The Red Plough
Vol. 2-No 4
The case of Marian Price.
“President Mc Guinness”
Tussles in Brussels
The case of Marian Price.
A march was held in Dublin on the 1st of October calling for the release of Marian Price and opposing the repression being used against Republicans. It had been well advertised before hand and notice had been on Facebook. Marian Price is a Republican who had been out on licence from a life sentence for her part in the bombing of London in the early 1970’s.
Prior to that she had been active in the civil rights movement and had taken part in the Burntollet march of PD in January 1969. On her release she opposed the political direction taken by the Provisional Sinn Fein leadership and supported the 32 County Sovereignty movement. At an Easter Commemoration in Derry she held a piece of paper while a masked man read out a statement from the Real IRA. Subsequent to that she was hauled back to jail and placed in isolation, the only women prisoner in an all male jail.
There is little doubt that this is a form of selective internment and that Marian is being singled out because she is and has been a long term opponent of the political pacification process endorsed by all the mainstream constitutional parties in the North and South of Ireland.
Most socialist and republican groups have in the past said they were against repression and political victimisation. Indeed most have also condemned the political set up as a result of the pacification programme. Part of that opposition has been on the basis that it institutionalises religious sectarianism.
But there is another form of sectarianism-political sectarianism.
No socialist groups appeared at the march.The only banners were from 32 County Sovereignty Movement branches and slogans against internment.No republican groups other than the 32SM participated. There were no IRSP /Eirigi, RNU or RSF. However IRSP women in Strabane did hold a demo in solidarity with Marian.
Maybe there are reasons for the absence of these groups from the march. Certainly the two left groups, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party will have political arguments for not associating with the issue. They are afraid of contagion! A quick search of the SWP’s website reveals no mention of the case of Marian Price nor any articles dealing with the issues of repression in the North. We do know from personal experience that there are SWP members who abhor any contact with republicans.
Below is the position of the SP.
“Whilst opposing the paramilitary campaigns we also opposed the repressive measures of the state throughout the last forty years. We take up issues of repression on a class basis, rather than in a one-sided way reflecting the views of one or other community alone. Repressive measures that are used against unrepresentative and sectarian groups today will be used against united movements of the working class tomorrow. As internment and Bloody Sunday proved, state repression can also be counter-productive and lead to increased support for paramilitary groups. It is in the interests of socialist and trade union activists to oppose such measures both on humanitarian grounds and in the interests of the working class as a whole.”(http://socialistpartyni.net/component/content/article/60-assembly-/663-brendan-lillis-must-be-released)
To avoid contagion and to avoid alienating workers they take a position of sidestepping any real engagement with the issues of repression itself.
Somewhere in this there is a attitude of “worker good!” “anti-imperialist bad!” Unfortunately neither this or its reverse is true. Workers can be racist and hold reactionary views and anti-imperialists in Ireland can be sectarian and try to justify sectarian actions. Traditionally the protestant working class were the backbone of the industrial working class in the Northern State and whenever it began to flex its industrial muscle the Unionist ruling class would open the Pandora’s Box to reveal the evil delights of sectarianism. Catholics and areas where catholics lived were subjected to pogroms from those self same industrial workers blinded by a fanatical hatred. In the 1920’s, the 1930’s and from the 1960‘s onwards there have been major outbreaks of sectarian attacks on the nationalist minority. Is it any wonder that sectarian attitudes permeated through many working class families? For their loyalty to the Unionist state Protestant workers were given small privileges such as jobs in heavy industry and easy access to the armed forces of the state( the B-Specials etc). However they also suffered poor housing, regular unemployment (as a result of capitalist cycles of boom and burst).And despite the poison of sectarianism permeating ever facet of society there were and are many instances of solidarity among workers and their families.
But nevertheless sectarianism is a major factor in the northern state.To ignore it or worse still use it as an excuse not to campaign with the victims of state repression and instead pander to that sectarianism by adopting a“walkerist” approach is essentially anti-marxist. Engels summed it up well in the following sentence.
The materialist conception of history has a lot of them nowadays, to whom it serves as an excuse for not studying history. Just as Marx used to say, commenting on the French "Marxists" of the late 70s: "All I know is that I am not a Marxist."(Marx-Engels Correspondence 1890 Engels to C. Schmidt In Berlin)
The victimisation of Marian Price is wrong. It is a class issue and to talk about “one or other community alone.” is to actually play the sectarian card and fall in to the trap set by imperialism. It is the classic “"Walkerism"” position. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/connwalk/index.htm)
That position, despite the subjective feelings and intentions of the comrades in the SP, is objectively pro-Imperialist.
Karl Marx in 1869 proposed a motion to the Council of the first International in support of an amnesty
“for the release of the imprisoned Irish patriots”
(Lenin “Selected Works 4” page 277 Lawrence/Wishart London 1943)
Indeed he became very active in support of the Fenian prisoners at the time when Engels noted
“the hatred for the Irish on the part of British workers”(ibid page 276)
There is no sign here of backing down in the face of the prejudices of the British working class. Rather Marx went further.
“All the abominations of the English have their origins in the Irish Pale” (page 277)
“The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland” (page 278)
Is this evidence that Marx/Engels succumbed to the forces of bourgeois nationalism or were siding with one community or the other? On the contrary Marx had no doubt of the subordinate position of the national question as compared with the ‘labour question” but he argued that socialists should support what is progressive in mass national movements..To do otherwise Lenin said was
“in effect pandering to nationalistic prejudices, viz. recognising “ones own as the model nation”(page 276)
This is not to argue that the actions carried out by armed groups is necessarily progressive. Armed actions at this time in Irish history only have the effect of cementing the union between Britain and Ireland on a reactionary basis.
Trotsky on the issue of individual terrorism said:
“But the disarray introduced into the ranks of the working masses themselves by a terrorist attempt is much deeper. If it is enough to arm oneself with a pistol in order to achieve one’s goal, why the efforts of the class struggle? If a thimbleful of gunpowder and a little chunk of lead is enough to shoot the enemy through the neck, what need is there for a class organisation? If it makes sense to terrify highly placed personages with the roar of explosions, where is the need for the party? Why meetings, mass agitation and elections if one can so easily take aim at the ministerial bench from the gallery of parliament?
(Why Marxists Oppose individual Terrorism)
In essence the use of individual terrorism has the effect of de-politicising the masses. There is no other way towards a socialist Ireland than the slow patient winning of the workers towards taking control of their own lives. That requires confronting not only the capitalist enemy but also the prejudices of the masses themselves including racism, sectarianism homophobia etc.
"The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of masses lacking consciousness is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must also be in on it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are fighting for, body and soul. The history of the last fifty years has taught us that. But in order that the masses may understand what is to be done, long, persistent work is required, and it is just this work that we are now pursuing, and with a success which drives the enemy to despair."
(F. Engels, Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850, in K. Marx and F. Engels’ Collected Works, Vol. 27, p. 520.)
Or as James Connolly so eloquently put it ,
“An Irish Republic, the only purely political change in Ireland worth crossing the street for, will never be realised except by a revolutionary party that proceeds upon the premise that the capitalist and the landlord classes in town and country in Ireland are criminal accomplices with the British government, in the enslavement and subjection of the nation. Such a revolutionary party must be socialist, and from socialism alone can the salvation of Ireland come.” (James Connolly, The Harp, March 1909)
“President Mc Guinness”
The decision by Provisional Sinn Fein to put Martin McGuinness up for the presidency of the 26 county state was a politically astute move. It has caught the chattering classes of Dublin by surprise. Their mock horror at a candidate from the North with the whiff of sulphur around him should fool no one. After all, their state was established by two parties soaked in the same sulphur. A former Taoiseach was in Michael Collins nutting squad. De Valera, a former President was ‘out’ in 1916 and his party entered the Dail with guns in their pockets in 1927.
Mind you if you listened to Fintan O’Toole political commentator and self proclaimed intellectual(who does not like to interrupted on radio programmes and walks away when lesser beings do so)) -you would believe that Dev never fired a shot and only was there to admire the flowers at Easter.Yes he loved the Easter lily!!
Mc Guinness is no saint. Of course he is a liar. It is doubtful if he ever left the Provisional IRA. Otherwise he would never have been so heavily involved in the peace process. But to criticise him for that as some have done is just plain silly. No one involved in armed struggle is ever going to give full disclosure of the activities.
Why the chattering classes have picked on his past is quite clear. They hope it will divert attention away from the way they themselves have colluded in the way in which the free state sold itself like a lady of the night to the bankers builders and corporations that have gobbled up any bits of independence there ever was in that misbegotten state.
Tussles in Brussels, where next for Ireland?
(Published on Sunday, 23 October 2011 22:20
Written by Fightback)
The Greek working class has moved decisively into action. The last few days in Greece have demonstrated that faced with an approaching economic calamity the workers are prepared to fight to defend their living standards and their jobs also. However, the bankers and the various competing European powers have no option but to fight for their own interests and will fight to the last gasp. The scene is set for further conflict in the euro zone between the increasingly divergent interests of the European states and between the classes in each of the European countries.
At the present moment the European leaders are discussing an increase in the available EU bailout funds from a mere €440 Billion to a €1 Trillion. Of course this needs paying for and of course the working class will be forced to pay.
The world situation is more disturbed and unstable than at any time since the 1930’s. However, the balance of class forces on a world scale has moved decisively in favour of the working class since then. In the past the bourgeois could call on the peasantry and the petit bourgeois layers of society as a reservoir for reaction. The post war boom undermined the social base of the ruling class and has immensely strengthened the working class internationally.
On the 15th October mass demonstrations took place internationally and especially in Spain and Italy. In Spain In Defence of Marxism reported:
The numbers of those involved in what was known as the "15O" protests were impressive: half a million in Madrid, 300,000 or 400,000 in Barcelona, 50,000 in Seville, 40,000 in Málaga, 30,000 in Granada, 20,000 in Mallorca, 20,000 in Vigo, 15,000 in Mieres (Asturias), 30,000 in Zaragoza, 10,000 in Bilbao, 35,000 in Valencia, 15,000 in Murcia, 15,000 in Tarragona, and a long list of more than 80 different towns and cities all over Spain which saw demonstrations. IDOM 15O massive demonstrations in Spain
Half a million marched in Rome and this week there have been enormous demonstrations throughout Greece against the austerity.
The question is however, in what way will the most recent manifestation of the Euro crisis be reflected in Ireland and can we anticipate an upturn in the class struggle?
Watching Enda Kenny on the world stage it’s clear that he is a fine representative of the Irish national capitalist class. He is weak, ineffectual and remote from the centre of power in Europe. Fine Gael offers nothing radically different to what passed before under Cowen and Lenihan.
Even though the government seems to be on target to hit the targets that the Troika set them, there are no guarantees. The banking system is in a perilous state. Many of the European banks are exposed to sovereign debt and should Greece default the Irish banks like the rest of the European banks will be further exposed. The structure of the bond markets and the predatory nature of the speculators mean that Ireland is only a few steps from the back of the queue and in the bond markets for sure, the devil will take the hindmost.
The selloff of state assets and the ongoing restructures and other so called reforms are of course means to try and squeeze as much money as possible from the public sector. Within the public services there is a lot of anger and opposition to the governments programme, the government know that. Brendan Howlin was playing his cards close to his chest last week.
MINISTER FOR Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has refused to be drawn on whether the Government will opt for a €4 billion adjustment in the December budget.
He said the Fiscal Advisory Council’s recommendation on the figure would be listened to, together with all the other factors the Government had to take into account.
The commitment was to reduce the deficit to 8.6 per cent of GDP next year.
“The exact quantum of the adjustment to reach that target is currently being determined,” he added.
“We need to have a firm determination of the growth rates and the final accounts, in terms of taxation and revenue to the State, before we make a final determination on that.” Irish Times 14th October 2011
Upping the ante in the public sector would open up a new situation for Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan and Eamon Gilmore. The immediate pressures on the state finances have been ameliorated by the bailout. Fine Gael and Labour have benefitted also from not being tainted with the hatred for Fianna Fáil, but sooner or later normal conditions will reassert themselves. The trade union leaders are arguing for a different approach:
IRELAND NEEDS a growth plan and not further austerity, the EU-IMF-ECB “troika” was told yesterday in Dublin by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“We desperately need a plan for jobs and growth, an innovative strategy that will help to kick-start an economy that is effectively flat-lining,” Ictu general secretary David Begg said prior to a meeting with troika officials.
“The troika officials cannot ignore the evidence and it is no longer sufficient to administer prescriptions for cuts and ignore the consequences of those cuts. Irish Times 20/10/11
Given what is happening in the rest of Europe the only way that the trade unions will win a demand of this character is on the basis of mobilising the members and fighting for it. What would be entirely wrong would be to rely on exactly the same policy of “social partnership” that proved so ineffectual in the face of the pension levy, the emergency budgets and the cuts in the public sector.
The Croke Park Agreement was sold to trade union members as a means of defending themselves against the prospect of further wage cuts and to date it has held up by that score. However, FF never managed to get very far at all with the public sector reforms. But that is not a sign of the strength of the principle of social partnership. It has more to do with the complete political paralysis of the Cowen and Lenihan government at the end of the last Dáil.
The ongoing economic storms in Europe will impact not only upon the Greek workers who are right in the front line, but upon every country and the whole of the European working class. Under conditions of crisis the relative stability of the last months will pass over to a period of rapid change of sharp turns and sudden changes. There are no guarantees. The prospect of a new recession, the so called “double dip” will serve to undermine the current social and political equilibrium. As Trotsky explained in 1920 every attempt that the bourgeois use to stabilise the situation will undermine the equilibrium and force the working class into struggle.
The economic crisis generated enormous opposition from the Irish working class. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the pensions levy and again at the end of 2009. The movement shifted onto the political front. Now the conditions are developing for an upturn in the class struggle. The role of the trade union and labour leaders will come under increasing scrutiny.
What is lacking in Ireland and in Europe also is a clear sighted Marxist Leadership in the mass workers organisations. All of the political conditions are there for an international struggle for socialism. It’s our job to build the Marxist movement inside outside and around the mass organisations.
Ireland’s left has been fragmented and divided for decades. It will grow and develop to the extent that it manages to influence the workers organisations. The only people after all who can liberate the Irish working class are the workers themselves.
(FROM FIGHTBACK( http://www.ireland.marxist.com/ireland/politics/8341-tussles-in-brussels-where-next-for-ireland)
James Connolly Archive http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly
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