Oct 23 2017

NORTHERN IRELAND UPDATE – THE IMPACT OF REACTIONARY UNIONISM

Northern Ireland is one part of the UK state where the reactionary unionism which has come to dominate politics since the Brexit referendum has a much longer history. The coalescence of the reactionary unionism which underpins the Tory Party and that of the DUP has now taken the shape of a governmental alliance, headed by Teresa May and Arlene Forster,

The implications of this are shown in the two articles below, both form the latest Socialst Democracy (Ireland) bulletin The first shows how the DUP are complicit in helping the Loyalists further their longstanding policy of ethnic cleansing. The recent election of Emma Little-Pengelly as DUP MP at Westminster has been followed by a campaign to remove Catholic residents from a previously shared housing scheme  in her South Belfast constituency (until recently held by the moderate nationalist SDLP).

The second article highlights the inevitable trajectory towards a hard border in Ireland under Brexit. The DUP which supports Brexit (a minority position in Northern Ireland) claims it doe not want a hard border. If pushed, it would probably say it didn’t want ethnic cleansing in Belfast either ( if Catholics would just accept a second class status).  But maintaining support for Unionist supremacy, which means retaining the support of Loyalism, means that the reality on the ground is very different from DUP public statements made for the benefit of a wider media. 

 

1. THE ZOMBIE PEACE CALLS TO SAVE STORMONT

South Belfast Loyalists from ‘Village Team On Tour’.

For most of 2017 the Irish peace process has been in crisis and the northern assembly collapsed. There are frantic calls for restoration and both Sinn Fein and the DUP proclaim that their one desire is to agree a new executive. Continue reading “NORTHERN IRELAND UPDATE – THE IMPACT OF REACTIONARY UNIONISM”

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Aug 09 2017

A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

Socialists are now confronted with the unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the re-emergence of British Left social democracy. This first part of this article by Allan Armstrong will examine the significance of this and make a critical appraisal of their future prospects in the face of the current global multi-faceted political, economic, social, cultural and environmental crisis.

Contents of Part 1

   1.      From May 2007 to June 2017 – the SNP rules the social democratic roost in  Scotland.

   2.     The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and British Left social democracy

   3.    The prospects for Corbyn and British Left social democracy when handling economic and social issues

   4.    The limitations of Corbyn and British Left social democracy when dealing with matters of state

             A.  Brexit

             B. The National Question

a.  Conservative, liberal and unionist attempts to maintain the unity of the UK state since the nineteenth  century

               b.  Corbyn and the National Question in Ireland

               c.  Corbyn and the National Question in Scotland

               d.  Corbyn and the National Question in Wales

 

 

1. From May 2007 to June 2017 – the SNP rules the social democratic roost in Scotland

i.     Following the demise of New Labour and its successor, ‘One Nation’ Labour, the SNP has been the most effective upholder of social democracy in the UK. In 2007, the SNP won 363 council seats; 425 in 2012, and 431 in 2017. In 2007, the SNP won 47 MSPs; 69 in 2011; and 63 in 2016, (still easily the largest party at Holyrood). In 2010, the SNP won 6 MPs; 56 out of 59 in 2015, but fell back to 35 in 2017 (still having the largest number of MPs from Scotland by some way). Continue reading “A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY”

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Aug 04 2017

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE REALITY OF NORTHERN IRELAND

Throughout the life of this blog, we have been posting material about Ireland/Northern Ireland. The British ruling class has always taken a keen interest in developments there. However, such is the nature of the unionist state, that British governments have been successful for most of the time, in getting people in England, Scotland and Wales to view the situation as being  ‘over there’ and somehow disconnected from what happens ‘over here’. Now that May has made a deal with the DUP to keep the Tories in office, it becomes even more important to understand what is happening within the UK state we live in. Below we are posting three articles from Socialist Democracy (Ireland). The first two look at the reality of the ‘Twelfth’ in Northern Ireland. The third looks at the likely impact of the DUP’s entry into mainstream British politics.

 

 

 

The ‘Twelfth’ bonfire in Belfast

1. BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES 

In July Channel 4 sent a reporter to Belfast to investigate the annual bonfire bacchanalia of the “Eleventh Night” preceding the Orange marches. She walked about conducting “vox pop” interviews, meanwhile expressing concern at the background sectarianism and atmosphere of violence. Then she saw something she found incomprehensible. A bonfire was burning too close to buildings, but the fire service was hosing the buildings, not the bonfire.

This is a standard element of bonfire night. Last year two houses burnt to the ground without any attempt to douse the bonfire.

It tells us something important. The problem is not the obvious one of a sectarian bonfire. The problem is the sectarian state. The significance of the Eleventh bonfires lies in the fact that they occur immune from the normal constraints of a democratic state – in the almost complete absence of any restraint.  In fact that is the main point of the bonfires. The yearly event shows those at the bottom of the unionist all-class alliance that they remain kings of creation and the state forces and legal system will bend to their will as the police, fire, environmental agencies and local media recuse themselves from involvement.

This presents no problem at all to unionist politicians, who defend “Protestant culture” and have been recorded lighting the bonfires and winking at the many expressions of sectarian hatred heaped on the fire. It does represent a problem for Sinn Fein. How can we be “moving on” if the sectarian culture remains?

In response the nationalists have used their position in negotiations, in the executive and in local government to try on the one hand to persuade the state to set minimal red lines and on the other to bribe the Orange to behave better.

This strategy arrived at farcical limits in 2017.  Belfast City Council bonfire management policy turned out to extend to storing wood for the fires. It then appeared that many of the wooden pallets they were storing were stolen property. An embarrassing situation was resolved when an illegal paramilitary gang, linked to the government party, the DUP, stole the materials back again, although there was further embarrassment when a public car park was requisitioned by the gang to store the loot.

An angry Sinn Fein tried to rescue their reputation by obtaining an injunction to limit the height of two bonfires. The injunction was neither enforced nor obeyed. They then forced a by-law through Belfast City Council with powers to seize bonfire materials.

However by this stage the loyalist bonfire demonstrations were over and in any case there is no chance of council action against the Orange next year in the face of absolute opposition by the Unionist parties. In the meantime the occupants of Belfast city centre flats found that the authorities, so active in facilitating the fires, denied responsibility for the damage to their homes from a nearby fire.

Sinn Fein found themselves in a familiar situation of setting an example by confronting the supporters of Nationalist bonfires. Again this did not end well. They were forced to concede to a large contingent of nationalist youth in Derry and in Belfast there were riots and repetition of threats from Sinn Fein “socialists” that the parents of the youths involved would be evicted. However the chaotic resentment of the poorest sectors fell far short of providing a political opposition to nationalist complacency.

It should be pointed out that the Sinn Fein policy towards nationalist bonfires is quite different to the policy towards the Orange. They recognise “Orange Culture.” They do not want to prevent the bonfires but replace them with braziers and “Orangefest” activities.

On the other hand they utterly oppose commemoration of the introduction of internment without trial by the British. The alternative offered to the nationalist youth is the summer schools and discos – not alternative methods of defiance but to accept pacification, Sinn Fein’s view is that the national question has been resolved and that we now live in the best of all possible worlds.

The reformist socialist groups hardly covered themselves in glory. The Socialist Party yet again announced its neutrality by denouncing all …ALL… sectarianism from ALL sides. When the council initiative was announced they did not demand that council workers be protected in carrying out their duties but that they should not be “put in the front line.” The SWP supported Sinn Fein, under the illusion that putting “trade union and community” at the end of a resolution made it left wing. They demurred from the eviction threats, arguing that more social services were the answer, but held to their position that there was no political justification for these sorts of nationalist demonstrations in the new Northern Ireland.

The socialist position surely, is basically a democratic one. If people want to commemorate with bonfires they should have them. They would have to be held away from buildings and laws relating to incitement of racism, sectarianism and the issue of environmental controls should apply.

If the organisers of bonfires are exempt from law and regulation then that is because we live in a sectarian state. Socialists should oppose the state, not wring their hands in the ashes of the fires.

 

This article was first posted at:- http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentBonfireOfTheVanities.html

 

2. THE TWELFTH IN IRELAND

Emma Little Pengelly supports the flying of UVF flags over houses in South Belfast

 

Triangle of hate – or is it a quadrilateral?

The DUP-Conservative party pact in Britain led to a greater than usual focus on Orange demonstrations in Ireland and to expressions of horror and disgust at what was observed. There was widespread horror at the expressions of sectarian and racist hatred around the Orange celebrations, combined with incredulity at the impunity of the organisers in relation to fire safety and pollution laws and the collaboration of local councils in paying grants and storing wood. Continue reading “TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE REALITY OF NORTHERN IRELAND”

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Jul 07 2017

ADDRESS TO THE LEFT UNITY CONFERENCE ON JUNE 24th

Allan Armstrong was delegated at the RISE National Forum held in Edinburgh on 8th April to be its representative at the LUP conference on May 20th. Due to the General Election this was postponed to June 24th. Attached is the full version of the talk he prepared for the conference held in London. In the event, because of time constraints, the oral version was slightly abridged.

This was first posted on the LUP blog:- http://leftunity.org/rise-speaker-addresses-lu-conference/

ADDRESS TO THE LEFT UNITY CONFERENCE ON JUNE 24th

I would like to thank the LUP for providing me with the time to address your conference as a visiting representative from RISE.

Many of you here today are old enough to remember the heyday of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), which had a considerable impact throughout the UK. The SSP united the overwhelming majority of socialists in Scotland and at its height had 6 MSPs. It inspired the Socialist Alliance (SA) in England and Wales. Although the SP and the SWP managed to sabotage the SA the SSP’s downfall was an almost entirely Scottish affair. This can be largely laid at the feet of a certain Tommy Sheridan.

After 2004, socialists in Scotland were very divided. IndyRef1, though, provided an opportunity for socialists to regain political influence. Young socialists, largely unaffected by ‘Tommygate’, initiated the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in 2012. This coalition, or united front, brought together, not only many of the previously divided socialists, but the Left in the SNP and the Greens and a majority not involved in any party. Continue reading “ADDRESS TO THE LEFT UNITY CONFERENCE ON JUNE 24th”

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Jun 29 2017

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THE FUTURE IS ORANGE!

Emancipation & Liberation has been chronicling the rise of reactionary unionism for some time. Following the shift further Right in UK politics after the Brexit vote , this has culminated Theresa May’s deal with the DUP after the June 8th Westminster general election. we are posting this article form Socialist Democracy (Ireland) which examines some of the implications in Ireland. This was first posted at:- http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentDUPConservativePartyDeal.html

 

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THE FUTURE IS ORANGE!


A Conservative minister remarked quietly after the election that there would be many roads and hospitals built in Northern Ireland as a result of a DUP confidence and supply arrangement with his party. The assumption was that a large bribe would be paid and that it would benefit everyone in the North. Certainly there will be a bribe and it will contain some populist flourishes, but overall benefit will be slight. After all, this is a party that has just blown £500 million of public money in a corrupt “green heating” scheme. The main economic goal of this far-right party is to obtain funding for a public-private investment fund – a honey pot for failing businesses that would be open to the usual unrestrained corruption and leave the poor where they were before. The delay seems to be around the conflicting right-wing positions on Brexit and on the insistence by the DUP on sectarian concessions that are difficult for the British to openly concede on. Continue reading “THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THE FUTURE IS ORANGE!”

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Jan 16 2017

STORMONT’S “CASH FOR ASH” SCANDAL – continued

 Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has announced that that he is stepping down as Stormont’s Depute First Minister. This move has been taken to precipitate an election in the face of the DUP First Minister, Arlene Foster’s role in the  “Cash for Ash” scandal. McGuinness’s decision has been taken with great reluctance, since it puts into question Sinn Fein’s proclaimed strategy of sustaining the post-Good Friday Agreement institutions on the path to a united Ireland. As a consequence, in order to maintain Stromont’s constitutionally entrenched sectarian set-up, workers and nationalists have been asked to make bigger and bigger sacrifices. These have accentuated by the wider global economic crisis and the ongoing political crisis facing the UK state, in the aftermath of the Scottish independence and Brexit referenda. 

Socialist Democracy (Ireland) posted this article just before McGuinness’s resignation, as a follow up to an earlier piece, which we have already posted (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2016/12/17/stormont-executive-backrolls-loyalism/).

IMPUNITY – BUT AT A PRICE

Martin McGuinness announces his resignation as Stormont’s Depute First Minister

The facts of the latest scandal to hit the administration in the North of Ireland are easily stated. An energy saving scheme (the Renewable Heating Scheme or RHI) devolved from the British Treasury, spun out of control and ran up liabilities of almost £500 million. The costs arose in two phases. In the first phase cost controls were removed and the subsidy was greater than the cost of the fuel. In the second phase closure was delayed while hundreds of those in the know piled in to get a share of the free money.  The person who signed off on the scheme as relevant minister was Arlene Foster. The person in charge as First Minister when the costs ballooned out of control was Arlene Foster.
Continue reading “STORMONT’S “CASH FOR ASH” SCANDAL – continued”

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Dec 17 2016

REACTIONARY UNIONISM SHOWS ITS TRUE COLOURS

We are posting two more articles from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) highlighting entrenched corrupt and sectarian nature of the Stormont set-up.

1.  THE STORMONT RHI SCANDAL AND THE CALLS FOR RESIGNATION

WHY STOP AT ARLENE?

 

At a cost to the public purse of almost  £500 million there is no doubting the level of corruption and maladministration surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. The scheme was devolved to Stormont even though the British already had a functioning system. The criteria were altered so that a scheme meant to save energy became one where the more fuel you burnt the greater the subsidies and where costs could expand without limit.
Continue reading “REACTIONARY UNIONISM SHOWS ITS TRUE COLOURS”

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Dec 08 2016

FROM THE GPO TO THE WINTER PALACE

Rayner O’Connor Lysaght (Socialist Democracy-Ireland) has written a pamphlet entitled From the GPO to the Winter Palace, outlining the period between the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and the 1917 October Revolution in Petrograd. As part of our 1916 Rising centenary postings,  Rayner’s talk given to the Irish Labour History Conference in Dublin on Saturday, October 22nd. is given below.

 

FROM THE GPO TO THE  WINTER PALACE

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Comrades, Friends, I will begin by making a brief comment on the centennial year that is now more than three quarters complete. Like most of you, I approached it with foreboding, which seemed justified with the twenty-six county Government’s notorious video last year, no more than to be expected from that gang, of course. Happily, in general, matters have improved considerably, mainly, it would seem, because the said Government has taken a back seat to let the people run things.

Continue reading “FROM THE GPO TO THE WINTER PALACE”

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Sep 09 2016

APPLE AND IRELAND – WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IT?

We are posting this article from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) about the conspiracy between the Irish government and Apple to avoid paying taxation.

 

APPLE AND IRELAND – WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IT?

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The details of the criminal conspiracy between Apple and the Irish government may be utterly shocking, as is the brazen defiance shown by Dublin and the computer giant in opposing the European ruling. We knew they paid little tax, but essentially zero? Who would have thought it?
Continue reading “APPLE AND IRELAND – WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IT?”

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Aug 29 2016

THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE CONVENTION MARK 2 – ANOTHER COVER FOR THE SNP LEADERSHIP?

The Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) is to be relaunched in Glasgow on Sunday, September 18th. This body was first constituted on November 30th, 2005, on the initiative of the Scottish Socialist Party. The SNP gave its support, but then ensured that it was kept firmly at arm’s length whilst the party developed its own links with big business, and further accommodated to US and British imperial interests.

When the  SNP leadership eventually launched its own front campaign, ‘Yes Scotland’, in Edinburgh on 25th May 2012, the SIC took no part in this decision. For the SNP, the main purpose of SIC had been to tie up the Left and to prevent a republican alternative from emerging  – although the split that had occurred in the SSP certainly helped them in this endeavour.

Below we are republishing a pamphlet published in 2006 in response to the first SIC. This was produced by the RCN Platform in the SSP. The article anticipates some of the retreats the SNP went on to make to gain respectability, e.g. the climbdown over NATO.

Although today’s political situation is not the same as in 2005, there are still many things to be learned from this particular attempt to subordinate any independent class initiative to the political requirements of an SNP leadership, which represents the interests of a wannabe Scottish ruling class in the making.

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 THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE CONVENTION –

COMMITTING THE SSP TO A NATIONALIST STRATEGY?

 

Introduction

The RCN has been pushing the SSP (and its predecessor the Scottish Socialist Alliance) to adopt a republican and internationalist strategy in Scotland since its inception. We initiated the 2005 SSP Conference motion, which was passed by a large majority of delegates.
Continue reading “THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE CONVENTION MARK 2 – ANOTHER COVER FOR THE SNP LEADERSHIP?”

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