and different periods will present different dangers. The authoritarian command-and-control state was the clear and present danger in Hayek’s time; I think our potential road to serfdom is more like the traditional one – gross economic disparities with the mass forced to trade liberty and self-control to the wealthy in return for the basics.

  • Gerry Lynch

    I think that’s too economically deterministic. Man is not purely an economic being – it’s interesting that neocons have swallowed this uncritically, as they have all too many dubious Marxist notions.

  • Cosmo

    Gerry, I greatly enjoyed your stimulating article and analysis above. Thank you.
    But, beg to differ on the significance of the active role of reactionary Christianity in European Facism and 2nd W War. Bavaria, Austria and Spain.
    Nationalism, nostagia for a (believed) better past, Fear of the other, and gross sentimentality for a traditional idealised family where the woman is in the home, bearing numerous children.

  • Greenflag 2

    Perhaps but look at wars historically and invariably you’ll find economics in some format in the woodwork . Man may not be a purely economic being but Wall St and the City are and they determine to a greater extent than is generally understood what governments can or can’t do .

    Here’s President Higgins illuminating the subject just a little for those still listening .

  • Greenflag 2

    Socialism is a broad church with it’s later spin offs – one party dictatorial communism and modern social democracy showing just how divergent political reactions to red claw capitalism can be and were in this case in the late 19th and 20th centuries . In 2015 mass political reaction to red claw international financial capitalism is still in the wings as politicians and others of the left and centre and even on the right find themselves not just in the dark but almost powerless to rein in the worst excesses . What we should have learned from 2007/2008 is that progress is not guaranteed and that society sometimes hangs by a thread which when snapped leads to the gulags and worse .

  • Cosmo

    Hello, Seaann, i think it is useful to understand there is a probably a big difference between country and city paisleyites. Fear-full, far right conservative views are often held (un-examined) by the country/ peasant population. (Maybe because they are the ones who didn’t have the courage or gumption to go exploring the World, and face situations where it could be pragmatic and life-affirming to be tolerant).
    I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to observe some politics in the Netherlands, and see how the country pig-farmers, harnessed by Geert Wilder’s city-slicker rhetoric, are continually pushing and pressurising the ‘centre’, as regards Islamaphobia and building fear of the other.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘ He thought the market was a more reliable way to preserve freedom.’

    Given the times in which he lived with both left and right totalitarianisms in power Hayek’s thought was and remains largely true but times have changed . The biggest ‘free market ‘ on the planet now is in China where an increase in economic freedom has been accompanied by no increase in political freedom .

    ‘The market is an effective method of resource allocation’,

    It certainly beats earlier historical methoods .

    ‘ but social democrats seem to be unable to decide what to do with it for people. It as if they are mesmerised by the operation of big capital, alienated by their allegiance to organised labour.’

    Not just social democrats -the mesmerisation is politically widespread as anyone who has read of the US Congress and Senate being told by President Bush in 2007/2008 that they had no choice but to do what AIG were telling them to do . And little has changed in that respect since then . Both British and Irish Governments and many others were forced to dance the tune of pay the banks for their financial recklessness or else . You might call it bankmail . Failure on the part of government to do their bidding in 2007 /2008 would have reduced what we like to think of as civilised (relatively ) society to chaos of a magnitude several times what eventually ensued .

  • Greenflag 2

    A return to the world of Charles Dickens then or perhaps that of Downton Abbey or somewhere between the two ? You are probably right . The only question being at what point on the road to serfdom will the masses revolt and the gulags /concentration camps or guillotines return ? Will the world of 24 hour surveillance and mass personal data gathering by corporations and governments forestall and prevent the newly minted serf millions from recovering any semblance of what might once have been called ‘democracy ‘?

  • Zeno

    “I didn’t get the impression that Paisley was hostile to Catholics on ethnic grounds. He was hostile on religious grounds. He believed they were being led astray by the AntiChrist. At the rally he actually praised Cathoilics’ spirituality and urged his listeners to try to to convert them.”

    Nah I have him down as a sectarian bigot.

    “The year is 1959 and the place is Percy Street, by the lower Shankill Road: ‘Paisley was speaking and he said, ‘You people of the Shankill Road, what’s wrong with you? Number 425 Shankill Road – do you know who lives there? Pope’s men, that’s who] Forte’s ice-cream shop, Italian Papists on the Shankill Road] How about 56 Aden Street? For 97 years a Protestant lived in that house and now there’s Papisher in it. Crimea Street, number……”

  • Gerry Lynch

    “The biggest ‘free market ‘ on the planet now is in China where an increase in economic freedom has been accompanied by no increase in political freedom” – I don’t think that’s true. There has been a substantial increase in political freedom in China; just from a dismal base and only to a level we would find crushing. But it’s oversimplistic to say that it hasn’t happened.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Who votes for Wilders’ PVV? Er… not the pig farmers of the North East:

  • peepoday

    All political careers end in failure.Probably relic of the past best suits.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Interesting post Gerry. Special gold star for using the word thran 😉

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed, and I’m pretty much in agreement Greenflag, but I still think the book raises valuable points about where ideologies come from. Progress was never guaranteed, me, I’m a “history moves in circles” man myself, so while I value improvements, I do not expect them to last, and certainly I’m not expecting any form of socialism to offer me any “final solution” to Red Claw capitalism. But “a bit better” helps.

  • Greenflag 2

    There is no final solution for man’s economic , social , ideological or political condition just leap forwards and reversals as time passes -and yes progress is nowhere and never guaranteed . Not sure about your ‘circular ‘ moves -I’d have said oval or spiral with up and down and sideways gyrations 😉 What we like to think of as democracy may in the longer term prove untenable due to the absolute power of international capital allied to the control mechanisms of a globalised world “market “. Politicians right or left or in between don’t know the answer if there is one and some haven’t even got around to recognising the question . For too many the head is already neck deep in the trough and the the time window for any action is limited by the exigencies of their re-election .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Greenflag, “What we like to think of as democracy may in the longer term prove untenable due to the absolute power of international capital allied to the control mechanisms of a globalised world “market “.”

    I’d have said “shorter term” myself. What with the knew jerk use by all politicians of PR and careful voter group targeting, we’re pretty much there already. Edward Bernays would be most gratified. “Semper in excretia sumus solim profundum variant”………for at least for the near future being in the 1% who own 50% of everything ensures a place at the shallow end of the cess pit.

    The “circles” are probably a residual bad habit incurred from reading Plato’s “Republic” (in translation!!!) at the age of thirteen. Yes, my teachers were worried about me…..

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I’m not sure that 3rd Republic France was as “decidedly non-Christian” as you say. There was a distinct and long term tension between the Church and its many adherents (particularly Catholic militants) and the state in this period. Nonetheless, the entirety of your argument is well made.

  • Greenflag 2

    Thran = The innate trait of having the ability and patience to argue with a STOP sign for decades on end 😉 while not learning from experience simultaneously ;(

  • Greenflag 2

    The Zuider Zeers don’t seem to vote . Have they been submerged by a slurry of inactivity ?

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘I have him down as a sectarian bigot.’

    That was just one of his 8 personalities . In 1959 he was dipping his fingers in politics but had’nt yet realised the financial benefits to be accrued from the overlapped life of a priest/politician. He modified his views as he grew older which is usually a good sign . Some never even get that far .

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘ oversimplistic to say that it hasn’t happened.’

    True -I’d forgotten Tianamen Square .

    Perhaps ‘it has’nt happened YET ‘ might have been better ?

  • Gerry Lynch

    The first issue I would take here is that Nazism was about nostalgia for the past – really? With all those cutting edge documentaries, Kraft Durch Freude posters of Volkswagens on the new autobahns and plans for space exploration? There was certainly a desire for the recapture of elements of a mythological and, here’s the point, pre-Christian past where pure Nordic yeomen hunted in pristine forests, but Nazism was an enthusiastic supproter of the modern as long as it could be made Völkisch.

    Catholic parts of Germany were the least likely to vote Nazi while elections were still allowed (see e.g. ) given the enduring strength of the Centre Party. The diaspora was a different story. There’s also little reason to think of Bavaria as a particular Nazi stronghold – a few nutters having a riot in a Munich pub in 1920 is not evidence. Remember, the Bavarian Soviet Republic had briefly been in 1919, and nobody cites that in evidence that Bavaria was somehow a Communist stronghold.

    Of course, like the vast majority of Germans who had the chance, Catholics kept their heads down after the Machtergreifung and there were periods of genuine popularity for the Nazis. There was also a solid minority of full on Nazi hangers on among the Roman clergy, the disgusting Alois Hüdal being the one who springs most easily to mind. But the Catholic Church remained probably the only institution that was essentially ungleichschaltbar and had it’s moments of glory, particularly around the Aktion T4 Euthanasia campaign against the handicapped.

    Given my own religious positioning, it hardly gives me pleasure that the Lutherans were pretty dreadfully compromised and the Liberal Lutherans often the most compromised of all. The Lutheran abandonment of its many converts from Judaism to the Nuremberg Laws and, later, much worse, was particularly disgusting. Have a read of Victor Klemperer’s diaries for a first hand account.

    Most of the Liberal Protestant theological academe bought into the Nazi vision of darwinian progress in a big way and so did ‘progressive’ Germans in general.

    In Austria the church establishment was wedded to Dolfuss’ unpleasant but more modest clerical fascism that was swept away at the Anschluß.

    Spain is a different story entirely, and with the exception of the Basques, a the Catholic-secular divide was as clear as anything between the Republicans and the Nationalists.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Fair point; the secularists and Catholics were equally committed to war, though.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Find it bizarre that anyone who was there at the time thinks that Paisley intended no harm to Catholic civilians. In the 1950s he stood on street corners and listed details of the houses where Catholics lived.

    In the 1960s he helped start the paramilitary organisation that would later become the UVF and said that churches were attacked and burned down because the priests were hiding weapons and explosives. On several occasions he led riotous crowds into nationalist neighbourhoods; those crowds burned and wrecked homes and property.

    Several loyalist paramilitary murderers say they did what they did after taking a cue from Paisley.

    This was a guy who lit the fuse and got out of the way just before the consequences became apparent. How anyone can believe that he never intended any harm I will never know.

  • Paddy Reilly

    You’re not from Cullybackey are you by any chance, CJ?

    The word in Ballymena, as I heard it, was “Ian Paisley and his family have been in and out of Mental Hospital all their lives.” This only refers to the deceased ones.

    An acquaintance of mine wished to score points against Lord Soper né Donald Soper in a debate or oration or something. Primed by me he attacked him with the ad hominem, “You caused the 2nd World War and the Northern Irish Troubles!” The 2nd World War reference was well known: Soper had voted for the motion “This House would not fight for King and Country.” But Soper had never before been accused of responsibility for Northern Ireland’s problems, so he asked my acquaintance what the dickens he was on about. It turns out that all the histories—well at least one, Liam De Paor’s—date the beginning of the troubles to 1959, when Paisley threw a Bible at Soper in Ballymena for excessive liberalism.

    Soper chuckled on being reminded of this long forgotten incident. He said that after being treated to an incomprehensible rant from this countrified oaf, he had retorted with the words: “Watch out, there are woodpeckers about!” This is what put Paisley in the paddy in which he resorted to using the Good Book as a missile.

  • Greenflag 2

    The areas most likely to vote NSDAP were the rural areas close to the eastern border with Poland . Urban areas like Berlin & Hamburg (predominantly Protestant and the Ruhr & Rhineland areas predominantly Catholic voted the lowest percentages for the NSDAP. A similar map for the votes cast for the Communist Party would also show an urban /industrial area concentration . Nazism appealed to the lower middle class and rural less educated sections of the population and those financially destroyed in the aftermath of the 1929 Great Depression which ravaged the USA but delivered Germany’s middle and working classes their second major financial meltdown in a decade .

    Both major Christian ‘tribes ‘ Lutherans and Roman Catholics took Hitler’s bribe . In return for not preaching anti Hitler or anti NSDAP sermons to their members and for keeping their heads down while the Jews and other unfit Germans were taken away to camps and worse – Hitler’s direct deduction of church taxes from wages and salaries supplied the pastors and priests with the revenue for their upkeep which was even then becoming a major irritant for the churches particularly in urban Germany both RC and Lutheran .

    The Churches kept their heads down and took the dosh . There were a few brave exceptions Lutheran and Catholic but overall not a great defense or upholding of what are called Christian values .

    Nazi ideology was non scientific and a mixum gatherum of batshit crazy racial ‘science ‘ mixed with xenophobic paranoia which might have been understandable had it arisen in the Russia or Poland of the time . But in the world’s most educated nation with the highest percentage of scientists etc ?

    It just goes to prove that no nation is immune from the chaos that can ensue when the social /economic order collapses . Whether that order collapses due to ideological insanity (modern ISIS ) or financial mayhem is neither here nor there .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Paddy for the story! I involuntarily found Rembrant’s “Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law” coming to mind. But I wonder if it was perhaps a New English Bible? The late Lord Bannside’s assessment of the value of the “Bible of the Antichrist” (to quote the title of his 1973 pamphlet) would suggest that it might have offered him something he would have been prepared to profane, but this would have implied a great degree of premeditation.

    On a more serious note, Paisley’s father had been a friend of John W. Nixon, whose possible implication in the murder of the McMahon family during the Anglo-Irish war was attested by the Free State report on the incident. Family gossip had marked Nixon as a sort of mentor for the growing Paisley. Another of Nixon’s escapades is recorded in a History Ireland article:

    It is of some interest that the painting so damaged was requested for display in Paisley’s own room at Stormont during the 1980s.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Greenflag, while he may have “modified his views as he grew older ” for public consumption, I was regularly told by mutual friends, when I hinted that he was perhaps turning into my own brand of “Lundy”, that he was still a “sound man” and that he had to “act the other up for the British” [sic, really]. Paisley made it pretty clear in the “Paisley: Genesis To Revelation – Face To Face With Eamonn Mallie” interview he apparently felt that he was “blackmailed” into government with SF by Westminster’s offer of an alternative, an imminent United Ireland instead. To my thinking, the notion that he moderated his views with age is rather over egged even in the light of this interview alone.

    But as you say, we will never know which of the eight interchangeable personalities was then speaking.

  • SeaanUiNeill


  • Greenflag 2

    Professor Padraig O’Malley he on the other thread interviewed Paisley for his book ‘Uncivil War ‘ Ireland Today . Don’t know if you ever read it but its 1983 vintage . Prof O’Malley also interviewed most the leading politicians from each of the political parties and even UDA and Provo spokesmen . None of them had a good word to say about the man – iirc only Daithi O’Connell had anything half way grudging to paint the man as other than ‘dangerous ‘ and even then his view was couched with many ifs buts ands etc . Jim Molyneux believed Paisley was out to destroy the Union.

    Today in the bastion of democracy Americans are finding that the brash bombastic Mr Trump he of the border building wall on the Mexican border and of deporting 11 million illegal immigrants is now in the process of image transformation . Being the radical and darling of the Tea Party will only command enough votes to come close to winning the nomination as candidate but not the Presidency . Ergo Trump the less brash the less misogynist the less extreme is in development with the image men . Not until all moderate competition has been eliminated as a threat to his nomination will we see the ‘real ‘Trump ” emerge . In the meantime make way for more brash outrageous headlines a la Paisley in his vintage year .

    Trump may have a million times more dosh than Paisley ever had but I very much doubt if Trump will ever make it to First Minister of the USA 😉

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks Greenflag, excellent answer! I’d guessed I’m not on my own in my assessments of the man, but this notion the media sell that he mellowed into some sort of beneficent Grand Old Man as First Minister sits ill with anyone who genuinely looked at him steadily without blinking. The extent of his baleful legacy has yet to be played out, and pretending that somehow developing a situation where his like can become first minister was a good thing is simply a step too far for me. But Trump, ho hummmm………..

  • Alan N/Ards

    My father in law mentioned that story to me recently. He said it happened in Belfast (at some kind of speakers corner?). My father in law was on his lunch break and came across it by accident. He mentioned that a later date, when Soper was to speak at Carlisle Circus Methodist Church, Paisley turned up with a mob and tried to stop Soper getting into the church. The police had to intervene to get Soper into the church.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I’m sorry, but all googleable sources say it was Ballymena.

    But that doesn’t mean your father in law is a liar: in my experience these soapbox orators and hecklers, of which Paisley was one, give the same speech at many different locations often followed by the same hackneyed interchange.

  • Greenflag 2

    I can understand the step too far . And yes the legacy has yet to be played out . The media is in the business of selling what sells . Its hard to figure out who’s telling the truth or who’s selling the lesser lie or the less spun spin . And if you seek online you will be avalanched with seventeen million hits raging from the barely plausible to the outright crackpot .

    In the Age of Google – Caveat emptor is extended to Caveat Lector with probably more Caveats on the way /

  • SeaanUiNeill

    In the end, Greenflag, we continue to have to rely on our personal experience, filtered through common sense, to judge anything we encounter. Much of my family is still politically Unionist, and I even had a friend, now dead, who was one of those engaged in founding the DUP. So I’ve had a lot to do with Paisley, and those around him, ever since my PD days, much of it “insider” contact. Like the rest of us, those engaged in the media can only draw on personal experience, filtered through common sense, to assess what they write. Many of them took the “Road to Damascus conversion” story about Uncle Ian at face value. After all it promised us all a brighter future, but I could never take it entirely at face value. What I saw in the final interviews appeared to fully confirm my caution.

  • Cosmo

    I also don’t believe in the ‘mellow old fellow’ image. Paisley was compromised by his vanity – and just couldn’t believe his fortune at getting the position of First Minister, and saw no further. I can’t forgive Blair for his role in this, either.

  • Cosmo

    Lots of interesting data there, thanks. Appreciated. Just on the ‘art’ front, from what I understand, Nazi ‘art’ was particularly averse to modernism (in artistic terms), and took many steps to denigrate it. However, my point was that generally a fascistic outlook, is imbued with a form of a ‘nostalgia’ for a greater, finer, more moral ‘past’, to which we should aspire or even return to. Perhaps indeed, a fear of the future, underpinning it.
    (Mind you, I do not understood the motivations for the Italian Futuristic movement other than a panic against the Great war and an attempt to find Herorism – but then Italy is somewhat of a pantomime all to itself.)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    An elderly member of my family who fought in both world wars once told me long ago, “Watch out for those people who are constantly looking to their place in history”……

    As good a guide as any I’ve been given regarding politicians. Blair is almost s text book an example as the late Lord Bannside.