In the struggle over the future of the UK, the main battle is being conducted between the SNP pushing for a liberal unionist ‘Devo-Max’ agenda (looking for support from a possibly Corbyn-led Labour Party, Plaid Cymru and the Greens) and the conservative unionist alliance led by David Cameron, with the tacit acceptance of ‘One Nation’ Labour and the Lib-Dems. However, there is a third unionist force, the reactionary unionists consisting of UKIP, the Tory Right and Ulster unionists, backed by the loyalists.
The following two articles from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) cover recent events which show the impact of reactionary unionism in the ‘Six Counties’. Here, reactionary unionism continues to make political advances, seeking to further undermine the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). These articles show how Sinn Fein’s acceptance of a liberal-unionist road to Irish unity through the devolved institutions of the UK state (i.e. Stormont) is looking increasingly like a dead-end. The UK state is using the threat posed by reactionary unionism to dictate the political direction of events, even threatening to evict Sinn Fein from the post-GFA political set-up, if it does not fully cooperate. As the first article shows, the killing of Kevin McGuigan is the latest stick being used to attack Sinn Fein.
Reactionary unionism can not be ignored over here, because UKIP, in particular, seeks to use Northern Ireland as a model of how to undermine the current liberal unionist ‘Devolution-all-round’ political settlement, the better to clamp down on any more radical alternatives. And when the chips are down, conservative and even liberal unionists will also turn to reactionary unionism for support. Glasgow Labour Council’s current flirtations with the Orange Order and other loyalists are just one indiction of this.
The forthcoming European referendum will largely be fought on conservative unionist (Cameron and his Labour and Lib-Dem allies from the old ‘Better Together’ alliance) versus reactionary unionist (UKIP and the Tory Right) terms. The prospect of the ‘Six Counties’ breaking their current links with the 26 Counties within the EU is a particularly enticing prospect for reactionary unionists and loyalists. They want to turn the clock back and reintroduce old-style Partition.
As republican socialists we need to mount our own ‘internationalism from below’ alliance covering not only Scotland, England, Wales and the whole of Ireland, to counter the threat of reactionary and conservative unionism and the limitations of liberal unionism. This needs to be extended to bring together the European Left to defend migrant workers and asylum seekers, targeted both by the reactionary and conservative unionists, with minimal opposition from liberal unionists.
1) THE KILLING OF KEVIN McGUIGAN – DON’T SPECULATE
In October 2013 Kevin Kearney was shot dead in North Belfast by an anti-agreement republican group. Immediately after the killing Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein identified the group responsible and provided detailed information about the background.
A few days ago Kevin McGuigan, was shot dead. What did Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein say? Aside from a ritual denial of involvement he said: “We must not speculate.” Sinn Fein, with a vast intelligence organization, know nothing and refused to speculate.
We should not speculate. If we did, we would almost certainly conclude that the Provisionals killed Kevin McGuigan and that they did so in revenge for the killing of Jock Davidson. Davidson had had McGuigan shot in the arms and legs and, 10 years ago and had ordered the killing of Robert McCartney as an act of revenge following a row in a pub. Anyone following that line of speculation would initially be on their own.
The police, despite the fact that they warned McGuigan that his life was in danger from republicans, refused to speculate in the early days of the investigation. Robert McCartney’s sister, Catherine McCartney says that the PSNI cannot properly investigate political cases. Less than a year ago they remained puzzled when a leading UVF figure killed a young woman in the same area.
The police are not alone. DUP first minister Peter Robinson says serious consequences would follow from Provisional involvement but refuses to speculate, awaiting a verdict from the police.
Essentially the Provisionals have a level of impunity. At the time of Robert McCartney’s murder it was because political negotiations were at a delicate stage.
Today it is quite different. The level of impunity is tied to their new role within the peace process, which in large part is one of policing nationalist workers.
- They police the response to Orange marches.
- Call for people to collaborate with police to suppress republican groups
- Campaign against the continuation of yearly internment commemorations.
- Colluded with police to ban a republican march through Belfast.
- Showcase loyalist and police spokespeople at festivals.
The killing of Kevin McGuigan is a dangerous moment. It opens up the possibility of further violence against political opponents of the current settlement. In the same month we had physical confrontation between Sinn Fein members, standing shoulder to shoulder with police and republican protestors denouncing the platform given to the Chief Constable. The further introduction of austerity in the North will create new tensions between Sinn Fein and nationalist workers in the ghettoes. It is significant that an armed cover organization, Action Against Drugs, has been set up in the expectation that senior figures will face physical threat.
It also indicates how ludicrous Sinn Fein claims of leftism are. They are fully integrated into a reactionary sectarian settlement controlled by British imperialism. Even if they had any doubts, for example about signing up to further austerity, the British, with full information about the McGuigan killing, have them by the throat and could quickly find them guilty of the murder and expel them from the administration.
A sign that the pressure is being stepped up came with a PSNI statement saying that the Provos were involved and using the AAD organization as a cover. In part this is because the facts behind the killing were so self-evident that even the PSNI were finding them hard to ignore. The killers were so arrogant and stupid that they were simultaneously denying involvement and giving interviews to local journalists justifying the killing. Above all however the British are cracking the whip. They have already said that Stormont will close if Sinn Fein does not sign up to austerity. Now they have the means to expel the party with full political responsibility falling, not on gallant defenders of the workers, but on dishonest and remorseless killers.
The PSNI are holding out a lifeline. They refuse to speculate as to whether the armed group is part of a chain of command that would lead back to the Provisional leadership. The DUP, while muttering about Sinn Fein’s expulsion, are awaiting the decision of the PSNI. As with other corrupt movements there is no way back. The only road for survival is capitulation – frantic declarations of support for the state forces linked to political capitulation on austerity.
2) BELFAST ANTI-INTERNMENT MARCH; CHOREOGRAPHY OF COLLUSION
Choreography (n) A series of dance steps. (Irish peace process) A secret agreement, implemented by a fixed series of statements and actions.
The word choreography was widely used to describe to describe the retreats and betrayals by Sinn Fein as they accommodated to renewed partition. It has faded from use as the North arrived at the current unstable political equilibrium.
Now we have a new betrayal, a new choreography.
The sequence rolled out as follows:
The anti-internment league announce their annual march through Belfast. The former organiser has been charged following a republican Easter speech and is banned from any political activity.
Sinn Fein move their annual Ballymurphy massacre march so that the timing conflicts with the AIL march.
The Parades Commission put timing restrictions on the AIL that are impossible to meet, while allowing three counter-demonstrations organised by Loyalist paramilitaries to take control of the city centre.
Police stop the AIL march as it leaves Ardoyne. After speeches the march disperses peacefully.
The BBC announce the police action and note that over 50 officers were injured on a previous demonstration – only locals realize that it was the loyalists, celebrating their triumph in the city centre, who had attacked the police.
Police deploy water cannon, invade the area, make arrests, in response to a limited amount of violence sparked off by their presence.
Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness immediately condemns the violence, which he lays at the door of the AIL march organisers. His remarks are echoed other Sinn Fein grandees, by the Catholic church, the British Secretary of SCatholic Churshtate and the unionists and loyalists.
The outcome of the choreography is that Sinn Fein support for the sectarian state in the North is extended. Where before they condemned physical force by republicans, now they denounce political action. Belfast city centre is effectively closed to republican demonstrations – a keynote feature of the previous sectarian state.
Socialist Democracy bulletin – August 2015
For further articles on the Reactionary Right in the UK see:-
Living the Peace Process in Reverse by Robbie McVeigh – republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/04/20/living-the-peace-process-in-reverse/
The reactionary challenge coming from UKIP and the various stands of Ulster unionism and loyalism by Allan Armstrong in section 4) of:-
Better Together, UKIP, the Orange Order and the UK state – What they have in common by Allan Armstrong at:-
The new challenge to social liberalism and the ‘New Unionist’ settlement from UKIP, the Tory Right, the Ulster Unionists and Loyalists by Allan Armstrong in section e) at:
The Belfast riots and the Scottish dimension by Jim Slaven at:–
What the FUK? – Fascist UK, Britannia and the Far Right by Allan Armstrong – http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/08/05/what-the-fuk-fascist-uk-britannia-and-the-far-right/
British nationalism and the rise of fascism by Chris Ford at:-