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The Socialist Environmental Alliance: The SWP and Partition of Ireland

category derry | elections / politics | opinion/analysis author Monday February 16, 2004 13:18author by Paul Mallon - RCG / FRFI Report this post to the editors

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

FRFI on the electoral pact known as the SEA

The Socialist Environmental Alliance: The SWP and Partition of Ireland

Paul Mallon From Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 177 Feb/March 2004

On 14 February a left convention will meet in Derry to discuss a joint electoral pact for the pending June European elections. The invitation to the convention circulated by the Socialist Environmental Alliance (SEA) 'envisages an electoral alliance of different parties, campaigning group and individuals offering voters a radical, anti-sectarian alternative to the parties based on one or the other communities'.

Such a 'radical alliance' in fact is nothing new. What unites them is their refusal to fight against the partition of Ireland and directly confront imperialism in Ireland. Long-standing Socialist Workers Party (SWP) member Eamonn McCann will stand on the SEA platform. The 'broad alliance' will not be extended to those anti-imperialists, socialists and republicans who oppose partition and regard British imperialism, as the primary cause of the conflict. The SEA describes those who oppose partition as 'sectarians'.

The core of the SEA is the SWP in Ireland. The SEA stood McCann in last November's elections to the Stormont Assembly; he polled 2,257 votes (5.5% of the vote). McCann later said in Socialist Worker (6 December 2003): 'We regard class divisions, not community differences between Protestants and Catholics, as the defining characteristic of our society'. For the SWP ambivalence towards the partition of Ireland is part of its history. In 1969 the SWP supported the Labour Party sending troops in to the Six Counties believing then as they do now that imperialism can play a progressive role.

British imperialism created and maintains the division between the Catholic and Protestant working class. The social deprivation/poverty map reflects the sectarian character of the northern statelet with almost 80% of the most deprived wards being Catholic. According to the 2001 population census, unemployment rates for Catholics remains 1.8 times higher than Protestants. The October 2003 Bare Necessities: Poverty and Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland report revealed 37% of Irish nationalist households live in poverty compared to 25% of households who view themselves as British. To campaign for better conditions for the working class it is absolutely essential to fight British imperialism. In contrast, McCann and the SEA wish to see a middle road of reform that maintains their privileged position, and so they imply that British imperialism can play a progressive role in Ireland and reform the reactionary loyalist state. This can never be the case: British imperialism in Ireland has always been reactionary and always will be. There can be no progress in unifying the working class without destroying that which divides it: partition and British occupation of the North.

For more information about the RCG and FRFI visit their website at www.rcgfrfi.easynet.co.uk

author by BBFpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 13:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Was it my imagination but did not the SWP support armed struggle against the partition of this country throughout the 80's and early 90's ?
It strikes me as hypocritical and patronising to address the symptons of partition and see them as the cause of the divisions in the six counties.

To call me a sectarian because I support Sinn Fein is another insult.

The SWP is a partitionist party and now supports the politics of division and hate which this policy of british colonialism has fostered.

Another failed policy diverting the attention away from the real cause of conflict and sectarianism..partition.

author by Leonpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 13:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Is a symptom of sectarianism and division not its cause.

The idea that Sinn Fein (Fianna Fail Nua) will try to sort it out is halfwitted. Sinn Fein is a sectarian party.

author by observerpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 14:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A dispute between FRFI and SWP has about the same importance as a theological debate between the Seventh Day Adventists and the Plymouth Brethern (no offence btw to any members of those groups and apologies for using you as an analogy).

SF are sectarian. Good man Leon. Don't let any of their many protestant, athiest and other members know sure you won't??

Aaah. Peter Hadden - Teletubbies for the bigger children.

author by Leonpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 15:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Observer are you as stupid as you seem? (if so you should be congratulated for learning to use a keyboard).

Sinn Fein have a couple of protestant members, so what, the official (provisonal?) policy is still somewhere between 'one settler one bullet' and 'back to scotland ye jaffa bastard' so far as I'm aware.

As for atheists- grow up we all know that in Ulster you can renounce religion and still have to be a protestant atheist or a catholic atheist.

I wonder given that they are busy implementing Public Private Partnerships in Ulster, why the Sinn Fein arselickers bother to post here. You'll get your turn in coalition and the bank manager and the butcher's boy will get their seats at the table, Gerry 'll sell a few books and at the end of the day that's all that matters.

author by BBFpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 15:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Leon and his socialist cult mates are not relevant to the arguement of socialism and independence.
In many respects the SP and SWP remind me of the CIA fronts which preached left thinking but were there to divert radical and indpendent thinkers away from the revolutionary tradition.

Fronts for the oppressor.

author by lokipublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 16:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

monopolising resistence

remeber our world is not for sale
but their newspaper is

author by Januspublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 16:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Leon, if that's what you think the policy is you're clearly not aware of anything. I was a member of Sinn Fein in the 80s and early to mid 90s before I resigned from the party.

I never heard a sectarian joke, or the use of sectarian abuse in anything other than violently confrontational situations in the Six Counties. I heard members pulled up for sectarian comments and disciplined for it.

Sinn Fein is, God knows, not perfect, or even remotely so. But it is not a sectarian political party, I never knew a sectarian member of SF and attempts to portray it as such expose the main weakness of, among others, the Socialist Party. A complete and utter failure to understand that what was occuring in the Six Counties and an abject dereliction of their duty as a so-called revolutionary party.

author by Leonpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 17:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Did they give you your frontal lobe back when you left Sinn Fein? Maybe not.

A party that implements privatisation isn't a left wing party and all your happy nostaligia isn't going to change that.

The fact is that Sinn Fein plays Jaffa/Tadhg politics, that's all they have to offer and all they've ever had to offer.

I despise their politics and since the ceasefire I can't even agree with their methods.

author by Januspublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 17:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

One of the worst things about Indymedia, and the left in general, is the mostly truly abysmal standard of debate. For people who believe they should be running the country, or that they have valid and genuine ideas, the inability to express them, to make ones point without tripping over some vile, sectarian rant is genuinely depressing. Let's take this chap Leon here for example. He has four lines of argument in response to my post, not one of which makes a single legitimate argument and some of which is just made up.

The first line is merely personal abuse and while basically pointless, exposes the shallow political thinking and dearth of originality in Leon's work. Note the use of the question mark in a vain effort to make the statement in some way witty by implying doubt.

Second line. This, as you can see, is simply made up. I have neither happy nostalgia about SF, nor do I support privatisation. Please read my post. As I have stated on other threads I LEFT Sinn Fein because I saw the party drifting to the right, among other things. For the record, I still see it as a left of centre party, but not particularly so except in flashes. And unlike Leon, I understand the different situation existing in the Six Counties regarding PFI, even if I still think more could have been done.

Third line. Leon moves on to make another point, but fails to provide any evidence or facts to back up his argument. One couold ask him if it is so, why did a SF councillor recently call people who spray painted anti Protestant graffitti 'mindless scum' or why another SF councillor recently voted to give funds to the Orange Order for an educational they were doing. Instead, note the use of sectarian slang to suggest Leon knows what he's talking about, is familiar with the issues and so on. It's the debate equivalent of a middle class, middle aged white man telling his kids he's hip to the jive and ain't no square.

Fourth line, Leon makes the case that he despises SF's politics but having utterly failed to make the case that his opinion on SF's politics is worth listening to in his posts on this thread one could be forgiven for merely glossing over this. Note however his firm belief that his opinions are worth stating and valid simply because he is making them. He then goes on, and this bit is my favourite, to suggest that he supported armed struggle but didn't agree with the politics behind it. Leon it seems likes violence, but not the revolutionary political ideas that make it necessary, or even an option. One could be forgiven for wondering if he would be happier in RSF. One thing is certainly clear, Leon has no familiarity with violence and its effects than he does with the rigours of moon exploration. But it goes deeper, by making this point, Leon is trying to suggest that he is in some manner a 'hard man', making a typically childish assumption that supporting violence makes one hard, or gives one street credibility.

While I have focussed on Leon's contribution, the overall point is worth making far more than his post is worth reading. If we are serious, as left wing activists, about generating new ideas and debates then we need to improve our ability to argue and get our point across, and we need to do it rapidly. And make no bones about it, there is a huge mountain to climb in terms of educating members to engage in such debates.

Leon however, may be a lost cause in terms of real debate, but he is not the only one.

author by Leonpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 17:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For the record, I still see it as a left of centre party, but not particularly so except in flashes.
One could make the same comment about new labour.

And unlike Leon, I understand the different situation existing in the Six Counties regarding PFI, even if I still think more could have been done.
Outline the differences and explain how left of centre parties implement privaisiation. Don't pretend there are nuances- there aren't.

One could ask him if it is so, why did a SF councillor recently call people who spray painted anti Protestant graffitti 'mindless scum'
For Effect, he is pretending to have opinions he doesn't really have because those are his instructions. One of the most noticeable features of Sinn Fein activists (As opposed to some extent from supporters is their Pod People conformity)

Note however his [My] firm belief that his opinions are worth stating and valid simply because he is making them.
Absolutely in the absence of evidence (as opposed to wishful thinking) to the contrary.

Leon it seems likes violence, but not the revolutionary political ideas that make it necessary,
What revolutionary ideas, Sinn Fein / Provisional IRA was never revolutionary( if it had been it would have split in a different way) It was always a Nationalist movement. You might say Nationalist self defense was necessary in the late '60s but it is not in and of itself revolutionary. I don't support violence, but I accept the need for revolutionary violence, something Sinn Fein never offered.

author by imcerpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 17:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mindless repetition is awful around here though it's a handful of characters who are at it. More and more good contributions and more users who are prepared to rely on the strength of their arguments rather than resorting to anonymous abuse and ticking off the list pointscoring is what will clean the place up. Also current users upping their involvement and inviting and encouraging new users to get involved in the process of creating a real national alternative space for news and opinion will help. Who is not here that should be? Who would you like to see putting their opinions and news forward? My picks for the day are Travellers, Mountjoy Prisoners, Hard Drug users and Civil Service Whistleblowers.

author by gpublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 17:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"be careful about arguing with a fool, people might not know the difference!"

author by R Isiblepublication date Mon Feb 16, 2004 19:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience! (Making no comment on the above debate, just supplementing "g's" quote!)

author by markin - independent socialistpublication date Tue Feb 17, 2004 23:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wouldn't have thought that anyone except a committed sectarian (both senses) would have found the following objectionable: 'We regard class divisions, not community differences between Protestants and Catholics, as the defining characteristic of our society'.

The author of this confused swipe at the SWP quotes (misquotes actually) from the Bare Necessities report for 2001, but fails to note its most important conclusion: those who compiled it found it 'staggering' that 'more than a half million people live in poverty' in the north, with 'more than a third of all children being brought up in poverty.' They concluded, moreover, that income distribution has become MORE unequal over the past five years (that is, during the intermittent life of the Assembly), and that the Northern Ireland state was today 'one of the most unequal societies in the developed world,' with a growing concentration of wealth among those at the top. Doesn't that suggest that class is the defining characteristic of northern society?

Now, the greener-than-thou RCG (still fighting 'the conflict') may like to believe that social deprivation falls along neat sectarian lines, but the reality is more complicated. Yes, poverty and unemployment are more prevalent in nationalist working class areas, but overall, poverty is fairly unselective: 47% of those living in poverty are Protestants, 48% are Catholics, 3% define themselves as having no religion, 2% as other.

No one would deny that there is a massive political challenge facing those who want to build a common fight against this growing inequality. Loyalism claims the allegiance of large numbers of Protestant workers, and anti-Catholic sectarianism is still the main cause of the division among workers in the north (the SP's 'plague on both-your-houses' approach to sectarian violence is disgusting, having been contrived as a sop to the most backward elements in the Protestant community at the same time loyalists were attacking the Short Strand and targetting Catholic postal workers). I agree with what one of the contributors to this discussion wrote about the relative absence of sectarianism among rank-and-file republicans. On the other hand the strategy being pursued by their leadership leads them inevitably to the politics of the communal headcount, and the logic of their relationship with corporate Irish America is being played out in the PFI stuff. (I see their friend Peter King, in the US, has just published a novel about the 'Islamic threat' in the US, a threat which is averted when Irish republicans inform the FBI of a plot to pull off some 'spectacular').

There have been, throughout the past five or six years, occasional, unprecedented openings for building bridges between a divided working class, and the SWP is the only force on the ground that has made a consistent attempt to make something of that opportunity. They deserve credit for pursuing this at at time when so much of the republican community is paralyzed--or at least bored stiff--by what their leadership is up to on the road to Stormont, and when the left is either demoralized beyond salvation or too unprincipled to speak clearly about loyalism.

Any socialist worth their salt should be taking whatever opportunity exists to break through the loyalist hold on Protestant workers in the north, and the SWP are right to do so. The alternative is communal politics, which can only strengthen the hold of British and American imperialism.

author by Not stupidpublication date Wed Feb 18, 2004 15:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Independent socialist my hole. Markin is clearly in the SWP. So transparent dude.

author by Curiouspublication date Wed Feb 18, 2004 18:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How come nobody has reported on the Socialist Environmental Alliance's "Convention" thing in Derry? What happened?

author by you are all good for a laugh.publication date Wed Feb 18, 2004 18:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Jim Barbour South Belfast { SP} 0.489% 167 votes
Thomas Black East Belfast {SP} 0.595% 176 votes
i have this as my wallpaper its so hilarious.

author by Emilypublication date Wed Feb 18, 2004 18:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was told yesterday that the irps turned up to debate why the issue of political prisoners, partition and british imperialism wasn't in the SEA manifesto for europe but the swimmers wouldn't have none of it.

A member of the SP in the bar said that the swimmers did the usual blocking of debate (which is the norm at their public meetings!) and of course when McCann tried to justify their stance of ignoring what is in fact STILL the real division of our class in Ireland, they closed shop and voted for McCann to run for Europe!

So you could say that the swimmers just don't like mixing with real working class activists or socialists.

Despite that, I don't know yet if the irps supported McCann to run or not in the final vote of the day.

author by Daveypublication date Thu Feb 19, 2004 18:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Emily, the erps didn't take part in the 'voting' of McCann, some walked out during the vote itself knowing the way SWP works.

i think that as the erps have no hangups on class, the swp and McCann would have felt those shivers they often talk about, which is because of their middle class backgrounds.

oh look, there's those rough working class socialists comrade..(shiver! shiver!)
[message edited from all caps to lower case by R Isible. Please don't post in CAPS. Thx.]

author by Michael - SEApublication date Thu Feb 19, 2004 18:48author email seaderry at hotmail dot comauthor address Derryauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Assume 'swimmers' refers to SWP. They could not have blocked anything at the convention since they were in a minority. There were about 80 there in course of the day - about 65 at any one time, a disappointing turnout as most were from Derry with just a dozen SWPers, about eight CPIers and two Green Party people from Belfast. So, two thirds from Derry, about 15 of whom were SWP. I think that makes SWP at less than a third of attendance. No one was excluded in any way and anyone who wanted to set up a stall [including the IRSP] was welcome to, and they did.
Far from being prevented from starting a debate, the IRSP were given every opportunity but failed to make any coherent argument, except in relation to need to include something on political prisoners, with which the Convention agreed! Apart from the woman who spoke about prisoners and a man called John who twice just said 'what about partition?' without making any argument, the only IRSP person who took the many opportunities to speak was Gerry Ruddy who made a very vicious, personal attack on Eamonn McCann but did not argue at all about what he/they would argue the SEA should be doing.
As I say there were many opportunities for the IRSP to argue anything they wanted because the day was extremely open. There were no platform speakers and co-chairs to make sure no one abused the position of chair in any way. So, far from anyone being prevented from speaking, the reality is the IRSP had no arguments.

Right from the beginning, the SEA has excluded any party which has a military wing for the simple reason that there can be no accountability when it comes to military wings and many of the republicans in the SEA [and there are several former republican prisoners active in it] know that. Also, we are particularly active in defending young people in Derry against punishment attacks. One of our candidates in the local elections, Shauna Deery, put her own personal safety on the line on many occasions to save young people on the Creggan estate from being brutalised or expelled by self-appointed policemen. Our view is that no police force, whether self-appointed [like the IRSP in Ardoyne, the Provos in Creggan, the PSNI across the North or the Gardai in the South] ever operates in the interests of working class people.
Our alternative to punishment beatings, which was worked out together with the young people and residents in Creggan - some of whom had been burgled by the young people we were standing up for - is available on the SEA website. Given that this is our position, the IRSP as a party, (as opposed to individual members of the IRSP)could not be part of the SEA as long as they are the political wing of the INLA.
I will ask if someone can write up a proper account of the day - I am just responding to the ill-informed gossip on this thread. But in the meantime, the decision taken was to hold meetings across the six counties to build the network of activists which will be needed if we are to stand Eamonn. Anyone interested in helping can contact us via the website.

Related Link: http://www.seaderry.co.uk
author by Michael - SEApublication date Thu Feb 19, 2004 18:59author address Derryauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Gerry Ruddy talked a couple of times about 'shivers'. Is this some code I don't know cos I'm not in a party?

author by No 2 Europe - DMcKpublication date Fri Feb 20, 2004 18:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

....'the IRSP as a party, (as opposed to individual members of the IRSP)could not be part of the SEA as long as they are the political wing of the INLA'

..'failed to make any coherent argument, except in relation to need to include something on political prisoners, with which the Convention agreed!'

This is just smells of reformism....Do you think that the likes of the irps would join SEA with statements like that?

Surely this would mean that the irps would have to put the things like and even their working class on hold just for electoral glory?

I agree, they maybe alot of this but not like the SWP and CPI!!

Honestly do you even class yourself as a socialist ? (sorry dont even anwer that one!)

Never mind all that neo-liberal bullshit, you lot sound more like liberals!

Just drop the socialist, oh and even the environmental and just call yourselves what you really are, the alliance party!

So SEA have now decided that they support political prisoners then?

If so do you support those who did Omagh or the groups to which they belong too then?
These people now are political prisoners and are held in the joy as POWs!!!

author by simon - waterfordpublication date Sat Feb 21, 2004 01:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

was interested to see what youse put together on policing but could not find it on the sea website. can u put in direct link.

also can you get rid of that co.uk ending for your webaddress, youse are supposed to be a socialist party, the words united KINGDOM, has no place for a future socialist federation. i know its "only a name" but people have died in the struggle over langauge and words all over the globe. use .net or .org

otherwise nice enuff site, great photo of eamonn and good luck.

author by irish republican socialistpublication date Thu Nov 10, 2005 14:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How can the sea and eamon mccann truly follow a policy where they consider the desire for an end to partition as sectarianism? This is a truly hurtful sentiment to me and those like me who are socialists who wish for the end of imperial rule and the reconstruction of Ireland in the way James Connolly envisaged. The sooner this party realises that the 6-county state does not work and that the GFA effectively institutionalized sectarianism, the sooner they will pick up votes and influence in corrupt Ireland, north and south.

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