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(en) Ireland: II. (2/3) Crossing the Border: Organise!, Anarchism and the "partition of Ireland", response to WSM position paper on partition

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 25 Nov 2004 08:09:56 +0100 (CET)


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12. WSM: "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 tensions.
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. "

Organise!: For how long did the leadership of the republican
movement seriously believe that the British could be militarily
defeated? From quite an early stage the tactic of armed struggle
was, we would suggest, aimed at forcing Britain to the negotiating
table, a stage at which the myth and propaganda of a military
victory was still being peddled - and certainly believed by many.
No state cares much for the deaths of its soldiers, its what they are
there for - to kill and be killed in defence of the realm. Mention of
the 'commercial bombing campaign' and the link to the deliberate
'or not' civilian casualties and the heightening of sectarian tension
is a fair enough observation. However the omission of reference to
deliberate sectarian killings carried out by republicans and not
linked to 'commercial bombing' speaks volumes in terms of bias
and a lack of will to deal with the reality of much of the republican
campaign.

14. WSM: "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 freedom". 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."

Organise!: Again we see many of the problems we identified with
earlier points in this paper. The second sentence of this point
reads not simply as an attack on those people who regard
themselves as 'British' (not a very clever way in which to win
people from nationalist myths and notions binding them to the
particular nation state of their choice) but worse could be read as a
declaration that the very existence of people identifying
themselves as British in the north-east of Ireland is what has
brought the armed 'resistance' down on that section of our society
by dint of their very existence. There seems to have been very
little thought here as to the implications of this statement or other
statements like it.

"Every generation has thrown up a new group of people willing to
physically fight for "Irish freedom"", could someone explain what
"Irish freedom" actually means?

Again we have "Permanent peace can only come about after
British withdrawal" with no thought to the implications of such a
statement. This can be read as reactionary anti-British sentiment
(as it can, and further will, be read as a statement about people
who identify themselves as British as opposed to a statement
made in relation to a particular
administration/government/military presence).

Not only has the republican armed struggle been an "impediment
to" working class unity so to is the holding onto mythical notions
about the sanctity of Ireland as a single, but thwarted, polity -
particularly in the context of a capitalist society.

The IRA's armed struggle was based on wrong politics, it was a
wrong strategy and it used the wrong tactics. While republicans
cannot be singled out for blame in relation to the situation in the
six counties surely they are not entirely blameless? Again, this
point ends with a statement on continuing "British occupation" -
see above.

15. WSM: "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 executioner."

Organise!: This starts with what seems to be a straightforward
statement of fact, although we would replace imperialism with
unionism and the British state given our earlier concerns. Yes the
IRA was recreated on the back of the response to the civil rights
campaign - with republicans, with increasing success, linking the
issue of unity to the 'only' possibility of a solution to the
oppression being faced at that time. As the WSM now admits that
they were wrong in regard to the supposedly irreformable nature
of the Orange State, then surely the accuracy of this link needs to
be re-examined.

We welcome the condemnation of all sectarian attacks in point 18
but this is somewhat undermined, and appears mealy-mouthed,
given the use of "that may be" in relation to sectarian attacks
which have undoubtedly played a part in the armed campaign of
republicans, particularly, although not exclusively, in the earlier
years of the troubles. Those actions which workers have taken
together as workers against sectarianism along the lines of the
actions the WSM "call for" have and will continue to take place
whenever necessary. Further we would agree with the
condemnation of the actions of loyalist and republican
paramilitaries in dealing with 'anti-social' behaviour and setting
themselves up as police, judge, jury and executioner in working
class communities. The area of policing and alternatives to state
and paramilitary versions of it and the notion and practice of
community policing, or communities policing themselves, is an
area that requires much more attention from anarchists.

18. WSM: "The Good Friday Agreement came about as the
culmination of Sinn F?n'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 F?l 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 F?n, Fianna F?l, 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'."

Organise!: Point 18 is quite accurate but the earlier section could
be seen as implying that had Sinn Fein remained true to their
particular brand of socialism that we could be on the road to a
more satisfactory outcome. That would not hold up to much
scrutiny, particularly from an anarchist perspective - or more
fundamentally on its likelihood of ever attaining any semblance of
class unity in the north or across Ireland.
We agree with the first section of point 19 but this does not seem
to square well with some of the earlier points in the document
which see ongoing armed struggle as inevitable given the ongoing
"British presence". Nor does it sit well with the second section of
the point.

20. WSM "[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]. "

Organise!: We understand that points 20 and 21 are referred for
further consideration. We would like to point out that the "mass
movement" of point 21 can and never will create a class based,
genuinely, mass movement as it is framed purely in relation to the
republican/nationalist struggle. A genuine mass campaign cannot
be based on a minority of the population who, given the very basis
of their campaign and nature of their politics, have no prospect of
mobilising support on a class basis. The problem with this point is
also that it does not imply or state any criticism of republicanism,
just its use of elitist methods - be that electoralism or armed
struggle - and a suggestion of methods it could attempt to use
that, if we follow this reasoning, would find more favour with
anarchists. This is not the type of reasoning we could support or
see any benefit in for the working class.

22. WSM: "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 in inflaming sectarian hatred. But
we argue opposition to the Orange Order must be built on a class
rather than 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."

Organise!: The first two points are fair enough although in the
absence of a more militant, let alone revolutionary labour
movement it is difficult to imagine how opposition to the Orange
Order could be built on this basis at present. It should also be
noted that the areas in which the Order has been involved in
confrontation that it has bucked the trend toward decline and
actually seen some growth. A statement of "general support" for
public enquiries probably needs more critical analysis and
comment - particularly given the nature of public and independent
inquiries in the north (and most other places they have taken place
that we are aware of). Perhaps anarchists could and should start to
develop our ideas in relation to other forms of inquiry. Attempts to
limit police powers are less problematic but we must realise that
they are in a very real sense limited and reversible - and in an
international climate of 'anti-terrorism' actually getting less and
less likely as the type of policing which to some extent set
Northern Ireland apart becomes more and more the accepted
norm in the west.

We agree with the final section of this point.

23. WSM: "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."

Organise!: No real disagreement with the specific points although
there is still a refusal to acknowledge the identification as British
of workers in the north which places British workers firmly and
exclusively on the other side of the Irish Sea.

24. WSM: "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."

Organise!: The working class as a whole is worse off now than in
any other comparable area in Britain as a whole or the Republic of
Ireland. We would refer you to the Democratic Dialogue report,
Bare Necessities, published in October 2003 for an in depth study
of poverty in Northern Ireland. Again it seems to be a leap of logic
to assert that this can be explained as being the "the fruits of
partition".

25. WSM: "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 Ireland. "

Organise!: This sets out a view of working class catholics and
protestants in the north that is not particularly related to reality.
There is no longer any significant section of protestant/unionist
employers but more fundamentally it sets protestant workers as
those tied to, as you have described it earlier, a reactionary
ideology which they must break with while no similar demand is
made of catholic workers in relation to Irish nationalism. It also
seems to be saying that catholic workers are the section of the
working class that is involved in "day to day industrial struggles"
and protestant workers are by implication missing from those
struggles. More ludicrous is the idea that catholic workers be
joined in the fight "for an anarchist Ireland". Do the catholic
section of the working class realise that they are fighting for this?
Again the reference to an "anarchist Ireland" is in keeping with
nationalist historiography and the myth of the nation-state, or as it
explicitly states "anarchist", in keeping with the sanctity of Ireland
as a polity which is bound up in this version of history and
mythology. This is not to mention the fallacy of suggesting that
we can have an "anarchist Ireland" any more than Russian
workers could benefit from Stalin's "socialism in one country".
Surely we are internationalists struggling for the establishment of
a global anarchist society.

26. WSM: "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."

Organise!: These seem to simply reflect progressively worse
rephrasing of point 25. The national question has not only been
used by the northern bosses to split workers, it has been used by
both nationalists and unionists, by both sets of clergy and
effectively by anti-imperialists. The insistence on ending partition
(with the implication that the prods will come to their senses) as a
prerequisite to class unity and class struggle splits workers in
struggle just as effectively as any set of bosses have.

Again protestant workers must be split from Loyalism but catholic
workers do not need to be won away from Irish nationalism.
"Anarchist Ireland" is becoming mantra like in its repetition and
like most mantras it is essentially a hollow and meaningless
expression that detaches us from the revolutionary vision and goal
of global social revolution and transformation.

28. WSM: "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."

Organise!: No, we must never hide our opposition to repression
but we have still not been presented with a definition of
anti-imperialism or imperialism that is unproblematic in
application to the north.

29. WSM: "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 health. The
complete smashing of this dominance will help in the building of
common links between northern and southern workers."

Organise!: Undoubtedly the struggle for workers unity in the north
cannot be separated from the struggle to build an "anarchist
workers movement" in the south. Nor can it be separated from
working class struggles or the building of such a movement in
England, Scotland and Wales, or for that matter internationally.
We cannot accurately predict however where the inspiration and
example that will be a 'spur' to workers will come from
geographically. It may well be the case that the advance of such
struggles could emerge in the south or north of Ireland, anywhere
across these islands or elsewhere. While a working class
movement committed to workers control and an end to clerical
domination in the south would be welcomed it seems unlikely that
this movement would win much support or act as a spur to many
protestant or unionist workers if it held the ending of partition as a
central tenet. It is more likely to be seen as, and certainly would be
portrayed by unionist politicians as, Irish nationalism in another
guise. Something which would surely hinder its likelihood of
winning large sections of workers to a battle in pursuit of their
common class interests.

30. WSM: "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."

Organise!: First of all we need to see a clear perspective developed
by anarchists in Ireland. We do not believe this WSM position
paper represents one. The use of the phrase "national question"
implies in and of itself that a non-existent unitary nation-state has
an inherent claim to legitimacy - this is a truly strange notion for
anarchists to support. What we should be doing is uniting with
workers - 'British' (wherever they live), 'Irish' and workers across
the globe - in our struggles and advancing these struggles towards
the elimination of capitalism and all states.

SHORT TERM PERSPECTIVES

1. WSM: "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 movement.
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."

Organise!: As regards the first section of point 1 could we not
apply the same reasoning to Sinn Fein and the IRSP, the
paramilitary wings of which, albeit on a smaller scale, also
engaged in blatant sectarian attacks. Again the absence of any
desire to break catholic workers from Irish nationalism is in
essence sectarian. It would also seem as much a pre-requisite to
committing these workers to the fight for anarchism as breaking
protestant workers from Loyalism. Or is the important goal at this
stage the undoing of partition before any attempt at workers unity,
class struggle and advancing the struggle for libertarian socialism
can be made?

STAGES THEORY AND STAGES THEORY RESTATED.

The "Partition of Ireland" position paper while it includes
statements of opposition to a stages theory effectively restates the
stages theory and as such remains trapped in the same position of
not being capable of building links across the divisions in the
working class on the basis of common class interests. Class
interests are made subservient to the task of ending partition, of
"removing the British presence", of ending the "British
occupation", which is in reality the prioritising of the Irish national
project above class interests and unity of struggle. We cannot hide
our opposition to the northern state, or the British state, but we
should not express that opposition as one that takes its place atop
a hierarchy of opposition. As anarchists Organise! are opposed to
the northern state, in whatever form of administration may
eventually be devised, the British state and the Irish state.
Many nationalist and more specifically left-republican
assumptions have been left largely unchallenged; at best we seem
to have a halfway house, an image of a process of changing
attitudes and analysis that has not been brought to its logical
conclusion. Some of the amendments that have gone through
actually seem to represent the success of a tendency going in the
other direction and seeking to preserve the left-republican analysis
much in evidence in this document. Until this is resolved this
position paper, while containing elements of progress, will not
develop into a workable or accurate analysis and statement of
intent or provide a workable strategy for uniting northern workers,
let alone northern and southern workers, in struggle.

THE COLONIAL RELATIONSHIP.

Some historians have attempted to portray the Act of Union of
1801 as an attempt at ending the colonial relationship through
integration into a single political unit. For some this is seen as an
exercise in consolidating an increasingly centralised state power,
and while this approach can be taken the ongoing colonial nature
of the relationship between Westminster and Ireland between
1801 and 1922, and Northern Ireland from 1921 up to the present
day is undeniable. From the establishment at the time of the
Union, or perhaps more accurately maintenance, of an appointed
administration at Dublin castle, along with a supporting civil
service (something not included in the terms of reference of the
Act of Union itself), through to the more recent implementation of
direct rule and the proroguing of Stormont in 1972, to the present
day period of direct rule which sees direct rule ministers
implementing wide-ranging changes to local government and
attack after attack on the working class in the north, provide
evidence of this. Westminster still exerts an influence that
overrides local political opinion and organisation, both unionist
and nationalist, when Westminster feels this is necessary. The
greatest victims of this colonial attitude in recent times may well
prove to have been the Unionist 'community'.

However the existence of such a colonial relationship does not
necessarily lead to automatic support for Irish nationalism even in
the guise of anti-imperialism. Many Unionists have identified the
colonial nature of the relationship between Westminster and
Northern Ireland as a problem. Yet for Unionists the 'solution' is
usually presented in terms of full integration and participation in
the government at Westminster, or alternatively in terms of
greater devolution and more meaningful local control.

The present phase of direct rule is also providing our local
politicians with the enviable luxury of ineffective semi-permanent
opposition. They were never adverse to implementing cutbacks, or
giving certain cutbacks a distinct sectarian twist, but they must in
reality relish the fact that the direct rule ministers seem intent on
getting the worst of the attacks out of the way before there is any
re-establishment of the Assembly.

NO WAR BUT THE CLASS WAR

Opposition to partition is traditionally nothing more than the
desire to see the establishment of a unitary Irish nation state
governed from the Dail, while the opposed view which wishes to
see partition maintained is expressed in terms of preserving the
Union or more negatively as opposition to the Irish nationalist
project.

Both sides stake claims to legitimate government while we as
anarchists surely reject Statism and regard all forms of
government as illegitimate. Surely it is more useful for anarchists
to be developing ideas about the possibilities we see for the future
in changed economic and social relations and how we develop, as
opposed to set obstacles in the way of, working class unity in a
struggle aiming towards real freedom across these islands and
internationally. We should do this on the basis of our own
tradition, stressing our belief in workers control, federalism and
internationalism. Instead of tinkering about with particular
ideological histories set firmly in the 'dual narrative' of Irish
history we should strive instead to challenge the constructions and
myths of our history/histories. These are the myths that have lain
at the heart of all attempts at creating and maintaining nation
states and of binding us more successfully to our masters and
exploiters. We believe that the slogan 'no war but the class war'
provides a good guide to the attitudes of the global and local
bosses, and the politicians who carry out the agenda of global
capital. It is an attitude that we must adopt as our own.

This does not translate into ignoring oppression and
discrimination but opposing it with the same resolve no matter
what quarter it emanates from. We believe that ending partition
cannot be prioritised over the smashing of both states in Ireland,
nor do we believe it to be a necessary, effective or even desirable
precursor to social revolution. We hope we can work together with
members of the WSM in struggling towards and promoting our
joint goal of successful social revolution. At present however this
position paper offers no more opportunities for building effective
class unity in the north than have various other variations on the
stages theory that have gone before it.

Organise! November 2004.
http://www.organiseireland.org
==========================
* The original + Repli2s and discussions at:
http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=67598


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