Nov 08 2015


Category: CommemorationsRCN @ 8:32 pm

walk of pride (small v)

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Nov 08 2015


The RCN has continually emphasised the significance of political developments in Northern Ireland. In contrast to England and Wales, where conservative unionism remains dominant, and Scotland where a hybrid constitutional nationalism/liberal unionism is dominant, in Northern Ireland reactionary unionism has become the predominant political force. Together the Ulster unionist parties and the loyalists been able to push back the post-1997 Good Friday Agreement component of the UK state’s ‘New Unionist’ Peace Process and Devolution-all-round settlement. UKIP intends to use this model to extend its own reactionary unionist offensive across the UK.  This article, from Socialist Democracy (Ireland)  shows how the UK state has used the Ulster unionists’ current offensive directed against Sinn Fein, to further its austerity programme, in return for more political concessions to entrench the political position of reactionary unionists and loyalists. 

Ultra-sectarian Ruth Patterson of the DUP challenges party leader, Peter Robinson. from the further Right

Ultra-sectarian Ruth Patterson of the DUP challenges party leader, Peter Robinson. from the further Right


The results of the report by a British government monitoring panel caused bemusement among observers inside and outside Ireland. Following the statement of a few truisms – the IRA still exist, the loyalist gangs are still active – the Democratic Unionist Party, who had been blocking the operation of the local Assembly by resigning their positions and re-appointing themselves in a weekly cycle, returned to their positions full-time.

Of course the report was entirely political. Its main function was to provide the magic formula that would allow the DUP to return and escape the savage criticism of their backers in the business community.  A report from the Irish authorities, while much more general in tone, added to the instability by increasing the political critique of Sinn Fein in the run-up to the coming southern election.

New deal

However the report has another function. The history of the Irish process, and current reports, indicate that the outlines of a deal have already been agreed. There would be little point in the DUP returning to Stormont to oversee its collapse. In fact Sinn Fein leaders are touring cumman to rally support for another retreat, while trade union and church figures are talking up the claimed benefits of the Stormont administration.

The outlines are straightforward. A new deal will involve:

The implementation of a savage austerity programme, with a small fig leaf for Sinn Fein.

The implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, with major concessions to Orange sectarianism and triumphalism.

Finally the IRA will have to be put to bed. Sinn Fein will have to denounce their servants, call on the police to pursue them agree that the letters of comfort to IRA members indicating that they will not be prosecuted are meaningless, and swear ever more total allegiance to the colonial statelet.  Martin McGuinness has already stated that Sinn Fein stands ready to play its part in ending paramilitarism and, for the first time ever, the loyal praetorian guard of the IRA have been protesting their abandonment.

Lies and disinformation

The report of the monitoring committee also has a function in relation to the attempt to produce a new agreement, and to that end it builds in a series of lies and disinformation.

The main lie in the report is the equals sign that it draws between IRA and loyalist violence.  The old IRA exist, with the agreement of London and Dublin, to soak up some of the energies that would normally divert to the physical force republicans, to maintain some credibility for the Sinn Fein leadership with their base and to provide physical protection from the many people they have victimised and betrayed.

The Loyalists on the other hand have continued to be armed and active over two decades following the IRA ceasefire. A large criminal empire continues in operation and runs campaigns of sectarian and racial intimidation. Their activities are covered by a blanket of silence in the local press and by a high level of impunity from the state.

All the parties have a policy of placating Loyalism. While the existence of the IRA provokes a political crisis, Loyalist violence is dealt with through a conference where Jonathan Powell, agent for war criminal Blair, offers them £1 million to behave. The project collapses at birth, with a number of groups committing to, and carrying out, further acts of intimidation.

The only role of an analysis of Loyalism is provide smoke and mirrors for a further retreat by Sinn Fein.

It is worth noting in passing that the role of MI5, the authors of the report, goes unremarked. Yet the collapse of a recent court case showed an unbelievable level of effort involving the most advanced forms of electronic surveillance, the use of helicopters as aerial bugging platforms and almost 100 undercover police and MI5 agents against a small group of anti-agreement republicans. This contrasts sharply to the invisible crimes of loyalism and indicates just how insecure the British believe the political settlement to be.


However there is another aspect to the report. The DUP wanted Britain to suspend Stormont and set up a permanent monitoring committee to periodically vet Sinn Fein and decide on their fitness for government. Instead we have a report which says that; “most members believe” that the army council remains the directing force within the provisional movement.

The slap in the face for unionism, contradicting many red lines that Robinson said he would never accept, follows an earlier rejection of calls for more welfare funding by Sinn Fein and growing threats from London that Stormont would be dissolved if agreement is not reached.

The British have reached their limit. After endless modifications of the agreement and endless bribes they are indicating that this process cannot continue. The unionists cannot constantly move it to the right until they arrive at the old Stormont. It folds or it stands on its own feet.

This presents problems for both Sinn Fein and the DUP. Sinn Fein must sell out the inner core of the IRA and dress up support for austerity as opposition. The problems for the DUP are more serious. They must acknowledge that there is no return to the old days of unbridled supremacy and sign up to Robinson’s strategy of sharing out sectarian privilege while demanding the lion’s share.

This is unlikely to work. Ultra sectarian and racist Ruth Patterson has already demanded Robinson’s ousting. A controversial incitement by former minister Edwin Poots saying that DUP members had to “hold their noses” when dealing with Sinn Fein was aimed directly at Robinson.

The point is that if the struggle within the DUP becomes a split the peace process will automatically collapse. The vast majority of the unionists agree that an administration where they do not hold the First Minister’s position is simply unthinkable.

Union support

A strong plus for a revived administration is the unconditional support it receives from civic society. Peter Bunting, spokesperson for the unions, has on more than one occasion said that saving Stormont is the first priority.  As the final element of a deal are stitched together Len McCluskey, secretary of UNITE, appeared at Stormont to argue that the executive could borrow money and run a Keynesian programme of economic stimulus. The union’s regional secretary Jimmy Kelly recognises the constrains of the block grant – in other words they accept that the austerity will be unleashed and will work with the executive to manage the cuts.  Given that a new deal will have a crippling austerity and a pervasive austerity built in, the future for the working class looks grim.

On the other hand, the idea that the rickety and unstable settlement represented by the peace agreement can survive the coming attacks on the working class is fantasy.

However it requires a socialist movement to step outside the interlocking elements of bribery, corruption and secret deals that dominate civic society and which are the material basis of apparent stability. In the absence of such a movement, an economic crisis will simply pour petrol on what is already a muffled sectarian conflagration.

29 October 2015

(originally posted at:–


also see:-


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Oct 20 2015




In the aftermath of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and 2015 Westminster General Election, Allan Armstrong (RCN and RISE) critically examines the notion of ‘Britishness’ used in the British Labour Movement when arguing for the progressive nature of the post-1945 UK state and when defending it against demands for greater Scottish self-determination. Promoting different versions of ‘Britishness’, depending on the political pressures facing the British ruling class, have been central to their attempts to maintain their UK state and through this their wider imperial interests in the world.

The fundamental features of the UK’s constitutional monarchist, unionist and imperialist state were established before the social base of the British ruling class was extended in the nineteenth century to incorporate the new industrial capitalist class. The political reforms needed to achieve this still did not recognise popular sovereignty, but instead continued to rely on the open or tacit defence of the notion of the sovereignty of the Crown-in-Parliament.

Allan takes Satnam Virdee’s concept of the ‘racialised outsider’ and extends it to the changing relationship of other ‘outsiders’ towards the UK state and to ‘Britishness’. He argues that the reactionary nature of the UK state has often led it to address ‘outsiders’ in terms of toleration rather than through any recognition of democratic rights. This is related to the absence of a written constitution and to the significant role of the Crown Powers in the running of the UK state.

Allan draws parallels with Mary Davis’ analysis of the position of women in the British Labour Movement. It was as ‘gendered outsiders’ that women workers were excluded from the full benefits of the Labour’s post-war social monarchist Welfare State. He then applies the concept of ‘national outsider’ to examine how the 1945 Labour government’s conservative unionist notion of ‘Britishness’ affected attempts to assert greater national self-determination within the UK’s constituent units, especially Scotland.

Conservative unionism within the Labour Party contributed to the sabotage of the Labour government’s liberal unionist Devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales in the late 1970s. Labour also opted for a conservative unionist approach in the recent Scottish Independence referendum, abandoning any further development of the liberal unionist model they had developed in their post-1997 ‘New Unionist’ measures. Instead they joined with the Conservatives and Lib-Dems in the ‘Better Together’ alliance. Conservative unionism still has a hold over Labour’s new Left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his allies. Meanwhile, reactionary unionism, with its strongest base in Northern Ireland, but which UKIP wants to extend to the rest of the UK, is offering its own challenge to the current ‘New Unionist’ deal.  

In conclusion, Allan argues the need for a republican and socialist politics based on the principle of ‘internationalism from below’ to counter not only conservative, but liberal and reactionary unionist attempts to uphold ‘Britishness’. Developing a new political force is also needed to counter the SNP government’s own constitutional nationalist attempts to promote an ‘Independence-Lite’ Scotland in the interests of a wannabe Scottish ruling class, now wanting to find its own niche in the existing current global corporate order.

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Oct 14 2015

19th EDINBURGH RADICAL BOOK FAIR, 28th Oct – 1st November

Category: Cultural CelebrationRCN @ 4:18 pm


Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair 2015



The 19th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair   –  the alternative international book festival – will take place from Wednesday 28th October to 1st November 2015 in Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 30-38 Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh, EH6 8RG, Scotland, UK. 


Follow us on  @WordPowerBooks

Continue reading “19th EDINBURGH RADICAL BOOK FAIR, 28th Oct – 1st November”


Oct 13 2015



Joe Hill

Joe Hill


Arthur Johnston, Eileen Penman, George Duff, Forgaitherin’ and Ray Burnett

Thu 5 Nov | 7pm (2hrs)


The Carrying Stream Festival

Scottish Storytelling Centre


Reception: 0131 556 9579

Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR

Tickets from the Storytelling Centre: £10 (£8)

19 November 2015 marks the centenary of the murder of Joe Hill – Swedish-born American labour activist and organiser, songwriter and member of the Wobblies’ (the Industrial Workers of the World). His most famous songs include ‘The Preacher and the Slave’ (containing the new phrase ‘pie in the sky’), ‘The Tramp’, ‘There is Power in the Union’ ‘The Rebel Girl’ and ‘Casey Jones – the Union Scab’.

Hill was convicted of murder in a highly controversial trial. Following an unsuccessful appeal, and despite political debates and international calls for clemency from high-profile figures and workers’ organisations, he was executed in Salt Lake City on 19 November 1915.

After his death, he was memorialised by several folk songs, including ‘I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night’ by Alfred Hayes. His life and death have also inspired a plethora of poems and books.
Continue reading “JOE HILL – ‘THE MAN WHO NEVER DIED’”

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Oct 06 2015


We have  been covering the detention of Steve Kaczynski in Turkey since he was arrested on April 1st. We have been part of the campaign to get his release ( Steve was freed  on September 18th. This article has been written by Steve and describes his experience and the current political situation in Turkey.



Steve Kaczynski (second from left) arriving back at Heathrow Airport

Steve Kaczynski (second from left) arriving back at Heathrow Airport

I was in Istanbul, Turkey to help prepare an international symposium against imperialism due to take place in the middle of April. At the end of February I had travelled to Beirut, Lebanon where a similar symposium had been held.
Continue reading “MY IMPRISONMENT IN TURKEY – Steve Kaczynski”

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Oct 03 2015


This article by Allan Armstrong (RCN) was posted on this blog on 9.6.12, after being updated from an earlier version originally posted on 30.9.11. That article has become contaminated and so is being reposted. Although the most recent section has been superseded by the Scottish Independence Referendum, it still includes a lot of relevant historical material.

For links to more recent material see:-




i)      Why are there significant nationalist parties and a National Question in the UK in the twenty-first century?

          a)   England

          b)   Wales

          c)   Scotland

          d)   Ireland

ii)       The creation of a united British ruling class and its decision not to create a united British nation-state

 iii)     The creation and expansion of hybrid British national identities amongst the different classes in these islands and the Empire

 iv)      The appearance of independent national political organisations within the UK

 v)       The retreat of hybrid British identities in Ireland in the face of new challenges and their maintenance in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as long as British imperialism remained relatively strong

 vi)       British ruling class attempts to maintain its power through reform of the UK in the face of the imperial decline and the further retreat of hybrid British identities, especially amongst the working class

 vii)      The initial failure of liberal unionist political devolution and the entrenchment of Westminster Direct Rule by 1979

 viii)     A failed liberal unitary Britain attempt to reform politics in Northern Ireland

 ix)       The Irish Hunger Strike (1981) and the Miners Strike (1984-5) – a comparison between their long-term political impacts

 x)        The British ruling class’s ‘New Unionist’ strategy starts and stalls under the Conservatives – differing situations in Ireland and Scotland

 xi)       Welsh workers slowly learn the need to confront conservative unionist divide-and-rule tactics

 xii)      New Labour fleshes out ‘New Unionism’ with its ‘Devolution-all-round’ proposals

 xiii)     The contrasting political nature of the effects of ‘New Unionism’ in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

 xiv)     The British ruling class is determined to uphold its ‘New Unionist’ deal, the better to maintain the UK state’s imperial position in the world

 xv)      Obstacles to any SNP attempt to winning political independence in its proposed referendum

 xvi)     The wannabe Scottish ruling class and the SNP will cooperate with the British ruling class and big business to prevent any radical break-up of the UK

 xvii)    The SNP will play their part in upholding the hegemony of US/UK imperial alliance in the global corporate order


i) Why are there significant nationalist parties and a National Question in the UK in the twenty-first century?

In Scotland, the SNP is now the leading political party; in Wales, Plaid Cymru is the third (until recently, the second) placed party; whilst in Northern Ireland the top six parties identify themselves as either British unionist or Irish nationalist.  The answer to the question posed in the title of this section is to do with the nature of the UK state.


Sep 22 2015




In response to the current refugee storm a Palestinian activist remarked that, if pictures of dead children changed anything, Palestine would long have been free.

The bitterness is understandable. However it would be wrong to write off the response to the refugee crisis as light-headed liberalism. Rather it is better understood as the potential to, as Marx said, transform from quantity to quality and become a broad opposition to the crimes of imperialism.

The capitalist powers have been exhibiting an increasing barbarism. Mass penury is imposed on their own populations. The wars they direct and provoke grow increasingly bloody. As refugees flee devastation they slander and criminalise them, applying a policy called “pushing the rope” – making conditions at holding centres so hellish that new refugees will not come. It is bare months since they withdrew rescue services from the central area of the Mediterranean, leaving thousands to drown. They constantly refer to migrants, because refugees are meant to be offered refuge and dismiss “economic migrants,”  as if fleeing starvation was bad and only war can be advanced as a legitimate reason for flight.

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Sep 21 2015


It is the centenary of the publication of the Zimmerwald Manifesto. This was produced by social democratic delegates from  countries drawn into the imperialist First World War. Chris Ford of the Ukrainian Solidarity Campaign provides an introduction to this important document. He shows the relevance of the Zimmerwald Manifesto to the situation we face today, particularly Ukraine. 




One hundred years ago an International Socialist Conference of those opposed to the First World War gathered in Zimmerwald, near Bern Switzerland from 5 to 8 September 1915. At a time when the international socialist movement had shattered with many supporting the war  the conference at Zimmerwald by those who emained faithfull to the principles of the socialist international offered a beacon of hope in a Europe gripped by war and reaction.  The International socialist conference began a movement around the Manifesto which it produced.

The Manifesto and the Zimmerwald movement are relevant to the war that takes places in Europe today – in Ukraine. In 1914 Ukraine was divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary.  In the summer of 1914, the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian imperial powers plunged their countries into a war that engulfed Europe in one of the bloodiest conflicts in history.  The war in the Eastern Front saw over three million killed and more than nine million wounded in a conflict that has had a profound impact to this day.

Ukrainians, the largest oppressed nation in Europe, found themselves facing each other across the battlefield.  The Ukrainians of Galicia, Bukovyna and Transcarpathia fought on the side of the Central Powers, whilst three million were conscripted into the army of the Russian Empire, as well as Ukrainian immigrants to North America who fought also on the side of the Entente.


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Sep 13 2015



September 17th-18th

The Renfield Centre, 260, Bath Street, Glasgow,  G2 4HZ

Last September the Sociology Department at Glasgow University held a successful conference on ‘Racism: from the Labour Movement to the Far Right’. We are pleased to announce that we are holding a second conference next month, with a slightly broader remit this time. The aim of our event is to provide a platform for academics, different kinds of activists (political, community, trade union), and for people simply in their capacity as citizens to debate and discuss the meaning of ‘Class and Nation in Contemporary Scotland’ following last year’s independence referendum. We are hosting a key note lecture on Thursday 17 September, followed by a one-day conference on Friday 18 September. We have attached a programme for the conference which details the panels and speakers confirmed.

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