The Irish Peace TreatyI have not had the heart to comment publicly on the aftermath of the recent Irish agreement and I do not have detailed knowledge of the breakdown of the voting for the Assembly. I have however been following recent events in Ulster with a renewed interest. Let me try and explain why.
The worst moment for me was the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis when Gerry Adams got up and congratulated the leader of the Ulster Unionists, David Trimble on winning some vote within the Unionist Party. I almost lost the contents of my stomach when he said "Well done, David". I feel almost certain that there would have been many republicans who thought that this was too much. Certainly I did. My only consolation was that this piece of unctuousness from Adams probably cost Trimble dearly.
But Adams continues on his way in from the cold. His is the trajectory of Mandela, Arafat, Kabila, Ortega etc. Let me be clear that I deplore the abandonment of the revolutionary path. However I have written before that I am conscious of the very real sacrifices that these men in particular have made in the past. Moreover I remain unimpressed by the glib denunciations from those sects who have not endured anything like the sufferings of Mandela etc.
Having said this I had filed away the Irish struggle in that section of my soul reserved for defeats and sell outs. We must endure and my strategy is to try and minimize the demoralization and pessimism by focusing on almost anything else. However the dialectic moves remorselessly on and amidst all the unbearable triumphalism over the Northern Irish agreement there once more has come the ray of hope. This for me is the wonderful unities of time and place and politics that sometimes happens. Here in Australia during the MUA (longshoremen's) strike the time and the place was the Melbourne docks and the politics was widespread resistance from the working class and their supporters to a ruling class offensive.
As I write, now in Ulster the time and the place is the Gervaghy Road (outside Portadown I believe) where the residents have indicated that this year once again they will resist the attempt of the Orange men to parade in triumph through the Catholic housing estate. In previous years massive mobilizations of Orange men have led the state to batter the Catholics out of the way and to allow the Orange Parade to go ahead. This year once again a section of the state has officially rerouted the parade but the Orange Order will not accept this re-routing. So we have the politics of local resistance, an offensive from the far right and the Oppressive State Apparatus unsure how to support the Right without losing its veneer of neutrality that it has garnered desperately since the Peace Agreement.
The Irish Times today had an article by a Ruth Dudley Edwards on this situation. It was a bitter attack on the local residents committee. This is lead by a Sinn Feiner called MacCionnaith. Ed wards reveals her bigotry by insisting on the Anglicized version o the name McKenna. I do not know Edwards but I suspect she may be related to the old Irish Stalinist Owen Dudley Edwards. So her anti-republicanism is not surprising. Nor is her desire to suck up to the Orange establishment something to be wondered at. Stalinists have for years longed for "historic compromises" with the ruling classes.
But it is her hostility to the residents' committee which most impressed me. She described this as 'bogus'. This is not the first attack on the local committees that has been launched by columnists in the Irish Times. Quite clearly they loathe the situation where ordinary people can tell "elected representatives" to get lost.
I on the other hand would advance the slogan "All Power to the Residents' Committees." It is in organizations like the Gervaghy Road Residents' Committee that I find the seeds of hope that we might yet see the out break of council communism. Whatever the case such committees stand out against the sordid compromises that the leadership of Sinn Fein has indulged in. They are also a reminder to us of how much fight is still in the people and how much they are still capable of resisting the imperatives of the powerful and those who have capitulated to them.
No - think this out carefully. Every time a strike ends there are shouts of betrayal. Sometimes, of course, it is just that - but is it in this case?
Surely it ill behooves Marxists to be too taken up with a nationalist cause.
Agreed the Unionist politicians like Paisley are absolute bigots with whom there really can be no compromise. These people are religious fundamentalists with their cries of "No Popery" and it is not possible to argue with people who think they speak with the word of God - whether they are Protestants, Muslims, or whatever.
But is it Holy Writ [not the same thread!!!] that Catholics [or Irish nationalists] may not speak to Protestants [or Unionists]? I do not think so.
What is needed more than anything in Northern Ireland is some way to get back to class politics instead of "religious" politics - and I bet most Sinn Fein members and most members of Orange Lodges have hardly been inside a church since they went to a wedding or a burial.
The working class in BOTH communities are oppressed and exploited; BOTH have high unemployment, often bad housing, and have to suffer the indignity of army searches. But each community IS ENCOURAGED to blame the other. Divide et empora. What a glorious opportunity for opportunist politicians.....
Revolutionaries must find CLASS issues to unite the working class across the "religious" groups. Admitted in the Bogside or Belfast it is not easy - but that is the revolutionary way, not bowing down to the community divide.
Sinn Fein is proud of being a socialist party (or claims to be, just like the Scots Nats at present) - the crux of the matter will be seen if they are able to find issues that break the religious divide and bring working class communities to unity in their fight for better economic conditions against the money-bags that rule the roost not only in Ulster but throughout the [not-so] United Kingdom (and USA as well!!!)
You mention Mandela and the ANC - of course they have a somewhat similar difficulty - but there also the way forward is not through mutual slaughter of black and white, or in Northern Ireland [nominally]Catholic and [nominally]Protestant. [I forbear to call it Ulster - it is only a rump of Ulster formed as a result of the success of one of early 20th century Tories divide and rule ploys]
I am presently reading "War and an Irish Town" by Eamonn McCann (new edition with introduction), London & Chicago, Pluto Press, 1993, ISBN 0 7453 0830 9)- and, although I certainly don't agree with every word - it is certainly a thoughtful book anyone interested in Northern Irish affairs should read and discuss.
Consider. Be slow to shout betrayal. It is up to us to find a way forward through the obstacles. Let us see this time as one of opportunity - even though we know it's a fudge which of itself solves nothing....
--EC (Paddy) Apling