Monday, 12 December 2011

The Red Plough Vol 2-5

The Red Plough
Vol. 2-No 5
December 2011

The Politics of Symbols
The Protestant Working Class
Smashing H-Block


On Wednesday 30th November PublicService Unions went out on strike because of the policy of the Tory/Liberal Democrats coaliaition Governments on pensions.
Contributions are to rise by an average of 3.2 per cent of salary over three years, saving the state £3.2 billion
The retirement age to be pegged to the state pension age, while all will be expected to work longer – the retirement age will rise to 67 from 2026.
A switch in the way pensions are uprated every year from the higher RPI rate of inflation to the lower CPI rate,
Staff moved from final salary schemes to career average schemes.
These policies are from a Government determined to effect a sharp reduction in public service pensions. They are similar to the cuts imposed on workers in the Irish Republic and are part of a European wide offensive on the pension rights of workers. A writer in the USA who has written extensively on USA Imperialism, Michael Parenti, has stated that
“USA reactionary rulers (goal) is the Third Worldization of the entire world including Europe and North America”
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned of a fall of 3 per cent in average incomes this year, with more to come in 2012, and the brunt of cutbacks falling on lower income families. Families with children are likely to be worse off in 2016 than they were 12 years ago. Since 2010 low income families in the North of Ireland have faced rising inflation, growing unemployment and the highest energy and childcare costs in the UK according to the Save the Children organisation. There are now an extra 14,000 children in poverty.
In the Irish Republic 40% of all those in poverty are children and that is before the full effects of the Cuts hits either North or South of the Border.
It is agains this background of raising poverty that the public service unions struck.  Trade unions organised demonstrations at lunchtime in Belfast, Derry, Newry, Downpatrick, Omagh, Ballymena, Portadown, Magherafelt and Cookstown. Despite the negative slant put on it by the media the strike was a great success and saw the largest mobilisation of workers, as workers, in generations. The tone of the speeches at the rally in front of Belfast City Hall were angry, militant and class conscious.
One could sense that many attending were more conscious of their role in the class struggle than of their perceived nationality. It was clear that we were not all in it together. On the march itself there was much discussion of the issues surrounding the strike. Many pointed out their solidarity with the low paid workers in the private sector and that many low pay jobs in the public sector had been privatised leading to a differentiation in the average pensions between the two sectors.
There was also much amusement at the sight of Provisional Sinn Fein banners on the March. In October but only known at the end of November the Northern Ireland Executive voted to implement a pensions levy on every civil and public servant in the pension scheme. Only the SDLP voted against it. PSF are on that Executive. They are part of the administration in Stormont. They implement the cuts policy of the British Government. On this issue they face two different ways at once. Eamon McCann once pointed out that having examined the proposals of the parties to the Economic Sub-Group of the Hain Assembly's Preparation for Government Committee in 2006 he concluded that the SDLP were to the left of all the other parties.
“Neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin mentions the existence of trade unions.”( sep14_economic_policies__EMcCann_BelfastTelegraph.php)
Indeed McCann says some of the proposals of PSF
“could fit comfortably into a policy statement from the Confederation of British Industry or an election appeal by Michael McDowell on behalf of the Progressive Democrats”(ibid)
Sinn Fein’s membership who retain any vestiges of radicalism, may well be fobbed of by the argument that they are fighting the British Government for changes. But somewhere down the line the penny will drop (as it did for many around the issues of the GFA) that they are being sold a pup.
Since the leadership of Provisional Sinn Fein began the process of turning their organisation into a bourgeois nationalist party they have shed much of their republicanism leading to the formations of Republican Sinn Fein, the 32County Sovereignty Movement, Eirigi and the Republican Network for Unity. It is safe to say that Irish Republicanism has never been more divided nor weaker in the past fifty years.
But rather than learn from the mistakes of the past there are still some who persist with the failed policies that has brought republicanism into a cul de sac. Neither armed struggle nor administrating Capitalist rule will bring radical change to Ireland never mind introduce socialism.
That is why it was gratifying to see republican socialists actively participating in the march and the struggles around workers rights. For years many Republicans stayed away from involvement in trade unions because of their perception of the leadership of the unions as pro-British. They did not see the connections between Imperialist control and day to day capitalist rule. They forgot the examples of James Connelly and Seamus Costello who brought into the cold light of day the connections. No simple green flag atop of buildings would free the workers. It is the class struggle that will solve the national question not the other way around. Thankfully more and more Republicans are coming to see the relevance of the Connolly/Costello approach.
It is long past the time for republican socialists to sit down with each other and over a period of time agreed the strategy and tactics needed to advance the interests of the working class in ireland . Such a move would be difficult and slow. It might need to be private or could be a public forum. But it is needed. At a time of major crisis in capitalism world wide it is a shame that the left sects still play petty politics and refuse to seriously work to build mass organisations of the working class. But it still needs to be done. The power of the class was shown in the one day strike.
Of course one successful day of action by the Unions will not stop the British Government from pursuing their attacks on the working class. They will work on the leadership of some of the public sector Unions to persuade them to break ranks and do a deal that will still worsen the pension conditions of the workers. Minor concessions will be hailed as a victory and a deal forced on reluctant workers. That is why it is essential to fight for democracy at all levels within the Unions. The entrenched bureaucracy of the Unions stand as a barrier to workers unity. The development of a grass roots movement across all unions and sectors of industry and public service is the best defence of workers rights and a spearhead with which to lead opposition to Tory policies in both Britain and Ireland.
The Politics of Symbols
A major row grew up around the issue of the Lord Major of Belfast refusing to hand over a prize certificate to a young girl.( at a time when the vast majority of people are wondering how they can get through Christmas. The emergence of sectarian politics is not Provisional Sinn Fein’s fault.It is built into the system and existed long before they were even formed in 1969. Loyalist protesters came out on the streets. Prior to this there had been the public sector strike by the trade union movement that by and large Unionist politicians disagreed with and passed pickets lines. Was there protests by their constituents? Unfortunately not. Real economic interests seem to come second place to the politics of symbols.
“Smashing H-Block” by F.Stuart Ross
Book Review.
Published in 2011 this book is a necessary corrective to the perceived provo history of the H-blocks. It details the background to the struggle before the dramatic hunger strikes of 1981 and brings to light the role of the mass struggle and the contributions of hundreds of ordinary folk who lead the protests, marched tot he roads visited the jails and have effectively been written out of history. F.Start Ross has down those noble folk a great service in bringing the for the history of the periods before the hunger strikes.
He deals with the prison protests and the mass struggles of the period up to 1975. There were mass protests in support of the hunger strike started by Bill McKee, OC of the provo prisoners in Crumlin jail. These protests were held in the main by the Northern Resistance Movement a broad front led by People’s Democracy and incorporating Provisional Sinn Fein and the Irish Independence Party. The People’s Democracy were not afraid to criticise the PIRA for their braking of the pledge- “no talks till internment ends” their failure to commit to united fronts and their elitism. They argued that the armed struggle should be subordinate to the mass political struggle as opposed to the provo position of the opposite.
Later under the banner of the Political Hostages Release Committee instigaged by PD and bringing together a wide variety of organisations over 10,000 people were mobilized on the streets. One of the campaigns was for the repatriation of the “Winchester Hostages” who included Marian Price, sadly now once again a political hostage.
The Provos once more killed this broad based committee fearing the leftist influence PD was having on working class supporters of the Provos.
Indeed through out this excellent book there is a continuity in the way the Provos use and abuse mass struggles in pursuit of their narrow elitist and nationalist demands. The development of the prison struggle and the associated street protests is extensively covered including the heroic struggles of the RelativesAction Committees who supported the blanket prisoners during the dark years at the end of the 1970’s. The emergence of the H Block campaign is well covered and shows how initially distrustful of the emerging mass struggle the provos decided to jump on the bandwagon and take over the controls while pretending to be shifting to the left.
This is a book for anyone interested in the development of the Irish struggle. It lays bare the mistakes but also draws out the crucial role of the masses. A t the end of the day those thousands who marched and protested were sold out by a leadership of self promoting elite nationalists .

The Protestant Working Class

(The following was an essay for a night class. It may be interest to some. I have left in all the references.)

The past fifty years have seen a major upheaval in the lives of the inhabitants of Northern Ireland. The so called “Troubles” from 1968 until the late 1990’s had a profound effect on the attitudes, dreams and aspirations of the working classes in the North.

The Catholic working class has seen its position changed radically. From being a minority discriminated against by the State and whose Irishness was derided and denied it now has a share of Government and equality before the law.

The Protestant working classes however have gone from having a secured place in the British Empire under a permanent Unionist Parliament with advantage and privileges over others to now being confused,demoralized and unsure of their place in the world.

The coming together of both liberal and conservative unionists at the end of the 19th century in defence of the Union was a key factor in binding large sections of the protestant working classes behind the Unionist Party. Although the main driving force behind the resistance to Home Rule was in the main industrialists and land owning aristocracy who identified completely with the British Empire1 the leadership of Unionism was always aware of the necessity to keep the “lower classes” on board.

The Protestant working classes themselves were well aware that they occupied a relatively privileged position
“-aware they were not at the bottom of the economic heap. They feared any political change which would give the majority population, the Catholics, a greater influence in running the country and open the minority’s privileges to challenge.”2

The Academic GrahamWalker has argued that the use of the term “privileged” to describe the PWC

“is to apportion blame, to condemn and to put the Protestant Working class in the dock. Language of course is a political weapon and this is a classic case”3

He then goes on to argue the word is more appropriated applied to
“country squires and well heeled suburbanites”

Funnily enough a dictionary defining ‘privilege’ uses words such as ‘right’ ‘advantage’ ‘immunity’ ‘special advantage or benefit’4

In arguing that the PWC perceives itself as part of the British working class and suffering from the same deindustrialisation that they shared with the working class across the water Walker himself has used words as a political weapon to denigrate perceived ‘nationalist writers. (For example ‘promiscuous’ ‘unthinking’ ‘polemical grenade’ ‘aportion blame’ ‘condemn’ dustbin of history)

Vis-a-vis the Catholic working class there is no doubt that the PWC had an advantaged or privileged position.

Work in the shipyards and engineering industries was usually the prerogative of the protestant working class. After all with the largest rope-works the largest shipyard the oldest aircraft manufacturing5 there was relative job security and social cohesion in the working class areas. Industries brought a strong sense of “community and common values”6

So they supported in huge numbers the signing of the Ulster Covenant. However the outbreak of industrial militancy in 1919 saw a three week strike in Belfast of shipyard and engineering workers, traditional unionist supporters

Fearing the spread of “Bolshevik” ideas, Carson the leader of Unionism and President of the British Empire Union encouraged the formation of the Ulster Unionist Labour Association.7Later on the establishment of the ‘B Specials’ helped further consolidate the the working class within the broad church of Unionism.

With the establishment of the one party rule in Stormont the protestant working class were, in the main, reasonably content. Elections were fought on the constitutional issue and proved no threat to their position. Occasionally outbursts of discontent found expression in support for independents or labour candidates committed to the Union. However when there were tentative signs of solidarity between catholic and protestant workers the forces of sectarianism would be unleashed and catholics would be expelled fro their work places.

The network of gospel halls, churches of differing denominations and the predominance of the loyal institutions in the social and culture life meant that there was steady stream of anti-catholic rhetoric on tap when necessary.

Those protestant workers who stood up for their fellow catholic workers were deemed as ‘rotten prods”8 and many protestant trade unionists were driven out of heavy industry for siding with fellow workers. There was no room for dissent within protestant ranks -“-the politics of social reform being tantamount to national treachery”(ibid)

At the beginning of the 20th century Unionists saw themselves as having an identity that was

“-Parochial - I am Provincial-- I am National in that I am an Irishman and proud of it --I am Imperial ---‘Civis Britannicus sum’---” 9

While they described themselves as British and honoured the British Crown it is illuminating that, in the 3rd of the TV series, broadcast in the early 1980’s, on the protestant working class, The Billy trilogy10 of plays by Graham Reid, one of the children refers to herself as “Irish” to distinguish herself from the English despite after at least 10 years of serious conflict then.

The older child responds by instead claiming to be ‘protestant’ showing the confusing issue of identity.

Within that play are elements of a nostalgic look back to the pre-troubled days when working class protestants took pride in their streets and community, looked after their families worked hard and were ‘loyal’. Education was not heavily valued, also evidenced in the Billy Trilogy discussion of homework. Apprenticeships would guarantee work in heavy industry. In essence the nostalgic view of protestant way of life before the ‘troubles well summed up in the poetry of Gerald Dawe

“A woman dusts the living room
The Queen on horseback
smiles down upon tongues
of sprouting ivy. Everything
is right with the world
even the kerbstones are painted”11

The main view of the Northern State held by protestants seem to have been that it “was a grand wee place” an expression must used in the aftermath of the onset of the ‘troubles’.

So the emergence of the of the Civil Rights Movement was a great shock to the whole of the Unionist population. First there was denial, then resistance, years of conflict and eventually a coming to terms with the inevitabIlity of sharing space and power with the minority population.

Politically they lost their parliament,the BSpecials were disbanded, Derry Corporation was dissolved local Government was reformed. As a consequence of intra- communal violence there were major shifts in populations, the greatest since the 2nd World War in Europe.This led to a lack of social cohesion and decline in Church attendance. Churches sometimes were the ‘social glue‘12 that bound communities together.

The decline in attendance at the Macrory Memorial Church13was replicated in a number of other areas creating or rather re-creating a sense of a people under siege. Within this context the portrayal of the tensions within loyalism in “As the Beast Sleeps”14 another BBC play, is as vivid as it is realistic.

The tensions between the two main characters towards political movement or back to war, ie ‘killing taigs’ and the confused sense of loyalties outline the dilemma for loyalism.

Those involved in loyalism saw themselves portrayed negatively, even, as in Mitchell’s case, from within their own community.

“That we are narrow minded. That we are fanatical. -that we hate all Catholics. That we are repressive ‘right wing’ Fascists. That we can not be reasoned with”.15

This was in spite of the fact that main stream politicians were only too happy to share public platforms with their leaders and engage in private discussions with them. Of course this was at a time in the UK when chaos seemed to loom with 3-day weeks, major crisis with oil, unions locked in conflict with the Government and rumors of a coup d’etat. So security forces and politicians were only too happy to associate, at a distance, with those whose hands were dirty.

But there was to be no electoral gains for those with the dirty hands. At least not for loyalists. Unlike republicans who gained political power and electoral success despite, or maybe because of, involvement in armed struggle, loyalists gained little politically or indeed economically from their involvement in their war.

The gains instead went to those who grouped themselves around Ian Paisley.
Paisley had founded his own Free presbyterian Church in the early 1950’s and preached a virulent form of anti-catholicism that touched a rare nerve within working class unionism.

Even though in the late 1950’s and in the sixties there was a swing to the NILP especially in protestant working class districts , the socialist culture

“often co existed with sectarianism and with an unshakeable suspiciousness about the intentions of the Nationalists minority and was thus vulnerable to Paisleyite populism”16

At the same time the so called liberal wing of unionism under the modernising Terence O’Neill had re-organised the Ulster Unionist Labour Association and sought to win back the working class unionist voters from the NILP. Squeezed between the modernising and reactionary wings of Unionism the NILP was unable to withstand the pressures when the civil rights movement came on the scene.

The demise of the NILP left progressive working class protestants without a real base.Their political options were now severely restricted. Gradually over the years Ian Paisley was able to use the turmoil of the’ Troubles’ to build politically within both urban and rural areas of protestant Ulster exploiting the fears of the protestant people and gradually winning over to his DUP sections of middle class support that once would have scorned Paisleyism.

The DUP over the years transformed itself into a modern political party eventually displacing the old Unionist Party as the main unionist party. But in order to actually exercise power they had to make a deal with Republicans who they had long demonized. The outsiders had come in from the cold. But in so doing they left a confused and alienated PWC.

‘Progressive loyalism’ also lost out. Attempts to put a political face on loyalism had first begun in the early seventies when Gusty Spence, a founder member of the modern UVF, began to ask loyalist prisoners
“Why are you here” in an attempt to get them to see the bigger political picture.

But efforts in the early 1970’s to graft on a political party, the Volunteer Political Party onto a military machine, the UVF was doomed to fail. Both the security situation, the para military connections and the relative inexperience of its political activists meant there was little support in the electorate.

Furthermore there was a tradition of support for the security forces within the broader unionist tradition and unlike within the nationalist community, ex-political prisoners were regarded with disdain and to kept at a distance unless in times of crisis. There was also the alternative of the DUP for those Unionists disillusioned with the Ulster Unionist Party.The UUP itself had veered from modernising to reactionary position during the conflict and in so dong gradually lost its position of pre-eminence within Unionism

The “peace process” changed the whole dynamics of the situation. Negotiation meant that all sides to the conflict had to have some input. There emerged from within loyalism a number of key personnel, like David Ervine, who managed to give loyalism, for a time, a progressive even radical edge using the Progressive Unionist Party as the vehicle. The PUP even adopted the Clause 4 of the old Labour Party constitution, dropped by the New Labour supporters.

Further more, the coming together of ex-political prisoner groups from both republican and loyalist backgrounds opened up new areas of co-operation and understanding. But it has also exposed the fractures within Unionism especially between loyalism and the DUP as the following quote from a member of the Ulster Political Research Group ( a group close to the thinking of the UDA leadership)

“If the DUP lead a devolved government they will attempt to disempower us by controlling whatever funding will be coming into our communities. Unionist politicians are more interested in gaining political benefits than in empowering communities.”17

In those sentences we can see how some sections of Loyalism identified with their local communities before the broader strands of Unionism.

But the loyalists themselves have had major disagreements leading to bloodshed between the UDA and the UVF but also internally. Feuding usually entails working class communities bearing the brunt of the violence leading to disillusionment and demoralization. Whatever credibility is gained within Unionism by militancy on issues such as marching or interface conflict is lost by the feuding and criminality that was associated with both paramilitary wings of loyalism. Electorally the PUP vote has declined and they no longer have any representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The UDA ‘s own efforts to enter the political field also came to disaster. It is clear indeed that many of the members of the loyalist paramilitaries use their votes to support the DUP.

From a once secure role in the world, politically culturally, socially and economically the protestant working class now finds itself insecure. Their sense of place has been weakened. The social glue that held their communities together has gone. They are alienated and almost leadership. Mark Langhammer, talking about protestant working class areas in Belfast said in every street they

“-would have had a convenor, or shop stewart, or health or safety representative as a result of mass participation in the great unionised manufacturing enterprises of shipyard, aircraft, engineering and textiles”18

That is all gone. The political leaderships of the mainstream unionist parties did not prepare the masses for the compromises they would have have to take. Hence the confusion within their ranks. Like the Catholic working class they too face a dilemma, reaction or progress?

Gerry Ruddy


1 Page 45 “Against Home Rule “ the case for the Union By Sir Edward Carson etc Pub Frederick Warne London 1912
2 Page 22 “The Protestants of Ulster “ Geoffrey Bell Pub. Pluto Press 1976
3 Page 366 “Irish Protestant Identities” Ed.Busteed, Neal Tonge 2008 Manchester University Press
4 Page 953 “Concise Oxford Dictionary” University Press Oxford 1961
5 ‘Life before the troubles” interview with Michael Copeland-lecture 26/10/11
6 Page 3 Lecture 26/10/11
7 Page 47 “ The State In Northern Ireland 1921-72”Bew, Gibbon, Patterson Pub.Manchester University Press 1979
8 Page xiv “labour and Partition” Austen Morgan 1991 Pluto Press
9 Page 258 “Irish Protestant Identities” Ed.Busteed, Neal Tonge 2008 Manchester University Press
10 “A Coming To Terms For Billy” BBCNI 1984
11 Page 2” Little Palaces” Gerald Dawe-lecture 26/10/11
12 Page 8 Lecture 26/10/11
13 Page 8 Lecture 26/10/11
14 “As the Beast Sleeps” BBC NI Play written by Gary Mitchell
15 page 280 ‘Political Murder in Northern Ireland “ Dillon, M. and Lehane, D Pub. Middlesex:Penguin 1973
16 page 159 History of the Ulster UnionisT Party “ Walker. G Manchester University Press 2004
17 page 11 “Learning From Others In Conflict” Loyalism in Transition”Island Pamphlets 80 -2007
18 Page 370 “Irish Protestant Identities” Ed.Busteed, Neal Tonge 2008 Manchester University Press

Other Reading

“Belfast Fifty Years Ago” Lecture by Thomas Gaffikin Pub. James Cleeland Belfast 1894
“Northern Ireland -The Orange State” Farrell Pub. Pluto Press 1976
Northern Protestants-An Unsettled People” McKay Pub. Blackstaff Press 2000
“Sectarianism-a Discussion Document” Report of the Working Party On Sectarianism -Irish Inter Church Meeting -1993
“The Edge Of the Union” Steve Bruce Pub. Oxford University Press 1994
“The State in Northern Ireland1921-72” Bew, Gibbon Patterson Pub. Manchester University Press 1979
“Unionism and Orangeism In Northern Ireland since 1945” Patterson and Kaufman Pub. Manchester University Press 2007

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Monday, 24 October 2011

The Red Plough Vol 2-4

The Red Plough
Vol. 2-No 4
October 2011

The case of Marian Price.
“President Mc Guinness”
Tussles in Brussels

The case of Marian Price.
A march was held in Dublin on the 1st of October calling for the release of Marian Price and opposing the repression being used against Republicans. It had been well advertised before hand and notice had been on Facebook. Marian Price is a Republican who had been out on licence from a life sentence for her part in the bombing of London in the early 1970’s.
Prior to that she had been active in the civil rights movement and had taken part in the Burntollet march of PD in January 1969. On her release she opposed the political direction taken by the Provisional Sinn Fein leadership and supported the 32 County Sovereignty movement. At an Easter Commemoration in Derry she held a piece of paper while a masked man read out a statement from the Real IRA. Subsequent to that she was hauled back to jail and placed in isolation, the only women prisoner in an all male jail.
There is little doubt that this is a form of selective internment and that Marian is being singled out because she is and has been a long term opponent of the political pacification process endorsed by all the mainstream constitutional parties in the North and South of Ireland.
Most socialist and republican groups have in the past said they were against repression and political victimisation. Indeed most have also condemned the political set up as a result of the pacification programme. Part of that opposition has been on the basis that it institutionalises religious sectarianism.
But there is another form of sectarianism-political sectarianism.
No socialist groups appeared at the march.The only banners were from 32 County Sovereignty Movement branches and slogans against internment.No republican groups other than the 32SM participated. There were no IRSP /Eirigi, RNU or RSF. However IRSP women in Strabane did hold a demo in solidarity with Marian.
Maybe there are reasons for the absence of these groups from the march. Certainly the two left groups, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party will have political arguments for not associating with the issue. They are afraid of contagion! A quick search of the SWP’s website reveals no mention of the case of Marian Price nor any articles dealing with the issues of repression in the North. We do know from personal experience that there are SWP members who abhor any contact with republicans.
Below is the position of the SP.
“Whilst opposing the paramilitary campaigns we also opposed the repressive measures of the state throughout the last forty years. We take up issues of repression on a class basis, rather than in a one-sided way reflecting the views of one or other community alone. Repressive measures that are used against unrepresentative and sectarian groups today will be used against united movements of the working class tomorrow. As internment and Bloody Sunday proved, state repression can also be counter-productive and lead to increased support for paramilitary groups. It is in the interests of socialist and trade union activists to oppose such measures both on humanitarian grounds and in the interests of the working class as a whole.”(

To avoid contagion and to avoid alienating workers they take a position of sidestepping any real engagement with the issues of repression itself.
Somewhere in this there is a attitude of “worker good!” “anti-imperialist bad!” Unfortunately neither this or its reverse is true. Workers can be racist and hold reactionary views and anti-imperialists in Ireland can be sectarian and try to justify sectarian actions. Traditionally the protestant working class were the backbone of the industrial working class in the Northern State and whenever it began to flex its industrial muscle the Unionist ruling class would open the Pandora’s Box to reveal the evil delights of sectarianism. Catholics and areas where catholics lived were subjected to pogroms from those self same industrial workers blinded by a fanatical hatred. In the 1920’s, the 1930’s and from the 1960‘s onwards there have been major outbreaks of sectarian attacks on the nationalist minority. Is it any wonder that sectarian attitudes permeated through many working class families? For their loyalty to the Unionist state Protestant workers were given small privileges such as jobs in heavy industry and easy access to the armed forces of the state( the B-Specials etc). However they also suffered poor housing, regular unemployment (as a result of capitalist cycles of boom and burst).And despite the poison of sectarianism permeating ever facet of society there were and are many instances of solidarity among workers and their families.
But nevertheless sectarianism is a major factor in the northern state.To ignore it or worse still use it as an excuse not to campaign with the victims of state repression and instead pander to that sectarianism by adopting a“walkerist” approach is essentially anti-marxist. Engels summed it up well in the following sentence.
The materialist conception of history has a lot of them nowadays, to whom it serves as an excuse for not studying history. Just as Marx used to say, commenting on the French "Marxists" of the late [18]70s: "All I know is that I am not a Marxist."(Marx-Engels Correspondence 1890 Engels to C. Schmidt In Berlin)
The victimisation of Marian Price is wrong. It is a class issue and to talk about “one or other community alone.” is to actually play the sectarian card and fall in to the trap set by imperialism. It is the classic “"Walkerism"” position. (
That position, despite the subjective feelings and intentions of the comrades in the SP, is objectively pro-Imperialist.
Karl Marx in 1869 proposed a motion to the Council of the first International in support of an amnesty
“for the release of the imprisoned Irish patriots”
(Lenin “Selected Works 4” page 277 Lawrence/Wishart London 1943)
Indeed he became very active in support of the Fenian prisoners at the time when Engels noted
“the hatred for the Irish on the part of British workers”(ibid page 276)
There is no sign here of backing down in the face of the prejudices of the British working class. Rather Marx went further.
“All the abominations of the English have their origins in the Irish Pale” (page 277)
“The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland” (page 278)
Is this evidence that Marx/Engels succumbed to the forces of bourgeois nationalism or were siding with one community or the other? On the contrary Marx had no doubt of the subordinate position of the national question as compared with the ‘labour question” but he argued that socialists should support what is progressive in mass national movements..To do otherwise Lenin said was
“in effect pandering to nationalistic prejudices, viz. recognising “ones own as the model nation”(page 276)
This is not to argue that the actions carried out by armed groups is necessarily progressive. Armed actions at this time in Irish history only have the effect of cementing the union between Britain and Ireland on a reactionary basis.
Trotsky on the issue of individual terrorism said:
“But the disarray introduced into the ranks of the working masses themselves by a terrorist attempt is much deeper. If it is enough to arm oneself with a pistol in order to achieve one’s goal, why the efforts of the class struggle? If a thimbleful of gunpowder and a little chunk of lead is enough to shoot the enemy through the neck, what need is there for a class organisation? If it makes sense to terrify highly placed personages with the roar of explosions, where is the need for the party? Why meetings, mass agitation and elections if one can so easily take aim at the ministerial bench from the gallery of parliament?
(Why Marxists Oppose individual Terrorism)

In essence the use of individual terrorism has the effect of de-politicising the masses. There is no other way towards a socialist Ireland than the slow patient winning of the workers towards taking control of their own lives. That requires confronting not only the capitalist enemy but also the prejudices of the masses themselves including racism, sectarianism homophobia etc.
"The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of masses lacking consciousness is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must also be in on it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are fighting for, body and soul. The history of the last fifty years has taught us that. But in order that the masses may understand what is to be done, long, persistent work is required, and it is just this work that we are now pursuing, and with a success which drives the enemy to despair." 
(F. Engels, Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850, in K. Marx and F. Engels’ Collected Works, Vol. 27, p. 520.)
Or as James Connolly so eloquently put it ,
“An Irish Republic, the only purely political change in Ireland worth crossing the street for, will never be realised except by a revolutionary party that proceeds upon the premise that the capitalist and the landlord classes in town and country in Ireland are criminal accomplices with the British government, in the enslavement and subjection of the nation. Such a revolutionary party must be socialist, and from socialism alone can the salvation of Ireland come.” (James Connolly, The Harp, March 1909)

“President Mc Guinness”
The decision by Provisional Sinn Fein to put Martin McGuinness up for the presidency of the 26 county state was a politically astute move. It has caught the chattering classes of Dublin by surprise. Their mock horror at a candidate from the North with the whiff of sulphur around him should fool no one. After all, their state was established by two parties soaked in the same sulphur. A former Taoiseach was in Michael Collins nutting squad. De Valera, a former President was ‘out’ in 1916 and his party entered the Dail with guns in their pockets in 1927.
Mind you if you listened to Fintan O’Toole political commentator and self proclaimed intellectual(who does not like to interrupted on radio programmes and walks away when lesser beings do so)) -you would believe that Dev never fired a shot and only was there to admire the flowers at Easter.Yes he loved the Easter lily!!
Mc Guinness is no saint. Of course he is a liar. It is doubtful if he ever left the Provisional IRA. Otherwise he would never have been so heavily involved in the peace process. But to criticise him for that as some have done is just plain silly. No one involved in armed struggle is ever going to give full disclosure of the activities.
Why the chattering classes have picked on his past is quite clear. They hope it will divert attention away from the way they themselves have colluded in the way in which the free state sold itself like a lady of the night to the bankers builders and corporations that have gobbled up any bits of independence there ever was in that misbegotten state.
Tussles in Brussels, where next for Ireland?

(Published on Sunday, 23 October 2011 22:20
Written by Fightback)
The Greek working class has moved decisively into action. The last few days in Greece have demonstrated that faced with an approaching economic calamity the workers are prepared to fight to defend their living standards and their jobs also. However, the bankers and the various competing European powers have no option but to fight for their own interests and will fight to the last gasp. The scene is set for further conflict in the euro zone between the increasingly divergent interests of the European states and between the classes in each of the European countries.
At the present moment the European leaders are discussing an increase in the available EU bailout funds from a mere €440 Billion to a €1 Trillion. Of course this needs paying for and of course the working class will be forced to pay.
The world situation is more disturbed and unstable than at any time since the 1930’s. However, the balance of class forces on a world scale has moved decisively in favour of the working class since then. In the past the bourgeois could call on the peasantry and the petit bourgeois layers of society as a reservoir for reaction. The post war boom undermined the social base of the ruling class and has immensely strengthened the working class internationally.
On the 15th October mass demonstrations took place internationally and especially in Spain and Italy. In Spain In Defence of Marxism reported:
The numbers of those involved in what was known as the "15O" protests were impressive: half a million in Madrid, 300,000 or 400,000 in Barcelona, 50,000 in Seville, 40,000 in Málaga, 30,000 in Granada, 20,000 in Mallorca, 20,000 in Vigo, 15,000 in Mieres (Asturias), 30,000 in Zaragoza, 10,000 in Bilbao, 35,000 in Valencia, 15,000 in Murcia, 15,000 in Tarragona, and a long list of more than 80 different towns and cities all over Spain which saw demonstrations. IDOM 15O massive demonstrations in Spain
Half a million marched in Rome and this week there have been enormous demonstrations throughout Greece against the austerity.
The question is however, in what way will the most recent manifestation of the Euro crisis be reflected in Ireland and can we anticipate an upturn in the class struggle?
Watching Enda Kenny on the world stage it’s clear that he is a fine representative of the Irish national capitalist class. He is weak, ineffectual and remote from the centre of power in Europe. Fine Gael offers nothing radically different to what passed before under Cowen and Lenihan.
Even though the government seems to be on target to hit the targets that the Troika set them, there are no guarantees. The banking system is in a perilous state. Many of the European banks are exposed to sovereign debt and should Greece default the Irish banks like the rest of the European banks will be further exposed. The structure of the bond markets and the predatory nature of the speculators mean that Ireland is only a few steps from the back of the queue and in the bond markets for sure, the devil will take the hindmost.
The selloff of state assets and the ongoing restructures and other so called reforms are of course means to try and squeeze as much money as possible from the public sector. Within the public services there is a lot of anger and opposition to the governments programme, the government know that. Brendan Howlin was playing his cards close to his chest last week.
MINISTER FOR Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has refused to be drawn on whether the Government will opt for a €4 billion adjustment in the December budget.
He said the Fiscal Advisory Council’s recommendation on the figure would be listened to, together with all the other factors the Government had to take into account.
The commitment was to reduce the deficit to 8.6 per cent of GDP next year.
“The exact quantum of the adjustment to reach that target is currently being determined,” he added.
“We need to have a firm determination of the growth rates and the final accounts, in terms of taxation and revenue to the State, before we make a final determination on that.” Irish Times 14th October 2011
Upping the ante in the public sector would open up a new situation for Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan and Eamon Gilmore. The immediate pressures on the state finances have been ameliorated by the bailout.  Fine Gael and Labour have benefitted also from not being tainted with the hatred for Fianna Fáil, but sooner or later normal conditions will reassert themselves. The trade union leaders are arguing for a different approach:
IRELAND NEEDS a growth plan and not further austerity, the EU-IMF-ECB “troika” was told yesterday in Dublin by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“We desperately need a plan for jobs and growth, an innovative strategy that will help to kick-start an economy that is effectively flat-lining,” Ictu general secretary David Begg said prior to a meeting with troika officials.
“The troika officials cannot ignore the evidence and it is no longer sufficient to administer prescriptions for cuts and ignore the consequences of those cuts. Irish Times 20/10/11
Given what is happening in the rest of Europe the only way that the trade unions will win a demand of this character is on the basis of mobilising the members and fighting for it. What would be entirely wrong would be to rely on exactly the same policy of “social partnership” that proved so ineffectual in the face of the pension levy, the emergency budgets and the cuts in the public sector.
The Croke Park Agreement was sold to trade union members as a means of defending themselves against the prospect of further wage cuts and to date it has held up by that score. However, FF never managed to get very far at all with the public sector reforms. But that is not a sign of the strength of the principle of social partnership. It has more to do with the complete political paralysis of the Cowen and Lenihan government at the end of the last Dáil.
The ongoing economic storms in Europe will impact not only upon the Greek workers who are right in the front line, but upon every country and the whole of the European working class. Under conditions of crisis the relative stability of the last months will pass over to a period of rapid change of sharp turns and sudden changes. There are no guarantees. The prospect of a new recession, the so called “double dip” will serve to undermine the current social and political equilibrium. As Trotsky explained in 1920 every attempt that the bourgeois use to stabilise the situation will undermine the equilibrium and force the working class into struggle.
The economic crisis generated enormous opposition from the Irish working class. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the pensions levy and again at the end of 2009. The movement shifted onto the political front. Now the conditions are developing for an upturn in the class struggle. The role of the trade union and labour leaders will come under increasing scrutiny.
What is lacking in Ireland and in Europe also is a clear sighted Marxist Leadership in the mass workers organisations. All of the political conditions are there for an international struggle for socialism. It’s our job to build the Marxist movement inside outside and around the mass organisations.

Ireland’s left has been fragmented and divided for decades. It will grow and develop to the extent that it manages to influence the workers organisations. The only people after all who can liberate the Irish working class are the workers themselves.

Marxist Education

James Connolly Archive

The Red Plough is an independent Republican Marxist Internet publication

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Friday, 16 September 2011

The Red Plough Vol 2-3

The Red Plough
Vol. 2-No 3
September 2011

The United Left Alliance and the North-Some thoughts!
On Saturday June 25th 2011 in Liberty Hall, Dublin there was a coming together of over three hundred political activists under the banner of the United Left Alliance.
The ULA first emerged late last year when a number of groupings came together to form a bloc of revolutionary socialists as a response to the economic crisis facing capitalism. The response by all the main stream electoral parties to that crisis and their unity in accepting the dictates of the European Band and the IMF mean that there was little or no opposition to the cosy consensus of capitalism. All agreed that the burden of saving the banks and the financial institutions of Capitalism must fall on those lest able to bear the pain and with no responsibility to that crisis- the working class. The ULA fought the recent elections in the South and won five seats to the Dail including members of the People Before Profit (SWP mainly) the Socialist Party(SP) and the WUAG based mainly around Tipperary. While this was not a great victory it has encouraged many non-aligned activists that maybe there is a change in the wind and a serious mass left party may well emerge.
That is why there was good turn out at the forum in Liberty Hall. During the course of the day it was clear there were a number of demarcation lines between the groups. The SP wanted the word socialist to be central to what the ULA was while the PBP wanted a much looser formation.
In a recent important interview1 Tommy McKearney asserts that the reason for this was to appeal to the middle classes. This critique that has often been thrown at in particular the SWP. In appealing to wider sections outside the working classes it is often alleged that they are prepared to water down their politics.
There was an air of politeness that seemed to permeate the whole conference Nobody seemed to want to offend or rock the boat. Only on the issue of the North did tempers rise with the Socialist Party under attack for their position on the UVF invasion of the Short Strand. Unfortunately some comrades took umbrage at this and seemed to resent the raising of “controversial” issues. Surely it is better to explore key issues and understand the different positions of both individuals and groups. And what is wrong with a bit of passion at meetings?
The SP do not want the ULA to organise in the North at this moment in time while the rest were in favour. Correctly the SP pointed out that at the first sectarian clashes in the North the Alliance, if it included the Socialist Party, would face great difficulties. So they say the time is not ripe for the ULA to organise in the North. They are correct in this because they are wrong in their approach to the North. It takes some doing to be consistently wrong on the North for years but the SP have managed this.
Yes, they may have a formally correct marxist analysis about violence and class divisions but in actual practice they err always on the side of not offending the unionist sensitivities of the protestant working classes. They apply blame equally on the two sections of the working classes when sectarian clashes occur forgetting that usually, but not always, the driving force is orange or loyalist sectarianism.
Would the Socialist Party give a bye ball to the KKK in the USA? If not why do they give the UVF a bye ball in the North? In their explanation of why there was “riots” on Monday and Tuesday of June 20th and 21st 2011 the SP called the invasion of Short Strand by hundreds of UVF volunteers an “orchestrated attack”2 But they then tried to balance that by attacking the involvement of so called “dissident republicans” in wounding two protestants and a journalist (obviously journalists don’t do religion). Let us not forget that the SP in the past gave a platform to the PUP’s Billy Hutchinson while refusing to take republican speakers from the floor at the same meeting.
Needless to say the vast majority of the residents in the Short Strand saw the situation slightly differently. Having endured regular invasions from gangs of unionists lumpen proletariat over the course of the last two centuries they saw the “orchestrated attack” as a dry run for ethnic cleansing or an attempted pogrom.
The nationalist community in East Belfast is only a small fraction of the overall population in East Belfast and have been regularly held to ransom for the “good behaviour” of other nationalists in the north. The UVF attack on Short Strand could be liken to the Black Hundreds attacks on the Jewish people in Tsarist Russia.3 It is no wonder that in the face of actual real moment attacks some republicans immediately resorted to the use of arms in defence of the area.While that action was unwise this writer is certainly not going to condemn armed self-defence of working class areas. The North has a long and bloody history of armed incursions into nationalist areas resulting in deaths, mass evacuations and burnt out districts. Perhaps those Republicans who entered into the British controlled decommissioning process have now had second thoughts.
In 2001 the SP in an attempt to show their even handedness in their explanation of the events surrounding the Holy Cross Blockade wrote as follows,
“But the sectarianism is not all one way, despite the misleading attempts by some nationalists to portray it as such. Sinn Fein recently published a centre page in An Phoblacht listing the attacks on Catholics. This is a deliberately one sided approach ignoring the attacks that have also taken place against Protestants.”.4
However the SP fails itself to outline the attacks against protestants which would have been the sensible thing to do and show how there is widespread sectarianism in the Northern society. If truth be told the approach of the SP is itself one-sided and is designed to create a myth of sectarianism as an all embracing disease equally affecting both sides.
Let us be clear there is no equivalence between loyalism and republicanism.
One is the essential belief in domination, supremacy, and retains all the trappings of the remnants of Imperialism. Like the Black Hundreds they act in defence of the ruling classes.
The other is an expression of resistance by an exploited dominated and oppressed people. One can argue about the relevance of each to the 21st century but the violence of the oppressed is not the equivalent of the violence of the oppressor.
“We do not and never have put all wars on the same plane. Marx and Engels supported the revolutionary struggle of the Irish against Great Britain, of the Poles against the tsar, even though in these two nationalist wars the leaders were, for the most part, members of the bourgeoisie and even at times of the feudal aristocracy . . . at all events, Catholic reactionaries. When Abdel-Krim rose up against France, the democrats and Social Democrats spoke with hate of the struggle of a “savage tyrant” against the “democracy.” The party of Leon Blum supported this point of view. But we, Marxists and Bolsheviks, considered the struggle of the Riffians against imperialist domination as a progressive war. Lenin wrote hundreds of pages demonstrating the primary necessity of distinguishing between imperialist nations and the colonial and semi-colonial nations which comprise the great majority of humanity. To speak of “revolutionary defeatism” in general, without distinguishing between exploiter and exploited countries, is to make a miserable caricature of Bolshevism and to put that caricature at the service of the imperialists.)”5
These words of Leon Trotsky must be well know by the comrades in the Socialist Party. Why then do they allow themselves to become the working class equivalent of the middle class Alliance party with their even handed “plague on all your houses” approach?
This is not in any way to condone justify or excuse sectarian attacks. Regardless of who engages in them they are wrong. The Red Plough fundamentally disagrees with the use of armed resistance to British Imperialism at this juncture of time and believes it vital to build bridges to workers from what ever section of the working class they come. But we will not do that at the cost of denying the existence of Imperialism. Nor should any self respecting socialist shy away from solidarity with those who are indeed victims of that Imperialism.
To those “progressive loyalists” (and there are indeed progressive loyalists on some issues) we would say claim not the reactionary elements of Britishness such as Imperialism, monarchy, British Army wars of aggression etc, but the positive elements that evolved within British history such as the Levellers,6 the Chartists,7 the struggle for the vote, the welfare state, feminism trade unions and so on.
As early as 1872 an Isabella Tod established a society called the North of Ireland’s Women’s Suffrage Committee and the Irish suffrage movement also included the Unionist Women’s Franchise Association. So there is a huge democratic and progressive hidden history within the working class traditions in Britain and Ireland that regardless of their perceived nationality workers today could learn from.
Take for example the case of a Roberta Black, born in Larne in 1904. During the 1930’s she was active in the Belfast Peace League becoming its secretary. Apart from her involvement in that campaign she was also active in the Nursery School movement. In a newspaper interview she said of herself:

'I am a Socialist because I believe in equality of opportunity for all human beings regardless of birth, creed or colour. I feel any exploitation of man by man, class by class or nation by nation to be morally wrong. My ideas came from my home background, which was Christian Socialist, and later working in nursery schools in industrial areas in the 1930s I was shocked by the consequences of insecurity, unemployment and illness.’

She was was one of the founders of Edenderry Nursery School, off the Shankill in 1938 and Frederick Street Nursery School, close to York Street in Belfast in 1941. In both of those working class areas there was widespread poverty and deprivation. and she acted as honorary secretary for both of these Belfast schools. She was also on the Management Committee for the Northern Ireland Fever Hospital.

When she went to Coventry with her husband in 1957 she joined the local Labour Party and served as Secretary to the Cheylesmore Ward Labour Party. For the next decade she wrote to various parliamentarians, particularly Labour MPs, about the chief political issues of the day such as the Vietnam War. Her return to Belfast in 1972 did not break her links with the Labour movement. Indeed, she joined the Northern Ireland Labour Party and acted as canvasser, polling agent, etc, during parliamentary and council election until her death in 1975.8 She is but one example of the hidden history within the wider protestant working class. It is a history that needs to be reclaimed.

After the 2nd world war there was a strong communist vote and the Northern Ireland Labour Party had a strong presence in industrial areas and at one time was seen as a major threat to the unionist party’s control. Sadly the NILP could not face up to the challenges thrown up by the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement and following the outbreak of the armed conflict in the early 1970‘s members of that N.I.L.P. ended up in the armed ranks of republican and loyalist groups.
However traces of that progressive history are still evident today. After generations of conflict there are many ex-republican and loyalist activists now working hard in working class communities to bring down sectarian attacks and reach out to the “other side”. They may not be in the trade union movement; they may not be in “left groups”; but night after night particularly during the “marching season they work hard to reduce tensions and yet their contributions will rarely be recognised. Some of those from a loyalist background admitted that the protestant working class should have supported the Civil rights movement and that they were also exploited by the “big house protestants”. Some Republicans have come to recognise the sectarian nature of some of their actions of the past. Indeed they now recognise that it is the class question that is central to the needs of the working classes in Ireland.These are not matters of insignificance. These people were and some still are leaders in their respective working class communities.
That creates a possibility of progress especially as the current economic crisis shows no sense of ending. Unemployment is rising, benefits are being cut the state sector is been diminished and families are struggling to survive. Capitalism world wide is facing its greatest ever economic challenges. To survive it needs to claw back from the working classes the gains of centuries of struggle.
This has created an upsurge of class struggle throughout Europe. Working class resistance to the economic penalties being imposed in places like Spain, Italy and Greece has been widespread. So there is no better time for the left to come together and push the positive messages of Socialism which can unite the working classes. But it can not be done by hiding softening or denying the actual realities of Imperialism. Sadly some on the Left have not learned the lessons of history
Over 100 years ago the same issues arose in Belfast when the Irish Socialist Republican Party tried to organise there. Although subject to attacks from the Orange Order and other loyalists the ISRP’s main problem was other Belfast socialists organised in the Belfast Socialist Society.
They held their noses as they dismissed the ISRP as a Irish nationalist organisation rather than what it was, part of the wider internationalist socialist movement.
“The Belfast socialists held a rather abstract view of internationalism, believing that any talk of the “national question”in Ireland was little more than a distraction from the “real” class issues. They believed that any potential unity between Catholic and protestant workers along class lines would be jeopardized by any discussion of issues relating to Irish sovereignty and independence from the British Empire”9
Sounds very familiar does it not? All those brave young people attracted to the type of politics espoused by organisations like the SP and the SWP or its many fronts need to realise that Imperialism does exist. It is operating in Afghanistan, Iraqi, and Libya. And it operates in Ireland. Of course it does not show it true face most of the time as British Imperialism uses various tactics honed over the years to keep the natives on side. Their biggest achievement in recent years was to persuade the Sinn Fein (Provisional) leadership to accommodate and collaborate with its plans for Ireland.
But when it shows its brutal face, such as the use of torture, shoot to kill brutalisation of political prisoners etc, all one will get from some on the left is formal denunciations on paper but no actual appearances on the streets along side republicans. No. That is a step too far. Better to hold the noses and hope they will go away with their flags sit down marches etc against injustice. It might interfere with the “class question”which is winning masses of workers especially protestant workers over to the ranks of socialism! Might it. Ahem!!
Such a stance, this writer affirms, is against all that socialists like Connolly, Lenin, and Leon Trotsky stood for, wrote about, or lived their lives in struggle for.
What was noticeable at the ULA conference was the steady stream of speakers carrying their party allegiances into each and every speech and never deviating in the slightest from their perceived party line. There was little sense of real engagement or self doubt. Our line is correct. End of story. That closed mind syndrome is critiqued by McKearney as follows
“-I would argue with so many of the Trotskyist groups, is people coming in from beyond the working class believing that they can interpret what the working class needs. It’s an old problem with Trotskyism for many, many years and it remains.. They hold on to bourgeois instincts, that they think of themselves as so much superior in many ways, its almost as if they are a religious sect, where they alone have the answers in some sort of bible.”10
It has always been the easy way out for republicans to denounce Trotskyists especially when some groups claiming affinity to the ideas of Trotsky act in a superior fashion. In the late sixties the leadership of the Republican movement regularly denounced those within their ranks who disagreed with the leadership as Trotskyists or right wing catholics. After the foundation of the IRSP even Seamus Costello denounced Trotskyism even though there were many individual followers of the ideas of Trotsky who joined the IRSP. Trotskyists were the hate figures for the Official Republicans/Workers party heavily influenced by the totalitarian ideas of Stalinism.
But Tommy McKearney’s words could easily be directed at other organisations. For example the Provos themselves have always had an elitist attitude. They have always had an instinctive distrust of the masses. Since their foundation that which they can not control they seek to destroy.Tommy should well remember in the 1970’s when armed Republicans treated those involved solely in politics with contempt. Also for many years the leaderships of the organisation to which Tommy gave allegiance to, considered themselves the legitimate Government of Ireland and indeed their current leadership acts as if it is! The classic example of Republican elitism is to be seen in the writings, behaviour and attitudes associated with the leadership of Republican Sinn Fein who consider themselves and themselves alone, as the only true republicans!!
So elitist attitudes are not confined to so called far left groups.It has permeated all the republican groups. Indeed it was in response to that very elitism that Ta Power wrote his seminal document11 on organisation.
But of course arguments rarely change people’s attitudes or opinions particularly if they are in the confines of a tightly knitted group bound by loyalty and discipline. No, it is the actual course of the class struggle that changes things.
The current world wide crisis of capitalism does not manifest itself in simple easy understood ways. The crisis of Southern capitalism and the attacks on the living standards of the working classes has heightened awareness among advanced sectors of the working class. The emergence of the ULA is a manifestation of that as is the increase in the vote for PSF and the increase in independent TDs.
However the North has not yet suffered the same drastic cuts yet as the south partially due to the large state sector and the ability of the current Stormont administration to put of painful decisions for as long as possible. The divided working class look to their respective parties to look after their interests So left republicans and left socialists do not yet feel the need for a clear unified response. The pressure from below is not yet coming through. But our function ,( i.e. those of us on the left,) needs to be to shatter the illusions that the masses have in their political representatives. In the last analysis they are simply the agents of capitalism administrating things in the interests of the ruling classes and ensuring the continuing exploitation of the working class of all and no religions.
Therefore it would be better if the left apart from increasing its agitation and propagandising and mobilising advanced sections of the class kept channels of communication with all other groupings of the left. That does not mean agreement, nor watering down our politics but it does leave open the possibilities of a strong left eventually emerging. In the last analysis it will be power of the working class that creates the conditions for the emergence of a genuine revolutionary body
So the emergence of the ULA is an important event. It may open up new opportunities for the left. Is the left mature enough to seize the opportunities? Time will tell.

Minutes of the general sessions

Programme of ULA

Marxist Education

James Connolly Archive

The Red Plough is an independent Republican Marxist Internet publication

Please feel free to comment on the contents of the Red Plough.

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It is the policy of The Red Plough to acknowledge information and articles from other sources. 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Red Plough Vol 2-2

The Red Plough
Vol. 2-No 2
June 2011


2/United front anybody?

3/Responses to “The Elections- a Democratic Revolution?”

Between rebellion as a private study and the public
Defiance is simple action only which will flicker
Catlike, for Spring. Whether at nerve roots is secret
Iron, there’s no diviner can tell, only the moment can show
Simple and unclear moment, on a morning utterly different
And under circumstances different from what you’d expect.

From Poem by Charlie Donnelly
(Irish volunteer killed in the Spanish Civil War)

Consolidation of the Elites.

What a few months! The North’s Assembly Elections , The British Queen’s Visit to the 26 counties and the President of the most warlike nation nation on Earth receives a rapturous welcome in Ireland.
The elections were no surprise. There was much of a muchness about the results.

 Both the DUP and Provisional Sinn Fein consolidated their positions as the main representatives of the nationalist and unionist populations and can now administer the North safe in the knowledge that there is little opposition to fear. Both the Unionist Party and the SDLP suffered losses and are in no position to do much about the DUP/Sinn Fein alliance. Instead they sheepishly took their allocated seats in the Executive, glad even for the few crumbs from the top table.

What constituted the left was as usual all over the place; no agreed candidates, standing against each other in local elections and unable to inspire the electorate. Apart from West Belfast and Derry the various candidates from left parties did poorly. Eamon McCann received a very creditable vote in Derry, partly due to his back history and the support of a cross section of activists that included feminists, republicans, environmentalists and socialists of all hues. He at least might have made a difference if elected in the Assembly.

In West Belfast the PBP candidate received over 1600 votes while the independent candidate with a background in Socialist Democracy receive a derisory 122 votes. Two other left candidates between them polled another 900 odd votes. This in a constituency with the worst social conditions, the worst unemployment and the highest crime rate and with the highest proportion of working class people than any other constituency and despite over 20 years of having a G. Adams as its MP! Indeed those republicans opposed to the Adams strategy could not even agree a united candidate in this same constituency.

The British Queen’sVisit was a huge success!!!-That is for the ruling elites in both Britain and Ireland. At a time of huge burdens imposed on working people to pay for the mistakes of the bankers and property developers it was sickening to see how the British Queen’s visit was used to distract people from economic realities, bind the ruling classes of Britain and Ireland together. It must have been a real eye opener for those republicans who imagined there was huge opposition to the visit. The opposite was the case not only did so called “rebel” Cork welcomed the British monarch but the visit produced the largest mail bag ever to Buckingham Palace welcoming the visit from many Irish people.

For Republicans who are solely focussed on the “national question’ perhaps it is time they asked themselves serious questions rather than live in an illusionary world. It is clear the vast majority of people south of the border welcomed enthusiastically the visit of the British monarchy. The reunification of the country is the last thing on their mind. The Pale now covers 26 counties. Only northern nationalists were indifferent or opposed to the visit.

The Monty Pythonesque protests from the various republican groups did little to advance their cause. Three separate protests by four separate groups!Oh how the Special branch must have laughed.
When the then united Republican Movement in the sixties took a left turn it was envisaged that there would be coming together of the labour and republican movements in a unified body. How realistic that was is a moot point but certainly today we have a multitude of small republican and left organisations that can barely pass the time of day with each other.

It is no wonder that nationalist and unionist workers stuck with their usual parties. They could see no viable alternative.

Finally the visit of the USA President set the seal on the consolidation of the political process that has seen not only the integration of former armed guerrillas into the ruling elites on the islands but the almost total dis-integration of the neutrality of the Irish Free State. All sections of the ruling classes on these islands now are fully signed up not only to neo-liberal economic policies that bear heaviest on the working class but fully backs USA foreign policies world wide. Key sections of the ruling elites across party lines also regularly brief the USA on every day events in Ireland. The recent wikileaks only confirm what we have believed for decades.
To sum up the elections and the Queen and Obama’s visit set the seal on the Northern settlement and consolidated the integration of the Southern ruling class into the international elites of capitalism.
These are serious setbacks for all progressive forces on these islands.

The United Front

The German word for ‘united front’ is Einheitsfront.‘Das Einheitsfrontlied’ was an anthem that took a simple, direct and powerful approach to build the class consciousness of German workers

As man is only human, He must eat before he can think.
Fine words are only empty air And not his meat and drink.
Then, Left! Two Three Then, Left! Two Three There‘s a place, Comrade for you,_
March with us in the workers‘ united front; For you are a worker too.

As man is only human, He‘d rather not have boots in his face.
He wants no slaves at his beck and call, Nor life by a masters‘s grace.

And since a worker‘s a worker, No class can free him but his own;
‘The emancipation of the working-class Is the task of_ the workers alone.’
(Copied from Marxism Digest, Vol. 90, Issue 40)

The unity of the left is a bit like the mythical search for the Holy Grail in the Arthurian legends. Like the bold knights of old we believe it is out there and only if we travel far and wide will we find it. However most of the “left” while, like the knights prepared to travel far and wide in theoretical discourse, find it very hard to actual talk to fellow socialists or republicans who have a socialist class analysis and are beside them!

Recently a leading member of a left group admitted he had never talked with the leadership of another left group in the past fifteen years. This writer indeed along with other staunch comrades was given the cold shoulder many times when attending so called unity of the left meetings or conferences despite the fact that we had a Marxist analysis of the situation in Ireland and of the armed conflict.

Our crime (or misdemeanor) was we were not prepared to adopt a holier than thou attitude to those who still clung to the discredited strategy of armed struggle carried out by the Provos. Indeed we did argue that there was a time and place for limited armed resistance whilst accepting from the mid 1990’s that that was no longer feasible. Indeed it could be plausibly argued that we did as much if not more than the “left” to win people away from armed struggle. To do that we collectively talked to anyone who would listen to our analysis regardless of their part in conflict.

That involved taking both political and personal risks, something not unique as a lot of other people also did so in order to try to end an armed conflict that was going nowhere. Few of those trying to stop armed conflict, outside of our own group claimed to be Marxists or the “left”. Why? Because the “left” was too busy searching for the Holy Grail of left unity (under of course their own groups hegemony, i.e. unity but on their terms) to do anything about real actual existing conditions.

Which bring us to the” Das Einheitsfrontlied!” Written at a time when the German working class was about to be devastated as it leadership swung from ultra-leftism to capitulation to bourgeois forces the anthem still speaks to us today.

‘The emancipation of the working-class Is the task of_ the workers alone.’

No elitist group, whether armed with guns or a marxist bible can liberate on behalf of the working class. Indeed it is classic tactic of dictators to assert that they and they alone have the interests of the people at heart and therefore what they do or say goes, because it is in the interests of the people. Check out Gadaffi or Mubarack for evidence of this. However this is not to argue against theory or building a revolutionary party for we agree that as Lenin argued

“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement… role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory.”

It is one of the main tasks of such a party to provide leadership to the working class whilst a the same time recognising that it is the workers themselves who can achieve their own emancipation. A revolutionary party takes account of the moods expectations and hopes of the workers. It does not operate apart from and disdainful of the class.

Unfortunately armed republicans do. They use for example the uprising of 1916 citing it as evidence that a gallant few could take it upon themselves to raise the standard of revolt. But they tend to downplay the fact that the leaders of the uprising surrendered after 6 days to spare lives.

Furthermore the subsequent guerrilla warfare waged by republicans up until 1921 had the support of a substantial number of people.

That is not the case today. There is widespread opposition within northern nationalists to the continuation of armed struggle, not to mention almost total hostility to armed struggle within the vast majority of the population of the Southern state.
Those who think that killing a PSNI member regardless of his religion will somehow create the conditions to lead to the ending of British Imperialism influence in Ireland are sadly mistaken.

The immediate strategic aims of active armed Republicans probably include,

-discouraging nationalists from joining the PSNI,

-embarrass Sinn Fein leaders into condemning acts they themselves had approved in the past,

-provoke a backlash from loyalists so that they, the armed republicans, can be seen as defenders of the nationalist population,

-cause so much daily disruption that more aggressive tactics are used by pro-British security forces evoking sympathy and support among sections of northern nationalists.

However conditions today are very different from the early part of the 20th century and indeed from the early 1970’s
After all workers and their families North and South are currently enduring the harshest recession from the 1930’s when these words were written
As man is only human, He must eat before he can think.
Fine words are only empty air And not his meat and drink”

Or as others have asserted you can not eat flags.
Flag waving is a common tactic of those who wish to appeal to the lowest common denominator, whether it is the Orange order tramping through nationalist districts or Sinn Fein wanting equal status for the Tricolour with the Union Jack. (Who can forget the absurdity of Ogra Sinn Fein painting red post boxes green)

At the counts in the 26 counties elections Provisional Sinn Fein made a fetish of flying the Tricolour trying to identify themselves as the foremost patriots of the nation. That goes with their politics a combination of populism, leftist rhetoric while denying in practice there are real class differences within the “people.”

Appeals to tribalism or sectarianism is not a tactic that any self respecting Republican can condone. That is why so many former Republican combatants can not support the PSF strategy in the north that reinforces sectarian divisions. The Good Friday Agreement and the St.Andrews Agreement were not the settlement of the Northern problem but a settlement of the past and the undoing some of the effects of partition.

What we have now is a truce between the tribes-peace in the feud.

Not a solution! That was not what many Republicans initially took up arms for. Many are now asking was it worth it?

Recently Mike Hall’s Island Pamphlets published its 96th publication entitled “Republicanism in transition” which posed a series of questions to representatives of the IRSP, Republican Sinn Fein, Official Republican Movement, eirigi, and a group of independent Republicans. Other republicans of various hues were also invited but did not take part.

What is clear from the pamphlet is the clear recognition by most involved of the serious defeat that republicanism has suffered, a recognition of the sectarianism inherent in the armed struggle an acceptance of the “Britishness”of the unionists and the denial of the tactic of armed struggle in the current circumstances. While there is not unanimity about these it is clear that increasingly sections of irish republicanism are moving from a 19th century view of the world to an acceptance of the 21st century with all its difficulties. All but one of the groups emphasised the class nature of the struggle.
Some of the participants seem to envisage a series of discussions and pamphlets as a precursor of an intellectual or organisational renewal of republicanism. Unless such a development is class base, and moves forward on both political and theoretical levels and avoids nationalism it will be doomed to failure. But neverthe less initiatives that try to bring some semblance of leadership to the working class wheter among the left, among republicans or a ccombination of both deserves support.

Responses to “The Elections- a Democratic Revolution?”
In the last edition of The Red Plough Vol. 2-1 an article The Elections- a Democratic Revolution? provoked the following responses.
On the IRSP discussion site a comrade in the IRSCNA support organisation of the IRSP in the United States wrote,

Global Moderator

“The massive flaw with this attempt at criticism is the fact that IRSP members weren't just name calling, some were out campaigning for comrades on the ULA list. Working for left candidates who are outside of the IRSP while also criticising the limitations of the Alliance is pretty much what Gerry seems to be doing and advocating, so...yeah, next time maybe ask the IRSP what they were up to on the ground. “
Then on the “The Irish Republican Forum” was this response from an obvious supporter of Stalin

Senior Member

Join Date
Aug 2007
Location "apologist scum"

“The massive flaw with this attempt at criticism is the fact that IRSP members were out campaigning for some on the ULA list. Working for left candidates who are outside of the IRSP while also criticising the limitations of the Alliance is pretty much what Gerry seems to be doing and advocating, so...yeah, next time maybe ask the IRSP what they were up to on the ground.”

Could KillinSnakes really be CraobhRua?
Now there is a mystery!!

But to be serious I welcome the fact that the comrade accepts that that my designation of name calling was correct-
“-IRSP members weren't just name calling-”

His/her petty comment of “attempt at criticism” is unworthy of a socialist. It was and is a valid criticism that is accepted by some of the IRSP comrades I speak to on a regular basis.

Another comment was the following,

Good to see the IRSP statement on ULA criticized. I felt that was complete crap at the time.

That was a worthwhile contrast of Arab mass protests with the republican militarist strategy. Critically I'll say that the analysis of the dissidents is a bit too close to the SF (or even SDLP) line. They represent an undemocratic militarist minority, isolated in terms of the political priorities of republican communities, and that their tactics are totally futile.

All of the above is true but it's also simplistic to a certain extent, and it doesn't preclude their gaining support due to this utter political vacuum - SF with little real credibility due to a stalled GFA which can only promise further economic hardship, and an absence of any serious left-republican tendency - which exists amongst nationalist communities in the north (especially in the most deprived areas mentioned in the post, Lurgan, West/North Belfast, etc). not to mention the concurrent breakdown of "law & order" and its populist exploitation by ONH et al via punishment attacks.

The same mixture of accurate and semi-moralistic criticisms were made of the Provos in their day yet despite the (at times obvious) futility of their tactics they still harnessed mass's not a perfect analogy but worth bearing in mind.

Maybe I'm just skeptical as to the extent of the political ambitions of most working-class nationalists when they're besieged by anti-social elements, a hostile and at times nakedly sectarian state, and where the left generally (not just the republican left) is a negligible political force. At least regarding the last point the organisation of éirígí in the west and seemingly the re-organisation of the IRSP in the Lower Falls are positive steps.

Even the electoral support for SF in the Saorstát puts them in an awkward position where they have to explain away the lack of congruence between their radical rhetoric in the south and their implementation of austerity in the north.

If only a ULA had been sorted in the north it would have solved a lot of electoral headaches (for example 3 or 4 varieties of trots and left republicans running in the west, and none in north belfast) come May and offered an opportunity to display a degree of "revolutionary leadership" as the blog suggests.

Just some thoughts, not very organised

From Tiarnán Ó Muilleoir.

In response to above I replied

Comrade I attended Marxist Weekend School (SWP) in Belfast and saw slight thaw in the "sectarianism" of the far left. There are definite possibilities of extending the ULA in the North but will require diplomacy, comittment and genuine desire to try to provide working class leadership and should be open to multi-tendencies including left republicans and open to all other left groupings. Very difficult but not impossible.

Did you see the silly response in ISRP Forum to, in my mind, a very mild criticism of the IRSP position?

My! some people are very sensitive and precious! Don’t they know that uncritical acceptance of positions and lack of constructive criticism leads to the worse excess of totalitarianism .

Gerry R.

I definitely agree re the decrease in overt left sectarianism. The internet is playing a big role in that and how it's opened things ...up in terms of discussion (i.e. reducing the influence of the party line dictated from on high as well as the 'us vs them' mentality).

On a more base level the electoral achievements down south are a major motivation for intra-trot unity right now (although ironically enough the SWP in belfast split recently). You're right if it's to come to anything it has to be genuine open discussion and principled united campaigns rather than the opportunism and front-group stuff we usually see...which implies allowing left-republicans a voice and a seat at the table.

I can't see the thread or discussion in the IRSP forum but i can't say I'm surprised, much as I respect the members that I know personally. The IRSP attitude towards original theorising or polemics of any kind still seems pretty defensive.

From Tiarnán Ó Muilleoir.

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Friday, 4 March 2011

The Red Plough Vol 2-1

The Red Plough
Vol. 2-No 1
March 2011

1) The elections- a democratic revolution?

2) Lessons of the Middle East

3) What’s On


Only struggle educates the exploited class.
Only struggle discloses to it the magnitude of its own power, widens its horizon, enhances its abilities,clarifies its mind, forges its will."

V.I. Lenin

The Elections- a Democratic Revolution?

Some commentators described it as a “democratic revolution.” They were not talking about the current uprisings in parts of North Africa or the wave of mass demonstrations across the Middle East. Rather they were talking about the results of the 26-county elections, which saw the dominant force, Fianna Fail reduced to a mere handful of seats, 20 in all.

The party that emerged from the depths of the old nationalist parties and the fascists, Fine Gael, reached their highest every total of seats, 76. The Labour Party also reached its highest number of seats, 37. It is clear they will form a new coalition Government in tandem with Fine Gael unless there is a massive revolt by rank and file labour party members. That leaves an opposition composed of Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein(P), and Independents composed of a variety of views including five who signed up to the United Left Alliance. Sinn Fein (P)had their best every result winning 15 seats.

The irony of the results is that, while it is clear that the electorate punished Fianna Fail for the appalling economic mess that ended up with the Irish people in hock to European bankers and forced to face years paying off debts run up by other bankers, they also elected in overwhelming numbers those committed to the self same policies that Fianna Fail were advocating. As political commentator Vincent Browne put it

“If Fine Gael and Labour have problems in agreeing a programme, the problems are ones of personality and perception. There are no incompatibilities of principle or ideology.”(1)

They both agree to submit to the European Central bank and the IMF. They will want to reduce the interest paid to the same banks but not to the principle of punishing the vast majority of the Irish people for the sins of the bankers and property speculators. To pay of the bankers they are going to introduce a property tax on top of the huge burdens that the previous Fianna Fail/Greens coalition had already imposed.

The leadership of the Labour Party is firmly in the hands of those who once were members of the Workers Party and who knew clearly of the continued existence of the Official IRA. Yet they still pretend they can not work with Sinn Fein(P) because in the words of some Free state commentators SFP are “toxic”.

It is clear that large sections of the electorate, north and south do not share this view. To it’s credit SFP at least adopted a policy of “burning the bond holders”, ie refusing to pay the debt.

The Labour Party for its part still has not yet learned the lessons of its involvement in coalition with main- stream capitalist parties. Vincent Browne quotes figures from the last time Labour entered a coalition.

“During the period from 1994 to 1997 when Ruairí Quinn was Minister for Finance, Seán Healy, then of Cori, calculated that in every one of the budgets for which Quinn was responsible, it was the rich who benefited most. And, in a telling indictment of Labour's five-year tenure in office in the 1990s (first with Fianna Fáil from 1992 to 1994 then with Fine Gael and Democratic Left from 1994 to 1997), the Institute of Public Health calculated that 5,400 people died prematurely every year because of the scale of inequality here.”

There is no evidence that Labour’s participation in a capitalist Government has done anything to alleviate the conditions of the working class. The evidence is to the contrary. Clearly the Labour leadership for the baubles of office is prepared to sacrifice the Irish working class on the altar of the foreign bondholders bankers and exploiters of the workers.

Perhaps Eamon Gilmore should remember what he stood for once when a member of the Democratic Left after splitting from the Workers Party. This was the Democratic left position on the labour party in the early 1990’s.

"Who can point to a single issue in the economic area where this Government has adopted a position or taken a decision that might not have also been taken by the previous Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats administration or the minority Fianna Fáil Government which went before that?
"Has the Labour presence led to any new radical approach to the unemployment problem or new measures to secure an equal distribution of wealth? There is no evidence of that..."
"Far from being in partnership with Fianna Fáil, the Labour Party has now been almost totally assimilated into the political culture which the Tánaiste (Dick Spring) spoke of in such withering terms in the dying days of the last Dáil."

Men of principle, how are ye!

Like previous leaderships the current Labour leadership is well assimilated into the political clientism that passes for politics in the 26 counties. The system itself is geared towards that. Only a radical break can change that.

The coming together of United Left Alliance (ULA) and its modest success hold out some hope for the future. It has been described, I believe, unfairly by the IRSP as

“-a couple of sects espousing reformist rhetoric and reformist demands.”(2)

Indeed it may well turn out a total failure and previous history of the organisations involved does not breed a great deal of confidence in its future direction. The IRSP are indeed correct in questioning its coming together only at election time. Indeed it would be better if a longer-term strategy was worked out in conjunction with those who aspire to a socialist society.

However to simply talk about reformism in a condemnatory way misses the point. How to convince those from the working classes to vote, not to replace Tweedledum (FF) with Tweedledee (FG) but to change the system. And it is only the working class who have the power to change the system. Currently it is easy to say that the masses are confused by reformist ideas and that they don’t vote or act in their class interest but to say that is to ignore reality.

Every day there are classes between the forces of capital and labour (Not that the Labour party would ever describe them as such)

These struggles will intensify as the screw is tightened on the working class. All those manifestations of struggle need to be generalised so that the class see the connection between their exploitation and the system. That requires leadership.

While the Red Plough has no illusions about the leaderships of parties like SFP and the Labour party we do recognise that many of their rank and file are committed to change. Name calling does little to build a movement of change.

Is the left, whether the labour left or the republican left, capable of creating the revolutionary leadership that is needed?


Lessons of the Middle East

For over forty years in the North of Ireland Republicans of various hues have used armed force to change the status of the Northern state and create a united and/or socialist, Ireland. Indeed the provisional IRA procured arms from Gaddafi’ Libya when Gaddafi was going through a so called “anti-imperialist ‘phase. Those arms allowed that organisation to maintain its armed campaign for many years before its final defeat.

Recently off- shoots of the Provos have despite all evidence to the contary maintained that armed struggle is the only way forward. However whether they are the real, the really real or the really really real IRA’s none of the groups is capable of maintaining a consistent armed struggle.
Occasionally shots are fired in Lurgan, Derry or somewhere else, bombs and hoax devices are planted yet the vast majority of people ignore it and get on with their lives. While there is little enthusiasm for the Stormont Assembly or the power sharing administration among many nationalists there is not yet enough opposition that could possibly justify armed struggle. Of course there maybe the occasional “success” such as the killing of a uniformed soldier or policeman, the assassination of a prominent politician, the burning down of a furniture store , the bombing of a “prestige” target and the kneecapping of a “local hood”.

But will that change the fundamental relationships between Britain and Ireland? Will it improve the position of northern nationalists? Will it win over the protestant working class to socialism? Will it bring about a United Ireland? Or will it stop crime in working class communities? Will it hell! All it will do will be to see another generation of young people languish in British and Irish jails. And for what? Yet another glorious defeat.

Compare and contrast that with what is now happening in the Middle East. Note how weeks, sometimes days, of mass action by the people succeeded in changing autocratic dictatorships that had been in power of decades. In Libya the mass struggle there is now combined with mass armed actions as the people attempt to overthrow the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. Tunisia, Egypt, Lebannon, Jordan, Quatar etc there have been tremendous explosions of popular discontent. Change is certainly in the air and Imperialism caught unawares tries to adjust to the new situation and stop the mass movements from radically changing the status quo.

Oil has been the dominant factor in the running of these countries for years. So the Western powers supported, armed, financed and trained the police and armies of corrupt leaders in these countries. All in the interests of Western imperialism.
Suddenly the whole deck of cards started to tumble down when the Tunisian masses responded to the tragic suicide of a young market trader denied a license by corrupt police. Corrupt was rife in both Tunisia and Egypt ; massive wealth for the thousand of so elite families and dire poverty for the millions. That was the reality.

Hence the massive explosion of anger that fanned the flames of revolt throughout the Middle East. The mass explosions have at their core democratic demands. Of course within the struggles there are religious fundamentalists, monarchists, and enthusiastic followers of Imperialism but there are also vast masses wanting fundamental changes in the political social and economic conditions under which they live. And they are the driving forces for change.

While it is too early to predict the outcome of those mass struggles there are certainly valuable lessons for us here in Ireland.
Change comes, not as Mao says from the barrel of a gun, but when the masses move. Individual acts of violence, unrelated to the needs and aspirations of the masses, is elitist militarism and does nothing to advance the cause of either the militarists or the masses. That is also the lesson to learn from other successful revolutions such as the Cuban and Chinese revolutions. Armed struggle in both was linked to the social emancipation of the masses and without that support both revolutions would have failed. (the development of China’s revolution from 1949 is another separate question)

The other key lesson from the mass uprisings in the Middle East is the breaking down of national and religious barriers. There is an internationalism occurring in what is happening that transcends the state barriers imposed by imperialism. The masses in Egypt, Libya etc saw what their brothers and sisters had achieved in Tunisia and started to emulate them creating a bond among the Arab masses. Of course just as in Ireland Imperialism will try to fan the flames of tribalism, sectarianism and fundamentalism in order to maintain a foothold in the Middle East.

It is for the progressive elements in the struggle to ensure that does not happen. Otherwise like Ireland the struggles will be diverted in blind alleys of bigotry and sectarianism. When that happens there is only one winner, Imperialism.


History Staff/Postgraduate Seminar Series

* Venue : Postgraduate Seminar room, 18 College Green, Belfast at 4pm.

* Event Open To : Students, Staff, General Public

11 March
Chris Loughlin: Beaten and crushed? Violence and intimidation against the Belfast labour movement, 1924−39.

Marxist Education

James Connolly Archive

The Red Plough is an independent Republican Marxist Internet publication

➢ Please feel free to comment on the contents of the Red Plough.

➢ We welcome political comments and criticisms. If you know of anybody who might wish to receive the Red Plough please send his or her e-mail address to


➢ It is the policy of The Red Plough to acknowledge information and articles from other sources.