Sep 01 2015

THE IMPACT OF REACTIONARY UNIONISM ON UK POLITICS

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 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

The Stormont road to a united Ireland?

The Stormont road to a united Ireland?

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.
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Mar 30 2013

David Douglass reviews – Adrian Kerr, ‘Free Derry: protest and resistance’.

Adrian Kerr, Free Derry – protest and resistance, Guildhall Press, 2013, pp. 224, £11.95

 

th-2From the declaration of ‘Free Derry’ on August 9 1971, when the solidly working class and republican community seized control of their own area of the city of Londonderry, to the time of the Provisional Irish Republican Army ceasefire in 1994, the price paid and the degree of resistance mounted within it was hugely inordinate, by comparison with occupied Ulster as a whole.

One hundred and twenty-two people lost their lives in and around the Free Derry area, including 73 civilians and republican volunteers, and 49 members of the security forces or civilians working for them. Over 3% of the total deaths for the whole of the conflict occurred in an area containing less than 1% of the population of the north of Ireland. The largest number of killings were committed by the ‘security forces’ – 46 died at the hands of either the British army or the Royal Ulster Constabulary, 33 of whom were civilian non-combatants.

Continue reading “David Douglass reviews – Adrian Kerr, ‘Free Derry: protest and resistance’.”

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Aug 19 2012

THE POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MERGER OF IRISH PHYSICAL FORCE REPUBLICANS

We are posting two articles on the recently agreed merger between three  of the physical force Republican groups. The first is by Tommy McKearney, former IRA hunger striker, and now in  the Independent Workers Union . The second is by John McAnulty of Socialist Democracy (Ireland).  John was a Peoples Democracy councillor on Belfast City council, during the Hunger Strikes .

 THE MERGER OF PHYSICAL FORCE REPUBLICANS

Organisations with strong centralised and hierarchal structures, especially the conviction driven, are usually prone to splitting or the breaking away of factions. Often this occurs at periods of significant political development or societal transformation when direction-changing decisions are required. This happens in religion, in sport and with unending regularity in the world of militant Irish republicanism. Three of the largest parties in the present Irish parliament, for example, had their origins in bitter divisions within the country’s republican milieu. Such a history, therefore, makes the news of a merging of certain forces within the present day republican underground, an interesting and indeed surprising development.

A small number of journalists were briefed on Thursday 26th July that three strands of what is sometimes referred to as the ‘physical force’ element of Irish republicanism had amalgamated. The Real IRA (best known to British readers for carrying out the 1998 Omagh bombing), a vigilante group called Republican Action Against Drugs and a low profile group of armed republicans still calling themselves ‘the IRA’ have united under the, hardly original, title of the Irish Republican Army. In its communiqué to the press, the group repeated its commitment to militarism when it spoke of the ‘… necessity of armed struggle in the pursuit of Irish freedom …’

In spite of its newsworthiness, this development should be kept in perspective. In the first instance, this new IRA group will be confronted with a challenge experienced by every revolutionary organisation; that of maintaining security and secrecy in the face of energetic surveillance by the state. There is little doubt that this merger will simplify MI5’s task of monitoring and foiling the new group’s activities.

Secondly, there are two other bodies, still calling themselves the IRA that remains outside this merger. Therefore the fractious and divided nature of armed Irish republicanism remains as poisonous and debilitating as ever. The particular school of Irish republicanism represented in this new group is often more certain of what it opposes rather than what it stands for. This makes it difficult for them to build the type of broad support base necessary to influence the political process.

Most pertinent of all, though, is the fact that the new formation is unlikely to change significantly the balance of forces within Northern Ireland. Trying to estimate membership strength for the various militant groups is difficult because the level and depth of support can fluctuate widely depending on the time and circumstances. One of the anomalies of the current situation is that while Sinn Fein voters are strongly opposed to further armed action, many are unwilling for historical reasons to cooperate with the authorities. Acceptance for all aspects of policing remains ambiguous within most republican circles.

Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland are opposed to any resumption of the violent battle of the final quarter century of the 20thcentury. Every election since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 has returned, from within the wider republican constituency, an overwhelming majority in favour of ending armed conflict and an equally strong rejection of those indicating any intention of recommencing insurrection. While there is no mechanical correlation between electoral support and ability or capacity to carry out direct action, the presiding officer’s count provides its own message. When people are unwilling to vote in secret for an insurrectionist candidate, they are unlikely to endure the unavoidable hardships and risks of war against the state. In practical terms there is insufficient water in which armed radicals can swim in Northern Ireland of the present day.

This low-key assessment notwithstanding; there is a message to be taken from a coming together of previously separate entities. It is rare for divisions in republican Ireland to be repaired or for groups to coalesce in this fashion. The significance of what has happened may not lie, therefore, in the new group’s potential for increased military capacity (and that is questionable hypothesis by any assessment) but in the fact that there is a new strategy in play and the process is towards unity rather than remaining separate.

Bear in mind that all is not well in Northern Ireland. Global recession is embedding economic and social hardship in areas that have experienced little improvement in their level of material prosperity over the last two decades. Sectarian divisions remain at a toxic level, especially in working class districts. Local devolved government performs a basic function of any parliament in that it is a substitute for civil war, yet it hardly makes any other obvious difference in the population’s day to day lives. Ominously, this new IRA is concentrated in the very areas where deprivation is most acute.

There is, in a nutshell, a space for dissenting voices to question the status quo and Irish republicanism is, after all, more a response to material conditions than it is an aspiration to a form of government. Five years ago a sense of estrangement manifested itself in France with youths burning property in the suburbs. Last year something similar happened in Britain when rioting broke out across urban centres.

Protest in Ireland sometimes follows an indigenous pattern and therein lurks the one great unknown factor in this latest ‘new departure’. Is this a huddling of desperate men determined to hang together rather than hang separately or is it an indication, even subconsciously, of a societal change that is encouraging direction-changing decisions?

Tommy McKearney

http://www.tommymckearney.com/blog/untitled.html

________________

 

A NEW IRA?

Another signpost in the decay of the Irish settlement

The announcement that a number of disparate republican organizations had regrouped under the banner of the Irish Republican Army drew a storm of condemnation from the great and the good in Ireland and Britain.

Much of the criticism is justified. Essentially the IRA want to take up armed action from where it left off. They do not accept that a militarist ideology was bound to fail and that it was the insufficiency of militarism and of the politics of revolutionary nationalism that led directly to the capitulation of the Provos and their participation in the local administration.

One must also add that the participating groups draw upon the tactics of the Provisional IRA when they were already in decline – the real IRA are linked to the Omagh atrocity and RAAD try to gain popularity by a local police function that includes shootings and killings of those they identify as anti-social.

This was always the fatal flaw of republicanism. The physical force at the centre of their methodology was always cutting away the possibility of mass and class action on which revolutionary change would have to be based.

There is another side to the coin.

As the republicans themselves point out, the Northern settlement is a phony one. The new Northern state resembles nothing more than the old sectarian state. The triumph of the Royal handshake, followed by the triumph of the Orange marchers, has created a burning resentment among former supporters of Sinn Fein. Only the most loyal of Sinn Fein apparatchiks now talk of progress to a united Ireland.

In a colonial, sectarian, partitioned statelet there is, of necessity, an IRA. In a period of austerity where the diplomatic sectarianism that pervades society could turn to conflict, it is not impossible that the IRA will grow.

It will not be enough to point to the failures of the past 40 years. It will not be enough to point to the lack of perspective today.

The only thing that will be enough is an alternative – a socialist movement able to represent the anger of the oppressed, able to present a root and branch rejection of the sectarian society imposed on us, a movement that, unlike the actually existing movement today, is not content to play the role of the loyal opposition or draw an equals sign between the Orange bigots and their victims.

 

John McAnulty, Socialist Democracy (Ireland), 11.8.12

 

http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentANewIRA.html


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