To begin to understand modern Irish politics, we must understand the "Irish Settlement" imposed by Britain in 1921/22.
This was determined by the following factors:To begin to understand modern Irish politics, we must understand the "Irish settlement" imposed by Britain in 1921-2. This was determined by the following factors: First, the Empire needed to keep a tight military grip on the British Isles. Ireland was a possible base for hostile operations against Britain. Many times (e.g. 1798, when the French actually landed troops in Killala) attempts were made by powers hostile to Britain to use Ireland and its revolutionary discontent to strike at Britain. As late as the third quarter of the 19th century were was a permanent threat to Britain of a combined onslaught by an Irish rebellion and some overseas power. Among Irish revolutionaries, this relationship was understood well, and called forth the maxim: "Britain's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity",
This was brought home forcefully to the British ruling class at the end of the American Civil War. There was a clash between Britain (which supported the Confederacy) and the Northern states of the Union - the Alabama incident - which threatened to lead to war.
In Ireland at the same time Fenianism was a mass movement; even the British army of occupation was honeycombed with at least 15,000 Fenians. Faced with a war at a time when Ireland was threatening to explode, the proud and mighty Empire went to arbitration in Geneva and paid heavy indemnities to the US government. Engels at the time was of the opinion that if it had come to war Ireland would have had a successful rising and probably would have become a republic under the protection of the USA.
The incident was the final one in showing people like Gladstone the urgent need to begin to solve the Irish social problem. The first Land Act followed in 1870, and within a decade and a half there was talk of Home Rule for an Ireland from which the inflammable social material was gradually being removed.
Trotsky, writing in 1916, explained it thus: "... if for the [English landlords] Ireland was only an object of agrarian plunder and exploitation, for British imperialism it was a necessary guarantee of their dominion over the seas. In a pamphlet written on the eve of the war, Casement, speculating about Germany, proves that the independence of Ireland means the 'freedom of the seas' and the death blow to the naval domination of Britain. This is true in so far as an 'independent' Ireland could exist only as an outpost of an imperialist state hostile to Britain and as its military naval base against British supremacy over the sea routes. It was Gladstone who first expounded with full clarity the military imperialist consideration of Great Britain over the interests of the Anglo-Irish landlords and laid the basis for the wide agrarian legislation by which the state transferred to the Irish farmers the land of the landlords, very generously compensating the latter, of course..."
In 1921, these military considerations still existed, and if anything were intensified by the weakened state in which Britain emerged from World War one. The Settlement gave Britain what she regarded as necessary protection, by allowing her a military grip on the North and military bases in the South (until '38 - and in the early period of World War Two Churchill and others seriously considered invading the Free State to regain these bases).
Second, one of the reasons why Gladstone and the Liberals became converted to home rule of Ireland was the exceptional (for that time) involvement of the state in the long, slow process of organising an ice-cold land revolution from above (it was only completed in the mid 1920s). The cost of this made it desirable to transfer the whole operation to an Irish exchequer. But the Ulster industrialists, who had the largest taxable capacity in Ireland and therefore the most to lose from the operation, began to resist this move.
The evolution of capitalism, and Ireland's peculiar "combined and uneven" relationship with British capitalism, had produced in the island of Ireland something more like two nations than one - economically, socially, and ideologically. No integrated national market had developed to link the north and south in one country. The economic history of the north was in fact radically different from that of the south, where a modern industrial capitalism had been prevented from developing.
The north didn't want to be "left alone" under Home Rule with the south and its problems. The tenants in the North (under the "Ulster custom") had little in common with the struggles of the southern tenants against rack renting landlords. The Northern industrialists and the Unionist landed interest throughout Ireland feared the plebeian separatism and radicalism of the masses in the south, which was partly dampened down by the then half-finished land redistribution and which the go-between middle classes had only barely kept in check.
Having nothing to gain but heavy taxes and an uncertain future with the unpredictable social and political tensions of the South, the northern capitalists were not at all inclined to allow themselves to be pushed, or pulled, into the uncertainties of Home Rule. In Britain the Tories played politics against the Liberals and their Home Rule Bill. Thus began a process which was to see Ireland torn in two by a split bourgeoisie, one side of which wanted to remain united directly to Britain - the other wanting Home Rule within the Empire, dominion status.
The existence of mass support for the English connection among Protestant workers and farmers, activated by the traditional Protestantism of the 17th century planters in the North and their fear of "Rome Rule", created something resembling a national minority which Britain was able to use against the aspirations of the rest of Ireland. Once set in motion, these elements took on a momentum of their own, in a mass movement amongst the remnants of the 17th century colons who had in some ways, in places like Belfast, begun to emerge as a labour aristocracy. Ultimately it was to allow Britain to tear Ireland in two.
Third: in 1920/21 Britain desperately needed to defuse the mass nationalist revolutionary movement in the south and west which was thrown up after 1916 and which was becoming ever more radical. Ignited by continuing land hunger and opposition to conscription into the imperialist war, and inspired by the 1916 Rising and the age-old desire for independence, it had a mass working-class involvement and even saw soviets being set up.
The middle-class compromise of Home Rule had broken down due to the opposition of the North, and the fact that in the South the men of 1916 wrested the tiller out of the hands of the Home Rule Redmondites and (in the conditions of the World War) triggered off an explosion of the Catholic Irish people. After 1916 the middle-class politicians who had - for more than 100 years, with few interruptions - practised trickery on the peasants and workers of Ireland had to run very fast to regain control of the mass movement. They no longer dared to call for mere Home Rule.
The mass disaffection in the South only gave the North East capitalists another reason for being unwilling to throw in their lot with the rest of the country. They wanted to stop Home Rule completely if possible, but were willing if necessary to settle for partition. The mass movement was finally rendered controllable by a deal between Britain and the bourgeois leaders who had jumped into the position left vacant by the deaths of the men of 1916. Collins and Griffiths, with British help and British guns, smashed the Republic and reconquered - literally reconquered, by seaboard landings in the south west - the South for "Home Rule", with the North East left out.
Thus Britain played ringmaster with the divided Irish capitalists and established the twin statelets of 26 and 6 counties, each with a measure of home rule, and with the 26 counties emerging as a pioneering model of neo-colonialism. Churchill and Lloyd George tricked Griffiths and Collins by promising a referendum which would allow the border areas of the 6 counties to secede to the Free State and thereby force the Orange rump, rendered unviable, into a united Ireland. No such referendum was ever held. The "temporary" partition became the status quo.
Because of the changing technology of war and of the decline of Britain, the once-vital military interests no longer exist today. Economically Britain's relations with the 26 counties are in fact now more lucrative than with the North - without garrison costs, social service responsibilities, or the odium of the Orange police state which was once a necessary instrument for controlling the nationalists held forcibly within the six counties. Another change has come about since 1921: direct rule by Britain of her exploited overseas territories is the exception now rather than the rule, and the peculiarities of Northern Ireland, its close and "loyal" links with Britain, do not now carry much weight with the British ruling class.
Effects of partition
When partition was first mooted, James Connolly wrote: "Such a scheme would destroy the Labour movement by disrupting it. It would perpetuate in a form aggravated in evil the discords now prevalent, and help the Home Rule and Orange capitalists and clerics to keep their rallying cries before the public as the political watchwords of the day. In short, it would make division more intense and confusion of ideas and parties more confounded".
This is exactly what it did do. The border was artificial - not a clean break between Orange and Green Ireland; nor even a relatively clean break with unavoidable pockets of "aliens" in each territory. It was a border which penned in a third of the total population of the northern state who wanted a united Ireland, or at least to be part of the Free State. They were forcibly kept in at gun point and amidst Nazi-type terror in the 1920s, to give the state some semblance of viability. A state allegedly set up to safeguard a minority from being coerced contained a minority far bigger as a proportion of its total population than were the entire Orange population within the 32 counties. The result was that those who wanted to play the game of divide and rule, in Ireland as a whole or within the six counties itself, had a field day.
With the economy almost permanently stagnant and basic industries declining in Northern Ireland, whole areas like Derry were simply reduced to degraded slums with the Catholic population living in ghettoes. The Orange aristocratic spirit which pervaded also the Protestant working class was maintained and in fact strengthened by the declining economy, which gave the "privileged" Protestant workers little but gave the Catholic workers less.
The privileges of the descendants of the 17th century planters are today very small - a better chance of a job amidst high unemployment, perhaps. In this they cannot be compared with the colons of Rhodesia, Algeria, or South Africa. But in their psychology, their hidebound traditions, their bigotry and their pride of caste, many of them can. The chronic weakness of the northern Ireland labour movement was both an effect of the overall situation and a contributory cause of its continuation; even in the brief period of relative boom in the 50s and 60s there was a failure to rouse up a genuinely militant labour movement to unite the Catholic and Protestant workers in the only way they can be united - in a dynamic class drive for general betterment. The overall economic depression is probably the major reason for Northern Ireland's stagnant politics. Where there is general poverty then a job becomes a privilege. The only unity in the Northern Ireland trade unions was and is on a false basis: it is a unity built on a tacit agreement to keep clear of controversy - clear of such questions as the constitution, and the fact that one side of the "unity" was in general discriminated against by the other.
In the south also Connolly's prediction that partition would help clerics of the Roman collar and the "Green" capitalists to "keep their watchwords ever before the people" was proved true. The defeat of the anti-Treaty republican forces in 1922 began a period of parallel stagnation, with the slightly radicalised green Tories of de Valera able to gain and keep the support of the workers and small farmers.
Always the border and Britain were blamed for the problems of the country. The border, the un-free area beyond it, the fact that the ages-long question of Irish national freedom hadn't been solved, led the best revolutionaries to enter on the often heroic but generally unfruitful road of petty bourgeois nationalist politics. It was not so much the physical force fetishism of Irish republicanism as its bourgeois ideology (under cover of the prohibition of any ideology) which misled the working-class youth from any possibility of class action. Republican politics since the 20s has been a process of political leapfrogging back and forth from one-sided physical forcism to one-side acceptance of bourgeois parliamentarianism. In 1927 the major forces of republicanism - Fianna Fail - accepted the system set up in 1921/2 and went into parliament: when they got power they proved to be abject conservatives, despite the economic measures forced on them from 1932 onwards. In 1944 the old physical forcists of the 30s entered parliament - and so quickly showed themselves up as tame, pale shadows of Fianna Fail that they soon lost all support.
It has been the same story with the nationalists in the North (led now by MacAteer). Yet in their physical force phases all these groupings attracted the misled the best would-be revolutionaries of that period.
Labour remained divided - each Labour Party, north and south, following "its own" capitalist segment and reproducing the divisions of the Irish bourgeoisie. Likewise the two Irish "Communist Parties" (IWP in the South, CPNI in the North). In the North the Protestant masses remained wedded to the Unionist Tories, while the Catholics followed the pseudo-nationalist Tories.
It must be stressed that the border and the unresolved national question were the essential basis of the situation as described above. Fifty and more years ago there had been healthier tendencies, which were disrupted by the control the Orange and Green reactionaries gained over the masses. The Border institutionalised that situation and perpetuated their control.
Britain's new strategy
For at least ten years before the civil rights movement began to gather force, Britain had been gently modifying or attempting to modify the old Settlement. By the early 60s pressure from Westminster led men like O'Neill to begin timid moves to slowly modernise the system. A reconciliation of the Catholic middle class with the system in Northern Ireland was the first goal. The religious sectarianism was toned down at a government level - though they obviously wanted to keep it to divide and manipulate the workers.
The ultimate objective was generally understood to be some sort of reunification of Ireland: a cold, bourgeois unification, controlled, non-revolutionary, with Britain shedding all responsibilities save that of pump-man to continue to drain the wealth of her weaker neighbour. The Northern Ireland system had become an anachronism.
With the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement of 1965 a decisive turn was taken. It meant that the southern bourgeoisie, after wandering forty years in the desert, were dropping all their pretences of independence - pretences which, apart from the exceptional period of the 1930s, had all been extremely feeble. Relations between Britain's two client states became more cordial as a reflection of the new trend. Since 1965 the 26 counties moved from 9th to 4th place of importance as a trading partner for Britain; Ireland as a whole from 5th to 2nd place. This could only underpin the British government in its desire for better relations with the south and for at least a new coat of paint for the Northern regime.
Until the 1968 explosion there seemed to be a strong possibility of a slow growing together towards some form of federal Ireland, under British auspices as always, and following the good example of the Common Market.
THE CIVIL RIGHT ERUPTION - HOW AND WHY?
Britain's interests in Ireland and the interests of the N.I capitalists (epitomised by O'Neill, Faulkner and such industrialists groups within the unionist Party as the New Ulster Movement) were thus moving, and had long moved, away from the delusions, the imagined interests, of the Protestant masses whom they had for so long duped and mislede Tragically these Protestant/Unionist enthusiasts, with their faith in the monarchy, in dogmatic religion and in the old six county set up (including its discrimination against the Catholic workers)- these include many and probably a majority, of the Protestant working class.
There was, therefore, from the mid 1960s, a serious but seemingly controllable orange backlash, even against O'Neill's timid gestures.
Meanwhile the double oppression of the Catholic workers continued,'beneath' the polite exchanges between the Catholic and Protestant middle classes and the three governments involved. Special Powers Act, B-Specials and great Depression conditions west of the Bann were unchanged. Agitation by republicans and Labour Party people led to the now famous demonstration of October 5th '65, which the police banned and when it refused to accept the ban, batoned. Making all due allowances for the differences in scale, the effect was the same as that of Bloody sunday 1905, when a peaceful demonstration of workers in St.Petersburg was shot down and served to spark a revolutionary mass movement which reverberated for over 2 years.
Far from nipping a movement in the bud the Stormont regime, by focusing attention on Derry, aided the movement in its growth. The moderate, institutionalised Civil Rights movement suddenly acquired an activist wing. The People's Democracy, taking in the same energies as contributed to the student revolt throughout the world, spearheaded the growing agitation. In turn the agitation led to an increasing back-lash from the Orange bigots, epitomised the Burntollet outrage. Free Derry was established, the RUC beaten back. This July and August the clashes reached near civil war level in violent confrontations between Catholics on one side and the RUG and its Paisleyite allies on the other.
One result from this was a quite predictable re-sharpening of such lines of division between Catholics and Protestants as had become blurred in the preceding period of eased tensions. Indeed the necessary logic of the slogans used led inevitably to this. Even the attempt of PD to be 'social', to avoid the old sectarian and ‘nationalist’ pitfalls, led somehow, against their will, to the re-emergence of the old divisions; to the creation of a situation where the questions they had tried to avoid took on a new importance. like a hard, rocky outline beneath the surface, the border and the national question, insisted on being taken into account.
It should also be admitted that the whole N.I. set up probably ruled out any attempt to do what the PD tried to do, and certainly in the way they tried to do it. It precluded unity; it precluded a simple attempt to change the relative situation of Catholics and Protestants in a united struggle: in fact sectarian division had been programmed into the state at birth. Thus even the social slogans - one man, one house, one job etc appeared, against the background of extreme stagnation, to the protestants as demands to share the little there was. The very attempt to use social slogans and demands to rally a united mass movement of Catholic and Protestant workers called forth only a Catholic, civil rights, movement - and a violent protestant backlash.
‘Man makes his own history‘, teaches Marxism — but according to conditions he does not control, and which ultimately determine whether or not the result of his actions will be as he desires. Man can, of course, heighten remarkably the chances of achieving a desired result by understanding the laws that operate in the particular field. That is why Marxism is so useful for those who want to change society. That is why a comprehensive Marxist programme, based on a serious analysis, is a useful weapon in any situation, And particularly useful where the situation is very complex and where struggles at different levels (eg nationalist and socialist) are superimposed and criss-crossed on top of each other.
PD started out without a serious analysis, and without clearly defining their aims and the appropriate tactics and strategy needed to achieve these aims. Going along empirically, ignoring the national question, they evoked a movement of protest from a section of the population whose whole reason for protest, whose whole social condition, was determined by the point at which the national struggle of 50 years ago stopped. They did evoke a class struggle, but a muffled one; a class energy from the oppressed Catholic masses, which in turn brought forth only a violent hostility from the majority of the NI working class. Transitional demands which might have drawn the Protestant workers into the struggle by showing up the real enemy and indicating a path of struggle which did not appear to threaten them, were hardly used at all, instead they talked of the Workers’ Republic, as if in some mystical way it was immediattely connected with the present struggle, as if the far-distant prospect were enough to unite the
class now In the event they were using it like A deodorant or a shroud. Instead of prising apart the horizontal division which exists between the classes in N.I, their blows produced a crack vertically down the middle of N.Ireland's flawed society it split along the lines of religion and nationality.
In the brief period of ten months the petrified edifice of N.Ireland politics was
battered until it began to collapse. Last August 12th the state began to disintegrate and dissolve into chaos and civil war. If it had continued it would have dragged the south into the maelstrom with it.
from October 5th '68 to August 12th '69 the Unionist government tottered between timid promises of concessions to the Catholics in face of violent opposition from the orange bigots, and Capitulation to the Orange bigots which inflamed the Catholics even more. Each attempt to repress the Catholics, whether on October 5th or by the RUC and UVF last August, only provoked still more serious resistance. The orange backlash, out of control of the sane Unionists, constituted the second mill-stone which ground the old Orange establishment into ruins. The August clashes made it clear that the old Orange status quo would not be able to restore or re-establish. itself, It made equally clear that the old overall British strategy of a slow modification of the Stormont regime and a slow growing together of the north and South was no longer adequate. It had been overtaken by events.
roll of the troops
The cement had fallen out of the rickety Northern Ireland state, and its sponsors, the successors of the master builders who created the monstrous structure in the first place, had to act quickly. Direct intervention from London (not direct rule, as the soggy left demanded, but the taking of physical control through the army) was the result. A tight military scaffolding was quickly erected to prevent a collapse into chaos.
This was the role of the troops — their meaning was essentially that, though the state structure of the UK had begun to break My from internal contradictions at one of its extremities, the system was still powerful enough at the centre to prevent chaos. But action to avert chaos by bolstering up Stormont didn't mean that the British government was committed to its continuation in the old form. it couldn't afford to. The old order had proved untenable. Nor was it a matter of a temporary contradiction between the troops, the B-men and the RUC, who would ultimately resolve their differences. Britain was not merely freezing the old structure, but attempting directly to mould a new superstructure for its continued economic rule in Ireland.
The conflict between their old dupes and the interests of the British system called for some drastic action - and a new strategy by Britain - worked out between October ‘68 and August '69, to take account of the new situation. The strategy became clear when the troops went in.
With the steel fingers of the army, Britain quickly got a grip on the situation, and began a controlled demolition job on certain sections of the Northern Ireland set-up The objective: to placate the Catholics and isolate the Orange die—hards. Britain was trying to avoid smashing completely the inept Stormont regime; attempting to save what could be saved of Unionism, while purging it of the influence of some of the more incorrigible backwoodsmen and strengthening it by the adhesion of men like Hume and the moderate bourgeois civil rights leaders, either as a loyal opposition or as members of a new Unionist party (Hume, for instance, calls for a purge of the Unionist party and a political realignment). The army provided the essential element of force, the necessary physical control of the situation to allow Britain to begin to forge a new alliance of Ulster industrialists and civil rights moderates — with their nuptials blessed by the Catholic Church.
Using the fierce heat of the Catholic mass revolt to pressurise and differentiate the sane Unionists and Orange elements from the die—hards, and trusting in the Humes (Opus Dei) and the Catholic clergy to keep control of the Catholic masses, the new alliance has already worked well.
The crucial question here was, whether or not those willing to form part of the new alliance on top - moderate civil rights, Catholic bourgeoisie (insofar as it has come into existence since the War) and the Church - could keep control of the masses of Derry and Belfast who had been forced to fight for their lives in August, and who had driven the old state personnel out of the free areas of Belfast and Derry. it seems almost incredible that they could have done it so easily. Yet they did.
The arrival of the army stopped the growth of self-reliance of the people of Belfast and Derry. With natural relief they welcomed the troops, but they still
kept their barricades up. While some republicans continued to arm themselves, the effect of the troops on the mess consciousness was to disarm the people politically and therefore militarily: to provide an external security.
From the beginning there was a necessary and immediate contradiction between the continued existence of the barricades and free areas, and the British troops; The fact that the army ‘played it cool’ shouldn't have deceived anyone: The old state personnel, the RUC and B-men, merely played the role of hard cop to frighten the Catholics and thereby allowed the army to play soft cop to gain their confidence.
The army could do this because it had overall physical control of the situation. It also had the aid of the Catholic Church. ‘When it was necessary and, they reckoned, possible (ie by mid-September) to get the barricades down in Belfast, the Bishop of Down and Connor, no less, stepped from behind the curtain and ‘descended’ on the Falls to persuade the people to ‘do the right thing’ and take the barricades down.
One Irish periodical frankly explained the Bishop's concern;
“An area within. which people could organise themselves, or be organised... could give the people a taste of what it was like to discipline themselves rather than be disciplined by the police. For these reasons alone ... the barricades were anathema to the government from the start, and eventually even to the Church authorities. The confrontation between Bishop and people in which bitter exchanges took place on the traditionally Catholic Falls, reflected something of the real fear of Catholics of a return of the police and the real fear of the Church authorities of a left wing which is gaining ground rapidly. . . "
Certainly a radicalization of the people would have gone hand in hand with a conditioning or deepening of the struggle in the old form: that is, if a civil war had developed.
But, beginning with the taking down of the barricades in mid-September, and continuing with a thin—end-of—the-wedge policy, the ‘alliance’ gradually weaned the people of Belfast and Derry from self-reliance and from their ingrained hostility to ruling power. When the British government demonstrated that it had, perhaps the first time in the long and terrible history of its relationship with the Catholics of Ireland ‘come down on their side', and later when troops willingly clouted the Paisleyites, the job was completed. '
the protestant backlash may continue for a while; but it looks very much like British and Ulster capitalists have succeeded in shifting their weight from the ‘Orange and Protestant mass base to a new one which includes the catholic moderates and at least a portion of the masses they control, now less alienated from the state than in all the previous 50 years, It is not possible to judge yet how much of their old Orange support they have lost, or for how or long, how many real changes will be made, for that matter.
experience of the free areas, given their impulse into existence by the outbreak of august immediately surrounded by ‘protective’ troops, and just as subject to the determined pressure of the Church and moderates, is itself instructive. (And perhaps Stephen Marks should have looked into the ‘grim reality‘ of it before writing the presence of the troops ... has the effect of buying time in which the defenders of the barricades can arm to defend themselves and also, by opposing attempts by 'moderates' to weaken the defence, rearm politically to turn military defence into a political offensive.") In Belfast right wing republicans were able seize control, because they had the guns. In Derry the moderate civil rights leaders had control.
‘Free Derry‘, of which the writer had some experience (being a member representing the 'outsiders', of its Citizens’ Defence Association, from September until the Old committee disbanded itself in October and set up a liquidation cttee. under the same name) shows the weakness of the mass upsurge which allowed the moderates, often unwittingly aided by some of the militants, to keep controls
During mid—August the people of Bogside defended themselves and their home: against the RUC and Paisleyitese Relying on themselves and a few ’outsiders‘ they drove back the police and demoralised them until in the end their officers had often to use physical force to prevent weeping and hysterical policemen from running away from the fight, What would have happened if the B-men. had been let loose with their guns is an open question: there are some in Derry who argue that they could have been held Off. Frightened British pacifists assume there would have been a massacre. But revolutionary experience shows that a popular rising can succeed against the most ‘overwhelming’ odds (assessed quantitatively and formally), arming itself as it develops from fallen enemies, etc. One recent example is of Hungary '56, when the workers, arming as the struggle developed, fought and beat tanks and regular troops. starting-out with the same weapons the Bogside used — petrol bombs.
With the police defeated and the troops forming a cordon sanitaire around them, the people began to organise life in their own area; Street patrols were formed, mainly of the unemployed, who manned the barricades and watched the soldiers suspiciously. (The initial friendliness of Bogside people to the troops didn't survive the first feelings of relief.)
But politically they were without perspective. A struggle whose whole logic was republican found the Catholic masses without even a minimal republican ideology - having been kept to the level of the Green Nationalist Tories, and then moved to illusions in men like Hulme. The youth, though, those who threw the petrol bombs, quickly learned a revolutionary republicanism, learning about Connolly‘s socialism too.
But the republican movement itself was lamentably without a perspective, The Dublin leadership could only offer the youth of Derry a perspective of ‘pressurising the government‘. The 'United Irishman’ sank to the lowest and crudest common denominator of the republican movement: "Blame Britain".
after August a mass coalition or popular front council, the DCDA, took over. This was no soviet, no elected council, but a political Irish stew, deeply undemocratic, involving all the political tendencies in the areas from the ‘extreme‘ left to the extreme right. Acquiescence in this was a deadly mistake for the left (LP, and republicans, who vary greatly from area to area and in Derry are very left wing). Had an elected council been set up, the left would have been initially smaller in representation, but with a chance of healthy and solid growth in proportion as they were able to interact with and help clarify mass revolutionary consciousness. (All of which presupposed a programme, perspective and serious organisation. Neither PD in Belfast nor the YS in Derry came anywhere near to fitting this bill - and neither did the republicans either right wing in Belfast or left wing and subjectively revolutionary in Derry.)
As it was, the left were the prisoners of the majority of right wing bourgeois, Nationalist and Catholic committee members. They became partially cut off from direct contact with the workers; the political level of the masses didn't advance beyond the stage reached immediately after the fighting in August. Indeed, under the influence of the Hulmes and Paddy Dohertys it regressed.
There was no mass programme of transforming society - nor could there have been. The left was divided, generally inept, and unable to provide either a programme or a serious lead. Given the failure to create a democratic council for the area, with all the concomitant popular involvement, this meant that the rightists, the men most in line with the Church and able to draw on the support of the most backward people, dominated, and finally liquidated ‘Free Derry' back into the hands of British and Stormont rule.
The youth had borne the brunt of the fighting in August. They wound up bitterly dissatisfied and very much against the DCDA - but without a programme or an organisation. The dropping of the old brave demands — barricades stay until Special Powers, B-men, etc, go — brought general disappointment which aided the rightists in their work.
All told given the general level of consciousness of the people, the lack of real democracy in the free areas and above all because of the lack of even the rudiments of a serious revolutionary organisation, control stayed in the hands of the right
Three months after August 12th the RUC were back in all areas of Northern Ireland. The future may hold shocks, but it is very unlikely that there will be disruption on the scale of August.
what might have been a decisive breakdown in the British bourgeois state system has resulted in a new - not as yet completely stable — equilibrium, with same rulers essentially in control and certain concessions granted to the minority.
From the point of View of revolutionary socialists one other 'result' must be mentioned almost certainly years, and perhaps decades, will be necessary (unless revolutionary events outside Ireland intervene to change the political and social climate) before the newly reinforced inter-working class animosities die down. The re—fanning of the old divisions to white heat is of course a major 'conquest' for imperialism and the local capitalists. It will allow them - within the stifling artificial statelet of theirs which has survived the the last year - to maintain their grip on the working class, to continue their manipulations. The break up of the state, the carrying of the catholic upsurge to its logical goal by challenging Northern Ireland as such, would been a far better outcome.