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Vol 5-No 12
Friday 17th October 2008
E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
2) Forty Years On
3) Falling apart at the seams.
4) Aidan Hulme
5) What’s On
Forty Years On
The fortieth anniversary of the historic October 1968 civil rights march in Derry took place recently on October 5th. While some of the veterans of those days were swanking around the Guildhall in Derry that weekend mixing with Presidents, Noble Peace Prize winners and getting insulted by DUP Minister, Gregory Campbell, two protests took place that put the so called gains of the past forty years into perspective.
On the Saturday at lunchtime outside the Guildhall (where I joined them) a small group of Republicans held a protest as the President of the 26 counties Mary Mc Aleese arrived for the civil rights celebrations. The republicans, who are referred to as “Dissidents” by those who have bought into administering British rule in Ireland, were protesting about the abuse of power by the political police in the 26 counties against four Derry republicans. I did not see any of the so-called veterans of the civil rights movement come out to join in the protest. This despite the fact that draconian laws still exist and are still used by the political police north and South of the border. Nor was there any sign of the so called socialist groups in Derry who are so quick to organise a picket, march or protest if Imperialism acts in far off countries the way it does in Ireland.
But then that is not surprising. The respectable wing of the civil rights movement never wanted any thing to do with anything that smelt of radicalism. People like Brid Rogers did not want either republicans or communists on the civil rights committees in the late sixties. John Hume advised against both the October the 5th March 1968 and the Bloody Sunday march January 30th 1972 and stayed away from both marches. However when the catholic middle classes saw the angry of the catholic working class, against the injustices suffered from even before the founding of the northern Ireland state, expressed on the streets they jumped on the band wagon before the wagon left them far behind. There were also some republicans who advised against taking part in the civil rights movement. It was a distraction from the national struggle. They went on to split the republican movement and founded the provisional republican movement. Some of them today have now false memory syndrome of the “leading role” they played in the civil rights struggle.
Those of us who argued then that the civil rights struggle was not just about the discrimination against the catholic /nationalist population but also needed to campaign against the economic barriers that bore heavier on the working classes whether unionist or nationalist, were derided as ultra –leftists. Those who denounced us were sections of the republican movement, that later took the Official Republican movement into the Workers Party, and the Communist Party of Northern Ireland who saw the political process as a linear movement going from one stage to another but only after all of one stage had been reached. So the struggle for democratic rights should not be distracted by either the struggles for national or economic rights.
Such a stance meant that the Unionist establishment could paint the civil rights movement as only a catholic front that threatened the privileges of the protestant working class then benefiting from first preferences choices of jobs in heavy industry and housing. Yet four of the five main demands of the civil rights movement were conceded fairly rapidly. The repressive Special Powers act was kept and then a whole series of repressive laws replaced it.
And yet forty years from October 5th 1968 over four hundred people took part in the second protest that weekend in 2008 when the North Belfast Civil Rights Association took to the streets on the same issue of housing that was so relevant to the civil rights movement forty years ago. (pictureshttp://rsmforum.proboards107.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=1878&page=1)
There was a large turnout of members of the IRSP and other republicans from a variety of groups as well as anarchists and those most directly affected by the lack of available housing in North Belfast. Unfortunately there was also no sign of those socialist groups such as the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party who it seems only want to protest when its safe. i.e. they don’t get identified with republicans or associated with issues that may be perceived as sectarian.
Three years ago the SDLP disclosed that people from a nationalist/catholic background made up 75% of those on the Housing Executive’s waiting list in North Belfast but only had 36% of the social housing allocation.
Today the figures for those on the housing list are nearer to 84% Catholic/ Nationalist. Areas like Ardoyne are bursting at the seams. Yet there is ample housing in North Belfast Rows of empty houses exist in North Belfast.
They are however in North Belfast nearly 25 interfaces with so-called peace walls and the empty houses are in areas that are perceived as protestant. There has been an outflow of protestant families from North Belfast. But because of the sectarian nature of politics in the North even the Housing Executive recognises these areas as “protestant” and refuses to allocate homes to Catholics. Unionist politicians have whipped up protestant fears of a catholic takeover and encroachment into “protestant” areas and created a climate of fear that inhibits genuine progressives within the protestant working class from identifying with the aims and objects of the N.B.C.R.A.
The Housing issue in North Belfast is the litmus test by which we judge if the Unionists who say they have embraced power sharing and other aspects of the Good Friday Agreement are really sincere. As yet no elected unionist has raised the chronic housing problem in North Belfast. The nature of the northern state dictates that politicians only have to cater for those “on their own side of the house”, ie catholics or protestants but not both. That is the essential reason why the IRSP rejected the Good Friday Agreement. It cemented sectarianism into the body politic. We maintain that only by the establishment of a Socialist Republic can the sectarianism that divides the working class be begun to be broken down.
But we are not afraid to take up causes that may appear to “offend” sections of the working class. The essential belief we bring to the housing issue is “need not creed.”
Communities groups working within nationalist communities have publicly expressed support for people on the Shankill campaigning for social housing in opposition to property speculators. No socialist or republican should hesitate to support working class people who are oppressed. We don’t ask their religion or the colour of their skin or what their sexual orientation is. Wherever there is injustice we should fight it.
Forty years on from the start of the civil rights struggle the same type of issues that confronted people then still exist today. It is not a time for self-congratulations as to what anyone did forty years ago, or award us medals, or plaques or badges for doing then what was right. The place for any republican or socialist or self-proclaimed Marxists is outside the Guildhall in Derry, in solidarity with political prisoners, protesting and marching against housing discrimination. On the streets in protest at the many injustices that still exist in this society. That is the real spirit of 68’.
Falling apart at the seams.
Last weekend the Euro politicians put together the biggest bank bailout in history. Just three days later and everything’s falling apart at the seams again. European shares tumbled. Falls of up to 7% took place in the value of shares. The $250bn from the Euro banks seemed to be of no value in stopping the collapse of the money markets. While the system is far from collapse it is now clear that we may be moving towards a worldwide recession. It is undoubtedly the worst recession since the great depression in the 1930’s. Nine out of ten of the shares to fall the most are in resource stocks. Rio Tinto the mining company saw shares drop 17%in one day.
Rather than be grateful to Governments pouring money into the banks the bankers are now demanding that they be allowed to pay out dividends to their share holders. The British Prime Minister sunk £37bn into three banks to keep them afloat. The Irish Government guaranteed the survival of all the Irish based banks. The USA Government is handing over vast sums of money to financial firms virtually free.
And the bankers want more. That is the reality of capitalism. Having demanded for years a free market economy without any restraints or Government controls, the banks, when the shit hits the fan, want Government intervention in terms of money, ie taxpayer’s money but still want no Government regulation.
It is easy for the British prime Minister to blame "irresponsible" bankers. Yet it was he who for ten years presided over a period of cheap credit. Low interest rates may have been to stimulate the economy but a major affect was the creation of mountains of debt not only for financial institutions but also for the ordinary person in the street.
Credit cards were given out hand over fist to people who had no way of paying back the debts they accumulated. Every week homes were bombarded with gloss leaflets encouraging people to sign up to the latest offer from the credit card companies. TV and films pushed the consumer life style down people’s throats. Three foreign holidays a year was the norm, women should live like the WAGS and the men emulate the life style of the David Beckam’s of this world. Trade union values of solidarity and brotherhood and equality were derided. The individual consumer was king. Working class areas lost their sense of solidarity as the values of the free market were embraced by unemployed youth turned on the glorification of drug culture. Crime soared in working class areas and anti social behaviour drug taking knife culture and a callous disregard for our fellow humans took hold.
In the meantime it is the taxpayers in the main who will bear the main burden of the collapse of the system and the on set of recession. The budget introduced this week by the Irish Government will lower disposable incomes by 1%. VAT has been increased and a 1% levy on all incomes under Euros100, 000 is introduced and 2%for incomes over euros 100,000. Naturally there is no change in corporation tax.
Those set to experience the greatest losses in the coming year are those who lose their jobs, and have difficulty in finding new employment. Changes in the jobseekers allowance mean that the unemployed will now be worse off.
On top of that there has been a cull of Government agencies. One of the most prominent is the Combat Poverty agency now to be merged into the Department of Social and Family Affairs. A thorn in the side of the Government in the past with regular critiques of policy the agency now loses its independence and one doubts any more criticisms of policy. There were tax increases across the board, on income, Vat and duty rates. There were cutbacks in public services. One commentator speaking of the budget said
“If you leave aside the elderly, the women and the children, no-one else feels any pain.”
Two years ago the Republic’s economy was booming and the government had more money than it could spend. Now it is bust.
House prices in the south are down more than 10 per cent in the past year.
Meanwhile in the North the unemployment numbers have raised by 1200 the biggest increase in 22 years. Most of the job losses are from the construction industry. However the North’s economy is relatively better off in comparison with both the 26 counties and Britain due to the high number of public sector jobs. However the % of people, who are economically inactive, is a staggering 26.7 % the highest of all UK regions.
What is happening to European economies has to be seen in an international context.
“Over the past year, the number of hungry people in the world increased from some 850 million to 925 million, as a direct result of higher food and energy prices. Since early 2007, protests about high food prices and general living costs have occurred in almost 60 countries, with violence occurring in more than 20 of these. The current crisis will push the number of hungry people to well over one billion, about one-sixth of the world's population.”
The costs of hunger are not sufficiently widely known. Half of the almost 10 million children under the age of five who die annually do so from a combination of malnutrition and easily preventable disease. Tens of millions of children suffer from physical and mental stunting as a result of chronic malnourishment of pregnant women and children under two years. The costs in terms of lost human potential and economic development of countries are enormous. (Tom Arnold is chief executive of Concern Worldwide)
The poorest of the poor spend 50-70 %of their income on food and live on less than 50 cents a day. Very few of the promises made by richer nations to help the hungry have translated into action.
That is why it is so important for republicans in Ireland to not only examine and understand the reasons for the current crisis in capitalism but also to take, a view point not from a narrow nationalist perspective, but to look at the whole issue from an internationalist perspective.
Long derided and almost forgotten about by the intelligentsia of the world because of the failure of Stalinism and the collapse of the totalitarian Eastern regimes the ideas of Karl Marx are now once more coming back to prominence.
“The history of all hitherto existing society 
“The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.”
“Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other -- bourgeoisie and proletariat.”
“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.”
“The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere money relation.”
“The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. “
“Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.”
The following leaflet was handed out in Derry on Behalf of Aidan Hulme recently. As a result of that and pressure by a wide range of organisations and individuals an assurance was given by the authorities that Aidan will have a consultant assessment before the end of month and there will be a consultant led care management plan in place. Gangrene is not present in his foot and an agreed care package is now put in place. The OC of the wing will have access to all visits by the doctor as well as visits by the Governor, which gives an opportunity to monitor the progress over the coming weeks.
The working together of all those who aspire to a different kind of Ireland than exists today show what could be achieved when we unite in action. While we all have our differences there are many things we can and should unite on in the spirit of the Broad Front advocated by Seamus Costello.
Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association
Alarming concern has been expressed for the continuing medical condition of republican prisoner Aidan Hulme in Portlaoise Prison. Following a visit from a Doctor it was observed that Aidan’s toes on his injured leg had turned black giving rise to fears of possible gangrene. The Doctor relayed to the Prison Governor that Aidan should be seen by a Consultant in this field as a medical imperative. The Governor has stated that Aidan’s case would be prioritised but as of yet no decisive action has been taken.
Aidan is currently on twenty-one tablets a day and requires the use of Morphine Patches to alleviate pain. His complexion has turned yellow which may indicate liver damage as a result of the high dosage of medication. He is currently confined to bed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
The Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association urges all republican and socialist groups to campaign vigorously to ensure Aidan’s medical needs are urgently met. We will be petitioning Minister Dermot Ahern to intervene immediately so that Aidan can receive the proper medical attention in a proper medical facility.
Why was Kevin Murray allowed to die?
Irish Republican POW Kevin Murray (48) had been serving a 12-year sentence at Portlaoise Prison, Ireland; when early in 2001 he began to complain of severe headaches and dizziness. Repeated visits to the prison doctor did not alleviate his increasingly severe headaches, or lead to proper medical attention to his very rapidly deteriorating physical health. In mid-September of 2001, after a great deal of protest by fellow POWs and family and friends outside of the prison, Kevin was finally moved to an outside hospital to receive desperately needed medical attention for what was found at that late stage to be a massive brain tumor. By this time, however, his condition had become inoperable; and he was transferred almost immediately from Beaumont Hospital to a hospice care facility near his family in Dundalk.
Kevin was administered last rites in early October after suffering a stroke, which left him blind. Several weeks later, on Tuesday, November 13th, Kevin lost his long struggle for life. Kevin Murray died a few short weeks after finally being released from Portlaoise prison for the emergency hospital care, which had been requested, by himself, his family, and his fellow prisoners for several months prior to his death.
Duty of care:
We firmly believe that the Irish Government and the Irish prison service have failed in their duty of care to ensure the basic human rights of adequate medical treatment to Irish Republican POW’s, resulting in the death of Kevin Murray and the deteriorating health of Aidan Hulme. We would urge people to express their concern and contact Department of Justice, Dermot Ahern, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform,94 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2 Phone: + 353 1 602-8202 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trade union Notes
New rates will be implemented from 7 October 2008 as follows:
National Minimum Wage
Adult rate - £5.73
18-21 year old rate - £4.77
Under 18 rate - £3.53.
Tuesday October 21st at 7 pm.
Belfast Salon explores the new politics of Northern Ireland.
“Arranged marriage or meeting of minds?”
The transformation of Provisional Republicanism from anti state insurgency to partners in Government is often described as a form of political rehabilitation, where, through skilful management and against all the odds, those at the margins are brought into the fold of mainstream politics.
Rejecting the so-called ‘great man’ or ‘betrayal’ approach to history and locating Irish republicanism in a global political context, a new book- The New Politics of Sinn Fein- draws parallels between the movement’s accommodation with the British state, its embrace of identity politics and the broader decline of universalist forms in contemporary politics.
The Belfast Salon will discuss these ideas with author Kevin Bean, looking at the redefinition of republicanism in the context of ideological changes that have taken place across the political spectrum over the past 20 years.
Tuesday October 21st at 7 pm.
Upstairs at the Spaniard, Skipper Street, Belfast
29 October, Wednesday 5-6,
‘Writing the history of the Official Republican Movement Dr Brian Hanley (QUB) Seminar Room 1, Governance Building, 53-67 University Road Belfast
Wednesday 29 October7:00pm
The Future Together is hosting a public debate on in the Lansdowne Court Hotel, Antrim Road. Belfast This will be an opportunity to have your say and discuss the educational arguments on the future of education.
This is a public event that commences at and will finish promptly at 9:00pm.
Sir Ken Bloomfield and Professor Tony Gallagher will be contributors to the debate. All political parties will also be represented.
WEDNESDAY, 5 NOVEMBER 2008 6 P.M. to 8 P.M.AN EVENING
WITH ANTHONY MCINTYRE - Ausubo Press celebrates its New Book Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism by Anthony McIntyre is an indispensable book for anyone wanting to understand the Sinn Fein peace process from an Irish Republican perspective. Anthony McIntyre and Ausubo Press look forward to the pleasure of your company at a congratulatory gathering celebrating the publication of his new book, Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism.
SAVE THE DATE! Please join us on: WEDNESDAY, 5 NOVEMBER 2008 6 P.M. to 8 P.M. The Linen Hall Library, The Northern Room 17 Donegall Square North Belfast BT1 5GB, Northern ireland.com
RSVP by contacting publicity@ausubopre ss.com
"McIntyre's book should be read by anyone with an interest in modern Irish republicanism. " Richard English
An Ausubo Press book www.ausubopress. com