Friday, 28 September 2012

The Red Plough Vol 3-8

The Red Plough

Vol. 3-No 8

 September 2012


1/ The Ulster Covenant

2/ Towards a New Jerusalem ?

3/ Query?

Ulster Covenant.

The Ulster Covenant was signed by 237,368 men and a Declaration  signed by 234046 women in 1912.

Carson signs the Covenant

100 years later Northern Unionism celebrates the signing of the Covenant. The actual signing of the Covenant was a declaration to resist Home Rule, reject the decisions of the Westminster parliament and pledge to refuse to recognise any subsequent Irish Parliament if Home Rule was introduced. 

In a book published in the same year the leaders of Unionism and of the British Tory Party articulated their case "Against Home Rule". Edward Carson argues that the Act of Union, introduced by William Pitt,  was necessary for salvation of  England and the foundation of the British Empire and that

"-it is no less necessary for the continued security of the one(ie England) and the maintenance and prestige of the other(ie. Empire)"( page 18 Against Home Rule-Pub Frederick Warne and Co. London /New york 1912)

So defence of the British Empire becomes the central issue for the leadership of the Unionists. Hence the slavish attitude towards the House of Windsor and the institute of Monarchy. 
But of course there are and were other arguments put forward by Unionism. Bonar Law  argued that there were two nations in Ireland 

"It is two nations separated from each other by lines of cleavage which cut far deeper that those which which separate Great Britain from Ireland as a whole"(Page  13 Ibid)

This argument was further advanced by Thomas Sinclair who observed that 

"These two nations are so utterly distinct in their racial characteristics,in their practical ideals,in their religious sanctions and in their sense of civic and national responsibility that they can not live side by side unless under the evenhanded control of a just central authority in which at the same time they have full co-operation"(page 173 ibid)

Essentially this argument for two nations is based upon the belief that the protestants were in essence superior to the catholics, ( ie .what is now called racism) and that it required the benign influence of the British to act as the impartial referee. Of course that is still today how the British ruling class like to still present the northern conflict. 

Lord Londonderry, who once represented Down in Westminster wrote about opposition to Home Rule

"-- it is the hostility of a progressive and advancing people who have made their portion of the country prosperous and decline to hand it over to the control of representatives from the most backward and unprogressive counties"(page 166 ibid)

Sadly even today there is a strong element of racism within some ranks of Unionism and the displays by the Blood and Thunder bands outside catholic churches is a manifestation of bigotry, hatred and racism. but while that is the uglier side of that bigotry it is not confined to the lumpen proletariat. It also inhabits section of the unionist middle classes.

Other arguments put forward at the time of the signing of the Covenant were on economic educational and  religious grounds. For example the power and control of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland  was immense and the recent introduction of the Ne Temere decree in 1908 obviously gave concern to non-catholics entering into marriage with a catholic. The influence of the Roman Church in education was then as it is today a matter of concern for those of a non catholic background. 

But of major concern was the linkages of the mainly industrial north of Ireland with the British economy.The industrial classes feared that the mainly agricultural south would lead to a decimation of their economy in the event of Home rule. Indeed there is sufficient evidence to show that the nationalist politicians  were more in tune with the economic interest of the big farmers exporting to Britain than in building up a industrial base.

So for these reasons the bulk of the Unionists in Ireland opposed the introduction of Home Rule. In this they were supported the leadership of the British Conservative Party who also supported their right to armed resistance to the introduction to Home Rule. They both  facilitated  gun running  into Ulster and the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force which grew directly out the anti-home rule movement.

It must be remembered that in 1886 when Gladstone introduced the first Home Rule Bill following the first ever elections with a secret ballot that returned a nationalist majority in Ireland,  the Tories under Randolph Churchill whipped up intense sectarian strife in Belfast. It was Randolph Churchill who proclaimed that 
"Ulster will Fight and Ulster will be right"

Catholics were driven from the shipyard and James Curran an 18 year old catholic from Ballymacarrett drowned in front of a hostile mob of bigots who made no effort to save him.  Subsequently the Home Rule Bill was lost when many liberals in Parliament defected. When the Second Home Rule bill was  introduced  in 1892 the Ulster gentry and officer class decided to utilise the loyal orders which had until 1886 fallen into disrepute because of their  regular involvement in sectarian riots.  There were

 "large numbers of country gentlemen,clergymen of all protestant denominations,business and professional men,farmers and the better class of artisans in Belfast and other towns" Page 46 "UVF Cusack/McDonald-Poolbeg 1997)

 who flocked into the Orange institutions. An engineer,Fred Crawford established a secret organisation called "Young Ulster"whose one condition of membership was ownership of a gun!

While the influx of the gentry and others lent an air of respectability to the Orange it did not dampen its sectarianism. In 1893 the Trade Union Congress  was attacked by loyalists and catholics again driven from the shipyards. Sectarian clashes again occurred in 1898 on the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1798 rebellion.

Furthermore northern unionists moved away from the concept of Irish unionism to one of Ulster Unionism.They began to abandon their fellow unionist in the South.This was underlined by the establishment of the Ulster Unionist Council composed of Ulster MPs  on March 30th 1905. It was now clear that Ulster Unionism was going for its own form of devolution under the Imperial Parliament. In this they were back in the main by the mainly protestant industrial working class in the north whose interests were tied up with the British market.

So it was no surprise when an all class alliance was formed between the ruling and working class protestants. That alliance was cemented when the gentry opened up their large demesnes at Donard Park, Newcastle, Fernhill Belfast, Tobar Mhuire, Crossgar Springhill House ,Moneymore, Castle Hume at Loug Earne for drilling by the loyalists. Then in January 1913 the Ulster Unionist Council inaugurated the Ulster Volunteer Force ,an army of 100,000 men whose head was General Sir George Richardson a British army veteran of the Boxer rebellion in China.

Weapons were imported from Germany and plans made for a provisional government in the event of Home Rule been introduced. Sections of the British Army sympathised with the unionists and refused to move against them in the infamous 'Curragh Mutiny'.
The British Government faced with this, backed down. Home rule was postponed and eventually abandoned. Nationalists and Republicans followed the example of the Unionists and set up their own volunteer armies. 

While many nationalist and unionists took part in the intra -imperialist 1st World War Irish Republicans in the  Irish Volunteers and Socialists in the Irish Citizen Army combined in Easter 196 to stage a Rising.

Flag of the I.C.A.

 This was brutally crushed by the British but lead to an awakening of nationalism leading to the War of Independence and the eventual partition of the isle of Ireland.

Now one hundred years on  the issues that existed  in 1912 have not been resolved. The devolution of power desired by the Ulster Unionist Council in 1912 lead to the establishment of the Northern Ireland state which even today many nationalists refuse to recognise. For 50 years the Unionist Party discriminated against t the minority in jobs housing and resources.  The conflict that ensued from 1968 in both mass resistance and armed struggle was a direct consequence of the partition of the island. The differences between working class protestant sand catholics have not been resolved Sectarian hatred is as deep as ever and there are few signs that many associated with the Orange  want anything to do with Catholics.

However conditions have changed from 1912. Now in September 2012 the North of Ireland has been de-industrialised. There are now no privileges for the skilled protestant working class because most of the skilled obs have gone or in the process of going.Loyalist try to articulate that their protests and behaviours outside Catholic Churches are a manifestation of frustration at being left behind as a result of the peace process. However this ignores the actual statistical  evidence that catholics are still more likely to be unemployed or live in deprived areas. This is not to deny that there is poverty and deprivation in working class protestant areas. Of course there is. But is the answer to that poverty and deprivation to    take sectarian actions against catholics or their churches? 
It is clear that the political elites are reasonably happy with all this disputes about parades. It diverts attention from the failing economy , binds people to their tribe and prevents the emergence of a class conscious opposition. 
The development of such an opposition is   of course essential for working class life. For too long many communities  have been protected by so called peace walls with no opportunities  to reach across sectarian divides. Republicans and Socialists have a part to play in ensuring that opportunities exist to build  a class based opposition. 
They can do this by avoiding any semblance of either religious or political sectarianism.rather that engage in petty squabbles with other like minded groups republicans and socialists should be building bridges to like minded workers of all persuasions in a bid to over come the sectarianism that inevitably arises from historical commemorations such as those of the Ulster Covenant. In that context the behaviour of the Carrick Hill Residents has been exemplary.

Gerry Ruddy


An Analytical View Towards Working Class Emancipation  

What exactly do we mean by the word “work”? Is it something which we do under duress simply to survive? Or is it, as some apologists for capitalism would have us believe, “pleasurable”? With a short examination it will be found that an overwhelming majority of working class people, if they are honest, would opt for the former with few if any preferring the latter. As we move up the so called social ladder we will find, when crossing the border from working class, proletariat, into the realms of the “professions,” a wing of the “petit bourgeoisie” the meaning leans towards the latter. 

For example a chartered accountant may take more pleasure in his/her work than say a motor mechanic who, in turn, may take more job satisfaction, than perhaps a refuge collector and so on. Work in its modern format came into being at the same evolutionary time as capitalists and proletarians, basically meaning

 ’an activity carried out: for someone else; in return for a wage; according to forms and time schedules laid down by the person paying the wage; and for a purpose not chosen by the worker’ ( Farewell To The Working Class: Andre Gorz; P.1).

 This description by Gorz obviously leans towards the duress interpretation of work and certainly not something which is pleasurable, and has been very much the case since the outset of the Industrial Revolution around the mid-late 18th century. 

Sometimes the line between work and pleasure can be obscure.  A florist in a large garden centre works, meaning he/she receives a monetary wage whereas a corporation employee who grows and arranges flowers for a hobby in their allotment or back garden would be carrying out a freely chosen activity. Then there is the old saying 

“he has a good job, very well paid", in for example, the armaments industry.  Then the opposite

“her job isn’t up to much she doesn’t earn much in the health service”

This barometer measures what is a good and bad job simply on how much a person earns when, ideally the person in the health service does much more rewarding work, which should pay more, than the man creating weapons of death in the armaments industry. Arguably under capitalist conditions the creation of weapons capable of obliterating thousands of lives is more important to the ruling class than a full competent health service committed to saving life.

 In places of work the workers are regularly informed by their employers that they, employees and employers, are all on the same side. The workers work with their hands and the bosses with their brains, if this is the case it would go a long way towards explaining why working class people start out their lives relatively poor and retire in a not much better state and the employers retire to a life of luxury, having produced precisely nothing! If only everybody worked with their brains!! It should be emphasised I am referring to the working class as a class, and not the few individuals who retire considerably wealthier than when they started out, these are the exception rather than the rule. Likewise the employers, usually small individual entrepreneurs, who go broke and finish their lives in poverty are in  the minority, sometimes sacrificed by the system in order to maintain the status quo.

As new technology and technological advances in human resources become  increasing partners in work organisation many skilled workers perceive these as attacks on their class and  ability to emphasise class power over production. Like the Luddites in the textile industries who violently opposed new machinery between 1811 -1816 new technology is perceived as a threat to workers jobs, particularly skilled workers. Under capitalist conditions such perceptions are understandable because new technology is/are the new means of production. 

This brings us back to the age old question, “who owns the means of production, distribution and exchange“? 

Today as in the past it is not the working class but the bourgeoisie who this responsibility falls to. When, for example, the term “free labour” is introduced it does not mean free working class people who are free to work or not to work as they see fit, this privilege is reserved for the employers and senior executives.  If they choose not to work they will have no money so then they are free to starve. This is where the term “wage slave” originates, no longer are people chained and flogged into work they are potentially starved.  What the term means is labour “free” from the responsibility of owning the means of production. The employers  are free to hire and fire as they see fit, they can employ workers and they can sack workers. A huge component part of working class emancipation is the seizure and ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange from the capitalist classes. It is difficult to imagine working class people sacking themselves! 

Although this ownership, or workers control, will undoubtedly mean an easier time for all workers ultimately because the need to produce for the profit of others will no longer apply. With everybody working and all the new technology under common ownership daily tasks producing what we need, luxuries as they are now termed included, the working week will become shorter and leisure time increased, a person's so-called working life will be shortened if they wish and a more harmonious existence for all will evolve. However easier for all does not mean everybody’s job will become pleasurable. For example as new technology will undoubtedly bring pleasure to some peoples tasks, for example increased development in computerisation may bring an aspect of pleasure to the computer fanatic and many craft workers will almost certainly see a more artistic side to their work as full expression to their task will be possible and encouraged with the help of technological advancements particularly automation available. 

However for those still doing the so called menial work where, even with the help of technology, the jobs are less than pleasant a certain amount of duress will still be present. This can be compensated by making their hours of work even shorter because more people will be available to clean the streets, collect refuge, carry out sewer work etc than will be brain surgeons, airline pilots etc. With pay differentials narrowed and eventually eradicated, towards the higher level, these problems should go. Work as we know it will be abolished no more wishing on a Monday that it was Friday and the weekend.

This New Jerusalem in its early stages is known as socialism and in the finished picture communism, socialism being the bottom line of communism. One question is can we go straight to the latter without the former? When we reach the stage of communism the theory is the state will be no more. In the transitional period, the socialist epoch, a state will still perhaps be necessary. A socialist as opposed to capitalist state, sometimes referred to as “the dictatorship of the proletariat” replacing the present conditions, “the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”. 

Unfortunately the road towards socialism and the abolition of work as we know it appears to be as obstructed as ever, though not insurmountable. Today we have, not only in Ireland, various political parties who define themselves as Revolutionary Socialist who, they would have us believe, will be the vanguard of the glorious march of the proletariat towards socialism. These delusions of grandeur are, at the moment precisely that, delusions. These organisations are no further towards their goals than they were twenty or thirty years ago alas. They rarely if ever present an unqualified united front and frankly never have. This is despite the United Left Alliance comprising the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Socialist Party, formerly Militant, coming together to sit in the engine room of Irish Capitalism, Dail Eireann. The trade union movement, equally dormant when action is required, are concerned with restricting working class consciousness to that of a trade union level and no higher. They do not encourage a revolutionary class consciousness aimed at replacing the capitalist system and private ownership with socialism/communism. That said it is better to have an, albeit limited, trade union consciousness than no consciousness at all.

Under capitalist conditions work can never be a source of personal fulfilment or be central to peoples lives. Capitalism restricts peoples potential to advance their abilities unless it is profitable for the employer. The non-involvement during the course of work of the worker causes much demoralisation, albeit in most cases subconsciously, without stimulating or satisfying their intellectual capacities in any way. This makes it almost impossible for workers to identify with their work and therefore part of the working class let alone develop a revolutionary class consciousness.
Karl Marx

In his earlier writings Karl Marx 

initial (philosophical) conviction was that the proletariat as a whole and each proletarian in particular must be able to take control of the totality of productive forces in order to develop the totality of its capacities’( Gorz: P.26). 

Coupled with these restrictions on working class development the bourgeois media, particularly newspapers, paint the picture of “work shy” people who are either too “lazy” or too “frightened” to work. This is of course designed to set workers against other working class people who are not working usually through no fault of their own. The term “allergic to work” is no longer aimed at marginal sections of society but is often used generally to describe anybody who is unemployed. The truth is that nearly all workers suffer some sort of allergy to work due to their alienation from the means of production. 

Tragically most workers can not or will not, perceive life through these lenses. These  perceptions ask too many inconvenient questions for most people to be happy in answering. If work allergies are not more prevalent than people like to face up to why then do so many workers yearn for the coming weekend? For all their working lives many people wish the largest part away. Still not to worry its only for fifty or sixty years!

 Let us imagine a working class person starting out their working life at the age of sixteen. With retirement ages due to be increased this working life of drudgery will be extended to possibly 75 and they could spend most of heir working life wishing they were somewhere else!  There are also a minority of workers who wish to work longer suffering from  "the zoo syndrome"meaning like a lion in a zoo caged up all its life would not thank you for releasing it into the wild because it could not survive, the worker having being told all their life what to do and when to do it would perhaps be at a loss with time on their hands and nobody to tell them what to do.

As the quote above from Marx more than suggests the only permanent way out of this malaise for the working class is the ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. He does not leave us an instruction manual on how this is to be achieved. Due to this oversight by Saint Karl we must come to our own conclusions. There are those who believe, probably in some cases sincerely believe, that this transfer of economic power can be achieved through the ballot box using the rule of liberal democracy.

This is unlikely because political power will still be in the hands of parties which represent the economic and social interests of the bourgeoisie. Even if we had a party which were to be committed to the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange and if they could overcome the prejudices of the bourgeois press so much that they be elected, the state would ensure they could not enact their policies. There could well be a military coup overthrowing such a government, an example being Spain during the 1930s when exactly such a coup happened. Remember the republican government in Spain was progressive rather than revolutionary, and in such case what would the working class fight back with? One suggestion could be occupation of all the offices, factories, rail premises etc; because capitalism would not destroy capital would it? History tells us that it certainly would if conditions demanded so. 
James Connolly

The Irish revolutionary Marxist, James Connollyfound this out to his cost and he was a man who very rarely got it wrong but nobody is infallible. With the trade union movement struggling to rise above a basic trade union consciousness, or even trying to, with political parties incapable of giving any clear direction, ambiguities at best, where does that leave the proletariat in pursuit of its emancipation?     

Marxist theory has never been particularly clear, and all the squabbling would be Marxist parties cloud the issue further with their differing “party lines”, about who precisely is to carry out the collective appropriation of the means of production, or what, where and by whom this newly found emancipatory power conquered by the working class is to be exercised. Why not let all the competing parties scrap it out with each other, and in the meantime the democratically elected revolutionary workers councils can get on with reorganising society. This achieved, ultimately the working class as the working class, will cease to exist because once power has been achieved, society will be truly classless. Classes are symptomatic with bourgeois society and as this society will be no more neither  will classes and other signs of minority class domination as is the present state of affairs. This, however, is when everything has been achieved but between alpha and omega there is a lot of mileage and very few points to refuel the vehicle. At the moment, and remember nothing is static so despondency is not on the agenda, Jerusalem is light years away. We all must ask ourselves what can be done to shorten and eradicate this distance?

Kevin Morley           

Ireland: Republicanism and Revolution by Alan Woods - Book Review

In an other wise excellent review of this book the reviewer stated 

"I was pretty much unaware of the past controversy between the IMT and the IRSP"

What was this controversy? I can find no written document  with IRSP about any controversy. I do recall verbal questions from comrades but never outright opposition to any links with the IMT. After all  the IRSP was internationalist and rejected nationalism.Perhaps someone from the IRSP could elaborate on this "controversy"?


A Descriptive History Of The Irish Citizen Army [Kindle Edition]

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