Northern Ireland

25 posts / 0 new
Last post
Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 1 2007 03:30
Northern Ireland

This is a thread for discussion about Northern Ireland. Not Venezuela, Iraq, or Burma.
Issues pertaining to apparent ’two-nationist’ theories can be discussed here: http://libcom.org/forums/ireland/irish-anarchist-and-two-nation-theory

Some of the posts I’m responding to and some of the material in this post were originally here on this thread: http://libcom.org/forums/thought/for-john-how-is-the-wsm-soft-on-nationa...
but some posters believe that thread is in too much of a state for them to respond in the way they would like so I’m starting a new thread.

It might be fairly said that some of the other threads on this general topic have degenerated into personality conflicts, regardless of who is at fault in that I would prefer if those conflicts were left elsewhere and that arguing for the case outlined below was, on this thread, left to me.

In addition I’d like to say that everything below is intended as a comradely contribution to discussion and I hope it is taken as such.

QUESTIONING THE CASE FOR ENDING PARTITION AS A REFORM WHICH REDUCES COMMUNAL CONFLICT:

Make your case for that reform by explaining how the removal of the British state from Northern Ireland and the incorporation of Northern Ireland into a united Ireland will ultimately result in the ending of communal conflict.
Make the case that communal conflict is not autonomous from the British state.
I may seem abrasive when I’m arguing this point but bear in mind that to me the idea that a British withdrawal would ultimately reduce communal conflict is fantastical (excepting if that ultimate reduction pans out as repartioned ethnically pure enclaves). I don’t see any basis for this, other than the concept that the existence of Northern Ireland is irreformably and inherently based on anti-Catholic discrimination (and this being the material basis of Unionism) - at least part of that analysis you have dropped, so what are the grounds for this idea?

Maybe your answer is contained in this:

Quote:
“It’s because we see the British state as playing a central role in the conflict by, for example, fostering a divide and rule tactic amongst the working class, by its long support for one set of sectarian local ruling class, not to mention its own direct war through both its conventional military and, imo, its unionist paramilitaries.”

(Jimmy)

But I want to be clear (you would also have to make the case for the dependency of communal conflict on the actions of British state, and hence its inability to outlives that state’s removal).

Moreover the fact is that ’The Partition of Ireland’ document frames the issue, primarily I would say, in terms of

Quote:
“The role of the British state in Ireland is a particular case of imperialism which we have always opposed.”

which means you have a basis for supporting a united Ireland in addition to just opposition to communal division and the idea that the presence of the British state underlines communal division.

The claim that:

Quote:
"partition as the main reason why conflicts based on religious divisions continue to exist"

appears to be based on the idea that the power of the Unionist bloc is

Quote:
"dependant on its demands corresponding with a significant section of the British ruling class"

(and though it is isn't stated I presume it is taken for granted that the Catholic/Nationalist wing of communal division is dependant on the healthy existence of the Unionist one). Plus with Clarification/Addition by Jimmy to the effect that the British state backs up unionism and is engaged in a divide and rule. This is the apparent basis of the ‘anti-partitionist’ position.
( but there is also “The role of the British state in Ireland is a particular case of imperialism which we have always opposed.” - which is a whole other debate almost)

On to communal division

Quote:
“differences carefully fostered by an alien government”

(quote NOT from the WSM) locating this as a by-product of the British state is a long held shibboleth of the traditional nationalist consensus (perhaps only few extreme nationalists going beyond this). Now historically we can hold this as containing truth - quite apart from anything the WSM says concerning 1798, the Plantations were after all intended as a means of garrisoning Ireland. However to hold this as true today we would have to ignore the deep entrenchment of communal division into the culture of Northern Ireland to the extent that it is quite autonomous of the role of the British state or any previous material basis (at least of the narrowly reductionist and instrumental type). In regard to communal division, this analysis seems to take one ethnic identity as a given, while the other requires a great deal of explaining.

Unionism is ascribed a material basis in marginal protestant privilege combined with a co-incidence of interests with at least a section of the British and/or unionist ruling class:

Quote:
“This layer represents a minority of protestant workers but it has been and remains a sizeable minority. When its interests have coincided with the unionist ruling class tens of thousands have been mobilised on the streets, in 1969 in response to a peaceful civil rights movement demanding basic democratic rights, in 1974 in the strike against power sharing that brought down Stormont, in the 1980's in the mass demonstrations against the Anglo Irish agreement and in the 1990's at Drumcree. But as the examples from the 80's and 90's show its power is dependant on its demands corresponding with a significant section of the British ruling class. Where such support is not forthcoming this movement fractures and retreats into an abstract loyality to the more reactionary symbols of the British state (the monarchy, the empire and the flag) coupled with a sense it has been betrayed by the same British state.”

(The Partition of Ireland document)

However communal division and conflict is also conceived within the position paper as continuing irrespective of reform within Northern Ireland. Moreover historical inquiry will show sectarian violence in Belfast prior to full scale industrialisation and the starting of the Protestant privilege system (and when the bourgeoisie there were still liberal), and the communities from whence loyalist paramilitarism has drawn its support are those of the poorest protestants, of a similar socio-economic status as the Catholic working class.
From the extract above it is not clear if we are talking about a unionist ruling class, or a British ruling class, or both. Again I would argue the autonomy of popular Unionism is quite apparent. Three of the instances cited above were revolts in opposition to the policy of the British state. One of which was successful.

Where is the “significant section of the British ruling class”? A few reactionary Tories?
By same token you could argue a significant section of the Irish ruling class supports the Provos (I don’t). The comparative success of the movement against Sunningdale by comparison with Drumcree and the protests against the Anglo-Irish agreement is down to (a) Sunningdale being dependant on some Unionist participation (b) in the case of the 70s versus the 90s the extent of unionist mobilisation being dependant on the extent of perceived nationalist threat.

Rather than ruling class manipulation in Unionism, many commentators have identified a disengagement from politics on the part of the wealthy and privileged in the North over the last decades, and indeed in ’69 in at least one instance employers and trade unionists were conspiring together to minimise sectarian conflict.

Furthermore business groups seemed quite happy to engage with republicans long before the unionist parties came to the table (anyways with the current republican drive for lower corporation tax in the North….)

While it could be reasonably argued that nationalism and unionism had a material basis in the two centres of capital, the underdeveloped South and industrialised North, one hundred years ago, there have been massive economic changes since then.

Ye rightly point out:

Quote:
“The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.”

(Partition of Ireland document)
And the contemporary threat to that unfortunately lies in communal violence and the potential for full scale civil war, not with class struggle, which is why we cannot ascribe a ‘divide and rule’ manipulation to the British state, and that aiming for “stable conditions for capitalism” does not mean bolstering sectarian discrimination, or maximalist or rejectionist Unionism.

Likewise Jimmy writes about its “long support for one set of sectarian local ruling class”, presumably meaning unionism, however, at least since the imposition of direct rule in 1972, every constitutional settlement put forward by London has been in opposition to the traditional unionist maximum demand (a return to Stormont majority rule) and in partnership with the Dublin government. London looks to Dublin, not to those whose 'only loyalty is to a dead Dutchman'. Similarly, whatever about the occasional posturing, for most of the troubles, Dublin has engaged in the same security agenda as London, including effectively colluding with loyalist paramilitaries, albeit at one remove.

The conflict in Northern Ireland cannot be ascribed to either elite manipulation or to a crudely reductionist material basis. It is now quite autonomous of any such manipulation or basis it had in the past. (and let us not forget that even if we all agreed that was the case - the WSM would still have

Quote:
“The role of the British state in Ireland is a particular case of imperialism which we have always opposed.”

- which is a whole other debate almost).

WSM -

Quote:
"in 1969 in response to a peaceful civil rights movement demanding basic democratic rights, in 1974 in the strike against power sharing that brought down Stormont, in the 1980's in the mass demonstrations against the Anglo Irish agreement and in the 1990's at Drumcree. But as the examples from the 80's and 90's show its power is dependant on its demands corresponding with a significant section of the British ruling class."

In regard to why '74 was successful and opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and Drumcree wasn't it is curious why anarchist-communists with a focus on the workplace would ask that question - given the fact '74 involved a strike of power station workers. If sympathy in London is an issue one would think there would have been more of it under Thathcher than under Wilson. In any case surely if you argue that in the 80s and 90s

Quote:
"demands corresponding with a significant section of the British ruling class"

didn't exist, then that is popular unionism autonomous of London, now while in both cases the protest movement was unsuccessful I dunno if I would class it as a lack of power there were fairly extensive mobilisations in both cases (and we don't know what 'quiet victories' they won in terms of policy changes that would have happened with out the protests). Another factor is there were probably practical greater divisions within Unionism in the 80s and 90s - for the Anglo-Irish agreement protests AFAIK the locally recruited security forces kept with the state, while in the 90s there was a ceasefire, observed during the Drumcree protests by the bulk of the loyalist paramilitaries (as far as I remember?).
Also by comparison with the 70s loyalist paramilitarism was much much smaller.

Point being the independent capacity of popular unionism to wreck havoc didn't reach its zenith in either the Anglo-Irish or Drumcree protests (or for that matter the Sunningdale protests), limited as they were by a number of factors (the most important probably being the relative stability of the North and less of a doomsday factor by comparison with the 70s).
The RA fought for decades and what did it get? more decades of begging for the right to administer British rule in Ireland in partnership with the DUP - and its only chance of getting that is with the British state.

QUESTIONING THE REMOVAL OF THE BRITISH STATE AS A REFORM WHICH MAKES FOR LESS VIOLENCE.

The reform that would result from a ‘removal of imperialism’ in the Northern Ireland rests with the greater propensity for violence that the British state has in Ireland, as opposed to say the Irish state in Ireland, or the British state in Britain and this is a function of the colonial nature of the relationship between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Now I think to test this we need to look at situations in Ireland which are in someways equivalent to situations in the home territories or imperial metropolis.
There not being much in the way of internal armed conflict in Europe contemporary with the recent Troubles, let us look at the 1916 to 1923 period.

You could make a case that the Freikorp were more repressive than the British state in Ireland, and you could certainly make a case that the Free State was more repressive of republicans than the British state was.
Far more executions judicial and extra-judicial, the same long periods of imprisonment without trial, and with much less justification in the sense that republicans didn’t actually make war on the free state - they were pretty much just sitting there and then they got crushed, as opposed to launching an insurrection - which is the case with republicans and the British state. Let us look at the record before that, republicans launch an armed insurrection against the British state in 1916, in the middle of the sort of war that hadn’t been seen for a hundred years, if ever before, in alliance with the main enemy state, and most of them were released from prison when was it - 1917? 1918? to build their movement again, to do the same thing again! Or how about the years running up to 1916 when republicans were able to more or less openly drill and arm militias.
So it is not that simple. Many factors feed in to the propensity of the state for violence.

The analogy of Ireland with India for instance breaks down as the Irish were white, speak English, were part of the U.K. and the status within the Empire of at least most of Ireland wasn’t that crucial an issue.
Take for example there was a reaction in England to British repression here in the 20s, which does seem to have limited it.
Churchill wrote if we were to hold on to Ireland it would necessitate a level of repression only justifiable for “national survival” (and I think for ‘national survival’ you can read ‘important parts of the Empire’).

Joeblack:

Quote:
“The point about imperialism is that in a colony it can get away with far more violence then it could at home without provoking a reaction at home. And also that because it is seen as illegitimate by some of the population of the colony the mechanisms of negotiation and manipulating popular opinion are either not open to it or are quite limited. Lastly and probably of considerable importance imperialism comes with an ideology which sees the people of the colonies as lesser, prone to irrational violence etc which means the officers will be more likely to use extreme violence and the rank and file soliders would be more likely to follow orders.”

So your first point holds truth, but isn’t exactly applicable to Ireland, as is your third.

The second one:

Quote:
“And also that because it is seen as illegitimate by some of the population of the colony the mechanisms of negotiation and manipulating popular opinion are either not open to it or are quite limited.“

Is important and has got to do with the legitimacy of the state and this is not necessarily a product of a colonial relationship.

The propensity of the British state to violence in Ireland is certainly conditioned by ‘distance’ as in “in a colony it can get away with far more violence then it could at home without provoking a reaction at home” and prejudice.

This is actually probably also applicable to a fairly large swathe of the population in the South in terms of their views of the North. After all the Irish government didn’t get much of a reaction to its co-operation with the British state’s security policy.

However while this is a factor you overstate it. The British government never said we are shooting stone throwers or interning civil rights activists. They said we are doing that to ’terrorists’ which has a slightly greater plausibility factor for public presentation when you are in a situation of armed conflict, such as did not exist in Britain during the Miners strike, Poll Tax, or 80s riots.

Also I think it important not to overstate the British state’s violence in Northern Ireland. I know normally it gets understated and it was very real and considerable, but, outside of the early 70s, it was fairly restrained by comparison to what it has the capacity to do. I think for understanding the state it is very important to realise that Northern Ireland is by no means the maximum for represseion. Many ’public opinion’ type factors constrained the British state, just as it was facilitated by ’distance’ and prejudice. Bearing in mind also the ultimate irrelevance of Northern Ireland and the fact an ’acceptable level of violence’ was reached and the fact they were trying for a negotiated settlement of some form.

Northern Ireland is certainly treated as a ‘special case’ both in terms of violence allowed, and the state spending and subvention allowed.

Now if that adds up to a case for the removal of the British state as a reform, what steps do you think that the British state (meaning London rather than Stormont) has taken in Northern Ireland in the context of an armed conflict outside of the early 70s (Bloody Sunday and the Falls Road Curfew were pretty atypical) which would not be taken by any other state in a situation of armed conflict in Northern Ireland.

The Irish state: shoot-to-kill, yes, internment, yes, collusion and militarisation of disaffected areas, yes.
Yes to the last one because the Irish government, certainly in the 80s, was working with the British government’s security policy.

Finally we would have to conclude that if this is a worthwhile reform, leading to less violence, that the other actors to the conflict would desist from their violence if the British state is removed (given as they produced more violence).

Not only is this unlikely, in fact the exact opposite is likely, but we are now in a situation where all parties to the conflict have considerably reduced their violence, while the British state still has sovereignty.

Thus the sort of worthwhile reform tending to a reduction in violence seems to be a negotiated settlement not the removal of the British state.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 1 2007 11:45
Terry wrote:
QUESTIONING THE CASE FOR ENDING PARTITION AS A REFORM WHICH REDUCES COMMUNAL CONFLICT:

Make your case for that reform by explaining how the removal of the British state from Northern Ireland and the incorporation of Northern Ireland into a united Ireland will ultimately result in the ending of communal conflict.

Err Terry I appreciate you creating this thread but do you really think it is sensible starting it in such a way when its already been stated by me and gurrier on the other threads that the removal of British imperialism should not be assumed to simply mean the incorporation of Northern Ireland into a united Ireland.

You appear to have opened by phrasing the question in a way that will 'trap' us into advocating what you can then portray as a nationalist solution. That sort of methodology is not conducive to a serious thread.

So I'm going to ignore this question until it is phrased in a mutually agreeable way. I'll reply to the rest of your post in a seperate reply - as its long I expect it will take some time to compose it but I may post in sections as I suspect a lot of people don't read very long replies.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 1 2007 12:30
Terry wrote:
Moreover the fact is that ’The Partition of Ireland’ document frames the issue, primarily I would say, in terms of
Quote:
“The role of the British state in Ireland is a particular case of imperialism which we have always opposed.”

which means you have a basis for supporting a united Ireland in addition to just opposition to communal division and the idea that the presence of the British state underlines communal division.

I think this just reflects the difficulty of discussing the issue without all sorts of meanings being read into the words used. Sometimes this can be a little worthwhile in learning to avoid misunderstanding but you seem to have a pattern of constructing quite detailed studies of hidden meaning. As I've already posted this seach for hidden meaning makes no sense as the primary purpose of a position paper is to define collective agreement. Hiding some of the meaning would simply mean defeating that primary purpose - it would really makes no sense from our perspective.

In this concrete example the name of the paper was intended not to assume the answer in the manner of the old name 'The national question' and instead to be simply what the paper was about, it 'the partition of Ireland'. The new name was my proposal and in fact there was as far as I remember no discussion at all about it so your over analyis of the meaning of the name would tell us no more than I had a secret meaning inside my head which even I didn't understand. A politically useless conclusion.

I know in academic terms the search for hidden meaning in texts is a very big thing but I have absolutely no training whatsoever in this area, my formal training in English etc stopped at the leaving cert. So I describe things in the vocablury I pick up from daily useage including of course lots of non-typical reading of history or political material. I thought this name was neutral (out of interest what would you suggest?)

Terry wrote:
The claim that:

Quote:
"partition as the main reason why conflicts based on religious divisions continue to exist"

appears to be based on the idea that the power of the Unionist bloc is

Quote:
"dependant on its demands corresponding with a significant section of the British ruling class"

(and though it is isn't stated I presume it is taken for granted that the Catholic/Nationalist wing of communal division is dependant on the healthy existence of the Unionist one).

Plus with Clarification/Addition by Jimmy to the effect that the British state backs up unionism and is engaged in a divide and rule. This is the apparent basis of the ‘anti-partitionist’ position.
( but there is also “The role of the British state in Ireland is a particular case of imperialism which we have always opposed.” - which is a whole other debate almost)

On to communal division

Quote:
“differences carefully fostered by an alien government”

(quote NOT from the WSM) locating this as a by-product of the British state is a long held shibboleth of the traditional nationalist consensus (perhaps only few extreme nationalists going beyond this).

OK in this section it appears to me you have decided the argument you want to make and then gone looking for extracts from our position paper, an individual members posts, and some nationalist document in order to back up this argument. I'd suggest this method is the source of a lot of the heat and so little light that is found in these discussions, a decision of disagreement first, the search for evidence afterwards. Leaving the cannon of nationalism aside you probably had 30,000 words in which to discover these extracts.

I'll be honest and say I catch myself doing this to trotskyist writings all the time - after all I already know I politically oppose them, all I need is to find a couple of extracts as to why this is the case. I don't think this method is appropiate to anarchist discussions and I think both individuals and organisations should seek to avoid this approach.

The reason for this is that it can only magnify differences and hinder a search for common ground. In terms of having a row this is great, in terms of building unity it is terrible.

I would suggest that the correct approach is first of all to take some time in understanding what is being said and secondly (in terms of a position paper) to look at where you disagree and ask youself 'what would need to change here for me to agree with this'. Once you have answered that question you return to the entire text and see if in fact it already includes this point in some other section.

I suspect if you did this then you would actually find that many of the points you make are already contained in other sections.

Here for instance I think the simplified view you present of the WSM claiming partition is the simple cause of sectarianism is contradicted by the 14 sections and subsections of the paper running from sections 5 to 10. I'll just quote two to illustrate but I'd suggest now looking at those sections

Quote:
6.3 Thus the period of the Home Rule crises and the War of Independence saw the creation of two distinct nationalist identities that were to be cemented by partition and the carnival of reaction - north and south - that followed it. The class politics that emerged - north and south - in the opening years of the 20th century was to vanish to be replaced by the Catholic Irish and the Ulster Protestant - each with their own statelet containing unhappy minorities.

6.4 These myths of separate national identities continue to be built by reactionaries north and south to bolster their agendas.

This extract and the section in general is not a claim that 'the Brits did it in 1921' but rather that imperialism took advantage of existing divisions which 'continue to be built' by 'reactionaries north and south'. It place sectarain divisions not in the single moment of partition, created by a single actor but in hundreds of years of history with multiple actors, not all of them imperialists or even unionists.
http://www.wsm.ie/story/804

Our analysis is not identical but the WSM position you suggest above is nothing like as crude as the WSM position is in reality.

Terry wrote:
However to hold this as true today we would have to ignore the deep entrenchment of communal division into the culture of Northern Ireland to the extent that it is quite autonomous of the role of the British state or any previous material basis (at least of the narrowly reductionist and instrumental type). In regard to communal division, this analysis seems to take one ethnic identity as a given, while the other requires a great deal of explaining.

Here you are making political assumptions and presenting them as facts. The ombudsmen report shows that as recently as the 1990's British imperialism was at the very least tolerating and more likley encouraging sectarian killings in the north. Almost everyone admits that before the counter insurgency campaign that existed for the last 40 years sectarian divisions were less entrenched. So I don't think it can be said that these divisions were 'quite autonomous of the role of the British state'.

My disagreement here BTW is with the absolute claims you make, if you were to substitute 'somewhat' for 'quite' I could agree. You can also argue to what extent the entrenchment of the last period is due to simple 'collusion free' actions of loyalists and republicans and to what extent collusion and the secterianisation implicit of imperialist policies like ulsterisation and criminalistion contributed. But ' quite autonomous' just doesn't stand up as an assertion.

I'll end this post now and return to the rest later

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 1 2007 14:04
Terry wrote:
Unionism is ascribed a material basis in marginal protestant privilege combined with a co-incidence of interests with at least a section of the British and/or unionist ruling class:

Quote:
“This layer represents a minority of protestant workers but it has been and remains a sizeable minority. When its interests have coincided with the unionist ruling class tens of thousands have been mobilised on the streets, in 1969 in response to a peaceful civil rights movement demanding basic democratic rights, in 1974 in the strike against power sharing that brought down Stormont, in the 1980's in the mass demonstrations against the Anglo Irish agreement and in the 1990's at Drumcree. But as the examples from the 80's and 90's show its power is dependant on its demands corresponding with a significant section of the British ruling class. Where such support is not forthcoming this movement fractures and retreats into an abstract loyality to the more reactionary symbols of the British state (the monarchy, the empire and the flag) coupled with a sense it has been betrayed by the same British state.”

(The Partition of Ireland document)

However communal division and conflict is also conceived within the position paper as continuing irrespective of reform within Northern Ireland. Moreover historical inquiry will show sectarian violence in Belfast prior to full scale industrialisation and the starting of the Protestant privilege system (and when the bourgeoisie there were still liberal),

Err yes but this is already in our position paper so as a fact we obviously don't consider it to contradict the extract you quote above. Its meant to be a summary of recent years not the origins, that not surprizingly is the previous section 'Historical roots'
http://www.wsm.ie/story/804

Terry wrote:
and the communities from whence loyalist paramilitarism has drawn its support are those of the poorest protestants, of a similar socio-economic status as the Catholic working class.

I don't think anywhere we suggest we hold to the leninist labour artistocracy analysis - one I actually consider pretty useless in general, not just in relation to Ireland. The poorest sections of the working class will tend to be the sections where risk of arrest or injury in physical competition for resources makes the most 'sense'. It's argued that the various shipyard expulsions were led by the lowest rather than highest skilled protestant workers there. What does complicate that picture considerably is the leadership role that employers and politicans seemed to sometimes exercise but that is another discussion.

Terry wrote:
From the extract above it is not clear if we are talking about a unionist ruling class, or a British ruling class, or both. Again I would argue the autonomy of popular Unionism is quite apparent. Three of the instances cited above were revolts in opposition to the policy of the British state. One of which was successful.

Well you are asseting what is a controversal point - this most often indicates an inability to produce evidence to argue for that point (I have a tendency to do the same via the word 'obviously').

Instances of 'popular Unionism' acting without support from a significant section of the unionist ruling class don't spring to mind so I don't see any obvious argument for autonomy. Even Drumcree had Paisley and Trimble dancing hand in hand - once events meant such public support had to retreat the protests lost more and more significance suggesting 'popular Unionism' had no meaningful autonomy in that case.

Terry wrote:
Where is the “significant section of the British ruling class”? A few reactionary Tories?

The bit your quoting is contrasting the post 80's situation when it may be 'A few reactionary Tories' with the situation before that. In fact the relative collapse in the power of unionism to say no from the 90's does seem in part to be down to the fact that they only had 'A few reactionary Tories' left as friends with influence. This sort of demonstrates that this support was vital before this date, once more suggesting 'popular unionism' was not autonomous. And of course in its more powerful phase of the Home Rule Bills 'popular unionism' had the public support of huge number of British MP's and of sections of the British army via the Curragh Mutiny.

Terry wrote:
By same token you could argue a significant section of the Irish ruling class supports the Provos (I don’t).

I don't understand why this would be significant even if it was true.

Terry wrote:
The comparative success of the movement against Sunningdale by comparison with Drumcree and the protests against the Anglo-Irish agreement is down to (a) Sunningdale being dependant on some Unionist participation (b) in the case of the 70s versus the 90s the extent of unionist mobilisation being dependant on the extent of perceived nationalist threat.

Again two assertions with no evidence for these assertions.

Terry wrote:
Rather than ruling class manipulation in Unionism, many commentators have identified a disengagement from politics on the part of the wealthy and privileged in the North over the last decades, and indeed in ’69 in at least one instance employers and trade unionists were conspiring together to minimise sectarian conflict.

Two things on this
1. This isn't new, the shipyard employers even where they encouraged pograms also tried to limit them as having a load of your workers driven out was bad from production in particular where it included skilled areas which happened to have a high number of catholics or 'rotton prods'. Manipulation of sectarianism was playing with fire and after the 1920 pogram in particular the owners got their hands burnt quite badly. At the time they probably reckoned the risk was worthwhile in the wake of the 1919 strike but with hindsight they may not have had the same point of view.
2. I agree that the modern capitalist section of the ruling class in the north has been trying to find solutions for quite some time - right back to Sunningdale. Popular unionism does have some autonomy in that respect, it can't simply be stuffed back into the bottle once it is mobilised, it has taken quite some years to tame it and in that time it has lashed out at the state at Drumcree and the related attacks on RUC men.

Terry wrote:
While it could be reasonably argued that nationalism and unionism had a material basis in the two centres of capital, the underdeveloped South and industrialised North, one hundred years ago, there have been massive economic changes since then.

Indeed, 'Celtic Tiger' Dubliners are busy buying up chunks of 'loyalist' Belfast and the Irish government plans to pump hundreds of millions into improving infrastructure in the north.

As I've already implied I think there is an argument for saying we are entering a post imperialist phase. But this is an argument to be made and not simply asserted, asserting it simply divides people along traditional lines. Ironically we are pretty much alone in taking the first tentative steps in opening that discussion in this position paper. Others have preferred to search it for more traditional battlegrounds.

Quote:
S3. It is no longer possible to assign a single motive to the British state with regards to the north. The transfer of power to the European union, the end of the cold war and the economic growth of the south have all tended to do away with the historical reasons why the British ruling class as a whole wanted to retain the north. Now the majority faction seem open to power sharing with the southern government and even eventual unification. The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.

http://www.wsm.ie/story/804

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 1 2007 17:03
Terry wrote:
Ye rightly point out:
Quote:
“The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.”

(Partition of Ireland document)
And the contemporary threat to that unfortunately lies in communal violence and the potential for full scale civil war, not with class struggle, which is why we cannot ascribe a ‘divide and rule’ manipulation to the British state, and that aiming for “stable conditions for capitalism” does not mean bolstering sectarian discrimination, or maximalist or rejectionist Unionism.

I think you are again ascribing an over simplified postion to us - 'divide and rule' does not simply refer to class struggle but also the older methods of British imperalism in keeping a grip on Ireland. Again this is outlined in some detail in the 'Roots' section.

'Divide and rule' as a mechanism for controlling class struggle clearly has been used by the northern ruling class on several historical occasions most notably in the aftermath of the 1919 engineering strike when it was used to smash the organisation of labour in Belfast both in terms of unions and organisations. The 1920 pogram is the point at which unionism makes it closest approach to fascism in particular with the setting up of the corpratist vigilance committees in the aftermath of the pogram.

In recent years when the working class has been on the retreat rather than the offensive there has been no need to deploy this sort of divide and rule tactic so its not clear if its absence actually tells us anything. This was also the case in the mid 1850's when the previous attempt to ban orange order parades was made (not sure of the exact date from memory). But certainly in a time of low class struggle sectarian conflict is a cost rather than a benefit for the employers.

Terry wrote:
at least since the imposition of direct rule in 1972, every constitutional settlement put forward by London has been in opposition to the traditional unionist maximum demand (a return to Stormont majority rule) and in partnership with the Dublin government. London looks to Dublin, not to those whose 'only loyalty is to a dead Dutchman'. Similarly, whatever about the occasional posturing, for most of the troubles, Dublin has engaged in the same security agenda as London, including effectively colluding with loyalist paramilitaries, albeit at one remove.

Largely I think this is true and its down to the changing relationship between Ireland and Britain on the one hand as joint EU partners and on the other the decreasing power of British imperialism alongside the decreasing military usefulness of air and port facilites in northern Ireland. By the 1960's it is not clear that the north had much of a use for Britian outside of the possible negative example of being the weakest link of the UK setup. It's a confirmation of the central role of imperialism in imposing partition that unionism lost its apparent voice in London as the north lost its apparent usefulness. Its very clear at the moment with the British government threatening to cancel the elections due next month unless the unionists play nice to Sinn Fein, they only had power as long as their demands were what imperialism wanted.

Terry wrote:
The conflict in Northern Ireland cannot be ascribed to either elite manipulation or to a crudely reductionist material basis. It is now quite autonomous of any such manipulation or basis it had in the past.

Well no - the threat of suspension of the elections demonstrates that even on the question of basic democracy and self determintion London is still the puppet master. It's just now its punishing rather than rewarding unionist 'loyality' as its a loyality that is no longer required. The point is London calls the shots.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 1 2007 18:26

A quick response on autonomy issues…..

Quote:
“Instances of 'popular Unionism' acting without support from a significant section of the unionist ruling class don't spring to mind so I don't see any obvious argument for autonomy. Even Drumcree had Paisley and Trimble dancing hand in hand - once events meant such public support had to retreat the protests lost more and more significance suggesting 'popular Unionism' had no meaningful autonomy in that case.”

What is the “significant section of the Unionist ruling class”? Are we just talking about politicians dependant on the support of the rank and file party activists and the electorate?
I mean Gerry Adams is a politician, but I don’t think that republicanism is down to ruling class manipulation. Yes Unionism is a cross-class movement. Is it led by a significant section of the North’s capitalists, I would say no. Certainly not in its more hardline manifestations. And during at least some of the big mobilisations it was very much the politicians following, not leading, this was certainly the case with Sunningdale, and I think with Drumcree, if not with the Anglo-Irish agreement protests.

Quote:
“And of course in its more powerful phase of the Home Rule Bills 'popular unionism' had the public support of huge number of British MP's and of sections of the British army via the Curragh Mutiny.”

Why is it that the evidence you produce for support for Unionism from the British mainland establishment or the evidence for a ‘divide and rule’ strategy carried out by employers is from 90 or 120 years ago.
That in itself speaks volumes.

Quote:
Terry wrote:

The comparative success of the movement against Sunningdale by comparison with Drumcree and the protests against the Anglo-Irish agreement is down to (a) Sunningdale being dependant on some Unionist participation (b) in the case of the 70s versus the 90s the extent of unionist mobilisation being dependant on the extent of perceived nationalist threat.

Joe wrote: Again two assertions with no evidence for these assertions.

Well sorry I didn’t think I needed to produce evidence for the fact Sunningdale ended when Faulkner’s Unionist politicians resigned from the power sharing cabinet. I thought we were talking about Sunningdale, like that is a pretty basic part of the story of Sunningdale.
On (b) it is again widely recognised that there was a widespread ‘doomsday is coming’ mentality in Unionism in the first half of the 1970s. Take just one piece of evidence - the large numbers joining loyalist paramilitaries at this time by comparison with the 80s, e.g. there were tens of thousands in the UDA in the early 70s.

Quote:
Well no - the threat of suspension of the elections demonstrates that even on the question of basic democracy and self determintion London is still the puppet master. It's just now its punishing rather than rewarding unionist 'loyality' as its a loyality that is no longer required. The point is London calls the shots.

Yes London has sovereignty over the North. Does that mean it is the puppet master of the conflict, stiring things up, no.
The question isn’t whether or not London has sovereignty. The question is whether that sovereignty has a policy that looks like this: “The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.” or has a policy of backing up unionism.
It cannot be both, as there is clearly a contradiction between “maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.” and backing up unionism.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 1 2007 20:27
Terry wrote:
AWhat is the “significant section of the Unionist ruling class”? Are we just talking about politicians dependant on the support of the rank and file party activists and the electorate?

OK I'm a little puzzled here. Are you saying none of the northern politicans represent the position of the ruling class? Given Trimble at the time was on his way to being head of the largest party I thought he might fall into that role, a bit like Bertie down south.

Terry wrote:
Yes Unionism is a cross-class movement. Is it led by a significant section of the North’s capitalists, I would say no. Certainly not in its more hardline manifestations.

Trimble isn't that hardline.

Terry wrote:
Why is it that the evidence you produce for support for Unionism from the British mainland establishment or the evidence for a ‘divide and rule’ strategy carried out by employers is from 90 or 120 years ago.
That in itself speaks volumes.

Well no.

If there had been some sort of mass class struggle in the north and the bosses had either not deployed or found divide and rule ineffective then you would have a point. The only thing approaching this was the outdoor relief strike in the 30's when divide and rule was deployed. The absence of mass struggle since means we have no real information on whether such tactics would work for them or not. We can'tm draw definite conclusons from an absence of evidence.

Terry wrote:
Well sorry I didn’t think I needed to produce evidence for the fact Sunningdale ended when Faulkner’s

Actually your right, I think i must have been asserted out by the time I got that far. Apologies

Terry wrote:
The question is whether that sovereignty has a policy that looks like this: “The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.” or has a policy of backing up unionism.
It cannot be both, as there is clearly a contradiction between “maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.” and backing up unionism.

Huh?

As in you seem to imagine I'm arguing that the main interest of imperialism is backing up unionism. I don't believe I have made any such argument, if fact I'd argue this isn't an interest of imperialism at all. It's happy to use unionism when interests coincide and suppress it when they don't.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 1 2007 21:04
Terry wrote:
In regard to why '74 was successful and opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and Drumcree wasn't it is curious why anarchist-communists with a focus on the workplace would ask that question - given the fact '74 involved a strike of power station workers.

I've always been under the impression that the Ulster Workers Strike was more of a lockout or perhaps more kindly a 'people strike' a la Shining Path than anything else. That is its success depended largely on paramilitary road blocks preventing workers getting to work. The trade unions tried to lead a back to work march if I remember correctly.

Here is on extract on the 'strike' in the shipyards

Quote:
in the morning at the head of the large building dock. Consistent with the feeling in the yard it was sparsely attended and adjourned as a flop. The organisers called another meeting for lunchtime but this time the stagers went round the buildings and plants drumming up support and there was a larger attendance at the second meeting. Those against the strike did not have much opportunity to vote against it. The mot- ion put to the workers was whether or not they were against the Sunningdale agreement and in a mainly Protestant workforce the outcome was predictable. 'That's it. You're out,' said the platform.

There were some ineffective protests at this from the floor before the meeting broke up. The workers were still slow to leave the shipyard but were hastened on their way by rumours that the shipyard was the only large concern still working, or that workers' cars still parked in the yard after a certain time would be burnt or that paramilitaries were already putting up barricades cutting men off from their homes. Small wonder that the bulk of the workforce left after lunch, though some held out and were still at work at half past three that afternoon. One such man was Sandy Scott, the chief shop steward, ...

I didn't go to the meeting at lunchtime because I realised that the muscle boys were going to put the pressure on. I've no doubt that the general feeling inside was against the strike but I knew that back in the ghettos it would be a different matter. They would give way under pressure. The barricades would go up and they would not be able to get out.

or in another traditional loyalist workplace

Quote:
Pagels entered and met a nonplussed Jim Mcllwaine wearing his non-working good clothes who told him that the Sirocco workers did not want to strike.

'I must have a wee talk with them,' Pagels said. 'They'll have to fall into line.' Pagels went onto the shop floor, wearing a coat and a pair of sunglasses. He walked through the lines of machines shaking his fist. The image was enough. Large numbers of workers left soon after.

Or in Larne

Quote:
The most effective shutdown was in the port of Larne, a ferry terminal about twenty-three miles from Belfast. Larne was very largely Protestant and from the beginning was controlled by Protestant paramilitaries. Nearly every business in the town closed on the first day; men in combat jackets carrying clubs ensured that shops shut; the harbour area was sealed off with a barricade of two cars and a container lorry.

Extracts from Don Anderson's history at http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/uwc/anderson.htm

According to wikipedia
On 24 May 1974, Sean Byrne (54) and his brother, Brendan Byrne (45), both Catholic civilians, were shot dead by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) at their bar, The Wayside Halt, Tannaghmore, near Ballymena, County Antrim for staying open during the Ulster Workers' Council Strike

An exercise of paramiliaty power yes but I'd be very hesitant to hold the UWC 'strike' up as a result of workers power.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 1 2007 22:09
Terry wrote:
The second one:
Quote:
“And also that because it is seen as illegitimate by some of the population of the colony the mechanisms of negotiation and manipulating popular opinion are either not open to it or are quite limited.“

Is important and has got to do with the legitimacy of the state and this is not necessarily a product of a colonial relationship.

Oh for sure, state can lose 'legitimacy' for all sorts of reasons, my point is more that an imperial power in a colony will pretty much always have less legitimacy there then it will back home.

This is a primary reason why imperialism is bad for workers in colonies. It doesn't mean that you can't find a worst spot somewhere in the world with a domestic government.

Terry wrote:
The British government never said we are shooting stone throwers or interning civil rights activists. They said we are doing that to ’terrorists’ which has a slightly greater plausibility factor for public presentation when you are in a situation of armed conflict, such as did not exist in Britain during the Miners strike, Poll Tax, or 80s riots.

What government is going to not use the terrorism excuse? It is of course true that there was a (fairly low level) of armed struggle in the north at the time but that in turn arises from internment which in turn was excused by terrorism which in turn arose from the suppression of the civil rights movement. It would be a rare occasion when such a cycle did not lead to some minority picking up the gun, particularly in a colonial situation and due to the way imperial powers deal with colonial unrest the cycle itself is somewhat inevitable.

Terry wrote:
Also I think it important not to overstate the British state’s violence in Northern Ireland. I know normally it gets understated and it was very real and considerable, but, outside of the early 70s, it was fairly restrained by comparison to what it has the capacity to do.

This is actually true, the suppression of the Mau Mau in Kenya or the Malaysian anti-insurgency campaign was much more brutal as was what the USA was getting up to in Vietnam. Ireland being somewhat distant made a greater level of violence possible but it also being not that distant and populated by 'white' English speakers with millions of relatives in England also placed limits on that violence. The solidarity of the English left may have been weak but it was magnitudes more than that for Kenya, if indeed there was any.

Terry wrote:
Now if that adds up to a case for the removal of the British state as a reform, what steps do you think that the British state (meaning London rather than Stormont) has taken in Northern Ireland in the context of an armed conflict outside of the early 70s (Bloody Sunday and the Falls Road Curfew were pretty atypical) which would not be taken by any other state in a situation of armed conflict in Northern Ireland.

Any other occupying state would be an imperialist one including a hypothetical occupation by the southern state. Again we are not nationalists who seek to extend the rule of Dublin to the 6 counties, this has never been our position and certainly isn't it today.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 2 2007 01:23

Terry wrote:

Quote:
“The conflict in Northern Ireland cannot be ascribed to either elite manipulation or to a crudely reductionist material basis. It is now quite autonomous of any such manipulation or basis it had in the past.”

To which Joe responds:

Quote:
“Well no - the threat of suspension of the elections demonstrates that even on the question of basic democracy and self determintion London is still the puppet master. It's just now its punishing rather than rewarding unionist 'loyality' as its a loyality that is no longer required. The point is London calls the shots.”

To which Terry responds:

Quote:
“The question is whether that sovereignty has a policy that looks like this: “The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.” or has a policy of backing up unionism.
It cannot be both, as there is clearly a contradiction between “maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.” and backing up unionism.”

To which Joe responds:

Quote:
“Huh?
As in you seem to imagine I'm arguing that the main interest of imperialism is backing up unionism. I don't believe I have made any such argument, if fact I'd argue this isn't an interest of imperialism at all. It's happy to use unionism when interests coincide and suppress it when they don't.”

The original paragraph that I wrote -

Quote:
“The conflict in Northern Ireland cannot be ascribed to either elite manipulation or to a crudely reductionist material basis. It is now quite autonomous of any such manipulation or basis it had in the past.”

is part of a body of text above responding to this from jimmy:

Quote:
“It’s because we see the British state as playing a central role in the conflict by, for example, fostering a divide and rule tactic amongst the working class, by its long support for one set of sectarian local ruling class, not to mention its own direct war through both its conventional military and, imo, its unionist paramilitaries.”

- an explanation from jimmy as to why, I think?, he sees the removal of the British state from Northern Ireland as a meaningful reform - I asked if "its long support for one set of sectarian local ruling class" referred to unionism, havn't had a response to that so I have had to operate on the assumption that this is a reference to unionism.

You are right you havn’t made that argument, the argument I have seen you making is that the British state has greater propensity for violence, and therefore should be removed, but this:

Quote:
Joe - “Any other occupying state would be an imperialist one including a hypothetical occupation by the southern state. Again we are not nationalists who seek to extend the rule of Dublin to the 6 counties, this has never been our position and certainly isn't it today.” -

Would seem to remove those grounds for conceiving of the removal of the British state from Ireland as a meaningful and worthwhile reform.

Quote:
Joe- “If there had been some sort of mass class struggle in the north and the bosses had either not deployed or found divide and rule ineffective then you would have a point. The only thing approaching this was the outdoor relief strike in the 30's when divide and rule was deployed. The absence of mass struggle since means we have no real information on whether such tactics would work for them or not. We can'tm draw definite conclusons from an absence of evidence.

I’m sure such tactics would work the point is can we ascribe responsibility to such tactics for communal division? Clearly not for the reasons you point out.

Quote:
Joe -“What government is going to not use the terrorism excuse?”

- Well as I said it would be pretty fucking implausible in regard to miners in Wales in 84 by comparison to Northern Ireland, and your argument is not based on what the government will say, but what people would believe. Obviously if you have a group with guns shooting at soldiers fairly regularly then it is a lot more believable for the Army to say we shot a bunch of nail bombers and snipers than it is if there isn’t an armed group shooting at the ’security forces’ y’know like say in mining villages in 84. Even the Sunday World hasn’t claimed there are snipers in Ballinaboy yet!

Quote:
Joe: “OK I'm a little puzzled here. Are you saying none of the northern politicans represent the position of the ruling class? Given Trimble at the time was on his way to being head of the largest party I thought he might fall into that role, a bit like Bertie down south.”

Does Sinn Fein represent the position of the ruling class?
Can we ascribe crudely instrumental motivations to any of the Northern parties?
After all the WSM document says:

Quote:
“The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.”

Would this not also be an issue for the ruling class in the North? Was Drumcree good for business?
Was it momentarily bad for business, but promoted a longer term collective interest of the capitalist class?
It certainly didn’t make for “maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.”.

I can make a quick empirically grounded case for this in regard to Fianna Fail, their cosy relationships with business, the policies they enact, I can see how years ago Unionism in the north could be said to have reflected interests of industrial capitalists (hardly the whole story though when it has a base among Protestants in rural under-developed parts more like the south) .
Now I don’t think so.

The ‘superstructure’ is not just a crude reflection of the ’substructure’.
In any case how important was the UUP to Drumcree?
The only possibly rational cost/benefit analysis which would lead to a party that instrumentally reflected the interests of capitalists to involve itself in unionist mass mobilisations would be to dampen them down and divert them from causing much trouble (which wouldn‘t be a co-incidence of interests). That said I don’t think that is what was happening.

Irish nationalism and Ulster Unionism may be someways plausibly given a narrow instrumental reductionist materialist anaylsis back in the days of the 'two centres of capital' 60 or 80 or 100 years ago. Whatever the situation was then, it is not like that now, and has not been for quite some time. That is:

Quote:
“The conflict in Northern Ireland cannot be ascribed to either elite manipulation or to a crudely reductionist material basis. It is now quite autonomous of any such manipulation or basis it had in the past.”

Quote:
Joe: “I've always been under the impression that the Ulster Workers Strike was more of a lockout or perhaps more kindly a 'people strike' a la Shining Path than anything else. That is its success depended largely on paramilitary road blocks preventing workers getting to work. The trade unions tried to lead a back to work march if I remember correctly.”

There was paramilitary intimidation. The strike of the power station workers was crucial though, and some of them were involved in the overall organising body as far as I remember. The book you quoted said “workers sent home from the factories because there was no power”.
The 74 strike became genuinely popular as it progressed, as can be seen by the intervention of the farmers. The other similar efforts in 77 and also one earlier in the 70s were totally unsupported so it cannot have simply been a matter of paramilitarism.

In any case whether paramilitary intimidation was the whole story or paramilitary intimidation and the power station workers or whether or not UWC strike or lock out became more popular as it went on…what you have to show is:

Quote:
“ its power is dependant on its demands corresponding with a significant section of the British ruling class.” (WSM partition of Ireland document)

Now the fact Sunningdale was dependant on Faulkner unionists, and the fact the UWC involved the strike of the power station workers, and thousands of UDA men, all looks to me like a power that was autonomous of “the British ruling class.”.

Now I reckon the best thing for you to do would be to make your case that the removal of the British state from Ireland is a reform which would ultimately lead to a reduction in communal division, while bearing in mind we are not talking about some abstraction but would have to be also talking about what alternative constitutional situation there would be.

- Note lack of any mention of a united Ireland, or an independent ’Ulster’, or a unification of ’Ulster’ and Scotland! (and on the last one I believe the SNP said NO!).

It is entirely an aside but Labour party people did speak out against repression in Kenya.
Don’t know the details remember seeing it in a documentary. There was also big protests about Suez at the time.

Edit: To adjust poor phrasing.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 2 2007 01:33

In any case the fact that London has sovereignty

Quote:
Joe: “Well no - the threat of suspension of the elections demonstrates that even on the question of basic democracy and self determintion London is still the puppet master. It's just now its punishing rather than rewarding unionist 'loyality' as its a loyality that is no longer required. The point is London calls the shots.”

Doesn’t demonstrate that the continuation of communal conflict is ultimately dependant on policies coming from London, which is surely what we would have to hold if we thought the removal of London rule would lead to an ultimate reduction in communal division and conflict.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 2 2007 13:21
Terry wrote:
- an explanation from jimmy as to why,

Ah right - as he only seems to post here once a month you might want to PM his so he doesn't overlook this.

Terry wrote:
Would seem to remove those grounds for conceiving of the removal of the British state from Ireland as a meaningful and worthwhile reform.

Why so? I've no problem demanding that British imperialism should get out of Iraq without defining what exact setup should follow. Its another case where at this stage there are many possible options some of which might be quite nasty but where its not the role of the original cause of a lot of the trouble to sort it out.

Quote:
Joe- “If there had been some sort of mass class struggle in the north and the bosses had either not deployed or found divide and rule ineffective then you would have a point. The only thing approaching this was the outdoor relief strike in the 30's when divide and rule was deployed. The absence of mass struggle since means we have no real information on whether such tactics would work for them or not. We can'tm draw definite conclusons from an absence of evidence.

Terry wrote:
I’m sure such tactics would work the point is can we ascribe responsibility to such tactics for communal division? Clearly not for the reasons you point out.

Either you don't understand where I'm coming from or you are being reductive here. Clearly there are indigenous forces that maintain communal division, the Orange Order for one. But there existance neither makes such division inevitable (elsewhere eg Liverpool it has faded with time) or means it is the only source. More on this below

Terry wrote:
Well as I said it would be pretty fucking implausible in regard to miners in Wales in 84 by comparison to Northern Ireland, and your argument is not based on what the government will say, but what people would believe.

This is obvious but I also argued that imperial situations are much more likely to lead to the situation where such an armed excuse exists. I think you need to be careful of not taking this into account otherwise you end up blaiming or appearing to blame the resistance to imperialism for the actions of imperialism. This is bascially the imperialist postion on the troubles, yes there was some problems but it was the existence of the IRA that led to everything getting out of hand. Yet any sort of knowledge of Irish history tells you that is those circumstances the existence of armed nationalists is pretty much inevitable. Repressions creates the conditions in which armed nationalist politics receives some level of popularity.

Quote:
Joe: “OK I'm a little puzzled here. Are you saying none of the northern politicans represent the position of the ruling class? Given Trimble at the time was on his way to being head of the largest party I thought he might fall into that role, a bit like Bertie down south.”

Terry wrote:
Does Sinn Fein represent the position of the ruling class?

Increasingly yes, SF represents a viewpoint of one faction of the ruling class or perhaps those rising to that class. I don't think its the case that you can pick one party out of the parliamentary mix and say that party alone is the voice of the ruling class. Rather most if not all parties represent different perspectives of different factions of the ruling class - parliament is a mechanism for settling disputes and on that basis different sections of the ruling class back different factions. With the first past the post system in Britian its very easy to observe this back and forth in a simplified form by seeing who the Murdoch papers are lining up behind. In the south PR makes it more difficult but its widely considered O'Reilly and Independent papers were a major factor in ousting the coalition government at the end of the 80's.

This is going off on a tangent but basically I'd argue any significant political party must represent a faction of the ruling class in all but a theoretical case where one might explode from nowhere for one election. The reasons for this are complex and not for this thread but I see no reason for the north to be an exception.

Terry wrote:
Would this not also be an issue for the ruling class in the North? Was Drumcree good for business?
Was it momentarily bad for business, but promoted a longer term collective interest of the capitalist class?
It certainly didn’t make for “maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.”.

The point is in part that Drumcree was a failure - I suspect the reality in northern politics is that if your a large company backing British politicans in Westminister is a much better investment then choosing one or the other of the northern parties. For small businesses things would be quite different as often for them trading conditions etc are largely determined on a local level. I don't think there is a single 'whats good for business' answer as to be flipppant someone owning a Sash manufacting business would have a different outlook to an export only business like Shorts. Unionism is only strong when its interests coincide with the interests of the imperialist power - as they did in the home rule period.

Terry wrote:
The only possibly rational cost/benefit analysis which would lead to a party that instrumentally reflected the interests of capitalists to involve itself in unionist mass mobilisations would be to dampen them down and divert them from causing much trouble (which wouldn‘t be a co-incidence of interests).

Again I think this is an over simplification that treats the ruling class as a homogenous block without differing interests. It only tends to form a relatively homogenous block in times of war or intense class struggle for reasons of self preservation and even then one faction will commonly manouvere against another

So such mass mobislisations may be a mechanism for one section to defend its interests where they differ from others. I've not looked into this in part because I find such inter ruling class faction fights boring but in the realm of speculation there must be a sizeable block of smaller businesses that do better from a set up where funds and infrastructure are allocated in a sectarian way then they would do otherwise. The OO like the Masons seems to have an important networking function for small businessmen - it is not impossible that there was a quite rational aspect to Drumcree for them.

Terry wrote:
There was paramilitary intimidation. The strike of the power station workers was crucial though, and some of them were involved in the overall organising body as far as I remember.

I'm not claiming no workers were involved only that those who wanted to strike appear to have been quite a small minority and that without UDA intimidation the strike would not have started even in industries that would have been seen as loyalist strongholds. So rather than being an example of the power of organised workers it was the power of organised paramilitaries - in a pretty open alliance with unionist politicans who brought down Stormont. Actually in light of the above discussion the entire episode could be considered a ruling class dispute between the modernising faction and the traditional faction where the traditional faction was able to use 'popular unionism' to intimidate the modernisers into the climb down that was the collapse of Sunningdale.

Terry wrote:
In any case whether paramilitary intimidation was the whole story or paramilitary intimidation and the power station workers or whether or not UWC strike or lock out became more popular as it went on…what you have to show is:

Quote:
“ its power is dependant on its demands corresponding with a significant section of the British ruling class.” (WSM partition of Ireland document)

Is Sunningdale an exception to this? I wonder - it would certainly seem to be the weakest point of the argument (but the counter argument needs more than one weak point to proves its case of autonomy). I am not sure - one thing that strikes me in reading about it is that attempts to supppress the lockout were minor - did this indicate that although the British political parties favoured Sunningdale other factions of the ruling class did not so that there was no confidence the army could be ordered into action.

The 1919 strike which had much more of a mass based came to an end after the army was sent into the power station, this didn't happen in the UWC lockout. Given that there is a history of the initative of the party politcal faction of the British state being sabotaged by the military faction, in particular in relation to Ireland it may be a mistake to assume that imperialism as opposed to Westminister was clearly on one side or the other.

Terry wrote:
Now I reckon the best thing for you to do would be to make your case that the removal of the British state from Ireland is a reform which would ultimately lead to a reduction in communal division,

OK, one of the things which keeps 'communal division' alive and indeed builds it is sectarian murder. We know that until at least a decade ago the British state was sponsoring such murders right up to supplying arms via South Africa. The senior ranks of the security forces include those who must have at the very least known what was going on.

So as long as its the case that British imperialism can be shown to have been a major palayed in stirring up sectarian division (a quite logical bit of counter insuregency used by imperialist armies elsewhere) there is a strong argument that the removal of that imperialism would create the conditions where sectarianism could begin to fade over time. Not vanish in an instant and nor would the exact mechanisms for such a withdrawal be irrelevent. We suggest in the position paper a bad mechanism could cause a short term upsure in sectarianism and unfortuantely a bad mechanism based simply on differential birth rates may be what happens in 50 or 100 years. But in light of the evidence I don't think we can accept a counter argument that sees communal conflict as a purely local phenomen with imperialism standing helplessly above it.

Finally in terms of specific set up to follow imperialism. We have never argued for anything other than a workers revolution on the island as the best such mechanism followed by the setting up of a presumably anarchist society. I see no need to search for a second best solution when we are talking of hypotheticals

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 2 2007 18:18

Collusion and violence:

Quote:
Joe: “So as long as its the case that British imperialism can be shown to have been a major player in stirring up sectarian division (a quite logical bit of counter insurgency used by imperialist armies elsewhere) there is a strong argument that the removal of that imperialism would create the conditions where sectarianism could begin to fade over time.”

Firstly Joe you don’t have to prove the existence of collusion you have to prove the dependency of loyalist paramilitarism on collusion, and also that collusion was of the extent and nature you claim it is, and that collusion played “a major part in stirring up sectarian division”, and that collusion with that intent was a policy emanating from London.
Did loyalist militants in uniform co-operate with the ones out of it, yes, has the British state from time to time made use of loyalist paramilitaries, yes (though I would say to a far lesser extent that you claim), was this a “major part in stirring up sectarian division” no, it pretty obviously existed quite independently of the British state - after all you claim that some actions of republicans were overtly sectarian - did they need the British state to do that. The sectarian conflict clearly existed BEFORE direct rule and BEFORE London took over security policy.
You could make a stronger case that loyalist paramilitarism was dependant on the IRA than on the British state (eg relationship between IRA actions on its recruitment and growth in militancy in the early 70s).

However those are more minor issues, earlier I asked you:

Quote:
Terry - “Now if that adds up to a case for the removal of the British state as a reform, what steps do you think that the British state (meaning London rather than Stormont) has taken in Northern Ireland in the context of an armed conflict outside of the early 70s (Bloody Sunday and the Falls Road Curfew were pretty atypical) which would not be taken by any other state in a situation of armed conflict in Northern Ireland.”

To which you replied:

Quote:
Joe: “Any other occupying state would be an imperialist one including a hypothetical occupation by the southern state. Again we are not nationalists who seek to extend the rule of Dublin to the 6 counties, this has never been our position and certainly isn't it today.”

Does that mean therefore that in the context of an armed conflict in the North of Ireland you would see any other state carrying out any policy that the British state has, particularly perhaps one that is a “quite logical bit of counter insurgency”?

So even if we removed all agency from loyalist militants, and indeed it appears from the entire population of the North, and ascribed everything to this Whitehall conspiracy, according to your own logic the policy of any state in the North of Ireland in the context of an armed conflict would be the same as the British one.
Which doesn’t add up to grounds for the removal of the British state from Northern Ireland as a REFORM.

You also need to marry the apparent role of the British state in “stirring up sectarian division” with:

Quote:
“The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.” (WSM ‘Partition of Ireland‘ document.

Now a policy which sought to protect informers in paramilitary organisations could be in line with that, a policy which sought to use one set of militants to extirpate another set could be a part of that (though if that was a policy it was a quite unsuccessful one), but a policy aiming at “stirring up sectarian division”?

Even if one was to agree with all your arguments on this, the fact that the British state had sectarian division to stir up in the first place, shows the independence of sectarian division from the British state! That is you are only claiming they manipulated something which existed independently of them.

Autonomy issues…

Quote:
“This is going off on a tangent but basically I'd argue any significant political party must represent a faction of the ruling class in all but a theoretical case where one might explode from nowhere for one election. The reasons for this are complex and not for this thread but I see no reason for the north to be an exception.”

O.K. Sinn Fein in the 80s, Unionist mass mobilisations (Drumcree, Anglo-Irish Agreement, Sunningdale), explain to me please the ruling class interests bound up in these - note ruling class interests, not petit-bourgeoisie, or small business people.
Just explain to me the empirical grounds for the applicability of the assertion above to the conflict in the North.

As far as I’m concerned this:

Quote:
“The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.” (WSM ‘Partition of Ireland‘ document.)

Is where it is at, and neither unionist mass mobilisations, nor Sinn Fein/IRA during the ‘armed struggle‘, nor loyalist paramilitarism make for “stable conditions”.

Quote:
“Unionism is only strong when its interests coincide with the interests of the imperialist power - as they did in the home rule period.”

So do you think unionism isn’t strong now? Do you think the existence of unionism is not a fairly major factor in why the British state has sovereignty over Northern Ireland?
Do you think major mobilisations in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, is an example of lack of strength?
Do you think the anarchist movement in Ireland would be strong if it could pull tens of thousands of people to the streets?, including to engage in civil disobedience or street violence, in major mobilisations. What about if it had thousands of people who were willing to take arms?
What about the republican movement, does that not at least have some power?

Your example is from the “home rule period” - over 90 years ago, yet all in all, despite a level of violence against the British state presence in excess of what was needed for it to pull out of lots of places in the world, and despite the fact that we cannot find any economic or strategic reason for the continuing British sovereignty in the North, it is not only still there, but all parties to the conflict have basically accepted its continuation. That is the main ’nationalist’ emphasis in the North, SDLP or Sinn Fein, is on reforming Northern Ireland, not over throwing British rule. Now why is that?
Why is it that the Dublin government never looked to take the place over? In fact I believe they strongly argued against a British withdrawal in the 70s, including seeking to get the American government to intervene against talk of a withdrawal?
Why have Sinn Fein accepted what they used to call the ‘Unionist veto’, that is that any change in the constitutional status in Northern Ireland would have to be agreed by the majority of the population of Northern Ireland? (Indeed a maybe wrong but doesn’t the GFA have it that such change must be on the lines of a majority of ‘both traditions‘).

The power of Ulster Unionism and of Irish Nationalism, conceived as ethno-nationalist blocs engaged in communal conflict in the North of Ireland, lies in the fact that they are widely and strongly held belief systems, and the fact the political, military, and fraternal, organisations, based on these beliefs are predominant.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 3 2007 01:58

Supposing following from the discussion above and the discussion on this thread -
http://libcom.org/forums/ireland/irish-anarchist-and-two-nation-theory
that one was to grant, for the sake of argument, the Joe was right to a degree, that say 20% or 30% of the responsibility for communal conflict could be ascribed to the policies of the British state (meaning contemporary or recent policies, not what happened in the 1790s or the Plantations), coupled with a larger indigenous impetus for communal conflict (in fact even if the proportions were 50/50 the following would still stand). Remember we are talking about then a situation not where communal conflict is dependant on British state policy, but where that policy stirs it up.

Would we then have grounds for recognising the removal of the British state as a worthwhile reform?
Well if we were to go beyond what you might call ’empty sloganeering’ on this we would have to consider what alternative constitutional arrangements would replace the current British sovereignty and slow progress to devolved power-sharing. Now remember we are talking about reforms here.

This thread: http://libcom.org/forums/thought/for-john-how-is-the-wsm-soft-on-nationa...?

Gave us three possible arrangements.

(1) A United Ireland.
(2) An independent ’Ulster’.
(3) Union of ’Ulster’ and Scotland.

(1) A United Ireland. Would very obviously meet massive Protestant resistance.

(2) An independent ’Ulster’. Would very obviously meet massive Catholic resistance. (for the benefit of clarity as a positive proposal this has next to no support, it was favoured in the past by some unionists as a sort of ‘doomsday’ option).

(3) Is quite quixotic really. This was put forward by someone in the Ulster Unionist Party as their preferred option should Scotland become independent. Just supposing this was ever likely to happen, it would amount to unification of the six counties with the only part of Britain where a significant element of the population has sympathies for Ulster Unionism. Yes, bye bye English regiments hello Scottish ones, surely a recipe for reduction in communal conflict if there ever was one!!!???!!!!

The practical applicability of any of the above as something tending to reduce communal conflict is zero even if we think some of the intensity of communal conflict is down to policies of the British state, as clearly all of those possibilities would intensify the conflict over and above the impact of any British state policy.

None of the above is a workable alternative to the current situation (which has seen a massive reduction in violence) so if we want to address the real world, as opposed to ’empty sloganeering’, we will have to hold that there is no grounds for the removal of the British state as a reform tending to a reduction in communal conflict.
And in the real world ’British withdrawal… then what?’ is a question that has to be answered.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 4 2007 14:13

A synopsis of my argument thus far:
We can certainly conceive of communal division and conflict in the North as the legacy of imperialism, beginning as it does with the Plantations.
It is also the case that particular policies of the British state have exacerbated communal conflict and division, e.g. giving Northern Ireland a ’home rule’ parliament, not imposing direct rule sooner, particular acts of repression in the early 70s (and much of that is cock up rather than conspiracy aiming at promoting communal division and conflict).
However in recent and contemporary times the impetus for communal division and conflict is independent of the British state and indigenous to the North of Ireland.
British state policy is not what keeps communal division and conflict ticking over, not a policy of divide and rule, not a policy of backing up unionism, not a policy of collusion.
Given as we all agree that stability for capitalism is the state’s goal, and the threat to stability has come for all of the last decades going back a long time come from communal division and conflict, we can not impute a policy of promoting communal division and conflict to the British state.
Even if we did ascribe such a role to the British state, it would have to be one where we conceived that communal division and conflict was DEPENDANT on British state policy if we thought that the removal of the British state as a reform would lead ultimately to the lessening of sectarian division and conflict.
If we don’t think sectarian or communal division and conflict is dependant on the British state having sovereignty over the North of Ireland then it follows that we have no grounds for considering its removal a reform that would lead to the lessening of the conflict.

As an aside the WSM Partition of Ireland documents talks about err partition….

Quote:
“we see partition as the main reason why conflicts based on religious divisions continue to exist.”

NOT just the presence of the British state. Perhaps then the options of an independent Ulster or Union between Ulster and Scotland from gurrier in the other thread was just rhetorical flourish, as both would represent the continuation of partition - that is, there would still be a border in between Dundalk and Newry.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 4 2007 14:21

Anti-imperialism….
So anyways with there being no basis for the removal of the British state as a reform lessening communal conflict we are left with ‘anti-imperialism‘. All quotations in the following are from the WSM ‘Partition of Ireland’ document.

Quote:
“The role of the British state in Ireland is a particular case of imperialism which we have always opposed.”

However the relationship between London and sunny Ulster doesn’t at all resemble that outlined as imperialism in the WSM document on that subject: http://www.wsm.ie/story/825

Indeed the ‘Partition of Ireland‘ document seems to recognise that:

Quote:
“It is no longer possible to assign a single motive to the British state with regards to the north. The transfer of power to the European union, the end of the cold war and the economic growth of the south have all tended to do away with the historical reasons why the British ruling class as a whole wanted to retain the north. Now the majority faction seem open to power sharing with the southern government and even eventual unification. The major priority of the southern and British ruling classes is maintaining stable conditions for capitalism.”

And:

Quote:
“After all global corporations have little concern with which national government preserves stability for them.”

Would seem to say that this:

Quote:
“Now partition could end through a referendum in which a yet to be formed majority impose a new settlement on a minority but in which sectarianism remains in place. As anarchists we would welcome the removal of imperialism even under such circumstances but recognise that in the short term at least it would probably deepen sectarian divisions in the northern working class.”

Doesn’t quite add up to a “removal of imperialism”.

I would say the “historic reasons why the British ruling class as a whole wanted to retain the north” went a long time before the early 90s, even if seeing partition as perfidious Albion wanting to “retain the north” is accurate at all, but anyways…

more importantly what does this ‘imperialism’ mean in practise today?

We have this:

Quote:
“The relationship of the British state with Ireland is imperialist because the decisions it has imposed have always been autonomous of the wishes of the people of the island and any section of the people. That is British state policy follows the perceived needs of the British state and not the wishes of the 'Irish people', those who are 'loyal to the crown' or even the local ruling class.”

It is bad that the state is not geared to the needs of the local ruling class?

Revol asked local politicians in Stormont or Northern Ireland Office officials so what is the difference?

Actually if I’m following this rightly and “British state policy follows the perceived needs of the British state and not the wishes of the 'Irish people', those who are 'loyal to the crown' or even the local ruling class.” is a bad thing doesn’t that mean it would be preferable to have Ian Paisley at the head rather than Peter Hain?

This is a bit like the official republican movement being unhappy at the downfall of Stormont out of ‘anti-imperialism’.

Another argument for ‘anti-imperialism’ would be the greater propensity of the British state for violence in the context of armed conflict in Northern Ireland. But we have already addressed that above where seemingly we are in agreement that any state would be likely to be as equally as repressive as the British state in Northern Ireland in the context of an armed conflict in Northern Ireland. Actually the should be AT LEAST as repressive given the potential alternatives.

What is perhaps another ‘anti-imperialist’ argument is contained here:

Quote:
“The British state is responsible for the long history of armed conflict in Ireland. As long as the British state remains in Ireland there remains the possibility of armed struggle against it, especially when there is no mass movement to demonstrate an alternative to militarism.”

Much of

Quote:
“The British state is responsible for the long history of armed conflict in Ireland.”

Has already been partly addressed in this discussion. However this does two things, firstly it ignores, in ascribing responsibility, the existence of an organised body of people attempting to launch such an armed conflict since the late 1930s and the advantage they took of the civil rights crisis before the introduction of direct rule and in ascribing responsibility it also ignores the small matter of the Unionist regime in Belfast.

More importantly it ignores the historical specificity of the origins of the Troubles.
That is they began in a historic context where you had the following factors;
(1) A Protestant dominated local government and systematic discrimination against the Catholic minority.
(2) A mass movement against that discrimination.
(3) An organised body of nationalist militarists.
(4) Widespread promotion of the idea that an armed struggle could kick the Brits out (see for instance schooling and the 1966 commemoration of the Easter rebellion).
(5) No institutional channel for the addressing of Catholic grievances.
(6) Repression against the civil rights mass movement (including before London took over security policy and before direct rule).
(7) Perhaps controversially I would say it began in a context where both Dublin and London could consider the third factor preferably to parts of the second.

It was not simply a matter of an organised body of nationalist militants plus British sovereignty.
Some of the above factors are no longer applicable.
Indeed the WSM recognise this by recognising that the position they previously held, that is that Northern Ireland was inherently and irreformably based on anti-Catholic discrimination is incorrect.
It isn’t the Orange State anymore, which removes a lot of the early impetus of the Troubles, also factors (4) and (7) are unlikely to be major players any time soon. (4) is certainly a lot less believable.

This concept of ‘imperialism’ is not useful to understanding the Northern Ireland situation.
Partition is there because the majority of the people on the other side of the border want to keep it there and some of them are willing to fight to keep it.

Even at the origins of partition, when the argument that sees parts of the British ruling class as backing up Unionism has some validity (only some though the third Home Rule crisis had a lot to do with getting rid of the reforming Liberal government in London ), Irish nationalism was able to force the British state out of much of Ireland, but effectively accepted that it would remain in some of Ireland.

The status of Northern Ireland was not a major issue in the Treaty negotiations or the Treaty debates.

Had the British state withdrawn in response to the recent IRA campaign (over as we all know the objections of the Dublin government) this would not have made for “stable conditions for capitalism” or indeed stable conditions for anything other than all out war.
It would not have made for an end of partition either, the border may have shifted northward or southward, but it would have still been there.

This of course would not have necessarily mattered too much to the British state if we were talking about some far flung corner, but Northern Ireland is a bit too close for comfort.

These external explanations for the Northern Ireland conflict, that is seeing the roots of the conflict as outside Northern Ireland, fall short in their understanding by totally under estimating the role of the local ethno-nationalisms. For this reason, and for the fact that, at the very least, a lot of their analysis just happens to sit comfortably with one of those ethno-nationalisms, they are insufficient to political opposition to nationalism.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 4 2007 14:32
Terry wrote:
For this reason, and for the fact that, at the very least, a lot of their analysis just happens to sit comfortably with one of those ethno-nationalisms, they are insufficient to political opposition to nationalism.

I don't have time for a long response but if this is a critique it is a double edged one as it is as true of what Organise and Terry argue as what the WSM argue. Indeed I think the Organise/Terry position as expressed online is a whole lot more of an "analysis [which] just happens to sit comfortably with one of those ethno-nationalisms" - apart from appeals to class unity it contains nothing that would make a unionist unhappy.

Now I suspect this is a product of them not producing an analysis as such so all we have is the often repeated critique of the WSM position. Yet while we carefully avoid repeating the standard nationalist positions their critique just uncritically repeats as fact various (unionist) nationalist mythologies. I think any worthwhile anarchist position has to get out of and beyond this trap rather than simply repeating one set of nationalist illusions as if that was a position in opposition to nationalism itself.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 4 2007 16:49

Nope the Unionist analysis of the roots of the conflict claims such things like:

(1) The conflict is fed by uncertainty of Britain’s commitment to Northern Ireland, plus the reforms introduced by the British state reward the IRA and encourage them to think they can get the jackpot.

(2) Denial of discrimination against Catholics, in particular denial of discrimination against Catholics during the 1922 to 1972 Stormont regime - and this is a fairly major thing in unionism.

(3) The continuation of the conflict is down to the Irish state’s endorsement of irredentism in the former Articles 2 and 3 of the constitution, and the territory of the Republic being used as a ’safe haven’ by the ‘bombers and gunmen’. Like that is mostly comic, rather than pertaining to reality.

(4) There is also a revisionist unionist current which sees commitment to the Union as commitment to a liberal civic state against romantic reactionary Catholic nationalism, is against power-sharing as it institutionalises ethnic division and this strand favours total integration with the UK. (of course actual existing unionism is all about ethnic division and very reactionary!)

(5) The solution to the conflict is a security one, if only London had the backbone wasn’t ready to ‘sell out’ and Dublin ditched apparent support for the IRA.

Funnily enough they resemble the Irish nationalist explanations for the conflict as they are EXTERNAL, that is, it is all down to London or Dublin! (and of course other than that they manage to blame the other side exclusively).

There is no resemblance between any of the above and my analysis.
I only agree with Unionists in so far as I recognise that Unionism is not an ephemeral product of British rule which will fade like the morning dew beneath the glowing rays of a united Ireland, ie the traditional republican position. Unlike unionists I hardly see this as a good thing, rather it is something of a condemnation of unionism, ie I after all hold them responsible for their own shit rather than blaming Whitehall, and reckon they can perpetuate without Whitehall being around.

Of course an internal analysis, one that sees sectarian division and two ethno-nationalist blocs in Northern Ireland as THE problem, is not favourable to unionism, as unionism is after all a pretty big part of that.
Such an analysis after all doesn’t deny discrimination against Catholics, doesn’t think a security policy would stop the “bombers and gunmen” that apparently come from outside the state (cause for the most part they don‘t!), doesn’t think that reforming Northern Ireland is merely perpetuating the problem.
On the contrary it holds that reforming Northern Ireland has lessened the problem considerably.
That discrimination against Catholics - an aspect of ethno-nationalism, was central to the origins of the recent phase of the conflict, and that state repression fed the IRA (much as the IRA fed loyalist paramilitarism). The idea that the practise of one ethno-nationalism is a central motor to the other ethno-nationalism, as outlined on the ’Two Nations’ thread, is hardly soft on unionism as it blames unionism for the conflict and the perpetuation of the conflict.

Irish nationalism on the other hand ascribes the problem to British sovereignty and locates the solution in the removal of British sovereignty.

Quote:
Joe: “Yet while we carefully avoid repeating the standard nationalist positions..”

If you actually think that you are doing that then you must know as little about Irish nationalism as you clearly know about Ulster unionism.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 4 2007 17:45

Of course the ironic thing about the apparent:

Quote:
Joe: “nothing that would make a unionist unhappy.”

is that the ‘anti-imperialist’ line, in its focus on London as the source of the problem, would as we have seen, favour such absurdities as:
the original Stormont regime, or, an independent ‘Ulster’ ruled by a loyalist junta, or, my favourite, the unification of ‘Ulster’ with an independent Scotland, as preferable to the current slowly gestating set up of devolved power-sharing with British sovereignty and an ‘Irish dimension’ (something as we all know Unionists were not too happy about, see Sunningdale, Anglo-Irish Agreement protests, Drumcree).

The ‘anti-imperialist’ position is so blinkered it sees the worst imaginable sectarian loyalist wet dream as preferable to devolved power-sharing with British sovereignty and an ‘Irish dimension’.

And ironically enough has so little understanding of the Northern conflict that it equates with Unionism an analysis focused on ethnic/sectarian/communal/nationalist division within Northern Ireland as the motor of the conflict. Yet if one was looking to be saying well that is like….then you would be missing the fairly glaringly obvious parallels between that analysis and the interpretation put forward by the then most popular Catholic politician in the North of Ireland in certain talks in the late 80s which are widely credited with leading to the peace process.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Feb 4 2007 18:18

Frankly Terry your trying to pull a fast one here by listing some points of ananlysis that some unionists hold and suggesting that this represents the totality of unionism. This would only be relevent if I suggested you were a unionist - it does not answer the actual point I made that your analysis accepts many (other) unionist myths.

If it helps I'll list the ones I've seen posted here by you and Organise members
1. The population of northern Ireland has more in common with scotland than the south.
2. Partition was an act of self determination which prevented a minority being forced into a state they did not want to be part of.
3. Communal division is caused by communal division and while imperailism may have played a historic role it has not had a role in recent history.
4. 'One million prods' all think the same
5. Any form of opposition to imperialism is just a cover for nationalism
6. unionism is autonomous of the British state

All these are gross oversimplifications, nationalist myths, used by unionists in order to build their own version of nationalism. It's not that they are false, like the nationalist myths they were create to opposed they are based on kernals of historical truth polished up to create a unifying ideology. The either / or questions you seek to impose on the thread simply demonstrate that you are choosing to hold up one set of myths over the other as if that somehow represents an anti-nationalist position.

Here for comparison are the six nationalist counter myths that correspond to the above

1. The population of northern Ireland has more in common with Ireland than Britain.
2. Partition was imposed by imperialism on the people of Ireland against their will
3. Communal division is caused by imperailism.
4. 'The irish people' all think the same
5. Any form of opposition to nationalism is just a cover for imperialism
6. unionism is a creature of the British state

Now the thing is you won't actually find any of these myths in our position paper. We haven't decided to simply choose one set of myths as an answer to the other rather we have taken each of these positions and unpicked them, in every case we basically say neither of the versions of the myths is true. Just as you reckon a unionist would see nationalism in our position paper so nationalists have argued that their is unionism in our position.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 4 2007 20:14
Quote:
Joe: “Frankly Terry your trying to pull a fast one here by listing some points of analysis that some unionists hold and suggesting that this represents the totality of unionism.”

Nope the above description of the Unionist analysis is a very quick synopsis of 'Unionist discourses' a chapter in 'Explaining Northern Ireland' by John McGarry and Brendan O’Leary.

Quote:
Joe: “The population of northern Ireland has more in common with scotland than the south.”

Not an argument I make. (though if I was someone who saw unification of ‘Ulster’ with an independent Scotland as a positive, perhaps I would)

Quote:
Joe: “Partition was an act of self determination which prevented a minority being forced into a state they did not want to be part of.”

Not an argument I make - I don’t believe in ‘national self-determination’ I might use the fact of the vote for Unionist parties in the North (or the vote for the GFA island wide for that matter) as an example of the lack of logic in the application of ‘the right to national self determination’ in nationalist discourse on the Northern Ireland conflict. You also have to be pretty stupid to argue that partition “prevented a minority being forced into a state they did not want to be part of.” it prevented that for one minority certainly, and but not for another!

Quote:
Joe: “Communal division is caused by communal division and while imperialism may have played a historic role it has not had a role in recent history.”

Is that a Unionist argument? Wouldn’t in unionism communal division be caused by separate schooling and the South’s claim on the North, or other examples of Papish inequity ? (and that is supposing we consider that all, or even most of, Unionism, sees communal division as a bad thing!!!) Unionism certainly wouldn’t regard it as being caused by everything I regard as part of ‘communal division’ e.g. the Orange Order, Fifty years of Stormont, and err Unionism itself !!??!!!.

Also I’m unaware of Unionism recognising the historic existence of British imperialism in the north of Ireland, and I would have thought the unionist line on the Plantations went something along the lines of sturdy pioneers developing a wilderness (bit like ‘a land without a people for a people without a land‘) not, as the song says ’All those Anglos, Prods and Scots sent to colonise the North’, which actually makes my analysis resemble more closely that of one of the most sectarian rebel songs than Unionism!

Quote:
Joe: “'One million prods' all think the same”

Nope I just recognise that the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party have an electorate in the North of Ireland. Is that controversial?

Quote:
Joe: “Any form of opposition to imperialism is just a cover for nationalism”

Well according to your ’anti-imperialist’ analysis several possible constitutional arrangements, including ones put forward by members of the Ulster Unionist party and by Vanguard and by Loyalist paramilitaries, would represent the positive ’removal of imperialism’, so exactly what “opposition to imperialism” is in your book is beyond me.

Quote:
Joe: “unionism is autonomous of the British state”

If that is a unionist argument I suggest you take it up with Provisional Sinn Fein as their practical, if not theoretical, acceptance of this underpins the peace process.
It also underpins the more sectarian solutions to the Northern Ireland situation put forward by republicans (ie repatriation). It is also the interpretation of John Hume, so clearly the unionist vote in the North is bigger than we thought! Nationalism encountering reality, has from time to time, had to go beyond the traditional shibboleths contained in the Easter proclamation, ie “the differences carefully fostered by an alien government”.

‘But it ain’t him to blame he’s only a pawn in their game’, as Bob Dylan would say, is your line on unionism and as such it is actually softer on unionism than the analysis I have offered.

Can I take it from the fact you are going off on one about myself and/or Organise! having a unionist position that you are not able to answer my arguments against the ‘anti-imperialist’ position in the above thread?
(and I would suggest you leave Organise! to a discussion with Organise!)

Participation and Time Arrangements:
Joe is a prolific writer with regular internet access so I’m not going to grant the following measure to him, however this is not necessarily true of every advocate of the ’anti-imperialist’ position, so should several other advocates of the ’anti-imperialist’ position come forward to make their case and refute the above arguments I’ll refrain from regularly posting to this thread - to like maybe once a week, or perhaps I’ll just leave a posting gap of two weeks or something, depending obviously on how many people are actually posting - ie that there is an uptake to justify this measure. Thereby giving people plenty of time. 'Above arguments' being the arguments around the 'anti-imperialist' position, rather than the tiresome task of explaining what the unionist line says.
This is in a context where I’ve asked other proponents of the ‘anti-nationalist’ position to refrain from posting on this thread, so then the debate is as open to all folk with the ‘anti-imperialist’ position and limited time/internet access as is possible.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 4 2007 21:40

But before I do that I’m gonna reply to the second half of Joe’s post, on nationalist myths….

Quote:
Joe: “Now the thing is you won't actually find any of these myths in our position paper.”

Let us examine both the actuality or centrality of these myths to Irish nationalism and their apparent absence from the WSM position paper.

Quote:
Joe: “The population of northern Ireland has more in common with Ireland than Britain.”

Yeah but couldn’t one find people in the Irish Republican Socialist Party, or on the left of Sinn Fein, who wouldn’t argue just in terms of ‘populations’, but partly in terms of class, and might see the working class of the North as having more in common with the working class of Britain, than with IBEC in the south?

Quote:
Joe: “Partition was imposed by imperialism on the people of Ireland against their will”

This is a nationalist myth, and as far as I remember it was once clearly stated in the WSM position paper, and is no longer, though you don’t clearly reject the concept either and here for example -

Quote:
“the British ruling class as a whole wanted to retain the north” (WSM Partition of Ireland document)

You might be saying something like that. So your rejection of this is not altogether clear.

Quote:
Joe: “Communal division is caused by imperialism“.

Well if you regard communal division as likely to be ultimately removed by a reform that removed the British state then you must hold not that “Communal division is caused by imperialism“, but much worse that communal division and conflict is dependant on ‘imperialism’.
If you don’t then explain this:

Quote:
“As anarchists we would welcome the removal of imperialism even under such circumstances but recognise that in the short term at least it would probably deepen sectarian divisions in the northern working class.” (WSM Partition of Ireland document)

The logic of that was explained to me as if the British state was removed it would ultimately, in the long run, lessen communal conflict and division to it sort of withering away.

Err not to mention this:

Quote:
“we see partition as the main reason why conflicts based on religious divisions continue to exist.” (WSM Partition of Ireland document)

Quote:
Joe: “'The irish people' all think the same”

Nope. After all:

Quote:
“Left republicans talk of combining the struggle to end partition and the struggle for socialism into a single struggle.” (WSM Partition of Ireland document)

So some Irish nationalists have a hazy class analysis, and others condemn large parts of the ‘Irish people’ as collaborators, e.g. Unionists, the Provisional Republican Movement, the Free State government, the SDLP.

Quote:
Joe: “Any form of opposition to nationalism is just a cover for imperialism”

Aye but left republicans would claim to be anti-nationalist, the IRSP for instance do, they don’t agree with any notion of a cross-class interest, and argued against the Provisional Republican movement on this.

Quote:
Joe: “unionism is a creature of the British state”

This is generally speaking the traditional Irish nationalist position.
See the argument earlier in the post concerned with

Quote:
Joe: “Communal division is caused by imperialism“.

Of course one could be an Irish nationalist and not hold this position - it is just the typical one.

Quote:
Joe: “Just as you reckon a unionist would see nationalism in our position paper so nationalists have argued that their is unionism in our position.”

Yeah? I’m not surprised gurrier probably told them an independent ‘Ulster’ or unification of ‘Ulster’ and an independent Scotland was preferably to devolved power sharing with British sovereignty and an ’Irish dimension’.

I’m not actually that interested in what a unionist would think of it. Depends on the unionist.
I reckon a soft unionist, someone who would see themselves as British or Northern Irish but not be into unionist politics, might see it as a bit green but be more interested in a lot of the other things it has to say not just the ’anti-imperialist’ bits.
A proper Paisley type isn’t gonna like an ‘anti-nationalist’ line anymore than an ’anti-imperialist’ line, and sure it is probably all a Popish plot, like does it mention anything about evolution?

I’m more interested in the muted opposition to republicanism, or rather the actual endorsement of republican shibboleths.
I reckon the ’anti-imperialism’ line could incorporate a fair bit of republicanism, obviously not of the most die-hard and committed type.

However in certain circumstances (e.g. a particular crisis) that could come to the surface and facilitate the libertarian left lining up with one of the ethno-nationalist blocs in the North.
Which wouldn’t be a good thing.
Now it is not paranoid to be aware of this, the history of the left in Ireland is not edifying in regard to this, see James Connolly, the Northern Ireland Labour Party, Peoples’ Democracy.

Terry
Offline
Joined: 1-02-06
Feb 19 2007 19:16

I have above demonstrated the lack of empirical grounding to the ‘anti-imperialist’ position, of course if it was just a matter of that, it wouldn’t matter so much, so in this post I’ll be looking at the counter productive political impacts. I have left a two week gap in posting between this and everything above, I’m gonna leave a similar gap for this (contingent on the same conditions as discussed above).

Joe’s description of “Irish nationalist myths”:

Quote:
1. The population of northern Ireland has more in common with Ireland than Britain.
2. Partition was imposed by imperialism on the people of Ireland against their will
3. Communal division is caused by imperialism.
4. 'The irish people' all think the same
5. Any form of opposition to nationalism is just a cover for imperialism
6. unionism is a creature of the British state

Also seeking the reform that is the removal of the British state and the unification of Ireland is, obviously, core to Irish republicanism, as is the idea that the existence of Northern Ireland is best thought of as imperialism.

An example of the apparent anti-nationalist stance of the WSM is where they say they don’t just want the existing 26 counties state expanded to include the six counties, ie we are not nationalists we don’t just want to get rid of the border but want to create a new Ireland as part of a new world, or words to that effect.

Of the above “Irish nationalist myths” we have got to say that the WSM is at least hazy and shaky on these ones:

Quote:
“2. Partition was imposed by imperialism on the people of Ireland against their will
3. Communal division is caused by imperialism.
6. unionism is a creature of the British state”

The following two, are not, as we have seen ‘Irish nationalist myths’….

Quote:
“4. 'The irish people' all think the same
5. Any form of opposition to nationalism is just a cover for imperialism”

In addition the WSM are against elitist political methods like electoralism and the ’armed struggle’, putting some distance between them and almost all republicanism. Certainly typical republicanism.

Their new Ireland is of course anarchist communist, rather than some variety of statism with public ownership and a restricted market, plus the nod to de-centralism that constitutes the left republican alternative, at best.

So that would leave the clear territory between the WSM and a republican analysis as; armed struggle, opposition to this “1. The population of northern Ireland has more in common with Ireland than Britain.” that is the notion of common national interests, and being against the idea of just expanding the South to cover the North.

We cannot really include the idea they see ‘the removal of imperialism’ aka the ‘ending of partition’ as something other than a united Ireland as this is contradictory (an independent Northern Ireland obviously involving the continuation of partition). That is the interpretation of the folk posting here, but that interpretation is not inherent in the ‘end partition as a reform’ position, and obviously the interpretation that makes for Irish unity is more consistent.

So let us take the three things identified there as the clear territory and see if they actually involve a rejection of left republicanism.

Let us test it against the Easter 2006 Statement of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement (IRSM). The IRSM being the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the Irish National Liberation Army combined.

The IRSM may be minor, but it offers us an instructive look into left republicanism, because Provisional Sinn Fein is a broad church, it may have more left republicans in it, but it also has all manner of other tendencies (see for instance the chap who a couple of years ago was on their national executive as is now a fully fledged Catholic fascist), so its propaganda would be by no means by a clear expression of left republicanism.

On

Quote:
“1. The population of northern Ireland has more in common with Ireland than Britain.”

The IRSM statement has things to say like:

Quote:
“That is imperialism and that is our enemy. Our enemy is not the British working class. Our enemy is not the protestant or loyalist or unionist working class”

and

Quote:
“We see the relevance of the class struggle and the importance of taking an internationalist perspective on issues.“

that is it has a class line not a common national interest line.

On armed struggle it argues that in the current context it is

Quote:
“not merely futile but is counter-productive to the aims and objectives that republicans seek.” (IRSM) .

We don’t have to turn to the IRSM to see that republicans do not hold a position of merely wanting to expand the border upwards and eastwards to the sea between Ulster and Scotland with the six counties just incorporated into the existing 26 counties state.
In fact I don’t think any political body has wished for that since the Nationalist party ended its existence about 35 to 40 years ago. Provo Sinn Fein talks about creating an ‘Ireland of Equals’, RSF about ’Eire Nua’, and to the IRSM the struggle for socialism and national liberation must be combined.

Readers will have noticed I have not mentioned the difference in objectives for ultimate social change between the anarchist position and the typical republican one, well that is because republicanism can, and does, incorporate just about any social line alongside it’s ‘anti-imperialism’, eg you can have flaming left wingers, mad Catholics, centrists, rightists and leftists!

Now supposing you had a left-republican, and supposing he or she broke with the mainstream of republicanism not on its nationalism (or shall we say ‘anti-imperialism’) but rather on the elitist and authoritarian methods typical of republicanism, and then reckoned an anarchist goal was a good idea, and the methods seem to make sense too.

With how much of their republican analysis of Northern Ireland would they have to break with before they could fit beneath the tent of the ’anti-imperialist’ position.
I would say not that much; they could hold all this:

Quote:
“2. Partition was imposed by imperialism on the people of Ireland against their will
3. Communal division is caused by imperialism.
6. unionism is a creature of the British state”

Plus that ending partition is a worthwhile reform, and that the existence of Northern Ireland is best thought of as imperialism.

Now with a lot of left republicans taking the same path as the one in our example, you would end up with a somewhat green tinged libertarian left, amplified by the fact that you have an already existing Irish nationalist leaning analysis in much of the left.

Now let us imagine ourselves in the context of some class of a crisis in the North, what impact do we think that would have, is it outlandish to think the same impact as was felt in so many other cases in the past, eg James Connolly, People’s Democracy, the left influx to Sinn Fein in the 80s.
That is, the left lines up with one of the nationalist blocs and contributes to the conflict.

I’d also just like to be clear about what my position does NOT mean, it does not mean not working with republicans, and it does not mean not critically engaging with them (eg debates at the Anarchist Bookfair).
It does mean a process of critical engagement needs to actually critically engage a lot more of republican ideology.
It certainly does not mean not opposing repression, or discrimination, or standing for anything else which would make for reform within Northern Ireland.
It is also obviously opposed to the British state, it just does not endorse the ’anti-imperialist’ program of removing British sovereignty from Ireland as a reform (that is within capitalism).