Allan Armstrong is writing a review of three books which address the political situation Socialists face, first of all in Ireland, but also extended to Scotland, Wales and England. EL&SD is posting the introduction to this review, and the link to its first part. The other parts are still to be written and the links will be provided as they are completed.
DEVELOPING THE CASE FOR A REPUBLICAN SOCIALIST,
ALL-ISLANDS, ‘INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW’ COALITION
IN A REVIEW OF THREE BOOKS
Allan Armstrong reviews Ireland’s Partition: Coda to counterrevolution by John McAnulty; Anois ar theact an tSamhraidh – Ireland, Colonialism and Unfinished Revolution by Robbie McVeigh and Bill Rolston; and The State of Northern Ireland and the Democratic Deficit: Between Sectarianism & Neo-Liberalism, by Paul Stewart, Tommy McKearney, Georoid O’Machail, Patricia Campbell and Brian Garvey
Part 1 of this review examines the historical points raised in John McAnulty’s book, Ireland’s Partition: Coda to counterrevolution.[i] I have dealt with its more contemporary politics with regard to Irish reunification elsewhere.[ii] The historical section of John’s book makes reference to the wider British imperial policies which flowed from the UK’s experience in trying to handle the Irish Republican challenge from 1916-23. In the process, the British ruling class pioneered a neo-colonial approach in Ireland, including the use of partition, which later came to be applied elsewhere. However, John’s book then concentrates on the working out of partition in 6 Counties, Northern Ireland and the 26 Counties, Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland). And his later chapters largely confine their arguments within these geographical limits. This may well be due to considerations of space in a short book.
However, Robbie McVeigh and Bill Rolston, in their “Anois ar theact an tSamhraidh – Ireland, Colonialism and Unfinished Revolution,[iii] undertake a much longer historical analysis of Ireland and its role both within and challenging the British Empire. This also covers the period addressed in John’s book. Their book has a very contemporary relevance in the wider world today. This has been highlighted by Black Lives Matter and the call for open borders on one hand, and on the other by the political pull on the EU to define European citizenship on ethnic/cultural grounds (those who accept the ‘progressive’ nature of Enlightenment Europe), on racial grounds (‘White’), or even on religious grounds (Christian). The wider significance of their book has been picked up by Ronin Lentin in Race and Class.[iv] As well as having much relevance in Ireland today, many of the arguments apply to Scotland too, and indeed McVeigh and Rolston provide some historical parallels. Union and Empire have always gone together. And that Union began with Scotland 1707 to be extended to Ireland in 1801. So, the main purpose of part 1 of this review is to try to gain a better understanding of the particular unionist relationship of Ireland, later Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom (UK). Up to 1998, Great Britain was politically represented by the unitary state at Westminster and its bureaucracy at Whitehall. There was only administrative devolution for Scotland and Wales, and from 1972-1998 in Northern Ireland (although in this case subordinate to the UK’s military and security forces). Since the 1998 ‘Devolution-all-round’ settlement, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had a shared constitutionally recognised, politically devolved status within the UK, although the political nature of each devolved assembly or parliament is different. It is through an understanding of the nature of the UK state and its changes that a better appreciation can be gained of the politics of the Socialist, Labour and trade union movements and of the Nationalist parties and movements, which John addresses in his book.
Part 2 of this review will take up McVeigh and Rolstons’ arguments and extend them to contemporary Scotland. Part 3 will examine The State of Northern Ireland and the Democratic Deficit: Between Sectarianism & Neo-Liberalism, by Paul Stewart, Tommy McKearney, Georoid O’Machail, Patricia Campbell and Brian Garvey.[v] All of these writers have been deeply involved in the political economic and social struggles in Ireland. Most recently four have been involved in the Independent Workers Union (IWU) in Ireland. The other writer has been involved in Irish language activism. This is one arena where the unfulfilled promises of the post-GFA agreements have become more and more evident. This is leading to the re-emergence of the ‘cultures of resistance’ which became marginalised in the lead up to and after GFA. Furthermore, the authors show an understanding of the significance of 2014 Scottish Independence referendum and the challenge the wider independence movement is making to the UK state. The political origins of the wider unofficial Yes Movement resistance lay not in the SNP leadership but in the ‘communities of resistance’ organised in Anti-Poll Tax Unions and Federations in Scotland. They then went on to take the campaign, on an ‘internationalism form below’ basis to England and Wales.[vi] Following this, part 3 returns to the argument made in the earlier review,[vii] about the need for an ‘internationalism from below’ challenge to the UK state and its imperialist alliance with the USA.
[i] John McAnulty, Ireland’s Partition: Coda to counterrevolution (IP:Ctc), (Socialist Democracy (Ireland), 2021, Belfast)
[ii] http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2022/02/09/irelands-reunification-prologue-to-democratic-revolution/ and http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2022/03/17/prologue-to-democratic-revolution-part-2/
[iii] Robbie McVeigh & Bill Rolston, “Anois ar theact an tSamhraidh – Ireland, Colonialism and Unfinished Revolution, (ICaUR), (Beyond the Pale Books, 2021, Belfast)
[iv] Ronit Lentin, ICaUR, a review in Race and Class, Volume 63, pp. 109-11 (IRR, Sage Publishing Company, 2022, London)
[v] Paul Stewart, Tommy McKearney, Georoid O’Machail, Patricia Campbell and Brian Garvey, The State of Northern Ireland and the Democratic Deficit: Between Sectarianism & Neo- Liberalism (Vagabond Voices, Glasgow, 2018)
[vii] http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2022/03/17/prologue-to-democratic-revolution-part-2/ – k) The case for an All-Islands Republican Internationalist Coalition (AIRIC)