From Survey, International Socialism (1st series), No.37, June/July 1969, p.8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The resignation of O’Neill is unlikely to affect the underlying drift to semi-civil war conditions in Northern Ireland. Chichester-Clarke represents a further important concession by the official Unionist party machine to the growing power of the Paisleyites. In this sense the Unionists are increasingly mortgaged to their B-Special/Paisleyite wing. As in Rhodesia, or Israel, the only move in the Unionist Party can be to the right. At the same time there can be little doubt that the Unionist leadership is as aware as anyone that they risk increasing isolation from their imperialist masters in Westminster.
The crisis in Northern Ireland perfectly illustrates the sort of contradiction between superstructure and base which so often is ignored by revolutionary socialists. The Orange junta is probably the worst of all available forms for imperialist rule in Ireland. A far better form is that offered by the Dublin regime. This regime holds to the forms of bourgeois independence ‘won in the national struggle against British imperialism.’ But the substance of the relationship with Westminster is clear. The Irish economy and financial system is bound hand and foot to London. In fact the bonds have tightened ever since De Valera abandoned his Utopian and hopeless attempt to build an isolationist independent Irish capitalism through economic war with Britain in the 1930’s. Today the essential economic and political interests of British capital and the Anglo-American axis is served through the Green Tory regime of Lynch.
The continued existence of the northern regime makes a mockery of the external form of the southern regime. So sensitive is the Dublin Fianna Fail Government to this that it is desperately postponing the general election because of fears about demands to ‘do something about the north.’ The only gesture made by Dublin is some phoney nationalist rhetoric and a mission to the United Nations, which long ago abjured any interest in intervening in Ireland. Yet with industrial conflict growing in Ireland an election cannot be postponed long. It will almost certainly produce a stalemate with a leftist Labour Party in a powerful strategic situation. It is against this national setting that the northern situation may drift nearer open violence. The immediate strategy of Chichester-Clarke will be to reassure London of at least an ultimate, verbal commitment to ‘one man, one vote.’ The feeling among Catholic workers and the civil rights movement has long passed the state, however, when such a ‘concession’ means anything. It is a certainty that in crucial areas like Derry, Newry and Armagh agitation on the issues of jobs and housing will continue. The key element is the reaction of the Paisleyites. Their obvious attempts to frame the IRA for the sabotage of, pipelines has failed. There will be a growing temptation for the Paisleyite/Specials to increase their attacks on the People’s Democracy and the civil rights movement in general. And the Specials/Paisleyites have a vast arms stock including sten guns and plenty of ammunition. If they do launch pogrom attacks on Catholic areas (perhaps as part of a campaign to release Paisley himself) there will be a growing chance of them setting off a stream of refugees to the south. This happened in the 1920’s and led to a situation when a section of the southern Free State army was poised to march north to defend the Catholics. There is no reason why the same thing should not happen again.
The very possibilities of a semi-revolutionary situation developing poses immense problems for the Irish revolutionary socialists. There has been an almost total lack of theoretical preparation by the Left for this situation, linked to the effective lack of a national organisation and of a developed agitational and strategic line to win over the best of the leftward moving republican workers and maintain a bridge with the Protestant workers. This needs to be tackled urgently if the crisis is not to degenerate into mere communal rioting in which no clear perspective for a Workers’ Republic can be developed.
The main hope still lies with the Left socialist wing of PD. This has developed a principled class line towards Protestant workers (as instanced by Bernadette Devlin’s election campaign and her subsequent actions). But there is a tendency both to underestimate the need for a national socialist organisation and (connected with this) a proper estimate of the national movement. The PD Left must cease to imagine that Protestant workers can be won by making concessions on the national issue (Union Jacks, etc.) to the Paisleyites. Paisleyism’s proletarian base does not affect its fascist character. Many Protestant workers (including some ex-Paisleyites) can be won only if a revolutionary socialist movement capable of defending them against the effects of the decline of northern capitalism is brought into being. At present this movement can only be built (for the most part) among Republican workers. To win these workers PD must both help to form a revolutionary socialist organisation nationally which can step up the struggle against the Dublin regime and act as a magnet for the best republican and labour militants in the south. The immediate need is for a 32 county civil rights paper with clear and uncompromising socialist policies. The initiative should be taken now by the PD Left without waiting for either the northern liberals and anarchists or those in the south who have still to evolve from a narrow and schematic view of how to build the revolutionary party.
Last updated on 15.1.2008