Before addressing Victoria’s video, for the purposes of full transparency, it is only right that I acknowledge my own positionality. Victoria Johnson is someone with whom I have worked with on a number of projects in the past. My concern for her wellbeing and that of her young family has not changed, and I still consider her a personal friend. My sincere hope, if she takes the time to read this, is that she will read it as the words of a friend and not an enemy. But it would not be right to simply ignore the statement she has made – and for many reasons.
There is no escaping the racism in Rule Britannia, a cultural weapon of British racial supremacy that has been deployed against Irish Catholics in the six counties, against black and brown immigrants and asylum seekers in England, and against those now branded ‘traitors’ by the Brexiteers in every part of the United Kingdom. This is a truly ugly song, almost no different from the innocent lyrics of the marching music used by the SS and other ‘patriotic’ tunes and anthems used by racial states around the world to impress on the dominated their subject status.
Progressive politics is a package deal. It is a political set menu with cult-like or at least communitarian characteristics. It is a tribal political identity rather than a series of beliefs and policy ideas people can weigh up and decide on based on their individual merits. Defending the rights of racial and ethnic minorities is both progressive and objectively right. The same is true of cutting carbon emissions and seeking greater economic justice for the poorest people in society, but the same cannot necessarily be said of other complex legal and social issues.
Our greatest weakness, it seems, is exposed in the solipsistic nature of class in Scotland and in the independence movement. The professional caste of the independence movement imagines itself as having more in common with the bourgeois sensibilities of the unionist establishment currently occupying the nation’s civil society – its business and banking institutions, professions, and universities – than it does with the organic, working class or grassroots mass movement supporting it...
There is no difference between British nationalism and neo-Nazism and fascism. British nationalists are simply England’s neo-Nazis and fascists. I’m saying ‘England’s’ here quite deliberately, because British nationalism in Scotland, while exactly the same thing, takes on a slightly different form; that of Scottish unionism. While in England, British nationalism is entirely devoted to pushing the agenda of a Britain in which ‘there ain’t no black in the union jack,’ in Scotland – as it is in Ireland and Wales, unionists have the added burden of fighting a culture war to keep their nations British.
Responding to Black Lives Matter protesters who pulled down a statue of a slave trader – a slave trader for fuck’s sake, the Prime Minister used the term ‘thuggery,’ a term that has been used to describe and dehumanise young black men in the United States; exposing them to the violence of the police officers of a racist state and the reason these protests are taking place in the first place. But we don’t expect any better from Johnson, do we? – the man who thought it just swell to recite the putrid racism of Kipling in a Myanmar temple and denigrate British Muslim women.
We should be interested to note too that the statue of him which was torn down was not erected until 1846 – some 174 years after his death, during the reign of Victoria – ‘the famine queen.’ Statues are rarely set up to celebrate people. Even though it is a person on the pedestal, if it were the case that great people were memorialised in this way simply because of their greatness or their contribution to their community, city, or nation, we would not be able to move for statues. There just is not enough bronze in the world. Such statues are erected to glorify ideas and ideals...
Right-wing populist governments with designs on capturing the state and fascism, such as Donald Trump’s and Boris Johnson’s are, are bringing home the shock doctrine consecutive US and British governments have employed on their foreign interventionist adventures since the US-backed coup and military takeover of Chile in 1973. This is the neoliberal dream; to see powerful and cohesive democracies softened up by truncheons, rent asunder by socio-economic division, and fractured into thousands of squabbling factions of the oppressed.