Civic Nationalism is not "stupid"
The English Independence Party is an ethnic nationalist party set up after, or possibly during, the fall of the civic nationalist Free England Party. It joins the growing ranks* of other ethno-nationalist groups ranging from the England First Party, white nationalists; The BNP, British but in favour of an English 'Volk parliament'; United England Patriots and English Shieldwall, Anglo-Saxon revivalists, and; Steadfast and the English Lobby, both supporters of majority rights for the ethnic English.
There is overlap between these groups but ideologically speaking they are a somewhat disparate collection of ethno-nationalists. Some might be more correctly termed white-nationalists and others cultural-nationalists, but even the more culturally orientated delve into areas of race. The English Lobby, for example, has recently launched a petition to "preserve the White English ethnic group identity".
The other common link that these ethnic nationalists share is a dislike of, or lack of trust for, civic nationalists. So it's perhaps no surprise that new English Independence Party launched into an attack on English civic nationalism with one of the first posts to the English Independence Party blog (originally publically available but now hidden from view).
There's little point fisking this, it doesn't need it. But as a civic nationalist I do feel the need to reply and hopefully inject a bit of reason. I have some insight into ethnic nationalist insecurities through discussions with them on this blog, when they have come to inform me that I am an idiot and to tell me that only the ethnic English can be English. Ethnic nationalists understand 'civic nationalism' to be code for multiculturalism, and they feel that a civic, plural and inclusive English national identity will render Englishness as meaningless as they feel British identity has become. I don't share that insecurity. I want people from other races, religions and cultures that make England their home to feel a sense of belonging, to feel English. In my speech to the Convention on Modern Liberty I asked the audience to ask themselves three questions:
- What is my ethnic identity?
- What is my national identity?
- What is my state identity, my citizenship?
Given England's constitutional status it is perfectly possible, and unfortunately probable, that second, third or fourth generation immigrants will not answer "English" to any of those three questions. That's bad for England. My civic nationalism is about allowing people who are not ethnically English to feel English by national identity, which I hope will help instill a sense of pride in England's cultural heritage and collective national identity, despite the fact - or even because of the fact - that they are not ethnically English. I want to bring us together as a nation, not by being prescriptive, but by providing a gateway into a feeling for England through civic and democratic means. By railing against English civic nationalism as "stupid" the ethnic nationalists are not only a reaction to the multiculturalism they despise, they are an integral part of it. We have arrived at the position whereby each and every ethnic group competes for their 'rights', the logical endpoint of multiculturalism as described by Paul Kingsnorth:
Britain now is a ‘cosmopolitan’ society in which no one cultural identity has pre-eminence, and in which Englishness, Polishness and Bangladeshiness must compete on equal terms. The nation’s many ‘minorities’ are not to be integrated into mainstream society (‘integrated’ is such a problematic word; and anyway, what is the mainstream?) but fenced off, theoretically if not physically: defined as ‘BMEs’, afforded ‘protection’, treated as victims, spoken for. Descended from Pakistani immigrants but born in England? Sorry, you’re still ‘Pakistani’, or ‘Asian’ or’ ‘minority ethnic’. You can be British, if you like, because Britishness has been stripped of meaning and is therefore ‘inclusive’ – but you can never be English (or, presumably, Scottish or Welsh, though this gets less attention) because Englishness is ‘racially coded’. Attempts to define it are thus potentially racist; it’s best if the English just shut up about it and get on with ‘celebrating diversity’ instead.
Is a more inclusive English national identity a threat to the cultural identity of the ethnic English? I don't think so. It may undermine the racial coding of Englishness, but that would be no bad thing, and those ethnic nationalists who are more interested in protecting the cultural inheritance of England should think about the positive benefits of an immigrant population who respect - respect not tolerate - the ethnic English on the basis of a mutual respect and a shared national identity.
* To the starting list you might also add The English Defence League, but their ideology is somewhat unclear.
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There's something comical about today's Daily Express headline
It's probably something to do with how old-fashioned it sounds. As Ed West says "Monty Burns is the only person I've heard use the word 'ethnics'".
We're all ethnics these days, pigeon-ho
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