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Which leaves us with the question where do we stand now?

I had the question of the nature of British identity rather thrust on me by the mere fact that I come from Northern Ireland and of course Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom whose 'British' identity is in dispute.

There are, as we all know, two main national identities in Northern Ireland, one that identifies with Britain and one that identifies with Ireland as a country morally and culturally independent of Britain. By family tradition I belonged to the British side of this confrontation but I would have been perfectly free in my own mind to change that allegiance. I had to make a choice and, once having made it, to defend it.

It was about 1972 that I was forced by the sheer horror of the evolving situation to make that choice - to engage in a political response - and it seemed to me obvious at the time that the more attractive option was the British one. What was attractive about the British option was basically a Marxist understanding of British history which saw the whole history of the previous 100 or 150 years as a steady advance in the power of the working class. By the 1970s it seemed obvious that the working class, organised through the trade unions, was the most powerful force in society and therefore was on the verge of becoming the ruling class in a way much closer to the original vision of Marx than 1917 in Russia, a country in which the party that claimed to represent the working class was forced to do the work - the creation of an industrial society, the conversion of a peasant population into a proletariat - that was supposed, according to Marxist theory, to have been done already by the bourgeoisie.

I didn't come from a working class background, nor had I particularly identified myself in University in the late sixties as a Socialist. But in the 1970s, the situation of the working class on the verge of becoming a ruling class struck me as the most interesting and exciting phenomenon, and it was much more highly developed in Britain than it was in Ireland.

I returned to University in England, in Cambridge in the mid 1970s and helped to organise a 'Cambridge Workers Control Group' which existed to argue for implementation of the Bullock Report on Industrial Democracy, which I saw as the culmination of a century of working class struggle, the pivotal moment when the working class - the real working class, not a political party claiming to be acting on behalf of the working class - took responsibility for the management of its own affairs. And of course it was right that this should happen in Britain, the country Marx had studied in detail as the most advanced industrial capitalist economy.

The thinking behind all this is developed in some detail on my 'Labour Values' website.

At the time I was based in Peterhouse, which was one of the intellectual centres of what became the Thatcherite revolution. I was aware of this and on friendly terms with some of the players in that Thatcherite revolution. I didn't see them as a threat. I saw them as nostalgic utopians entirely out of touch with the realities of modern British society.

It certainly wasn't them who were responsible for the defeat of the Bullock Report. It was the working class itself through its representatives in the trade union movement. They were offered positive power and they didn't want it. To quote Hugh Scanlon, General Secretary of the AUEW, 'it is management's right to manage.' By this time of course the negative power of the working class was such that management was hardly able to manage, so much so that the CBI itself, in its submission to Lord Bullock's Commission of Inquiry, was making proposals for a degree of worker involvement in management which, in relation to what was possible at the time, seemed quite derisory, but would now appear positively revolutionary.

But with most of the trade union leaders and the British left opposing them, the Bullock proposals were, in the event, dropped. It seemed to me at the time that British history no longer made any sense. The organised working class had marched right up to the top of the hill and then, not exactly marched but rather, in the events of the 1980s, scattered back down again. They lacked that particular quality possessed by the bourgeoisie in the nineteenth century - the will to power. Instead of a working class revolution (and I never envisaged this happening on a 1917 bloody, overthrow of the existing order, model) we had the Thatcherite revolution, supported by a large section of working class opinion sickened by the anarchy of the merely negative power exercise by the unions.