Television adverts for beer even went back to the territorial wars of feudal monarchs by recalling Shakespeare's Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt. The tabloids couldn't resist bringing up the, Falklands/Malvinas War and even the Battle of Trafalgar got in on the act.
But none of it was surprising. One of the many crimes committed by the ruling capitalist classes in the imperialist countries has been the relentless cultural attack against the working class. Working class history and the courageous struggles of generations of working people against oppression are systematically sidehned and images of imperialist power are pushed to the fore.
Its purpose is to encourage working people to identify with the interests of the ruling class and, whenever it suits, to be willing to suffer and die in imperialist wars -- wars that are not of our making and which are fought to benefit the rich.
Centuries of colonialism and neo-colonialism also encouraged and sustained a legacy of racism and xenophobia. This enabled the ruling class to divide and rule the exploited working class both at home and abroad. Anh hand in glove with this the prevailing ruling class propaganda has sought to undermine working class consciousness and class solidarity.
At times of severe economic crisis, such as now, the anti-working class onslaught is stepped up in every way. This includes the efforts to confuse, weaken and divert the working class with cheap chauvinism and false consciousness.
Tragedies like the dreadful murder of Stephen Lawrence at the hands of racists are deeply shocking and there can be no excuses for those responsible for such terrible acts. At the same time we should recognise that racist violence and the twisted ideas of those who carry it out stem from an imperialist state steeped in both racism and violence.
The struggle against racism, in all its forms, is part and parcel of the class struggle itself. It is in the interests of the working class to do everything possible to overcome the divisive scourge of racism and strengthen our class by building unity and solidarity. Indeed it is a fight that can only succeed if it is spearheaded by the working class.
It is essential for the organisations of the working class -- the trade unions, working class parties and the progressive movement to put their assets at the disposal of this struggle and to play an active role in it.
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness appealed to the Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, within whose constituency (Upper Bann) the march route falls, "to speak to the people of the Garvaghy Road and their representatives" to resolve "an issue which is of great concern to the rest of us."
In a statement -- issued on the eve of the Monday Parades Commission decision -- Sinn Fein said "the very tiny number of Orange marches that are offensive to the nationalists should be re-routed away from nationalist areas." All Orange lodges voted against the Good Friday Agreement.
With around 3,000 marches a year, Sinn Fein said they nonetheless "uphold the right of the Orange Order to march...the vast majority of which take place in unionist areas and which people have no difficulty about at all."
David Trimble's response, following the Orange Order's High Court challenge to the decision last Monday, was to write an open letter to the nationalist Portadown residents -- the first contact he has ever made -- advising them not to oppose the Orange march "by physical means" from going down Garvaghy Road.
But two weeks ago the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan had said he recognised the lawful decisions of the Parades Commission. He was "absolutely determined that their decisions will be enforced on the ground."
Given the last three years of conflict in Drumcree, many residents are concerned that the RUC, which has yet to comment on the final ruling as we go to press, will on the day allow the march through the nationalist area.
Brendan Mac Cionnaith of the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition -- who invited David Trimble to visit last month -- replied suggesting the UUP leader also had a "responsibility for ensuring a peaceful and non-confrontational marching season." The invitation is still open, he said.
But speaking on Radio Four on Wednesday morning, as the Assembly convened for the first time David Trimble said the Parades Commission decision was "a predictable mistake".
He criticised "certain elements" on the Garvaghy Road that "have caused trouble in society in northern Ireland over the last three or four years". Accepting "responsible protest", the march should go ahead, he said.
But Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, speaking at a meeting of the Party's elected Assembly members, pointed the finger at the British government for "pandering" to David Trimble who, he said, was "shored up" during the referendum campaign. He said that the UUP leader needed to "give positive, fonvard looking leadership at this time" to change the position of the Orange Order.
Behind that, as Martin McGuinness pointed out at a London meeting last Sunday, is the British occupation. "The British government needs to recognise that demilitarisation is a very, very important element of the peace process.
"And what we're asking is that the British troops be removed from the streets, that the paraphenalia of war in the form of military fortresses and checkpoints be removed, that the British government actively show people on the ground that their day-to-day lives, in security terms, are going to change."
The Assembly convened Wednesday to confirm key posts: Lord Alderdice, who has just resigned as leader of the Alliance Party and was appointed Acting Speaker of the Assembly, is now confirmed in that position; David Trimble is Fist Minister and Seamus Mallon, deputy Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader -- rather than John Hume -- is Deputy First Minister.
The first formal moves in the Assembly's creation has begun; the substance and strength of pro-Agreement decision-making soon to follow. The elections strengthened the referendum showing, while the Unionist position has been split with suggestions of an anti-Agreement party being formed. The unionists, Gerry Adams said, had been "shattered" by the disension.
* The results -- UUP: 28; SDLP: 24; Democratic Unionist Party (DUP): 20; Sinn Fein: 18; Alliance: 6; UK Unionist: 5; Progressive Unionist Party (PUP): 2; Northern Ireland Women's Coalition: 2; Independent Unionist: 1; Ulster Unionist: 1; United UIster Unionist: 1.= 108 seats.
TRADE and Industry Secretary Margaret Beckett last week brought her long-awaited review of this country's long term energy policies to the House of Commons.
And she made it quite clear that the government is going to gamble on market forces to maintain Britain's coal industry.
When the Tories, earlier this decade, closed most of what remained of Britain's deep coal mines, Margaret Beckett's predecessor Michael Heseltine did a deal with the newly privatised power generating companies to ensure the future of the coal industry for another five years.
This meant that National Power and Powergen would buy 300 million tonnes of coal annually at above market prices.
Otherwise the coal industry was set to disappear completely because as soon as the electricity industry was privatised, the power generators had invested heavily in new gas-fired generating stations.
Britain has a good supply of natural gas which is comparatively cheap in the short term. But if it continues being used at the present rate it will start to run out in a couple of decades and by the year 2020 Britain will have to import 90 percent of its gas needs.
This will of course he very expensive in the long term but Powergen and National Power were driven only by next year's balance sheets, keeping shares up and providing fat cat salaries for its directors.
The Tory government then sold off what was left of the coal industry, mostly to RJB mining, at a very cheap price and with a lot of subsidy from the taxpayers.
Earlier this year RJB saw the end of Heseltine's five-year deal coming and demanded extra government subsidy and threatened to cut 5,000 jobs and close five pits because it could not guarantee sales of coal.
The new Labour government extended the five-year deal for a few months, pending the result of this energy review. It refused to give RJB anymore government subsidy.
Margaret Beckett's new package will allow the power generating companies -- now joined by Eastern Power -- to make whatever deals they want with RJB or any other coal producer.
But there will be heavy restrictions on the building of any new gas-fired power stations. Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded Ms Beckett not to make the ban total but generally speaking new consents will be given only in exceptional circumstances.
This policy seems rather hollow since just last Monday the government gave the go-ahead for a £400 million gas power station to be built in the Thames estuary at Damhead Creek by the New Orleans based company Entergy.
But the government believes its measures should keep RJB in business. Last year it sold 27 million tonnes to generators. So far this year it has won contracts for only 13.1 million tonnes but Beckett's package is likely to lift this to between 20 million and 25 million tonnes for next year.
Ms Beckett has also ordered the power companies to sell off some of their assets to increase competition in the industry, or face an investigation by the monopolies commission.
She believes this will lead to greater use of coal in the long
National Power is outraged at this and has made it clear it is not prepared to comply with the government's policies -- a confrontation which should illustrate clearly where the power lies in this country between the elected government and the transnational giants.
And Powergen is busy buying up the east Midlands electricity supply company.
The privatised nuclear industry does not seem likely to expand but this is not certain, given that when it was privatised all the heavy expenses of decommissioning old and dangerous stations was taken on by the government leaving the privatised part appearing to be more commercially viable that it really is.
Various recent scandals around the nuclear industry at Dounreay and Sellafreld have taken some of the shine from its prospects.
The other major factor in the equation is the development of open-cast mining. This has been growing and produces cheap coal because it employs very few people.
But it devastates the environment, using giant machinery to literally chew its way through mountains and valleys to reach the coal.
It creates enormous levels of dust and does nothing to preserve jobs or the coal mining communities.
Margaret Beckett has included no measures to curb this and has incurred a lot of criticism from environmental groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.
The open-cast mining company Celtic own six pits in South Wales. It employs 350 full-time workers and 600 sub-contractor (casual) workers -- who have no union protection.
Last year it produced 2.5 million tonnes at an average cost of less than £25 per tonne -- compared to the world market average of £30.
It is already undercutting RJB in making deals with the generators.
This laissez-faire government policy means this trend can only continue and we shall see more coal fields swallowed up and spat out by the monster machines.
No jobs have been secured and Britain's long-term energy requirements remain at the mercy of the markets.
But the government is not in a position to enforce any stricter
controls on the various privatised industries. Effective control only comes
with ownership -- that means renationalisation of the whole lot.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his supporters have denounced Weizman for singing an Arab tune and Netanyahu has made it clear that he intends to serve out his full four year term.
The President has no power to dissolve parliament but Weizman's outburst reflects a deepening frustration within Israel's ruling circles and beyond at peace process log-jam -- entirely due to Netanyahu's intransigence.
Over the past few weeks Netanyahu has been fluttering around with ideas designed to distract the Israeli public and mollify his Western mentors. First he said he would hold a referendum on the US proposals for a further 15 per cent Israeli pull-back from the West Bank. That's now been quietly dropped. Then he called for a new "Madrid 2" peace conference to start the whole rigmarole over again from the beginning. But when he found he had no takers nothing more was said of it.
On the other hand two other conferences not to Netanyahu's liking
are also being mooted -- an Arab summit which the Americans would not like
to see -- and an Egyptian-French bid for a conference to discuss the
breakdown in the peace process, which can only have one conclusion.
Now Arab summits are very rare events and summit conclusions even rarer. But US imperialism is always wary of any move which could produce an all-Arab consensus on Palestine. At the moment the usual Kuwait arguments on the issue of Iraqi participation are holding up progress but the Americans and the Israelis will be more concerned at the Egyptian-French move which would lead to further isolation of Tel Aviv.
American Middle East strategists are now caught in a dilemma of their own creation. They staved-off Arab criticism by pushing for a substantial Israel third-stage pull-out and prolonged a "peace process", which in fact was not taking place, for over six months.
Of course, the time must come for something to happen. But Netanyahu and his Arab-hating supporters don't want to give the Palestinians a further inch and the White House doesn't want to force him to do otherwise. That at least was the position last week. Perhaps things are changing now.
Ezer Weizman, like many Israeli Labour Party leaders, has close ties with the American ruling class. His public call for new elections -- the only way to bring about a change of government in Israel -- may reflect increasing American impatience with Netanyahu, who at the end of the day is just the leader of one of their client states in the region.
DOREEN and Neville Lawrence wailed five long and difficult years for last Monday when for the first time the five white youths strongly suspected of the racist murder of their son were forced to give evidence on oath.
Unfortunately it was only to an inquiry into the police investigation of Stephen's murder and not to a court of law.
And the five had managed to delay their appearance at the inquiry by challenging their summons in court. They succeeded in getting an injunction which prevented them being asked the most important question of all -- were they guilty of the stabbing, in Eltham south London in April 1993.
The inquiry has produced some startling revelations about the bungled -- or sabotaged -- police investigation and many emotionally charged moments.
But predictabiy the appearance of the five suspects was the climax. Hundreds of supporters of the Lawrence family gathered at the Elephant and Castle where the inquiry is being held.
Anti-racist organisations had warned people in advance that the room could only accommodate 250 public spectators -- the rest would have to wait outside but that the Lawrence family would welcome their support anyway.
The angry scenes as the five arrived were expected. But they did not help as, for a short while, clashes with police outside the event threatened to take the media spotlight away from the five youths and let them off the hook -- yet again.
An organised group from the black separatist group The Nation of Islam clashed with the police who used CS gas.
Sir William McPherson, chairing the inquiry, ordered the room to be cleared just as the first of the suspects had started to be questioned.
Doreen and Neville Lawrence themselves had to appeal for calm. They had some words of criticism for the police is using excessive violence against the crowd and in particular using CS gas.
Neville Lawrence told a rally after Norris had given evidence: "Yet again I have had to sit there and listen to people peddle lies and there was nothing I could do. Then I had to sit here and watch these people walk away."
The five left the building still defiant and spoiling for a fight with the crowd outside.
A lawyer for the five gave the Lawrence family a hand-written statement in which they denied all guilt and expressed sympathy for the bereaved Lawrence family.
The tone of the statement was in complete contradiction to the demeanour of the youths and Neville Lawrence pointed out there was doubt that it had actually come from them.
He pointed out that if they really had been innocent, they would not have tried to avoid having to appear at the inquiry. They would have welcomed the chance to answer all questions and tell the world what they really were doing that night.
The statement denying guilt had only come when it was too late for them to be cross examined on it. The five have escaped conviction so far but they have not escaped the Lawrence famiiy and their supporters' determination to pursue them until they admit guilt and show real remorse.
The inquiry still has a long way to go with much evidence yet to be heard -- especially about the influence of organised neo-Nazi groups like the British National Party in that part of south London.
But the guilt for the climate of racism does not lie only with these tiny bands of cranks. Many of our tabloid newspapers with their continual attacks on "bogus" asylum seekers and their rabid irrational nationalism are just as much to blame.
The recent world cup matches have led to the whipping up of an almost hysterical fever of nationalism and hostility to other teams.
Most people take it all with a pinch of salt and good humour but a few get carried away and a few is enough to be dangerous.
The Lawrence Family are fighting this scourge of racism with courage and determination while our gutter press is creating the climate where such murders could easily happen again.
Eventually a video link was set up so that those who could not enter could at least see what was happening -- a link which Doreen Lawrence had asked for before.
The youths themselves -- David Norris, Jamie Acourt, Neil Acourt, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson -- had arrived in cocky defiant mood, exchanging insulting gestures with the crowd.
One carded a newspaper folded provocatively to reveal a large back page headline saying "It'll be all white on the night" -- a reference to football colours.
But when called to the witness stand each one in turn clammed up. They stonewalled completely, answering either "No" or "I don't remember" to just about every question.
All but Norris claimed they were not racist -- in spite of police video evidence showing them referring to "niggers" and "Pakis" and waving large knives about.
The video had been shot secretly in 1994 and featured Neil Acourt, Norris, Knight and Dobson. Jamie Acourt had been in prison at the time.
Michael Mansfield QC, acting for the Lawrence family at the inquiry, referred to a part of the video transcript, at a point where Neil Acourt stuck a knife into the arm of a chair and said: "You rubber-lipped ****. I reckon that every nigger should be chopped up mate and they should be left with nothing but stumps . .. "
Mr Mansfield asked Neil Acourt if he was shocked. He replied: "I ain't shocked. It was nothing to do with me."
Mr Mansfield asked him about his arrest in 1993 in possession of a lock knife. Acourt replied that it had been in his car to cut wires when he fitted a new stereo.
He denied the evidence of another witness earlier that he had
threatened a black youth with a large knife at a local football club.
David Norris was asked if he knew of the criminal links of his father, Clifford Norris, now in prison for drug smuggling and possession of a firearm.
Mr Mansfield asked him if he knew of attempts by Clifford Norris to buy-off a man allegedly stabbed and seriously injured by David Norris.
He denied all knowledge of this and of any other attempts by his father to exercise an "influence" over the police investigation into Stephen Lawrence's death.
Three of the youths: Neil Acourt, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson, had been charged with the murder when the family tried to bring a private prosecution against them.
The judge threw the case out because vital identification evidence from Stephen's friend Duwayne Brookes had been sabotaged by police mismanagement of the case.
They cannot be charged with murder again and are officially declared innocent. But they could still be charged with perjury if they are found to have lied either in court or to this inquiry.
The other two could still be charged with murder or perjury.
But their answers were so terse and negative it will be difficult
to prove they were lying to the inquiry. They had been carefully advised.