1980s >> 1988 >> no-1006-june-1988

Letter: IRA again

Dear Editors
I wish to thank the workers of Calverts Press for their letter in response to the criticism of their action in appending a disclaimer to my article (Hate and Its Causes – March S.S.). Let me make it clear that my opposition to their action was not based on the argument that the workers of Calverts — like Murdoch’s wage slaves — had no right to criticize what they were obliged to print. What I objected to was the method they choose — proprietorial censorship — when, as demonstrated by your publication of their lengthy letter, our journal has always provided for the expression of opposition opinion.


As to the letter from Calverts: before dealing with the “inaccuracies” and “unsubstantiated generalisation” of which 1 am accused, I would like to refer to the claim immediately following these charges that they (Calverts workers) do not “wish to enter into a political debate with the Socialist Party about Socialism, whose broad aims and principles we agree with“.


Do they? Surely this is what it is all about. Whatever alleged inaccuracies my article contained (and we will examine these), its substance was largely concerned with the fact that socialism, as defined by us and “broadly” <br>accepted by the Calverts workers, is not compatible with, or advanced by. the action of a small under-representative and undemocratic group setting up an organisation whose purpose is to kill other workers who are not prepared to concede political power to them.


They say they are aware that Sinn Fein’s views would “not completely” correspond with ours. It would have been much more interesting and informative had they shown us a single point of compatibility between the Socialist Party and Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein, like earlier fascists who employed the same anti-working class tactics as Sinn Fein, do couple the word “socialism” to their fanatical nationalist and racist policies and activities but I would challenge the Calverts workers to show, from their obvious wide reading of Sinn Fein/lRA literature, any evidence whatsoever of that body displaying either the slightest knowledge of, or interest in, the case for socialism as defined by the Socialist Party — and allegedly, ‘ broadly” approved of by Calverts workers.


As to the numbered points made by the Calverts workers:


1) They claim that my statement that the IRA is simply a nationalist group is based on a quote from “Eire Nua” which is at least five years old and which has been “superseded” by new material. Are they saying that Sinn Fein/IRA repudiated the former document in the latter? That they confessed to an earlier error and enlightened us with a new and definitive version of what they saw as being socialism? I put it to them (the Calverts workers) that, apart from the sort of sweeping generalisations and empty rhetoric used in later statements, and quoted by the Calverts workers, the material I used is the only definitive statement extant of what the Sinn Fein/IRA see as socialism — an inevitably authoritarian political and economic bastardization of “free” and “state” capitalism. I confess, however, that I may not be as well acquainted with Sinn Fein’s propaganda material as IRA supporters abroad. I am only one of the people they are prepared to kill in order to make me “free” and they do not use their open access to the media here to convince us that they have viable political and economic policies to improve our life style; such “convincing” is easier among the gullible Lefties abroad who do not see their handiwork at close range. Here, policy statements are largely confined to arguments about whether catholics are getting a “fair share” of the crumbs that fall from the table of capitalism.


2) British capitalism and colonisation can only be maintained in Northern Ireland with the collaboration of the Unionists. This, of course, is typical of the sort of utter rubbish and simplistic nonsense that is the political stock-in trade of Sinn Fein. Capitalism exists in Northern Ireland for the same reason that it exists elsewhere: because the material conditions essential to the establishment of the socialist alternative to capitalism do not exist. Since the Calverts workers broadly agree with us about socialism they will know that capitalism is a world condition, that its alternative is a world system based on conscious majority understanding, unity, co-operation and conscious democratic action. I suggest that the flaw in their “broad agreement” is the fact that they see these things advanced by an undemocratic and divisive campaign of internecine murder.


Who are the colonists? Are they that section of the impoverished wage slaves in Northern Ireland who call themselves “Protestants” and whose forbears arrived in Ireland a mere 385 years ago and later than the Gaels who arrived earlier? Are these the colonists that a cost-cutting British capitalism maintains to the extent of some £2 billion annually? If the Calverts workers believe that then the rest of their ignorance is understandable. Whatever it was in the past, the situation today is that British capitalism would gladly disengage from the economically and politically disastrous web which history has spun from earlier British policies in Ireland. The problem for the British are the consequences of disengagement both in Ireland and, arguably, in Britain and, in this regard, the IRA are more part of the problem than they are of its solution.


3) The Calverts workers challenge my use of the expression “marginally worse” in relation to the condition of protestants and catholics respectively and claim that recent figures show that catholics are four times as likely to be unemployed than protestants. Further, they claim that catholics are subject to daily harassment by the “security forces” and have their funerals noisily surveilled by helicopters.


The most recent employment statistics show that catholics are 2.5 times (not 4 times) more likely to be unemployed than protestants. Those figures reveal religious discrimination, the WSP has never denied that, but the problem is not as simple as the Calverts workers have been persuaded it is. Certainly the difference between most of the low-paid jobs available, to protestants and catholics, and the subsistence allowances made to unemployed workers generally leaves the latter only marginally worse off than the former. As a socialist, however. I find it surprising that workers claiming an understanding of socialism and. thus, an understanding of how capitalism works, can make common cause with what is a squalid and sectarian approach to the capitalist problem of unemployment.


It is utter nonsense, of course, to argue, as do the Calverts workers, that there is harrassment at catholic funerals. The “security forces” do attack IRA funerals for the reasons stated by me in an article in last month’s Socialist Standard.


The Calverts workers are correct in saying that the police and military brutally harrass workers who are catholics. This thuggery, where it follows an organised pattern, is largely confined to areas where they are rejected and opposed. The fact that catholics in middle-class areas are not generally subjected to such harrassment, plus the behaviour of the same forces where and when they have been opposed by workers who are protestants, shows that thuggery is not simply visited on people because of their religion. Unfortunately, the beneficiaries of state thuggery is the IRA for it is the reaction among young catholics to the brutality of the so-called security forces, and not any principled stand for socialism, that swells the ranks of the IRA.


4) The Calverts workers find my claim that the IRA practise sectarian killing to be “offensive and untrue”. Apart from such cases as where IRA members have been convicted for sectarian murders — one of the more prominent of the Maze escapers, for example, was serving a life sentence for blowing up one of the many “protestant” public houses that was bombed on the Shankill Road, I accept that the weapon of sectarian murder was initiated by protestant paramilitaries, with the likely collusion of the “security forces”, but the IRA have responded in the tit-for-tat sectarian murders. I have no more faith in the statements of the police than I have in those of the Sinn Fein/IRA. unlike Calverts workers who have seemingly blind faith in the IRA, but, according to forensic evidence, weapons used in many purely sectarian murders have been used in other operations admitted by the IRA.


The spectacle of worker killing worker, irrespective of their perceived justifications, is surely something that must be regretted and deplored by those who see working class unity as an essential precondition of the achievement of socialism. I find it thoroughly offensive that people claiming even broad agreement with the Socialist Party should act as apologists for those involved in anti-socialist activities.


5) The Provisional IRA did not, according to the Calverts workers, emerge in 1969 in its present form with no prior history of struggle against Britain. True, nor did we claim it had. Our pamphlet. Ireland, Past, Present and Future which. I believe, was printed by the Calverts workers in 1983 (without a disclaimer!) gives a brief history of the IRA and its service to Irish capitalism. If the Calverts workers would like to add this to their Irish studies, we shall be happy to deal with any objections they might have.


The Provisional IRA emerged in 1970 out of the, then, IRA because the latter body initially refused to become militarily involved in the sectarian pogroms that had been inspired by people like Paisley, Craig and others. An earlier military campaign, launched by the IRA in 1956 had proved wholly abortive because, as the IRA admitted in 1962 when they publicly withdrew from armed struggle, the northern catholics had not shown any commitment to the campaign. The Provisionals were born out of sectarian conflict and inevitably became part of that conflict, claiming a role as protectors of the catholics.


Space does not permit me to deal with the simplistic view of Irish history offered by the Calverts workers but even Lenin’s tortured view of imperialism would be troubled to explain a form of imperialism which currently contributes to the revenues of the conquered rather than economically plundering them.


Calverts workers raise what they claim is a really serious objection to my view — that the issues that lead to the present conflict were social and economic. (No, I do not know if this particular portion of their letter was written by the same person who claimed affinity with the Socialist Party!). They ask if I am implying that, if the Unionist government had been able to provide decent homes, jobs. etc. there would not now be trouble from the catholics. I am not implying any such thing; I am saying quite categorically that the struggles of 1968/9 were about the extension of the local government franchise, about homes and jobs. I am saying that the very people who rejected the IRA in 1956, when the IRA was dependent on the old nationalist shibboleths to muster support, gave support to the Provisionals after the Unionists had met their social and economic demands with violence. I would add that the small minority of catholics who do support the provisionals are almost exclusively confined to a few given areas of absolute social deprivation.


The remarks from the Calverts workers about Irish culture, language, etc. are really amusing. Ireland today has the same Coca-Cola culture that capitalism has inflicted throughout the world and had the Provisional IRA emerged on the basis of teaching the Irish language and Irish dancing, they would have been stillborn. The Irish language despite being taught generally in southern schools and in catholic schools in northern Ireland, is only spoken by a relatively small minority of people and, as a devotee of Irish traditional music, I have to admit that despite its popularity, it very likely runs second to American country and western in Ireland.


Finally, I would say to the Calverts workers, without any fear of contradiction, that there is only one organisation in Northern Ireland which puts a clear and unambiguous case for socialism. That organisation is the World Socialist Party and one of the greatest impediments to our efforts is the existence of the IRA.


Richard Montague