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The Partition of Ireland

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | press release author Monday August 16, 2004 12:53author by Workers Solidarity Movement Report this post to the editors

The Workers Solidarity Movements July 2004 conference agreed a new position paper on 'The Partition of Ireland'. This replaces our old position paper on 'The National Question' and reflects both the changes brought about by the peace process and changes in our analysis after a long period of internal debate. The text of the new paper is below. Further papers from this conference will be made available on our web site over the next few days.

The Partition of Ireland

1. As anarchists, we oppose imperialism and believe it cannot play a progressive role. In Ireland we have always opposed British imperialism. In opposing it we see no form of nationalism as offering a definitive solution to either the working class in Ireland or the working class across the globe. In the final analysis nationalism argues for a common interest between workers and bosses of one 'nation' against the workers and bosses of another. As anarchists we stand for international working class solidarity against all bosses.

2. However as anarchists living on the island of Ireland we have to deal with rather than ignore the divisions in the working class that exist based on communal identity in the north and the issues of state repression that continue around them. When we talk about "communal identity" we acknowledge that not all Catholic are nationalists, not all Protestants are unionists, and not all nationalists and unionists are religious believers. There are, however, two main communal identities, which can be summarised as Catholic/nationalist on one hand and Protestant/unionist on the other. In this paper the terms 'communal identity" and 'religion are used interchangeably

3. We reject the idea that there are any differences between workers from different religions on the island that make partition either desirable or inevitable. Rather we see partition as the main reason why conflicts based on religious divisions continue to exist.

4. All sections of the working class have lost out as a result of these religious divisions. In the north the divisions in the working class make it more difficult but not impossible to unite against the bosses. In the north the divisions have historically meant that workers from a catholic background suffered state discrimination and were often the targets of loyalist and Orange attacks. In the south, the birth of mass socialist politics in the working class has been delayed for decades, Southern workers were subject to a theocratic state regime which not only denied abortion rights but also subjected the vulnerable, in particular children, to brutal regimes of 'discipline' based on physical and all to often sexual abuse.

5. It is important to realise that partition is not a historic accident but rather the result of centuries of imperialism and struggles against imperialism. From the reformation onwards the British State encouraged religious conflict in Ireland in order to divide and rule.

6. The 1798 rebellion offered the greatest opportunity to simultaneously remove the British rule and to unite all the Irish people regardless of creed. Its defeat and the process though which it was defeated resulted in centuries of sectarian conflict. Most importantly was the encouragement of the Orange Order as an instrument of counter-revolution aimed at physically suppressing Catholics and radical protestants alike.

7. The partition of Ireland in 1922 was carried out in the interests both of British imperialism, which maintained military bases as a result, and of the northern bosses as it provided a weapon to divide the working class. At the time the economic interests of northern and southern bosses were opposed. The north was well developed with export orientated industry (linen and shipbuilding) and needed access to English markets. The south was underdeveloped and for industry to develop southern capitalism would have to be protected from cheaper English imports, partition therefore favoured both sets of bosses.

8. The north was created in such a way to ensure a permanent unionist rule by tying Protestant workers to their bosses in return for marginal privileges in a 6 county rather than a 9 county "Ulster". These privileges were maintained by northern bosses (e.g. Brookborough's famous statement about employing 'good Protestant lads') and meant Protestant workers can be mobilised against Catholic workers demanding a fair share under Northern capitalism or unity with the republic. Examples of this in action can be seen in the Loyalist and police attacks on the nationalist ghettos in 1969 in response to a peaceful civil rights movement demanding basic democratic rights, in the 1974 unionist strike against power sharing and in the mass demonstration of Protestants against the Anglo-Irish agreement.

9. British troops were not sent into the North in 1969 in order to keep the peace but rather to provide a breathing space for the northern security forces and to stabilise in the interests of the British ruling class what they thought could have became a revolutionary situation. This remained their role, which is why we call for "Troops out now". In addition they were used also to break the back of any mass peaceful reform movement through actions like Bloody Sunday in 1972.

10. Loyalism is a reactionary ideology in all its forms including those that try to appear socialist. It serves only to maintain sectarianism and Protestant privilege and protect the interests of the British and northern ruling classes.

11. Republicanism is a petty-bourgeoisie ideology and not a socialist one. Even those brands which claim to be socialist preach a theory in which workers must submerge their own interests and fight alongside their Catholic bosses until a united Ireland is achieved. Nevertheless it has considerable working class support in the north, but because of its stages theory where labour must wait it has little attraction for Protestant workers and has no strategy for approaching Protestant workers.

However, republicanism unlike loyalism often developed significant left strands within it because, at least in theory, it was based on the 'equal rights of all' rather then the 'god given destiny of the chosen people'. After the rise of Leninism however these strands were deeply contaminated with authoritarian socialist ideas. Still they sometimes, as with the Republican Congress movement of the 1930's, could win support from the northern protestant working class around the slogan of the workers republic. Although we and other anarchists have used that slogan as in the past, it is no longer a useful shorthand for why we have different politics to republicans, so we prefer to simply say that we are for 'an anarchist Ireland'

12. The tactic of armed struggle, as carried out by the Republicans was never capable of achieving a solution as it was incapable of delivering a military victory over the British army. In addition the British ruling class cares little for the deaths of individual soldiers in its army. Furthermore a 'commercial bombing campaign' will always, whether deliberately or not, cause civilian casualties and heighten sectarian tensions.

13. The armed struggle was also faulted because it relied on the actions of a few, with the masses left in either a totally inactive role, or one limited to providing intelligence and shelter to the few. It is claimed that it did serve to maintain the gains made in the 60s and early 70s. The mass campaigns (civil disobedience, rent & rates strike, street committees, etc.) would have been a far greater protection for the gains won than the elitist militarism of a few.

14. The British state is responsible for the long history of armed conflict in the North. As long as the British remain in Ireland there is likely to be armed resistance, especially when there is no mass movement to demonstrate an alternative to militarism. Every generation has thrown up a new group of people willing to physically fight for "Irish freedom". Permanent peace can only come about after British withdrawal. When the 1994 ceasefire was declared we welcomed it because the ending of the armed struggle opens up real possibilities for revolutionary politics. We have opposed the republican armed struggle because it was an impediment to working class unity. It was based on wrong politics, it was a wrong strategy and it used wrong tactics. However we refused to blame the republicans for the situation in the six counties. Their campaign was the result of a problem and must not be confused with its cause. We have been clear that, in the final analysis, the fault lies with the continuing British occupation.

15. We did not see the IRA ceasefire as a sell-out. Rather it is merely the natural progression of nationalist politics, which was always going to lead to a compromise with imperialism.

16. The IRA is not responsible for the creation of or the continuation of sectarianism. Rather it was re-created in 1969 as a response to the sectarian attacks by the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries on what had been a peaceful civil rights movement.

17. We condemn all sectarian actions (i.e. those carried out because of religion) including any that may be carried out by republicans. We combat sectarianism not by appeals to the state forces for protection but by calling for workers to act through strikes, demonstrations etc against such outrages.
We condemn without reservation the 'punishment' beatings and shootings of people accused of 'anti-social behaviour' or drug dealing carried out by both republican and loyalist paramilitaries. These actions are nothing more than a crude attempt by these groups to maintain control over what they view as 'their communities'. They are authoritarian thuggery. It is no justification for these groups to claim that there is a 'policing vacuum' or that the communities are pressurising them to act. None of these groups have any mandate to enforce their 'rule of law'. They certainly have no right to set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner.

18. The Good Friday Agreement came about as the culmination of Sinn Féin's strategy for over a decade which was aimed at building various broad fronts around different issues in an attempt to gain respectability by pulling in Fianna Fáil members and church figures. This involved dropping all references to socialism to maintain unity with "the broad nationalist family". This strategy was never going to deliver a united socialist Ireland, or any other significant improvements apart from those associated with "demilitarisation". It represents instead a hardening of traditional nationalism and the goal of achieving an alliance of all nationalists - Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, SDLP, the Catholic Church and "Irish America". Such an alliance has nothing to offer working class people, North or South, and we oppose it outright.
The Good Friday Agreement offered nothing except a sectarian division of the spoils and in fact copper-fastened sectarian divisions. We called for an abstention in the referendum on this deal, refusing to align ourselves with those calling for a 'no' vote, pointing out that they have no alternative to offer, just more of the same conflict that has ruined tens of thousands of working class lives. The republican forces of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, the Real IRA, Republican Sinn Fein, Continuity IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army has nothing but increased communalism and sectarianism to offer. The loyalist opponents-whose rallies were attended by vocal supporters of the Loyalist Volunteer Force death squads -wanted a return to the time when Catholics lived on their knees in fear.

The Assembly set up under the 'Good Friday Agreement' demonstrates quite clearly the fact that the net effect of this agreement is to copper-fasten sectarianism, with elected members having to declare themselves 'nationalist' or 'unionist' in order for their votes to count. The political parties have shown that they are capable of plenty of agreement on economic issues - with no disagreement over budgets or spending plans, but issues such as what flowers should be put on display in the lobby or what flags should fly over Ministerial buildings are used to hype up the divisions between the two sides

19. The huge vote, North and South, in favour of the agreement -whatever else it might have indicated - showed quite clearly that the vast majority of people do not want a return to pre-ceasefire violence. Any return to armed struggle will deliver only more hardship and repression for working class people in the six counties.

We reiterate our view that permanent peace and an end to sectarianism will only come about after a British withdrawal and that working people from both communities must be convinced of the need to make the fight one for anarchism, not for 'national rights'.

20. When the potential exists we should argue for northern workers to refuse to handle any work for the security forces. We are opposed to any military campaign aimed at workers who do handle security force work.

21. On occasions where the potential exists (e.g. the 1981 hunger strikes) we should argue for the creation of a mass movement playing an active role through demonstrations, strikes etc and against any attempt to turn such a movement into one of passive support either for the military campaign or for the electoral one.

22. Sectarian divisions continue in the north today. We recognise that many of the protests that take place around these divisions are intended to inflame them and further divide the working class rather than solve them. Often this is for the electoral gain of local politicians or to provide a continuing role for paramilitaries.

We are not neutral on these issues. We do not support the right of any group to determine who may or may not live, work or pass through 'their area'. The one exception we make to this is the parades of the Orange Order and related institutions because of the role they continue to play sentence "in inflaming sectarian hatred. But we argue opposition to the Orange Order must be built on a class rather then religious basis. This means great efforts should be made to winning workers from a protestant background to opposing the order.
We generally support all calls for public enquiries and all attempts to limit police powers even where we disagree with the politics of those who are the victims of the repression.

We argue for integrated housing and schooling and the removal of all religious and nationalist symbols from public buildings and streets by those who use them. We argue for the ending of any clerical input into any school or hospital that receives public funding in the north just as we do in the south.

23. As anarchists we work for unity both between Catholic and Protestant workers and between British and Irish workers. The potential for unity has been demonstrated on a number of occasions in the history of the north including the 1907 Dockers strike and the outdoor relief strike of 1932 when the Falls and Shankill rioted in support of each other. More recently we have seem united actions in defence of the National Health Service and against sectarian intimidation. Smaller examples of such unity are constantly thrown up in workplace struggles in the north.

24. We recognise that although Protestant workers have marginal advantages over Catholic workers these are far outweighed by the disadvantages faced by the division of the working class which means northern workers, both Catholic and Protestant are worse off in terms of housing, unemployment and wages then any comparable sized area in England. These are the fruits of partition.

25. It is therefore in the interests of Protestant workers to break with their Protestant bosses and loyalism and fight alongside Catholic workers both in day to day industrial struggles and for an anarchist Ireland.

26. In the past the national question has been used before by northern bosses to split common struggles of Catholic and Protestant workers. It is therefore not possible to maintain the unity won in economic struggle without breaking the Protestant workers commitment to loyalism and committing them to the fight for an anarchist Ireland.

27. Our strategy should be geared toward involving ourselves in the struggles of Northern workers and in the course of these struggles breaking the loyalties tying the workers to the bosses of either religion and so enlisting them in the fight for an anarchist Ireland.

28. In order for this approach to succeed we must never hide our opposition to repression and our anti-imperialism, we must attempt to link these with the on-going struggle.

29. The struggle to achieve workers unity in the North can not be separated from the struggle to build an anarchist workers movement in the south. Such a movement in the south attacking both capitalism and the dominance of religious law will be a great spur to winning over Protestant workers in the North. The Catholic Church's position of power in the South has been severely weakened over the last decade. However it still maintains a dominant role in crucial areas such as education and health. The complete smashing of this dominance will help in the building of common links between northern and southern workers.

30. We should aid British anarchist groups in developing a clear perspective on the national question committed to breaking British workers from any support for the Rule of the British State in Ireland.

Short Term Perspectives
1. The political organisations linked to loyalist paramilitaries have become more active since the 1994 loyalist ceasefire. While the Progressive Unionist Party claim to be socialist it is important to remember where they have come from. They are the public face of the UVF, which waged a blatantly sectarian war against the nationalist population of the six counties for two and a half decades. Unless and until they renounce these actions, they cannot be considered part of the socialist movement.

We do not, however, agree with the position that socialists should not enter into debate with members of these parties. It is only through such debate that the ludicrousness of their position of claiming to be socialist while at the same time pledging loyalty to a monarchy can be exposed. In order to win Protestant workers in the six counties to the fight for anarchism we must first convince them to break with the sectarian ideology of loyalism/unionism.

2. Reform of the 6 county state.
We previously held that the 6 county state was irreformably sectarian. However the current peace process may result in a state apparatus that is divided into feuding sectarian forces on the one hand and the encouragement by these politicians of communalist sectarian conflict on the other. It appears that capitalism being unable to step forwards has stepped side-wards in a manner that does nothing to resolve grassroots sectarian conflict but overall results in a 'parity of intervention' by the state in these conflicts.

July 2004

Related Link:

 #   Title   Author   Date 
   Quick reply to WSM document     Khalid    Mon Aug 16, 2004 16:09 
   Not a member     Ray    Mon Aug 16, 2004 16:29 
   Ray     Khalid    Mon Aug 16, 2004 17:09 
   Khalid     Ray    Mon Aug 16, 2004 17:34 
   Brief response:     Chekov    Mon Aug 16, 2004 19:46 
   Dissecting WSM paper from a Republican perspective     doc    Mon Aug 16, 2004 19:53 
   point number 6. "1798"     :-)    Tue Aug 17, 2004 01:08 
   "In order to win Protestant workers in the six counties to the ideas of anarchism"     jesus wept    Tue Aug 17, 2004 10:20 
   Questions     Mr Curious    Tue Aug 17, 2004 10:23 
 10   Process for Mr Curious     Andrew    Tue Aug 17, 2004 11:12 
 11   Procedure     Ray    Tue Aug 17, 2004 11:19 
 12   Sectarian crap     Andrew    Tue Aug 17, 2004 11:29 
 13   What's up doc?     Bugs    Tue Aug 17, 2004 13:48 
 14   Not very well written, totally irrelevant.     P.j.    Tue Aug 17, 2004 13:51 
 15   FACT     franz fanon    Tue Aug 17, 2004 14:30 
 16   So is everyone     Andrew    Tue Aug 17, 2004 14:55 
 17   Settlers     franz fanon    Tue Aug 17, 2004 15:07 
 18   an account of the 57th monthly congress (XXI century) of the Workers Solidarity Movement.     iosaf    Tue Aug 17, 2004 16:08 
 19   I am a libertarian socialist franco mason     suspicious.    Tue Aug 17, 2004 16:22 
 20   Settlers?     ahforjesussakewakeup    Tue Aug 17, 2004 17:47 
 21   Confused     Ray    Tue Aug 17, 2004 18:08 
 22   Funny position     Chekov    Tue Aug 17, 2004 18:20 
 23   re: dal riada     xviii century mind    Tue Aug 17, 2004 19:15 
 24   De Selby's Codex     Collopy    Tue Aug 17, 2004 19:40 
 25   Where are the Irps?     Scáth Sheamais    Tue Aug 17, 2004 20:46 
 26   one settler one spearhead     Terry    Tue Aug 17, 2004 21:54 
 27   Hm..     CÓB    Wed Aug 18, 2004 01:51 
 28   sorry     ahforjesussakewakeup    Wed Aug 18, 2004 04:17 
 29   Onward to the Worker's Republic; BRITS OUT!     Connolly's illegitimate son    Wed Aug 18, 2004 04:48 
 30   H@te     lefty    Wed Aug 18, 2004 10:10 
 31   republicanism     leftie    Wed Aug 18, 2004 11:09 
 32   Reply to leftie     Peadar O'Donnell    Wed Aug 18, 2004 11:52 
 33   Replying to Leftie     doc    Wed Aug 18, 2004 11:54 
 34   The trouble with middle-class misfits and their need to masquerade as workers     From The Ashes of 69    Wed Aug 18, 2004 12:10 
 35   DÓC     Peadar O'Donnell    Wed Aug 18, 2004 12:47 
 36   Vikings and all that     Andrew    Wed Aug 18, 2004 13:04 
 37   response to WSM doc     socialist republican    Wed Aug 18, 2004 14:23 
 38   ?     Moonwolf The "settler" prod!!!    Wed Aug 18, 2004 14:53 
 39   Reply to socialist republican     Chekov    Wed Aug 18, 2004 15:22 
 40   Thanks     Andrew    Wed Aug 18, 2004 15:28 
 41   Other replies     Andrew    Wed Aug 18, 2004 16:29 
 42   Parnell     William Butler Yeats    Wed Aug 18, 2004 19:34 
 43   Andrew     From The Ashes of 69    Wed Aug 18, 2004 20:23 
 44   Response to Andrew     Connolly's Son    Thu Aug 19, 2004 07:59 
 45   the violence of the oppressed: an abstract principle     leftie    Thu Aug 19, 2004 10:30 
 46   info on NICRA     socialist republican    Thu Aug 19, 2004 13:16 
 47   reply to leftie     Peadar O'D    Thu Aug 19, 2004 13:16 
 48   Elitist Armed Struggle     cueball    Fri Aug 20, 2004 05:26 
 49   Non - Elitist Armed Struggle     hairball    Fri Aug 20, 2004 09:44 
 50   Innocent people     hairball    Fri Aug 20, 2004 10:15 
 51   "claim to represent"     da people    Fri Aug 20, 2004 12:19 
 52   Third Largest     Fergal    Fri Aug 20, 2004 12:24 
 53   More replies     Andrew    Fri Aug 20, 2004 14:03 
 54   If you're going to cut across such general lines...     Third still    Fri Aug 20, 2004 15:21 
 55   'Blah Blah - we're bigger than you'     Cynic    Fri Aug 20, 2004 15:38 
 56   Reply to Andrew     DoC    Fri Aug 20, 2004 17:15 
 57   Re: DoC     Anrew    Fri Aug 20, 2004 17:43 
 58   Go West?     Peadar O'Donnell    Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:52 
 59   Progress?     Badman    Sat Aug 21, 2004 16:13 
 60   Reply to badman     Peadar    Sat Aug 21, 2004 17:40 
 61   And more     Badman    Sat Aug 21, 2004 18:05 
 62   re: Peadar O'Donnell     Andrew    Sun Aug 22, 2004 15:52 
 63   Andrew's inability to argue with any degree of cogency     Peadar    Mon Aug 23, 2004 12:54 
 64   re: Peadar     Andrew    Mon Aug 23, 2004 13:20 
 65   some agreement here     Peadar    Mon Aug 23, 2004 14:02 
 66   Query     Curious    Tue Aug 24, 2004 11:25 
 67   Any takers?     ronnie    Tue Aug 24, 2004 16:07 
 68   Rubbish     alex    Mon Sep 13, 2004 02:37 

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