Upcoming Events

National | Miscellaneous

no events match your query!

New Events

National

no events posted in last week

Blog Feeds

Anti-Empire

Anti-Empire

offsite link Pfizer Contract Forces Governments to Ac... Tue Jul 27, 2021 12:06 | Marko Marjanović

offsite link It Took a Data Leak to Reveal Huge Porti... Tue Jul 27, 2021 11:21 | Laura Donnelly

offsite link The Cost of Lockdowns May Be as High as ... Mon Jul 26, 2021 20:58 | Dr. Jay Bhattacharya

offsite link Children in the Philippines Have Been Ba... Mon Jul 26, 2021 19:36 | Anti-Empire

offsite link Great Britain Has a Total of 6 Destroyer... Mon Jul 26, 2021 17:47 | Andrew Chuter

Anti-Empire >>

The Saker
A bird's eye view of the vineyard

offsite link Moveable Feast Cafe 2021/07/26 ? Open Thread Mon Jul 26, 2021 19:30 | Herb Swanson
2021/07/26 18:30:01Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of

offsite link The ECHR rejects the Russian request for interim measures Mon Jul 26, 2021 18:04 | The Saker
I love the EU and its institutions!  They are so, sooooooooooooo “democratic” that each time they take a decision I tell myself “thanks God I stopped believing all this nonsense

offsite link BRI vs New Quad for Afghanistan?s coming boom Mon Jul 26, 2021 17:52 | amarynth
The race is already on to build and extend Afghanistan’s shattered infrastructure as rival powers advance competing initiatives by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times Over

offsite link Spoilers may create hurdles in the Afghan Peace Process Mon Jul 26, 2021 15:37 | amarynth
By Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog The recent air strikes on the Taliban positions in Afghanistan is an open breach of the Peace Treaty signed between the Taliban and

offsite link Excuse me, Sir, but are you civilized? Sun Jul 25, 2021 18:47 | amarynth
by Naresh Jotwani for the Saker Blog Washington Post recently ran an article with headline which contained the two phrases “civilized nations” and “deter Beijing and Moscow” (see a review

The Saker >>

Public Inquiry
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005

offsite link Youth power – Don’t ask – Take

offsite link When the establishment betrays the people?s trust Anthony

offsite link The day Eoghan Harris went bad Anthony

offsite link Declining standards in Irish journalism Anthony

offsite link Mainstream media: Failing to speak truth to power Anthony

Public Inquiry >>

Human Rights in Ireland
A Blog About Human Rights

offsite link 5 Year Anniversary Of Kem Ley?s Death Sun Jul 11, 2021 12:34 | Human Rights

offsite link Poor Living Conditions for Migrants in Southern Italy Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:14 | Human Rights

offsite link Right to Water Mon Aug 03, 2020 19:13 | Human Rights

offsite link Human Rights Fri Mar 20, 2020 16:33 | Human Rights

offsite link Turkish President Calls On Greece To Comply With Human Rights on Syrian Refugee Issues Wed Mar 04, 2020 17:58 | Human Rights

Human Rights in Ireland >>

Organise! -Response to WSM paper on the north

category national | miscellaneous | press release author Monday November 22, 2004 18:15author by Jason Brannigan - Organise!author email organiseireland at yahoo dot ie Report this post to the editors

Crossing the Border: Organise!, Class Unity and the Partition of Ireland -a response to the WSM position paper on partition

(pic)

Working class kids and women digging up the pavers in a Belfast street, 1932, when for a while working class people united in Outdoor Relief agitation and came together in common cause to take on the Government, the Poor Law Guardians and to hurl pavers at the police.

Crossing the Border: Organise!, Anarchism and the “Partition of Ireland” – a response to the WSM position paper on partition.

Organise! November 2004.

This pamphlet has been written in response to the updating of the WSM’s position paper “The Partition of Ireland” which was amended at a WSM national meeting in July 2004. It is just that, a response, reflecting the broad range of concerns of members of Organise! with the WSM position paper, it is not a full account of our thoughts or position in relation to the situation in the north of Ireland. Organise! welcome the fact that, over some period of time now, the WSM have been reviewing their position paper in relation to the northern state and partition. Sharing the WSM’s commitment to striving for class unity, in the struggle for anarchism and social revolution, we believe that this response represents an essential contribution to the debate on these matters.
Some of the discussion that has and continues to take place is a direct result of developments in the north around what is commonly referred to as the ‘peace process’. We also feel that while Organise! have prompted and been involved in debates and discussions which have fed into, to some extent, the re-examination of this position paper – which we are glad to note is ‘ongoing’ – we are not responsible for the document as amended at the last WSM national meeting, nor did the presence of members of Organise! at that meeting imply endorsement of the document produced as a result.

We would like to apologise for the delay in compiling a response to this position paper, but it was felt that an in depth response, which attempted to deal with the issues raised needed time and consideration.

Throughout this pamphlet we deal with the WSM document point by point, on some occasions grouping points together, detailing our concerns with each section or group of points and stating our agreement where appropriate, we conclude with some more general comments on the document. Each section of the WSM position paper is reproduced in full.

If at times this document seems repetitive this is largely due to its nature as a response to the WSM position paper which often repeatedly makes points which we believe need to be challenged by anarchists and those committed to class unity and social revolution particularly in Ireland.


THE WSM POSITION PAPER :THE PARTITION OF IRELAND & OUR RESPONSE


WSM: 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.'"

Organise!: We agree that nationalism of any description cannot offer a solution to the exploitation and oppression faced by working class people in Ireland and across the globe. As anarchists we are all opposed to nationalist ideologies which tie workers to their ruling class and put the concept of ‘country’, in reality the nation state (whether it actually exists or where nationalists are struggling to bring it into existence), above the primary division in capitalist society - that based on class. The working class exists globally and is exploited worldwide by capitalism; as such global working class solidarity against all bosses is essential in any struggle against the capitalist system. However the standard, quite simplistic, definition of imperialism and by extension anti-imperialism is problematic when applied to the north.
We must remember that ‘anti-imperialism’ is a concept informed to a large degree by Leninist and other authoritarian ‘socialisms’ that have no problem with one state replacing another and who see the role of a nation state/government as non-problematic as long as the ‘correct’ leadership is in charge – this means that their anti-imperialism, like the rest of their political outlook, is based on radically different assumptions to those of anarchists.

The anti-imperialist position cannot, we believe, take adequate account of the fact that the most significant ‘British’ presence in Northern Ireland consists of a majority of the areas population – it is not the case that the British presence can simply be represented in terms of British troops or direct rule ministers. Many of the people who identify themselves primarily, or to some extent, as British (and there is no straightforward definition of what ‘Britishness’ means even to those adopting the label) are working class. We must also point out that the armed struggle conducted by the IRA over the past few decades led to a reduction in the amounts of people who felt they could accommodate an Irish identity, or element of this within, or as opposed to, the expression of Britishness.

Of course as anarchists we argue and struggle against nationalism, against the notion of a common interest between workers and bosses of one ‘nation’ against the workers and bosses of another, whether that nationalism is expressed as British or Irish. Nationalism is divisive and reactionary, whether it represents the dominant and institutionalised form in society or the ‘underdog’ nationalism that is struggling to assert its legitimacy.

WSM: 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. "

Organise!: We accept that in relation to what is sometimes referred to as a ‘two traditions’ model that the explanation of ‘two main communal identities’ is fair enough. This model does however exclude and marginalize those who do not fit exactly with these traditions – and we are not simply referring to the ‘protestants’ and ‘catholics’ who are atheists or the ‘protestants’ and ‘catholics’ who are not Unionist or Nationalist. This model excludes a wider diversity in society north of the border, an exclusion made all the more pertinent given the recent rise in visible racism here.
“We reject the idea that there are any differences between workers from different religions… that make partition either desirable or inevitable.” The differences can really only be understood when it is admitted that they are essentially political as opposed to religious in nature, while materially as workers we have common interests which should, and Organise! believe must, override nationalistic sentiment and constitutional affiliation, it is a historic fact that the 18th and 19th centuries saw the development of modern Irish nationalism and modern Irish unionism. These are the two dominant and mutually exclusive political outlooks in the ‘island of Ireland’ particularly the northeast. Pondering whether partition was ‘inevitable’ is quite strange reasoning and seems to be inextricably tied up with a nationalist historiography which sees the ‘island of Ireland’ as a natural and unquestionable political entity (as the title of the WSM position paper more than implies) which has been thwarted by perfidious Albion. British, perhaps more accurately the imperialism of a predominantly, though not exclusively, English ruling class has played a major role in Ireland but we have to acknowledge that there are other reasons why attempts at national, bourgeois, revolution have failed in Ireland. A major factor, tied into an increasing identification of Irishness with Catholicism in the 18th and 19th centuries, was the failure to win protestants to the struggle for Home Rule and for the cause of the ‘nation’.
Following the Act of Union of 1801 increasing numbers of protestants – even many with previous involvement in the United Irishmen - became unionists, the bulk of these were concentrated in, but not exclusive to, the northeast. It is important to remember that the sense of economic grievance which developed in much of Ireland against the Act of Union was not universal - the Act had actually coincided with the industrial growth of Belfast and the surrounding area and therefore came to be seen as ‘beneficial’ by many.
The northeast of Ulster became an integral part of British industrial output centred on the industrial triangle of Belfast, Merseyside and Glasgow. Free trade throughout the empire and access to the overseas markets it provided were essential to the economy of Belfast and its periphery. It is worth pointing out that a sense of economic injustice seems to be historically linked to the development of anti-imperialist movements across the globe and the lack of such a sense of injustice has been used, in large part, to explain the lack of opposition to the Union in Scotland and Wales and the lack of development of nationalist movements in those two countries until very recent times. Such a sense of economic injustice in relation to the Act of Union was not a factor for the majority of inhabitants of the northeast of Ireland, while in the south and west of Ireland this was crucial to the development of nationalism.
As regards point 3 partition took place, as a historical fact, so we would suggest it must have been a ‘historical inevitability’ otherwise events would not have combined to produce partition. We can muse on the 'what ifs' of history as individuals but why elevate this to the level of the ‘correct’ political line? Should anarchists be concerned that the project to create a unitary Irish nation state failed? The position on partition and use of ‘island of Ireland’ to describe a polity suggests we should. Organise! would suggest otherwise. The Irish nationalist project failed because it could not secure the necessary unity of purpose or agreement to make unity either desirable or achievable. Can we address the divisions in Irish society in terms of British occupation? This only appears possible given the discounting of a highly concentrated population of people in the northeast, of all classes, who opposed and continue to oppose the ‘national sovereignty’ project. And discounting this population only seems to make sense in terms of the ‘false majority’ argument of republicans and nationalists. The will of the majority of the Irish population was scandalously overturned by a minority with the help of the British empire sums up that argument. Sometimes it’s simply presented as a malign act carried out by the British/English (read government/establishment) off their own bat.
Rather than partition per se it is more the ongoing adherence of much of the population of the north east to two mutually exclusive ideologies, the ongoing lack of resolution (without one side winning outright) and stability which contribute to the ongoing conflicts which in our opinion are not, as you state, ‘based on’ but rather drawn along religious divisions. If partition, as you believe, is the ‘main reason why conflicts based on religious division continue’ then it would follow that once partition is ended religious division and conflicts drawn along these lines will disappear. We can see no evidence to support such a belief. Sectarian conflict clearly predates partition and the establishment of the Northern Ireland state. Examples of such conflict stretch from the Battle of the Diamond in 1794 to the Home Rule riots of the 1880s. Thus we have no reason to regard the removal of partition as being a step conducive to the ending of sectarian conflict. If anything, if we can take Sinn Fein’s word for it that the 100,000 plus legally held firearms (mostly shotguns) in the north, plus the R.I.R and P.S.N.I., are sites of Unionist power, we must maintain that an ending of partition would lead to further conflict rather than less. In terms also of Unionist and Loyalist reactions to the ending of partition in terms of an extension of the southern states jurisdiction northwards this seems the most likely outcome.

4. WSM: "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.]"

Organise!: If by ‘all sections of the working class have lost out as a result of these religious divisions’ you mean all sections of the working class have suffered because of sectarianism practised and encouraged by the unionist state established in 1921, then yes our class as a whole suffered under unionist misrule from then until the introduction of direct rule. Despite the Craig policy of ‘giving out bones’ to loyal subjects there really wasn’t that much to give out. As Craig himself put it – ‘bones’.

Discrimination in employment was endemic prior to direct rule and remains a problem now, although the difference between the likelihood of unemployment between catholic and protestant males has narrowed in recent years. This narrowing of the gap is of course a result of higher unemployment among protestants (which has historically been high anyway) with the demise of ‘traditional’ textile, tobacco and shipbuilding industries. Further reductions in the numbers of police, security forces and their support staff will also impact positively on this differential.
It must also be pointed out that initial discriminatory practises in allocating jobs favoured Presbyterians in the early development of Belfast as an industrial town and city. It would appear that Presbyterian businessmen largely favoured their co-religionists when it came to employment. Catholics certainly made up the bulk of the poorest sections of the developing city’s working class population but it should be noted that, as well as a well-to-do Anglican gentry, there was a small but significant section of poor, discriminated against ‘Anglicans’ who eked out an existence near the very bottom of society. Also, while there were in percentage terms approximately twice as many poor catholics in Belfast, in absolute, person-to-person, figures there was about one poor protestant to every poor catholic.
As well as ongoing discrimination the development of the apprenticeship system and trades unionism also acted to compound sectarian job allocation – with the effective passing of the family trade from a father to his sons and the fact that apprenticeships were got by way of relatives already with a company “putting in a good word”.

We have always pointed out that in terms of death, injury, bereavement and imprisonment that suffering throughout the conflict in the north has been an almost exclusively working class experience. Working class people have on an ongoing basis also been victims of capitalism in often no less a horrific manner through injury and death at work, redundancies and the decimation, by developers or due to job losses, of entire communities. This ‘war’ has went largely unreported or under reported.

As to stating the working class suffers due to ‘religious divisions’ the terminology here isn’t great – do we suffer because some of us attend different churches or is it because assumptions about your political outlook are often made on the basis of your confessional habits? It must also be pointed out that these days protestants also suffer from sectarian discrimination and attack in almost the same circumstances as working class catholics. As an example ongoing attacks have been carried out by nationalists on the Fountain area of Derry, the protestant Torrens estate now lies deserted following ongoing sectarian pressure and attack. Other sectarian attacks have been carried out against protestants and assumptions are made about political outlook on the basis of perceived religion. What has been described as ‘chill factor’, whereby people won’t take a job in a particular area effects protestants and catholics alike, while smaller ‘catholic’ employers and entrepreneurs are just as likely to discriminate against protestants as is the case for protestant employers.

It is an indisputable fact that catholics suffered disproportionately under the unionist administration and for many years after it was dissolved. Was this the result of partition or the system of government pursued by the Unionist Party? They were of course inextricably linked - however the WSM admit that they got things wrong in the past as regards the ‘irreformably sectarian Stormont state’, and if it can be, and perhaps is being, reformed why does it represent any more a failed, or illegitimate, state than any other?
While the last years of the unionist government actually saw some reforms implemented (in keeping with all such efforts throughout Irish history a case of much too little too late) direct rule saw many of the original civil rights movements demands met. By then of course things had moved on.

That partition is responsible for the non-appearance of mass socialist politics in the working class in Ireland is surely a flight of fancy and mimics the worst of the ‘labour must wait’ school of thought – must wait because in this case they have to, not simply because someone tells them to. In many other countries there is a stunted socialist movement, which is often quite removed from meaningful working class support let alone participation. In relation to the theocratic nature of the southern state it must be added that the power of the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, were increased greatly with the establishment of the northern state also. It was the combined force of the Catholic church and many of the Protestant churches that scuppered early plans for integrated secular education in the north. From the closing comments in this point we must ask if we are to take it that you blame sexual abuse on partition as well?

5. WSM: "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."

Organise!: Can anything be referred to as a historical accident? Again the ‘centuries of imperialism and struggles against imperialism’ is based on a nationalist historiography that claims, as unionism claims, a primordial justification which is not based on any close reading of historical fact. Nations, we are sorry to have to point out, are created by would be ruling classes and the nation state aimed at by Irish nationalism was, like the movement which sought it, the result of the development of modern nationalism in the 18th and 19th centuries. Unionism in Ireland shares the same modern origins and while both claim a much longer tradition these claims are based on the cherry picking of history – an approach anarchists should reject, but the WSM do not seem to have developed any criticism or realisation of this in this paper. Nor was partition the aim of the British government or of unionists such as Carson. The British policy was for Home Rule for Ireland, it was a policy that met with considerable resistance from unionists and the Conservative opposition.

That ‘the British State encouraged religious conflict in Ireland in order to divide and rule’ is another statement which should be looked at more closely, we are not denying that they engaged in religious conflict - historically this was usually in the context of religious conflict taking place across Britain itself. Was the deliberate policy of ‘divide and rule’ at the heart of this? That ‘divide and rule’ occurred is more likely to be related to the very natural, from the point of view of any system of government, suppression of the states enemies and rewarding of its allies. This is a phenomena not confined to Ireland post or pre-partition.

Point 6 places a great deal of political importance to what was a failed bourgeois national revolution, leading us to question why people who recognise that the working class and the bosses can never have any common interests hark back to the loss of this the ‘greatest opportunity’ to unite all the Irish people? Yes, while it was formed in the context of local sectarian violence in County Armagh, which Protestants did not have a monopoly of, the Orange Order at different times was encouraged when the ruling class found it useful. At other times it was itself suppressed.

The ‘interests of British imperialism’ are and were not as unified as this statement would have us believe. It was the ruling liberal party that, during different terms of office at Westminster, proposed the three Home Rule for Ireland Bills. On all three occasions it could be pointed out that the Irish Parliamentary Party held the balance of power at the heart of the empires administration. Other interests were of course opposed to any ‘dissolution’ of the Empire. The claim that Britain maintained military bases as a result of ‘partition’ is inaccurate. The maintenance of the treaty ports in the south, until 1938, cannot be explained as being the result of partition. Partition or not military bases in Ireland would have been maintained. It verges on paranoia to suggest, or repeat an oft heard but ill informed position usually spouted by the authoritarian left and left republicans, that partition was carried out ‘to divide the working class’. This was not the reason for partition. In fact division in the working class pre-dated partition by a long time. This is a position usually linked with Connolly’s warning of a ‘carnival of reaction’ following the partition of Ireland – this ‘carnival of reaction’ and division of the labour movement happened as many workers divided along clear (and often openly sectarian) home rule and anti-home rule lines before partition was even suggested as an option. We agree that the uneven economic development of capitalism in Ireland meant that partition favoured both sets of bosses. It must be acknowledged that in the context of capitalism and without a viable movement towards socialism or workers control that it also favoured northern workers who ‘enjoyed’ better wages than the rest of Ireland, wages that in some industries were on a par with English wages. Workers who would have heard and largely accepted the arguments that Home Rule would mean protectionism that would damage export-based industry in the northeast, and would therefore damage their standard of living, had hard economic reasons to support the Union. By the same token southern workers could be persuaded that Home Rule and a protectionist economy would be beneficial to their interests.

(pic)
The cover of ‘Ulster Assailed” a pamphlet by the Rev. Martin Smith showing a People’s Democracy march with Belfast Anarchist Group banner, January 1969

8. WSM: "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."

Organise!: The north was created in such a way as to ensure permanent unionist rule by abandoning the unionists in three of Ulster’s nine counties (as Irish unionists in the south and west had been earlier abandoned) to ensure a more secure majority. Gerrymandering was used to reinforce this majority while the abolition of proportional representation (an original constitutional requirement of the new state was a p.r. voting system) was primarily aimed at staving off threats to the unionist vote which were not nationalist, notably the threat from labour candidates and independent unionists who could undermine what was seen as the given electorate of Official Unionism. Again sectarian discrimination in employment was a deliberate policy that was promoted to greater or lesser degrees dependent on circumstances. For instance the Outdoor Relief Strike of 1932 was followed by concerted efforts to ensure that unionist employers employed good protestant ‘lads and lasses’ over catholics. There were limits to this even then and massive levels of unemployment continued on both sides of the ‘religious divide’ until well into the second world war.

At odds with the assertion of mobilisation of privileged protestant workers against unprivileged catholics is the fact that most sectarian riots and attacks on catholics, and attacks on protestants by catholics, took place in interface areas between the poorest sections of Belfast’s protestant and catholic populations. This is the case to this day with the social conditions and often even the location of the interfaces remaining relatively unchanged.

Why are demands from catholic workers for a fair share under capitalism conflated with demands for unity with the Irish republic? Of course unionist opposition can be easily mobilised against the later. Why also is the extension of a southern capitalist state northwards equated with positive social reform? While republicans were able to effectively link the idea that Ireland’s problems would be solved once national unity was attained with resistance to a discriminatory northern state is this either a progressive goal or one that offers any opportunity for building sustainable class unity? Mobilisations against power sharing and the Anglo-Irish Agreement were motivated by a desire to keep the southern government out of ‘Northern Irish affairs’ and were not primarily motivated by communal anti-catholic sentiments.

9. WSM: "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."

Organise!: This type of reasoning or presentation runs into the counter argument that a self identifying ‘British’ population in Northern Ireland sees British troops, including those that are locally recruited, as ‘their’ troops - not an army of occupation but the army of the nation acting in the defence of the nations citizens. They are also, like working class people the world over, quite likely to have direct links of a family and friendship based nature with such troops. We believe that opposition to the presence of armed troops and police on the ground in the north would be better expressed in anarchist terms and in relation to our anti-militarism. Even though the phrase was used for a while by Sinn Fein the demand for ‘demilitarisation’ is a much better one than the call for ‘Troops Out Now’. The demand for demilitarisation can also extends from the demand that troops are removed from the streets, that the state military apparatus is dismantled to the call for the ‘standing down’ of militarist paramilitary organisations of both loyalist and republican persuasion.

10. WSM: "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 useful shorthand for why we have different politics to republicans, so we prefer to simply say that we are for 'an anarchist Ireland'."

Organise!: We believe that ALL forms of nationalism are reactionary and are disappointed to see the equation of Irish nationalism with republicanism used as a cover to avoid addressing this in relation to these two points. The use of ‘republican’ followed by ‘Catholic bosses’ gives away the contradiction here. There is also a problem of terminology in point 10. We must ask exactly how Loyalism, which is usually associated with working class protestants, serves to maintain Protestant privilege? Surely it would need more economic muscle to achieve this or is this simply a case of using Loyalism in this context to cover all the variations on unionism?
The first paragraph of point 11 ends with a rather confusing fudge on republicanism “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”. So which is it to be? Support it because it has considerable working class support, which we should not have to point out is based in one ‘community’ (and which also applies in the case of Loyalism), or not because of its ‘stages theory’ and the ‘little attraction’ and ‘no strategy’ for winning protestant workers?
The next paragraph compounds the confusion. The ‘equal rights for all’ are not inclusive of the right not to be incorporated into a unitary Irish state. The ‘god given destiny of the chosen people’ is a caricature of unionism which does not recognise the diversity of opinion within unionism and which would be meaningless, if not insulting, to many unionists. It serves to reinforce the demonisation of one section of Irish society while elating the position of other protagonists in the conflict. The oft-cited Republican Congress of the 1930’s is not proof that republicanism could “win support of the northern protestant working class around the slogan of the workers republic”. The branch of the Congress on the Shankill Road that has become the stuff of left republican legend does not amount to the “northern protestant working class”. In the context of what follows this appears as a stretched attempt to justify past use of a left republican slogan by the WSM. What other anarchists have used that slogan in the past? We are unaware of any in Ireland, most anarchists being aware that a republic is simply a state without a monarchy and that, as in the Soviet Union, China, Yugoslavia, Cuba, etc., the term workers republic, like workers state, is a contradiction. Even if other anarchists in Ireland have used this slogan we would argue that they were wrong in doing so. The real use of the term, an attempt to appeal to the left of the Irish nationalist movement, is apparent when viewed in relation to this position paper as a whole. The aim of “an anarchist Ireland” when read in relation to the document as a whole would seem to reinforce, or at least perpetuate, mythical nationalist notions about the sanctity of Ireland as a political unit.

12. WSM: "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. "

Organise!: For how long did the leadership of the republican movement seriously believe that the British could be militarily defeated? From quite an early stage the tactic of armed struggle was, we would suggest, aimed at forcing Britain to the negotiating table, a stage at which the myth and propaganda of a military victory was still being peddled – and certainly believed by many. No state cares much for the deaths of its soldiers, its what they are there for – to kill and be killed in defence of the realm. Mention of the ‘commercial bombing campaign’ and the link to the deliberate ‘or not’ civilian casualties and the heightening of sectarian tension is a fair enough observation. However the omission of reference to deliberate sectarian killings carried out by republicans and not linked to ‘commercial bombing’ speaks volumes in terms of bias and a lack of will to deal with the reality of much of the republican campaign.

14. WSM: "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."

Organise!: Again we see many of the problems we identified with earlier points in this paper. The second sentence of this point reads not simply as an attack on those people who regard themselves as ‘British’ (not a very clever way in which to win people from nationalist myths and notions binding them to the particular nation state of their choice) but worse could be read as a declaration that the very existence of people identifying themselves as British in the north-east of Ireland is what has brought the armed ‘resistance’ down on that section of our society by dint of their very existence. There seems to have been very little thought here as to the implications of this statement or other statements like it.
“Every generation has thrown up a new group of people willing to physically fight for "Irish freedom"”, could someone explain what “Irish freedom” actually means?
Again we have “Permanent peace can only come about after British withdrawal” with no thought to the implications of such a statement. This can be read as reactionary anti-British sentiment (as it can, and further will, be read as a statement about people who identify themselves as British as opposed to a statement made in relation to a particular administration/government/military presence).
Not only has the republican armed struggle been an “impediment to” working class unity so to is the holding onto mythical notions about the sanctity of Ireland as a single, but thwarted, polity - particularly in the context of a capitalist society.
The IRA’s armed struggle was based on wrong politics, it was a wrong strategy and it used the wrong tactics. While republicans cannot be singled out for blame in relation to the situation in the six counties surely they are not entirely blameless? Again, this point ends with a statement on continuing “British occupation” – see above.

15. WSM: "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."

Organise!: This starts with what seems to be a straightforward statement of fact, although we would replace imperialism with unionism and the British state given our earlier concerns. Yes the IRA was recreated on the back of the response to the civil rights campaign – with republicans, with increasing success, linking the issue of unity to the ‘only’ possibility of a solution to the oppression being faced at that time. As the WSM now admits that they were wrong in regard to the supposedly irreformable nature of the Orange State, then surely the accuracy of this link needs to be re-examined.
We welcome the condemnation of all sectarian attacks in point 18 but this is somewhat undermined, and appears mealy-mouthed, given the use of “that may be” in relation to sectarian attacks which have undoubtedly played a part in the armed campaign of republicans, particularly, although not exclusively, in the earlier years of the troubles. Those actions which workers have taken together as workers against sectarianism along the lines of the actions the WSM “call for” have and will continue to take place whenever necessary. Further we would agree with the condemnation of the actions of loyalist and republican paramilitaries in dealing with ‘anti-social’ behaviour and setting themselves up as police, judge, jury and executioner in working class communities. The area of policing and alternatives to state and paramilitary versions of it and the notion and practice of community policing, or communities policing themselves, is an area that requires much more attention from anarchists.

18. WSM: "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'."

Organise!: Point 18 is quite accurate but the earlier section could be seen as implying that had Sinn Fein remained true to their particular brand of socialism that we could be on the road to a more satisfactory outcome. That would not hold up to much scrutiny, particularly from an anarchist perspective – or more fundamentally on its likelihood of ever attaining any semblance of class unity in the north or across Ireland.
We agree with the first section of point 19 but this does not seem to square well with some of the earlier points in the document which see ongoing armed struggle as inevitable given the ongoing “British presence”. Nor does it sit well with the second section of the point.

20. WSM "[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]. "

Organise!: We understand that points 20 and 21 are referred for further consideration. We would like to point out that the “mass movement” of point 21 can and never will create a class based, genuinely, mass movement as it is framed purely in relation to the republican/nationalist struggle. A genuine mass campaign cannot be based on a minority of the population who, given the very basis of their campaign and nature of their politics, have no prospect of mobilising support on a class basis. The problem with this point is also that it does not imply or state any criticism of republicanism, just its use of elitist methods – be that electoralism or armed struggle – and a suggestion of methods it could attempt to use that, if we follow this reasoning, would find more favour with anarchists. This is not the type of reasoning we could support or see any benefit in for the working class.

22. WSM: "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 in inflaming sectarian hatred. But we argue opposition to the Orange Order must be built on a class rather than 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."

Organise!: The first two points are fair enough although in the absence of a more militant, let alone revolutionary labour movement it is difficult to imagine how opposition to the Orange Order could be built on this basis at present. It should also be noted that the areas in which the Order has been involved in confrontation that it has bucked the trend toward decline and actually seen some growth. A statement of “general support” for public enquiries probably needs more critical analysis and comment – particularly given the nature of public and independent inquiries in the north (and most other places they have taken place that we are aware of). Perhaps anarchists could and should start to develop our ideas in relation to other forms of inquiry. Attempts to limit police powers are less problematic but we must realise that they are in a very real sense limited and reversible – and in an international climate of ‘anti-terrorism’ actually getting less and less likely as the type of policing which to some extent set Northern Ireland apart becomes more and more the accepted norm in the west.
We agree with the final section of this point.

23. WSM: "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."

Organise!: No real disagreement with the specific points although there is still a refusal to acknowledge the identification as British of workers in the north which places British workers firmly and exclusively on the other side of the Irish Sea.

24. WSM: "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."

Organise!: The working class as a whole is worse off now than in any other comparable area in Britain as a whole or the Republic of Ireland. We would refer you to the Democratic Dialogue report, Bare Necessities, published in October 2003 for an in depth study of poverty in Northern Ireland. Again it seems to be a leap of logic to assert that this can be explained as being the “the fruits of partition”.

25. WSM: "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. "

Organise!: This sets out a view of working class catholics and protestants in the north that is not particularly related to reality. There is no longer any significant section of protestant/unionist employers but more fundamentally it sets protestant workers as those tied to, as you have described it earlier, a reactionary ideology which they must break with while no similar demand is made of catholic workers in relation to Irish nationalism. It also seems to be saying that catholic workers are the section of the working class that is involved in “day to day industrial struggles” and protestant workers are by implication missing from those struggles. More ludicrous is the idea that catholic workers be joined in the fight “for an anarchist Ireland”. Do the catholic section of the working class realise that they are fighting for this? Again the reference to an “anarchist Ireland” is in keeping with nationalist historiography and the myth of the nation-state, or as it explicitly states “anarchist”, in keeping with the sanctity of Ireland as a polity which is bound up in this version of history and mythology. This is not to mention the fallacy of suggesting that we can have an “anarchist Ireland” any more than Russian workers could benefit from Stalin’s “socialism in one country”. Surely we are internationalists struggling for the establishment of a global anarchist society.

26.WSM: "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."

Organise!: These seem to simply reflect progressively worse rephrasing of point 25. The national question has not only been used by the northern bosses to split workers, it has been used by both nationalists and unionists, by both sets of clergy and effectively by anti-imperialists. The insistence on ending partition (with the implication that the prods will come to their senses) as a prerequisite to class unity and class struggle splits workers in struggle just as effectively as any set of bosses have.
Again protestant workers must be split from Loyalism but catholic workers do not need to be won away from Irish nationalism. “Anarchist Ireland” is becoming mantra like in its repetition and like most mantras it is essentially a hollow and meaningless expression that detaches us from the revolutionary vision and goal of global social revolution and transformation.

28. WSM: "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."

Organise!: No, we must never hide our opposition to repression but we have still not been presented with a definition of anti-imperialism or imperialism that is unproblematic in application to the north.

29. WSM: "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."

Organise!: Undoubtedly the struggle for workers unity in the north cannot be separated from the struggle to build an “anarchist workers movement” in the south. Nor can it be separated from working class struggles or the building of such a movement in England, Scotland and Wales, or for that matter internationally. We cannot accurately predict however where the inspiration and example that will be a ‘spur’ to workers will come from geographically. It may well be the case that the advance of such struggles could emerge in the south or north of Ireland, anywhere across these islands or elsewhere. While a working class movement committed to workers control and an end to clerical domination in the south would be welcomed it seems unlikely that this movement would win much support or act as a spur to many protestant or unionist workers if it held the ending of partition as a central tenet. It is more likely to be seen as, and certainly would be portrayed by unionist politicians as, Irish nationalism in another guise. Something which would surely hinder its likelihood of winning large sections of workers to a battle in pursuit of their common class interests.

30. WSM: "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. "

Organise!: First of all we need to see a clear perspective developed by anarchists in Ireland. We do not believe this WSM position paper represents one. The use of the phrase “national question” implies in and of itself that a non-existent unitary nation-state has an inherent claim to legitimacy – this is a truly strange notion for anarchists to support. What we should be doing is uniting with workers - ‘British’ (wherever they live), ‘Irish’ and workers across the globe - in our struggles and advancing these struggles towards the elimination of capitalism and all states.



Short Term Perspectives

1. WSM: "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."

Organise!: As regards the first section of point 1 could we not apply the same reasoning to Sinn Fein and the IRSP, the paramilitary wings of which, albeit on a smaller scale, also engaged in blatant sectarian attacks. Again the absence of any desire to break catholic workers from Irish nationalism is in essence sectarian. It would also seem as much a pre-requisite to committing these workers to the fight for anarchism as breaking protestant workers from Loyalism. Or is the important goal at this stage the undoing of partition before any attempt at workers unity, class struggle and advancing the struggle for libertarian socialism can be made?


Stages Theory and Stages Theory Restated.

The “Partition of Ireland” position paper while it includes statements of opposition to a stages theory effectively restates the stages theory and as such remains trapped in the same position of not being capable of building links across the divisions in the working class on the basis of common class interests. Class interests are made subservient to the task of ending partition, of “removing the British presence”, of ending the “British occupation”, which is in reality the prioritising of the Irish national project above class interests and unity of struggle. We cannot hide our opposition to the northern state, or the British state, but we should not express that opposition as one that takes its place atop a hierarchy of opposition. As anarchists Organise! are opposed to the northern state, in whatever form of administration may eventually be devised, the British state and the Irish state.

Many nationalist and more specifically left-republican assumptions have been left largely unchallenged; at best we seem to have a halfway house, an image of a process of changing attitudes and analysis that has not been brought to its logical conclusion. Some of the amendments that have gone through actually seem to represent the success of a tendency going in the other direction and seeking to preserve the left-republican analysis much in evidence in this document. Until this is resolved this position paper, while containing elements of progress, will not develop into a workable or accurate analysis and statement of intent or provide a workable strategy for uniting northern workers, let alone northern and southern workers, in struggle.

The Colonial Relationship.

Some historians have attempted to portray the Act of Union of 1801 as an attempt at ending the colonial relationship through integration into a single political unit. For some this is seen as an exercise in consolidating an increasingly centralised state power, and while this approach can be taken the ongoing colonial nature of the relationship between Westminster and Ireland between 1801 and 1922, and Northern Ireland from 1921 up to the present day is undeniable. From the establishment at the time of the Union, or perhaps more accurately maintenance, of an appointed administration at Dublin castle, along with a supporting civil service (something not included in the terms of reference of the Act of Union itself), through to the more recent implementation of direct rule and the proroguing of Stormont in 1972, to the present day period of direct rule which sees direct rule ministers implementing wide-ranging changes to local government and attack after attack on the working class in the north, provide evidence of this. Westminster still exerts an influence that overrides local political opinion and organisation, both unionist and nationalist, when Westminster feels this is necessary. The greatest victims of this colonial attitude in recent times may well prove to have been the Unionist ‘community’.
However the existence of such a colonial relationship does not necessarily lead to automatic support for Irish nationalism even in the guise of anti-imperialism. Many Unionists have identified the colonial nature of the relationship between Westminster and Northern Ireland as a problem. Yet for Unionists the ‘solution’ is usually presented in terms of full integration and participation in the government at Westminster, or alternatively in terms of greater devolution and more meaningful local control.
The present phase of direct rule is also providing our local politicians with the enviable luxury of ineffective semi-permanent opposition. They were never adverse to implementing cutbacks, or giving certain cutbacks a distinct sectarian twist, but they must in reality relish the fact that the direct rule ministers seem intent on getting the worst of the attacks out of the way before there is any re-establishment of the Assembly.

Related Link: http://www.organiseireland.org
author by .publication date Thu Jan 01, 1970 00:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No War But The Class War

Opposition to partition is traditionally nothing more than the desire to see the establishment of a unitary Irish nation state governed from the Dail, while the opposed view which wishes to see partition maintained is expressed in terms of preserving the Union or more negatively as opposition to the Irish nationalist project.
Both sides stake claims to legitimate government while we as anarchists surely reject Statism and regard all forms of government as illegitimate. Surely it is more useful for anarchists to be developing ideas about the possibilities we see for the future in changed economic and social relations and how we develop, as opposed to set obstacles in the way of, working class unity in a struggle aiming towards real freedom across these islands and internationally. We should do this on the basis of our own tradition, stressing our belief in workers control, federalism and internationalism. Instead of tinkering about with particular ideological histories set firmly in the ‘dual narrative’ of Irish history we should strive instead to challenge the constructions and myths of our history/histories. These are the myths that have lain at the heart of all attempts at creating and maintaining nation states and of binding us more successfully to our masters and exploiters. We believe that the slogan ‘no war but the class war’ provides a good guide to the attitudes of the global and local bosses, and the politicians who carry out the agenda of global capital. It is an attitude that we must adopt as our own.
This does not translate into ignoring oppression and discrimination but opposing it with the same resolve no matter what quarter it emanates from. We believe that ending partition cannot be prioritised over the smashing of both states in Ireland, nor do we believe it to be a necessary, effective or even desirable precursor to social revolution. We hope we can work together with members of the WSM in struggling towards and promoting our joint goal of successful social revolution. At present however this position paper offers no more opportunities for building effective class unity in the north than have various other variations on the stages theory that have gone before it.

author by juan pablopublication date Mon Nov 22, 2004 18:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

.

author by Joe - WSM pers cappublication date Mon Nov 22, 2004 18:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We were given a preview of this last week but haven't had a chance to discuss it as an organisation as yet.

I think Organise!s decision to put what looks like a lot of work into critiquing our position paper is a good thing, there is quite a bit to be learnt in the process. Certainly in a couple of places they pick up on careless terminology in the paper but elsewhere they jump to some rather odd assumptions. For instance our use of the term imperialism is obviously based around our 'Capitalist globalisation and imperialism ' position paper rather than Lenins rather out of date (and often factually wrong) pamphlet from 1916. It's at http://struggle.ws/wsm/positions/globalisation.html

I'll try and tackle some of the real political differences that do exist once I have some time. For now the original position paper is at the link below

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/wsm/positions/partition.html
author by Gregor Kerr - WSM (personal cap)publication date Mon Nov 22, 2004 20:54author email kerrgregor at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Even though I got a copy of this last week, I haven't had a chance yet to read it in any detail. I would like to thank the comrades in Organise! for taking the time to give such a considered response and hope that any debate here can happen without any of the silly rancour and diviseness that happens on so many indymedia threads. After all none of us have all the answers and we can only learn from debating with each other.

author by Joe - WSM pers cappublication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 15:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

OK I had a chance to go through it all last night so here are some initial reactions, which deal with the teeth grinding moments. It's useful to get these out of the way first and to separate them from the more political discussion that will follow.

There is a lot of useful discussion in here even if there is quite a bit I think is wrong. In particular I think the document does suggest some continuity problems in the position paper, most notably in paragraph 14 where we start off by being careful to use the term 'British state' and then lapse into the much vaguer (and open to misinterpretation) 'British'. Logically this should be British state throughout.

But the issues of terminology are minor and not what this debate should be about. Unfortunately at times the Organise document obsesses on them and sometimes in a contradictory way. For instance it makes little sense to associate the term imperialism exclusively with Leninism when it is a term with a much wider usage but then launch into a whole section on 'stages theory' which has almost no usage outside the terms of the Stalin/Trotsky debates of Leninism. This leaves one wondering why make an issue of the term 'imperialism' especially when no alternative is proposed.

I think there is also a major problem with the format of the response that is to use the familiar email method of quote followed by response to quote. A common problem with this method is 'not seeing the wood for the trees', that is in responding to one particular section you miss the fact that what you are saying is missing is actually contained in another section of the same document. This happens again and again in the Organise! response as 'why are you not saying this' responses ignore the fact that we do in fact say it (or something like it) elsewhere in the document.

Some examples of this include

The Organise response to WSM point 13 includes "From quite an early stage the tactic of armed struggle was, we would suggest, aimed at forcing Britain to the negotiating table". Yet WSM point 15 reads "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"

Again in the Organise response to WSM point 13, specifically "However the omission of reference to deliberate sectarian killings carried out by republicans and not linked to _commercial bombing_ speaks volumes in terms of bias and a lack of will to deal with the reality of much of the republican campaign." In fact WSM point 17 reads "We condemn all sectarian actions (i.e. those carried out because of religion) including any that may be carried out by republicans."

The Organise response to WSM point 3 includes "Sectarian conflict clearly predates partition and the establishment of the Northern Ireland state" yet point WSM 6 points out "The 1798 .. defeat and the process though which it was defeated resulted in centuries of sectarian conflict."


This failure to treat the document as a whole rather than responding to each point in isolation only succeeds in setting up a load of strawmen that can then easily be knocked down. While perhaps a useful if dishonest method for 'winning' a debate it is counter productive here where surely clarity is one of the main aims of this exchange. This method is probably an unintentional result of the 'point by point' method of response but it threatens to derail the whole debate into one about 'what was really said'. I've picked three examples here to illustrate the problem but in fact it occurs throughout the document.

In a similar fashion at points Organise invents an argument that is not in fact in the WSM position paper in order to argue against it. In the response to point 25 for instance they suggest that the WSM says that a) only Catholic workers are involved in industrial struggles and that b) Catholic workers are fighting for anarchism and therefore c) protestant workers need to JOIN THEM in that fight. All this from a sentence that in fact reads "It is .. in the interests of Protestant workers to .. fight alongside Catholic workers both in day to day industrial struggles and for an anarchist Ireland." A basic enough call for workers unity.

Perhaps one can misread the original so if this was a response from an anarchist group in Iran I'd be more patient. But members of Organise! have know WSM members for years, we have stayed in each others houses and attended each others meetings. So what is the point of putting such ludicrous claims into our mouths. Do Organise really believe that the WSM believe any of this. If not what is the purpose of this misinterpretation.

A similar problem is found in the Organise response to point 14 where Organise ask 'could someone explain what “Irish freedom” actually means?'. But of course in the text ''Irish freedom' is between single quotes and its universally understood that when you put a word or phrase into such quotes you are calling its meaning into question without bothering to get into the discussion of why you are doing so then and there.

Finally at several points in their response Organise seek to imply that while the WSM says protestant workers must break with unionism we do not say the same of catholic workers breaking with Irish nationalism. This is simply untrue, this is said or implied several time in the paper including
PT1 "we see no form of nationalism as offering a definitive solution to ... the working class in Ireland"
PT11 "Republicanism is a petty-bourgeoisie ideology and not a socialist one..[it]..preach a theory in which workers must submerge their own interests and fight alongside their Catholic bosses"
PY18"It [GFA] represents instead a hardening of traditional nationalism and the goal of achieving an alliance of all nationalists … Such an alliance has nothing to offer working class people, North or South, and we oppose it outright."
PT29 "the complete smashing of this dominance [catholic church] will help in the building of common links between northern and southern workers."

Anyway this gets the annoying misinterpretations out of the way. Next post I'll move on to looking at the areas where real political disagreements appear to exist.

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/wsm/orangeorder.html
author by conor (wsm personal capacity)publication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 16:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What ever you think of the term and I'd be open to better ones - theres a long, long proudhistory of anarchist struggle v "this sort of thing" (eg colonialism and imperialism)

In fact it long pre-dates lenin and Leninism !!!!!!

see this excellent article

http://www.zabalaza.net/articles/article007.htm

by Lucien van der Walt from South Africa

Conor

Related Link: http://www.struggle.ws
author by Leon - wsm - personal capacitypublication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 16:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks very much to the comrades in Organise! for taking the trouble to criticise our paper in such depth. We have not yet had time to examine these criticisms as an organisation. We all have our own staring positions and hangups (both WSM and Organise!) and textual examination is useful as of course is this political debate. We may be starting from different perspectives but we are all working for teh same thing, the establishment of a free and fair society in Ireland and all over the world.

One question: do any members of Organise! genuinely believe that the WSM is commited to "the desire to see the establishment of a unitary Irish nation state governed from the Dail"?

author by Joe - WSM pers cappublication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 16:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The first and most obvious real difference that emerges is over the question of imperialism, right down to the very basic question of 'should such a term be used at all'. As already pointed out I think there is a fairly empty terminological question here but I think it is also one that covers up a much bigger issue.

That issue is 'what is the relation of the British state to Ireland'. The WSM clearly see the historic role as one of imperialist occupation based both on external military force (invasion and occupation) and divide and rule.

Organise on the other hand don't clearly spell out what this relationship is beyond rejecting the term imperialism but do in a number of places seem to suggest that the presence of the British army is due to the presence of British people. Right from the start we are told that "the most significant ‘British’ presence in Northern Ireland consists of a majority of the areas population ". Later that "the northeast of Ulster became an integral part of British industrial output ".

This is made clearer in the response to Pt9 when Organise say "a self identifying ‘British’ population in Northern Ireland sees British troops, including those that are locally recruited, as ‘their’ troops - not an army of occupation but the army of the nation acting in the defense of the nations citizens"

There are some rather clear implications from these statements that are not a million miles away from the claim that Belfast is as British as Finchly. But this is an implication, that Organise almost certainly do not intend as can be seen in their appendix.

The appendix 'The Colonial Relationship' returns to an analysis based on imperialism but avoids that particular term. It refers to the "ongoing colonial nature of the relationship between Westminster and Ireland between 1801 and 1922" .. "and Northern Ireland from 1921 up to the present day is undeniable".

It's worth also re-printing a longer paragraph from this Organise appendix

"However the existence of such a colonial relationship does not necessarily lead to automatic support for Irish nationalism even in the guise of anti-imperialism. Many Unionists have identified the colonial nature of the relationship between Westminster and Northern Ireland as a problem. Yet for Unionists the ‘solution’ is usually presented in terms of full integration and participation in the government at Westminster, or alternatively in terms of greater devolution and more meaningful local control."

This leaves me in some confusion. On the one level Organise seek to deny the relevance of the term imperialism in the relationship between the British state and Ireland. But on the other they sketch out what I would consider to be an imperialist relationship.

There is a way out of that seeming contradiction which is connected with how you see Irish protestants (or should that be protestants in Ireland :-). I'll move onto that next.
---

Before moving on there is one minor question that Organise ask of British rule that is worth answering. Organise ask "Was the deliberate policy of ‘divide and rule’ at the heart of this? That ‘divide and rule’ occurred is more likely to be related to the very natural, from the point of view of any system of government, suppression of the states enemies and rewarding of its allies."

Here I think the cart is being put before the horse. Yes it makes sense that a government would reward its allies and suppress its enemies but any glance at Irish history suggests that it was not a random occurrence that came to see protestants in the role of allies and catholics in the role of enemies. Quite the opposite it appears that British policy over some centuries was to use the religous divisions created in Europe during the reformation to try and create a loyal ruling class and a series of loyal local strongpoints in Ireland.

James I scheme for plantation as outlined in 'The Printed Book' April 1610 said that those getting the land should be not only from Britain or at least loyal to Britain but that they should also be protestant. This suggest from early on that imperialist policy intended to make use of divide and rule.

Certainly by the time of the 1798 rebellion the ruling class were not afraid to openly put it forward as a strategy to retain power. The Anglican Archbishop of Armagh pointed out of the land struggle in the 1780's "The worst of this is that it stands to unite Protestant and Papist, and whenever that happens, good-bye to the English interest in Ireland"

In the period around 1796 the Briitish military was encouraging the formation of the Orange Order. General John Knox described it as "the only barrier we have against the United Irishmen" and that the Orangemen "are bigots and will resist Catholic emancipation".

The final 'proof' as to which is cart and which is horse is found in the period 1798 rising when the British realised that the (weaker) penal laws that applied to presbyterians had prevented them from being loyal. So they abolished these laws in the hope (mostly successful) of winning their loyalty in future.

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/rbr/rbr4_1798.html
author by barrypublication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 18:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

However while you correctly identify the deliberate fostering of the orange order and loyalist sectarianism by the British state, I believe more could be done to examine its simultaneous encouragement of other negative forces in Ireland, such as constitutional nationalism.

I am referring to examples such as the creation by the British of Maynooth college (at precisely the same time as they were organisng the Orangemen), the support given to the Act of Union by people such as Daniel O'Connell etc. The period around 1847, as well as the support shown by nationalists for British crown forces throughout the last 200 years could be examined in more depth as well.

These elements were just as bitterly opposed to 1798 as the orangemen. Furthermore throughout Irish history they have been a constant and faithful servant of British interests in Ireland, and still are. Surely this has had, and still does play , a major role in the maintenance of partition.

I realise you have been highly critical of these forces, but it appears that you only refer to Orangism as having been artificially created.

It is my belief that the rise of what we call constitutional nationalism was directly aided, abetted and encouraged by the British in concert with their support for Orangeism as part of their divide and rule strategy. Perhaps a more in depth critical analysis of this would be of some benefit for anyone trying to reach out to the unionist working class.

I would also like to know if anarchists have a position on the Declaration of Independence and the implications its undemocratic suppression has had regarding partition and British rule. Do anarchists have any position vis-a-vis Irish sovereignty ? (Im not being critical, Im just not very up to date on anarchism in general and would like to know more about their position)

I would also take issue with your description of the 32 CSM as communal or tribal in some fashion. Not the case.

author by Joepublication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 19:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You are at least half right on the Maynooth thing but I think its a mistake to see the British state as a consistent promoter of constitutional nationalism. More that when it suited there interests it would promote the constitutional side but at another moment it might suit it to promote the physical force side. It's done the same thing with the Orange Order and the unionists in general.

There is no position on the 'Declaration of Independence' that I'm aware of but an article on Connolly in the next Red and Black Revolution does touch briefly on this and the dail declaration. Should be out towards the end of this week.

author by barrypublication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 21:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'll look forward to reading it. .

The reason I put the question was that, in view of the term "constitutional nationalist" meaning nationalists who are committed to working within a constitution laid down by the British state, surely it has been in British interests to constantly encourage these elements.

For example, both constitutional nationalism and the Catholic church have been consistently and bitterly opposed to revolutionary republicanism for the last 200 years, making them a faithful and constant ally of the British state in Ireland. It would be in British interests therefore to constantly encourage its allies, would it not.?

Every expression of revolutionary action in Ireland for the last 200 years has been forcefully condemned by them, and they have worked hand in glove with the British to defeat and subvert it in virtually every period since 1798.

Their role in co-operating with the quite deliberate mass-starvation of the Irish working class in 1847 as well as the deliberate destruction of the Irish language and culture should be examined. Was their role in these events not a key part of British strategy in Ireland.

The decision to virtually hand-over control of the education of Catholic working class children to the Catholic church was also undoubtedly in British interests. One of the first acts even passed in the Stormont parliament was to ensure the Church maintained this stranglehold, which acted as an agent of social control.

Would the establishment by the British of an anti-revolutionary, confessional 26 co state complete with its own armed force (armed and equipped initially by the British) to maintain partition not be an example of this also. This state has consistently shown itself every bit as determined to maintain partition and look after British interests as the unionist state.

Could the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Stormont Agreement not also be viewed as further British support for constitutional nationalism. If so it could be argued that British encouragement for this tradition has been every bit as constant as support for the unionists.

It seems to me that the British have constantly supported constitutional nationalism at every level, including militarily, for the last 200 years. Therefore any debate on partiton and British rule should thoroughly examine the role nationalists have also played in the maintenance of partition.

Their undoubtedly major role in the maintenance of the status quo for the last 200 years has been of immense benefit to the British state and this relationship of common interest should be thoroughly examined as part of any meaningful critique
of partition and the divide and rule British strategy. (just an opinion)

Also, a wee bit confused as to what you mean by it is sometimes in British interests to promote physical force nationalism. Dont understand this point. Any chance of a clarification of some kind?

author by Jason Brannigan - Organise! personal capacitypublication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 21:45author email organiseireland at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

There seems to have been some sort of balls up with the end of the Organise! response to the WSM position paper as it appears on indymedia. The last section is minus its heading and cuts of in mid-sentence near the start.
This is the section that Leon refers when he asks if any members of Organise! believe that the WSM "desire to see the establishment of a unitary Irish nation state governed from the Dail" - the answer is of course we don't, this is an observation on traditional opposition to partition and the opposing unionist view of maintaining the union or of opposition to Irish nationalism. Of course this isn't clear due to the fact that for some reason the text is cut off.
More in depth responses to the other points raised will be addressed after the weekend, in the meantime heres the rest of the response:

"No War But The Class War

Opposition to partition is traditionally nothing more than the desire to see the establishment of a unitary Irish nation state governed from the Dail, while the opposed view which wishes to see partition maintained is expressed in terms of preserving the Union or more negatively as opposition to the Irish nationalist project.
Both sides stake claims to legitimate government while we as anarchists surely reject Statism and regard all forms of government as illegitimate. Surely it is more useful for anarchists to be developing ideas about the possibilities we see for the future in changed economic and social relations and how we develop, as opposed to set obstacles in the way of, working class unity in a struggle aiming towards real freedom across these islands and internationally. We should do this on the basis of our own tradition, stressing our belief in workers control, federalism and internationalism. Instead of tinkering about with particular ideological histories set firmly in the ‘dual narrative’ of Irish history we should strive instead to challenge the constructions and myths of our history/histories. These are the myths that have lain at the heart of all attempts at creating and maintaining nation states and of binding us more successfully to our masters and exploiters. We believe that the slogan ‘no war but the class war’ provides a good guide to the attitudes of the global and local bosses, and the politicians who carry out the agenda of global capital. It is an attitude that we must adopt as our own.
This does not translate into ignoring oppression and discrimination but opposing it with the same resolve no matter what quarter it emanates from. We believe that ending partition cannot be prioritised over the smashing of both states in Ireland, nor do we believe it to be a necessary, effective or even desirable precursor to social revolution. We hope we can work together with members of the WSM in struggling towards and promoting our joint goal of successful social revolution. At present however this position paper offers no more opportunities for building effective class unity in the north than have various other variations on the stages theory that have gone before it."

Related Link: http://www.organiseireland.org
author by Indymedia Ireland Editorial Group - Indymedia Irelandpublication date Tue Nov 23, 2004 22:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

had to paste jason's correction in as a comment as the story exceeds the max allowed word count, can you check that its ok and email the list if it needs to be fixed up.
imc-ireland-editorial(at)lists(dot)indymedia(dot)org
padraic

author by Joe - WSM pers cappublication date Wed Nov 24, 2004 11:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A political problem with the Organise response is the way that while questioning any idea of an Irish nation it almost uncritically embraces the idea of a separate British nation, defined presumably on religious grounds, in the north. Well perhaps not quite uncritically as what is actually said is "people who identify themselves primarily, or to some extent, as British" leaves open the question to some extent. They 'define themselves' and Organise simply observes them 'defining themselves'.

There is an odd thing in putting this self-definition as British at the heart of the critique. The 2001 NI Life and Times survey found only 10% of northern protestants picked "British" as the thing that was most important as to how they saw themselves. Almost twice as many choose 'working class' as the key term. So this self-identification as British (or indeed for Catholics Irish) was not the first thing that jumped into most peoples minds. The survey which is pretty interesting is at http://tinyurl.com/4bge9 and its well worth browsing the other questions as well.

A question in 2003 showed 24% of protestants would be UNHAPPY if people NEVER voted for a united Ireland. Even more interesting a slightly higher percentage of protestants than catholics expect to see a united Ireland in the next 20 years and only 19% of protestants would find a vote for a united Ireland almost impossible to accept. Also from 2003 while 55% of protestants didn't see themselves as Irish at all some 24% were somewhat proud to be Irish and 4% very proud.

Overall this suggests that this self-identification of northern protestants as 'being British' is nothing like as hard and fast as Organise seem to think it is. Which is not very surprising the question of national identity for protestants in Ireland has always been a hotly contested political football. In recent years in the north quite considerable effort has gone into creating a 'British' identity on the one hand while the armed republican campaigns on the other obviously tended to drive protestants away from considering themselves Irish.

The CAIN site has an article looking at surveys on national identity going back to 1968 that reflect these changes over that period, see http://tinyurl.com/72xtg This article includes data on 'National identity and social class' which shows that the protestant working class is less likely that the protestant ruling class to define itself as British (but also less likely to go for Irish).

The point of all this is that nationality, particularly in relation to Irish protestants is not and never has been a fixed concept. To return to 1798 Orangeman James Claudius Beresford declared he was "Proud of the name of an Irishman, I hope never to exchange it for that of a colonist". 36 Orange Lodges in Co. Armagh and 13 in Co. Fermanagh declared against the 1801 Act of Union. Lodge No. 500 declared it would "support the independence of Ireland and the constitution of 1782" and "declare as Orangemen, as Freeholders, as Irishmen that we consider the extinction of our separate legislature as the extinction of the Irish Nation".

Of course Organise don't see why we "hark back to the loss of this the ‘greatest opportunity’ [1798] to unite all the Irish people?" and in the next post I want to discuss the two different anarchist approaches to Irish history that are emerging. But for now just to note that at that point in the distant past a different outcome could have made this entire debate irrelevant. It's well worth reading the end of the article we published on 1798 at http://struggle.ws/rbr/rbr4_1798.html which points out

"The United Irishmen's core project, to replace the name of Irishman for the labels of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter was not an abstract nationalist one. It came from a concrete analysis that unless this was done then no progress could be made because a people divided were easily ruled. ..."

"The rebellion of the United Irishmen was not a rebellion for four abstract green fields, free of John Bull. It was inspired by the new ideas of equality, fraternity and liberty coming out of the French revolution. Separatism became a necessary step once it was realised that fulfilling these ideas required the ending of British rule. For many it also represented a rebellion against the ownership of land by a few, and for some a move towards an equality of property."

"Those leaders who planned the rising were part of a revolutionary wave sweeping the western world, they were internationalists and indeed an agreement for distinct republics was drawn up with the United Scotsmen and the United Englishmen. ... As Connolly puts it "these men aimed at nothing less than a social and political revolution such as had been accomplished in France, or even greater""

Of course that was then and now we have to live with the 200 years that followed it, a period in which many nationalists also promoted religious divisions in order to create a more coherent and unified 'Irish nation'. But within the south at least this project has collapsed in the last decades and its only the like of far right loons like Justin Barrett who dream of an Irish catholic nation. Unfortunately one product of the Good Friday Agreement has been to institutionalize the catholic = Irish v protestant = British in the north at the very period it collapsed in the south.

The trick is to somehow escape from this nationalist project and a starting point for such an escape has to be the understanding of how contested nationality is both historically and at the current time. In that context anarchists do themselves no favours by giving implicit support to the argument that northern protestant = British even if that support presents itself as no more than a simple statement of 'facts'

[In case it needs to be pointed out I’m using the terms protestant and catholic above to refer to what background people are from rather than how often they make chapel/church/mass. ]

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/wsm/peaceprocess.html
author by Leon WSM Pers Cappublication date Wed Nov 24, 2004 16:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks, for the correction!!

I thought maybe it was some form of deliberate tendentiousness or as i've also heard it called shit stirring.

Curious article on 1798. Hadn't read that some obvious errors.

author by Curiouspublication date Wed Nov 24, 2004 16:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Is this Leon the "anarchist" troll or is it really a WSM member?

author by Joe - WSM pers cappublication date Wed Nov 24, 2004 18:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm going to ignore the troll.
---

Anarchism is a fairly new idea in Ireland with little or no history here. A tiny group existed briefly in the 1880's that appeared to at least be libertarian, see http://struggle.ws/rbr/rbr3_irish.html Connolly and Larkin were syndicalists and thus shared some anarchists union strategy but were certainly not anarchists themselves. The Irish Citizen Army organiser Jack White later became an anarchist during the Spanish Revolution and wrote a pamphlet on his return to Ireland explaining what anarchism was, see http://struggle.ws/anarchists/jackwhite.html

But in terms of any sort of continuity it’s really only in the late 1960's that anarchist organisations became a semi-permanent feature of the Irish left. I note that the Organise! response above includes a caption for a picture of an anarchist banner on the 1969 Peoples Democracy march. The history of that period is yet to be written but by the mid 70's there were anarchist groups, which were the forerunners of the organisations that exist today. (there are some notes at http://struggle.ws/talks/history_anr_irl.html )

This unimportant role in Irish history means that there is no common understanding of what anarchism is or local examples of what anarchists do beyond those of the last couple of decades. Yet Ireland is a country soaked in revolutionary history and that history continues to play a major role in where people choose to enter radical politics today. It also plays a major role in how they choose to struggle, the local past gets mined for examples far more often that that elsewhere.

Irish history is something that is fiercely contested. Events are portrayed from the standpoint of British imperialism, the Southern states nationalism, republican nationalism, unionist nationalism and loyalist nationalism to name the five most familiar divisions. The history of say the Independent Orange Order will be portrayed in a different way by all five of these sections.

In addition to this there are the left histories of Ireland which have mostly been influenced by the Communist Party and its fellow travelers but to which trotskyists, maoists and social democrats have also contributed. All of these left histories will tend to differ from each other as well.

Discussions of history are what many of those drawn to oppositional politics are interested in above other theoretical discussions. Ireland is hardly unique in that respect. So how does the anarchist movement deal with a history that is often radical and revolutionary but which has almost no anarchist involvement in any of the great events.

The WSM has developed a pattern of mining Irish history for the often hidden examples of libertarian and class struggle organising. This is a pattern that has developed rather than a policy that exists, it probably developed almost accidentally. We write about such trends as a key not only too understanding the present but also to illustrate how 'natural' anarchist ideas and methods of organist ion are. There may have been no anarchist movement but libertarian ideas arose again and again, most often as a minority current within a much bigger revolutionary movement. We also argue that this libertarian history has been buried beneath all the official histories and in many cases the left ones as well.

Organise appear to be settling into a different pattern, one where instead of seeking to bring out the libertarian aspects of anarchist history they instead present Irish history as one featureless plain of reactionary ideas. So as in their response the 1798 rebellion which a WSM member has written about as a radical moment of Irish history becomes to Organise no more than a 'failed bourgeois national revolution'. Demystifying Irish history seems to mean to strip it or any positive organised radical content least this is something today’s republican movement can grasp.

Of course anarchism was not on the agenda in 1798, even in Europe the anarchist movement really only begins in the 1860's. But history is not a desert before that date and nor is all history without anarchists a desert after that date. The movement of 1798 saw the first real divide on a class basis in republicanism at the moment of its birth. The Union doctrine; or poor man's catechism, which was published at the time read in part
"I believe in a revolution founded on the rights of man, in the natural and imprescriptable right of all citizens to all the land ... As the land and its produce was intended for the use of man 'tis unfair for fifty or a hundred men to possess what is for the subsistence of near five millions ..."

Even on the analytical level some 4 years before the rising Tone, Samuel Neilson and others circulated a Secret Manifesto to the Friends of Freedom in Ireland. Towards the end this contained a description of past movements that was to prove prophetic as a description of events in 1798 and the future
"when the people come forward, the aristocracy, fearful of being left behind, insinuate themselves into our ranks and rise into timid leaders or treacherous auxiliaries."

A handbill entitled The cry of the poor for bread, was found stuck in a tree in north county Dublin in 1796:

"Oh! lords of manors, and other men of landed property, as you have monopolised to yourselves the land, its vegetation and its game, the fish of the rivers and the fowls of heaven ... in the present condition of things can the labourer, who cultivates your land with the sweat of his brow, the working manufacturer or the mechanic, support himself, a wife and 5 or 6 children? How much comfort do you extort from their misery, by places, offices and pensions and consume in idleness, dissipation, riot and luxury?"

When tackling those who try and create a monolithic nationalist history of great leaders its is obviously useful to point out those other forces that existed at the time. 1798 is what I'm familiar with but the same sort of history can be uncovered in the years that followed it. Of course it is a messy history. These are not clean anarchist hero’s with the correct line on nationalism but movements that were caught up in the nationalist movement (or very occasionally with loyalism). They didn't sweep to victory but went down to defeat and obscurity as much when the nationalist movement won as when it lost. The War of Independence being a good example, everyone knows of the flying columns and the 1st Dail but who knows of the train strikes or that on Mayday 1919 50,000 took part in the Burr Mayday celebrations. http://struggle.ws/ws/ws51_munster.html

Of course the problem for those who want to simply put an '=' between republicanism and loyalism and move on to the anarchist revolution is that the vast bulk of these examples were contaminated by republicanism. Most often as one section of the republican movement (landless labours in the war of independence) coming into conflict with the nationalist leadership (the SF land courts to protect the property rights of landlords and the use of the IRA to suppress the laborers). So these disputes were often fought using nationalist language, slogans that for instance counter posed the Workers Republic to the Republic.

For anarchists this should come as no surprise. After all organised anarchism emerged in the 1860's from European left republican revolutionaries who through their experience came to conclude that the 'rich would always betray the poor'. And thus that the policy of trying to radicalise the struggles for bourgeois democrat rights into one for working class self-emancipation was a dead end. The reasons why a fight for democratic rights for all and/or independence might be more likely to include a radical movement then one in favor of not expanding democratic rights or retaining colonial status are not hard to see.

In conclusion it matters little if the old 'If I was going there I wouldn't start from here' joke applies with relation to Irish history. Like it or not 'here' is where we are and here is where we must set out from. If there is a radical history to be 'cherry picked' from the past then that may well make the road smoother.

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/ireland_history.html
author by Terry - Organise! (amongst others)publication date Wed Nov 24, 2004 20:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm going to formulate a repsonse to all this possibly in sometime, but just in response to this:
"Organise appear to be settling into a different pattern, one where instead of seeking to bring out the libertarian aspects of anarchist history they instead present Irish history as one featureless plain of reactionary ideas. "
I would suggest going to the article I wrote in the Anarchist Federation's magazine Organise! -
"Midnight Legislation: Class Struggle in Ireland 1760 – 1840"
which can be found here:
http://af-north.org/organise_60.htm

To my knowledge there is no other anarchist writings on this particular subject.

author by Jason Brannigan - Organise!publication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 00:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The last section is still missing from the printable version. Maybe theres no avoiding this but just thought I'd let people know.

Will get a response to comments together once we get back from the London Anarchist Bookfair.

In Solidarity;

Jason

Related Link: http://www.organiseireland.org
author by Joepublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 11:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm not sure that the fact that a member of organise has published an article in the magazine of a British anarchist organistions says much about that approach Organise as an organisation (rather than a collection of individuals) takes to Irish history. That said I also know through personal contact that a number of you have a deep interest in history so I'm surprised at the attitude that comes across in the Organise reply. And its the reply I'm dealing with as I don't really have any other documents from Organise to go on.

In fact the Organise web site includes 10 articles on Irish history (but none published by this manifestation of Organise) at http://tinyurl.com/3lf2d as well as one piece on 'IRA sectarianism in the early 1970s' written by an Organise member for enrager net ( article and discussion of it at http://tinyurl.com/6ff8a )

While I'm at it the 'AFI-ASF Statement on the north' at http://tinyurl.com/6ez5b should be of interest to others following this debate. The two groups mentioned went on to form Organise so guess this document can be read as something close to an agreed Organise position on the question.

Anyway although this so far is just a build up to the central questions I'd be interested in any clarification on how you see the relevance of Irish history to building an anarchist movement today.

author by Joe - WSM pers cappublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 14:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Here perhaps we move into the core of the differences between Organise and the WSM.

The WSM clearly see partition as a bad thing. For instance point 3 on partition includes "we see partition as the main reason why conflicts based on religious divisions continue to exist." Organise see it as something that has happened IE "partition took place, as a historical fact" and seems to see anti-partition as a bad thing, or perhaps simply something anarchists should have no interest in. That the 41 words of point 3 of the WSM document receive a 1035 word response from Organise indicates how central the question of partition is.

Now given that the question of partition is what has dominated politics on this island, north and south for 80 odd years this disagreement is not a minor one. For good or bad all of the large political parties define themselves around this question and while in the south this has become much less important in recent years in the north it has become more important with the two most polarised parties (SF and DUP) becoming the largest.

Again the Organise attitude to history is curious here. In this case there is apparently no point in questioning if partition was a "historical inevitability" because according to Organise "it must have been a ‘historical inevitability’ otherwise events would not have combined to produce partition". Well yes history is what happened but the anarchist movement is in part based around the idea that the Russian revolution need not have been destroyed by the Bolsheviks or the Spanish revolution need not have gone down to defeat between the hammer of fascism and the anvil of Leninism. Anarchist politics are informed by the discussions around these events, ,discussions which presume another outcome was possible.

That said Organise then move on to put forward an argument that starts on a similar basis of WSM Pt 6 but then seeks to extend the understanding of why partition happened beyond to include the interests of some northern workers. And importantly also the "increasing identification of Irishness with Catholicism" and the “failure to win protestants to the struggle for Home Rule and for the cause of the ‘nation’”. This is a useful way of thinking about what led to partition but somewhat oddly repeats in a slightly different way the very point contained in WSM 6 (on 1798) which as we have seen Organise has already attacked!

There are as we have seen some red herrings around the question of partition. But to be clear the WSM paper tries to sketch the development of sectarianism from the defeat of 1798 rather than seeing it as something that only arose post-partition. This is not gone into in any detail in our position paper as the paper is not meant to be an explanation of the position but simply a sketch of out collective agreement on this question.

The WSM see partition as bad not out of any misty-eyed nationalism but because of what it led to. The creation of two sectarian states north and south of the border and all the problems this caused for the working class. Sectarianism certainly existed before partition but its noticeable that even the sectarianism found in Scotland occurs most often as a crazed mirror image of what is happening in Belfast. Elsewhere in the world the resolving of the political questions at the heart of sectarian divides has generally seen the sectarianism evaporate within a couple of generations.

The Organise response to point 6 contains a very odd section which reads. "It verges on paranoia to suggest, or repeat an oft heard but ill informed position usually spouted by the authoritarian left and left republicans, that partition was carried out ‘to divide the working class’. This was not the reason for partition. In fact division in the working class pre-dated partition by a long time"

Is the purpose of the deliberately insulting language to camouflage the reality that no argument is actually being put forward here.?

As we have seen the WSM document already recognizes the existence of divisions prior to partition. Elsewhere we have written of these divisions being used to undermine the 1907 Belfast strike. But the reality is that you cannot simply put 'partition' in one box and 'sectarianism' in another. The two are tightly linked. Likewise the history of the Home Rule movement and opposition to it is not somehow separate from 'partition' and 'sectarianism' but very much part of the same history.

The working class in Ireland may have already suffered from divisions but partition set these in concrete. The southern working class was cut off from the northern working class, unions still organised across the border but disputes stopped at it. The working class in the north, divided in part by the manipulations which led to partition, found itself in a new situation where Stormont could hand bones to protestant workers in order to ensure their loyalty and where catholic workers increasingly saw their hope for freedom lying in a cross border and cross class alliance of catholics rather than with their fellow workers.

It's worth recalling that 1919/20 was not a normal period in working class history. The working class in Ireland, Europe and indeed the world was not in the passive role it has played here in recent decades. Strikes, occupations, land seizures and even revolutions were breaking out everywhere. In 1919 the national revolution in Ireland was threatening to get out of hand and become something wider than this, in Scotland dock workers went on strike rather than transport arms to the British army in Russia and machine guns were set up in Glasgow. Yet within a year of partition all this had almost vanished in Ireland.

In fact the WSM document does not claim that reinforcing the pre-existing divisions in the working class was either the major or only reason for partition. There were economic interests for the two new ruling classes as well. But it is hardly 'paranoid' or 'ill informed' 'spouting' to point out the obvious benefits that partition provided to the bosses facing an upsurge by the working class in Ireland and abroad.

A final point needs to be made before moving on and that is the question of partition on the south. Nationalists today are often keen to acknowledge the disastrous effects of partition on the north but slow to see the damage it did down south. Unfortunately the Organise document take the same position and even goes so far in the response to Pt4 to sneer "From the closing comments in this point we must ask if we are to take it that you blame sexual abuse on partition as well?".

This is in response to the line from the WSM paper that reads "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". Well partition did not cause the abuse but it did create the situation where in the southern state the catholic church had a veto on state policy and in many ways was untouchable.

The point about the child abuse scandals is not simply that the catholic church allowed them to happen (this also happened elsewhere) but that until the 1990's the Irish state gave impunity to those carrying out the abuse. The fact that abuse was going on was widely known but far from as might be expected the state arresting and prosecuting the abusers until the late 1960's the Gardai were actually tracking down and 'returning' the young women who had escaped from the Magdalene laundries. http://tinyurl.com/3slyy

Partition which in the south gave this power to the catholic church is quite relevant to understanding why the state not only covered up but also co-operated with such abuse. It’s certainly not a claim to be sneered at.

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/wsm/north.html
author by Al - Organise!publication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 14:33author email organiseireland at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm beginning to fear that we are not going to get any form of rational debate on this thread. I'm putting Joe's latest comments down to a knee-jerk defence mechanism to a positional response he seems to be taking personally (and I'm also concerned about his teeth O;) . The comment Terry quotes is an example of this and fairly insulting.

As Joe, of course, knows, there are a number of articles from Organise-IWA, ASF and AF Ireland (the 'Timebomb' series in Irish 'Resistance' , for example) that indicate a less than 'reactionary' approach to Irish history. If Joe is patient, he will see the better of these collated, put online and then into pamphlet form to which also will be added newer material -this pamphlet (which will outline our position on the north) will be published after the New Year. Organise! as an organisation has been formed for a year now so two pamphlets on this issue alone is fairly impressive I should say. For now, Joe has oddly missed a link to further articles on Ireland (not all written by current members of Organise!) at:

http://flag.blackened.net/infohub/organise/content.php?article.cat.25

So arguing with strawmen with no interest in Irish history isn't going to get us very far nor is selective quoting (easily remedied by a scroll up or down) are phrases like 'this manifestation of Organise' which can be applied to SSN or ASF but not to Organise! as it is now (which Joe knows, of course).

In short, we, as an organisation have put a lot of time and effort into this response. It is based on a genuine desire, as far as I am concerned, to find somewhere down the line an approximation at least on our positions on this issue. It is not going to be served by the sometimes heady responses of one individual but by reflection and positive debate by members of both organisations. To this end, I echo Gregor's sentiments above.

I will make comments on what's been said so far after I return from the anarchist bookfair and have more time.

Al

Related Link: http://www.organiseireland.org
author by Raypublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 15:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Organise and the WSM have worked on quite a few things, and drank a lot of pints together, over the years. But comments like
"could be read as a declaration that the very existence of people identifying themselves as British in the north-east of Ireland is what has brought the armed ‘resistance’ down on that section of our society by dint of their very existence",
"can be read as reactionary anti-British sentiment",
"could be seen as implying that had Sinn Fein remained true to their particular brand of socialism that we could be on the road to a more satisfactory outcome",
"seems to be saying that catholic workers are the section of the working class that is involved in “day to day industrial struggles” and protestant workers are by implication missing from those struggles",
and the suggestion that point 21 of the position paper is intended as advice to make republicanism more successful -
all of these things suggest to me that Organise is determined to find the least charitable interpretation of the WSM's position. At this point, I've given up trying to figure out why that may be, because surely by now no-one in Organise really thinks that this anarchism thing is just a pose and the minute they let down their defences the masks will come off to reveal the grinning faces of Adams and McGuinness. But, to be frank, their response looks paranoid.

(This undiplomatic response brought to you by the department of knee-jerk reactions, teeth-grinding, and irrational debate)

author by Leon wsm pers cappublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 16:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Clearly there is deliberate confrontationalism in what organise! have written. So what? They are looking at the text and why should they make charitable assumptions about that text?

Joe's point is that where radical working class action has taken place in the past in Ireland it has emerged (largely) from left rebublicanism, if we want to help people recall the history of their (or their parents) resistance to the owner class we should engage with that history. However the comrades (and the are our comrades) in Organise! regard this point of view with impatience and pull us up on our acceptance of basic nationalist ideas like the end of partition being useful, or even like the existence of an Irish nation.

what is wrong with this? In fact it is useful to challenge everything and to keep thinking all the time. we don;t have to agree with them, n obody has to win the argument. (though i personally find the response quite convincing)

People can only be expected to criticise texts, and everyone is being a bit precious demanding that the members of Organise! criticise the text in the context of their friendships with members of the wsm.

BTW WSM watcher you have made your point I will refrain from smartarsed comments in future.

author by Anxiouspublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 16:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Is Leon really a member of the WSM?

author by Raypublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 16:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm not suggesting that Organise! should deliberately ignore WSM's raving nationalism, in the same way as you might ignore a mate's bad haircut, or unfortunate allegiance to Arsenal, as we all stagger happily off to the bar.

But given that we have all drunk together often enough, and nobody from the WSM has ever suggested (in a friendly manner of course) that everyone would really be better off if those proddy bastards would either feck off back to Scotland or learn to love the pope, its a little annoying to have positions interpreted as if that's what the WSM is really thinking, behind all the stuff about anarchism.

So when someone from Organise! reads point 14, if the thought did flit through their minds that this _could_ be read as a declaration that the problem is all down to those self-identifying Brits, it would be nice if they then thought "Nah, that's hardly the kind of thing that the WSM is likely to think". Perhaps a note pointing out the slippage from 'British state' to 'British', but not two or three paragraphs attacking a meaning that personal experience would show isn't there.

There's nothing wrong with Organise! looking at history in a different way, or having different ideas about what our goals should be, or how to describe those goals. That's fair enough. What really annoys me is the patent distrust that seems to underly so many of the comments.

What finally provoked me into making my undiplomatic and no doubt unhelpful comments was Al's post saying there was obviously no hope for rational debate on this thread, and that Joe's responses were of the knee-jerk variety. Up to that point, I think there really _was_ a rational debate going on here, with people seriously discussing their positions.

And knee-jerk responses? You know, the debate between the WSM and Organise on this subject has been going on for years. It seems that pretty much every time a new round starts, the WSM's position ends up being described as some sort of soft nationalism. The knee-jerk response to _that_ is not to repeatedly stress the fact that nationalism offers no solution to the working class.

(... and that's the end of this debate for another few years, until the next Organise response to the WSM that starts "we know you claim not to be nationalists, but...")

(ah, the joys of being a loose cannon)

author by Leonpublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 16:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don't think that Organise! think that the WSM is a sort of pan nationalist front but people are shaped by the society they grow up in and Organise! is much more hostile to soft nationalism (of all varieties) both as an organisation and in terms of the attitudes of people individually. Given that you and 'Joe' both presumably know that maybe more slack needs to be cut in all directions.

author by Raypublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 17:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don't think WSM has made the symmetrical claim that Organise's policies are simply a result of the society they grew up in. The problem with that argument is that it assumes the person making it is in some sort of privileged position, where they are free from the influence of their surrounding society (or that the surrounding society is 'neutral' and 'natural'). To put it bluntly, Organise can say that the WSM's positions are the result of growing up in the south, and WSM could say that Organise's positions are the result of growing up among unionists. There's undoubtedly some truth to both arguments, but its also a dead-end as far as reaching an agreed position is concerned.

There has been some discussion of this in the past. The fact that the WSM has used phrases like 'workers republic'* has been discussed, and we've talked about whether this was simply a case of using terminology that would be recognised by people likely to see WSM publications (people on the left in Dublin, mainly) or did it mean that the WSM was (perhaps unconsciously) adopting some of the positions of their audience. Its hard to say. But the corollary to that is that Organise's reaction to the phrase 'workers republic' could also be (again unconsciously) influenced by the reaction that other people in the 'protestant' community would have to the phrase. Its hard to say, because the point of disagreement is about how much the use of a particular phrase is linked to nationalism, and there's no way for one or other group to decide who is being insensitive and who is being oversensitive.** This also applies, I suppose, to the general idea of drawing examples from history. When the WSM publishes an article about 1798, is their desire to seek historical fore-runners making them insensitive to the nationalism of those episodes? Or are Organise being over-sensitive in believing that everything touched by nationalism is irretrievably tainted? Nobody is in the neutral position, so nobody can judge.

The best place to start, if we're trying to see if WSM and Organise's positions are compatible, is with their prescriptions for the future. If the two organisations can agree on that (and agree that they agree on that) then I think their analyses of the past aren't as important. You can disagree about Wolfe Tone if you agree about what is to be done tomorrow, and over the next decades.

The first part of this doesn't seem to be contentious - Catholic and Protestant (nationalist and unionist, whatever) workers should work together in industrial struggles.

The contentious bit is that these same workers should work together for an anarchist Ireland. Organise seem to describe this as a stages theory. Why? I don't think the WSM claim that workers should fight for a unified capitalist Ireland as the first stage of a fight for an anarchist Ireland, which is what I'd understand stagism to mean.

The problem, it seems to me, is with any mention of Ireland as a single political entity, whether it be capitalist or anarchist. And here (just in case you thought I was getting too conciliatory) I have to argue that the problem is nationalism on the part of Organise. The only reason to object to Ireland being a single political entity is that you think there is a separate British nation on the island, and that even an anarchist society must maintain the distinction between the 'Irish' bit and the 'British' bit. What else is this but nationalism?

* or phrases like this, at any rate. I can't remember which ones were picked out as being particularly objectionable when we had this discussion
** which isn't to say that there aren't some things that both groups can agree are problematic, and others things that are neutral

author by Joe - WSM pers cappublication date Thu Nov 25, 2004 18:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The obvious place to follow on from the last discussion of partition is the question of what your alternative is. For some reason Organise choose to portray the WSM alternative in the language of Marxism (i.e. Stages theory) which is odd as neither organisation is Marxist. I guess the reason is that this is the way the debate is often conducted on the Leninist and republican left so at least it is a short hand that many activists are familiar with. So is what the WSM says merely a variation on the stages theory as Organise claim?

Looking at the WSM position paper itself this appears to be ruled out by Pt11 which includes "Republicanism is a petty-bourgeoisie ideology and not a socialist one. ... because of its stages theory where labour must wait it has little attraction for Protestant workers and has no strategy for approaching Protestant workers." This is the only explicit reference to Marxist stages theory in the document for the most part we choose to put forward our alternative rather than knock further holes in this theory.

The position paper on globalisation and imperialism has a bit more discussion on this area but again mostly free of the Marxist jargon. It's at http://struggle.ws/wsm/positions/globalisation.html , points from 10 on are the more relevant ones/

A stages theory as the name suggests would put forward the idea that before we could fight for anarchism some other 'stage' in the struggle would have to be achieved. But in fact this document puts the fight for anarchism as the immediate task on the agenda. This is clearest in points 27 and 29.

"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."

Now to an extent what Organise appear to be arguing is that the phrase 'anarchist Ireland' introduces 'stages theory' by the back door. This is never clearly spelled out but is the implication of Organise phrases like "The aim of “an anarchist Ireland” when read in relation to the document as a whole would seem to reinforce, or at least perpetuate, mythical nationalist notions about the sanctity of Ireland as a political unit." and in response to Pt25 "Again the reference to an “anarchist Ireland” is in keeping with nationalist historiography and the myth of the nation-state, or as it explicitly states “anarchist”, in keeping with the sanctity of Ireland as a polity which is bound up in this version of history and mythology. This is not to mention the fallacy of suggesting that we can have an “anarchist Ireland” any more than Russian workers could benefit from Stalin’s “socialism in one country”. Surely we are internationalists struggling for the establishment of a global anarchist society."

Clearly the phrase 'anarchist Ireland' does indeed suggest that Ireland as a smallish island is quite a sensible political unit. Especially as we have hardly pretended to be neutral on the historical issue of partition there is nothing shocking here. And in terms of political units very few of the worlds island are partitioned and those that are (Cyprus, Haiti) are or have been partitioned as the result of imperialism.

There is nothing shocking about the observation that an island, even the island of Ireland is a useful area to look at as a decision making unit. On obvious issues like inland waterways, fisheries, disease control (remember Foot and Mouth) and to a certain extent transport even the DUP are willing to conceed this might make sense.

Indeed its also worth pointing out that even Organise organise on a basis that crosses the border between north and south but does not involved trying to organise in Scotland, Wales or England. So even Organise can obviously at least in one case recognise the usefulness of defining the island as a political unit without getting involved in "nationalist historiography" the "myth of the nation-state" or indeed "the sanctity of Ireland as a polity".

The issue of 'socialism is one country' is another diversion into Maxist jargon that makes little sense in terms of a debate between anarchists. The history of anarchism is the history of trying to make revolution at the level of all sorts of geographic units from the very local (Malatesta's small villages rebellions) through cities (Bakunin’s attempt to provoke insurrection in Lyon in 1871) to large sections of countries (the Makhnovist movement in the western Ukraine, the Spanish insurrections of the early 30's) through to country wide wide rebellions (Spain 1936). Any of these examples can be criticised but no anarchist would seriously suggest they were proposals to construct socialism in one country. Rather they were rebellions that were made where the anarchists were organised in the hope that their example would inspire similar actions elsewhere.

The WSM sees internationalism as important but we are trying to build an organisation that is limited to the island of Ireland. Rather than trying to get anarchists in Britain or beyond to join the WSM we try and build links with organisations there or encourage the formation of new organisations. Organise are doing the same.

So at one level Ireland is simply an obvious and useful geographical unit to organise in.

At another level though we have identified partition as a bad thing. The logic of this is that you are against partition so the obvious question is what to put in its place.

As the position paper explains along with other on the left we used to use the slogan 'For a workers republic'. Incidentally this is a slogan that predates partition and is intended to be counterpoised to nationalism while at the same time opposing imperialist occupation (and later partition). And far from being a slogan of the big 'R' republican movement alone it was even used by Militant (fore runner of the socialist party) on their paper mast head up to 1974.

Recently we decided that this slogan no longer expressed what we meant. This is explained in the position paper. But that said the attempt to limit the meaning of the word republic to "a state without a monarchy" does Organise no favors. Even mainstream dictionaries (eg http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=republic ) offer other more broader meanings which include
"A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them"
and
"A group of people working as equals in the same sphere or field: the republic of letters"

Given that we have dropped the slogan anyway its all a bit of a historical argument about what words mean but an important point is the global republican movement prior to the 1860's included individuals and groups that used republic to mean something that would have looked like what we understand an anarchist society would look like. Such groups and individuals were always defeated within the republican movements by those with money and power but this does not mean they did not exist and contest just what was the republic being fought for.

The bottom line is that we say we are fighting for an anarchist Ireland because we are fighting for an anarchist Ireland and we organise in Ireland.

As it says in the postion paper
"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 .... 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"

Organise manages to translate this into “Class interests are made subservient to the task of ending partition” a translation I find remarkable.

---

For those wondering I replied to Al's comments on my post directly to him by email

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/wsm/positions/partition.html
author by Joe - WSM personal capacitypublication date Fri Nov 26, 2004 14:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The above remarks complete my replies to the Organise! document although if anyone feels there is an important area I've missed point it out and I'll return to it. Now I'd like to move on to discuss some issues that the debate has thrown up but which are not covered in the WSM position paper or the Organise reply.

The first of these is the question of nationalism. It's quite probably that indymedia readers not familiar with the anarchist attitude towards nationalism will be somewhat shocked by the hostility both organisations show towards it. And probably somewhat puzzled by a debate which at times seems to revolve around who can damn it more.

The anarchist understanding of nationalism is that it is a tool used by those with power and wealth in society to keep control of that society. They seek to hide the class differences that exist in that society by emphasising common cultural and language links in forming a common nation. And where societies go into crisis they are quite willing to change nationalisms in order to deflect that crisis from any examination of class divisions.

The most familiar recent example of this process was the break up of former Yugoslavia. Here bosses that were formally united in the Communist Party and who promoted a common Yugoslavian nationalism suddenly discovered that they were really Serbians or Croatians or Bosnians. That this moment of discovery coincided on the one hand with the intervention of EU capital and on the other with the Europe wide popular revolt against Leninist regimes we are supposed to think of as coincidental. The result was a bloody war in which tens of thousands or people, mostly ordinary workers, died and the old bosses staying in charge, at least for a while.

Nationalism is the mechanism though which, as in World War One, a load of German bosses can convince a load of socialist German workers that they need to go off and kill a load of socialist French workers. And this has happened again and again in the last 200 years. In a more minor example nationalism in the Irish republic allowed Haughey to tell us 'we must all tighten our belts' and suffer recession together while he jetted off to buy himself 12,000 pound shirts.

Of course what is being talked about is how the ruling class and the state use nationalism. Anarchists are generally not against supporting the Irish football team or drinking on St Patrick’s Day. Within the WSM some are Irish language fanatics while others look forward to the day it vanishes. Another member is so crazy about the Irish team that every time they have a goal less draw a 2m tricolor gets flown in the back garden for a week. That sort of nationalism is the sort we argue about at 2am when drink is taken.

There would be as little point in a political organisation being for or against these expressions of national identity as demanding its members stop supporting British football teams or the county GAA teams. Indeed at that sort of popular level nationalism is seldom more than a reflection of the sense of loyalty people feel for their city (Cork has this bad) county or even locality. It is only a problem in so far as the bosses can use it to mobilise for political ends - the politicians love to be seen at all Ireland finals or hugging successful footballers.

You can also make an argument that little 'r' republicanism was able to use nationalism in a progressive fashion to destroy the acceptance of the 'rich man at the castle, the poor man at his gate'. Right back to the American Revolution the creation of an American identity was central in winning a republic where white men had certain rights and freedoms rather than being subjects of a foreign king.

But this use of nationalism to create a national identity that was part of defeating imperialism was always problematic. In the American case in order to unite white bosses and white workers that identity excluded most of the original inhabitants of the land and most black people. It took a civil war far bigger and more destructive than the American Revolution to even start to redefine American in a more inclusive way.

In the Irish case although the republicans of 1798 tried to create a new Irish identity to overcome the divisions into protestant, catholic and dissenter they failed. And while Emmet and the Young Irelanders followed them (and also failed) the constitutional nationalist movement succeeded in creating an identity that was instead catholic and Gaelic. Organise are quite right to point to this as one of the reasons why Ireland ended up partitioned even if it were not the only reason. When modern big 'R' Republicans talk of their community we all understand what is meant and at times they have been much more straightforward. Francie Molloy's 1996 election campaign posters - based on there being 20,000 more nationalists (i.e. Catholics) than Protestants in Mid-Ulster - is a case in point

Much more recently we have just come through a referendum on what it is to be Irish that excluded on objectivly racist grounds many of those whose parents were not born here. The south may have moved on from the catholic and Gaelic limitations on Irish nationalism but in its place we have one that will exclude many people who are born here with black or brown skin. An example once more of how nationalism can be used to divide a population as well as unite it.

The referendum is an excellent example of why anarchists will often choose to contest nationality rather than just dismiss it as being irrelevant. I'm not sure what work Organise did around the referendum but I'd be surprised if they saw it as irrelevant. The WSM took part in the Campaign against the Racist Referendum and published and distributed our own leaflet against the referendum. Text is at http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/leaflet/racistref11june04.html

This brings me to a final note - an assertion of nationality can often be a disguised way to say something you don't want to say directly. Certainly the sub-text of the referendum campaign was often non-Irish = black . In a similar way if you run into someone from South Africa who insists they are Dutch rather than South African but who was born in South Africa certain questions are raised as to why they raise this distinction.

That some northern protestants choose to define themselves as British should raise questions rather than be uncritically accepted. This definition may only be related to how they perceived the IRA campaign, I can understand why people might want to try and put themselves into a separate category than those who bombed Eniskillen or the Shankill road. But at least as used by some loyalist paramilitaries through 'Irish out' graffiti it can also be the ideological preparation for an acceptance of ethnic cleansing. It certainly appears that some loyalists are as keen to exclude Chinese and other minorities from their 'British' identity as Barrett and his ilk are keen to exclude Nigerians and others from Irish identity.

For this reason I think anarchists will always need to contest national identity rather than just accept whatever labels are applied. Certainly the long term message is that these things are no more important than what football team you follow. In the shorter term we need to always ask 'what is meant by this definition'.

Related Link: http://www.struggle.ws/ws/2002/ws70/nation.html
author by Turlough - IRSPpublication date Sun Dec 12, 2004 02:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think Joe raised some good points here about how nationalism and republicanism should be evaluated. In fact this is one of the most interesting discussions on republicanism that I've seen online and a credit to all who contributed.

It's time for a 'new departure' in republican and revolutionary left wing politics -- a recognition that the old Republican approach to partition failed and an acceptance by the Left that the northern state must be opposed.

I think the approach of Connolly is a good starting point for revolutionaries and left wing republicans to freshly evaluate exactly what the contribution from revolutionaries should be.

It also doesn't hurt to recognise that a pro-Irish cultural stance does not make that person unprogressive or un-revolutionary and the left should quit appeasing the 'British' section of Ireland -- note to the SWP!

Number of comments per page
  
 
© 2001-2021 Independent Media Centre Ireland. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by Independent Media Centre Ireland. Disclaimer | Privacy