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(en) Ireland, WSM new position paper on The Partition of Ireland

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 16 Aug 2004 22:08:11 +0200 (CEST)

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The [anarchist federation] Workers Solidarity Movements July 2004
conference agreed a new position paper on 'The Partition of Ireland'.
This replaces our old position paper on 'The National Question' and
reflects both the changes brought about by the peace process and
changes in our analysis after a long period of internal debate. The
text of the new paper is below. Further papers from this conference
will be made available on our web site over the next few days.
> The Partition of Ireland
1. As anarchists, we oppose imperialism and believe it cannot play a
progressive role. In Ireland we have always opposed British imperialism.
In opposing it we see no form of nationalism as offering a definitive
solution to either the working class in Ireland or the working class
across the globe. In the final analysis nationalism argues for a common
interest between workers and bosses of one 'nation' against the workers
and bosses of another. As anarchists we stand for international working
class solidarity against all bosses.

2. However as anarchists living on the island of Ireland we have to
deal with rather than ignore the divisions in the working class that exist
based on communal identity in the north and the issues of state repression
that continue around them. When we talk about "communal identity" we
acknowledge that not all Catholic are nationalists, not all Protestants
are unionists, and not all nationalists and unionists are religious
believers. There are, however, two main communal identities, which can be
summarised as Catholic/nationalist on one hand and Protestant/unionist
on the other. In this paper the terms 'communal identity" and 'religion
are used interchangeably.

3. We reject the idea that there are any differences between workers
from different religions on the island that make partition either desirable
or inevitable. Rather we see partition as the main reason why conflicts
based on religious divisions continue to exist.

4. All sections of the working class have lost out as a result of these
religious divisions. In the north the divisions in the working class make
it more difficult but not impossible to unite against the bosses. In the
north the divisions have historically meant that workers from a catholic
background suffered state discrimination and were often the targets of
loyalist and Orange attacks. In the south, the birth of mass socialist
politics in the working class has been delayed for decades, Southern
workers were subject to a theocratic state regime which not only denied
abortion rights but also subjected the vulnerable, in particular children,
to brutal regimes of 'discipline' based on physical and all to often
sexual abuse.
5. It is important to realise that partition is not a historic accident
but rather the result of centuries of imperialism and struggles against
imperialism. From the reformation onwards the British State encouraged
religious conflict in Ireland in order to divide and rule.
6. The 1798 rebellion offered the greatest opportunity to simultaneously
remove the British rule and to unite all the Irish people regardless of
creed. Its defeat and the process though which it was defeated resulted in
centuries of sectarian conflict. Most importantly was the encouragement
of the Orange Order as an instrument of counter-revolution aimed at
physically suppressing Catholics and radical protestants alike.
7. The partition of Ireland in 1922 was carried out in the interests both of

British imperialism, which maintained military bases as a result, and
of the northern bosses as it provided a weapon to divide the working
class. At the time the economic interests of northern and southern bosses
were opposed. The north was well developed with export orientated industry
(linen and shipbuilding) and needed access to English markets. The south
was underdeveloped and for industry to develop southern capitalism would
have to be protected from cheaper English imports, partition therefore
favoured both sets of bosses.
8. The north was created in such a way to ensure a permanent unionist
rule by tying Protestant workers to their bosses in return for marginal
privileges in a 6 county rather than a 9 county "Ulster". These privileges
were maintained by northern bosses (e.g. Brookborough's famous statement
about employing 'good Protestant lads') and meant Protestant workers
can be mobilised against Catholic workers demanding a fair share under
Northern capitalism or unity with the republic. Examples of this in action
can be seen in the Loyalist and police attacks on the nationalist ghettos
in 1969 in response to a peaceful civil rights movement demanding basic
democratic rights, in the 1974 unionist strike against power sharing
and in the mass demonstration of Protestants against the Anglo-Irish
9. British troops were not sent into the North in 1969 in order to keep
the peace but rather to provide a breathing space for the northern
security forces and to stabilise in the interests of the British ruling
class what they thought could have became a revolutionary situation.
This remained their role, which is why we call for "Troops out now". In
addition they were used also to break the back of any mass peaceful
reform movement through actions like Bloody Sunday in 1972.
10. Loyalism is a reactionary ideology in all its forms including those

that try to appear socialist. It serves only to maintain sectarianism and
Protestant privilege and protect the interests of the British and northern
ruling classes.
11. Republicanism is a petty-bourgeoisie ideology and not a socialist
one. Even those brands which claim to be socialist preach a theory in
which workers must submerge their own interests and fight alongside
their Catholic bosses until a united Ireland is achieved. Nevertheless it has
considerable working class support in the north, but because of its
stages theory where labour must wait it has little attraction for Protestant
workers and has no strategy for approaching Protestant workers.
However, republicanism unlike loyalism often developed significant
left strands within it because, at least in theory, it was based on the
'equal rights of all' rather then the 'god given destiny of the chosen

After the rise of Leninism however these strands were deeply contaminated
with authoritarian socialist ideas. Still they sometimes, as with the
Republican Congress movement of the 1930's, could win support from the
northern protestant working class around the slogan of the workers
republic. Although we and other anarchists have used that slogan as in the
past, it is no longer a useful shorthand for why we have different
politics to republicans, so we prefer to simply say that we are for 'an
anarchist Ireland'.
12. The tactic of armed struggle, as carried out by the Republicans was
never capable of achieving a solution as it was incapable of delivering a
military victory over the British army. In addition the British ruling
class cares little for the deaths of individual soldiers in its army.
Furthermore a 'commercial bombing campaign' will always, whether
deliberately or not, cause civilian casualties and heighten sectarian
13. The armed struggle was also faulted because it relied on the
actions of a few, with the masses left in either a totally inactive role, or
one limited to providing intelligence and shelter to the few. It is claimed
that it did serve to maintain the gains made in the 60s and early 70s.
The mass campaigns (civil disobedience, rent & rates strike, street
committees, etc.) would have been a far greater protection for the
gains won than the elitist militarism of a few.
14. The British state is responsible for the long history of armed
conflict in the North. As long as the British remain in Ireland there
is likely to be armed resistance, especially when there is no mass
movement to demonstrate an alternative to militarism. Every generation has
thrown up a new group of people willing to physically fight for "Irish

Permanent peace can only come about after British withdrawal. When the
1994 ceasefire was declared we welcomed it because the ending of the
armed struggle opens up real possibilities for revolutionary politics. We have
opposed the republican armed struggle because it was an impediment to
working class unity. It was based on wrong politics, it was a wrong
strategy and it used wrong tactics. However we refused to blame the
republicans for the situation in the six counties. Their campaign was the
result of a problem and must not be confused with its cause. We have
been clear that, in the final analysis, the fault lies with the continuing
British occupation.
15. We did not see the IRA ceasefire as a sell-out. Rather it is merely
the natural progression of nationalist politics, which was always going
to lead to a compromise with imperialism.
16. The IRA is not responsible for the creation of or the continuation of
sectarianism. Rather it was re-created in 1969 as a response to the
sectarian attacks by the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries on
what had been a peaceful civil rights movement.
17. We condemn all sectarian actions (i.e. those carried out because of
religion) including any that may be carried out by republicans. We combat
sectarianism not by appeals to the state forces for protection but by
calling for workers to act through strikes, demonstrations etc against
such outrages.
We condemn without reservation the 'punishment' beatings and shootings of
people accused of 'anti-social behaviour' or drug dealing carried out by
both republican and loyalist paramilitaries. These actions are nothing
more than a crude attempt by these groups to maintain control over what
they view as 'their communities'. They are authoritarian thuggery. It is
no justification for these groups to claim that there is a 'policing
vacuum' or that the communities are pressurising them to act. None of
these groups have any mandate to enforce their 'rule of law'. They
certainly have no right to set themselves up as judge, jury and

18. The Good Friday Agreement came about as the culmination of Sinn
Fin's strategy for over a decade which was aimed at building various broad
fronts around different issues in an attempt to gain respectability by
pulling in Fianna Fil members and church figures. This involved dropping
all references to socialism to maintain unity with "the broad nationalist
family". This strategy was never going to deliver a united socialist
Ireland, or any other significant improvements apart from those associated
with "demilitarisation". It represents instead a hardening of traditional
nationalism and the goal of achieving an alliance of all nationalists -
Sinn Fin, Fianna Fil, SDLP, the Catholic Church and "Irish America".
Such an alliance has nothing to offer working class people, North or South,
and we oppose it outright.
The Good Friday Agreement offered nothing except a sectarian division
of the spoils and in fact copper-fastened sectarian divisions. We called
for an abstention in the referendum on this deal, refusing to align
ourselves with those calling for a 'no' vote, pointing out that they have no
alternative to offer, just more of the same conflict that has ruined tens
of thousands of working class lives. The republican forces of the 32
County Sovereignty Committee, the Real IRA, Republican Sinn Fein,
Continuity IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army has nothing but
increased communalism and sectarianism to offer. The loyalist
opponents-whose rallies were attended by vocal supporters of the
Loyalist Volunteer Force death squads -wanted a return to the time when
Catholics lived on their knees in fear.
The Assembly set up under the 'Good Friday Agreement' demonstrates
quite clearly the fact that the net effect of this agreement is to copper-fasten
sectarianism, with elected members having to declare themselves
'nationalist' or 'unionist' in order for their votes to count. The
political parties have shown that they are capable of plenty of agreement
on economic issues - with no disagreement over budgets or spending
plans, but issues such as what flowers should be put on display in the lobby
or what flags should fly over Ministerial buildings are used to hype up
the divisions between the two sides.
19. The huge vote, North and South, in favour of the agreement - whatever
else it might have indicated - showed quite clearly that the vast majority
of people do not want a return to pre-ceasefire violence. Any return to
armed struggle will deliver only more hardship and repression for working
class people in the six counties.
We reiterate our view that permanent peace and an end to sectarianism
will only come about after a British withdrawal and that working people
from both communities must be convinced of the need to make the fight
one for anarchism, not for 'national rights'.
20. When the potential exists we should argue for northern workers to
refuse to handle any work for the security forces. We are opposed to
any military campaign aimed at workers who do handle security force work.
21. On occasions where the potential exists (e.g. the 1981 hunger
strikes) we should argue for the creation of a mass movement playing an
active role through demonstrations, strikes etc and against any attempt
to turn such a movement into one of passive support either for the
military campaign or for the electoral one.
22. Sectarian divisions continue in the north today. We recognise that
many of the protests that take place around these divisions are intended
to inflame them and further divide the working class rather than solve
them. Often this is for the electoral gain of local politicians or to
provide a continuing role for paramilitaries.
We are not neutral on these issues. We do not support the right of any
group to determine who may or may not live, work or pass through 'their
area'. The one exception we make to this is the parades of the Orange
Order and related institutions because of the role they continue to play
sentence "in inflaming sectarian hatred. But we argue opposition to the
Orange Order must be built on a class rather then religious basis. This
means great efforts should be made to winning workers from a protestant
background to opposing the order.
We generally support all calls for public enquiries and all attempts to
limit police powers even where we disagree with the politics of those
who are the victims of the repression.
We argue for integrated housing and schooling and the removal of all
religious and nationalist symbols from public buildings and streets by
those who use them. We argue for the ending of any clerical input into
any school or hospital that receives public funding in the north just as we
do in the south.
23. As anarchists we work for unity both between Catholic and Protestant
workers and between British and Irish workers. The potential for unity has
been demonstrated on a number of occasions in the history of the north
including the 1907 Dockers strike and the outdoor relief strike of 1932
when the Falls and Shankill rioted in support of each other. More recently
we have seem united actions in defence of the National Health Service
and against sectarian intimidation. Smaller examples of such unity are
constantly thrown up in workplace struggles in the north.
24. We recognise that although Protestant workers have marginal
advantages over Catholic workers these are far outweighed by the
disadvantages faced by the division of the working class which means
northern workers, both Catholic and Protestant are worse off in terms
of housing, unemployment and wages then any comparable
sized area in England.

These are the fruits of partition.
25. It is therefore in the interests of Protestant workers to break with
their Protestant bosses and loyalism and fight alongside Catholic
workers both in day to day industrial struggles and for an anarchist
26. In the past the national question has been used before by northern
bosses to split common struggles of Catholic and Protestant workers. It
is therefore not possible to maintain the unity won in economic struggle
without breaking the Protestant workers commitment to loyalism and
committing them to the fight for an anarchist Ireland.
27. Our strategy should be geared toward involving ourselves in the
struggles of Northern workers and in the course of these struggles
breaking the loyalties tying the workers to the bosses of either
religion and so enlisting them in the fight for an anarchist Ireland.
28. In order for this approach to succeed we must never hide our
opposition to repression and our anti-imperialism, we must attempt to
link these with the on-going struggle.
29. The struggle to achieve workers unity in the North can not be
separated from the struggle to build an anarchist workers movement in
the south. Such a movement in the south attacking both capitalism and the
dominance of religious law will be a great spur to winning over Protestant
workers in the North. The Catholic Church's position of power in the South
has been severely weakened over the last decade. However it still
maintains a dominant role in crucial areas such as education and

The complete smashing of this dominance will help in the building of
common links between northern and southern workers.
30. We should aid British anarchist groups in developing a clear
perspective on the national question committed to breaking British
workers from any support for the Rule of the British State in Ireland.
Short Term Perspectives

1. The political organisations linked to loyalist paramilitaries have
become more active since the 1994 loyalist ceasefire. While the
Progressive Unionist Party claim to be socialist it is important to
remember where they have come from. They are the public face of the
UVF, which waged a blatantly sectarian war against the nationalist
population of the six counties for two and a half decades. Unless and until they
renounce these actions, they cannot be considered part of the socialist
We do not, however, agree with the position that socialists should not
enter into debate with members of these parties. It is only through such
debate that the ludicrousness of their position of claiming to be
socialist while at the same time pledging loyalty to a monarchy can be
exposed. In order to win Protestant workers in the six counties to the
fight for anarchism we must first convince them to break with the
sectarian ideology of loyalism/unionism.

2. Reform of the 6 county state.

We previously held that the 6 county state was irreformably sectarian.
However the current peace process may result in a state apparatus that
is divided into feuding sectarian forces on the one hand and the
encouragement by these politicians of communalist sectarian conflict on
the other. It appears that capitalism being unable to step forwards has
stepped side-wards in a manner that does nothing to resolve grassroots
sectarian conflict but overall results in a 'parity of intervention' by
the state in these conflicts.
July 2004


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