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A Defeat Not A Peace Process


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Notes for a talk on the north of Ireland. April 2009

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A Defeat Not A Peace Process

  1. 2. In groups <ul><li>Why is the British Army in the north of Ireland? </li></ul><ul><li>Is a peace on the imperialists’ terms ever durable? </li></ul><ul><li>How does one describe a government headed by the Democratic Unionist Party? </li></ul>
  2. 3. Starting point <ul><li>Northern state is a colony </li></ul><ul><li>Only principled position for workers’ movement in Britain is withdrawal </li></ul><ul><li>It’s a defeat not a peace process </li></ul>
  3. 4. 1921 <ul><li>Defeat of revolutionary nationalist movement </li></ul><ul><li>Northern colony created with pogroms and threat of war </li></ul><ul><li>Neo-colony established in south </li></ul>
  4. 5. 1968 <ul><li>Prague Spring, US Civil Rights Movement, France, Vietnam </li></ul><ul><li>Inspired rebellion against sectarian state </li></ul><ul><li>Three strands of movement – non Stalinist left, feminist currents, Civil Rights Association </li></ul>
  5. 6. First defeat <ul><li>Labourism, CP, own programmatic weakness </li></ul><ul><li>Burntollet </li></ul><ul><li>Unions incorporated into state </li></ul><ul><li>Bloody Sunday </li></ul>
  6. 7. National Liberation Movement <ul><li>Strong unionist culture in northern workers’ movement </li></ul><ul><li>Republicans were autonomous from workers’ movement </li></ul><ul><li>Struggle to end British rule a legitimate democratic struggle against oppression </li></ul>
  7. 8. Second Defeat <ul><li>Hunger Strike 1981 </li></ul><ul><li>Coalition of revolutionary nationalism </li></ul><ul><li>Links created with Fianna Fail and British that led to current settlement </li></ul>
  8. 9. New Ireland Forum <ul><li>Irish bourgeoisie established programme of Good Friday Agreement </li></ul><ul><li>Renounced sovereignty claim </li></ul><ul><li>End of national question </li></ul><ul><li>Some rights for Catholics in north </li></ul>
  9. 10. Third defeat <ul><li>Sinn Fein in government – normal for defeated movements to be incorporated </li></ul><ul><li>Now has programme of former foes SDLP </li></ul><ul><li>Rights are gained by belonging to Protestant or Catholic community </li></ul>
  10. 11. Unipolar world <ul><li>South Africa, Gaza, Ireland </li></ul><ul><li>Erosion of space for national liberation movements </li></ul><ul><li>Republicanism’s only ideology has been militarist methods </li></ul>
  11. 12. Armed struggle <ul><li>Bonded disparate movement </li></ul><ul><li>Democracy subordinated to Army Council </li></ul><ul><li>Fantasy that 200 fulltime volunteers could defeat British Army </li></ul><ul><li>Sat alongside mass uprising </li></ul>
  12. 13. Free State <ul><li>Republicans did not develop critique of southern bourgeois state </li></ul><ul><li>Its politicians indistinguishable from mainstream </li></ul><ul><li>Saw southern ruling class as part of solution </li></ul>
  13. 14. Good Friday and St. Andrew’s <ul><li>Colonial settlement – obliges Irish to renounce claim over national territory </li></ul><ul><li>Sectarian settlement – divides politics and society along religious lines </li></ul><ul><li>All decisions of assembly must be ratified by Unionist controlled Executive </li></ul>
  14. 15. Why is settlement popular <ul><li>People have stopped dying </li></ul><ul><li>Drop in unemployment – due to retail </li></ul><ul><li>Expansion of Catholic middle class in state sector </li></ul>
  15. 16. Limitations <ul><li>No one believes settlement will lead to united Ireland </li></ul><ul><li>Power of the Catholic Church greatly increased. </li></ul><ul><li>Positions in public service earmarked for confessional groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Sinn Fein cadre of 'community workers' paid by the state.  </li></ul>
  16. 17. Loyalism <ul><li>UDA and UVF represented on policing boards </li></ul><ul><li>Still involved in extortion, prostitution and drugs </li></ul><ul><li>DUP is party of hard right to which Republicans accommodate to stay in office </li></ul>
  17. 18. Dissidents or true believers? <ul><li>Minority of republicans have rejected Sinn Fein and the settlement. </li></ul><ul><li>Failing due to fragmented movement and lack of support. </li></ul><ul><li>Absence of any programme beyond shooting </li></ul><ul><li>“ Betrayal” explains failure armed struggle </li></ul>
  18. 19. What’s emerging? <ul><li>Sinn Fein has clientelist, electoralist and reformist politics </li></ul><ul><li>Working class youth don’t see promises delivered.  </li></ul><ul><li>Growth of a new infrastructure of supporters </li></ul><ul><li>Riots are significant. </li></ul>
  19. 20. Conventional wisdom <ul><li>The militarists have no support </li></ul><ul><li>The political process in the North of Ireland is secure.  </li></ul><ul><li>Republican militarists have nothing to offer. </li></ul>
  20. 21. Mainstream <ul><li>Trade union demonstrations called for unconditional support for the sectarian status quo </li></ul><ul><li>Downgrading the political tasks of the working class in favour of purely economic struggles </li></ul><ul><li>Phony options of bloodbath or sectarian state </li></ul>
  21. 22. Future <ul><li>Which state and which class rules </li></ul><ul><li>Youth don’t remember past defeats </li></ul><ul><li>Socialists raise separate, more immediate and concrete demands </li></ul><ul><li>Working class achieves liberation with its own programme including democratic solution to the national question </li></ul>