1980s >> 1988 >> no-1005-may-1988

Letters: Political health warning?

Dear Editors
So, after 84 years of uncompromisingly putting the case for Socialism in war and peace, against enemies and betrayers, the Socialist Standard has finally been forced to succumb to the undemocratic arrogance of its current printers.

 

Presumably, since your printers have not previously felt the need to dissociate themselves from any other article published in the Socialist Standard, their political health warning on my article, HATE AND ITS CAUSES, in the March issue, implies their agreement with everything else they have printed in the journal. Or is this the precedent that will establish Calvert’s right to impose their imprimatur willy-nilly in the future?

 

What really intrigues me is what awful thing I have written that so offends Calvert’s. Where I live, opposing legal and illegal terrorism, as did my article. involves some little degree of risk. It is a risk, however, that we Socialists have to take if we are to be faithful to our principles.

 

No such risk is involved for Calvert’s. They can come out of their funk-hole and tell me and your readers what exactly in my article was so disturbing that they felt obliged to use the power of their property in a crude attempt at censorial refutation.

 

Of course they might simply refuse to allow you to publish this letter.

 

   Yours for Socialism
Richard Montague
Belfast

 

Dear Editors,

 

I note that your publishers have added a disclaimer at the end of the article “Hate and its Causes” in the March ’88 issue of your paper. I know that the issues raised by the conflict in Northern Ireland are the subject of endless argument among declared “socialists”. I have never noticed such a disclaimer previously and would be interested to know what it was in the article that so offended Calvert’s Press.

 

   Yours faithfully.
Alan Tait 
Huddersfield

 

Reply:

 

Having typeset the article “Hate and its Causes” which appeared in the March issue of the Socialist Standard, Calvert’s Press contacted the editors to voice their disagreement with the ideas contained in that article. They asked for a ‘right of reply’ and the SSPC stated that any disclaimer or reply which they may wish to make should be in the form of a letter to be printed, at the editors’ discretion, on the Letters page. However. Calvert’s Press did not send us any such letter but instead printed the disclaimer that appeared at the end of the article. This was added after the typesetting and lay-out stages and hence without the Editors having seen it prior to publication.

 

The Editors

 

Calvert’s reply

 

Dear Editors.

 

The article “Hate and its Causes” (Socialist Standard March 1988) contains inaccuracies and unsubstantiated generalisations concerning the republican movement in Northern Ireland. The members of Calvert’s Press who have written this letter do not, though, wish to enter into a political debate with the Socialist Party about socialism, whose broad aims and principles we agree with, nor are we interested in whose version of socialism is “right”, as we are aware that our and Sinn Fein’s views would not completely correspond with your own. However, we would like to point out some of the inaccuracies in the article, to answer the patronising comments about our assumed (mis)understanding of socialism and to refute the hysterical accusation of censorship caused by our disclaimer.

 

1. The article says that Sinn Fein is a nationalist group who don’t care whether their government would be capitalist or not, so long as it was “green”, and that they have no knowledge of or interest in socialism. This is based on a quote from an issue of Eire Nua which must be at least five years out of date (we found it in a 1971 edition). This booklet has been superseded by a series of policy documents, including the one from which we quote:

 

   “. . . we believe that the present system of society is based upon the robbery of the working class and that capitalist property cannot exist without the plundering of labour; we desire to see capitalism abolished and a democratic system of common or public ownership erected in its stead. The democratic system, which is called socialism, will, we believe, come as a result of the continuous increase of power to the working class. Only by this means can we secure the abolition of destitution and all the misery, crime and immorality which flow from that unnecessary evil.” (Sinn Fein Policy. 1986)

 

2. The writer claims that the IRA and its supporters dream of a “fairyland” where Unionists are silenced forever.

 

Must it be pointed out that British capitalism and colonialism can only be maintained in Northern Ireland with the collaboration of the puppet Unionists? In fact, the very existence of the Unionists is due to the British colonialists. The nationalist community in N.I. well understand this and the nature of this colonialism and its function: it divides the Irish and British working class, nullifies the power of trade unionism and maintains Ireland as a NATO base for Britain. Until British occupation of Ireland, backed up by Unionism, is eliminated, the Irish know there will be no way of realising socialism.

 

3. The writer says that poor conditions are “marginally worse” in Catholic working-class areas.

 

Recent figures give unemployment in the Catholic community as at 80 per cent. Catholics are four times more likely to be unemployed than Protestants. Furthermore, Catholics are subject to daily harassment by the RUC, UDF, British army etc., have their funerals noisily surveilled by helicopters continually circulating above, are stopped and searched when they enter or leave the country, cross a border or just walk the streets, have their doors kicked in by British soldiers . . . the list could go on.

 

4. The IRA are said to practise sectarian killings of Protestants, because they don’t recognise their class identity.

 

This is offensive and untrue. There is not a policy of killing Protestants because of their religion. Members of the RUC, UDR etc are assassinated because of their political role in maintaining British colonial rule in Northern Ireland. (The two men in the car who were killed likewise. If you didn’t catch any of the photos in the establishment press — let alone in An Phoblacht/Republican News — of the guns pointing out of the car window, we can oblige you with some.) On the other hand, there are killings of Catholics which can be described as racist or “sectarian”, as well as the harassment of the Catholic community at large in the ways described above.

 

We would question the “sectarian” analysis. British imperialism uses this to justify the use of horrifying methods of brutality and repression without protest, and to uphold its colonial occupation — you will still hear people from both countries asking: “Who will keep the peace if Britain withdraws from N.I.?”.

 

We do not agree that the IRA and Sinn Fein are anti-Protestant. The first 3 articles in their suggested charter of rights from the 1986 document state:

 

  1. All citizens are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Every person is entitled to the rights of citizenship without distinction of any kind, such as distinction of race. sex. religion, philosophical conviction. language or political outlook
  2. Every person has the right to life, liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.
  3. Every person has the right to freedom of conscience and religion and the open practice and teaching of ethical and political beliefs. This includes the right of assembly, peaceable association, petition and freedom of expression and communication.

 

5. The Provisional IRA, according to the article, emerged in 1969 as a result of housing problems and unemployment.

 

Of course they didn’t emerge in their present form in 1969. with no prior history of struggle against Britain! The history of the IRA and the nationalist struggle against their economic and cultural oppression can be found in many books (we are sure most people realise that Britain has been in colonial occupation of Ireland for 800 years or more). But this point raises a more serious question. because it seems that the writer is implying that if a Unionist/capitalist government could provide jobs. housing etc. for all, then there would be no trouble from the Catholic community at all! The Socialist Party’s analysis says that there is no reason for this or any other war in the world other than control of markets and economy. However, in most cases the cultural element is not just the superficial reason behind an oppressed people’s desire for self-determination; in Ireland and most of the countries you cited, the people are oppressed as a people. We feel the writer is saying “how foolish of the natives to want their own language, culture, religion, farming methods, sport — why can’t they all see this as narrow-minded and backward? If they were truly socialist they wouldn’t care what language they spoke, whether they played hurley or football, and would abandon their religious beliefs quickly when it was explained to them [by clever us?] that there’s no such thing as god(s)” We feel that to oppose liberation movements on these grounds, is to collaborate with the colonial class and to practise a kind of cultural imperialism.

 

In the past, some of the nationalist community may have been guilty of a narrow nationalism, but the white, English community continues to ignore the growing internationalism in the republican movement, and the links forged with oppressed people of other nations which share a common history of colonial repression.

 

There are other points we could make, but time & space may not permit. Some of us do not support the IRA in everything they do, some of us are pacifists. However, like it or not. they have the support of most of the nationalist community in N.I., who have no other organisation fighting imperialism there. Most of us agree that Britain should withdraw from N.I. and that the people there should be allowed to determine their own socialist future.

 

Two last points arising from last month’s letter about our disclaimer: we apologise for the last minute addition of it. Due to an initial misunderstanding in the co-op, it didn’t get submitted till artwork stage. But we had been given permission by the editor to put one in and/or to write a letter. Finally, we are relieved that readers do not associate the printer with what they print. Unfortunately, many of us do.

 

Some members of Calvert’s Press