1970s >> 1970 >> no-794-october-1970

The emptiness of self-determination

Socialists do not support “Self-Determination for Ireland”. Insofar as this word has any meaning it runs counter to the socialist view that the nation is a capitalist political institution. The whole idea underlying nationalism — that all the people of a particular nation (however defined, and that’s another problem) have some common interest — challenges the socialist analysis which says that the workers have no country and that the “national interest” is a fraud and a trick designed to get them to co-operate on the political field with their rulers.

“Self-Determination” was the cry raised also by the Northern capitalists in their slogan “A Protestant Government for a Protestant People”. Why is the claim that all who live in Ireland form “one nation” with a common interest any more valid than the claim that all who adhere to the Protestant religion form “one people”? Both are equally wrong.

Irish nationalism was the ideology of one section of the Irish capitalist class, the small businessmen of the South, a section which after 1921 gained control over 26 of the 32 Irish counties, while their rivals, the big industrialists of the North East, kept the other six. Independence from Britain for the 26 counties merely meant a change of masters for the workers living there; the joining of the remaining six counties to form an All-Ireland Republic would be no different.

Unionism is obviously and openly an anti-working class political trend, but it is time that Irish Nationalism and Republicanism were recognised as such too. Unionism and Nationalism/Republicanism are the political theories of rival sections of the Irish capitalist class and as such should both be opposed by Socialists.

The task of Socialists in Ireland is to campaign, along with Socialists in other countries, for the establishment of a socialist society all over the world.