Edinburgh James Connolly March, June 4th, 2005

Make Partition History March Special

The Scottish Executive’s Sectarian Smokescreen

It is 12 years since the old Lothian Region Labour group banned Edinburgh’s James Connolly March. Following the 1993 show of defiance in Broughton Street we won the right to march. However, our annual commemoration is now receiving the public attention of the Labour/Lib-Dem controlled Scottish Executive.

They are looking once more into Republican marches. To appear even-handed, Orange marches are being examined too. The troubles surrounding Celtic and Rangers matches have also been added to the enquiry.

Put all these together and apparently you have a sectarian problem with its roots in the religious divide between Catholic and Protestant in Scotland. This concern has been highlighted by Jack Connell’s St. Valentines Day Summit to combat religious sectarianism and BBC‘s Panorama programme Scotlands Secret Shame showing the violence associated with Old Firm games.

But can all these conflicts be laid at the door of continued religious sectarianism?

Scotland certainly has a sectarian history. However, religious sectarianism has been on the decline in Scotland for some time. Discrimination in jobs has largely disappeared. It is even said that Rangers field more Catholic players than Celtic! So what is the Scottish Executive’s real concern?

The new unionist project

Missing from the debate is the issue of Northern Ireland and the future of the UK state. The armed republican struggle against the reactionary, Protestant supremacist, Northern Ireland statelet was a fundamental threat to the continued existence of the UK. This is why the ban was imposed upon the James Connolly March in 1993. The massive anti-poll tax struggle also threatened to snap the chains binding Scotland to the Union. Therefore, leading sections of the British ruling class began to realise that their increasingly dis-United Kingdom could fall apart unless they devised a new strategy. They came up with the idea of devolution-all-round – for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The areas making up the UK could no longer be ruled in the old way – Protestant supremacy in the Six Counties, or administrative devolution in Scotland. Post-1997 New Labour governments have had to come up with new methods of divide-and-rule to use in each area given its own devolved assembly. The idea is to preserve the unionist essentials of the old order but by new means. This helps to create stable political conditions needed for the global corporations to maximise their profits. The US, EU and Irish governments have all backed this new unionist project.

One unintended effect of new unionism in the Six Counties has been to strengthen Paisley’s reactionary DUP. Meanwhile, Scotland, despite having its own devolved parliament, has been dragged into the deeply unpopular imperialist war in Iraq. New unionism has not brought about real political democracy, economic prosperity or permanent peace. Its mainly Labour and Lib-Dem advocates deny this.

Demonising the opposition

That is why they want to lump together all the opposition, whether progressive or reactionary. Republicans and loyalists are portrayed as two warring tribes promoting sectarian hatredbetween Catholics and Protestants, just as all opponents of the war in Iraq are said to be terrorist supporters, whether they advocate secular democracy or religious supremacism.

This new unionist attack, in both Northern Ireland and Scotland, is an attempt to marginalise and depoliticise the republican opposition to the continued existence of the UK state and British imperialism. Republicans, who promote real progress and wish to unite people of all religions and none in secular, democratic, united Irish or Scottish republics, are falsely equated with loyalists, who want to drag everybody back to the old days of state-backed religious sectarianism.

The very first principle of the Orange Order is to maintain intact the Protestant Constitution of the UK. Such died-in-the-wool sectarians say you can only be British if you are Protestant. But this only highlights the sectarian nature of the outdated UK state, with its established church and monarchy, and the deeply reactionary nature of a British identity created to promote imperialist interests in the past and at present. New unionism tries to disguise this reality, democratic republicanism exposes the truth.

Defending secular democratic republicanism

Defending the annual James Connolly commemoration, Cairde na hEireann stated that,

Our marches have been addressed by representatives of Sinn Fein, the Labour Party, the
SNP, anti-racist campaigners and many other campaigns… These events are not sectarian.

Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, people of other religions and none, are all welcome on James Connolly marches.

All democratic republicans will oppose the new unionist attempts to equate our commemorations and protests with those of the real sectarians. Just as successive UK governments had longstanding links with Saddam’s Iraqi regime, before he suddenly became an evil tyrant, these same governments have long been closely linked to reactionary unionist parties in Northern Ireland and colluded with the sectarian loyalist paramilitaries.

Such attempts to create new unionist political smokescreens will continue until we have won genuine self-determination and democratic secular republics for the four nations of these islands.

This July the leaders of the world’s major powers are coming to the G8 summit being held at Gleneagles. They meet regularly to try to deal with any issues dividing them when it comes to sharing out the imperial spoils. Of course, this is not a meeting of equals. The USA is clearly the dominant world power. This is a reflection of the size and strength of US-owned global corporations and of US military might. US imperialism is committed to a policy of permanent war – The Project for a New American Century – to ensure it remains top dog in this world.

British imperialists know where they belong in this world pecking order. They have decided that their interests are best served if the UK state acts as a junior partner to US imperialism. In return for loyal services rendered – in Diego Garcia, Libya, Afghanistan, the two Iraq wars and elsewhere – US governments have given a license to the UK government to pursue British interests in certain arenas of the world. Thatcher received Reagan’s go-ahead for the Falklands War, whilst both Clinton and Bush have given full backing to Blair’s new unionist project for Ireland – a reformed Stormont, supported by the Irish government.

Central to this project is the maintenance of Irish partition. Soon after a New Labour government was first elected in 1997, Blair flew to Belfast to reassure Ulster Unionists that he remained fully committed to the Union. Meanwhile, the Irish government has shown its commitment to partition. It held a referendum to end Ireland’s claim to the Six Counties, previously enshrined in Articles 2 & 3 of the constitution. If the British government is a junior partner to the US government on the world arena, then the Irish government is a junior partner to the British government when it comes to deciding how these islands should be governed. Every time Blair unilaterally suspended the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish government has meekly complied. The Irish government also knows its place in the world pecking order.

The meandering border, stretching from the mouth of the River Foyle to Carlingford Lough has no economic, social or cultural logic. Step over from nationalist Donegal and you are in nationalist Derry, step over from nationalist Louth and you are in nationalist south Armagh. The logic behind the border is political – it underlines British domination of these islands and carefully delineates that 26 county area, where the Irish government can exercise its limited franchise. Yes, Irish government support may be asked for occasionally to help out the British government in the north, but such help is given to preserve the new unionist order there, not undermine it.

Both James Connolly and John MacLean were socialist republicans who understood the need for an international strategy to combat the British imperialism of their day. Today, the British and Irish governments jointly promote the interests of the global corporations in these islands, such as privatisation and labour flexibility. Both safeguard military bases, such as those at Faslane, Leuchars, Kinloss and Shannon, needed to advance wider imperialist designs worldwide.

Fighting partition today means challenging the global corporations, US/UK imperialism and their very junior Irish government partner. To take on their global world order, we need to advance our own internationalism from below. We need to join all those other forces who are coming together to oppose the G8 summit. Make your protest felt at Edinburgh (July 2nd), Faslane (July 4th) Dungavel July 5th) and Gleneagles (July 6th). Attend the G8 Alternatives counter-summit (July 3rd).

To make partition history it is necessary to make capitalism history.