a former combatant from within the ranks of loyalism
our first and primary concern is for the those unfortunate
people from both traditional communities who have
suffered injury, trauma and loss of property as
a result of interface violence. It is unacceptable
that eight years into a so-called peace process
and four years into devolved government people are
still suffering as a result of violence within and
across interface communities.
has been said by a number of political activists
that the Belfast Agreement is panning out as a middle
class agreement which has nothing to offer the working
and workless classes in both traditional communities.
That is only partially true. If the unionist and
nationalist middle classes can unite to carve up
the social and economic benefits of devolved government
for their own people, surely those of us from both
traditions who feel marginalised and excluded from
those benefits ought to be coming together in a
bond of working class solidarity. But we don't.
We put tribal prejudices above our common social
and economic interests and continue to beat the
crap out of each other. That is our fault, not the
fault of the middle classes who are manipulating
the implementation of the Agreement for their own
within marginalised communities is being cynically
manipulated and exploited by those who play the
"Orange" and "Green" cards as
a means of maintaining the divisions that are necessary
for a continuation of tribal voting patterns and
party political domination. Party domination requires
maximising votes, which in turn requires developing
and expanding the electoral base, which in turn
requires either expanding or holding on to territory.
Is it any wonder then that territory lies at the
heart of most interface violence?
potential the Belfast Agreement might have had to
facilitate political accommodation and conflict
transformation has been undermined by an implementation
process that is becoming more and more corrupt as
the weeks go by. It is a process that is rooted
in manipulation, half-truths and outright lies.
Meanwhile at grass roots level inter-community relations
have gone into a downward spiral with more and more
ordinary people drawing back into their respective
constitutional struggle (that lay at the heart of
the armed conflict) has been replaced by a struggle
for political dominance at both Assembly and local
government level, and that this foments as much
hatred, prejudice and hurt as the armed conflict
did. There will be no recognition of the fact that
this struggle for political dominance requires territorial
gains and creates interface tension and conflict.
There will be no acknowledgement that community
relations and conflict transformation initiatives
have been deliberately starved of adequate resources.
make no apology for the lengthy quotes. They come
from a loyalist who originally supported the Good
Friday Agreement. He now shares a view of the GFA
that echoes what the IRSP/INLA said when the Agreement
was first made. This movement said among other things
that the GFA institutionalised sectarianism and would
only benefit the middle classes.
a convergence of views is not coincidental. The IRSP
always said that that the class issues could not be
divorced from the national issues. Class struggle
has a way of breaking through even in the most unlikely
places. There is a ferment of ideas and debates taking
place among some elements of loyalism that raises
serious questions for socialists within the Republican
tradition. Just what is our position on the protestant
they planters or 'colons'? Are they really deluded
Irishmen and women who one day will recognise their
inherent Irish-ness? Are they irreformable sectarian
and incapable of accepting equality? Are they a different
race, a different nation, a different breed?
ask such questions is to fall into a trap of restricted
thinking - restricted because it accept the limits
that Imperialism set out originally. By searching
for the differences we confirm the differences between
Catholics and Protestants, between unionists and nationalists.
And we forget from whence Republicanism first came
Wolfe Tone and his comrades in the United Irishmen
developed the ideology of Irish Republicanism it was
an internationalist political ideology. Inspired by
both the Revolt of the American Colonies from British
rule and the French Revolution the early founders
of Irish Republicanism were internationalist in outlook.
They saw themselves as citizens of the world and wished
to see liberty, equality and fraternity established
on a world-wide basis. In wanting to see Catholic,
Protestant and Dissenter unite under the common name
of Irishmen Tone did not elevate being Irish over
any other nationality.
the defeat of the United Irishmen created a vacuum
and in stepped a new vision of Irish nationalism inspired
by middle class conservatives like Daniel O'Connell
and Thomas Davis who recreated the image of Irish-ness
a million miles away from the Republicanism of Tone.
Later generations merged a narrow nationalism into
a republicanism which today is best espoused by Provisional
Sinn Fein. Undoubtedly that nationalism had an impact
on some republicans. The founder of Sinn Fein Arthur
Griffith and Patrick Pearse were just two people more
in tune with the vision of Thomas Davis rather than
have always existed within Republicans between those
on the right more influenced by nationalism and those
on the left more influenced by internationalism and
socialism. Left Republicans in struggling for a Republic
are affirming the right of self-determination for
the Irish people without making any concessions to
a narrow inward looking nationalism. It is those on
the left of republicanism who have anything relevant
to say to the protestant working class in the North.
consequence of the fusion of nationalism into republicanism
was that Protestants who considered themselves British
had no affinity or feel for Irish nationalism. They
saw no benefit for themselves in associating with
a narrow nationalism that at times had elements of
racism in it. This in turn, in the eyes of some Unionists
justified their own racism, and confirmed their faith
in all the worst traits of the British Empire.
need to break with nationalism. The claim by PSF spokespersons
that they are the largest nationalist party is an
indication how that Party has moved away from Republicanism.
The IRSP are proud of our republicanism, our socialism
and our internationalism. We believe that there will
inevitably be a break from the sectarianism that Imperialism
has fostered in Ireland and that workers will unite
on class issues. Those class issues are already breaking
through as evidenced by the quotes that began this
assembly established as part of the peace process¹,
represents not an attempt to solve the problems facing
working class people of all backgrounds, but a scheme
to share power between representatives of the main
sectarian parties. It can never seriously address
the problems of working class people, not the day-to-day
vital problems of health, housing and education, nor
the wider questions of the border and the national
IRSP have consistently explained from the beginning
of the "peace process", the Good Friday
Agreement, and the institutions of devolution associated
with it, could never begin to solve the problems facing
working class people no matter what their background.
It promised peace to the communities of Catholic and
Protestant workers, but was unable to deliver. It
was a lie. There has been no peace. Sectarian attacks,
beatings and killings have continued. The divide between
Catholics and Protestants has never been wider. This
gap was created and nurtured by British imperialism
in order to divide and rule, to protect their system
in Ireland from the threat of united working class
action. It is an unnatural growth. In carving Ireland
through partition British imperialism unleashed a
carnival of reaction just as James Connolly had predicted.
who created this mess are utterly incapable of solving
it. Instead of peace what they have built are lots
of "peace-lines" - brick walls, iron fences
and barbed wire to divide communities still further.
The British and Irish governments and the sectarian
parties all represent the past, they have nothing
progressive to say about the future.
agreements between sectarian politicians to share
ministerial responsibilities at Stormont cannot begin
to solve the underlying cause of this crisis. In reality
whilst remaining within the straitjacket of the capitalist
system, sectarian politicians and government officials
from Ireland and Britain have been trying to create
a better environment for big business to make money
in, a better environment in which to exploit Catholic
and Protestant workers alike. Because of the limits
imposed by the profit system, the Assembly cannot
build houses, hospitals and schools, create jobs or
eradicate poverty pay. These social conditions, which
are an inevitable fact of life in capitalist society,
serve to fuel sectarian division, fear and hate. Economic
recession fuelled by the Iraqi war will only serve
to magnify these problems.
agreement can ever meet the aspirations of the nationalist
community for a united Ireland, nor assuage the fears
of Protestants, stirred up by the sectarian parties.
Such agreements assume the continuation of a sectarian
divide; in fact they rest upon that division. Yet
in reality the national and social questions are inextricably
bound together. Capitalism can no more offer decent
housing or healthcare to the people of Ireland than
it can in Britain or anywhere else. None of these
problems can be resolved on the basis of capitalism.
never had the potential within it to solve anything
fundamental. Many people's hopes have been dashed
by the failures of the Assembly, and by its suspension.
Such a body could never begin to solve their problems.
New elections and a new period of ³power sharing²
at Stormont will inevitably raise these illusions
is a genuine and lasting peace to be achieved? The
only way to get peace is by dealing with the real
problems facing the people in their everyday lives.
This is the only way to tackle the social roots of
sectarianism. There was nothing in the Good Friday
Agreement that could achieve that, in fact there was
nothing progressive in it at all, and the IRSP did
not support it, although it got a majority in the
referendum. We were in a minority, but we were right.
most ordinary workers however the burning questions
have not been about decommissioning or policing boards
but the continuation of sectarian violence, the state
of housing, the war in Iraq and the continued destruction
of jobs. The industry of the north, which played a
key role (along with major political considerations)
in British imperialism's decision to carve up Ireland
in the past, has been decimated. Harland and Wolff,
the Belfast Company synonymous with shipbuilding has
officially become a small business.
the British government, nor the Irish government and
certainly not any of the sectarian politicians have
any solution to this crisis. All they can offer is
occasional false dawns followed by impasse and new
crises. The Irish bourgeois have no interest in uniting
with the North, which they see as poverty stricken
and politically explosive.
Unionists meanwhile will never accept any real step
towards uniting with the South on the basis of the
current system, as their opposition to the current
agreement demonstrates. So British imperialism is
stuck with the North, whether it likes it or not.
irony is that Britain would now like to withdraw.
They would like to get rid of the £4 billion
a year subsidy. Their problem is that the result would
be a bloodbath, the Catholics of West Belfast and
Derry would face a massacre and the violence would
not be confined to Ireland.
fostered by British imperialism as part of its divide
and rule tactic, has become an uncontrollable monster.
The failure of Stormont is proof once again that they
cannot solve the crisis they have created. They will
now try to put this ramshackle agreement back together
again. Even if they do cobble together new temporary
agreements between sectarian parties, this will offer
no solution to the problems of the working class.
Fein, the SDLP, the UUP and the rest may disagree
about the future of Ireland, but they do not disagree
over the continuation of capitalism, their economic
programmes have little between them. All for example
support privatisation in the guise of the PFI. Yet
trade unionists in threatened workplaces, in the fire
service, teachers, nurses, public and private sector
workers in general, are not represented at Stormont.
Class-consciousness has been thrown back and the majority
of working class people do not yet clearly see the
need to break from sectarian parties.
re-unification of Ireland is the unsolved task of
the national democratic revolution, which ought to
have been solved eighty years ago. But the bourgeoisie
can never solve it. They were the ones who created
the division. Only the coming to power of the working
class, as James Connolly explained a century ago,
can solve this problem. The IRSP are for the unification
of Ireland but Ireland will never be united until
the working class takes power north and south of the
united struggle of the Irish working class alone can
offer a future to Ireland. United in struggle the
working class of Ireland can sweep away the filth
and poison of sectarianism once and for all. All the
problems facing Irish workers are interconnected.
None of them, social or political, can be solved by
the market. Only an Ireland united by the struggle
for socialism alongside their British and European
brothers and sisters can begin to tackle all these
questions. None can be solved in isolation. The current
peace process created illusions for many that finally
the problems of Ireland could be solved. Those hopes
have been dashed time and again, and the same will
be the case in the event of a new period of Stormont
'rule'. The consequence will be new splits and divisions
amongst Republican and Unionist groups. Without the
intervention of the working class there will be a
new descent into chaos and violence. That can be stopped
by the spread of socialist ideas within both Catholic
and Protestant working class and will speed the day
of working class unity. The IRSP will play its part.
note: This is a not very original article printed
in the Starry Plough. It is of interest only if it
starts a debate that includes the republican left
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