Sunday, 23 March 2014




The Red Plough


Vol. 5-No 1
 March  2014


1/ The Redmondite Ghost


2/ Is a Socialist Republic Possible?

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1/THE REDMONITE GHOST

Following the broadcasting of a programme on “The Disappeared”  in 2013, there had been much speculation about the future of the current President of Provisional Sinn Fein, a Mr. Adams. The programme itself dealt with the fate of a number of individuals who were secretly killed and buried by the Provisional IRA. Among those who were “disappeared” was a Mrs Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 children all under the age of 16 when she was killed. Rather than admit her killing the PIRA in  Belfast put out rumours she was alive in the Shankill living with a man. Imagine the children thinking they had been abandoned by their mother! No one went to the aid of those 10 children. It was decades before the PIRA admitted they had killed her. 

It would be safe to assume that the leadership of the PIRA had sanctioned the policy of “disappearing.”  That policy was wrong, inhumane and to all intent and purpose, a war crime. It left relatives in the dark as to the fate of their loved ones. It left them with a gaping hole in their lives without the opportunity, for decades, to mourn.

It also blackened Irish Republicanism. Many volunteers in the IRA joined to take part in a struggle for the establishment of an Irish Republic on the island of Ireland. We can disagree with the tactics they used but many felt that the national question could only be resolved through the use of armed force.  Their intentions may have been genuine, their commitment to their cause unquestionable and their revolutionary ardour unequalled but they were betrayed by their leadership who led them them up the garden path.

In the early 1970’s their leaderships promised them a quick victory. 74 was to be the year of victory. That of course was a nonsense. By 1977 by his own words Mr.Adams was already beginning “peace talks.” Unfortunately he forgot to tell IRA volunteers this and they continued to engage in armed struggle for a further 17 years in which many people lost their lives. 

So there is a long history of Mr.Adams. What one can say is that Mr.Adams is a proven liar.

Mr. Adams denies being ever in the IRA. A lie. He was. Mr Adams denies having anything to do with the policy of the disappeared. A lie. He ordered the disappearance of at least Jean McConville. He protected his paedophile brother for years. Mr. Adams also abandoned every position he had held as a republican.
Smash Stormont! No to partition. No participation in partitionist parliaments. No decommissioning.” No talks until internment ends” etc etc etc.  

However Mr.Adams is really not the problem. It is the Provo Sinn Fein politics  that is the problem.When they were set up the Official Republican Movement (later to degenerate into the Workers Party) called them the Provisional Alliance.
Official IRA Patrol 
There was a strong element of truth in that description. It was an alliance of of traditional type republicans, rural nationalists, angry working class youths and some with left wing background.  Their initial statements were almost entirely based on anti-communism with a strong Catholic conservative  bias so it was no wonder that the free State Government courted elements of their leadership and tried to encourage republicans to “take out “ the leftist leadership of the Officials. Indeed until about 1975 Free State Intelligence services concentrated mainly on the “Sticks” and basically ignored the Provos.  Socialism was a bigger threat to the Southern establishment than armed nationalists.

It was the concept of nationalism that has come to dominate within PSF.   
Daniel O'Connell
John Redmond
All those who clung to basic republican principles were gradually sidelined , demonised, dismissed, or worse. A mind set was  established within the ranks of the PIRA and Provisional Sinn Fein of tight Stalinist-like control by a tiny kitchen cabinet who dictated every u-turn and reversal of policy.  Having been convinced by  John Hume and his clerical allies of the benefits of a pan -nationalist front involving the SDLP. PSF, the Irish Government and conservative Irish America that kitchen cabinet turned a genuine liberation struggle into a struggle for equality( a SDLP position) under British hegemony. 

The ghosts of Daniel O’Connell and John Redmond have embraced  Sinn Fein who now walk in their shadow!
Mr. Adams In Glasses

They  have inherited the mantle of Daniel O'Connell and John Redmond!Their acceptance of the capitalist system, their courting of multi-nationals and their dropping of any serious socialist ideas (only adopted to channel working class militancy) and their hounding and slandering of those who do not accept their volte face all shows how they had bought, or been bought, into the capitalism system. They stole the clothes of the SDLP!
They did a dirty squalid sectarian deal to gain power in the North but that power is illusionary.They can administer as long as the DUP  agree. But unfortunately for them Unionism has decided to renege on their commitments to the Good Friday Agreement and are now trying to turn the tide back towards Orange rule again. Thus  there has been little agreement over the past few years. The paralysis in Stormont has lead to increasing disillusionment among large sections  of the population and pushed more of them into entrenched sectarian positions. More protests about flags than the dismantling of the National health Service. So much for the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter once articulated by the Adams loyalists. No the real power rests where it always has with the British ruling class. 

The fall out from the Downey affair was a classic illustration of the shaky institutions of the Northern State and of the dis-honourable compromises  made by the Adams republicans.


John Downey was an Irish Republican who joined the IRA. As a member of that organisation he probably took part in armed operations. He was arrested in Britain over  a year ago and charged in connection with the Hyde Park Bombing .. However he was released when it emerged he had been given, by mistake a letter from the PSNI saying he was not wanted for questioning either in Ireland or Britain. 

The letter was part of a procedure established as part of the peace process to allow the return of the “On the Runs” i.e. those republicans who thought they may be arrested for armed activities.
Outrage was expressed at Downey’s release by British and Unionist politicians who claimed not to know about the procedure. Peter Robinson, leader of the DUP and First Minister, threatened to resign if there was not a judicial Review in to the whole issue and if the letters to nearly two hundred “on the runs” were not withdrawn. However the quick decision by Cameron to appoint a judge to review the paper work took the heat out of the situation and let Robinson to boast he had won.

The reality is of course different. The procedure for the On the runs had been known all along by unionists.

On the 22nd of June 2007 The  Belfast Telegraph ran an article by Chris Thornton in which he wrote

Dozens already cleared to return but 'no plans for fresh legislation'
84 OTRs - the initials stand for on the runs - have already been cleared to return to Northern Ireland without facing jail time, according to statistics released to the Belfast Telegraph by the Attorney General's office.
That includes almost 50 people who spent at least a decade on the run but who were never wanted in the first place.
Material released under the Freedom of Information Act shows the number of OTRs is far higher than previous estimates.
The names of almost 200 people have been passed to the Government by Sinn Fein over the past seven years, while London wrestled with mechanisms to allow them to return.

For public consumption Unionist has pretended they did not know about the procedure yet only a year ago Gerry Kelly speaking about the Downey case said there was a letter telling Downy he was not wanted for questioning, yet Unionism did not respond. So why now? 

Over the past year 15 months loyalist have been protesting on the streets about the flying of the Union Flag only on designated days in Belfast City Council. Elections for local councils and the European parliament are coming up in May.

Robinson lost his Westminster Seat when, after the revelations about shady property deals, sections of the UDA supported the Alliance Party whose candidate subsequently won the seat. The DUP fear the loss of control of the more extreme elements in loyalism hence their support for the flag protests and allowing one of their members, Ruth Patterson to condone and collaborate with loyalist sectarianism. They fear loyalism will swing behind the Traditional Unionist Voice of Jim Allister who is a formidable voice for traditional unionism and a bitter opponent of the DUP of which he was once a leading member. So in East Belfast in a signal to Loyalism the DUP parachuted in Snowy White-an ex prisoner strongly connected to the UDA -as a candidate for them.



The UDA’S main opponents in loyalism is the UVF who are closely associated with the Progressive Unionist Party. Its current leader is Billy Hutchinsonwho only recently boasted that his killing of two Catholics had helped prevent a United Ireland. 

Unionism is in crisis and in a state of denial. An Alliance MLA has been attacked for correctly pointing out that Northern Ireland is an artificial state and a colony. There is an obsession with the symbols  of Britishness and  denial of the rights of Nationalists 

On the republican side, it is clear, that the ONR’s policy was only to be applied to Adams loyalists.  The recent arrest and charging of Ivor Bell, in relation to the Jean Mc McConville disappearance is a case in point. Bell a former chief of staff of the IRA disagreed with the Adams electoral line in the early eighties and was dismissed from the IRA. Recently he was supporting republican independent candidates for forthcoming elections. And lo and behold he was arrested and charged. Coincidence or what? 
Support for Ivor Bell Belfast 22/03/14


Given that Adam's name was the one freely bandied about as having ordered the execution of Jean McConville is this not strange?

There was an agreement between the Brits and Adam’ s Kitchen Cabinet, that only supporters of the Adams leadership would receive letters. Neither the INLA members, who were on the runs, were involved nor those so called dissidents who split from the Provos. Such a deal besmirched republicanism as indeed had acts of decommissioning by republicans, acceptance of the PSNI and helping to run the Northern state. And of course as to be expected the Brits reneged on the deal.

All around there are clear signs that neither the British nor the Unionists have any desire to keep their part of the Good Friday Agreement. Both the legal system and the PSNI show a strong unionist bias. The Irish language is ridiculed by the Loyal orders and there is no chance of an Irish Language Act. Republican prisoners are brutalised through regular strip searches. Housing policy is changing to ensure that Unionism retains majorities where they already hold seats. Racist and sectarian attacks are now almost a daily occurrence. 


Police Service of Northern Ireland

Incidents and Crimes with a Hate Motivation Recorded by the Police in Northern Ireland: Quarterly Update to 30 June 2013
Published 29 August 2013


The rulings of the Parade Commission are daily ignored by loyalist marches and paramilitary jeeps with masked supporters recently took part in a March towards Ardoyne a deprived nationalist ghetto. As Republican Socialists had predicted many years ago the Good Friday Agreement has failed. It has strengthened sectarianism divided working people and cemented British rule in ireland 

In politics there is always room to change ones’ mind or position. Even revolutionaries sometimes must give ground in the face of overwhelming odds.  There is no dishonour in taking steps back. There is no dishonour in admitting mistakes or accepting that tactics are not working.

But it is wrong to lie deceive and hoodwink those who are prepared to die for their cause. Honesty is not some bourgeois habit. It is essential for those who want to change society.

 It is essential  for republicans to acknowledge that republicanism has suffered a serious defeat. Both the campaigns waged by the Provo IRA and the INLA failed.  Any armed campaign based mainly on the passive support of sections of the northern catholic working class is always bound to fail. Furthermore developments in technology mean more and more activists will be caught and jailed or killed.  Time and time again history has shown that armed struggles in Ireland always end in defeat. Armed republicanism may have a “glorious” history in some peoples eyes but it also “glorious” defeat!

However it is not merely enough to decry those who still adhere to an armed struggle and point out is futility. As Joe Hill is reported to have said, “don’t mourn organise.”
Joe Hill
That also includes showing how other approaches rather than armed struggle work. The fantastic responses around Europe  by the masses against austerity measures show positive examples of how things can be.   As yet, opposition to austerity in both parts of Ireland has been patchy and disorganised. The left seems incapable of creating a unified mass movement because of the political sectarian attitudes of their leaderships. 

The creation of a revolutionary leadership is a major task facing the left. Republicanism if it to have any relevance must become part of the building of such a leadership. While Republicanism is divided and has little support within the broad section of the population it still remains a valid revolutionary tendency. However Republicanism must identify with the needs and aspirations of the mass of working people. Elitist ideas and attitudes, whether from Republicans or Marxists, do nothing to advance progressive ideas in Ireland.  

The ideas of James Connolly still retain a freshness and relevance today. 
Ireland has a number of political groupings and Parties that adhere to an ideology that they call “Republican Socialism” or “Socialist Republicanism.”. Indeed it is difficult to find any republican organisation that does not have as its aim the establishment of a Socialist Republic. All claim that they are in the tradition of James Connolly. Connolly’s definition of what a Republic would be was clear succinct and unambiguous.

“Establishment of AN IRISH SOCIALIST REPUBLIC based upon the public ownership by the Irish people of the land, and instruments of production, distribution and exchange. Agriculture to be administered as a public function, under boards of management elected by the agricultural population and responsible to them and to the nation at large. All other forms of labour necessary to the well-being of the community to be conducted on the same principles.”

He laid out a very clear template for both Republicans and Socialists of his time what that struggle for a Republic should be. Without changing the essential ownership of the means of production then 

“If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle., unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs”. - James Connolly, from Socialism and Nationalism in Shan Van Vocht, January 1897
That quotation has been repeated numerous times by republican socialists (including this author) to justify opposition to the many attempts since 1916 to “settle the Irish Question”.  
The greatness of Connolly was that he saw clearly that the class and national question were intertwined. Time has proven him correct.
Ever effort to solve the so called “Irish question” has so far failed. The class and national question are intertwined. Neglecting either is to sink into reformism or ultra leftism. Neither approach serves the interests of the working class. The national question is a class question. 

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           IS A UNITED SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF IRELAND POSSIBLE?
The answer to this question is yes. Equally it is possible for FC United of Manchester to win the FA Cup.......one day! In pursuit of the socialist republic many, many obstacles will be encountered and not only the loyalist/unionist opposition in North East Ulster. 
In the days of James Connolly, perhaps Irelands most forward thinking Marxist theorist, the building of socialism in Ireland was fraught with difficulties. The church, both major denominations, were, for once united in their opposition to such an ideology and, if push came to shove, would have perhaps buried their theological differences in defeating the great devil incarnate, socialism! Connolly, Jim Larkin and the men and women who marched out at Easter week 1916, not all by any stretch of the imagination socialist, were fighting the largest empire in world history, the British. This was no easy task and should never be underestimated in its magnitude relative to the times. The rising was defeated within one week, resulting in the execution by military firing squad of fifteen men including two socialists, James Connolly and Michael Mallin, and one man, Roger Casement hanged in London. This defeat, in military terms, was certainly a moral victory and planted the seeds for further rebellions. However fighting the British Empire, hard as it was, did not necessarily mean fighting capitalism. After all the ogre of the 1913 Dublin Lockout, William Martin Murphy, was a home rule MP who opposed the very idea of the partition of Ireland when that concept was first muted. His opposition was based very much on wishing to have a larger market to plunder and huger workforce to exploit for even greater profits. Murphy epitomised the face of Irish capitalism.                                                       
pastedGraphic.pdf 
W.M Murphy arch capitalist and ogre of 1913
Had he lived he would have most likely supported, but not fought for, the anti-treaty side in the civil war for the aforementioned reasons. He was certainly no friend or ally of the proletariat and socialism. Murphy and his kind would not have fought on the anti-treaty side, neither would he have given too much public support, these people were far too astute for that and would not have fancied repercussions from the victors should they be the pro-treaty side, which turned out to be the result. No, these men wanted to hedge their bets, though preferring a united capitalist Ireland ripe for exploitation, they would and did settle for a twenty six county free state. There were other elements of the Irish bourgeoisie, perhaps a majority, who settled for the twenty six county variant from the start, though again in most cases did not pick up a rifle to fight for it. That, like wealth creating, was for the working class to do and for them, the bourgeoisie to reap the benefits.
Times have moved on since the times of James Connolly, Michael Mallin and Jim Larkin but the principles they were fighting for remain the same. The industrialisation of the modern world was completed some years ago and the means of production, distribution and exchange now, as then are all in private hands. The working class are still the working class or, as Andre Gortz calls the new workers in highly advanced computerised industries the “Neo-Proletariat” or new working class. 

This section of the working class, despite being up to their necks in mortgage debt, still selling their “labour power” for a monetary wage thus making them modern wage slaves consider themselves, for some odd reason, middle class. These people are one of the many obstacles faced when trying to build the socialist republic. The ”Neo-Proletariat” comprise a sizable number of the modern working class and will increase as the old “fordist” industries disappear and those which remain are highly mechanised with robots doing the jobs and tasks once performed by workers. Again there is no harm in this technological advancement, it should benefit all of us making life easier and pleasurable for all. The fact is it doesn’t simply because this modern means of production are in the same private hands, all it brings for the majority working class is unemployment and poverty, marriage breakdown and in some cases suicide. 

A major factor which must be included in any form of socialism is the common ownership, under proletarian control, of the means of production, distribution and exchange including all the pose-modern advancements. The bourgeoisie will not give them up voluntarily just because some radical left wing party has gained political (as opposed to real power) power for a four or five year term of office. No, unfortunately, all these goodies will have to be wrestled from them and all the forces at their disposal will be sent out to defend the status-quo. These forces, just as in 1913, include the police, An Garda Síochána, formerly RIC and in Dublin the DMP, the Irish Army all of which would come to the defence of the Irish bourgeoisie. What the bourgeoisie of Ireland gained in the War Of Independence, 1919-21, they are going to keep unless the balance of class forces alter and the working class seize what is rightly theirs.
All the problems and barriers facing those trying to build socialism in Ireland are chiefly domestic and, left isolated, not insurmountable. Unfortunately in today’s world of high financed multi-national capitalism things are not that clear cut or simple. Modern capitalism is international, once a term reserved for socialism on the grounds of international solidarity, has been hijacked by the international bourgeoisie. Very powerful groups, far above any national governments, such as the Bildenberg Group consisting of the worlds leading bankers, industrialists, monarchs and technocrats, have grown out of this international concept of capitalism. It would be very, very foolish for any organisation to underestimate the power of such organisations. There are other similar pro-capitalist organisations, for example in the EU Business Europe which IBEC (Irish Business Employers Confederation, the successors to W.M. Murphy’s Dublin Employers Federation of 1913) are Irelands’ voice,   and in times of crisis all of them sing from the very same hymn sheet. These are not arguments not to fight for socialism in Ireland but merely to point out many obstacles normally overlooked in the discourse of various organisations aiming at establishing a socialist republic.
Another factor worthy, very worthy of mention is the various constitutional military forces in Ireland. In the 26 counties we have the Irish (free state) army and in the occupied six counties there is the presence of the British army, the stronger of the two no doubt. The Irish army would come, in all probability, to the defence of native capitalism and the interests of the multi-nationals based on Irish soil. The British army, as they have proved in Britain itself, would defend British capitalism and the trans-nationals which Britain is a component part, having large companies operating in other countries themselves, to the point of shooting workers, even their own biological brothers and sisters. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) fought a long war against this army of occupation, the latter under the banner “for national liberation and socialism” linking the two struggles of nation and class into one.  
A major barrier to building a united socialist republic in Ireland is the forced partition of the country. A divided country leads to a divided working class, something which James Connolly argued against all those years ago. In the six counties under British occupation the loyalist/unionist proletariat appear more concerned which days of the year they can fly the imperialist flag rather that how they are going to find their next meal.


The flag in question is an antithesis to socialism and, if they could only see it, against their, the loyalist/unionist working class, bread and butter interests. As James Connolly once pointed out “you can’t eat a flag”. A strange mentality to say the least but another barrier to unification, without which socialism would be difficult, and a huge symptom of partition. As we have already visited and concluded the British army in the occupied areas represent the interests of the British ruling class, or at least that was once the case.
Whether that applies to the same extent today is open to question. One former British Secretary Of State for “Northern Ireland” is on record as saying Britain has no longer “any major political, economic or military” interests in remaining in Ireland. Was he telling the truth? If he was why are they still there? Why have Military Intelligence Five, MI5, reportedly opened a large new building in Belfast, the North Of Irelands capital city? This certainly suggests the British are going nowhere soon! 
The question is, are the forces of the crown there as servants of Britain or members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)? Probably at the moment they are British first NATO second but this may not always be the case as the cleavage is certainly narrowing. Some may argue the two roles are indistinguishable! They may have a point!! Would a united non-socialist Ireland perhaps suit the British? In the late 1960s an idea was discussed between three Irish TDs regarding the situation in the North. Neil Blaney, Kevin Boland and Charlie Haughey discussed a plan involving “a direct approach to the British government and seek their approval for sections of the Irish Army to enter Northern Ireland at two points – one giving it access and eventual control of Derry in the North West; the other, through Dundalk to Newry. It was accepted that Catholics in Belfast would have to wait until Belfast and Newry were secured”( The Dirty War Martin Dillon P: 7). 

The British Prime Minister of the day, Harold Wilson,
was not unsympathetic to a united Ireland, perhaps with certain socialistic trimmings, labourism, as was the UK Labour party policy at the time. Should this have come about it would NOT have equalled socialism so no illusions should be gathered on the what if basis. Such a condition may have paved the way to achieve socialism if we ignore NATO. 

Blaney claimed until his dying day that “the British government waited for forty eight hours before sending troops into Northern Ireland to allow the Irish government time to make the proposed incursions” (ibid). Judging by Neil Blaney' s recollection the British government of the day were happy enough to see a united Ireland of sorts and most definitely under the capitalist economic umbrella. They were not, however, taking into account of the plight the Catholics of Belfast would have faced from a loyalist backlash before Irish troops could get there. The IRA of the time was very small and ill equipped to launch any form of defence in Belfast and the INLA was yet to come into being.
Even today a situation, should it come about, where a withdrawal of British forces from the north and unification (not socialist) were feasible would it not be to the advantage of Britain? A settled Ireland on its western flank trouble free would certainly suit most as it would be a scenario which has never existed since pre 1169! It would certainly be an improvement on the present situation, perhaps somewhere in the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 there are hidden provisions with or without, though preferably with, loyalist/ unionist approval! If this question was to be seriously contemplated, which may suit Britain, would it suit the United States of America? “It is doubtful America would permit it unless some accommodation were also provided under which Britain was enabled readily to continue monitoring Americas Atlantic defences”.
“A United Ireland so independent as to be open to extreme socialist government (by force or not, from without or within) would be a substantial threat to United States policy and interests and to NATO” (The Civil War 1922-23 Eoin Neeson P:12). On the other hand a united Ireland willing to become a full integrated member of NATO, thus safeguarding the Eastern seaboard of the USA would almost certainly be acceptable to both the US and Britain. The loyalists/unionists would count for little under such a scenario, they should remember this. Being a full integrated member of NATO would also give the bourgeoisie, orange and green, Christian, Muslim, Jew and Atheist the guarantees they would need against the rise of the working class and socialism.
These are some, though by no means all, of the problems faced by those attempting to build socialism in a modern Ireland. Sin Fein formerly the political voice of the IRA have watered down their policies to such an extent that a united Ireland is seldom mentioned. They now have fourteen TDs in the Irish parliament, Dail Eireann, and the once often voiced “FOR A SOCIALIST REPUBLIC” is never mentioned. Today the once custodian of republican, not necessarily republican socialist, ideology are now a left of centre pro capitalist party. The policies of the modern Sinn Fein party are not dissimilar to those advocated by the labour governments of the British Labour Party in the 1960s under Harold Wilson. Sinn Fein do, at this moment in time, stand a good chance of becoming part of an Irish government in the 26 counties possibly at the next or following election. They are already involved in the “Power Sharing Executive” based at Stormont in the 6 counties, a situation brought about through the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 resulting in an IRA, though not immediately INLA, ceasefire. Perhaps this is modern Sinn Fein united Irish policy, sitting on what amounts to a large metropolitan local council in the north and being part of a bourgeois government in the south. This would, of course, mean accepting partition which they vowed to remove and still to this aim pay lip service.
Another problem which would face a united socialist republic of Ireland is the currency of exchange. If we were to use either sterling or the euro which are both geared to the gold reserves we would face problems having a completely planned economy, an essential ingredient of socialism. We would have to trade with the capitalist world, probably readopting some of their trappings! One major boost would be for the proletariat of England, Scotland Wales and Cornwall to rise up against their oppressive capitalist masters and their agents. Even better if this were to be European wide. This is of course living, for the time being, in the land of, at best speculation and at worst fantasy.
This short piece has narrated the negatives involved in building socialism and purposely so. These problems must be addressed, not before we start building the socialist alternative, but while we are doing so. I am not trying to say when anybody is trying to get people involved with socialistic plans within their areas they start off by threatening NATO annihilation should socialism, through revolution or otherwise be successful. No that would be a foolish approach to say the least. 

It is at local level, both in the workplace and residential areas, through trade union organisation and street committees where the seeds of socialism and therefore working class emancipation begins. It is here that a class consciousness among the proletariat develops. All the problems I have highlighted above are not, in most cases of immediate concern, but an awareness of them, and knowledge and preparation for when, and they will, come into play is important. For warned is for armed. At the moment there is no need to give these issues priority attention, that would be counterproductive, after all who would subscribe to an ideology which may result in their, or their families deaths? It should be remembered, however, that ideas and militancy levels change in struggle and that is one of our great weapons.
Caoimhin O’Muraile.                            




Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Red Plough Vol 4-7


The Red Plough
Vol. 4-7
 2013


1/Denying the needs, Frustrating the rights

2/ Who said Boycott is dead?

denying the needs, frustrating the right


A recent article by Gary Mulcahy  in the July August edition of "The "Socialist" dealt with the emergence of residents groups in North Belfast. The article was in line with the narrative that the Socialist Party espouses. That narrative is along the following lines- republicans are sectarian- residents groups are sectarian-demands for housing in  North Belfast are sectarian- the Orange Order is sectarian but has a right to March and the only way forward is the building of a new mass party of the working class under the leadership of the trade union movement. Until such time as a mass labour Party is established meanwhile join the Socialist Party and fight against  Capitalism sectarianism etc. 
Cde Mulcahy specifically writes 

“There have been several attempts in recent years by republicans in North Belfast to mobilise on the theme of civil rights -highlighting the lack of housing in Catholic areas-a sectarian position which divides rather than unites working class people”

This is an odious position for a socialist to take.
Perhaps Cde Mulcahy missed this 

"The Committee is concerned about the chronic shortage of housing, in particular social housing, for the most disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, such as... Catholic families in Northern Belfast, in spite of the financial resources provided, and other measures taken, by the State party in this regard." 
Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, May 2009
A leading trade unionist and former activist in the civil rights movement in the late 1960’s was the late Inez McCormick.
She founded The Participation and the Practice of Rights organisation” (PPR), which was recognised by the United Nations in November 2012 for its work on housing in Northern Ireland.  

In May 2012 Inez wrote

"Any decision on housing in North Belfast has to evidence how it will concretely address the inequality experienced, in this case, by the Catholic community. Attempting to build good relations on the basis of denying the needs, frustrating the rights, and silencing the voices of the poorest is wrong in itself as it is destructive to the goal of building a shared future." (My emphasis).Inez McCormack (PPR Founder, May 2012)
Was her activity both in the sixties and prior to her death -sectarian? Did she in either period take a sectarian position? To even ask such a question shows the utter absurdity of Cde. Mulcahy’s position.

The PPR launched a report on housing in north Belfast  as recently as August 22rd 2013  called Equality CannotWaiThis report points out  that 


The Catholic community in North Belfast has long been impacted by religious inequality in housing.  PPR has worked on housing issues with people on the ground in North Belfast over the last seven years. Our work is showing that Catholics in North Belfast in need of housing have been repeatedly disadvantaged. This includes the failure of the £133 million North Belfast Housing Strategy to tackle inequality; the engineering of a Belfast City Centre ‘shared space’ being prioritised over addressing existing Catholic housing need; and the removal of protections which ‘ring-fenced’ new social homes for areas impacted by religious inequality.”
Currently on the web site of the PPR is the following 

Yesterday (19th September 2013) five north Belfast residents hand delivered letters and evidence to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive of their continuing dire housing circumstances.
Hugh McAuley lives on the 12 floor of Finn House, one of the Seven Towers high rise flats in north Belfast, with his four children. Hugh posted all five residents’ testimonies to the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland MLA this morning (20th September 2013), including photographic and medical evidence of the impact of living in unacceptable housing conditions on each resident and their families.The residents’ testimonies detail how they, and other families, are being forced to live in cold and damp high rise accommodation, with little or no accessibility or space for children’s play and development.They detail how families have been forced to go without heat or hot water for over a month with no remedy.They detail how families have waited for years in ‘temporary’ hostels in cramped conditions and environments with their children.They detail how each resident’s health and wellbeing is affected in very different ways by the failure of the Department for Social Development and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to recognise and address the chronic problem of Catholic inequality in housing impacting north Belfast.”

There is enough evidence to show that neither the Housing Executive nor the Power Sharing Executive want, or desire, to tackle the housing problems of North Belfast. By labelling efforts to highlight the plight of the homeless in North Belfast the Socialist Party are in effect providing political cover for both those organisations

Sectarianism is institutionalised in the Northern State. All of the Government institutions and agencies were geared for over fifty years to maintaining Unionist control of the state. They did this by maginalising the nationalist population, confining them to ghettoes, depriving them of well paid jobs and harassing those who objected to their second class status with the full force of the RUC and the  B specials. Tho’ there have been changes since the fall of the old Stormont the institutions have not yet eradicated their institutional bias. 

For example  after 22 years from the fall of Stormont,

" The under representation of middle class catholics within the upper reaches of the occupational hierarchy has inevitably served to ensure that northern nationalists have remained marginal to the operation of the Northern Irish economy. The lack of strategic economy power possessed by Catholic professionals was graphically illustrated in a recent survey conducted by a local firm of management consultants. The agency concerned compiled a list of those figures considered to exercise "control or influence" over the economic life of the province.Of the one thousand individuals identified only 85 came from the catholic community"(from Irish Journal of Sociology Vol 4 1994 p 1-26 Class Ethnicity and Political Identity in Northern Ireland -Colin Coulter)

Of course there can be little doubt that the position of the catholic middle classes has improved since then. Once the Provisional Sinn Fein leadership decided to ditch their socialist cover, shed most of their republicanism and embrace northern nationalism then the way was cleared for the catholic middle classes to embrace the new “Northern Ireland” and rise up the economic ladder.

That in itself produced an inevitable reaction.  As many of us in the radical left predicted back in 1969 the granting of equality within the unionist state would lead to the alienation of the Protestant working class who would lose material benefits under capitalism.

 Sadly that has now come to pass. And yet some sections of that class have fallen victim to the same old sectarian games played by their political leaders aided and abetted by those academics who have pushed the Northern Ireland Office Line that the conflict here is in essence a cultural conflict.

Hence the nonsense about “flegs” and denial of cultural rights. So called “British Culture” is not under threat. However it suits political unionism to pretend it is in order to keep working classes at each others throats. The recent outburst by the first Minister, Peter Robinson, in Stormont against the TUV’s Jim Allister shows the true face of Northern Unionism -“never sell property to catholics”. That has always been the way that unionism has kept control- keep the taigs out. That is why in North Belfast there is a red line that catholics can not cross to be housed.

Within the lower Oldpark  in North Belfast decent houses lie empty within a so called ‘Protestant’ area while Catholics wait years for decent homes. Sadly both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have bought into this approach in order to maintain what little remains of the Good Friday Agreement..

We warned then in 1998 that a vote for the GFA  was a vote to continue to sectarianise the northern statelet but the Socialist Party in its wisdom called for and voted yes for that Agreement. They did this despite  recognising that  the Good Friday Agreement 


And their reasons for calling for a yes vote do not stand up.

“no” vote would have strengthened the camp of sectarian reaction and would have put the peace process in jeopardy.”
They failed to distinguish between peace and “the peace process.” The peace process was a clear strategy by the British to halt, hinder and destroy the continuing republican resistance to British rule in Ireland. By endorsing the peace process they endorse that strategy.  
Denying the existence of reality is not the way for a socialist organisation to behave. Rather than oppose sectarianism they have in effect reached an accommodation with it .  They pay lip service to the national question  but never have actually engaged in any activity that could be identified with issues arising from the national question. Rather they have settled for  James Connolly in words and William Walker in deeds!


It needs to be spelt out clearly that sectarianism has a real material basis.
"Sectarianism is not a superstructural phenomenon floating free of an abstract economic base which in turn is divided into classes. In Northern Ireland sectarian divisions is a material reality which has been constituted and re-constituted throughout the history of capital accumulation and class struggle as a whole. It is not merely an overlay on class divisions to be to be seen as something which is either more or less important  than class. Asa material reality it has a history embedded in colonisation industrial revolution and the emergence of new class forms under capitalism. 
(ibid)


Note especially the phrase  “embedded in colonisation, industrial revolution and the emergence of new class forms under capitalism.”
It is this that the passive left chooses to ignore rather that admit the reality. 

Rather than accept the fact that the northern state is institutionalised bias and that the sectarianism has a real material basis they spin a false narrative. They give a totally inaccurate picture of what is actually happening to justify their simplistic narrative.For example they  have equated a Republican commemoration to Henry Joy McCracken with over six months of loyalist protests sectarian marches and hateful attacks. That commemoration was begun before the start of the loyalist protests and was non contentious in its first year. Its organisers were totally committed to a non sectarian approach. 

But reality must not be allowed to dictate the narrative of  the passive leftSuch a description is a reasonably accurate portrayal of those leftist organisations that suck up to the  trade union bureaucrats pass resolutions at sparsely attended union branches and then claim to have campaigned against repression and the state. Bollocks!  These same leftists would not be seen dead on an actual serious protest against repression of republicans or indeed anyone who poses a threat to the state.
What was it Lenin said?

“Social-Democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organised political force. Hence, it follows that not only must Social-Democrats not confine themselves exclusively to the economic struggle, but that they must not allow the organisation of economic exposures to become the predominant part of their activities. We must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.”(What is to be done)
Yes, take up the political education of the working class. How can you take up that task if you consistently distort reality.  Homeless North Belfast Catholics are discriminated against when it comes to housing. To call campaigns against that “sectarian” is to pander to the lowest level of loyalism. It also alienates catholic workers from these self confessed socialists. That is no way for “leninists” to behave.

Lenin was very clear as to what the political education of the working class was to be.

It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed (any more than it is to explain to them that their interests are antagonistic to the interests of the employers). Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of this oppression (as we have begun to carry on agitation round concrete examples of economic oppression). Inasmuch as this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spheres of life and activity — vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc., etc. — is it not evident that we shall not be fulfilling our task of developing the political consciousness of the workers if we do not undertake the organisation of the political exposure of the autocracy in all its aspects? 
Furthermore he was very specific,
In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct “the economic struggle against the employers and the government”. It cannot be too strongly maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat. 
Can this be any clearer? The issue of housing has been sectarianised by those who run the state. To highlight that issue and to campaign against it is in the real traditions of the revolutionaries who have gone before us.  You can not fool the working class by pretending that there is no discrimination taking place.
Nor can you win people to the banner of socialism if you call efforts to highlight discrimination 'sectarian'.
Gerry Ruddy


WHO SAID BOYCOTT IS DEAD?
Ireland , it is often said, was a far different place in the 19th century than it is today in the 21st . This observation with the slightest examination can be seen not to be strictly the case. It is true that fashions in the current era and architecture are far different than those back in the 19th century but principally in everyday life in many aspects nothing has changed. 

Parnell
Poverty despite all the technological advancements still exists and the fear of homelessness is as prevalent today as it was in the days of Charles Stewart Parnell. It may be true to say that in twenty six of Ireland's thirty two counties the British army are no longer on the streets and laws are passed in Westminster no more for this part of the island of Ireland. In this respect it would be argued for apologists for the status quo things are different. 
In these modern times we have Irish bailiffs and sheriffs backed up by Irish Policemen and soldiers, equipped with an Irish courts warrant to come and throw us out of our homes, pretty similar to what occurred regularly in the 19th century.
Back in the 19th century evictions of people from their homes, particularly though not exclusively, in rural Ireland were common place.
People were evicted from their farms regularly and the landowners knew that there were plenty of others who would bid for the unfortunate victims farm and home. Charles Stewart Parnell back in 1880 addressed a meeting in Ennis, County Clare, and reached a point in his speech on the question of what to do with a man who bids for a farm from which people had been evicted? 
Somebody from the crowd shouted out “shoot him!” to which Parnell replied 
I think I heard somebody say shot him! But I wish to point out to you a very much better way—a more Christian, and more charitable way, which will give the lost sinner an opportunity of repenting. When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must show him on the roadside, when you meet him, you must show him in the streets of the town, you must show him in the fair and the market place, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him severely alone—putting him in a kind of moral! Coventry, isolating him from his kind like the leper of old—you must show him your detestation of the crime he has committed”. (The History Of The Irish Working Class Peter Berresford Ellis P. 158-59)


In this oration Parnell gave expression and application to the Greek word “ostracism”, an idea also adopted by the English trade union movement. The method of “ostracism” had been mentioned and mulled over quite regularly in those days among the leaders of the Land League and three days after Parnell’s speech at Ennis the Irish gave their own word for “ostracism” in English, the word was boycott.
A petty landowner called Charles S. Boycott who was also the land agent of the Earl of Erne. He managed the Earls large estate in Co. Mayo. The Earl himself lived on a large 31,000 acre estate in Fermanagh and had not been in the vicinity of Mayo for years. He left the day to day running of his estate to Boycott. On September 22 1880 Boycott sent his bailiff in to evict his tenants, this brave man and his accomplices’  were guarded by police in case they met anything like equal opposition. The tenants attacked the bailiff and drove him to seek shelter in Lough Musk House. On September 24th 1880 all of Boycotts servants left his employ with all the estates farm labourers. In the village of Ballinrobe all the shopkeepers, the laundress, blacksmith and other day to day service providers refused to serve Boycott. In desperation the good Captain wrote to the London Times appealing for help to save his crops.
19th century orangemen.
His prayers were answered, or so he thought, on November 11
th when fifty Orangemen from the province of Ulster arrived led by six Ulster landowners to work Boycotts land. With them came ten servants, what today would be termed “scabs”. This motley band were accompanied by 200 troops of the 76th
regiment and another 400 from the 84th regiment; 200 troops of the 19th Hussars, two companies of the army service corps, ambulances etc. The people “shunned” the procession and even though they saved Boycotts crops worth £300 the total cost of the operation was £3,000. This kind of expenditure was unsustainable and Boycott left for England within a few days, the people had won.
Let us now leap forward 133 years to 2013 where similar occurrences are still happening. On Wednesday 25th September 2013 on pages 6-7 of the Irish Daily Mirror  the headlines read “WE’LL FIGHT ALL THE WAY” referring to a man and his family been ordered to vacate their home. 
Martin O’Sullivan has been ordered to leave the house he shares with his wife Clare and three young kids. The family who have a loan with Start Mortgages were told to vacate their semi-detached property by September 16th but anti-eviction protesters flocked to support them yesterday’
The newspaper article continues ‘a 30 strong protest group called Independent Resistance came from across the country and created a protective ring around the house in Kanturk, Co. Cork, so the sheriff could not evict the family’
The article describing Mr O’Sullivan’s plight finishes with a statement from one of the groups legal advisors, Mr Noel Walsh ; ‘We have a family here who are trying to pay their mortgage but are being thrown out instead. We can’t allow this to happen to families across the country’.  The similarities between this case in Co. Cork and those which occurred in the 19th century, which the boycott instance is but one, are there for all but the willingly blind to see. Once again people power is proving its worth as it did in the case of Captain Boycott. 
Of course any such victories laudable and encouraging as they are only represent short term gains within the system of capitalism.
This is NOT to say don’t participate in such demonstrations because it is essential people DO take part and show support as I’m sure Mr O’Sullivan will testify. The next time you hear some TD crying crocodile tears about the poor Irish suffering under the tyrannical landlords in the 19th century, probably citing their own ancestors as victims, but refuse to lift a finger to change the plight of 21st century equivalents then, as Parnell advised, “SHUN THEM”
Kevin Morley