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(en) Ireland, Working Class Resistance* #11 - Loyalist Intifada? PSNI Targetted in Loyalist 'Anti-State' Riots

Date Sun, 12 Mar 2006 09:35:52 +0200

A Scottish comrade who used to live in Belfast decided, along with
his partner, to pay the Belfast Local of Organise! a wee visit at the
end of the summer. They arrived as Septembers Loyalist riots kicked
off and as more violence than our comrade had seen in the couple of
years he lived here seemed to occur in the space of a few short days.
The riots intensified in the wake of a decision to re-route the
Whiterock Orange Parade on Saturday 10 September. We say intensified
because the UVF had already been orchestrating riots as a result police
raids on a number of drinking dens associated with that organisation.
Kicking Off
While regarded, with good reason, by many as a planned attempt to
divert attention from ongoing loyalist feuding and sectarian attacks
on Catholic homes across the north it was the largely anti-state
nature of the riots that demands a closer examination. Not that
loyalism has ever had an aversion to taking on the British state (see
page 8).

Meanwhile, from the safety of ‘nationalist’ North Belfast we
watched the plumes of smoke rising from what looked to be Mount
Vernon, while landrovers dripping fresh paint made their way up and
down the Antrim Road to and from the barracks. Helicopters
hovered over the Shankill, the Shore Road, city centre, and East
Belfast. As we watched smoke rose into the air from further in the
distance as things heated up over in the East. At one point, or rather
over a good 5 minute stretch, some sort of massive, white, mobile
HQ crawled past us at about 5 mph with sirens wailing, tiny blue
lights flashing all accompanied by high pitched laser noises. The
back doors were open to reveal rows of seats, and peelers at consoles
in the back. “What the fuck is that?” our Scottish comrade

The next evening we watched trough the window of a nearby pub,
from over our pints, as more landrovers, Army and Police, many of
them with scorch marks and plastered with paint, piled into the
Musgrave Street barracks – one veteran remarked that he
hadn’t seen anything like it since the eighties.

Panic – I Predict a Riot

It took a while getting home that evening but our visiting comrades
were somewhat more inconvenienced the following day when they
tried to make their onward journey to a planned romantic vacation in
Venice. Cutting it fine already they arrived to get their bus to the
Belfast International Airport only to find buses being cancelled as
‘I Predict a Riot’ blared over Ireland, Working Class Resistancethe intercom.

Panic ensued, frantic phone calls were made, taxis refused to take
them so far out of Belfast in case they couldn’t get back. But one
taxi-driver was eventually convinced to take our duo to the airport,
so they made it to the book in with only seconds to spare – only
for them to find that their flight was delayed!

Other people, mostly working class Protestants from the areas
affected by the rioting, were faced with more serious disruption.
When the buses and company vans ran out it was all too often cars
and vans belonging to other working class people that were
transformed into burning barricades, while many more faced
inconvenience, uncertainty, fear and intimidation.

Class tensions at work

This violence was primarily anti-state with hostility being directed
towards the PSNI, Parades Commission and the Government. But
what really fuelled the Loyalist intifada?

The rioting was concentrated on poorer Protestant working class
areas of Belfast, in areas that, like other working class communities,
have gained least from the peace process and which have suffered
worst from de-industrialisation.

Clearly underlying any sectarian motivation for the riots class
tensions are also at work. Traditional industries that provided
employment for predominantly Protestant skilled workers have
relocated to parts of the globe with cheaper labour costs and little in
the way of union recognition.

This process has been deliberately exacerbated by the acceptance of
‘neo-liberal’ economic policies by all of the north’s
major parties. From the ‘socialist’ Sinn Fein to the Social
Democratic and Labour Party, the UUP to DUP, even the working
class loyalist PUP accepts such economic ‘realities’. All of
our politicians have encouraged a process that sees the redistribution
of poverty, as opposed to the redistribution of the wealth created by
working people for the benefit of working people, while Northern
Ireland’s wealthy elite gets wealthier.

Exclusion and blaming the ‘other’

Working class Protestants are feeling excluded, demoralised and
they are losing out. Less than two in every hundred people in the
Shankill – including mature students – make it to third level
education. For many working class Protestants there is no way out of
poverty or exclusion and all too often this feeds into not only the
likes of last September’s riots but it also feeds into the growing
ranks of the loyalist paramilitary youth wings of the YCV and the
UYM. It is a situation that has, given the fragmented and
increasingly sectarian nature of our society, led to demonisation of
the ‘other’ community by a younger generation of working
class Protestants and Catholics. It plays out in recreational rioting,
increasing riots following Scottish football matches between Rangers
and Celtic and in sectarian attacks carried out by young people on
both Protestant and Catholic homes and communities.

Class not country

There is a sense that nationalists have benefited from the peace
process, and this has been deliberately fostered by unionist
politicians in a manner encouraged by the provisions of the Good
Friday Agreement and the concept of Equality being promoted in the
north. This is a notion that has been encouraged by Sinn Fein
representing every minor concession as a major victory for their
party and by statements that claim we’ll see a united Ireland by
2016. With no prospect of class unity emanating from that quarter its
difficult to imagine exactly what they mean by ‘united’.

The truth is that the jobs that have brought unemployment levels so
low are largely casual and low-paid – all working class people in
the north are suffering the effects of poverty, lower wages, higher
prices and an increasingly ruthless government onslaught on our
welfare and services.

Only unity in opposition to water charges, rates hikes, education and
health cuts offers any alternative to increasingly alienated and
impoverished working class communities. Unionism or Loyalism,
nor Nationalism or Republicanism, offer anything but more of the
same, or worse, to working class people.

We have no common interests with British, Irish or global
capitalists. We have no common interests with the politicians who
enact economic policies that benefit the rich and penalise the poor
– nor do we have common interests with those politicians who
aspire to that role.

Unity worth fighting for

Some people, active in their own communities and often from
loyalist or republican backgrounds have done excellent work to try
and alleviate the worst impacts of poverty and sectarianism but we
need to go further than this. We need to build a movement capable
of breaking with the baggage and misguided nationalist notions of
loyalism and republicanism. We need to break with the cancer of
militarism that has blighted so many lives.

We need to organise as workers, in our communities and
workplaces, to pursue our own interests as only we can. We need to
make government and capitalism history in a struggle that forges a
new unity – the only unity worth building and fighting for –
class unity in opposition to all bosses and states.

J. Brannigan

From WCR 11. We don't usually print articles from WCR so soon
after publication but in light of requests made in the wake of the
rioting in Dublin sparked by an attempted Love Ulster rally we are
making this article available online at this time.
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