Irish Nationalism and British Imperialism, by Robert Dorn (DR O'Connor Lysaght), 1973

Contents
Communism and the National Question

The Debate on the Irish National Question


Appendix I: Communists on the Nation

Appendix II: Documents of the Left Opposition (YS) and RMG on the Irish National Question


The Debate on the Irish National Question
Traditionally, it has been the view of Communists that the people of the thirty-two counties of Ireland constitute a single nation and that unification of this country is a necessary revolutionary task.

However, in the last few years, there has arisen a theory that opposes this directly. In this period it was put forward first (and significantly enough) by the Fascist journalist, Desmond Fennell, though it actually dates back to the Liberal Unionist Leader, Thomas MacKnight. However, its most developed, ‘proletarian’ form was presented by the ultra-Stalinite (and formerly Chauvinist) Irish Communist Organisation.) Now the British and Irish Communists Organisation).

The Half-Hearted Theory
Before the position of the BICO is analysed (we need not trouble with the petty bourgeois confusions of Fennell, or of Conor Cruise O'Brien), it is well that a position between that and the traditional one be considered. The ‘League for a Workers' Republic’ declared until recently that the Protestants of Northern Ireland are not yet a nation, but a ‘nationality’. The LWR did not attempt to define this concept in depth. Nonetheless, it insisted that such a community, had the right to self-determination.

This theory depends on several demonstrably false assumptions. Firstly, the term ‘nationality’ seems to have been used generally by the Marxists theoreticians interchangeably with the term ‘nation’. The only time the concept has been given a distinctive form was in Stalin’s Marxism and the National Question in the first long quotation therefrom given in Appendix I. Here he applies the word to the communities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire that, in 1848 allowed themselves, in their backwardness, to be used to help smash the bourgeois national revolutions of the Germans and the Magyars. These latter were ‘nations’, the others ‘nationalities’. This is all there is on which to base an analysis.

But it is a starting point. To analyse 'nationality’, it must be related as a similar social phenomenon to the better defined ‘nation’. This is, of course, the product of the development of capitalism among a certain community. It is created by that people's destruction of all possible barriers to the forming of a single home commodity market. This involves the development of a common language used in a single geographical area over a certain amount of uninterrupted time to give the community, the developing nation, its final characteristic – a common psychology manifested in its culture. This process does not stop with the end of the classic, European, bourgeois revolutions. All that has happened is that, in Asia and Africa the leadership for such a development is taken from the essentially un-enterprising anti-national capitalist class by petty bourgeois pre--capitalist elements (artisans, intellectuals, peasants) in the communities concerned. As a final point, in these circumstances, the objectively bourgeois struggle to build a nation has to ‘grow over’ into the struggle for workers' power.

What, then would a ‘nationality’ be? If it has any validity at all it must be based on a previous stage of historical development to that from which a nation grows. In other words; it is a retarded, ‘pre-capitalist’, phenomenon. But there is more to it than that. Because it is retarded, (really through no fault of its own) its political activities tend to handicap the development of neighbouring communities into nations. Because its development is stilted the nationality's leadership (usually feudal barons or tribal chiefs) will use its position to thwart the socio-economic process that will cause its obsolesence. The Croats and the Czechs looked to Czarist Russia to help defeat the actual self-determination of the Germans and Magyars in 1848. In the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the Irish looked to feudal Spain and absolutist France to oppose the rise of the English nation. (Once again, this was not conscious malevolence, except on the part of many of the leaders of the Irish nationality). In the twentieth century the Ibos of Nigeria have allied with Portugal and South Africa to maintain their separation from the developing Nigerian nation. From this, two more facts emerge. In the first place, a nationality cannot have the right to self-determination until the material basis that is the necessity of its existence as a nationality has been destroyed. Ideally, this should mean the triumph of the national capitalist revolution and its destruction of the feudal limits in its subjects' nationalities. (Marx urged such a course on the 1848 revolutionaries in Austria.) Indeed this did happen with the classical French revolution, though elsewhere (as with the British capitalists against the Irish) it was precisely the opposite method that stimulated the national struggle. In any case, and for what cause a nationality has broken with its past, a triumphant bourgeoisie cannot grant self-determination for developing nations under its control, it wants the largest possible market for itself alone (Even the liberating French revolution was not ready to lose control over the Flemings and the Rhenish Germans). Only where the national struggle has ‘grown over’ into the working class struggle can its protagonists both destroy the basis for opposition from subject nationalities, and then offer the nation developing accordingly the right to self- determination. But here again, self determination will mean usually peaceable, rather than enforced, unity.

The second point is that the idea that the Protestants of Northern Ireland are a nationality is an anachronism. Ireland has gone beyond the stage of development expressed by ‘the nationality’ when Protestant separatism began to develop.

The Ulster Protestant community had maintained itself as a capitalist society. Once the institutions developed and maintained by the peculiar (and peculiarly obnoxious) form of Ulster Protestant industrial capitalism have been removed, Northern Ireland cannot survive for long by itself as a workers' state, nor develop as a separate nation. But more of this anon.

The ‘Two Nations’ Concept
The theory of the BICO must be taken more seriously than that associated with the LWR. The bourgeoisie of the Republic is likely to sell out on its traditional territorial claim for the north-east. In addition, the petty bourgeois Republican movements will probably fail to make the most of their opportunities. Thirdly, the possibility of a Communist movement taking the lead and bringing the present struggle to success by leading it into proletarian power is not yet more than a possibility. Accordingly, the BICO's ‘two nations’ theory may well influence many workers demoralised by defeat in the national struggle.

In what does the theory consist? It must be said that most of its defenders are inclined to put forward simply as a bourgeois counter to the nationalism of the Republic. But it does have a form more in keeping with proletarian rhetoric. This goes briefly as follows:

1. The Northern Irish Protestants are a distinct nation.

2. They have, therefore, the right to self-determination.

3. The denial of this right by the Irish Catholics is what divides the working class in Ireland – Catholic and Protestant.

4. It is in the interests of t.he capitalists both of Ireland and England to stabilise Ireland by uniting it probably under a semi-Fascist type of government.

5. There is no prospect of developing the present pseudo-national revolution into a Socialist revolution according to the theory of permanent revolution. There is no mass Marxist vanguard to lead it. The petty-bourgeois interest – notably the peasants – that are necessary for this are just not there to be mobilised. The Irish revolution will have to be a ‘purely Socialist’ one in which the industrially militant Protestant workers will play a major role (after they have been weaned from Unionism by the Catholic workers' recognition of their separate national status).

The Nation and Ulster Protestantism
This argument can be faulted in several aspects. Each point is inaccurate in some ways. First is the question as to whether the Protestants of Ulster are a nation distinct primarily from the other inhabitants of Ireland, but also from the other inhabitants of the British Isles. Certainly the Unionists can claim attributes that correspond formally to a number of Stalin's distinguishing points.

Their community is, certainly one of language and a nation. Admittedly, the first aspect, in Stalin's sense (‘We are referring, of course, to the colloquial language of the people and not to the official government language’ present author's emphasis) is shared by all the peoples of the British Isles. As to the second fact, there is an area (the Belfast ‘Pale’ east of the River Bann) which is recognisably Protestant, albeit with ‘Catholic’ enclaves, such as Falls Road and the Glens of Antrim.

But there are other points in Stalin's definition that need more consideration. Are the Protestants an historically-evolved stable community? What is the nature of their common economic life and 'psychological make-up, manifested in a community of culture’? It may certainly be argued that the Protestants ‘evolved historically’ from, Colon-Races. They were drawn originally from two, rather than one developing nations – the Scots and the English – whose rulers had to unite to hold their lands against the Irish natives, and finally in 1834, to hold their industries against disturbance. Whether this is sufficient for the definition is another matter.

The really doubtful points are those of ‘stability’, ‘economic life’ and ‘psychology vested in culture’. They also happen to be the ones, most qualitatively important for the ‘two-nation-mongers’ case. As we have seen, the three points analysed already are, though valid, so slight as to mean that, were the other points as slight, there would be no basis for Unionist feeling in Northern Ireland. However, the psychological, economic and stability factors have to be taken into consideration before judgment may be made on the nature of the Northern Protestant community. And, in particular, the first two are critically important factors in the community's feelings of separateness from the rest of the Irish people. The history of their development is limited to, and clarified by, the question of the existence of the third factor in any nation: the stability of the community.

Stability
The stability factor is by far and away the most doubtful in the development in the Northern Irish Protestant community. The formalists will object; have not the Protestants of the north-east been settled for 370 years? But, for Marxists, communal stability is more than just living in the same place for a long period. (If it were not so the claims of some nationalists that the ‘Golden Age’ Irish formed a nation would be true.) Its existence as an aspect of a nation is bound up with concrete matters that produce such an entity. Central amongst these is the creation of a home commodity market; in this task, stability is obviously necessary. Such a market cannot be developed in conditions of warfare, either civil or inter-state, within its prospective area. The nation of the English made its appearance on the world scene early; with its insular position, it could consolidate its capitalist economy without excessive foreign interference. The nation of the Germans had its growth retarded for over a century by the Thirty Years War.

The central fact that prevents the Ulster Protestants from being a nation is this; whereas the communal nature of the nation develops in stability, their sense of community grew out of the opposite. As will be shown, they possessed a common economic life, in a sense, but it was developed and maintained not on the home market of their community but on the Common Market of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and on the empire thereof. Thus, the bourgeoisie was able to maintain its prosperity by methods that would be suicide elsewhere: the maintenance of feuds and divisions within its workforce. In short, the unity of the Ulster Protestants in distinction to the Irish Catholics is based on instability; when the community (or at that time, the two, Anglican and Dissenter, communities) was at its most stable, its presbyterian elements were in the vanguard of the Irish national revolution – as a part of the developing Irish nation. This stability was weakened by the influx of cheap, Catholic labour from the west into a relatively homogeneous Protestant population to help reduce the wages of the workers therein. On the instability resulting, the distinctiveness of a united Protestant community thrived. The split between the two parts of the Irish nation was encouraged by the Protestant industrialists' need for cheap labour to enable them to rationalise their concerns, and, later, to maximise their profits. They were not unique in their use of religion to this end: only more successful than most due to their lack of dependence on their home market. This communal division was complemented by the unity of Anglicans and Dissenters. It was finally given an expression, in state form by the creation of Northern Ireland (again in the longest period of active instability that Ulster had yet seen). It is for this reason that the Ulster Protestants cannot be called a genuine nation.

More about ‘Stability’
Up to date the BICO has never really tried to analyse the decisive period (the first half of the nineteenth century). Its only contribution to understanding it is to be found in the 0rganisation's publication, The Two Irish Nations, A Reply to Michael Farrell. At the bottom of page 13, they refer to a passage in his attack on the theory, ‘New Nations for Old’ – Northern Star, No. 5, in which he correctly, if sketchily, enough refers the Protestant-Catholic communal division less to the Home Rule Bills than to the Tory seizure of leadership in the Presbyterian Synod in 1829. Here is what the Organisation has to say:

‘Like other Nationalist [everyone who doesn't agree with the BICO is, for it, automatically a Nationalist – Author] propagandists [Farrell] implies that Cooke's triumph brought about the triumph of Orangeism and Toryism in the Presbyterian community. Cooke himself was a Tory and supported the landlord interest. That did not make his triumph in the theological controversy a triumph for Toryism and Landlordism.

‘Montgomery's principle of Church organisation might be called anarchist. His theology was a transitional ideology between Christianity and agnosticism. The adoption of his position would have led to the fragmentation of Presbyterianism. Cooke triumphed as the spokesman of the orthodox Presbyterianism. Though Cooke was personally a Tory and Montgomery was personally a radical these were not the issues in their theological controversy. The Presbyterian Assembly remained liberal and anti-landlord in politics.

'Orangeism and Cooke's leadership of the theological triumph over the Arian offensive are put on a par with economics in causing the change in the politics of the Ulster bourgeoisie from nationalist Separatism to Unionism. But isn't it sufficient cause that (quoting Farrell) 'the North's industry actually prospered under the Union' (p. 25) 'Belfast had become part of the British industrial economy' (p. 26) – The Two Irish Nations pp.13,14.

The facts to reply to this (though it wasn't conceived as such at the time, being prepared two years before the above) is to be found in our comrade, DR O'Connor Lysaght's pamphlet ‘The Making of Northern Ireland'. In it is shown that Cooke's ‘triumph in the theological controversy’ did not occur in a vacuum: that there is very tangible objective evidence to explain its meaning, rather than the BICO's impressionistic one.

To summarise: both Farrell and the BIC0 are wrong when they state that 'the North's industry prospered under the Union’ at least as far as the first quarter of the Union's period goes. In fact, the developing industrial economy of Ulster was in a major crisis in the twenties and thirties, of the nineteenth century. A major change-over was having to be made from cotton to linen and from a partially home-based industry to an all-factory one. In these circumstances, the stresses on the economy were critical, and were increased by the fact that the weavers were discontented and had shown a determined activism in pursuit of their needs in the 1810s. Northern Irish industry was saved by three factors: Firstly, only closeness of the north-east to the Scottish coal-field could prevent a collapse equivalent to that suffered concurrently with Irish industry outside the province. Secondly, the large market of England (and even more of its empire) provided a greater opportunity for a rationalised Ulster industry than an Irish home market impoverished by landlordism.

And, thirdly, there was religion. It wasn't entirely the rise of Dr Cooke that was decisive here, it was, also, the civil rights agitation of Daniel O'Connell (albeit supported by many surviving Protestant United Irish leaders) with its emphasis on Catholic rights. It was, too, that the Presbyterian Church was subsidised by the state whereas the Catholic wasn't (again by O'Connell's intervention). But the subjective circumstances were favourable to answer the objective needs of the industrialists. Cooke was the leader of a tendency in Ulster Presbyterianism not just to tighten up matters theologically but to revive the use of religion to keep the people quiet. (This idea had been having one of its periodic revivals throughout Europe since the French Revolution). That he defeated ‘theological anarchy,’ was not gratuitous: the greater the theological anarchy, the greater the radicalism. Protestantism itself was originally theological anarchy compared to Catholicism. The people who supported him knew what they were doing – and it wasn't for good theology's sake. What it was, was for what happened in the years to come: two Tory MPs for Belfast under the reformed (bourgeois) franchise, the admission of Presbyterians to the Orange Order, sectarian riot in Belfast, regularly, from, 1835 and ‘The North's industry prospering under the Union.’ All these are rather more definite expressions of political feeling than are generalised remarks about the continuing ‘Liberalism’ of the Presbyterian Assembly (which was always outdone by the liberalism of Montgomery and those who seceded with him, anyway.)

‘Community of Economic Life'?
But this fact not only negates the national nature of the Northern Irish Protestants, it also weakens the validity of the points on which their national nature is claimed to depend. The first of these is, of course, its form as a ‘Community of Economic Life’. Actually, this description would be more aptly described as a part of such. After 1801, the twin facts of union and rack-rent landlordism operated, to drive a wedge between the two communities in the country. On the one hand, the industrial bourgeoisie of the south was handicapped by the poverty of its potential ‘home market’, by the loss of potential supplies of capital through the move of landlords to the centre of the Union government, and by its lack of supplies of raw material for the production of capital goods. In the north-east its counterparts had used Ulster custom and absence from economic penal legislation to provide a stronger base for more developed industrial growth. After the union, they were closer to the sources of their raw materials and were able to use the religious differences among their employees to good effect to maintain and increase their rate of exploitation. So the former died (with some exceptions): the latter thrived.

But the ability to divide the population of Ulster was dependent on its bourgeoisie's lack of dependence on that population as a home market. Here it was aided by a unique historical fact: its position on the periphery of the first industrial capitalist country (‘the workshop’) of the world. Already, England's capitalistic pre-eminence had enabled [it] to expand and consolidate itself: to merge politically with the nation of the Scots and to keep the Welsh divided – north, south and central. In addition, it was able to expand overseas to build up the largest colonial empire of any European power. These facts helped to provide an expanding market, far more satisfactory to the Ulster Protestant industrialists than the population either of Ulster or of impoverished Ireland as a whole. In their province, as had been shown, the larger market enabled them to depend, happily, on the instability of what would otherwise have been their home market. Bigotry, Unionism and British-Colonialism marched hand in hand.

A ‘British Nation’?
A case might be made that, as a result of this historical development, what has transpired is a single nation of the Protestant British Isles. After all, it is ‘historically evolved’, and the various aspects of its communal life are in existence. Even the ‘psychology based in a common (Protestant) culture’ is present, as it is in the Ulster Protestant community. Taken as a whole, the factor of communal ‘stability’ exists to a greater extent than it does there.

The BICO will answer this, of course, by pointing to the readiness of the Unionists to rebel against the British Crown in 1914. But this proves nothing. Regional risings are not unknown in the early days of nations. Compared to the Vendée, the seriousness of the Ulster separate ‘national’ claim was minimal. Its British Unionist allies had a more than 50-50 chance of winning the next General Election. It had immense support in the British (Professional) Army, and, probably (as the Larne gun-running showed) in the British Navy. When the Ulster Volunteers went to war, finally, they fought for the power that they had defied but recently. No doubt, they were subjectively serious. But, by itself, seriousness proves nothing.

It was Craigavon, after all, who warned the Unionists that they would lose their position if they ever actually turned their guns on the British Army. The current Ulster militancy is based on a similar bluff – magnified by 60 years, by the continuance of the fact that since 1798 because of its identification with British Imperialism the community has never known military defeat (thus any North-South war would be likely to be shorter than many imagine unless the British returned).

But, whatever it may have seemed at the time, the vision of a British nation is somewhat thread-bare now. With the rise of a challenge to Britain's monopoly position from the new capitalist powers of (especially) Germany and the USA its expansion as a unit began to be checked. The last move in its growth was to allow the Irish tenants to buy their own land and thus eliminate a major cause of alienation between them and the rest of the British population. However, the completion of this occurred only after the First World War had weakened British Imperialism and after the Irish majority had successfully asserted its separation, at last, from the Union.

Since then, the process has continued. The break-up of the British Empire whose colonial super-profits provided the mortar binding together the ‘United Kingdom’, its vulnerability to the crises of capitalism, have created centrifugal tendencies within the remaining Union. The junior partners in the British Imperial Joint-Stock Company are preparing to jump clear from its inevitable crash. Scotland and Wales are becoming restive. This, though a petty bourgeois manifestation, has already shown a working class potential, against the bankruptcy of the official British Labour Party. In Northern Ireland, for the first time in living memory, or beyond, ‘The Twelfth’ of 1971 saw more of the Province's distinctive Red Hand than of the Union jack. However, this is of less significance than it seems (or than the Welsh and Scottish nationalist movements). The Protestant people of Northern Ireland have recently lost their Parliament and are likely to get it back; at the same time, they have a share of the Union's Welfare State. (This conceals a real colonial exploitation but the same exploitation exists in the Republic and without the welfare benefits). A true national movement would have to break with the latter, and to threaten the already unstable status quo. Only if the British government rocks the boat itself (and it has had to do so to a degree unthinkable a decade ago) might the Red Hands express a separatist reality – and such a reality would soon find from expediency or from military weakness, that it is part of Ireland. (But it need not worry. British Imperialism will play safe and choose Ian Paisley or even Craig before its obedient servant, Jack Lynch, to keep order in the Six Counties). In short, the Northern Irish Protestants' ‘community of economic life’ is based historically not on their home market, but on the market of the whole British Isles and, even more, on that provided by the British Empire. As this market has declined (and, with it, Ulster industry) the tie has become that of a pensioner to his paymaster, but still the basis has been one of Imperialism. The nature of the ‘community of economic life’ that helped distinguish the Ulster Protestants from the other people of Ireland is one of colonial and, later, imperial exploitation such as Socialists cannot condone and must destroy.

The Community of Culture
Partly because of this fact, the defence of Protestant Ulster's ‘psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture’ is similarly indefensible. Even were the Ulster Protestants a nation, the form of its culture would hinder its right to self-determination rather than otherwise. To a Socialist ‘national culture’ is not something to be defended regardless of its content. For example, the burning of widows was for years part of the culture of the Hindus. A socialist government of India (had such a thing been possible in the early 19th century) would have destroyed this practice far more ruthlessly than the British colonial regime did. On this, Lenin had useful things to say:

‘There are two nations in every modern nation – we say to all nationalist socialists. There is the Great Russian culture of the Purish-keviches, Guchkovs and Struves – but there is also the Great Russian culture typified in the names of Chernyshevsky and Plekhanov. There are the same two cultures in the Ukraine as there are in Germany, in France, in England, among the Jews, and so forth.'
'Critical Remarks on the National Question’ in Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism. p.25.

Now the culture of the Ulster Protestants is not entirely retrogressive. They have a liberal side to their rhetoric when they care to. They have a considerable repertoire of folk songs (based, mainly on ‘Taig’ tunes). Nonetheless (and all too many of the lyrics of the said folk songs bear this out) the outstanding forces in the culture of this people are, respectively, imperialism and the Protestant religion. This fact is shown well in what, on the BICO's terms, is the Manifesto of the Ulster National Liberation Movement, the Ulster Covenant of 1912. Strangely enough (or is it?) the BICO does not quote it in its pamphlet on the period; The Home Rule Crisis. However, it is relevant here:

‘Being convinced in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive to our civil and religious freedom, destructive to our citizenship and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we whose names are under-written, men of Ulster, loyal subjects to His Gracious Majesty, King George V, humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity to stand by one another in defending for ourselves and our children our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland.’

The imperialistic aspect of this is based on the ‘provincial’ industry's historic dependence on the British Empire. Accordingly, as has been shown, until recently Ulster was ‘British’ (the only part of the British Isles to so style itself), its flag the Union Jack, rather than the Red Hand, its MPs at Westminster the first to defend the British Empire, the last to accept its retreat. It boasted itself to be the major supplier of officers for Britain's armies. (The remainder of the Irish tended to be ‘conscripted by hunger’ into the rank and file).

What this has meant is shown most visibly (because completely spontaneously) today by the liberal New Ulster Movement in its pamphlet, Two Ireland or One? It is useful because it points up the essential bourgeois argument for continuing partition, but there are more specific grounds for considering it here. It points out the divisions between north and south caused by ‘The commemoration of historical figures and events’. It continues:

‘. . . In 1965 the Northern Ireland government was widely, and reasonably, criticised for naming the new town in North Armagh 'Craigavon’ . . . . . But the following year there were no criticisms when the government of the Republic renamed all the Dublin railway stations after 1916 leaders. For, however heroic the 1916 rising may have seen to the majority in the Republic, there are many in the North who see it as a stab in the back.

‘ . . . Unionists have never imagined that William III, Carson or Craigavon could be all-Ireland heroes, but many nationalists seem to think that the leaders of anti-British rebellions such as Wolfe Tone and Patrick Pearse could be accepted as heroes by Irishmen of the British tradition.
‘In a united Ireland, institutions serving the island as a whole would have to remain carefully neutral as between the two traditions. This would have quite wide-ranging effects. The Irish post office, could no longer issue stamps commemorating nationalist leaders or if it did, they would have to be scrupulously balanced by another set commemorating unionists. The state could not officially celebrate the anniversaries of anti-British risings in the way that the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 rising was celebrated – because in a United Ireland there would be too many people for whom such events were to be deplored, not extolled. The Irish army's annual parade at the grave of Wolfe Tone would need reconsideration, because Wolfe Tone, though a Protestant, was not the sort of person whom Irishmen in the British tradition could accept as a hero of their own. In practice there would be two possibilities: either the parade could be dropped, or it could be matched by a parade to the tomb of some Unionist worthy like Carson’. Two Irelands or One? pp.8-9.

Now the point is two-fold; both that the NUM can see no discrepancy between Carson and Craig on the one hand and Pearse and Tone on the other and that it could do nothing about it if it did without going back to the eighteenth century.

The fact is that, for a serious anti-imperialist, Ulster Unionist history does not produce any adequate counterpart to the Republicans (let alone the few Socialists) of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (The BICO, along with such of their historian creditors as the sophisticated Unionist, Hugh Shearman, would claim Tone as a Unionist, or at least an Ulster ‘national’ hero, but this is essentially an intellectual, not a popular, view.) Certainly before then, in world terms, the progressive side is, generally, that of Protestantism. Certainly the battle of the Boyne was a victory for the better society. (Larkin was one of those who recognised this; in Belfast, in 1907, he organised an non-sectarian celebration of the Battle of the Boyne: an example that BICO and the Workers Association might consider emulating). However, since the Protestant industrialists threw their lot in with Britain, their cause has not just been one of King Billy's ‘Civil and Religious Liberties’ superior to those of an Irish Republic but what was, until the appearance of European Fascism, the most brutally racist predatory force the world has ever seen: the British Empire. Carson and Craig, with all their virtues, were conscious upholders of this system. Tone and Pearse, with all their vices, (and here the Unionists have friends among the Jesuits) were its opponents. if the 1916 Rising was ‘a stab in the back’ it was to the Empire, that so richly deserved it – not to the Ulster Protestants. (As a matter of fact, its planners took care not to involve the north-east in the greater rising that they prepared). That Unionists could identify with the British Empire so as to bleed when it is wounded exposes their creed for what it is.

Even thus now, when the British Empire is, politically, a memory, and as has been shown, rebellion against England is in the air, its would-be leaders invoke the examples of colon rather than anti-colonial revolt, of ‘Old Smitty’ and Golda Maier rather than of the Africans and Arabs who oppose them. Significantly, the only African they can stand (or could until he denounced them) has been General Idi Amin.

But more important than the imperial factor is that of the Protestant religion. Again this plays a bigger role in Northern Ireland consciousness than in the more secular consciousness of Britain as a whole. It has been encouraged by the Protestant bourgeoisie's need to divide its work-force and by its ability to do this without having to worry about its home market. It is still maintained by the special privileges given Protestant workers in the distribution of jobs, by the actual geographical constitution of Northern Ireland, with its Catholic one-third of the population a permanent (but, as such, permanently, until recently, impotent) threat to the majority, and, indeed, by the opposing sectarianism of the leaders of the minority – lay and clerical – and successive Governments of the Republic.

This last fact has encouraged many people who should know better to dismiss Protestant sectarianism against that of the Catholics. After all Protestantism compared to Catholicism is a progressive force: the ideology of the bourgeoisie against that of the feudal nobles. As an historical fact, this is true enough, but it is no more than an historical fact. By the time of the French revolution, the bourgeoisie had passed from freedom of interpretation of the Bible to simple free-thought. Today, Catholic sectarianism cannot be defeated, by the dogmas of Luther and Calvin, but by the methods of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, in the struggle for Socialism and against (among much else) all religious superstition.

As a final point on the matter, it is worth noticing that, until now, those (such as Ernest Blythe, Desmond Fennell and Joseph Foyle) who are readiest to accede to the Protestant claims have also been those who are most ready to maintain the confessional nature of the twenty-six county state. Most recently John K Feeney joined their ranks. It was in keeping, they claimed, with the psychology of the people. (In reality it was because the Catholic Church was very useful in disciplining the work-force.) Again, it is clear, psychological-cultural differences based on a conscious acceptance of imperialism and of religious superstition are unacceptable to Socialists.

The Nature of the Ulster Protestants – and the work force
It is established then that the Protestants of Northern Ireland are not a distinct nation; their community lacks stability and its most distinctive features are those that must be liquidated. But, come's the cry, if they are not a nation, then what are they?

There is no immediate short answer to this question. As has been seen, the Northern Irish Protestants have been described variously as a ‘part of a nation’, a ‘nation in themselves’ and a ‘nationality’. In particular, the workers amongst them have been described simply as a ‘proletariat’, a ‘labour aristocracy’, and as a ‘caste’.

It is necessary to, adapt Stalin’s definition to what is the Northern Irish Protestant community; we have:

‘An historically evolved community of language, territory and economic life, with a psychological-cultural make-up arising out of its instability as an entity.’

It is not a nation, it is not a nationality; nor is it a colon-community such as those of Israel, Algerie-Francaise, and White South Africa. Only in the first of these cases does the community concerned have a home territory in which it is in the majority, and, here, the fact of its recent establishment against the Arabs gives it the colon instability that the other colon-people possess. Hence, the proletarians of all the peoples listed constitute a conscious counter-revolutionary caste, divided from the workers of the subject races.

In Northern Ireland, the land question is not acute as in Israel or South Africa. Although in most of Ulster a similar situation did prevail, the Protestant community possessed, from the beginning, a heartland east of the River Bann and north of the Mountains of Mourne – from which it was never in serious danger of being dislodged. This original stability has provided, behind the instability developed as a necessity for industrialism, a certain reserve. On this, at certain moments in time (notably 1907, 1919 and 1932), the Protestant working class could draw to join its Catholic fellows against their bourgeois co-religionists. Such solidarity has been unthinkable in South Africa.

Nonetheless, such instances have remained few and far between, partly because the actuality of Irish national bourgeois society must repel any genuine democrat, let alone Socialist, but partly also, because the Protestant workers do constitute a Labour aristocracy. There has been some objection to this description. How, it has been asked, can there be a labour aristocracy constituted by the majority of a working class? The answer is very simple: this majority is merely part of a generally privileged proletarian minority of the workers of the world. It is made acutely aware of this fact by its position vis-a-vis the Irish Catholic working class. The differentiation between the two, though quantitatively small, is made significant by the Protestants' role as outpost of British power. The Protestant industrialists' share of the British economic community did benefit their working class co-religionists and the benefit was further magnified by the advantages given the latter vis-a-vis their Catholic fellows.

So the Protestant workers became conscious aristocrats, partners in the system described by Friedrich Engels:

‘During the period of England's industrial monopoly the English working class have, to a certain extent shared in the benefits of the monopoly. These benefits were very unequally parceled out amongst them; the privileged minority pocketed most, but even the great mass had, at least, a temporary share now and then. And that is the reason why, since the dying out of Owenism, there has been no socialism in England.’ – England in 1845 and in 1885,’ quoted in the Preface to the English edition of The Condition of the Working Class in England in Marx and Engels on Britain, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1962, p.31.

More specifically Engels wrote in the same article: ‘The engineers, the carpenters and joiners, the bricklayers, are each of them a power, to that extent that, as in the case of the bricklayers and bricklayers' labourers, they can even successfully, resist the introduction of machinery. That their condition has remarkably improved since 1848 there can be no doubt, and the best proof of this is in the fact that for more than fifteen years not only have their employers been with them, but they with their employers, upon exceedingly good terms. They form an aristocracy among the working class; they have succeeded in enforcing for themselves a relatively comfortable position, and they accept it as final. They are the model working men of Messrs Leone Levi and Giffen, and they are very nice people indeed nowadays to deal with for any sensible capitalist in particular and for the whole capitalist class in general.’ – Ibid. p.28.

Lenin, who has been accused of revising Engels on this was equally specific. After quoting Engels, he writes:

‘This clearly shows the causes and effects. The causes are: (1) Exploitation of the whole world by this country; (2) its monopolist position in the, world market; (3) its colonial monopoly. The effects are: (1) A section of the British proletariat becomes bourgeois; (2) a section of the proletariat allows itself to be led by men bought by, or at least paid by, the bourgeoisie.’ VI Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1970, p.103.

Later, he expanded this further: ‘Comrades emphasise the point that the aristocracy of labour is stronger in Britain than in any other country. That is really the case. After all, it has existed in Britain not for decades but for a century. In Britain the bourgeoisie, which has had more experience, democratic experience, managed to bribe the workers and to create among them a big stratum, bigger there than in any other country, but which as not so big when compared with the broad masses of the workers. This stratum is thoroughly imbued with bourgeois prejudices and pursues a definitely bourgeois policy.’ From The Second Congress of the Communist International. Verbatim Report, 1921. VI Lenin, Collected Works, 37, p.236.

This is a very good description of the effects of Empire on the Northern Irish working-class with the additional point that, in political matters, the ‘section of the proletariat (that) allows itself to be led by men and bought by, or at least paid by, the bourgeoisie’ and to a greater degree than in Britain as a whole (as it was only part of it) was coincidental with the skilled Protestants. Their leaders liquidated completely into the Unionist Party. The Catholics have tended to support leaders whose opportunism is a little more hypocritical.

In industrial matters, the Northern Irish Protestant worker was less complacent. But the constant threat to his job from the Catholic of the Falls enabled his employer to redress the balance.

Survival of Superstructure
It is established then, that the Northern Irish Protestants are not a distinct nation; their community lacks stability and its most distinctive features are those that have to be destroyed by Socialists. However (and here the BICO's second point is to be considered), the after-effects of such differences can persist after their basis have ended. Despite the destruction of the Northern Irish Protestants' actual distinctions, the subjective distrust between the communities in Northern Ireland may survive it.

In such a case, the proposals made below should help to weaken the fears. Beyond this, it is a matter of strategy whether force be used (and of course how force be used; the use of individual bombs, a la Kevin Street, destroyed Stormont. It could not and cannot unite Ireland). But, all things being equal, it will still probably be best to put Protestants out of their agony (politically) rather than trying to con them by ‘recognising their right to self-determination' and hoping for world, European or just British Isles socialist revolution to subsume the problem that Irish socialists funked.

The Workers and Partition
The BICO's, claim that what is dividing the Protestant and Catholic workers in the Six Counties is the Republic's claim to that area is untrue. The Republic claims Northern Ireland as part of the Irish nation and certainly contributes somewhat thereby to the divisions between the workers, (especially considering the social and political nature of the Republic). However, the imperial and religious factors are the basic divides. In particular, the claim to Northern Ireland would not have the power it has if the workers of the Republic had not accepted it. And part of the reason why they accepted it was that they recognised that Northern Ireland was founded on, an anti-worker reaction to be maintained by an artificial but permanent threat to the Protestant state from the Catholic third of the population. Even were the Protestants a distinct nation there is a clear case in this matter, at least for Northern Ireland's surrender to the Republic, of the Catholic border areas. The BICO does not admit even this.

The BICO's fourth point is that the bourgeoisies of Britain, Catholic Ireland and Protestant Ireland are planning to reunite Ireland despite the wishes of the Protestants. This would be true were the Irish Republican bourgeoisie a force as powerful as the bourgeoisie of capitalism’s heroic period. As it is, British imperialism would like, in theory, to unite colony and neo-colony in one colony and the Northern Irish bourgeoisie would probably not have any objections provided the resulting 32 county government was able to keep order and capitalist prosperity. But the bankrupt Irish national capitalists would have to be paid (and paid regularly) to take Northern Ireland off Britain's hands, as Harold Wilson has recognised openly. This is scarcely helpful at a time of economic crisis. Paisley would be cheaper.

Finally, it is, true that due to years of organisational neglect the prospects for the national revolution to ‘grow over’ into the Socialist revolution are not bright. The peasantry has been bought: it is not the peasantry of Vietnam or Bengal. Nonetheless it can and, in places, does, play a progressive role in land leagues, fishery agitations and co-operatives. Another sector of the petty bourgeoisie that could be mobilised behind the workers includes the students. The unemployed is, also, a political reserve. And in the north-east there exists what amounts to a state of ‘people's war’. It may be that if the situation were to become less intense, if full civil rights could be granted with-out decisive Unionist objection and the government of the Republic recognised the border, then in 10 years working class unity might be such as to provide a purely ‘factory oriented’ Socialist revolution. But, leaving aside the ‘ifs’ (in particular the unlikelihood of the communal long-term Unionist acceptance of Civil rights in a Six County framework), it is not by any means certain that the workers of the 32 counties of Ireland will be, in 10 years' time, either more numerous or more revolutionary than they are now. It is infinitely more probable that, with the BICO's other policy (support for Irish entry into the EEC) being followed, the Irish workers' position in 1982 will be objectively weaker than it is in 1972.

In any case, there are three positive reasons for supporting the struggle for national unification. In the first place, it is objectively against British imperialism (that this imperialism would like subjectively to reunite Ireland does not alter this; the terms on which it wants unification are not feasible). Thus, the Irish national struggle is, once again, helping the struggle of British workers against their bosses. This has been shown most definitely by the hollowness of Heath's threats against the striking coalminers. The troops he would like to use against them are held down in Ulster. Secondly, for revolutionary Socialists not to participate in the national struggle (however unsuccessfully) will deprive them of a major immediate weapon and leave that cause in the hands of a Republican movement that is unlikely to increase in numbers or in competence. Thirdly, and at the least, there is a good chance of winning from the Northern Irish state, if only as compromise, the Counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone and other, mainly Nationalist border areas. This would reduce cause for working-class division in what would be left of Northern Ireland, while giving Irish national capitalism a number of headaches, either military, under correct leadership (the areas concerned may not long accept Leinster House rule), or economic (it will be taking on the poorest area of the United Kingdom – without a subsidy). Perhaps for this reason, Fennell and the Northern capitalist bourgeois vanguard – the SDLP – have rejected such a new partition in favour of an Anglo-Irish condominium, which would, in practice, be very like the Green Paper’s ‘Council of Ireland’.

The Workers' Association
It is not enough for a revolutionary Socialist to announce support for a struggle. He must have a clear programme to show him how he should act in such support.

Believing itself to be an organisation of Scientific Socialists, the BICO eventually (and not before time) got around to concocting a front organisation for itself on the Two-Nations issue in August of 1971. This ‘Workers' Association for the Democratic Settlement of the National Conflict in Ireland’ has been, so far, the BICO's greatest success in the matter of front organisations, mainly because no other group, aspiring to Scientific Socialism has been prepared to support such an organisation. The Workers' Association is composed of assorted Social Democrats of the NILP variety, orthodox (CP -style) Stalinites and, of course, BICO. In this front of the blind, inevitably, BICO is the king.

What, then, are the demands entrusted[ by the BICO to its WA? As the latter has grown to the stage where it is able to begin to play an agitational role, it is well to examine them in detail. Already the RMG has made its criticisms of the ‘Two Nations’ outlook at WA public meetings at the GPO Dublin. However, these were in the form of leaflets and were necessarily brief. Here the WA demands can be examined in depth.

They are two in number:

‘Full recognition of the right of the Ulster Protestant nation to remain within the UK state;

‘Full recognition and accordance of the democratic rights of the Catholic minority in the Northern Ireland/UK state, and of the Protestant minority in the Southern Ireland state.’

And the WA states: ‘This policy is one and indivisible.’ These demands have already been considered. One trouble is that they are based partly on a number of assumptions that can only be proven over a long period (ie, that the working class, or, rather, more specifically, the proletariat, north and south will be stronger, more united, and more revolutionary in ten years' time if the national claims are renounced). However there are some ascertainable points on which the basis for the demands can and should be examined.

‘ The full recognition of the right of the Ulster Protestant nation to remain within the UK state’ is not in fact denied by the Irish bourgeoisie apart from a small section of it. (And this section is decreasing; the bombing of the CIE's Russell Court Hotel was probably the result of a failure to come across with the usual protection money.) Basically Northern Ireland would be an embarrassment to 26-county Capitalism, as it is now to British Imperial Capitalism.

But there is more to it than this. In a recent issue of its bulletin, Two Nations, the WA puts forward as an immediate demand the Republic's open recognition of Northern Ireland. But such recognition could only lead to immediate strengthening of dissident Republicanism both in the Republic and the North-East. And such a strengthening would be used as an excuse to bring out special powers that if used would be in hand for use against industrial and social dissatisfaction. This is happening anyway, and revolutionary Socialists are prepared to accept it as a risk that will be overcome if the struggle for national unification is fought to victory. But the Workers' Association, with its essentially economist perspective of a revolution based on purely working-class demands, cannot be so sanguine. What it is demanding will mean, in the Republic, an immediate reduction in democratic rights whatever about their revival with the alternate revolution. (The BICO is getting round this by denying in Communist Comment 8/12/72 that the Republic is democratic at all!)

But there are further points to add. The second demand (for democratic rights north and south) is badly worded if it is not just dishonest. In the first place ‘democratic rights for the Catholic nation’ means totally different things for Marxists and for Northern Irish non--Marxists. For Marxists it means including the right to secession: there can be no ambivalence. However, this is not so clear in the minds of people without the Marxist international outlook who understand democratic rights as existing only inside the borders of the established states. In so far as the Workers' Association (or the BICO) have tried to clarify this matter, they have done so in the direction of accepting the petty bourgeois misconceptions, rather than for standing unequivocally for the revolutionary interpretation. Nor is this necessarily a purely theoretical approach. If the RMG is proven correct and, yet, at the same time, the current national struggle is defeated, there will be eventually a demand in the border areas for secession into the Republic as there was in 1921.

The matter of Protestant rights in the Republic is, again, a demand, put in a very ambivalent manner. A genuine democratic organisation would not demand simply rights for Protestants in a Catholic state. The traditional democratic demand again recognised by the founders of Marxism – is for a secular state, without any religious influence (of any sort) in legislation. To demand Protestant civil rights per se is probably the result of an analysis that accepts religion as a valid cultural basis for nationality. It ignores the claims of Jews, Atheists and non-practising Catholics. In practice it means attacks only on those spheres of Catholic power that the Church itself is willing to renounce, and to ignore the vital one: religious control of schools. After all, in the Republic, segregated education does not hurt the Protestants: it benefits them. It developed, originally, under pressure from the said Protestants; and it was maintained in Northern Ireland, as much under Protestant as under Catholic pressure. (Indeed, in this matter, the Northern Irish State has little to learn from the Republic; the latter has never appointed a Priest to, be Minister for Education: Northern Ireland has appointed a pastor.)

There is more to it than this. In the mid-sixties, there were straws in the wind stimulated by the fifties crisis in Irish industry and the need for better technical (of its nature, non-clerical) educating, to compete with the rest of the world. The outstanding figure representing this trend (so outstanding that he has been practically canonised by the would-be Irish Liberals) was Donoch O'Malley, the Minister for Education. His death in 1968 was held by the impressionists to have been the sign for the clerical counter-attack. In fact, the growth of unemployment conspired with the Irish bourgeoisie's permanent need for the clergy as a socially stabilising force to provide the reason for the blockage of the puny developments towards secularism. The outstanding example of this was the surrender of the long-planned community schools to clerical control.

There are still some faltering moves towards the secular state, the formal recognition of the Catholic Church's special position has been removed from the Irish Constitution; hints have been made on Ne Temere. The classic issue on which Protestants felt their rights denied in the Republic is due partly to the appetites raised by the ‘wind of change’ in the mid-sixties; but also due to the Hierarchy's need to assert to everyolne.that it is not in the way of unity, now that unity (or at least discussions thereon) is on the agenda. If it didn't assert this, the more determined Republicans might start investigating its role too carefully. They nearly did this during the Civil War, but defeat and demoralisation set in: now the circumstances are more favourable. To end the current struggle can only remove an actual goad to civil rights for all in a secular society.

In other words, and although it may have the best intentions in the world, the Worker’s Association is a Liberal rather than a truly Democratic body. The distinction is important. Liberalism was historically the ideology of a rising bourgeoisie, strong and confident enough to carry out a liberating role. Its period of dominance did not, then, last very long. Today Liberalism is, even in Western Europe, a minority creed representing either the most brutally reactionary elements among the businessmen or (as in England) small groups of non-Socialist do-gooders. The first alternative occurs where the historical base was never strong enough for its tasks – which remained as mere aspirations. The second recurred where the bourgeoisie had exhausted its tasks and passed on. Democracy refers to the nature of the tasks to be carried out originally under Liberalism but, eventually, and today only, as part of the proletarian revolution.

In its self-defeating practically contradictory demands, the Workers' Association clearly has more in common with present-day Liberalism of the British variety than with any form of true proletarian democracy.

Having said this, it should be stated that the ranks of the Two-Nation cultists include, besides the inevitable trendies and opportunists, a number of potentially useful revolutionaries, who have been attracted to the idea by the Economism that has historically developed along with, though in over-reaction to, Irish Republicanism. For these people, the fact that the Unionist population of Northern Ireland has a proletarian basis gives it a legitimacy that is not to be denied easily. The horror of the tactics of Kevin Street does not help clear their brains. It is to be hoped that this pamphlet may prove more effective.

However, a more serious Scientific Socialist cannot follow the BICO's example (in many other matters besides the Workers' Association). As has been shown, the real Communist position is one of defence and support of the struggle for Irish national unification. However, this is to be distinguished from the support given by such figures as Blaney, Boland or Ted Kennedy, or indeed, by the authorities in Kevin Street and Gardiner Place. The struggle in Ireland is not simply that of one of the peoples of the British Isles against another; it is part of the struggle of all the workers of the islands to take state power: itself part of the world struggle for Socialism.

These two tasks are not contradictory. As Marx pointed out, the British workers cannot be free while they support (however passively) those who oppress and help divide the Irish. At the same time, as will be shown, the Scientific Socialist's international outlook does provide a strategy for achieving national unification that is alternative to that of the traditional Republican. And this strategy is unlike the other in one important fact: it can deliver the goods. It was under capitalist conditions that the development of the Irish nation was stunted and its unification prevented. Nothing that capitalism has done or is likely to do has changed or is likely to change this fact. Thus the policies of Redmond, of Griffith and of Liam Lynch have failed to achieve even their limited aims through betrayal by the capitalists and (in Lynch's case) through lack of enthusiasm by the Irish workers. Only a mobilised Irish working class can achieve the unity of the Irish nation. And, once this is achieved, only the inter-national proletariat can ensure for the Irish people the fullest development of their human potential.

The Communist Strategy
What, then, is the Communist strategy? It is one most precisely designed to mobilise for revolution the workers of Ireland and elsewhere. In other words, the Scientific Socialist cannot let the process of Permanent Revolution develop by itself, as otherwise it will not develop very far. Permanent Revolution must be carried out by a vanguard Socialist Party of the Bolshevik type.

And, again, such a Party must have a programme to express its strategy and to win the workers to it. It must combine the demands that the ‘national’ bourgeoisie make, but never mean, with those that can alone achieve these aims by mobilising the Irish workers to take state power and the workers abroad to feel their strength for this task.

Thus it should not be necessary to say that any set of demands to be made by Marxists concerning the state of Northern Ireland must include the unconditional release of political prisoners and the evacuation of British troops. However, these will remain no more than demands during the pleasure of British imperialism unless backed by other points in the programme of action.

The proposal made by the petty bourgeoisie that was nearest to a revolutionary scheme was the creation of an alternative Ulster assembly to Stormont in the shape, variously, of the ‘Assembly of the Northern Irish People’, ‘Dáil Úladh’ and the ‘Parliament of the Streets’. No Scientific Socialist could avoid participating in the one of these with the most revolutionary potential. As matters were recently, this appeared to be the NICRA body, unless (as it seems to be) it is absorbed by Stalinite action. As this has failed to appear, and unless the Northern Resistance Committee fails, (as, indeed, it now seems to have done) to let it off the ground, the second best would certainly have been Dáil Úladh. The SDLP's assembly of placemen could always be seen as no more than an attempt by the Catholic establishment to defuse the situation.

But the choice of assembly is merely the beginning for the Scientific Socialist. There can be no question of subordinating his group to what can only be a petty-bourgeois centre of dual power. Such a body is merely the base from which the working class can advance. But to do so its party must keep its freedom of action within it.

As a first essential to such freedom, the party must have a share of control, over a military force guided by working class politics. It is obviously unlikely that either of the claimants to the title of ‘Irish Republican Army’ can fulfil this role, though individuals or units of these may liquidate into it. Further description of such an .organisation – a new Citizen Army – must be hypothetical.

Backed by an Irish Citizen Army, the Party must carry out a political strategy distinctive from that of the petty bourgeois leaders of the alternative assembly. It goes without saying that there can be no question of it accepting posts in the alternative administration that the assembly will establish. The Socialists must fight within that body for the policies that will mobilise the workers to continue the revolution, despite Stormont, Leinster House, and indeed the alternative assembly itself.

Such a mobilisation has two aspects. Firstly, it is using the national struggle to precipitate the thirty-two county industrial struggle that would otherwise develop too late for success. Secondly, only Socialist mobilisation can offer the Ulster Protestants something visibly better than they know.

With these facts in mind, Socialists in the area under the alternative assembly must urge conscription of wealth including the nationalisation of large factories and estates under workers' control and the nationalisation of credit. In case the assembly does not do this the propaganda must be geared to move the workers in the area to seize the property concerned.

At the same time, the demand for the abolition of unemployment must be raised in the liberated area. The Scientific Socialists must demand that work be available for all under the assembly without any loss of pay. This matter is particularly important in that the area where people are likely to give their allegiance to an ‘anti--Stormont’, is the one area in Ireland where the people most need a policy against unemployment. On the other hand, the Protestants' allegiance to ‘their’ Parliament has been based on a superior expectation of jobs in conditions where there are few jobs. Thus, there can be no haggling. The ultimatum must be given; either jobs for all, or the Assembly of Ulster is forced into oblivion by the Soviet of Ulster.

But the revolution cannot proceed on a purely provincial level. It it does not spread to the rest of Ireland, at some stage, it will fail. Thus in the Republic, the party must move to involve the working class as a class, in the fashion that will advance the Permanent Revolution. Pressure must be brought by trade unionists in the Republic for a general strike for the release of internees and the withdrawal of British troops. More immediately relevant, to the twenty-six county force, is the demand for the seizure of concerns owned by British and Unionist firms, by the Government or (as in practice it will have to be) by the workers themselves. This proposal has been criticised as ‘encouraging nationalism’ in the Irish working class. Certainly, if that class were poised to seize all the factories in its country, to limit its vision to those of one group would be a retrograde act. But, it is not apparent that the Irish workers in general are yet as militant as to put mass seizures on the cards without the stimulus of the unification issue. Factory seizures are never to be refused except for a very good reason.

Finally, for the Party, there can be no surrender to religious superstition– north or south. The alternative assembly (and Dáil Éireann) must be pressed to repeal and to maintain in non-existence laws regulating private morals (contraception, divorce, homosexuality, abortion), the demand must be made for a fully secular education system – throughout the 32 counties. The demands must be raised, too, for :the nationalisation of clerical property (in the Emmet tradition) and for the removal of such clerical privileges as the right to act as Registrar of Marriages. These are important matters. What-ever the present chances of national unification, they are not improved by the maintenance of the confessional state, with its divisive effects. And this is quite apart from the fact that the proposed secular reforms in themselves are excellent.

Finally, Scientific Socialists, must show by their example that the national struggle is merely part of the international fight for Socialism. In the centre of this demonstration will be their organisation's affiliation to the Fourth International. Already sections of this body have begun to show their solidarity with the Irish; more will follow. Such actions must be publicised in Ireland. And the indivisibility of the fight of the Irish workers with that of the workers of the world must be emphasised in propaganda.

Secondly, it should be recognised that with the decline of the British Empire the objective economic preconditions for a Socialist Revolution in Britain are better than ever before. It is the subjective factors that have deteriorated since 1920; most notably the labour bureaucracy. Engels' prophecy is at last coming true:

‘The English working class will lose (its) privileged position; it will find itself generally – the privileged and leading minority not excepted – on a level with its fellow workers abroad. And that is the reason why there will be Socialism again in England.’ Engels, op.cit. p.31.

The strikes against the Industrial Relations Bill and, more importantly, the Plessey and UCS. ‘work-ins’ are all straws in the wind; expressions of a working class trying desperately to overthrow the limits imposed on it by bureaucratic and demagogic leaders. If it does achieve state power, in the real sense, before Ireland, the Irish Scientific Socialist will immediately become a unionist (that is, a unionist in the literal sense, of course; not in the traditional economic-political-social sense). In doing this, the Socialist will have to break ruthlessly with many of his or her Republican allies of the previous day.

The danger will not come from the honest Republicans. It will be presented, rather, by a form of Menshevism of the post-October 1917 variety. The temptation will be offered to deny the reality of a British revolution; to find faults in its operations and to damn it accordingly. In such circumstances, again, it becomes clear that the Fourth International must encourage its members in their international duty. And again, it becomes clear that choosing which International is, thus, more than an academic exercise.

Communism and Republicanism
But what can Communism offer the Republican? Why should he be prepared to adopt the method and discipline that is so alien to him? If he accepts, he will have to broaden his horizons, geographically at least. He will have to recognise more than that the struggle for Irish national unity affects, and is affected by, struggles all over the world. There has always been a tendency in Irish Republicanism to do this. But if he wishes to do more than ally with the Marxist party, he will have, ultimately to accept that his national aims are subordinate to those of the proletariat of the world, particularly in the matters that have been shown.

Again, it can be said that this does not mean that Republicans cannot ally with the Irish section of the Fourth International, nor, indeed, that they cannot join it, if they are prepared to submit to the discipline required by its programme. What it does mean is that such discipline is not, primarily, directed towards the aims desired by Republicans and may come into conflict with such aims, sooner or later.

For a Republican's acceptance of Communist leadership and discipline, only one thing can be offered in return: the fact that, in so far as national unity and prosperity can be ensured, the Communist method alone can ensure them. As Connolly pointed out, it is only the working class that can carry through the fight for Irish freedom. This class will not carry through the struggle unless tangible benefits are offered it for doing so. And in its demand for such benefits it is becoming increasingly impatient with the claims of other classes that Republicans have traditionally (and mistakenly) sought to conciliate.

All these facts (though the last one less than the others) are becoming commonplace to Republicans. But they may still ask why the struggle should be international and, most of all, they may object to the Communist's denial of their central belief: the actual existence -of the living Irish nation.

The first point is answered easily enough. Once again, many Republicans are studying the experiences of foreign national revolutionaries, as Connolly did in 1915. They are thus paying tribute, however unconscious, to international experience. What is more, the heroes of the New Republicans are Communists of sorts: Mao Tse Tung, Guevara and Castro, and Giap and Ho Chi Minh. In simple terms of national liberation the achievements of such men outdo anything that can be shown by the advocates of ‘pure’ physical force (or, even, physical force + social democracy).

There is a further point to internationalism in that the later developments in such countries as China, Algeria, Cuba and Vietnam emphasise the limitations of national victories. China is making its peace with the USA, once stigmatised as the ‘main imperialism’ from which all evil emerged. Algeria has lapsed into being a French neo-colony. Cuba's failure to spread the revolution throughout Latin America is leaving it dependent upon the USSR at the cost of its own industrialisation. Many Castroite cadres in South America are taking the hint and moving towards the Fourth International. In Vietnam escalation has meant that the anti-imperialist struggle has spread throughout Indo-China. All these examples have lessons for the Irish. It is not going to be a satisfactory situation in Ireland if the revolution there fails to spread to other European countries.

The issue of the collective nature of the people of the thirty-two counties of Ireland is one on which there may be more ground for dispute between the Republicans and Communists. Admittedly, the latter do not agree with the claim that there is more than one nation in Ireland. But they do not agree, either, that there is as much as one. Taking the definition of Stalin and Lenin as the yardstick for the concept, they see the people of Ireland as a whole develop toward nationhood.

The Republican may deny the Bolshevik definition. In this case, he should offer a better one. If he accepts it, he will have to prove Ireland's present nationhood.

But, by itself, such an approach is too scholastic. By denying the present existence of an Irish nation, the Communist does not deny its future existence. Rather, and as one of his tasks, he is working to achieve such an entity, as no capitalist force can now do. He is working for unity of the island (a conditional task and, as has been shown, one that may be achieved only within one post-revolutionary state of the British Isles). Also, he is working to develop all national cultural characteristics, of course in so far as they do not interfere with working-class state power or its international future. In his latter task, he can scarcely be less successful than the national capitalists; by the elimination of the commodity system, the needs of private trading will no longer sacrifice national culture to imperialism. More than this, the Government of the Irish Workers' Republic will use its freedom from imperial pressures to develop the progressive culture of its land.

Thus opposition to Internationalism and Communism is opposition to forces that are necessary to achieve Irish nationality. This may be denied; if so, a case has still to be made to argue against it. Simple denial is merely evidence of fear; of actual lack of confidence in the possibility of the Irish nation that will arise as an integral entity within the classless stateless society.


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