The reason why the EC was perplexed by the troops question is quite simple.
If one relies solely on the self-defence of the northern Ireland Catholics (aided from the south by mass action) one is faced with the question: on what political basis, with what perspectives, would one organise armed Catholic groups? Certainly not for a Workers’ Republic in their tiny part of Ireland (2 and a half counties)- ignoring for the moment the question of the necessary level of consciousness. the logic of armed Catholic self-defence units was that the nationalist thread in the N.Ireland political complex would inevitably come to the forefront, raising the question of the border. in any event it was inescapable that the nationalist consciousness would have grown had the struggle gone on.
The alternatives in the situation were either troops to take control in the name of the state, or a Catholic/nationalist self defence which would pose in the circumstances no other goal than the breaking up of the 6 Counties. If this had developed as a fighting movement of the Catholic workers in the North it would have had an incalculable effect on the South - and in Britain itself.
Yet no single issue raised such a storm at the IS Conference than the Trotskyist Tendency's advocacy of the secession slogans None called forth more deliberate distortion than this. When a Trotskyist Tendency member admitted that the breakup of the 5 counties would probably lead to population exchanges he was denounced as a callous fascist advocating that.
When we drafted the resolution at the end of June or beginning of July the situation in N.Ireland had already developed sharp outlines. Unity of Catholics and protestants remained a distant ideal, and seemed to have grown more distant as the civil rights movement forged ahead, activating Catholics in its support, galvanising protestants against all it stood for. the sectarian pattern of division widened and an inter-community clash loomed closer, it seemed less likely to have an effect in the immediate future.
one undercurrent in the success of the Paisleyites was a demagogic appeal to the protestant workers and poor people against the landed gentry and bourgeois Orange elements. The Independent Orange lodges which had been responsible for the odd occasions this century (eg 1934 and 1907) when Protestants and Catholics united, were a special field of operation by the Paisleyites, with typically fascist radical demagogy Thus the vague class and social approach of PD was undermined with the mass workers of protestant workers by a competing ‘social’ approach with the added appeal that it fitted in with their traditional caste attitudes instead of opposing them.
Perhaps by definition a Civil Rights movement in N.Ireland is necessarily divisive, if it has the character of appearing to look for a redivision of existing jobs and houses. It takes for practical purposes, as its starting point the existing divisions. Thereafter appeals to good will, or to Protestants to join in, are not enough to control the exacerbation of the divisions. To say that, is no more to condemn the Civil Rights movement than is acknowledgement of a white backlash of the movement of the black people of the USA,
The hardening of divisions and the receding hopes of working class unity raised questions of perspectives and slogans for revolutionary socialists in Britain and Our programme is for working class unity in a positive struggle for betterment and the ultimate goal of class power. But a Marxist appreciation of Ireland its complex history and current struggles doesn't stop there. There is the national question also, Marxists demand self—determination for Ireland, Deepening divisions and the postponement, perhaps for a whole period (even before and without the events of August and after), of the possibility of class unity in the six counties meant that the National question and self determination were pushed sharply to the fore with all their implications.
As we will shown it had never fully been explained in SF or IS what self determination involved: that it meant Ireland as a 32 county unit, with the border as artificial and to be challenged, even if in principle we would accept the idea of autonomy for the Protestant areas. Above all it meant opposing the existing partition imposed by imperialist force.
The widespread sentiment to leave the border out of current politics was at best an evasion justifiable perhaps by its emphasis on immediate 6 county struggle: at worst, it was unprincipled. While even the possibility of class unity existed in the 6 counties it was perhaps tolerable. As this receded and there was talk of civil war within the 6 counties, threatening to leave those who adopted this stance helpless and without a response to likely events, it became intolerable and sharply unprincipled,
Socialists needed to bring forward the national struggle, to stress that the underlying division is false and arbitrary, and that any talk of autonomy for the Protestants could not be on the basis of six counties.
While making revolutionary socialist propaganda we must stress the democratic demands for self-determination, The duty of revolutionists in a situation like that of N.Ireland (and Ireland as a whole), where the national problems and social/political currents remain, is to give as sharp an expression as possible to the democratic non-socialist movements. If the sectarianism and national divisions are going to immobilise the united working class in N.Ireland for a whole period, we must give those tendencies a sharp expression that a) shakes the system and b) creates the preconditions for future class unity. Not merely the border as such was the source of conflict, but the jagged, irrational border is a permanent and self—renewing source of conflict and class division.
We must question that which imperialism has decreed for Ireland. We must put forward the self—determination demand not as a mere piety, but as a living democratic demand, as a necessary adjunct to the socialist programme.
We felt that to fear to put this forward as a slogan in England and Ireland was to sink to the level of sectarian socialists, mouthing inconsistent talk about the (far) future united Workers‘ Republic, and platitudes about the need for class unity, whilst accepting the national carve—up that was designed, among other things, to prevent any united working class struggles that might lead to a Workers‘ Republic.
At worst a secessionist movement would have led to a more rational border. At best it might have produced a catastrophic shake up of the Irish side of the British state system that has existed since'22 It would probably make a rump Orange state unviable. (As such the secession call is in effect a call for a United Ireland ie, a practical application of the otherwise abstract phrase "self—determination"). It would take away many of the alibis of the southern bourgeoisie. It would probably create such crisis and division within the UK ruling class that a possibility of the UK working class being propelled into the arena might arise. (Many times in history a state which has become eroded internally, yet remained stable, has been shaken to its foundations by a relatively small shock, an incident e.g the Dreyfus affair). That in turn would radically alter the prospects of class unity in action in Ireland itself. The political paralysis and conservatism of the IS leaders and their hysterical reaction to the advocacy of the secession demand, was a reflection that they were incapable of looking beyond the immediately horrifying reality of a senseless inter-class slaughter to other and more constructive possibilities beyond it.
From the above it followed that by giving the Catholic movement that had welled up a republican orientation, a lever could be found to break open the establishment set—up at its weakest point, and to propel the movement forward in its Logical direction. (In 'answer‘ to this Palmer and Co. included in the “Catholic economist“ pretence that the movement was socialist or had immediate socialist potential thus failing to pose slogans that might have helped it reach the potential that it did have.)
We felt that those, ourselves included, who had dismissed the idea of a revolutionary unification of Ireland this side of the socialist revolution, might be proven wrong. We still think the objective possibility existed, though it no longer does, and hasn't now since August. But the Catholic movement in the North, with the self-determination slogan raised rationally and given a goal, might have radicalised the whole scene, Instead it ended in a blind alley.
The alternatives for socialists were either: a)the sectarian position, of refusing to takes sides in a ‘religious’ split, and instead preaching class unity,seeing socialism as an essential precondition to a united Ireland or 2)to take the side
of the most oppressed section, take part in its struggles and give them a sharper and more logical direction — which might form a link between the present divisions and the class unity necessary for working class power; and to give support and expression to the demand for a united Ireland now as part of the struggle for Catholic rights. In the short, to see the roots of catholic oppression in lack of self-determination.
IS tried to compromise - to fight alongside the Catholics, whilst confining itself to slogans (e.g W.R.) whose precondition was class unity, and rejecting the task of striking, at the 6 county state as the structure and framework for working class division and national oppression"
THE CASE AGAINST THE SECESSION DEMAND
We were accused of pandering to Green Toryism. But the secession slogan in practice came far closer to the feelings of the young left republicans who were, in the course of the fighting, feeling the need for a coherent programme in line with the struggle, and against both the Green Tories and the right wing republican leaders whose prostration befor the Stormont, Westminster and the play acting of Lynch had already implicitly exposed them. The ‘insertion’ into the situation of a programme for real radical action would, by contrast with the right wing inertia, have exposed them quite explicitly, and could have been a rallying point for the vanguard.
We were told that the demand had been made by the fascist O'Duffy in the 1930's. So what? It is a characteristic of fascist movements to use working class demands and aspirations demagogically. Does that mean they become taboo for us? It is also characteristic of shoddy arguments and an Oxford Union debating style to use such questions to obscure reality.
Most of all we were accused of wanting to bring on a bloodbath, and it was even suggested that in some ‘Machiavellian' way we saw such a bloodbath as a way of raising consciousness. On the contrary, our resolution made it clear that the
demand was to be raised "in the... event of a communal eruption" - "In a situation of deepening working class division and conflict, this demand could be the only way for the movement to advance." (See Appendix I for complete resolution, which we suspect not many of those who voted against it bothered. to read.) Admittedly it could, in the short-term, have worsened the conflict. But we saw it as a weapon in the hands of the Catholic movement: and while any weapon produces bloodshed, it is only a pacifist who will spurn a weapon which creates the possibility of a better outcome after the struggle is over. (And if Marks and Co. want to object that a weapon is a weapon and not a slogan, or that you can‘t fight guns with slogans, let them also say that a movement without a goal or direction is just as well able to equip itself against guns as is a movement with such a goal!) The better outcome in this case was the possibility of breaking up the divisive 6 county state, of creating maximum havoc with the
imperialists’ structure, and thus abolishing the inevitability of sustained and repeated long-term religious-sectarian clashes ... and bloodshed too, of course.
We were informed that the added strife would bring down upon us more British troops!... "and we thought you wanted them out“. Would Comrade Marks like to extend this argument of his to Vietnam? He could then advise the NFL that if they hadn't been so irresponsible as to start a struggle for national liberation, there wouldn't be a single G.I. in Vietnam now...
We reproduced a map from the 'Economist' showing the areas of Catholic majority population — as an indication of the irrationality of the present border and the obvious adjustments that could be advocated in agitation. The response was a quibble about population densities, and a demographic "argument" for keeping things as they were. There is only one meaning, politically, to this kind of argument: that the border we have is the best of all possible borders, There could have been no more explicit a statement of acceptance of the status quo.
It was said that it was a right wing demand, a ‘stages theory‘ meaning an abandonment of working class independence. But of course while putting it forward a revolutionary group would maintain itself, its program and its class propaganda. Working class participation in national struggle, keeping its independence, has nothing in common with the Menshevik/Stalinist stages theories. In the same resolution we advocated working class transitional demands. There would be no contradiction. The secession demand would have been raised in the spirit of "Better fight Southern bosses than northern workers."
Neither did we raise the slogan as a means of factional self—differentiation. Those who said we did merely showed that they so completely misunderstood it as to be at a loss to think of any genuine, political reason for raising it. We raised the slogan because, among other things, we felt (and still feel) that if all revolutionaries can do is go in for either opportunist shilly-shallying or else mouthing strictly millennial slogans (and IS did both), then they had better throw in the towel. Marxism is a tool to allow us to deal with reality on all its levels and in all its complexities or it is nothing
For British Marxists the secession demand meant propaganda on the lines of ‘Withdraw the Troops‘ and support for a referendum call. This would be the opportunity for showing up in the most graphic way what British imperialism had done with its border. In N.Ireland itself, in places like Derry, where there is gerrymandering the possibility of organising parallel elections (by the people themselves) to contest power with the Unionist system, was a very obvious possibility, which would have taken the masses forward.
We felt that the possibilities in the situation were either a)that the revolutionary upsurge of the Catholics would produce some reforms and then subside, leaving in its wake inter-class bitterness and the same powers in control or b)that it would lead to a break-up of the system, as outlined above.
We regarded the approach of Palmer, that minimum demands were revolutionary and couldn't be met by the system, as hysterical delusion, We regarded the Black Power analogy as false because Britain, the main actor, has room for manoeuvre with the Catholic workers and can shift part of its weight from the Orange working class onto them. ‘We felt that the Catholic movement couldn't go forward without a programme, that it didn't have a programme, and that the only programme it could have (a purely Catholic Workers’ Republic being ruled out) was a republican one.
We have been taunted with dropping the demand, presumably (applying Marks & Co.’s own political methods?) because of the volume of opposition to it. That once again shows the lack of any understanding of the dynamics of the situation, or of how the slogan was meant to enter into and interact with that situations It was not an all—time panacea. At one point it could have taken the movement forward. When the movement itself had receded, the slogan was no longer appropriate.
If on Black Power and Northern Ireland the SLL are wrong, in their preaching of an abstract class unity regardless of differences in history, consciousness and conditions, it does not exculpate those, PD and IS, who ran a campaign with a nationalist logic and shirked the outcome and the logic fitting instead, by sleight of hand, socialist slogans where the had no meaning and finally using the previously rejected Workers‘ Republic slogan as a fig-leaf in face of events.
In the event the masses, involved in a struggle, which the troops stopped, remained not merely far from a socialist consciousness, but on a sub-republican level. The republicans themselves were woefully inadequate and had essentially no line other than self—defence; even that they did badly. Despite that they have grown in Derry and Belfast, absolutely by default (particularly in Derry).
The struggle, having shifted from an offensive against the state to a defensive position without a goal, subsided having got the promise of reforms. British capitalism is more secure than ever.
I.S'S RECORD ON IRELAND: THE CAMPAIGN IN BRITAIN.
_ IS responded energetically to the events in Ireland. But the IS record on Ireland, like PD's record in the North, is an example of the road to hell being paved with the best political intentions, The confusion on the troops question was the culmination of a great deal of confusion and shilly-shallying during the previous nine months. Let us examine it briefly as recorded in the EC and NC minutes.
The EC minutes of Dec.12th 1968 carry a report of a tone-setting discussion in which Gery Lawless harangued the EC for the general failure of the British Left to do serious work on Ireland,
"Comrade L. felt that the British working class had a racialist, chauvinist attitude towards the Irish question. The British left was not very much better informed, IS should educate its own members as this attitude was also amongst them, If IS is serious it should not simply organise demonstrations on Ireland but try to educate the working class (and IS members) to campaign and organise on the Irish question (remembering there are over a million Irishman in this country, mostly workers). There was perhaps scope for a campaign along VSC lines which should be more fruitful because it could bring workers into contact with the revolutionary left. The Campaign should take in questions coming from the south as well, although main emphasis on the North. Cde Palmer felt that as the Irish Question was so complicated the left‘s attitude was not so much racialism as ignorance Cde Lawless felt that the resources for a revolutionary Trotskyist Group in Ireland were very small, and it would need an organiser and a press.
He felt there would be very little response to a campaign amongst Irish exiles unless there is evidence of a large campaign to educate the British workers on Ireland... cdes Harman and Protz felt a serious analytical piece on Ireland was needed which could set out the complexities of the Irish situation. Reported that Comrade Gillespie is expected to have something ready for the Spring IS. ... It was agreed several things were needed: a)to educate the Group (and the British left, especially revolutionary Marxists) b)start an Irish campaign c)assist the re-formation of an Irish Group The EC must discuss these and present some proposals to the NC".
SETTING THE TONE
This long excerpt is necessary because the ideas there uttered were to dominate the Group's approach for at least the following 5 months. The idea that we could only get at Irish workers by campaigning to educate Britain on the Irish question was implemented as meaning a pseudo anti-imperialist campaign — that is, we could only expect to reach Irish workers by pretending to attune absolutely and unconditionally to their existing level of nationalist consciousness. No question about our duty to bring specifically socialist analysis and comment to those we can reach of the one million strong group of the working class who originated in Ireland.
The VSC analogy was to bear fruit in the ICRSC 5 months later. But at best it is a doubtful comparison. Solidarity with Vietnam, with a revolutionary movement struggling against imperialism in the most advanced way possible (and which we directly influence) is in itself a semi-revolutionary step for those who take it. Solidarity with the Civil Rights movement in Ireland — per se — can mean simply liberalism or Irish nationalism.
The job of ‘educating’ both British Marxists and British workers was given to ... Gery Lawless! On January 4th SW carried a ‘programmatic article’ called; ULSTER - WHAT THE LEFT MUST DO. It was signed "from Sean Reed" (which is a pseudoym or perhaps better, euphemism - used by Lawless). This article explained all about the Special Powers Act etc., and attacked the British left for its alleged habit of "telling the Irish how to run their own affairs." lawless asked: ‘what is to be done?’ and answered: "First and foremost" (!!!)"British socialists must refrain from penning long high flown theoretical articles (which all end by telling Irish socialists what to do) and instead (!) launch a campaign of solidarity with the Irish movement." No question now of the serious theoretical analysis Protz and harman called for in December. Had it been made, it might have led British socialists to an independent view of the situation, tasks and goals of the Irish movement, and any solidarity movement in Britain; in turn
this might have led them to question lawless’ and Palmer's views which dominated the early solidarity work. (The article in IS, useful in the historical sections, of course merely codified their views on current politics.) His article concluded "In this campaign, the best thing British socialists can do is demand
1)The withdrawal of all British troops from Ireland;
2)An end to the supply of British military equipment to the Northern Irish Tory Party and para—military Black Hundreds, the B-Specials;
3)Stop British subsidies to the Tory police state of Northern Ireland.
This third demand is one which no-one in Ireland, North or South, ever agreed with. It implied the very opposite of the real relationship of N.Ireland and G.B. - that is, the fact that Britain draws more from N.Ireland in profits than she pays out in social service subsidies, Much more. This slogan, acceptable to no workers in N.Ireland, Catholic or Protestant, disguised the real nature of the relationship, and could legitimately be accused of miseducating British workers;
The first two demands are anti—imperialist demands. But a strange anti-imperialism — which called for certain things, and then, surprisingly, avoided the essential and logical conclusion: the call for the right of self-determination for Ireland as a unit.
To raise the self-determination demand would have been to raise the question of the border, because to have any meaning in the present state of Irish politics self determination must mean self determination for those explicitly denied it: the Catholics of N.Ireland, It must mean to regard the existing Irish state structure as fluid. The absence of this demand was a strange Omission from the list which lawless, (obviously with the agreement of the EC and probably with the collaboration of Palmer) was putting.
But a section of the article made it clear that this was no accidental omission. It read: "The northern worker will never be won by a program which calls for the absorption of the 6 counties into the present southern regime, with its Rome rule in the schools, which tends to confirm his ever—present fear that a break with Orange will open the floodgates and relegate him to the position of a second-class citizen.
He will only be won for the establishment of a Republic when it is clear in his that what is envisaged is a Workers’ Republic in which he as a workers will control his own destiny without fear of Thames or Tiber."
Obviously the demands had been deliberately tailored to take the above into account: only under socialism would self-determination - that is, concretely, the abolition of the border — become a desirable possibility. This might be a defensible position for a group in N.Ireland to take But to omit it from a campaign in Britain would have amounted to treachery. Marxists in imperialist countries who raise demands for self-determination do so only to defend the right of the people of the oppressed nation to take self-determination even to the point of seceding if they want to, and even without socialism. The choice is theirs. Why therefore omit this from the slogans for a campaign in Britain? Because, in the actual case under discussion, it would have meant to implicitly differentiate from those in N.Ireland who didn't raise the national question, self—determination and the border, and for IS in effect to put a position of the PD
The problem for Palmer and Lawless was that their N.Irish co-thinkers (Farrell and CO.) had a position which committed them to accepting the given partition, this side of socialism, They had a sectarian socialist - a pro-Leninist - position. As Mike Farrell said at the last IS Conference, they had more sympathy than people imagined with the (sectarian) position of the Scottish IS comrades on this question.
at the January NC meeting there was 2 long discussion on Ireland, with the EC minutes (above) and “Sean Reed's" article as the basis of the discussion. The minutes for this NC are inaccurate, in that they miss out one of the central ideas put by the Workers‘ Fight members. The February NC agreed that the minutes were in fact inaccurate, and the actual W.f case is made in a letter by S. Matgamna to SW no.106
We argued that the three demands presented as the basis of the Irish campaign were not "nationalistic" enough for the task of educating the British workers on the Irish question, insofar as they omitted the demand for self-determination with all that it implied. At the same time they were too exclusively nationalistic for the task of educating Irish workers in Britain, many of whom, the most nationally conscious of whom, we would be likely to reach, in a class understanding of Ireland's problems.
Two additional slogans were proposed, representing in our opinion to the two essential prongs of a serious campaign on the Irish question. 1) right of the people of Ireland to self—determination; 2)For a United Socialist Republic of Ireland.
A number of people objected to the self-determination slogan (interpreted in discussion as above) on the grounds that it was ‘pre-judging the issue’. Comrades Palmer and Cliff (the Group’s ‘Irish experts‘) were among those who took this line initially, At the time their attitude was hard to understand - later it became clear that they were subordinating their duty as socialists in Britain, to the need to keep in step with their supporters in N.Ireland However, the proposal was carried by a big majority.
But after the NC had decided to carry the fourth slogan on self-determination its spirit was never adhered to by those running the Irish campaign. With consummate Political disloyalty, John Palmer chose to interpret the self—determination demand like this in IS Journal 36: "Point 4 above also has the advantage that it allows for a possible decision by the whole people of Ireland to merge the two statelets on the basis of some degree of autonomy for the Protestants..." Interpreted thus, it allowed the leadership to relegate the whole thing to a distant future and still treat the imperialist set up, the border, etc, as given, as unmitigated. Ultimately this was to be one of the factors leading to the acceptance of British troops after August.
FOR AN IRISH WORKERS' REPUBLIC?
The Workers’ Republic slogan led to a long discussion. The idea behind it was that IS's campaign needed to have one prong aimed at Irish workers. It could have been raised as an expression of solidarity with the left in Ireland, and this would have been IS’s specific line with the Irish workers in the campaign.
Those who had forgotten or opposed the self determination slogan were not in the least inhibited in this discussion. in saying that to raise the Workers‘ Republic slogan in Britain would be an intolerable qualification of the self-determination demand, and would be "telling the Irish people what to do“. The proposal to include (second) vote. cliff and palmer were also among those opposing the inclusion of the demand "for an Irish workers republic" voted against it in January.
it in the campaign was rejected by the Chairman‘s casting (second) vote. Palmer were also among those opposing the inclusion of the demand. In the interest of clean living it should also be pointed out that some of the Scottish comrades who now take refuge from the wrath of the Scottish Orange men behind abstract propaganda around the demand "for an Irish workers‘ Republic" voted against it in January (specifically Joan Smith and Ian Mooney). Unfortunately, there was no recorded vote. (Our much touted factional experience mustn't have been in operation that day - or maybe we've only really learned factionalism from our ensuing experience over the last year in IS.)
The line then decided dominated the Group until the the 15th March 1969. At the same time the struggle in Ireland flagged a little - so, naturally, did the interest of the leadership.
A SERIOUS CAMPAIGN?
At the NC meeting on the 15th March Constance Lever and Noel Tracy (of DC faction) moved the following motion. Its fate is interesting in the light of later developments, it reads:
"The NC resolves that the Group should take the initiative in the formation of a united front, single issue campaign, based on the following Slogans:
1)Withdrawal of all British troops and subsidies from the 6 counties;
2)Repeal of the Special Powers act;
3)critical support for PD;
4}For a United Workers‘ Republic.
B) That the Group should bring its influence to bear openly for the creation of a united Irish revolutionary organisation, to which IS would offer fraternal links. There will be no dual membership in the Irish organisation.”
It was moved that paragraph A) be amended to real ..."information Of local ad hoc committees in areas of Irish concentration as and when issues arise, based on the following slogans:”
This was carried with Cliff and Palmers support, voting in effect against the serious campgaign approach, at the same time, the Workers‘ Republic slogan, which provoked such a storm at the NC in January, was carried as Group policy... for the moment anyway.
But now Bernadette Devlin was elected to parliament, and her willingness to collaborate with IS made a campaign a serious possibility, which even Cliff, palmer et al couldn't ignore. The EC minutes on 28th April talked of a rally in June.
E.C ON THE 5TH OF MAY 1969: Decided that IS would help PD launch a socialist paper. Discussion on Irish campaign; it should be a mass campaign around a basic programme. But not committed to a precise plan or a precise objective because of the imponderable (!?!) situation in Derry. The demands agreed were: 1) withdrawal of British troops; 2)solidarity with the Civil Rights movement; 3)for a United Socialist Republic.”
N.C 17th MAY 1969: Cliff reported that B.Devlin was working with IS on factory gate meetings. A motion from Constance Lever followed Cliff's report:
"The N.C instructs the EC to envisage the Irish campaign as a serious long term campaign to be integrated with our industrial work." Cliff, Irish co-expert with Palmer (who was absent) voted against, specifically objecting to the words "long-term".
E.C. 19th May 1969: Palmer reports the setting up of Revolutionary Socialist Alliance. But despite the earlier NC decision on a united movement in Ireland, this was organised in such a way as to exclude the league for a Workers‘ Republic
E.C. 26th may 1969; Reported that the ICRSC was having its first meeting in two days‘ time. There was agreement that IS should play a key role in launching ICRSCG. After launching it on its way, IS's role would be to put forward a clear minority View within the campaign, The campaign would be on a minimum programme presumably it would differentiate from the GP front group (on, at that time, a similar programme) by sheer militancy. Palmer and "Reed" were to see if collaboration with NICRA was possible for their planned rally on June 22nd. If not possible, a meeting should be organised by ICRSC on about the same date, A resolution from Kilburn was put forward, requesting clarification on B.Devlin and the ICRSC. In reply, it "was felt that it was necessary to stress that Cde Devlin was not a Group member, and"(despite the evidence to the contrary in the rest of the minutes) "the ICRSC was not a Group front."
2nd June 1969: Palmer reported NICRA suspicious of ICRSC — had refused Group collaboration while willing to accept M,Earrell and B,Devlin as speakers,
N.C. 2nd june 1969: "Comrade Palmer reported that the ICRSC set up to draw left Organisations and Irish groups together to mobilise Irish workers on a programme similar to RD‘s in Ireland."
"Comrade lever wanted to know what had become of our demand for a united Socialist Ireland in the campaign programmes Comrade Cliff said that the programme of the ICRSC was that of the PD, which is the only really meaningful organisation in N.Ireland at the moment. This was not our campaign, we participated as a minority."
The fruit of this keeping in close step behind PD was to be the ironic repudiation of the ICRSC by the somewhat radicalized PD a few months later. Once an organisation surrenders its political independence, oven to ‘friends’, it lays itself open to the buffeting of all the cross-currents; and becomes a mere feather in the breezes
"Several comrades felt that we should make our politics perfectly clear within the campaign. They also felt that we should have been more critical of B. Devlin in SW. Comrade palmer said that IS as part of the Solidarity Campaign remains free to put forward the demand for a Workers‘ Republic“. But of course the first time IS did so in SW was in the special issue in August, By then the leadership seemed to think that the road to the Workers‘ Republic was lined with British troops gallantly protecting defenceless Catholics from the Orange thugs: not only a Workers‘ Republic, but an exclusively Catholic Workers‘ Republic at that.
There followed the period of Bernadette Devlin‘s activity with the Group. Many people in the Group were critical- ultra-critical - of Devlin. The people to blame, however, were her ‘managers’, palmer and Lawless, Devlin herself, considering her background, age and political experience, was better than we had any right to expect: she behaved heroically during the fighting in Derry, and subjectively she is undoubtedly a revolutionary Her IS ‘managers’ must bear a lot of the responsibility for the fact that her theoretical and political development hasn't yet matched her courageous practical commitment to the struggle.
The ICRSC, on IS initiative (following a suggestion by Lawless) decided to field a candidate in the Islington by-election, G.Lawless being first ‘favourite’ for the nomination. but thieves fall out, and even if it does not necessarily follow that honest men come into their own, at least one of the villains gets hurt. Lawless was ousted as candidate.
P.D REPUDIATES I.C.R.S.C.
EC, 29th Sept.'69: It was reported that RD had sent Cdes Toman, Cosgrove and Quigley to the ICRSC Conference on Sept. 27th and 28th, and that PD had agreed to give moral support to the candidate in the Islington by-election.
Then, suddenly, and almost inexplicably in the light of his earlier report,
Palmer had to tell the EC of the 20.10.69 that PD was in fact unhappy with the line of the ICESC, felt that it should only have been in solidarity with PD and not with the broad movement, and not "supporting less than revolutionary programmes." PD was disassociating from ICRSCO (Later in a document containing PD's letter of disassociation, Palmer put all the blame for the rupture on G.Lawless Many in PD would bracket another name with that of Lawless in this respect - J.Palmer) The Islington candidature was now being abandoned Palmer went on “The whole basis of Civil Rights had changed, The emphasis had to be on working class demands... which challenged the capitalist system and raised the demand for a Workers‘ Republic, Similarly the ICRSC had to change ... we have to be more overtly socialist, in solidarity with PD and not the broad Civil Rights movement."
But as we have seen, IS had always been in close 'solidarity‘ with PD a that was much of the troubles IS had feebly tailed after PD and the broad movement, as it often simply follows in the wake of industrial militants - "Catholic economise". In the end PD itself, having become a little clearer, found the ICRSC just a little too right wing! That is, the broad Civil Rights movement was dying, and PD was in a position of having to make general socialist propaganda or die as well by accommodating to the earlier, more primitive PD, IS's leaders helped to hold back its political development. With the Civil Rights polariation, which should have been foreseen and prepared for by a serious socialist faction within PD, PD found the IS dominated ICRSC a relic of its past new standing in its way — and simply jumped over its head. That this initiative was taken by anarchists only shows the still primitive level of PD, and the feebleness and lack of organised political struggle by the IS supporters within PD.
The ICRSC had always been a blatant IS front; But it never put policies left of NICRA. There was in fact no legitimate political reason for a separate campaign. SW rarely went nearer to a socialist analysis (certainly not before August) than did the ICRSC, Then, in panic at PD’s repudiation, Palmer & Co, moved to the opposite extreme and accepted the demand that ICRSC should be in specific solidarity with PD only, Such a sudden switch within a campaign built on a broad Catholic/Liberal/C.R. basis can only speed up the decline and demise of ICRSC. The new 12 point programme is more likely to be an ironic obituary notice commenting on the missed chances of the past than a birth certificate for a newly regenerated solidarity movement.
P.D. IS‘s relation to PD is cloudy to say the least. For a start IS’s supporters in PD represent the past that IS has been trying to shed: most of the time in the last year these people have had little in common with Marxism, as far, anyway, as their public political actions are concerned. They did behave as idealistic activist champions of the oppressed Catholics - and while this is to their credit, it is not the same thing, They had no analysis of the Irish situation as a whole, They have and had — and, given their IS background it couldn't be otherwise — no conception of transitional slogans. They had no conception of building a revolutionary party: they simply liquidated both the Young Socialists in Belfast and the abortive RSA into the mish-mash PD, which included liberals and anarchists, some of them waved the
Union Jack (to placate and ‘disarm’ protestant workers: considering the history of that flag in Ireland the best equivalent that can'be suggested is of a sincere but idiotic socialist in the Sudetenland in 1938 waving the Swastica as a means of getting German workers to listen to him). they simply avoided the national question and the border - when they weren't declaring the 6 counties sacrosanct this side of 32 co. socialism. Ultimately they were borne aloft by a wave that they didn't foresee and probably didn't understand.
IS regarded these people as its faction (naturally not an organised faction...) in Ireland and both influenced them and tenderly ‘cared’ for them (being influenced in turn by them, as on the self-determination issue), Despite a number of pronouncements by the NC in recognition of its own influence in Ireland, in favour of an attempt to form a united revolutionary socialist organisation in Ireland - the people concerned: Palmer specifically, have always worked against any rapprochement (from which both would probably benefit) between the Trotskyist LWR (which publishes a quarterly magazine and a fortnightly newsletter in Dublin, and runs a number of IS branches throughout the country) and the Marxists in PD.
The Trotskyist Tendency in the last year have attempted to fight for a comprehensive and consistent approach, anti-imperialist and socialists: at each turn we have found ourselves at cross-purposes with the leadership of the group in their various unstable zig-zags. We have been hindered by the fact that the PC, not to mention the rest of the Group, has been deliberately mislead on many occasions regarding the situation on the left in Ireland. Speaking bluntly many of the reports presented by the regular reporter to the NC on Ireland, have simply been, to give him the benefit of the doubt, misleading.
We were and are, of course, critical of PD and in general are in solidarity with the LWR, and with Eamonn McCann in Derry.(There has been no indication in the reports inside IS that McCann has refused to join the reconstituted PD, nor has it been made generally known, not even to the NC, that McCann's decision on this was quickly followed by a scurrilous and slanderous attack in the Anarchist paper FREEDOM by a leading member of PD.
We believe that the duty of Marxists in Britain and Ireland in face of the recent events can be summed up thus:
Marxists in Britain: The first duty was to raise simultaneously the national oppression of Ireland as a whole, and particularly of the Catholics in the North, and support them in their struggles — ie solidarity, in general, with the existing movement on its existing level of struggle. At the same time the existence of 1 million Irish workers in Britain made it necessary to try not only to draw them into activity in solidarity with the struggle, but also to educate them politically in a socialist understanding of the Irish situation, and help to integrate them into the labour movement of the country they are living in. Those two are summed up in the two demands: a)for self determination b)for the Workers' Republic; that is, in solidarity with the revolutionary left in Ireland. (The problem for IS was that its supporters or co-thinkers in N.Ireland didn't behave as a revolutionary left in any serious way for most of the time, and in fact IS‘s actual attempts to be in ‘solidarity’ with them were usually
MARXISTS IN IRELAND: To make propagenda for the full socialist programme and build a 32 county organisation around it. To join in and attempt to lead all the struggles of the working class, including the struggles of the most oppressed section of the working class in N.ireland - the Catholic workers. (To refuse to join in the Catholic agitation as did the SLL, and as the Scottish IS comrades would presumably advise, is to become the prisoner of the 'aristocratic' upper layer of the protestant-working class. to declare for the national independence of Ireland
- for the democratic rights of the mass of the Irish people: to combine propaganda for the Workers' Republic with democratic demands on the national question which are still important in the Irish situation. To attempt to forge Protestant and Catholic working class unity - without subordinating the interests of the Catholics to the complacency of the Protestants; Marxists had the duty to either raise or interpret the demands of the Catholics so as to reach, or at least have a chance of reaching, the protestant workers, This was probably a real possibility in the early stages before the breach in the class had been widened by the actual campaigns. Transitional demands (see appended Conference resolution) because they ‘expand’ (ie allow the workers to see the possibility of expanding) the ‘given' number of Jobs, houses, wealth, might in the initial stages have had a chance of involving protestant workers. Whereas, as we have pointed out, the bare, unelaborated one-man-one—job approach implied (the press made
sure of that) a fairer share-out of the limited number already available, and were naturally seen by the protestant workers as a threat to what little they already had.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF BRITISH AND IRISH MARXISTS:
the correct relationship of Marxists in Britain and Ireland is not just to be pally and helpful at the same time as avoiding undue interference in each other‘s domain. It is to work out a common programme, It is only when neither has a coherent programme that we get the relationship that existed between the avowedly Marxist leaders of PD and the leadership of IS in the last year Marxists in the oppressor country are not obliged simply to follow in the wake of their nearest co-thinkers - in general - in the oppressed country: to think so is simply a fruitless inversion of the old Second International approach. Take the Lenin/Luxemburg dispute on the national questions In Poland luxemburg and the Polish Social Democratic party opposed the demand for an independent Poland. The Bolsheviks accepted their right to have such a position but objected when the Poles tried to get them to remove recognition of the right of Poland and other nationalities to self determination from the Programme of the Russian party. It
would have been a complete abandonment of principle for the Bolsheviks to have tail-ended behind the poles. Nor was their implied ‘solidarity’ with the popular polish demand for independence qualified by the fact that in general they had agreement with Luxemburg's party. In every case our demands and Stance must flow from an independent assessment grounded in our programme. Marxists in an oppressor country who give unconditional solidarity to those struggling in an oppressed country do not necessarily support or endorse or base their propaganda on either the specific ideas of a broad movement or even on the ideas of the nearest equivalent to themselves in the oppressed country unless there is an International with a coherently worked out programme). We express solidarity with the NLF, but do not accept its ideas or programme; yet it would be equally unprincipled either to refuse it solidarity on grounds of disagreeing with its ideas - or to endorse its ideas because we support its anti-imperialist struggles.
Finally the unfortunate experience of a number of left groups with the Algerian revolution should be sufficient deterrent in this field. The SLL, the SW’ (for a while) IS and the USA Shachtmanites all specifically supported the MNA which had a socialist programme and a long established proletarian orientation and composition. They were quite hostile to the petit bourgeois nationalist FLN In the event all the above- mentioned groups found they were supporting an organisation which in the course of the struggle quickly became a stooge of French imperialism, against the FLN which bore the brunt of the struggle.
To sum up: general solidarity with those who struggle; selective specific solidarity with the left, based not on mimicry, but on an independent analysis and judgement.
"The decisive element in every situation is the force, permanently organised and pre-ordered over a long period of time, which can be advanced when one judges that the situation is favourable (and it is favourable only to the extent to which such a force exists and is full of fighting ardour); therefore the essential task is that of paying systematic and patient attention to forming and developing this force, rendering it ever more homogeneous, compact, conscious of itself. One sees this in military history and in the care with which at all times armies have been predisposed to begin a war at any moment. The great states have been great precisely because they were at all times prepared to enter effectively into favourable international situations, and these situations were favourable because there was the concrete possibility of effectively entering them." Antonio Gramsci: The Modern Prince
For the last year in N.Ireland there has been ferment - and the South echoes of it: Many people, mainly young people, have been brought into action on the streets; Whole areas rose in revolt, beating back the police - and forcing the imperialist state in alarm to take controls In the course of this the leaders of the minority - the Natioralists - were shown up and partly pushed aside. The right Republicans in areas like Belfast lost a lot of their credibility. Even the Church came into sharp conflict with the people of the Falls over getting the barricades down. The national Republican leadership were shown. to be simply without a policy; the NILP an irrelevance.
These were conditions where revolutionary socialists could have expected to make big gains. Particularly since people calling themselves revolutionary socialists spearheaded the militant wing of the Civil Rights movement. And in Derry Eamonn Mccann built up a real support amongst the people of the Bogside.
Yet at the end of a year, with the struggle rapidly losing heat, the result is a reorganised PD, very unclear in its aims though generally socialist, with 200 nominal members in N.I. almost no cadres, a tremendously low level of politics and and organisation. whose looseness is best expressed in the fact that it has no sub payments from its members! Its prospects of becoming a national organisation — despite claims that it is now a 32 county organisation - are slight to say the least. Not having a base in.Derry, it is not even a 6 county organisation in a serious sense. The suggestion, until recently common in IS, that PD will gradually evolve into a more serious revolutionary organisation, (after the recent 'model’ of IS) has now been abandoned even by those IS leaders who were most given to illusions on PD, and illusions too on how a revolutionary cadre organisations are built anyway. In Derry PD is non existent; McCann, believing a much clearer revolutionary organisation than PD is needed, is not in the ‘
new’ PD. The Derry Y.S. is small; most of the radicalised youth in the area are republicans (revolutionary socialist republicans). In the South the IWR has grown slightly, despite being cut off geographically from the main scene of action; but it remains a strictly southern Irish organisation.
These are very meagre results for revolutionary socialism from the gigantic events of the last year, The forces of revolutionary socialism could reasonably have been expected to do far better. The reason they didn't is that they are fragmented — without a national organisation, programme, nor even a paper. If, at the beginning of last year, even the embryo of a serious organisation had existed, with a national presence and a national paper, it could have had an immensely more powerful effect on events. It could have co-ordinated the work North and South. Above all, while working in broader groups like PD, the LP etc it could have recruited many of the revolutionary youth who went to the republicans by default (particularly in Derry).
It is no accident that the revolutionary left is fragmented. Two years ago many of the strands were in the old IWG, which had a monthly agitational paper and a quarterly discussion journal (Workers' Republic, still produced by the LWR). But the IWG broke into fragments. It would be very instructive to discuss in detail why it did, and particularly the major responsibility of two of IS's leaders for the break- up. We had planned to have a section of this pamphlet on the IWG. But to do so would be to re-open old sores. It would be instructive — but as we see it the major task is to assist a revolutionary socialist regroupment in Ireland. To assist in bringing about a rapprochement between the LWR, the Marxists in PD, the Derry grouping around McCann and as many revolutionary socialist republicans as we can possibly involve. For this reason we omit the planned section on the IWG.
IS can play a major role in bringing together the various people and grouplets with which it has contact and influence in Ireland. For our part (the Trotskyist Tendency) we fought in the IWG for the sort of serious group which might have played a serious role in the last year's struggles. We did not want a split, nor did we want (as Lawless put about) the expulsion of the northern comrades. perhaps with the removal from the scene of Lawless it will be possible to bring some of the fragments together again. This will be hard uphill work. There is a great deal of bitterness remaining from the past. There are of course political differences. Moreover, unity is more difficult to achieve in the ebb tide of a movement. Yet the attempt must be made.
At the December IS N.C. meeting a resolution (moved by a Trotskyist Tendency member) was passed on this question :
"That IS use its influence towards the formation of a revolutionary socialist alliance to work within broad movements in Ireland. That IS resolves to press for schools, meetings, discussion groups in Ireland and the dissemination of theoretical material. That a written statement on the united Irish revolutionary organisation be produced, for discussion at the next N.C. When ready, it would be circulated among Irish groups and contacts."
The point is that IS has finally realised that a major cause of the vacillating of the last year has been the absence of a reliable and consistent all-Ireland revolutionary group to work in solidarity with. If a serious and honest attempt is made to assist the formation of such a group then big gains can still be made.
In the past, resolutions in IS in favour of such Irish unity have not been carried out in the most loyal fashion by those entrusted with the task.'This time a real effort at unity must be demanded by the IS members. There must be no more manoeuvring behind the scenes.
In our opinion all the groups bear various degrees of responsibility for the missed opportunities of the past year. But recrimination is beside the point. The lessons will have to be thrashed out in a comradely spirit. The basic lesson is that various mistakes, blunders and capitulations to regional pressures arose because of an absence of an organisation to collectively guide and correct the comrades involved.
The point of the Gramsci quote above has been shown negatively in the past year in Ireland. Learning from this we, insofar as we have any influence, must apply it positively. We must aid, in every way possible, the Irish revolutionary socialists, that they will be in a position not to miss the next favourable opportunity.
APPENDIX 1 : TROTSKYIST TENDENCY RESOLUTION ON IRELAND SUBMITTED TO SEPTEMBER 1969 I.S. CONFERENCE
This Conference considers that the policy and slogans of the EC on Ireland and on solidarity work in Britain, have been inadequate and incoherent, being neither seriously anti-Imperialist nor in any sense socialist.
The Group has not campaigned for socialist understanding amongst the Irish workers it has reached in Britain. It has confined itself first to pseudo-nationalist demands, and now to the liberal-populist line of PD and the broad front ICRSC and B.Devlin.
It,has not, though formally making the demand for self—determination, campaigned for a united Ireland, or even against the present artificial partition, imposed by imperialist violence, which specifically denies self—determination — and, of course, ‘civil rights‘ - to its Nationalist citizens (numbering one third of the total 6 Co. population) who never wanted to be part of the state in the first place.
On the contrary, taking its cue from its N.I. supporters, the leadership, by its line of declaring, in the manner of sectarian socialists, that the existing border is sacrosanct this side of workers‘ power, have specifically denied the right of self—determination.
To be more than an empty phrase, self-determination means - now, for the suppressed one-third, even under capitalism.
The policy of IS has been a failure to fulfil the elementary duty of revolutionaries in the Imperialist state to expose and challenge - openly and seriously - the whole imperialist establishment in Ireland. On the grounds that they didn't want to dictate socialism to the struggle in Ireland, the leadership shirked advocating the Workers‘ Republic even amongst the million Irish workers in this country. And under pressure of their supporters in N.I. (whose ‘Civil Rights‘ campaign necessarily confined them to Catholic workers, and who then attempted to compensate for their one-sidedness by bowing to the status quo of the 6 Co. Unionist state) they shirked seriously questioning the imperialist-imposed border. The IS leadership fell between two stools into a shallow liberalism - and this has been the main political level of our Irish work.
This policy has flowed from failure at the outset to make a comprehensive, all- sided Marxist analysis, and to elaborate a programme taking into account all the complexities of the whole Irish situation and the relationship of British socialists to it. Instead of this Marxist method, the leadership has gone in for a series of one-sided improvisations based on momentary and changing impressions, trimming between the various groups and tendencies.
In View of this Conference declares that:
1) The NC must prepare an analysis of the Irish situation as a whole, taking into account all its facets including the remnants of the national question and its relationship to the fight for working class unity and socialism both within the 6 Cos. and in Ireland as a whole.
2) We must campaign in Britain as IS (as distinct from any broad front group we may be in or may initiate) among Irish workers for a socialist consciousness - i.e. for the workers‘ republic. Insofar as the liberal—populist ‘programme’ of PD is used by IS, it must be broken down into transitional-type demands. Thus "One Man One Job” becomes "Trade Unionists take over closing factories; re-open closed factories". One Man One House" becomes "Take over the building industry under workers’ control; Committees of trade unionists to allocate houses." The two slogans link through the demand to create jobs by a crash programme of house building, etc. etc. etc. Within the broad front movement, IS must advocate this sort of interpretation of the PD programme. '
3) IS must fulfil the elementary duty of British socialists and challenge the imperialist— enforced partition which underlies the current N.I situation. Any declaration that "bourgeois unity is undesirable" is capitulation to Orange pressure (or to pressure of such capitulators). In the guise of anti-bourgeois nationalist militant socialism it is actually an anti-Mirxist refusal to fight for the democratic rights of the majority of the Irish people. ‘
4) In the tragically possible event of a communal eruption in N.I. IS must raise the demand for the break—up of the 6 counties and the secession of the Nationalist areas to the Republic Without this policy, IS and its supporters will be reduced to merely preaching peace (within an artificial sub—state specially designed to ensure there would be little chance of class unity either within its borders or in Ireland as a whole) while the split and heedless working class makes war on itself. In principle, IS must declare for a united Ireland — instead of the present situation of de facto declaring for the given imperialist division; While repudiating the present partition, and even if we accept that a new partition into ‘pure Green'/ and ‘pure Orange’ states would be preferable (because more likely to encourage working class consciousness and unity than the alternative of a united Ireland with the Orange population as a coerced minority) we must be clear that an exclusively Orange state is probably impossible.
It would be as little viable now as in 1920, Therefore, if the Orange state minus the Catholic areas is not viable - then let it perish. We call for guaranteed rights, and if necessary autonomy, for the protestant areas within a united 32 county Ireland. Instead of demanding withdrawal of "subsidies" IS should demand the payment of indemnities by British Imperialism to such a United Ireland.
A United Ireland would bring immense benefits - even under capitalism — and create the possibility of real working class unity in struggle against the bosses, through which the workers‘ republic will be attained. The idea that because Britain probably now wants a united Ireland we must be indifferent or hostile to it, is extremely short sighted, and ignores the role of partition in destroying the revolutionary potential of the Irish working class for the last 50 years. This demand, raised in the course-of struggle would anyway have a totally different effect from a controlled unification brought about by bourgeois deals: its effect would be as shattering to the southern establishment as to the Unionist one. In a situation of deepening working class division and conflict, this demand could be the only way for the movement to advance.
5) Conference declares that the policy of certain people in Northern Ireland of continuing militant civil rights — ie, Catholic orientated — demonstrations, with inevitable clashes and the serious possibility of pogroms, when combined with the declaration that the 6 Cos. is sacrosanct this side of socialism is gross adventurism. In the event of communal violence this combination would mean accepting the 6 counties as a religious-sectarian bear pit.
6) IS must not countenance or endorse or remain uncritical in face of such a policy by its supporters in N.I SW must not remain silent in future in face of calls for British troops, waving of Union Jacks, and other ignorant blunderings by its N supporters,
7) IS, recognising its own influence in Ireland, must bring all efforts to bear, including if necessary financial support and active help in Britain, to aid genuine revolutionary Irish socialists, and to encourage the establishment of an all-Ireland revolutionary organisation which fights for a Marxist programme north and south of the border, whether within PD, the Labour Parties or the Young Socialists. Specifically, such an organisation, to gain the fraternal support of IS, must have a Marxist approach to the national question - repudiating both Northern Unionism and southern chauvinism. As part of this policy IS must establish fraternal relations with the Trotskyist LEAGUE FOR A WORKERS’ REPUBLIC, and with the hundreds of youth in the revolutionary Young Socialists which has grown up around it during the last year.
we have reproduce below Marks‘ article so that comrades may check whether we have misquoted
APPENIX II : N.IRELAND: FINE SLOGANS AND GRIM REALITY’ by'Stephen Marks
(Subhead: THE CONTRADICTORY ROLE OF BRITISH TROOPS GIVEN CHATHOLIC WORKERS TIME TO ARM AGAINST FURTHER ORANGE ATTACKS.)
Recent events in Northern Ireland have seen a strange reversal of traditional Attitudes. Irish nationalists and republicans behind the barricades who have been brought Up on the history of Britain's bloody record in Ireland, expressed relief when the arrival of British troops gave them a breathing space from the threatened pogroms of pisleyites armed mobs, ‘ And fanatically loyalist and Union Jack waving Orange bigots massing last sunday for new pogroms raised the slogan "British troops out! B-Specials in!" as the soldiers stood between them and their victims behind the barricades. How has this odd turn—about come to pass and what should the attitude to it be of those who oppose the whole presence of British imperialism in Ireland in any form? As Socialist Worker has always pointed out, it is British imperialism which Lies at the root of the present crisis, by imposing the partition of 1921, by resting a semi—fascist Orange police state in the 6 counties which denied the oppressed Catholics the most basic
rights, and by keeping whole areas of the 6 Cos. in misery. And British troops in the occupied area of Ireland, as anywhere else, are there in the interests of British imperialism and for no other reason. But What are those interests? It is precisely because there are conflicts among the supporters of those interests that the troops are there today between the barricades and the Orange gangs. And those conflicts are about whether to maintain British interests in the old way or in a new way. The old way was that established in 1921, when the 26 counties were allowed their ‘independence’ under a tame middle-class leadership, while Britain kept the North Eastern counties, with their industries geared to the British market. There Britain still ruled directly by dividing the working class on religious lines and arming the protestants against the Catholics under the leadership of the Orange bosses. The Ulster statelet is the Orange Order in arms, But over the years there were changes. Today Ulster's traditional
industries of shipbuilding and textiles are declining, and Britain has more money invested in the South than in the North. The Ulster police state is an embarrassment and an obstacle to their ultimate goal a united capitalist Ireland subject as a whole to the domination of British capitol, possibly in the context of the common market. And a necessary prelude to this was to 'liberalise' the Ulster Statelet to facilitate closer co-operation with the Dublin regime. these cosy prospects were interrupted by two factors. first a new generation in ulster no longer prepared to remain on it's knees and with the example of the civil rights struggle in the U.S.A the may events in France and the protracted heroism of the peasants of Vietnam before it, it began to stand up for it's rights. The 'reforming' unionists hoped to buy this struggle off by concession to it's moderate leaders, but the peace was too slow and unconvincing to hold off the explosion. But the union right-wing saw these developments as a threat. A Westminster Dublin deal would leave the orange order with no reason for existence and the civil rights movement posed a threat that could not be met so easily in the old way, with cries of 'Fenians and I.R.A' and a few quick blows with the RUC baton. now the eyes of the world were on Ulster. the result was the Paisleyite backlash. That is why Irish workers demanding there rights fought back last year and last month against the threat of pogrom and why the barricades went up in Derry and in Belfast. The situation had got out of hand and 'order' could only be restored by mass mobilisation of the B-specials and there use against the barricades. In other words civil war. Britain may have tolerated this in the 1920's when the Ulster colons were relied on by Britain. but today the implications were too serious and the troops went in to freeze the situation and allow Callaghan and the Westminster cabinet a breathing space. both paisleyites and the army were opposed to the interests of the catholic workers. But paisleyites and the B-men stand for attacking them now when they are defenceless. At the time the british troops arrived only a handful of weapons stood between the defenders of the barricades and certain death at the hands of the paisleyites. The British troops, however, stand for the strategy of British capital as a whole, as opposed to the local one-time representatives. there strategy is to defuse the situation by bringing together the 'moderates' from both sides. while leaving the basic representative structure untouched. In the course of doing this they must freeze the situation and will act against anyone who wishes to change it. This means they may well move against the barricades if there defenders refuse the appeals of the moderate leaders to take them down, though they may also simply wait until them men behind the barricades disperse through disillusionment. but in the short term there 'freezing' roll means they stand between the barricades and the orange lynch mobs. to identify the two is there for quite false. To demand 'dis-arm the B-specials! Withdraw British troops' is to equate the two and to say that the presence or absence of British troops in the existing situation makes no difference to the struggle. defenceless Catholics face armed mobs, with the certainty of new clashes ahead. in this situation the presence of the troops, as a result of Paisleyite colons and Westminster 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 and turn military defence into a political offensives. To fail to take advantage of this temporary contradiction is the extreme of stupidity. Of course, this very situation increases the need to expose on every occasion through propaganda and discussion the roll the British troops are playing, and the side on which they must ultimately come down. but those who conclude that raising the demand for withdrawal in the present situation must there for follow, do not understand the difference between propaganda and agitation and between strategy and tactics. marxism is not an alternative description of the world but a guide to action. and slogans are not just a expression of the fine feeling of those who utter them, or even a stylistic devise of the summing up of a political argument. for those involved in a struggle they are calls to action. to say they immediate enemy in Ulster is the British troops is incorrect. at the present time it is the paisleyites who threaten murder and, in particular the physical elimination of those in who's hands lie the key to any future socialist strategy for Ireland. To prevent illusion in the roll of the troops and to prepare for a future turn in the situation when the demolition of the barricades may be needed in the interests of British capital itself, and not merely of it's local retainers, socialists must constantly explain the roll of the troops, as socialist worker has done. But those who would raise the demand for withdrawal now must explain how they would implement that demand if they were behind the barricades in Derry or Belfast. would they fire on the troops now, and encourage others to do the same? if so they would merely add there bullets to those of the Paisleyites and provoke an immediate clash in a situation which would lead to a massacre. But if they would not take this responsibility on themselves they would presumably be reduced to getting the troops out by persuasion- a difficult task! To combine a demand for withdrawal with a demand for the arming of catholic workers is to solve the problem only at the level of the mounting of slogans. in real life the two demands are in contradiction if both raised at the present time, for the arming of the Catholics is dependent on the precarious breathing space the presents of the troops provides. but if the demand for withdrawal in the present situation does not flow from a false evaluation of the relation of forces, it can only mean one of two things: Either the conscience advocacy of a massacre now, presumably as a means of raising the level of struggle (a demand we would invite the supporters to raise behind the barricades). Or else it could be justified with the excuse that raising the slogan will not lead to the departure of the troops and there for we need not reckon with the consequences. On this we need only say those who do not take there own slogans seriously cannot expect others to do so. In the present situation then time is of the essence. If a new new pogrom does come, catholic workers in the north must appeal to southern workers to help them by occupying British-owned factories and farms as hostages for the freedom of the north, and thus by transforming a national struggle in the north into a class struggle in the south, change the form in which the question of a united Ireland is posed to the protestant workers of Belfast. For us the purpose of a slogan is as a guide to action and not to save the souls of those who utter them. We are concerned to save the lives of the oppressed and heroic defenders of the barricades. so that in the time given them by the contradictions between Paisleyism and British capital. They can rearm themselves physically and politically and at least place on the political map the demand for the only real solution: a united workers' republic.
SOCIALIST WORKER, SEPTEMBER 18TH 1968