am constantly being told that the only thing that
loyalists should be concerned about is the maintenance
of the Union. The message that is increasingly being
levelled at the Progressive Unionist Party is All
this talk about working class issues has nothing whatever
to do with the loyalist cause. It is as if the
maintenance of the union is somehow an end in itself
rather than a means to an end.
constantly talk about our British way of life
as if it was something written in tablets of stone
by Britannia and set in concrete never to be improved
upon. Those who think like that appear to regard culture
and social structures as something that is static
and unchangeable. The truth of the matter is that
both are evolutionary processes which progressive
citizens will engage in as a means of developing a
way of life that truly reflects the wishes and the
changing needs of the people. Societies that refuse
to change will stagnate and die.
on the origins of the First World War, and on the
class structure of the military High Command that
directed allied military operations, provided a vision
for social change that has still to be fully realised
within the United Kingdom. The horrors of that war
challenged the peoples of these islands to think again
about the nature of British society. Notwithstanding
two centuries of liberalism society at
the beginning of the Great War was rooted in a class
system that militated against the development of a
genuine egalitarian society.
class structures of British society at the time were
replicated in Kitcheners Army, with devastating
results in terms of the loss of human life and national
trauma. The incompetence of that structure - summarised
in the indictment that British soldiers were lions
led by donkeys - resulted in the unnecessary
slaughter of thousands of British and Irish servicemen
on the battlefields of Europe.
led many within the army to question the class system
upon which the military structure was based. Some
of the most poignant reflections on the incompetence
of the military High Command, and indeed of reasons
for the whole 1914-1918 debacle, are to be found in
the diaries, letters and poetry of soldiers and chaplains
who served with honour in the front lines. Such writings
ought to be set as essential reading material for
the political cadres of loyalism. Even before the
war was over it was clear that class distinctions
both within the army and at home were being challenged.
An entry in Vera Brittains diary for 28/9/1915
notes that class distinctions slip away and
are lost in this great community of anxiety.
the aftermath of the slaughter the diarists, poets
and chaplains were joined by others who began to seriously
question the class structures of society as a whole.
It was becoming increasingly clear that the land
fit for heroes to return to was nothing more
than empty rhetoric, and there was growing disenchantment
with a closed class system that thrived on marginalisation
and social exclusion.
struggle for social justice and for the full political,
social and economic emancipation of the working classes
is an integral part of a vision for a new British
way of life that emerged following the Great War.
Notwithstanding the many gains made by the Labour
and Trade Union Movement, that vision has never been
realised. Class may no longer be tied to birth and
blood yet the divisions of class, and the inequality
which these divisions bring, are as real as ever.
to the latest ILO Report more and more British citizens
are falling into the poverty trap than ever before,
and the World Labour Report 2000 singles out the United
Kingdom as offering less protection against unemployment,
ill health or old age than other western European
countries. That the United Kingdom is ranked twentieth
out of twenty-three countries for child poverty is
evidence in itself that we have a long way to go.
loyalism that cherishes equal citizenship for all
within the United Kingdom - and why else would we
desire citizenship, if it is not to be equal citizenship?
- has a duty to work to close those divisions. Equal
citizenship must mean equality of both opportunity
and outcomes. Nothing less will do. Class divisions
which lead to social exclusion, marginalisation and
inequality can only be addressed through class politics.
is the way the world works. That is the legacy which
we have inherited from those who had a vision for
wholesale social reconstruction in the aftermath of
the debacle that left thousands of our kith and kin
dead and dying amidst the mud and the blood of Passchendaele,
Messines, and the Somme.
Unionism is simply a means to an end. The ultimate
goal of Unionism must be for a social and political
Union of citizens who are committed to the development
of a genuine social democracy and an end to social
inequality and class divisions. That is what real
politics is all about. My political Unionism is a
matter of free choice, my class is a matter of birth
and inheritance. My loyalty within the Union is a
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