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Vol 5-No 5
Monday 28th April 2008
E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
1) 10 years on From the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement
2) The Incompatibility of Green and Orange
3) An analysis of the RIRA's attacks on the PSNI
10 years on From the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement
April 2008 was the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. In 1998 the Irish Republican Socialist Party opposed that Agreement mainly on the basis that it institutionalised sectarianism in the political institutions of the North.
“After thirty years of conflict, civil rights agitation and death destruction and mayhem the end result is that we have now got a more sophisticated head counting exercise. There is now no incentive for people to move away from entrenched sectarian positions”(Political Secretary’s Report to Ard-Feis 1998)
We also pointed out that the issue of sovereignty was so ringed around with pre-conditions and confusions that unionists and nationalists could interpret the issue of sovereignty in the agreement to suit their own political stance. We pointed out clearly that
"Northern Ireland in its entirety remains part of the United Kingdom"
(Article one of Annnex A of the agreement)
We queried whether the so- called equality agenda would in fact be implemented given that
“the deputy leader of the Unionists said that nationalists could not expect equal rights to unionist because unionists were the majority.”(Political Secretary’s Report to Ard-Feis 1998)
10 years there is still no bill of rights, no Irish Language Act, and the DUP resisting anything that smacks of a nationalist agenda.
We also pointed out that
“The cross border bodies are not moves towards unity. They are simply pragmatic responses towards the need for capitalist economic efficiency within the context of the European Union. (see below-from the media The border — economic asset for North and South) Does any one here think that improved co-operation on issues such as
’animal and plant health.. teachers qualifications and exchanges, waste management social security fraud control, aqua culture accident and emergency services’ (GFA)
was what the last thirty years was all about.?” (ibid)
We also did not believe that the RUC would be abolished or essentially reformed. We were wrong there. The RUC became the PSNI and many young catholics are now joining the PSNI with the strong encouragement of provisional Sinn Fein.
At that time we tried to tell the strong republican base that existed in
1998, that in essence the GFA was a defeat for republicanism and that rather than try to work the new institutions by jointly running the north with unionists, (in effect administering British rule,) republicans should form a legitimate opposition within the new assembly and oppose from both a republican and socialist positions the right wing policies being implemented under British direction whilst upholding the republican base positions.
Unfortunately few were prepared to listen to us. They were prepared to put their trust in the ‘republican leadership’. In the intervening 10 years many who once scorned our arguments have since come to realise that they were fooled by that same republican leadership and that our initial position was correct. There have been at least two splits from Provisional Sinn Fein since then and a fracturing of republicanism.
Clearly from a Republican perspective the republican position has suffered a serious defeat. MI5 now have a strong physical presence in North Down, British regiments are still stationed in the North of Ireland at the level they were in 1968, a regime still operates from Stormont administrating British rule and also implementing economic policies dictated by the British Treasury. Former armed combatants it is true are now involved in running that Administration and that has gripped the imagination of those with only a superficial analysis of politics. But the question has to be asked in whose interests are they administering British rule?
Supporters of the Good Friday Agreement especially from those who once took up arms against British rule point out the gains they claim made since the GFA. They point out that it covers a wide range of areas from
“constitutional issues, political matters, institutional arrangements, human rights, equality, policing, justice, language and culture issues.” (Gerry Adams Irish Times April 2nd 2008)
and that progress has been made on these fronts.
Yes. There have been changes. Now we have a vibrant catholic/ nationalist middle class now on an equal basis with protestant/unionist middle classes. In Adams own words there is now a “level playing field” (ibid)
The mantra of “equality” is rarely away from the lips of Provisional Sinn Fein leaders. But what kind of equality? Is it equality for the middle classes? Is it the equality of poverty? Is it economic equality?
In the early days of the Civil Rights movement those of us on the left pointed out that one of the consequences of calling for equal rights on issues such as housing and jobs, under the current economic system would be to create less job and housing opportunities for protestants thus further feeding sectarianism within those thus disadvantaged.
Equality under capitalism meant taking from one group and giving to the other. That simply facilitated the old Imperialist tactic of divide and rule.
The Unionist Aristocracy and bourgeoisies in collaboration with sections of the British ruling class argued forcefully against Home Rule at the turn of the 20th century on the grounds of religion, the economy, the interests of the British Empire, strategic military grounds and racism.
Through the Ulster Unionist Council they created an all class alliance that linked the protestant proletariat to their industrial masters. Despite the fact that the unionist bourgeoisie was extracting as much surplus value from the protestant proletariat as they could possibly exploit, the protestant masses identified with their exploiters and with the reactionary British Empire fearing a loss of, in many cases, imaginary privileges they had, compared to the catholic masses. The trade union movement was divided. As early as 1843 skilled workers in the iron shipyard formed a trade union called the “Belfast Protestant Operatives Society” to keep out Catholics from the shipyard.
(page 27”Yes We have No Banannas” Paddy Devlin Blackstaff press1981)
When the first Northern Government was set up in 1921 the first Cabinet looked
“ -like an executive committee of Northern industry and commerce”
(page 68” Northern Ireland ; the Orange State” Michael Farrell Pluto Press 1990)
But it also included two working class members off the Unionist labour Association in minor positions to keep the protestant proletariat on board. Protestant workers who either opposed partition or preached socialism were described as “rotten prods” and driven out of their workplaces.
Thus was created an enormous block to Irish independence, a block it must be said, greatly underestimated and misunderstood by republicanism
As the 20th century progressed many Protestant workers formerly ‘privileged’ by easy access to jobs in heavy industry, found their sector in decline. Resentment, hatred, bitterness based on years of indoctrination about the privileges of being British made many easy prey to bigotry and sectarianism. It took courage to stand up to sectarian hatred and there were many trade unionists workers and socialists who did so.
James Connolly, Ireland’s outstanding Marxist writer in the early part of the 20th century had argued strongly against partition on the grounds that it would create a reactionary bulwark against socialism. And so it has proved.
The Good Friday Agreement, far from being but a stage on the road to a united Ireland that Provisional Sinn Fein adherents argue, has in fact re-enforced the sectarian nature of the 6-county state by pushing its inhabitants into being either “unionist” “nationalist” or “other” for the purposes of forming an administration . There is now no incentive for main-stream political parties to reach across the divide.
Instead we now have political parties based on communal interests. It is in the political interests of the mainstream political parties to maximise their votes within the protestant or catholic sections of the population. So it is in the direct interests of PSF, SDLP, DUP, and UUP to maximise the turn out from their “side of the house”. Now as the administration is a coalition there is absolutely no chance of radical measures, never mind socialist measures, being introduced. After all the budget is allocated from Westminster and must be allocated in accordance with the wishes of the Westminster Government which means implementing neo -liberal economic policies.
So when Gerry Adams of Provisional Sinn Fein argues that,
“The fierce opposition from within unionism and the British system to the Belfast Agreement has stemmed from the recognition that the agreement is a powerful instrument for change.” (Gerry Adams Irish Times April 2nd 2008)
he is being less than honest. The Agreement is an instrument of British policy. It has stabilised the Northern state. And did not the most formidable opponent of change and of opposition to nationalism and Catholicism, Ian Paisley point out that Adams had revised every republican position he ever had and that PSF were now administrating British rule?
‘I did smash them [the Provos] because I took away their main plank. Their main plank was that they would not recognise the British government [in Ireland].
“ ‘Now they are in part of the British government. They can’t be true Republicans when they now accept the right of Britain to govern this country and take part in that government.’
(Interviewed on BBC radio One “Andrew Marr Show” on March 9 2008)
When Paisley agreed to share limited power with Provisional Sinn Fein he knew that the Union was safe.
The IRSP has advanced the argument that in the current climate there is no basis for republicans engaging in armed struggle. There is little or no popular support, organisations are well infiltrated with people hostile to the national struggle and the prospects of any successful conclusion to an armed campaign practically nil. A military strategy is an elitist strategy at this time.
Republicans need to take a different direction and we have argued consistently that that direction is the class struggle. Needless to say the mere mention of class struggle has the politically sectarian jumping up and down frantically shouting ‘economists, “reformists” “anti republicans” and whatever suitable insult they can think up without having to make up a suitable sensible argument. Worst of all in their eyes are those who put forward clear arguments based on a socialist understanding of modern Irish society. They are accused of being trendy middle class intellectuals living in theoretical ivory towers.
Such anti-intellectualism has no place in a revolutionary organisation. It is almost impossible to think of one revolutionary leader from the 20th century who was not also simultaneously a writer and thinker; Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, James Connolly, Liam Mellows, Mao tse Tung, Stalin Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara. Also in the IRSP itself two of our outstanding leaders Gino Gallagher and Ta Power were critical writers. One has only to read through their prison exercise books to see the depth of their intellectual thinking. All of the above were thinkers, writers and doers, basing themselves on the class struggle.
The IRSP has argued from its inception that without national liberation there can be no socialism and without socialism there can be no national liberation. So in deepening and developing the class struggle we are in actual fact deepening and developing the struggle for national liberation.
Too many republicans, influenced by the immediacy of armed struggle think there is a quick solution to political problems whether it is the issue of anti-social behaviour, (kneecap the hoods or more direct community work) or the issue of partition (one more heave). Too often one can hear republicans referring to “my community” when making arguments about lack of resources, interface violence or other local issues. What they actually mean by “my community” is a local catholic community where they do some community work. Republicans need to remember some wonderful phrases of Wolfe Tone, a founder of Irish Republicanism,
“To subvert the tyranny of our execrable government, to break the connection with England, the never failing source of all our political evils, and to assert the independence of my country--these were my objects. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissentions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman, in the place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter--these were my means."
"To unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter under the common name of Irishmen in order break the connection with England, the never failing source of all our political evils, that was my aim".
"If the men of property will not support us, they must fall. Our strength shall come from that great and respectable class, the men of no property".
We republican socialists need to remember that it is not “our community” we owe allegiance to but to our class as stated by the leading founder of the IRSP Seamus Costello.
”I owe my allegiance to the working class”
In an examination of the connection between the role of the state and community action another founder member of the IRSP has written
“-many engaged in community action operate within their perceptions of a civil society and do so in the full knowledge that they subscribe to the hegemonic values of the state. – They become as a consequence an extra-bureaucratic arm of the state”—
(The State and Community Action” Terry Robson- Pluto Press-London 2000.)
The reality is that community politics is no substitute for class politics. Community politics can certainly complement class politics especially when it creates positive links between communities fighting common economic and social problems. Currently there are enough class issues to unite many sections of the working class in Ireland.
The British taxpayer pays out £7 billions per year to subsidise the North its 1.7 million inhabitants. . That is the equivalent of £4000 per head.
Now that stability has been secured future British Governments will want value for money. Having lost heavy industry and seen the failure man-made textiles as a replacement the Northern economy is heavily dependant on the public sector, services and retailing.
Large numbers of people are economically inactive in the North with nearly 40% of the working age population. The education system is socially divisive class based and not fit for purpose. Every year over 1000 pupils leave school without basic qualifications and over 12000 without GCSE passes in Maths and English. For this pool of labour prospects are bleak as there is an expectation that in the British economy over 3Million jobs will be shed in the unskilled sector in the next 10 years or so.
Currently households in the north pay out 40% of that paid out by households in Britain. Gas bills are going up. Electricity bills are going up. Water charges are being introduced. Public sector jobs are being axed and replaced by the private sector. Working class families can now not afford mortgages and the state refuses to increase substantially the supply of social housing to meet current needs. There is a slump in the building trade and energy prices are rising dramatically.
In the South of Ireland the economy has slowed down to a 2%growth rate its lowest growth rate for 20 years and unemployment is expected to rise to 5.5%or 6% this year. House prices are 15% down on their peak in 2006 and as in the North some working class families now find themselves with negative equity. Many now face the prospect of either selling their homes or having them dispossessed and moving into rented accommodation to be at the mercy of landlords.
Currently the strong Euro and weak sterling means that the 70% of small businesses that export to the British market could face difficulties. 60,000 Jobs are dependent on UK trade links.
Capitalism worldwide has suffered its greatest shock since the great depression in the1930’s. That Depression aided the rise to power of fascism with the subsequent world war. What happens in the world economy directly affects workers in both parts of Ireland. Neither of the two administrations can protect the working class from the effects of a recession even if they were so inclined. Administrations that include the right wing PD party in the South and the right wing DUP in the North will have as their first priority defence of capitalism and their cronies in the business world. For all Sinn Fein’s professed “radicalism” they are the party that introduced Public Private Initiatives that essentially is privatising the educational system.
For capitalism, that has been one of the outstanding successes of the Belfast /Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein is now working the capitalist system with a gutso and enthusiasm that would turn the stomachs of those who once believed in their left wing posturing. We say to those republicans shed away your illusions and work towards republican aspirations by joining with growing sections of the working class in taking up explicit anti-capitalist stances. There is now an opportunity to rally working class forces in a fight back against the cuts now being imposed. Are republicans prepared to join in that fight?
The Incompatibility of Green and Orange
I am going to argue that Green and Orange are incompatible, and that the traditional failure of Republican leaderships left and right to recognize this is part of the reason for the present debacle. If anyone says they are united in the local assembly, I would argue that Orange has triumphed over Green, and that what the Green stood for has disappeared. Only Republican socialist leaders such as Connolly and Costello were free of the illusion of their compatibility .James Daly
The Irish national colour is green. It is the Green of Wolfe Tone and the
United Irishmen. But the Republican flag is Green, White and Orange. Why this contradiction in colours? It reflects Republicanism's contradiction in its attitude to Irish loyalism.
It was Thomas Davis who in 1848 put Orange in the "national colours". The Young Irelanders went to the revolutionary government in France, looking for money and arms. The French government was no longer revolutionary, and was afraid of provoking Queen Victoria. But they told the Republican delegation that as Republicans they must have a tricolour of the national colours. The Young Irelanders said that these were Green and Orange. And so, instead of guns and money, they came back with a silk green, white and orange flag -- with tassels.
Loyalists are a Ku Klux Klan, with membership in the six counties at working-class level but also in the highest ranks of the law, police, civil service, farming and corporations. Until well into the 20th century Orange men (sic) dominated all 32 county Irish social and economic life, including the power of employment. That is why it would seem natural to Davis to name Orange as one of the national colours.
Davis completely romanticised the Orange order. In one of his poems he
"Great was the oath the Orangeman swore :... Orange, Orange, Green and Orange, Orange and Green will carry the day".
He meant Republicans and Loyalists united in a national liberation struggle against England! His song was to be sung to the tune of The Protestant Boys (Lillybulero). Thus Davis confused the Irish Protestant patriots who resisted the Act of Union with the bully boys who organised to crush the very movement Davis belonged to.
As well say "NAACP and KKK will carry the day!"
I would argue that part of the reason for the present debacle lies in that
Republican attitude to loyalists, which is reflected in the colours of the
Republican tricolour. By the way, I use the term "loyalists" as it was used during the American war of independence, to refer to pro-imperialists opposed to the national liberation struggle. There are other Irish people who are pro-imperialists opposed to the national liberation struggle, but for our purposes I confine the term to those in the Orange tradition. I am not referring just to so-called paramilitaries, whom I would call death squads, like the Contras, and would compare to the Ku Klux Klan. For me the paramilitaries were the RUC, an official adjunct to the British army.
In the term "loyalists" (loyal to the Imperial Crown etc) I include Unionists including Paisley's voters. Their leaders were already seen in their unity in the UDA's headquarters at Hawthornden House, where all Unionist politicians and paramilitaries met and plotted murder each day. They bore out the words of Basil Brooke at a dinner in Stormont in 1933:
"Some people have told me that we need fascism. We have the Orange order. We have the B-Specials. What need have we of fascism?"
James Connolly saw the socialist struggle as a democratic struggle against imperialism, so when he came across examples, as he did frequently among the Republicans of his day, of the belief in an alliance of green and Orange against the British, his response in his working-class paper The Worker's Republic was "Greater claptrap was never heard" -- and many other furious things expressing righteous indignation and urgency. They can be found in the Cork Workers Club's “Ireland Upon the Dissecting Table”: James Connolly's Writings on Ulster and Partition, a collection of all but censored statements by Connolly, which has itself been all but censored. At that time the loyalists had no second thoughts about being Irish. The song Croppies Lie Down begins "Ye loyal sons of Erin... "
Part of partition's carnival of reaction is their refusal now to recognize themselves as Irish. Some of us acquiesce in accepting the loyalists' claim to be "part of the British working-class".
Hero-worship of Orangemen can be found in many issues of Dublin-produced An Phoblacht around 1975. On the back pages there were large photographs of members of loyalist murder squads, with captions such as "Heirs of the 1798 radical tradition" in wilful denial of the transparent fact that they were heirs of the Orange tradition which was created to destroy the radical tradition.
Loyalists are referred to en masse as our misguided fellow countrymen, as though the most salient point about them was that in their travels they had taken a wrong turning. I have heard senior Republicans affirm forcefully that they would never fight their fellow countrymen, forgetting that they had already fought the official Republicans, and seemed ready to fight anyone who resisted the peace process in arms.
The former Republican Anthony McIntyre called a leader of those paramilitaries who presided over the Holy Cross outrage
"a liberation theologian". That party was invited to meetings in Scotland to contribute to the formation of a socialist movement, which could only happen because they had been placed on a pedestal by Republicans.
The imperialists use the empiricist term "conflict" as a featureless blanket term to hide deeper essential realities, such as oppression and liberation, which produce the symptoms of conflict. Among themselves the imperialists refer to it all as "disturbances" (of their peace).
The media call it sectarian conflict. But religious sectarianism is properly speaking a dispute between rival Protestant sects over which has the road to salvation. Republicans have never seen the struggle as about religious salvation, therefore on their part there was nothing sectarian.
It is the loyalists who see the connection with England as a sectarian goal, as is made clear by the aim of the Orange Order -- the Protestant succession. A gable painting I saw in the 60s said
"The secret of England's greatness is the open Bible".
The Republican goal has for two centuries been liberation from Britain and an independent Irish republic. How has the anti-imperialist struggle degenerated into consensual bargaining about identity politics in the six counties -- with the inevitable outcome, given the power structure, the rule of this part of the UK by Ian Paisley DD (Bob Jones University)? Why is Elizabeth still our Queen and head of our established church? Why is the union Jack our national flag?
Part of the answer is the attitude of the Republicans to the loyalists,
which is a schizoid oscillation -- a wishful-thinking love-in fantasy of fellow-Irish solidarity alternates with realistic fear. These two strands
are expressed in the "Principle of consent", which is outrageously one-sided. It amounts to giving the Unionists whatever they want -- and that happens to be the union. This position is obviously inconsistent with the essential Irish republican attitude to British imperialism. Connolly saw this because he was a socialist -- and anti-imperialist.
Connolly's working-class activist experience and his attitude to the class and national questions left no room for Orangeism. For Connolly, as for
Marx, concern for the Irish working class would inevitably lead to the struggle for national liberation as part of the international struggle against imperialism. He recognized the division of the Irish working class.
I remember a very successful strike of lorry drivers which was broken when loyalists found that the leader was a Sinn Feiner -- he also had to leave his job. The harsh reality of the Protestant community's violent
pro-imperialism may force retreat, but it does not justify dressing up a defeat like that Sinn Feiner's as respect for the Orange tradition -- thus abandoning anti-imperialism.
Connolly said that we must not adhere slavishly to everything Wolfe Tone said. For me, one of Tone's sayings should be reversed. Whereas he said
"My aim was to break the connection with England; my means was to unite Catholic Protestant and Dissenter in the common name of Irishmen",
in this round of the struggle we should have said,
"Our aim is to unite Catholic Protestant and Dissenter in the common name of Irishmen; our means is to break the connection with England". Ends and means should have been reversed.
George Gilmore alleged there was a nine word spoken military order from James Connolly as he turned and moved away from the hearer: "Not a shot to be fired in the North". An argument based on a likely miscommunication is a bit of a flimsy foundation to be the basis of politics in the North for a century after. The alleged order is not in keeping with what Connolly wrote, which should have more authority.
Arguing the commonality of interest between Republicans and Loyalists,
Gilmore quoted the anti-English stance of a farm worker in Portadown (in the murder triangle) who pointed out that his boss had married a
Bloody Englishwoman. I suggest that should be spelled all one word, like damnyankee, which was an American southerner expression for a northerner who didn't understand the necessity of slavery. Perhaps the Portadown boss's English wife didn't understand the necessity of Orangeism.
Loyalists have always had their own politics independent of the British government, and it has always been anti-Catholic and anti-nationalist. It should have been dealt with as such by Republican politicians. Instead, the slightest criticism of loyalists has been attacked from all sides as an example of sectarian bigotry, in the way critics of Israel and Zionism have been viciously attacked as anti-semites by the Zionist Anti Defamation League. Britain has been the only actor which Republicans were allowed to criticise.
Desmond Greaves's long Introduction to Thomas Jackson's Ireland Her Own gives all the arguments for independence and sovereignty, but in the middle suddenly switches to arguing that on the strength of these arguments we see clearly the need to restrict the struggle to one for civil rights in the North. We must delay national liberation until there is democracy in the North, because any other approach would lead to sectarian conflict. Thus we must unite the working-class in the North, and only then seek national liberation.
This approach divided the class and national question, and outlawed the national question, which came to be called at best green Hibernian nationalism, at worst "green fascist spawn of Hitler". (There was of course no orange fascist spawn of Hitler). The civil rights movement was taken to be a class issue which could be universalised and cross the "sectarian" barrier. So NICRA issued a television appeal to people south of the border to stay away from the Newry demonstration (fourteen miles from the border) of the week after Bloody Sunday because "It is a Northern Ireland issue".
The Official Republicans' failed fantasy of a Catholic and Protestant working class alliance to resist a proposed Ring Road for Belfast was described by Seamus Costello as "Ring Road socialism", alluding to Connolly's description of William Walker's politics as "Gas and water socialism".
They had no understanding of the inevitable pre-emptive violence of loyalists faced with any raising of the oppressed community's heads.
It was thought only the national question would enrage the loyalists. Hence Conor Cruise O'Brien talked of the danger of a bloodbath and compared the situation to the Congo, which had broken out into civil war when the Belgians left "without first ensuring stability". It was not recognized that the Belgians never left -- their secret agents stayed to promote Belgian interests and provoke the civil war and the assassination of Lumumba.
Once the civil rights demands were seen to be already enough to provoke a bloodbath, the Provisionals came to explicitly share O'Brien's analysis of the Congolese and Irish situations. Their position therefore implicitly relied on the British to preside over an assembly, which they wanted to go to, "for the better government of Northern Ireland". (During the campaign for election to that assembly Austen Currie remarked that the best known candidate was Mr Boycott).
Provisional PRO's were given the strictest orders that they were never to use the term United Ireland; they could use the terms United Ulster or
Greater Ulster (they never did). (At this time also the word "revolutionary" was dropped, and replaced by "radical", a usage dear to the moneyed Quaker peace interest and the then federalist British Liberal party).
The leadership explicitly supported the UWC strike as showing the admirable resoluteness of loyalists, and they collaborated with the UWC, for instance in the distribution of petrol. There was no criticism of the atrocities of loyalism, even of the Dublin and Monaghan bombing, which was a part of the UWC strike as John Taylor, from his Hawthornden House base, made clear, saying on television prior to the bombing that appropriate action in support of the UWC strike would be taken in the Republic.
Was the military campaign, as it is sometimes alleged, "doomed militarism"
?Against it certainly was the slow and gradual growth of repression and censorship especially in the South. But another factor was that all Republican leaderships, left and right, confined the issue to the six-counties.
The first Provisional Republican leadership would not allow northern members to cross the border into the south to organise educational meetings, demonstrations, etc., and point out the 32 county nature of the issue.
Dissent on this issue was not allowed. They pursued remedies for the situation among experts in "conflict resolution" with a six county orientation. Theoretically there was a fig-leaf of rhetoric about the nine counties of Ulster, but even there it was recognized -- with enthusiasm -- that "Unionists" would have a majority in government. They forgot what unionism means; with a majority, unionists would vote for the union -- to be part of the UK.
The Irish people has not spoken, they have been coerced into giving up their territorial rights. They now have to love not only the loyalist sinner, but the sin. Responding to the maudlin self-pity of loyalists who claimed that the Ulsterman was an endangered species, they have rushed to reassure them that they only want a union of hearts not of territory, a position in which the Republicans have adopted the sentimentality of John Hume. The loyalists have no such illusions. It was always a question not of what we will do with the loyalists but what the loyalists will do with us. They have treated the few demands of republicanism with the contempt that the Israelis have shown to the Oslo agreement.
What was needed was all Ireland unity in demanding the national territory. The giving away of articles 2 and 3 was surely something unprecedented in recent peacetime history -- but of course it was a war, and loyalism is on a permanent wartime footing. No party was demanding the return of the six counties to the whole Irish people. Leaders in the South used the power of the state to suppress that demand. But they could only do this because they leadership of both wings of the Republicans were also effectively suppressing it, among their members and among the population of the island.
Their demand was so oriented to the wishes of the loyalists that it inevitably led to the stabilising and strengthening of the position of the six counties in the UK. Everybody except the loyalists set their sights at professional conflict resolution, in the course of which they gave up more and more to unyielding loyalism. This process of emboldening loyalism had great support from American governments and that was welcomed by Republican leaders, as "internationalising" the Irish question.
It wasn't always like that. In the earliest days a British Tory minister
Quintin Hogg said the only trouble uniting the two parts of Ireland was that the English sixpenny piece did not work in Irish public telephones. Garret Fitzgerald talked about the responsibility Ireland would have to assume, to ensure a federal solution. He spoke of community police, a codename for employing Republicans as police in Republican areas. This was part of the ongoing conflict resolution.
This phase culminated in a joint presentation in the Europa Hotel, by
Republican sympathiser Frank McManus and Ian Paisley's trusted colleague Desmond Boal, of a plan for a federal Ireland. There were to be local parliaments in Belfast and Dublin, with a central parliament in Dundalk. This event shows how low loyalist stock was at the time.
In polls taken at the time, the plan was rejected by a majority. The loyalist community rejected it as a sell-out to Republicans. For nationalists a British presence seemed necessary for protection from loyalism. The plan did not have a guarantee that the Northern local government could behave responsibly and not at worst instigate ethnic cleansing pogroms. There were ominous statements by loyalist "paramilitaries", announcing that slackers (idle, feckless, unemployable people -- no doubt with large families, due to the ban on contraception) would not be tolerated in an independent Ulster (which is the name under which the conflict resolution solution, called federalism on the Falls, was sold on the Shankill).
The only political leader to oppose this process in the short time left to
him was the Republican socialist Seamus Costello. A full treatment of his position would take too long for the present occasion, but the essence is in the document he presented to the Broad Front Conference.
(Below we republish an article that is currently causing some debate on the IRSP discussion site.
The two clear issues emerge from the document are the effectiveness of armed struggle in the present context and the issue of a labour aristocracy. We invite our readers to comment.)
An analysis of the RIRA's attacks on the PSNI
The majority of the non-Provisional Republican family would see nothing inherently wrong in the two recent shootings of two police officers by the Real IRA, although opinions may range from cheerleading to outright indifference. This may very well be the case but there is plenty to bring into consideration when looking at the methods employed by the organisations not on ceasefire and the consequences of those methods.
The methods used by the RIRA and other Republican military organisations have been tried and tested throughout the ages all to dismal failure even when there was significant support amongst the nationalist population for those actions. A Provo Mark II organisation is not what Republicanism needs.
The current methods of armed resistance do not work. The shooting of two PSNI officers isn't likely to force a British withdrawal and
Ireland at present is a first world country which participates in the plunder of the third world and the extraction of capital from those countries. Ireland's ruling class are a joint oppressor as an integral part of global capital. Ireland has a large labour aristocracy whose livelihood depends on the extraction of super profits from third world labour.
In this climate attacks by Republicans will have a minimal effect. There is currently no appetite for armed actions against the police from within the community at any section. The argument that there was never overwhelming support for an armed campaign is valid but the conditions were readily available to sustain it.
The outright revulsion from the community at the attacks was perhaps best comparable to the shooting of Ranger Best in Derry. At the height of the armed struggle public backlash against the Official IRA was severe for shooting an off-duty soldier.
The attacks in Dungannon and Derry may have been co-ordinated but this gives rise to a further argument – is British intelligence purposely trying to discredit Republicans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement through military action?
There may be some validity to this, owing to the failure of the CIRA and RIRA over a combined 30+ year history to carry out any sort of substantial attack or even claim the life of a single British soldier of police officer. It is strange that two police officers were wounded within the space of two days at the current political juncture, when Republicans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement perhaps harness the most support and influence ever.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past. Republicanism as a whole, if it is to survive, if it is to become relevant and if it is to cultivate mass support must renew itself, tackle social issues and emerge itself in the burning issues surrounding working class politics.
The path ahead won't be easy, some scared cows will have to be brought to the altar and slaughtered but it will be the most rewarding path. One that is genuine, open, free of conspiracy. One that has the mass movement of the working class as its incorruptible foundation.
For years we were told it was 'the cutting edge' of the PIRA that would achieve our goals, the role of the mass of Irish people was reduced to spectators. We cannot afford to repeat those mistakes. A renewed armed campaign were the masses are reduced to spectators under the premise that the RIRA will do what the PIRA did for 30 years only try a little harder will bring us in a circular motion to the position we are in today.
Without recalling 30 years of armed struggle, by the late 80s armed struggle lacked the intensity of the 70s and had petered out to sporadic attacks every few days. If that failed to sufficiently move the British political establishment towards granting independence for Ireland, then it seriously time for Republicans to re-evaluate what went wrong and to pave the road ahead for the future.
Sean McGowan, Belfast.
Saturday, 19th of April 2008.
'The Relevance of Marxism Today'
Organised by gtGallery with Belfast District & Trades Union Council
The panel includes: Joe Bowers, Harry Donaghy, Eleanor Phillips and Sean Mitchell.
The event will be held at 6.30pm on Tuesday 29th April in gtGallery (84-94 Great Patrick Street … next to Beggs & Partners and opposite the Corporation Street Dole Office)
If you have any queries ring Ruth at gtGallery - Tel: 028 90330920
30 April 2008
Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council, conference invitation:
Racism: Moving Beyond Denial?
A major conference examining the present acknowledgement of racism, its manifestations and what should be done to tackle it.
Wednesday 30 April 2008
Dungannon Campus: South West (nee East Tyrone) College
Community Relations Week - EU Year of Intercultural Dialogue
Arun Kundnani, Institute of Race Relations
Bernadette McAliskey, South Tyrone Empowerment Programme
Dr Robbie McVeigh, Independent Researcher
Political Parties Q&A Panel:
Chair: Benedicta Attoh (independent practitioner)
Dolores Kelly MLA (SDLP), Richard Watson (UUP), Alex Maskey MLA (Sinn Féin), Naomi Long MLA (Alliance party)
DUP spokesperson TBC
Workshops and Closing Plenary:
Workshops on the topics of: models for the public sector, racism in the workplace, racism faced by Travellers and on the role of the Assembly.
A spokesperson from OFMDFM will provide government input.
Full details of conference, speakers and a booking form contact
Ligia Parizzi, Anti Racism Officer, Dungannon Council
This conference is specifically targeted at all persons with an interest in this area of work in all sectors including local government, community and voluntary sector NGOs, statutory agencies, Trade Unions, government departments, researchers and others with an interest in anti-racism.
The Council gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Peace II extension programme through the South Tyrone Area Partnership for its anti-racism programme and the support of OFMDFM for its racial equality work.
There is no charge for the conference. We would anticipate considerable demand and would urge early booking.
Tel: 028 8772 8603
Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council
Comhairle Dhún Geanainn agus Thír Eoghain Theas
Rathgannon Sooth Owenslann Burgh Cooncil
Family Fun Day In Great Patrick Street
1pm – 4pm Saturday 3rd May 2008
A Mini-May-Fest that aims to raise awareness of the links between child exploitation in the third world and consumerist pressure on young people in this country. In partnership with gtGallery, the Communication Workers Union, Cliftonville Community Centre and Sailortown Regeneration Group, Teach na Failte with a range of multi-cultural contributions.
The Theme: to raise awareness of child exploitation and research the links between child labour in the Third World and consumerist pressure on young people in this country.
What goes on:
Launch of Anti-Exploitation Tee-Shirts
The Big Draw In
Speaker's Corner,etc, etc
Come back to Crossakiel ?on Saturday & Sunday 3 & 4 May 2008 ??for parades, speeches & songs ?a mini-festival ?in commemoration of ?Jim Connell ?the man who wrote The Red Flag.
??About Jim Connell and The Red Flag
For the index to the website on THE RED FLAG: the song, the man, the monument,
For more about the ?life of Jim Connell ?and the ?history of the song, ?click here
For more about the monument in Crossakiel ?and how it came to be, ?click here
For the song itself, ?lyrics, click here ?and sound files, ?click here
For photos of Crossakiel in 2002 and video of Billy Bragg singing on the day, click here ? ? ? ?
Sat 3 May 2008 in McCabe's Bar, Crossakiel
9pm: support act
Sun 4 May 2008 in the village of Crossakiel
2:30: samba band
3pm: parade of trade unions and bands to the Jim Connell monument followed by speeches by Bob Crow, Pat Thornley, Gerry McCormack and singing of The Red Flag by Jimmy Kelly
5pm on: music including Patricia, Hamsandwich, SayLaV also for kids: face painting and play time in yard at rear of McCabe's sponsored by the trade union movement in Ireland and Britain and by local businesses
For more information, contact Jim O'Brien at 046-9022339 ?or Cllr Tommy Grimes at 087-9806688?or e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org ? ?? Website by Dr Helena Sheehan ?E-mail: email@example.com