From Orange Law to Whitelaw
March 22nd. Mr. Brian Faulkner in London being talked to by his Tory overlord, Heath. Press says talks “crucial”. Ten hours talking . . . Brian walks out peeved. Brian comes back . . . talk . . . talk.
March 23rd. Faulkner is back in Belfast giving the bad news to the rest of the gang at Stormont. Northern Ireland tense . . . waiting. Dark clouds over Stormont. Faulkner goes back to London.
March 24th. The news is out! Stormont is “prorogued”, the semantics of anti-“backlash” strategy. Everybody knows that Westminster is not only the assassin but the undertaker! Orange law is dead; Wullie Whitelaw, Heath’s Ulster hatchetman, takes its place with near-absolute powers. Real change is alleged.
Trauma . . . anger . . . suspicion . . . fear . . . bitterness . . . hope — all are elements in the emotional shock-wave that hits Northern Ireland. What does it all mean? Whitelaw or Orange law? We say there has been no change: capitalism still rules.
So often over the past few years in Northern Ireland have we seen the unexpected occur in a continual succession of nine-day wonders that have knocked many of the sacred cows from their sacrosanct pedestals . . . so many of the things which the cynics said “will not happen in our time” have happened.
The lessons are many but, primarily, they show two things: they show the speed with which political change can occur and the ability of the great majority of people to reconcile themselves to that change and they also show that whatever amount of apparent change occurs in the administrative organs of the system, they leave, wholly and totally, the real problems that affect the working class intact and undisturbed.
If, like the “Left” the Communists, Labourites, P.D., official I.R.A., etc — we were sufficiently ignorant of the real nature of capitalism, and the alternative to that system, Socialism, to take sides in the major dispute in Ireland concerning how capitalism should be organised or by whom, then we could take either side — almost with equal “justice” — and have an excellent case for rapping our opponents: But we are not “Leftists”, concerned with administering social aspirin to a society suffering the horrible economic cancer of capitalism. We are Socialists, holding to the demonstrable fact that only the surgery of social revolution, carried through with the weapons of democracy and Socialist knowledge, can bring about real change. As such we are not concerned with taking any “side” in the political struggle in Ireland (or elsewhere), a political struggle that has emerged from, and was caused by, the earlier internecine struggle within the country’s propertied class, and are, thus, absolved from the hypocrisy, the lies, the contradictions, the prejudices as well as the deliberate exploitation of working class blood and tears for the accomplishment of purposes that bear no relevance to working class interests.
We have seen anglophobic Irish nationalists demanding “British standards of justice”, sometimes even when the military stalwarts of that “justice” were engaged in the crassest brutality against them. We have seen “Loyalists” of the Unionist Party, and its fringe lunacies, denounce those same British standards while boasting their loyalty to Britain. We have seen the “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people” take in a tame Catholic to its ranks in a lame attempt to convince the world that it was not a Protestant Parliament. And we have seen the British Tory Government sack the local Tory bigots, with all the implications of disgrace, and establish a dictatorial overlord to implement the aforementioned “British standards”!
And we could go on . . . and on . . . but, why? Nothing really has changed. Nothing, that is, that really affects the life of Paddy Murphy, Catholic, workingman or Jimmy Brown, Protestant, workingman. The regime of the alarm clock, the job, the dole, the poverty, the slums, even, the violence — real and intended — goes on and all the happy slogans of reform are turned on their head as their diametrical opposite draws the cheers of the leaders who first taught you the slogans of reform. “One man — One vote”? No! Now we have Whitelaw — and no votes! Abolition of the Special Powers Act? Now we have the infamous Act administered by the British Army with a repressive ruthlessness that sometimes makes even the RUC appear playful! Jobs? Homes? These are now the governmental preserve of the Heath administration and its wanton failure in both fields in Britain can hardly inspire confidence!
Because, so often, we saw the viciously-contorting face of Brian Faulkner vomit its blood-curdling hatred at those whom he opposed; because we lived with his lies and hypocrisy and his leadership of a group of self-seeking political gangsters prepared to stop at nothing to maintain their power and privilege, we may see in the ignominous dismissal of the foul Unionist coterie some victory. But there is no real victory for the working class, even in the satisfaction that some of them may see in the political demise of Faulkner and his cohorts. For these people, like Heath, Wilson and Lynch, or, if they achieved political power, the leaders of the IRA, the Ulster Vanguard or the professional “moderates” of the Alliance Party, are the mere political servants of capitalism.
It was to maintain capitalism in such a manner as would make most effective its exploitation of the working class that Unionism and Nationalism became political forces in Ireland. It was the immediate needs of capitalism in the nearly part of this century that exploited the divisive influences historically bound-up with class society in the country and brought forth the slogans of bigotry and patriotism, hatred and prejudice — the inane Orange battle-cries and the futile Nationalist shibboleths. The poison of sectarianism and nationalism was used by the contending factions within capitalism to rally the working class in the North behind the continuance of union with Britain, in order that the Northern capitalists could maintain their free access to the British markets, and the working class in the South behind the demand for “freedom” from British rule, so that the political servants of the developing capitalist class in the South could take legislative steps to protect a weak native capitalism from the competition of foreign, mainly British, capitalism.
With the changing of conditions affecting capitalism in both parts of the country the old friction of interest between the Northern and Southern capitalists largely declined. It was this decline and the closer economic integration of the UK-Irish economy, endorsed in the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement, that led to the closer co-operation of Northern and Southern politicians in the latter part of the Sixties and paved the way for the O’Neill-Lemass bun-worry at Stormont in 1965. Capitalism in Ireland no longer needed the unpleasant levels of bigotry and hatred that had been necessary to promote both parts of its divided interests nearly fifty years before. With as little scruple as had been employed when the weapons of hate and division had been first used, the political servants of capitalism attempted to throw them aside, and, in the process, to take credit for their integrity and political perspicacity! But, in Northern Ireland, the poison had been injected deep into the vein of working class life and the sheep baulked at following their leaders through the pens of hypocrisy to a tolerance based on the new needs of capitalism.
The rest is the history of the last four years: the story of murder, arson, brutality, torture and increased hatred and division when the working class paid with its lives, its freedom and endured privation and repression beyond the norm and the capitalist class saw its profits endangered and its lives discomfited. This was the background to Heath and his gang bestowing on Faulkner and his mob the old order of the boot!
Faulkner and his Tory hate-mongers were kicked out by their erstwhile friends of the British Tory party not because they were the Party that generated hatred and bitterness nor because they had set up an authoritarian statelet in which lies and deceit imposed the same miseries on propertyless Protestants as did hate policies and political coercion on propertyless Catholics. If these crimes had represented the indictment against Unionism, Unionist politicians would never have been allowed to relax their privileged backsides in the plushed splendor of Stormont. No, Teddy and his friends did not abandon Brian and his boys simply because the latter had been found out nor did the Leader of that other great act in capitalism’s political circus, the Labour Party, recommend dismissal on such grounds. Faulkner and his party had to go because they could no longer deliver the goods to the capitalist class in the form of a reasonably peaceful, docile, hard-grafting working class churning out goods for sale and profit without the expenditure of too much in the way of overheads for maintaining “law and order”.
A few points are worthy of note; the Party of acknowledged political gangsters whom Westminster have seen fit to dismiss are the same Party who were given power by Liberal Lloyd George’s Government of Ireland Act of 1920; the same Party that enjoyed the confidence and support of successive Tory governments up to the present Heath administration; the same Party whose political foulness was strengthened by the Labour government’s Amendments to the Governments of Ireland Act, in 1948 and whose corruption was beneath the cognizance of Harold Wilson until it became an expensive embarrassment in 1969.
And the alternatives for the future? Again it is worthy of note that Harold Wilson—who can doubt with the foreknowledge and connivance of Heath? — sat in counsel with “the gunmen and murderers” of the IRA in Dublin. It is worthy of note because capitalism will employ, and has employed, any trick, any hypocrisy, any instrument that guarantees its untroubled exploitation of the working class. And none of the contenders for power are any worse than those presiding over capitalism’s system of theft at present.
And the future for the working class? This we can predict with easy confidence. The continuation of poverty, insecurity, of going without . . . living in slums or letting the larder pay the rent or the mortgage . . . division . . . violence. In a word, no change! But, then, the working class knows its miseries and, ironically, while it seeks assuagement of political or religious problems it does not expect relief from its class miseries. Nor will it get it before it jettisons its inculcated nationalistic and religious prejudices and its notions that a society in which a minority class owns society’s means of living can provide the material basis of a peaceful, a full and a happy life for everybody.