Belfast Diary: Mason’s ‘Marxists’
In some parts of Northern Ireland, especially those areas that have suffered the full savagery of State violence, the graffiti on the walls refers to Roy Mason, Labour’s Provincial Gauleiter, as ‘The Mad Midget’.
We, of course, are concerned with the man’s mental stature and, while his crass ignorance and symptoms of personal power mania must cause many in the Province to share our concern, his recent utterings, if we allow that they are presented with more honesty than is usual, certainly do bring into question the validity of the graffiti writers’ adjective.
It was during a television interview in December last: Little Mason was spluttering out personal pronouns relative to his winning his war against the Provisional IRA. Everyone in Ireland who did not agree with him was wrong; a full package of civil rights was now being enjoyed by everyone in the Province (!); he was prepared to allow devolution . . .
It was Mason’s usual vapourings, consequential only in so far as they sometimes provoke a death-dealing response from his opposites in violence, the Provos. This time, however, having exhausted his reserves of standard condemnations of the IRA, Mason delivered the ultimate castigation—the Provisional IRA are ‘Marxist based’.
Ironically, Mason was merely repeating what we had already heard a few weeks earlier from another exponent of State thuggery, the Prime Minister of South Africa.
Now, if our imagination stretches to the possibility of Mason’s knowledge qualifying him to make such an assertion, we, as Marxists, would claim the right of reply. Since the etiquette of debate proscribes the assumption of lunacy in our opponent, we must claim that Mason’s statement is a contemptible lie. Unlike him however, we arc prepared to substantiate our claim and, indeed, provide him with a forum if he has the courage to accept our challenge.
The political objective of the IRA is to set up an independent state in Ireland administered by a federal government drawn from the representatives of the four provinces in the country, each of which would have its own assembly with legislative authority in respect of matters affecting it. The system of economic organisation would be capitalism (and it could not be otherwise), though the Republicans envisage large scale nationalisation and cooperatives—and, like Mason’s Labour Party, imagine that this has something to do with socialism. In victory, the Provos would have their own State institutions with, doubtless, someone like Mason to use the full vigour of State violence to stamp out any manifestations of militant discontent that might arise from the continuation of capitalism’s miseries.
In fact, in matters of political and economic doctrine, there is only a difference of emphasis between the proclaimed policies of the Provisional IRA and the British Labour Party. Even on the question of means, there is a basic similarity between the Labour Party as a British Administration in Ireland, and the Provos; both subscribe to violence. In the case of the Provos, this is to win, and in the case of Mason’s administration to retain, power undemocratically.
We in the world socialist movement base our political and economic philosophy on the writings and teachings of Marx and the implications of those teachings in twentieth century capitalism. Marx discovered the laws of motion of human society and formalised these in the Materialist Conception of History; he showed the beginnings and development of class conflict and the role it would play in the future development of society; he dissected the nature of commodity production and demonstrated that, as long as the wages/money system continues to exist, there will be an enslaved class condemned to want, or dire misery.
Marx amply demonstrated that among the hallmarks of capitalism is the existence of a working class divorced from ownership of, and control over, their means of life; a class obliged to sell their mental or physical abilities for a wage or salary. The amount of wages, existing or achievable, were not his direct concern: he was concerned with the fact of wage slavery and not the temporary condition of the slave—thus, his advice to workers, in opposition to the ignorance conjured up in the slogan ‘A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’ was to inscribe on their banner ‘Abolition of the wages system!’
This entails the conscious and democratic establishment of a world-wide system of common ownership and production for use. in which all humankind would have free and equal access to the bountiful potential of the earth. It entails a world free from capitalism’s wages/money system; a world where the material basis for conflict and violence could not exist; a free, frontierless world where the complex and despotic government of people will give way to the simple administration of things.
Abolition of the wages system! That’s what Marxism is about! That simple, straightforward statement of aims, exposes Mason and his political ilk for the liars, or fools, they so obviously are.
Richard Montague (Belfast)
World Socialist Party of Ireland