Friday, March 20, 2009

Northern Ireland: No Way Out Except Socialism

By Editorial Statement of the Socialist Appeal
Thursday, 19 March 2009

The recent fatal attacks on British Army and Police Service of Northern Ireland personnel by the Real and Continuity IRA came as a shock. They are the first in 12 years. There has been plenty of evidence over the past few months that they were being planned. The rumours were that the Real IRA were trying to force the hand of the Sinn Fein leaders, by obliging them to line up with the security forces and the Police and thus to demonstrate that they had sold out the Republican cause.

The 'armed struggle' failed. In fact it threw back the consciousness of the working class, dividing worker against worker.

The fact is, however, that the conditions which would result in these groups gaining anything from this are absent. The "armed struggle" failed to liberate one inch of land over 30 years. In fact it threw back the consciousness of the working class, dividing worker against worker, and gave the excuse for dozens of repressive laws and measures to be introduced. These laws can in fact be used against the working class, and the trade unions in particular.

These recent attacks have helped to create an environment in which anyone who disagrees with the Good Friday Agreement, can be tainted as "dissidents" and thus "terrorists", when the two things are not the same at all. There are among the Republican movement those who oppose that Agreement on a class basis and reject the idea of a return to the "armed struggle".

There was a huge war weariness, which resulted in the sham of the Stormont Assembly. Stormont is nothing more than a glorified local council. The underlying tensions and the problems and contradictions in Northern Irish society have if anything got worse over the past period. The huge economic development in the Republic had a certain effect on the economy, but the six counties in the North are more divided physically by the walls and barbed wire and sectarianism has been institutionalised with the Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionist Party, officially "representing" the Catholic and Protestant communities respectively.

The attacks reflect in a distorted and confused way the frustration of a layer of young people who don't see any other way out. Their tactics won't achieve a united Ireland in another 30 or even 300 years. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Provisional IRA was able to gain a sizeable echo among the Catholic Youth, because they were seen to be defending the communities from sectarian attacks and the British state. But even with significant support the Provisionals' campaign failed in its objectives.

The response to the attacks has been rapid and very revealing. It is very positive that the unions, under the pressure of the workers, called for demonstrations against a return to sectarian violence. Unfortunately, religious groups, MPs and ‘security forces' tried to appropriate these protests turning them into the ‘official' response. That must not be allowed to happen. That same establishment has been for centuries responsible for the oppression of workers of different denominations and the sectarian division in the North of Ireland.

For Marxists the key to transforming the situation is the organized working class. We recently saw thousands of workers from all denominations and backgrounds marching together in the South. When the workers move, there is no power on earth that can stop them.

The so-called 'Peace Wall' separates Protestants and Catholics in Belfast. Photo by a11sus on Flickr.

The conditions are maturing for the building of a mass movement against capitalism. The crisis of capitalism doesn't respect religious denomination or which side of the ‘peace walls' (that separate Protestants and Catholics in Belfast) you happen to live on. Unemployment is shooting through the roof. It's doubled in the South and the ripples of the economic nightmare there will not stop until they reach the North Antrim coast.

At a time when jobs, services, houses and health are all at risk, taking pot shots at the PSNI or the Army is a dangerous diversion. How many trade unionists and young people in the North were sitting glued to the pictures of the monster demonstration in Dublin last month? How many were sitting thinking "we should be doing that"? Now they have been sitting watching the TV news reports of the shootings wondering whether the clock has been turned back 20 years.

The ideas of Marxist internationalism provide a genuine alternative to the blind alley into which the working class in the North of Ireland has been driven for so long. We base ourselves on the organised strength of the working class in the trade unions and among the youth. It is only through fighting in the tradition of Connolly and Larkin that we can hope to bring down the partition and the so called peace walls. We stand for a united Socialist Ireland, linked in a voluntary federation to a Socialist Britain as part of a voluntary European and world Socialist Federation.

Sectarianism only serves to divide the working class. When in reality the conditions that Catholic and Protestant workers face mean that they have far more in common with each other than they could ever have with the bosses. That fact alone means that there is an alternative. But Marxism needs to win the arguments and show up the shortcomings of both Paisley and Adams. That means not simply waiting for things to happen or tail ending events. On the contrary, what is required is for all genuine Marxists in Ireland to come together and work towards the building of a force that can unlock the potential power and strength of the organised working class in the whole of the island.



John Peterson said...

I was hoping you would take this issue up on here, Ren! It's no accident, in my opinion, that these attacks come precisely when the class in the south is starting to mobilize massively and even occupy factories! Thankfully the response has been for class unity across religious lines against a return to sectarian violence! For a socialist republic of all 32 counties as part of a voluntary Socialist Federation of Britain!

sonia said...

Being socialist for over 40 years didn't prevent Serbs from murdering Bosnian Muslims in the 1990's...

I doubt very much that by turning Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics into socialists will solve that conflict...

Socialists are just as stupid, nationalistic, narrow-minded and sectarian as capitalists. No difference whatsoever.

A socialist Ireland would have just as many car bombings and assassinations as capitalist Ireland has. The only diffference is that it would be much harder to find toilet paper there...

Gert said...


This is getting ridiculous.

"Problem? Only a Socialist Revolution can solve it!"

This could be article 19 in along series according to the same template. Sorry, but I'm not buying.

The Real IRA and Continuation IRA are very minor nuisances (and very small in number too). The peace process is very solid as witnessed by solidarity joint-demonstrations involving both sides, against these residual nutters. It's also likely these guys can't fart without someone in the Catholic community knowing about it. I expect several arrests any time soon.

What does need to be done urgently to make further and real progress is to very proactively promote integration of both communities. This is a very straightforward task which has been neglected by both sides and their respective Churches (and you don't need Socialism to achieve it).

Promote integration from the kindergarten to university level and you breed individuals who can live with their (relatively small) differences without resorting to violence. It's well understood and accepted that this is the way forward but the usual inertia and absence of political will have hampered this process. Mopping up the residual strife of this conflict could take no more than one single generation.

Larry Gambone said...

Gert, I don't think the article has the absolutist bent that you claim. The first step to socialist consciousness is class consciousness that transcends religion and ethnicity. If there is to be peace in N. Ireland people must go beyond religious/ethnic division, which means they are heading in a socialist direction. Socialists do not see things happening overnight or all at once.

Gert said...


If there is to be peace in N. Ireland people must go beyond religious/ethnic division [...]

By and large there is peace in N.Ireland (these residual warmongers don't make it not so) but there remains a divide between the communities. Flare ups of tensions remain still possible but not likely.

Integration and assimilation are the key issue here.

Frank Partisan said...

JP: I agree.

Sonia: When Tito was alive, there was no bloodshed as after Stalinism collapsed.

They never had socialism in Yugoslavia, since socialism is a world system. At best they had a society in transition, with a bureaucratic caste. The most correct term is workerist Bonapartism.

Gert: The Good Friday Agreement left PSF enforcing British rule.

The best bet is taking up explicit class issues, and uniting various communities. The world economic crisis provides fodder. I can go on with numbers.

Integration is worthy of support. The main problems can't be solved by sectarians.

Larry G: I agree.

Desert Mystery said...


I sort of have to agree with Sonia, socialism (although mainly in name only) didn't solve the ethno-sectarian problems of the pseudo-Stalinist Peoples Republic of Yemen, Albania, nor of any of the former soviet states.

I can only foresee some type of democratic socialist arrangement similar to what the Nordic states have (Pan-Scandinavianism or Nordism) solving the N.Irish problem.

jams o donnell said...

To be honest Ren getting the Good Friday Agreement through was a huge achievement. THe recent craven acts aside, Northern Ireland has had years of peace and stability. A climate where Sinn Fein and the DUP work together in government is one I never thought I would see

SecondComingOfBast said...

Yeah, really, where does it end? Before the recent financial crisis Ireland was in great shape, all things considered. The people there are independent minded enough they voted down the Lisbon Treaty, so its not like they are all being led around by the nose. What if instead of a terrorist attack, it was just a simple bank robbery? A mugging? Purse snatching? Jaywalking? Really, I'm not just being facetious, but it seems like the people that write some of these things seems to think socialism is some kind of magical cure-all for every ill, and its not. You're never going to have a perfect world. There's nothing in the universe that is perfect, not as humans measure perfection-which tends to be self-serving-so how could there be? Socialism would be rife with no more or no less imperfection-at best-than any other system. That's just the way it is. It's called reality.

Larry Gambone said...

No one is saying that socialism is a magic cure all, nor that a perfect world will ensue.What we are saying in this article is that if people's class consciousness is greater than their nationalism there will be less inter-ethnic conflict. Class consciousness is an aspect of socialism.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Because it crosses ethnic lines. Okay, I got that, but its still a stretch to imagine that just because there's a flare-up somewhere every now and then that its time to turn to socialism as the only answer to the problem. If this kind of thing were widespread, or was to become widespread, then maybe you could make the argument, but these relatively isolated incidents, as bad as they are, just don't rise to that level.

Gert said...


The title 'No Way Out Except Socialism' doesn't leave much to the imagination, in my opinion.

I just can't see N.Ireland 'go Socialist', it's a very traditionalist society.

The sectarian divides are perceived to be religious when actually there's hardly a cigarette paper beween Catholicism and Protestantism. People must be encouraged to promote integration beween very young members of the communities. The churches have an important role to play by downplaying their perceived differences and emphasizing their similarities.

WeezieLou said...

it is extremely scary how quickly this struggle rose so quickly to the fore.

Larry Gambone said...

The problem stems from looking at socialism as a thing and not a process. As for traditionalism, Latin Americans are that yet prone to go in a socialist direction. So too were the highly traditional Welsh miners. Indeed traditions that break down alienation and create solidarity are more open to socialism than highly alienated atomized people - say your typical N. American suburb - the least traditional people on the planet.

Larry Gambone said...

Adding to this, there is really no such thing as "tradition" pure and simple. There are a variety of traditions - those that are authoritarian, that aid domination and those that are traditions of resistance, solidarity and communality. The former create complacence and subservience, the latter by overcoming alienation and creating bonds among people can be a powerful aid in class struggle and the development of a socialist consciousness.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Yeah, and of course no one would ever grow complacent and subservient under a Soviet, er, I mean under a socialist system.

tony said...

Well! Im not really sure if Socialism is any nearer or further in the Six Counties than anywhere else at the moment.
I dont really think a couple of bombs/shootings/whatever really makes any difference (has anybody claimed responsibility yet?).......The IRA never really were Socialist were they? the IRA were about as close to Marx as Ian Paisley was/is to God! Infact...given the amount of money they got from The States, Socialism was the last thing on the Mind of the gallent boys in Green.
I hope Socialism comes to the Whole of Ieland.The whole of Britain for that matter.But ,i dont really see a few murders making a lot of difference either way.
Sadly, i do think the Recession WILL see a big increase on Violence purely for the sake of Violence.............

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I'm with Gert, for a start off, the solution to every problem seems to socialism which is bollocks at best and pigging backing on tragedy at worst.

The recent atrocity was an exception, this article reads like a vulture hovering over the ded soldiers, to be truthful it's a fucking disgrace.

Norther Ireland is doing alright thanks, the last thing it needs its some half-asssed socialist nonsense to 'save it'.

Frank Partisan said...

Jams: The sectarian violence ending is a step forward. In Dublin 200,000 people marched against a pension tax there on government employees. That is like 3 million marching in the US. Nothing was won after the years of terror. It still isn't one country.

Tony: I really like your blog.

I agree with what you said. Even when the IRA declared itself socialist, it was from above, and based on pragmatism.

Desert Mystery: Your examples of socialism, were corrupted by Bonapartist dictatorship. Without democracy socialism like a human without air. It is impossible to have socialism in one country, so dictatorship comes with it. You can't even have capitalism in one country.

Gert: I don't disagree with you about integration. Why isn't it done?

Violence like the 1970s isn't the issue. Unemployment, housing etc. is the issue now.

Pagan: The response of condemning the terrorist act, was a step forward.

Ethnic violence isn't the main issue. There was a march of 200,000 people in Dublin, against a tax on retirement benefits. That is like 3 million in the US. There has been factory occupations there.

It's not a situation that was nirvana, except for some random killings.

Weezie: I agree.

Daniel H-G: You're redbaiting.

Larry G: I agree.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I'm not red baiting, I'm agreeing with Gert and the explaing the reality of the situation there.

Seriously, the post looks like a leech on recent events and offers no reality based solutions.

I've been to Northern Ireland and have a good pal who knows the ropes, he read the piece and made it clear it musty have come from a source with no experience or knowledge of Northern Ireland.

jams o donnell said...

Ren - Reunification will be a long, long process. The cessation of violence is a first step. THe next priority must be to break down the walls of sectarianism in the North. Until you bridge that divide there's no point in even thinking about reunion because it simply won't happen

tony said...

Thank You!

Frank Partisan said...

Daniel H-G: You deny redbaiting, then go on to redbait again.

Jams: On March 30th, hundreds of thousands in Ireland, are going out on a general strike. Not too sectarian is it?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Dissent is not redbaiting.

Unless you've just gone all Stalin on the situation.

Larry Gambone said...

Actually I don't see how Daniel is red-baiting either, even though he is certainly being harsh.

Once again, the problem comes down to seeing socialism as a thing to be imposed - which then makes it look as though socialism was some kind of panacea. As I explained above - several times in fact - it is a process and the first step in that process is for ordinary people to realize they have more in common with each other than those things that divide them, such as ethnicity and religion.

The problem of the reification of socialism - or any other concept for that matter - is partly rooted in our language in which concepts are given the form of nouns - that is they are turned into fixed things. Some languages, such as Aboriginal ones are verb-based a tree is a "tree-ing" for example, so everything is seen as processes rather than fixed objects.

SecondComingOfBast said...


You're making a big mistake. You've had two people here who have criticized the tone of this and similar articles, two people who come closer to agreeing with your overall views than I ever could. The lesson you should take from that is, it's never good when potential allies or sympathizers see you as "pigging-backing", as Daniel put it, on a tragedy.

Rather than seeing it as "red-baiting" you should see it for what it is-an honest criticism of your compatriots tactics and uncalled for demagoguery over what is, after all, a painful and tragic event.

I would also like to point out yet another aspect that might be the most important one of all. There are certainly a certain number of people who might be swayed by appeals such as this-but what kind of people?

Anonymous said...

I thank Larry for the closest thing to a definition of socialism I've seen on this blog yet.

No really, thanks.

Frank Partisan said...

Pagan: The post was supportive of how the terrorist act, was soundly denounced.

There was no demagoguery. How could you say that without showing a quote from the post?

There was no history in Venezuela, of occupying factories. We planted the idea, in the days it was considered absurd. In the Soviet Union we raise ideas that are remote of happening. You need to plant the seeds. In Pakistan we have thousands of members, but we started with one. Qualititative change can cause quantitative change.

What kind of people will be swayed by a call to end sectarianism, unite Ireland, end guerillaism, who knows. The country is going in that direction, more than not.

On March 30th, Ireland is having a general strike. There will be no sectarianism then.

The Celtic Tiger is dead. People who immigrated to Ireland, are moving too Scandinavia.

Ireland is losing skilled jobs to Asia and Latin America.

Ireland was the first European country, to announce it is in recession.

Housing prices may fall 30%.

Daniel H-G: Ask your friend if he ever heard of James Connelly.

Larry G: Interesting concept.

FJ: Capitalism is also a process.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I'll agree with Larry in that I was being harsh, I'll accept that and apologise.

Also Ren, there is some confusion in your answer between Northern Ireland, which is waht the post is about and The Republic of Ireland wihich you comment on, the two are very different and in different places economically and socio-politically; getting the two mixed up is a red herring I fear.

Gert said...

I agree with Daniel and some others: this piece is quite opportunistic and risks inflating the residual problems in N.Ireland. The 'Real' and 'Continuation' IRA are DIY 'terrorists' and complete amateurs compared to the actual IRA of yonder.

Integration is something HMG should be promoting actively. I think they're simply a bit asleep at the wheel after the initial success of the Good Friday Agreement and the positive developments that followed in its wake.

Perhaps the minor skirmishes we've seen recently will at least bring the matter a bit more to the fore again. But beware of scaremongers that'll tell you that 'nothing has changed' and that 'more terror is just round the corner'. Only a very superficial (and possibly self-serving) analysis would lead to that conclusion.

Seriously derailing the current situation would be very difficult. New terror groups would be viewed much like ETA in the Basque region: with utter horror.

Frank Partisan said...

Nobody said violence will come again, other than Tony speculating about the side effects of the economic crisis.

Its nonsense that the post inflated the new IRA. It was the opposite.

Nothing opportunistic about that post. The group that wrote it, opposed IRA guerillaism from the first day. The roots of that group, go back to the 1930s.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Opportunistic int he sense that it comesat a time of tragedy and suggests and unworkable solution.

As Gert and I said a way back in this comment thread.

Mr. Divine said...

Sometihing I read recently about the word, "Socialism' concerns the behaviour of Karl Marx. It is well known that Karl Marx with his friend Engles visited brothels. In these brothels there were underage children. It is very likely that Marx had sex with underage girls.
The founder of the word, "Socialist' was I fact a pedophile.

I don't know where the writer got the information from but every time I hear the word, "Socialism" I connect it with pedophilia.

Larry Gambone said...

What a piece of idiocy this is. Most men visited brothels in those days. The age of consent in Victorian England was 12. And just because a man visited a Victorian brothel does not mean he had sex with a child. Furthermore Marx did not invent either socialism or the word socialism. Both date back to the 1820's - about the time KM was less than 10 years old. Do a little reading before you babble!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Mr. Divine is a fucking twat.

Anonymous said...

...unlike DHG, who is a fucked twat.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

And now you open this up again?

Fuck off you slimey childish cunt.

Anonymous said...

I opened? Best look again, poofty.

As is evident to one and all (except for you) you're the "tone" problem at this blog.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

This was a dead thread as of 29th March and you re-open it again with a personal insult, my insult was to Mr. Divine who connected socialism with paedophilia; which I'm sure even you can agree is an idiotic and insensitive thing to do.

Or do you think they are connected FJ?

As for my tone effecting this blog, stop opening dead threads with the only aim of insulting me, that is destroying this blog becuassde as you know I will not back down with you in ANY thread you spoil.

Blow by blow I will beat you.

As for tone, in my emails with ren it is clear who is the offender here but you are lucky in that Ren does not believe in comment modding or removing offensive, esp homophobic, comments from here.

You fail again.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Seriously FJ, stop destroying threads that are done and dusted with a long time ago, contain it to the one thread at least.

Anonymous said...

LOL! The thread was closed? Then why weren't comments turned off?

So let's discuss whether or not Marx was a paedophile or not. If we can talk about Jefferson's mistress, we sure as hell can talk about Marx's catamites. Of course, you shouted down Mr. D. before he could elaborate, so perhaps we'll never learn the truth of the matter.

...or will we? I'll be back.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...

In a new biography, British journalist, broadcaster and gadfly Francis Wheen argues that Marx actually occupied this profane ground himself and strives to recover Marx the man--carbuncles and all--as opposed to Marx the myth, from posterity. What unfolds is a tale of an intricate and vulnerable figure, a Prussian refugee who, in Wheen's words, "became a middle-class English gentleman; an angry agitator who spent much of his adult life in the scholarly silence of the British Museum Reading Room; a gregarious and convivial host who fell out with almost all his friends; a devoted family man who impregnated his housemaid; and a deeply earnest philosopher who loved drink, cigars and jokes." Wheen reveals a feisty yet frail patriarch, a peripatetic vagabond who spent more than thirty years traipsing from one crummy apartment to another, avoiding debts, pawning what little he had, shrugging off illness.
True, Wheen succeeds in painting a Marx vividly human in some ways. Yet he's far too preoccupied with frivolity, with recounting Marx's alcoholic high jinks, discoursing on his flatulence and boil-ridden penis...

Sounds like Nietzsche wasn't the ONLY syphilitic prostitute frequenter. How else do you get a "boil ridden" penis?

There may be truth to some of Mr. D's accusations...

Anonymous said...

Besides. This thread was dead on the 27th when Mr. D. left his comment. Two days later Larry posted a lame defense of everyone does it, and then "mr toney" showed up.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

You're pathetic, destroying yet another thread.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you could curtail your personal attacks on posters whose opinions you don't agree with, we wouldn't have this problem now, would we?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

what respect I had for you, slim as it was, is now gone, not only for spoiling another thread, calling socialsim paedophilia but the terrible crime of abusing the memory of my relatives.

You are a horrible little man, with no understading oft he words you use and the hate speech you brutalise people with.

Anonymous said...

Oh, your feelings were hurt. How sad for you. Do you care about anyone elses when you call them racist homophobes? I didn't think so.

Anonymous said...

How about when you call them, "a fucking twat? or "slimey childish cunt?"

You're so respectful of the other poster here. It makes me feel real real bad whenever I hurt your feelings.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


I base my comments on what people offer, ie: homophobic language and/or racist language. I would urge people not to use it rather than complain when they are 'outed' as people that use words like that. I've already talked about cake and eat it.

Don't use racist or homophobic language and it will be okay won't it?

As for the names I called you, indeed, it paints us all in a poor light that such language was used, I have urged Ren to delete comments such as these from myself and from you and to seal the threads shut so nothing else can be spoilt. I'm not proud of these terms at all, I was provoked but that is no excuse for such things but it does take two to tango in such matters.

You constantly push the buttons and I am someone who will rise to them, for good or for bad.

But currently, the discussion has sunk to new lows.

And sorry, with ref to the chap who connected socialism to paedophilia, I will use that language, having worked with victims of that crime, it is not a joking matter or a connection used lightly, such as being a Nazi.