Same-sex marriage: an alternative gay liberation viewpoint

tumblr_m64v0tMKNv1r9vx9ho1_500by Aidan Rowe

“Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us. Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.” ― British Conservative prime minister David Cameron

“Legalizing gay marriage would offer homosexuals the same deal society now offers heterosexuals: general social approval and specific legal advantages in exchange for a deeper and harder-to-extract-yourself from commitment to another human being. Like straight marriage, it would foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence… it could also help nurture children. And its introduction would not be some sort of radical break with social custom… A law institutionalizing gay marriage would merely reinforce a healthy social trend… Those conservatives who deplore promiscuity among some homosexuals should be among the first to support it… If these arguments sound socially conservative, that’s no accident. It’s one of the richest ironies of our society’s blind spot toward gays that essentially conservative social goals should have the appearance of being so radical.” ― Andrew Sullivan, Here Comes The Groom: A (Conservative) Case For Gay Marriage

As it’s presently constructed, the LGBT movement is probably less than a decade away from achieving all of its major aims in most Western societies: centrally, same-sex couples having the right to marry and raise children, and, more broadly, equality, understood as assimilation within existing conservative institutions such as the military, the police, or the boardroom. Inevitably, this will mean a massive demobilization and depoliticisation among LGBT people and the collapse of much of whatever activist networks currently exist, as, demonstrably, we will have achieved pretty much everything we are currently demanding.

But equality is not liberation. Paradoxically, even as gay concerns become increasingly mainstream and everyone from major corporations, to the English Defence League, to apartheid Israel scramble to feel the benefits of positive pink PR, we are hardly closer to liberating sexuality from the bridle of conservative/religious moralism.

Instead, we have sought, and are beginning to be granted, inclusion within heteronormative structures, namely marriage, but only on the understanding that the basic form and logic of marriage is to remain unchanged. In fact, this very concession is at the core of much liberal advocacy for “marriage equality”: of course conservative concerns are irrational, we have no intention of threatening their family values ideology, we just want in.

So perhaps now, when articulating a critique of the push for marriage can no longer reasonably be understood as a betrayal of the movement in the face of an urgent need for unity, we should take the opportunity to re-evaluate our horizons. Indeed, given the accelerating incorporation of (some) queers within the sexual and political mainstream, I would argue that there is a pressing need to question the terms of this compromise before it solidifies.

Marriage is an institution borne out of sexual repression and patriarchy, and inseparable from its history as male ownership of women – a history which still shapes the lived realities of married people. It is the institution of an ideology that sees human sexuality as a threat, and seeks to constrain it. Ideally, sex should only happen for the purposes of procreation, but failing that, only within the bounds of stable monogamy, and not in any way that might be considered kinky or weird. There is no room for fluidity, or polyamoury, or promiscuity, which are at best tolerated among young people with the expectation that they will “settle down”.

However marriage is redefined or reconfigured, it will never be ours. The State retains the power to define what constitutes a “normal” relationship, to write the relationship script for the vast majority of society, while those who don’t or won’t fit the script are pushed to the margins. This doesn’t just affect people at the point where they “choose” to get married, but in fact all relationships are expected to be proto-marriages: monogamous, and aiming at permanence, with a series of predefined stages (which vary according to culture) on the way to marriage. Romantic narratives about “finding your soulmate” (i.e. expectation that you will only legitimately love one person in your entire life) are bound up with the institution of marriage, and shape people’s expectations around sex and relationships in an often damaging way.

The existence of marriage, then, is not merely an issue for those who wish to get married (and who may presently be prevented from doing so by homophobic discrimination) – it is the institution around which sexuality is organised within our society. Instead of being allowed to embrace the polymorphous possibilities of romantic and sexual experience, to explore a potentially infinite landscape of bodily experience and interpersonal connection, sexuality is directed towards a single idealised form. Marriage as an institution is thus the antithesis of free love, the quasi-compulsory privatisation of affection, and the mechanism by which the state bludgeons our sexualities into the most useful shape for reproducing the next generation of labour.

Generally speaking, within the structure of marriage, women are still expected to do the work of child-rearing for no money, and their work isn’t even considered work. Often this is on top of having a full time job, so women work a double-shift, usually for less pay than a man on a single-shift. While same-sex marriage may begin to decouple this expectation from gender somewhat, the child-rearing-as-unpaid-labour problem remains embedded into the very construction of the nuclear family. More broadly, we can say that the nuclear family, as a form of social organisation confines the caring and affective work essential to the maintenance and reproduction of human beings to an atomised sphere artificially cut off from the rest of society, thereby weakening our potential bonds of solidarity and mutual care, stripping this area of human activity of its collectivity and reinforcing our alienation from one another.

Necessarily then, we can only participate in marriage on their terms. However much it changes, we will always have to change more in order to assuage the fears of conservatives that we pose a threat to their vision of sexual morality and social organisation. Within the LGBT community, there is political pressure, particularly on those who are the most visibly queer, to reshape our sexualities into forms that are more palatable to conservative moralists and legislators, to have a binary-identified sexuality that was fixed at birth, or to ditch the concerns of trans* people altogether because they make us look bad. In other words, gay marriage takes a certain section of the queer community and makes them just like straight people, casting the rest aside.

This process of recuperation has happened over a relatively short historical period. Within decades, we have gone from being a radical sexual liberation movement which challenged and threatened the foundations of conservative sexuality morality, of which marriage is a keystone, to being little more than a movement beating at the door of family values ideology begging to be let in. In order to claim the right to be included within marriage, we place ourselves in the position of defending marriage, or cementing its position in the centre of society – we become it’s biggest cheerleaders, pushing out endless stories about happy gay couples who just want to get married because marriage is such an awesome institution – the fullest and most natural expression of love between two human beings – or of gay couples who raise perfect children (according to conservative standards) because we’re such awesome parents.

In short, as long as we continue to aim for equality-through-assimilation, we concede that we will never win the struggle to free love from the grip of bourgeois morality, and to experience love as we see fit, with whoever we see fit. In fact, we strengthen the institutions that keep our bodies and our hearts in chains.

Aidan Rowe is a member of the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland; this piece appeared on their site, here

23 comments

  1. I think it offers an interesting view – and it was put out there to coincide with a right to gay marriage demo in Dublin. The writer shows how gay marriage isn’t a radical issue as many economic and political conservatives support it, and also offers some insights into how these types of issues are ‘mainstreamed’. I don’t agree with his conclusion that therefore gay marriage isn’t any sort of gain, but I do think he makes very pertinent points.

    One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is how the establishment is continually able to make liberal reforms and so issues that once were, or appeared to be, virtually revolutionary, are now nothing of the sort.

    It’s a very tricky one. Because we can’t oppose liberal reforms, but at the same time they often actually strengthen the very system which we are opposed to! I’m not sure what the way around that is.

    But no-one on the left in the First World seems to have got the answer (yet).

    In fact, whereas at least we at Redline are at first base – we see it’s a problem and we write about it and try to analyse the prcoess – most of the NZ left don’t even recognise the issue, because they are stuck in a NZ that no longer exists, where Tories were ardent racists, sexists and anti-gay and so on and those prejudices fitted the capitalism of that era.

    However, those prejudices don’t fit the capitalism of today. The ‘more market’ economics have seen the removal of much formal legal discrimination, so that the main forms of discrimination which remain are those that flow directly from the operations of the market itself. (Although the author is very good on looking at the concrete context of today, one thing he misses is the way marriage has been changed by decades of wider social change and the expansion of the horizons of women. Marriage was born out of class society and, above all, capitalism; but how many marriages, in the First World today, are still about “the male ownership of women”?)

    Another issue that the article involves is the difference between ‘rights’ and ‘liberation’. Often these are treated as virtually synonymous. However, rights have tended to be able to be granted within the confines of capitalism; liberation, not so much!

    Phil

    • The Cameron and other conservative quote (and it could easily be Key saying the same thing) show how out of touch Colin Craig is with serious political conservatism too. It is probably a sign of how weak social conservatism is in this country that when the media want a ‘conservative viewpoint’ they have to go to someone who has no seats in parliament, whose public support falls within the margin of error and whose ideas do not resonate within any section of the ruling class.

      Susanne

    • please explain how the rest of the left doesn’t recognise the growth of the liberal bourgeoisie:
      “The widespread, cross-party support for marriage equality has partly materialised because it allows most politicians to walk a comfortable ideological middle ground. Progressives and the queer community will be pacified somewhat by the inclusion of queers into certain areas of society, but some conservatives may also feel reassured when queerdom is normalised and publicly confined to traditional institutions like exclusive monogamy. Economically speaking, the business sector receives more opportunities to market towards the queer demographic; tourism companies are already rolling out the rainbow welcome mat. The 77-44 vote demonstrated that opposition to marriage equality is not an easy political position to maintain.”
      http://fightback.org.nz/2013/04/21/the-symbolic-victory-of-same-sex-marriage/

      • Ian, you have had a number of articles in Fightback about how racist the establishment is, although liberal anti-racism is actually the dominant position of the NZ ruling class. Talking up the appointment of Susan Devoy, as if she was something out of the KKK, was a classic case. The article on the Pakeha Party held up multiculturalism as if it was something radical. The way you folks talk about the Treaty of Waitangi also indicates you haven’t got much of a handle of how it’s important to the ruling class.

        One paragraph, from one article, that says politicians can walk a comfortable middle ground by supporting marriage equality and that businesses are marketing gay-friendly tourism, is hardly sufficient to show much of a level of understanding not of “the growth of the liberal bourgeoisie” but that *the* bourgeoisie in this country is predominantly *social liberal* and that social liberalism on issues of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc fits with market economics here.

        Btw, that article wasn’t written by a member of yours anyway, was it? Furthermore, the article is somewhat more ambivalent that your one-paragraph quote suggests. For instance, its author also says things like “Future political framing will hopefully not end up permitting queerphobes to exercise their oppressive ideology at all. However the marriage equality debate was framed, it is undeniable that extreme queerphobia lost this round.”

        But “extreme queerphobia” is marginal anyway; that’s why it lost. The bigots couldn’t even mobilise a one-off serious march, let alone the kind of campaign they were still capable of in 1986. As for “queerphobes” – why not just call them bigots; it’s not a psychological condition (phobia) they suffer from! – how would they be permitted “to exercise their oppressive ideology” anyway, unless you think they have some serious power? So, while Anne R’s article makes some of the same points we made on Redline and as the Aidan Rowe piece makes, it doesn’t indicate that your group understands what the dominant ideology is these days of *the ruling class*.

        Produce some serious critiques of, say, the liberal race relations industry, ‘Treaty politics’, multiculturalism, ‘respect for diversity’ and so on, and then I’ll believe you have such an understanding. But, at present, what I *mainly* (ie, not exclusively, but more often than not) see is you folks pushing a kind of militant liberalism, rather than a Marxist critique of the dominant forms of modern capitalist ideology.

        Phil

      • Heh, love the old left who are still terrified of the Treaty eh. Most of the apparent ‘positions’ of the NZ Left seem to occur in your imaginary, Phil. What is your response to multiculturalism? My article was not in support of it so far as I can tell (as I think it’s a failed position)? However I’m yet to see a well constructed alternative that isn’t something like cultural hegemony supposedly ‘based on class’ but actually deeply engrained with White Western ideals (serving the ruling class). Liberal anti-racism IS the racism which was being pointed out in many fightback articles so I don’t know what kind of blinkers you’re wearing on these issues, but it seems intellectually dishonest

      • In fact is the Pakeha Party and “1 law 4 all” types basically a manifestation of liberal “anti” racism (actually very racist)

      • also, apologies for the ‘old left’ thing. still a bit ticked off cause I went to a Tame Iti talk at the university and about half of question time was dominated by a pakeha leftist grilling him about his socialism vs. tino rangatiratanga and it was incredibly frustrating.

    • Going back to Phil’s point about how the ruling class are perfectly happy with the idea of equality, Jenny Shipley is a good example. When she was Prime Minister, she delighted in surrounding herself with gay men as her aides. This is despite her seeming to be the sort of person who would be uncomfortable with homosexuality. Whether she would have been overjoyed with the fact that her Prime Ministerial desk was regularly used for sex is another matter…

      • Well, they are happy with the idea of equality-in-law absolutely. Non-liberal LGBT orgs have always put emphasis on the higher rate of suicide, poverty, homelessness etc especially for LGBT youth – but these are harder to tackle and actually require systematic economic change etc. The ruling class find it easy to change a few laws for token-ish ‘progress’, but I figure Luxemburg’s ideas apply here – fight hard for these reforms, but never see them as an end

  2. Lot of good points in the article; I still think it was a step forward to remove legal discrimination against lesbian and gay marriage.

    Coincidentally I was booked to perform a set of my songs on the night the legislation was passed.

    I told the crowd in the bar it was a very nice feeling to have one of my old protest songs become redundant, and then, as a museum piece, I sang Talkin’ Civil Union one last time. Went like this:

    “If you wanna get married let me tell you what to do
    get something old and borrowed and blue
    sort out a ring and set the date
    and soon you’ll be with your chosen mate
    cutting the cake and sinking the piss
    to kick off your lives of wedded bliss
    with laughter and happiness every day
    unless you’re not – happy – but – gay

    Now its not that easy but I’ll try and explain
    why gays can’t ride on the marriage train
    its got nowt to do with the Karma -Sutra
    its more about United Future
    its more about those who call for – when it suits them
    one law for all
    its more to do with the old priesthood
    – those dudes who treat young boys so good

    Well its never explained though it has been asked
    why United Future are stuck in the past
    why national want one law on the sand
    where all but gays can walk hand in hand
    and as for the fathers in long black frocks
    they can do almost anything to their flocks
    and tell the rest of us what to do with our emotions

    So if you wanna get married but you’re a gay pair
    though its not right and its not fair
    Civil Unions as far as you can go
    and even to that Paul Swain said no
    Labour could have let everyone in the same boat
    but they feared for the loss of the redneck vote
    so if you’re gay and yo wanna get wed
    – don’t trust politicians – organise instead!

    • I still think it was a step forward too. But how do revolutionaries in countries like NZ overcome the dichotomy between *rights within* and *liberation from*? It’s rather like the wages issue. We support pay rises, but where does that leave our opposition to the wages system? How, in the context of pay battles, is there time/consideration to raise the issue of the wages system?

      Clearly, 100 years ago there were sizable revolutionary movements that knew how to do it. But that has been largely lost. Now we’re so busy fighting for better pay that the wages system itself hardly ever gets raised.

      Similarly, if you go back to gay liberation manifestos of the late 60s/early 70s, they never envisaged liberation within capitalism. They were anti-capitalist. But gay liberation (radical, anti-system) has been replaced by the gay community (fairly kiss-ass to the system).

      It’s the old issue of the antagonism between fighting for reforms and revolution, I suppose. If all people ever do is fight for reforms, there never will be a revolution. At the same time, revolutionaries can’t ignore/avoid the fight for reforms. At present, however, most of the left just does the first. Reforms are all they fight for and the system continues on its merry way.

      Phil

  3. Thomas writes: “Heh, love the old left who are still terrified of the Treaty eh.” You seem fairly ignorant of the old left. They are keen supporters of the Treaty of Waitangi and fail to understand its essential role in promoting Maori capitalism. You are a good example of old left thinking in that sense.

    Thomas also writes, “Liberal anti-racism IS the racism which was being pointed out in many fightback articles so I don’t know what kind of blinkers you’re wearing on these issues, but it seems intellectually dishonest.”

    Well, I won’t accuse you of intellectual dishonesty; but you certainly haven’t understood the point.

    It’s not that liberal anti-racism is the new racism; it’s that liberal anti-racism is a ruling class ideology, which the old left ended up buying into, and Fightback is part of that. You have no critique of the liberal race relations paradigm around the Treaty of Waitangi, because you are part of it. The way Thomas talked about the Treaty in his article on the Pakeha Party is fairly typical of the liberal politics of the ostensibly Marxist left. You folks actually believe there is something radical about enshrining the Treaty of Waitangi in contemporary NZ society – a project begun by the ruling class at the same time it was cutting the throat of workers (Maori and pakeha alike). That article also talked about Maori and pakeha as discrete categories and not much affected by class divisions, as if all pakeha had higher incomes and better health than all Maori.

    This is just an inversion of the way that sections of the old left used to pretend Maori oppression didn’t exist and could be subsumed entirely into class. That article subsumed class into ethnic categories.

    The imaginary is the notion that the liberal ideas about the Treaty pushed in places like Fightback are somehow “anti-capitalist”. In reality the resurrection of the Treaty came *during* the period of neo-liberal dominance under the fourth Labour government and fourth National government. It was a necessary accompaniment to their economic policies. Neo-liberalism is all in favour of Maori capitalism and the primary function of the Treaty process has been the promotion of Maori capitalism. The fact that groups like Fightback don’t understand this is evident in the fact that they are unable to produce any Marxist critiques of the whole process around the Treaty of Waitangi. There are some token criticisms of the ‘Brown Table’, without an understanding that the ‘Brown Table’ is the necessary consequence of the whole Treaty process; it’s part of the function of the process to produce Maori capitalism and a Maori middle class.

    In radical-liberals’ parallel universe, a thoroughly capitalist process is presented as a challenge to the system.

    For those of us who were involved in things like land rights struggles before Thomas was even born, seeing the renewal of illusions that should have been shattered years ago brings to mind Marx’s comment about history repeating, the second time as farce.

    Phil

    • *sigh* I honestly think you are projecting things onto my article that simply aren’t there. I like this “radical liberal” stick you’re starting to beat people with though, almost as useful and reasonable as “swamp left”.

  4. AS I said to Ian, “Produce some serious critiques of, say, the liberal race relations industry, ‘Treaty politics’, multiculturalism, ‘respect for diversity’ and so on, and then I’ll believe you have such an understanding. But, at present, what I *mainly* (ie, not exclusively, but more often than not) see is you folks pushing a kind of militant liberalism, rather than a Marxist critique of the dominant forms of modern capitalist ideology.”

    Your article was confused on a number of things, not least lacking an understanding of why the capitalist state is operating the whole process around the Treaty of Waitangi.

    But as I’ve also said on a number of occasions, some of us have seen all this stuff before and it’s always failed. SAL, WCL, SW – you folks are simply repeating those politics, but with a lot fewer people and much less experienced people. You folks are absolutely determined to go down the same well-trod path and so be it.

    Phil

    • Well, it’s easy to have the right line when it’s one blog on the internet with a handful of people. I hear what you’re saying about not analysing the Treaty settlement process, but the response was to the Pakeha Party – not a general essay on the entire Tino Rangatiratanga movement, and as such there’s only so many words to work with (unless I decided to take up half the magazine, covering all issues).

      As for the lack of experience, that might be true compared to orgs of the past. Then again, as a representative of those experienced generations, the retreat to a purely online analytical presence doesn’t seem a better approach than trying to develop these ideas within an organisational context?

  5. I also see what you’re saying here. Fair enough to point out what your article was focusing on and what it wasn’t going to cover. Drop me a note when you write some more stuff on those other issues, and I’ll happily read it and try to respond constructively.

    In terms of “the retreat to a purely onlline analytical presence”, this isn’t quite accurate. People involved in Redline have continued to be involved in various protests and solidarity activities. We would have been more involved, for instance, than WP/FB in stuff around the Ports of Auckland dispute and some other issues. But, yes, our involvement is *primarily* (rather than purely) analytical and with the blog. This is because we don’t believe the objective conditions exist for a serious party-building project. And it’s not like we dabbled in such a project and then got sick of it – we put in a lot of years and energy before drawing the conclusion, which was brought home to us by some sordid incidents in the organisation, that if you try to ignore the objective conditions, that’s what you end up facing. The human material just isn’t there for building with.

    FB also comes up against the problem of objective conditions; after all, you folks aren’t really engaged in a party-building project either. At the end of the day, the unfavourable objective conditions bear down on us all. Time will tell which approach is better-suited to *current conditions*. I’d be very happy to be proven wrong on this one, but I think the balance of evidence is still with the analysis we’ve made re current conditions. And it’s not as if Marxists favour building organisations regardless of objective conditions.

    After all, after the defeat of the 1848 revolutions, Marx and Engels didn’t just carry on as if nothing had happened. They withdrew from trying to build an organisation for nigh on 15 years, deciding instead to have a small circle of about a dozen really good quality people. When objective conditions changed and the working class began to move again, they had a treasure trove of work to take out to the new working class movement which they immersed themselves in. (In those 15 years, they didn’t stop doing political work, of either a practical or theoretical nature,
    they just didn’t try to build an organisation.)

    I should add that none of us generalise from the NZ experience to the global one. Even across the ditch the conditions, while not favourable to creating a party, at least allow for the creation of a fairly substantial Marxist current (Socialist Alternative) by the general standards of far-left groups. Personally, I like what I’ve seen of what they’re trying to do. Moreover, some of us have direct connections with party-building projects elsewhere, where such projects are on the agenda (either potentially or in actuality): India, Philippines, Ireland to name just three.

    Phil

    • This argument of the Treaty and settlement process being a thoroughly capitalist process, I’m not exactly disputing it. But it does remind me of the sort of extreme claims of Castoriadis (I think, this is from memory I may have it wrong).. which imply that all organisation and praxis which are allowed by the capitalist state are necessarily part of propping it up – legal strikes, union work, etc. etc. he includes all of these things as merely part of the totality of capitalism rather than something that challenges it.

      I disagree with Castoriadis on this, and pretty much everything else he says (wants to move away from the working class, etc). But it does beg the question how do we identify which things that the capitalist state consents to are actually of a radical nature, rather than just legitimizing the system as a whole?

  6. I’m not sure that the capitalist state consents to anything much of an explicitly *radical* nature, but it does consent to reforms, for sure. Part of the problem is that capitalism is quite malleable, much more so than many on the left think. For instance, when I was 16 I could never have imagined some of the rewforms that have taken place in the last two decades around things like gay rights. I grew up in an era when the dominant strand of capitalist ideology was very socially conservative and in my 20s went through the Muldoon era. But capitalist ideology has changed dramatically since then.

    I think there are three reasons for this. One is that movements for change fought and won changes and, in the process, changed popular consciousness and the capitalists had to take that on board. But I think the other two factors are more significant, because they involve the ruling class itself more directly. One is that ‘more market’ policies have proven to be incompatible with a lot of formal, legal discrimination. A whole article could be written on that idea alone. The third reason is that the ruling class in NZ today are the children of the 60s and grew up in a period when young people were becoming more socially liberal.

    Those last two factors mean the ruling class no longer particularly care whether people are gay or straight, they’re more than happy to see the development of Maori capital and they actually want women and Maori on the boards of directors – in fact they have set up mechanisms to achieve this, although it has proven to be a very slow process.

    I don’t think that these days the capitalists even much care who does the housework and who mainly takes care of the kids.

    A good example of the changed ideology is that in the Muldoon era, the dominant capitalist ideology pressurised married women to stay at home as housewives and mothers, especially once recessionary trends became pronounced after 1973. It was ‘irresponsible’ for married women, especially with children, to work; they were supposedly taking jobs off men and being irresponsible wives and mothers. But now the dominant capitalist outlook is ‘get those women back in the workforce before their kids even get to school!’ and it is now ‘irresponsible’ to be a stay-at-home mother with small children!

    I think capitalism can *incorporate* all kinds of things that radicals of my era once assumed it couldn’t. We didn’t really understand the profoundness of Marx and Engels’ statement that, in capitalist society, “all that was solid melts into air”.

    In relation to things around the Treaty and Maori rights more widely, there have obviously been significant gains. The Maori language advance would be one. And, generally, Maori culture is much more high-profile. But that culture has also become highly commodified. That’s just what capitalism. It will commodify anything it can, especially as the old productive economy stagnates.

    I think the ruling class has found it quite easy to accommodate things around the Treaty because it has become thoroughly bound up with Maori capitalism – indeed, with capitalism in general as well. Thus, while it’s pretty easy to show how a section of Maori have materially benefited from the Treaty – especially the very marked growth of a Maori middle class (and I’m not talking about a lower middle class but a pretty prosperous middle class layer) – it’s harder to see how working class Maori have benefited materially very much.

    We’re not going to agree on this, well not at present anyway – which is fine, because it’s not an easy issue – but I would argue that TR is very much reconcilable with Maori capitalism and the maintenance of the capitalist system overall. Of course, other people on the left argue that TR represents a serious challenge to capital. Again, back in the 1970s I was an ardent advocate of that position – although we used to call it self-determination in those days. But years and years on, my view has changed; I simply don’t think it is tenable any more, on the basis of 40 years of unfolding of those politics, to continue to argue that position. Moreover, the same things have happened with indigenous struggles around the world and with currents like radical Irish nationalism. Nearly three decades of armed struggle in the north-east of Ireland, waged by the nationalist working class against the British state, has put an expanded nationalist middle class (and burgeoning new capitalist layer) in the drivers’ seat.

    I doubt this really answers your final question, coz there is not an easy answer to it and it takes a period of time to see what effect any particular reform, or set of reforms, have had. But I hope it illuminates a few things.

    These are important questions and no-one has fully answered them.

    Phil

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