Archie, Oprah and the Battle for George Square
We shouldn’t pretend that the display of violence in George Square, the police complicity, the ‘exposure’ of racism within the Royal family or the impulses of Brexit are separate and distinct phenomena. They are not. Once again it’s worth joining the dots between hyper-British nationalism, race hate and sectarianism.
Oprah Winfrey might be shocked at Meghan’s revelations that there were “concerns and conversations” within the palace about their son Archie and “how dark his skin might be when he’s born” – but the rest of us were not.
This is a family soaked in colonialism and empire whose entire reason for being is about the continuity of blood line and dynasty over time – and whose entire premise is feudal hierarchy.
There is of course the multiple recent examples of explicit racism from within the Windsor family, and the well-known wider history of links to fascism – the famous film from 1933 showing the Queen, and her sister Margaret, joining their mother and their uncle, Edward, the Prince of Wales, performing a Nazi salute; in 1936 when King George V dies he is succeeded by his eldest son, Prince Edward – shortly after Edward’s accession, the German embassy in London sent a cable personally to Hitler, it read: “An alliance between Germany and Britain is for him [the King] an urgent necessity”; in 1937 the former King Edward and his wife – now the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – paid a visit to Nazi Germany, there they meet Hitler and dine with his deputy, Rudolf Hess, and visit a concentration camp; in 1938 the England football team give the Nazi salute to the crowd at Berlin’s Olympic stadium.
All of which can and will be endlessly excused and conveniently contextualized, but, as Sam Kriss points out, there’s much more: “There was Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry and Secretary of State for Air, who was a frequent visitor to Nazi Germany, where he met with Hitler, Himmler, Göring, Hess, and other beswastika’d hosts. There was the Right Club, a pro-Nazi group within the aristocracy and political class whose members (including MPs and the 5th Duke of Wellington) greeted each other with “Perish Judah,” cheerfully trilling their commitment to the extermination of European Jews. And there were long and deep links between MI5 and the Gestapo, who carefully coordinated their actions against Communism and similar threats to the white race.”
Anyway, back to George Square, the symbolic location for so many moments of political drama.
Why there? Why not Ibrox?
Because this was a show of force, not just a ‘celebration’. No other location would do.
This was a display of power, endorsed by the club, ignored by the media and colluded-in by the police.
— paul mitchell (@paulMitchell20) March 7, 2021
The double-standards are staggering. At a peaceful socially-distanced and stewarded UN anti-racism day event in George Square last June members of the Green Brigade were kettled and marched off to a different part of the city. Yesterday the police did exactly the opposite, marching the Rangers fans into the city centre.
Compare that to scenes at #GeorgeSqare yesterday.
Brexitland Britain, Brexitland Glasgow
And the stench of Brexit lies behind much if this fervor billowing like red white and blue smoke across George Square.
Crowds are setting off red, white and blue flares despite a plea from police and the Scottish Government to stay at home. pic.twitter.com/qrYDROl1MH
— Radio Clyde News (@RadioClydeNews) March 7, 2021
As I wrote in 2019 (‘Flutes in Whitehall, Fascists on the Streets’):
“The arrival of the Livingston True Blues Flute Band in Whitehall with their Confederate flag brings the two referenda of 2014 and 2016 neatly together. The same people who rioted in Glasgow the day after the referendum result in 2014 were present in Whitehall at the Leave Means Leave rally. While the media wrung its hands about an egg thrown at Jim Murphy, Better Together supporters organised a full-on riot. As the outpouring of white nationalism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia and racism mingled in a spew of hate in London yesterday, the ascendancy of the far-right into the mainstream is complete. As the state shudders in the harsh light of self-inflicted national humiliation and constitutional crisis, British fascism needs the tunes of the Loyalist bands to dance to. Even the Daily Record reports: “Brexit nightmare may yet get darker as far right seeks to reap dividend from broken politics”.
Of course it should be said that not all Rangers fans are motivated by royalism, unionism or racism. Not all Rangers fans are loyalists, many decent fans just support the football team and want rid of all this. But many are complicit by their silence. The club has proved completely incapable of ridding itself of this profitable sub-culture which it quietly nurtures. The club – normally not shy of issuing statements – was completely silent yesterday.
Other excuses are that there would have been a riot if the police did anything else, which itself sounds like a city that can’t be controlled. If there are forces in Glasgow that threaten violence in numbers and are beyond the powers of the police then that is a remarkable state of affairs in 2021. Is that what we are seriously saying? It seems it is.
Others have said that this was just (mostly young) football fans blowing off steam after a year of lockdown. Are we really saying that a display of male violence can dominate and threaten a city centre whenever we like? It seems we are.
We know that the ultra-Unionist Rangers fans venerate the Queen and the Monarchy, but as the Irish News reported in 2015 (`Billy Boys’ link to the Ku Klux Klan‘) the links between loyalism and racism are explicit:
“A HIGH profile Scottish loyalist who took part in Twelfth marches in Belfast in the 1930s, went on to start a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Glasgow. Billy Fullerton led a notorious gang, the Brigtown Boys, whose signature tune was “The Billy Boys”, an infamous sectarian song which was associated with the Orange Order and Rangers Football Club. The song, which includes the line: “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood”, was banned from football grounds by the Scottish government in 2011. Born in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow, Fullerton formed the Brigton Billy Boys, an anti-Catholic gang from Bridgeton Cross, in 1924. At its height, the gang had 800 members. According to reports, Fullerton led the Bridgeton Purple and Crown Flute Band which marched during the Twelfth in Belfast in the 1930s. When the Billy Boys went into decline in the late 1930s, Billy Fullerton joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and went on to start a Glasgow branch of the Ku Klux Klan.”
The incident raises fundamental questions about who owns public space and if Glasgow – and Scotland – can ever change. It raises fundamental questions about public safety in a pandemic and the tolerance for threat and violence. The incident not just threatens to upset the corona virus recovery in Glasgow, but also undermines events like the forthcoming Euros.
The excuses are already being made, and the tendency to say ‘nothing to see here’ will be put into play. With a pliant and useless broadcast media and politicians seemingly unwilling (or unable) to investigate policing, this will continue. Many in Scottish society will look on in despair as a city is trashed. All we can do is continue to join the dots between hyper-British nationalism, race hate and sectarianism.