IRA decommissioning is no solution

The announcement that the IRA will begin decommissioning its arms marks a new stage in the troubled peace process in Northern Ireland. What is the meaning of this? And what attitude should socialists and the labour movement take towards it?

The partition of Ireland was a monstrous crime of British imperialism against the Irish people, which Marxists have always opposed. However, the history of the last eighty years has demonstrated the utter impossibility of solving this problem on the basis of capitalism.

The Irish bourgeoisie has failed to solve the problem, and has no interest in doing so. On the other hand, for thirty years, the Provisional IRA waged a so-called armed struggle against British rule. What was the result? Three thousand people were killed. The working class has been deliberately split. As a result of this terrible crime, the sectarian divide between Catholics and Protestants has reached unprecedented levels. This is the sum-total of what has been achieved by the Provos over the last thirty years. And, as a result of this, the perspective of a united Ireland is further away than ever before.

A section of the IRA and Sinn Fein under Adams and McGuiness finally realised that they had failed even to dent the position of British imperialism or advance a single step in the direction of Irish unification. They signed the Good Friday agreement, which was supposed to have brought peace. But in reality, nothing has been solved by this.

The Marxist tendency tried to explain to them long ago the futility of attempting to bomb the Protestants into the South. They might have continued their campaign for another thirty years, and they would still be in the same position. Now they have belatedly seen their mistake. They have dispensed with the Armalite and the bomb and instead have their eye on political careers in the Assembly. However, things are not so simple as that. The contradictions, which had been so carefully concealed, immediately came to the surface on the issue of "decommissioning" (in effect, disarmament) of the IRA. This brought the whole "peace process" to the point of collapse.

It is clear that the British imperialists, the Dublin government, Adam and McGuinness and the Unionist leaders were all terrified of the consequences of a breakdown of the so-called peace process. The Sinn Fein leadership had no other way out than to capitulate to British imperialism. That is the real meaning of decommissioning. There were also other factors at work. It is obvious that the IRA was under heavy pressure from the Americans to decommission. Naturally! The Americans do not want to offend their good friend Tony Blair at the present moment, and they hold the key to the Provisonals' treasure chest. The pressure from London, Dublin and Washington for decommissioning greatly intensified after Sept. 11. The Times reports: "If the situation in Northern Ireland were allowed to deteriorate further -- and if more ties to the FARC or to other drugs, arms-smuggling or listed terrorist organisations were uncovered -- the IRA's financial support, its assets and thus its very existence would be in jeopardy."

The Provisionals had no alternative but to accept. They were forced, in effect, to accept defeat and ask for the best terms on offer, in order to get the rank and file to swallow the bitter pill. The fact is that they have accepted partition. They no longer even talk about a united Ireland as a viable objective, except maybe as a far-distant objective - in the "sweet by-and-by". The leaders of Sinn Fein have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. They have passed straight from the "armed struggle" to a minister's portfolio, with the same ease as a man passing from a second to a first class compartment on a train. Now they are being feted by the Establishment, and lionised by the press as great Statesmen and Peacemakers.

The leaders may be happy with this outcome. But in the ranks of the Republican movement questions are being asked. After thirty years of fighting, in which many of their comrades were killed, the goal of a united Ireland is no longer mentioned. But this is the essential problem for republicans. All these years of suffering and loss, - what was it all for? To this question, the leaders have no answer. They are too busy preening themselves for their entry into respectable parliamentary careers. They have succumbed to the fatal disease which Marx called "parliamentary cretinism".

The bourgeois and middle class politicians always tinker with problems like that of Ireland or Palestine. They stitch together deals and imagine that the problem is solved, only to find that the whole thing blows up in their faces. For the time being, Tony Blair is full of himself. Puffed up with his own importance, he imagines he can do everything he wants. In reality, he is powerless to solve the problem. The clique of shallow and ignorant spin doctors who run policy in Number ten, understand nothing of the history and complexities of Ireland. All their concern is to get a "quick fix" and some nice headlines in tomorrow morning's paper. But the problems of Northern Ireland cannot be solved in this way.

What does it mean?

Ever since the Good Friday Agreement was mooted, Tony Blair has been trying to stitch up an agreement that would be all things to all men. But as Abraham Lincoln pointed out: "You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time". The so-called involvement of the Dublin government is just a farce and a fig-leaf, to cover the bare backside of Adams and co. The so-called Council of Ireland has no real powers, and is purely decorative. It is utterly meaningless. Yet even so, it is too much for many Unionists, who do not want any involvement of the South. The London spin-doctors say one thing to one group and another thing to the other, and hope that it will be "all right on the night". Eventually, his bluff will be called. The whole business will unravel, leaving behind an even worse mess than before.

The Northern Ireland Assembly, as we have already explained, is like a new version of the old Stormont, although the Catholics will get some concessions. But basically, nothing will have changed. In fact, sectarian politics will be set in stone and officially recognised in the Assembly and "power sharing". The old discrimination against Catholics in housing has largely been abolished. But what has been solved? Positive discrimination is no answer. In the context of Northern Ireland politics, it will only inflame sectarian bitterness and cause a backlash. Instead, we should fight on the slogan of houses and jobs for all.

At the centre of the dispute is the question of arms. Lenin long ago explained that the state is armed bodies of men, Whoever controls these armed bodies effectively holds power. Reform of the police will solve nothing. The inclusion of some Catholics in the police force does not alter its character as an organ of class oppression. What is required is the establishment if a workers' defence force, based on the unions, on the lines of the Citizens' Army.

The Provos have said they are ready to decommission part of their weaponry. But the first question is what part? They have not said they will get rid of all or even most of their arms. They cannot do so. For to surrender all their arms would lay them open to assassination by dissident factions of the IRA. They have long memories and remember what happened to Michael Collins! They will therefore be quietly allowed to hang onto part of their weapons, and London will look the other way. British imperialism would like to lean on the Provos to deal with dissident Republicans, just as Lloyd George leaned on Collins to crush the militant, semi-revolutionary wing of the Irish national movement after 1922.

The promise to "take the gun out of Irish politics" has a hollow ring. In an article entitled "Decommissioning No Peace Guarantee", Stratfor (25/ 10/ 2001) writes: "ة unionists are likely to face the greatest resistance from within their ranks. And although republican decommissioning will likely continue, it will not mean complete disarmament. The IRA likely will hold back some arms and seek to maintain foreign patronage as insurance against failure of a peace deal."

Even in the short term, there is no guarantee that the violence will end. Among both Republican and Loyalist paramilitary organisations there is a lumpenproletarian element, involved in all kinds of criminal and Mafia activities: drugs, protection rackets, gambling etc.. These elements are not interested in politics, and are not open to peaceful persuasion. They have a vested interest in maintaining control over their areas, and will resist any attempt to bring them under control.

This development is the inevitable result where armed groups that allegedly stand for a political cause operate behind the backs of the masses, and are not subject to the control of the working class and guided by a Marxist leadership. This was never the policy of Lenin and Connolly. The Irish Citizens' Army - the first Red Army in the world - was an inseparable part of the trade union and labour movement. It operated openly and was responsible to the mass organisations of the working class. Let us also recall that Connolly and Larkin - who were socialist republicans and not nationalists - succeeded in uniting the Protestant and Catholic workers by fighting on a class programme. That shows the way forward for the working people of the six counties today. It is the only realistic alternative to the horrors of capitalism and sectarian madness.

At the end of the day, neither Catholics nor Protestants will be satisfied. The present uneasy and unstable compromise will eventually succeed in alienating everyone. The insoluble nature of the problem can already be seen in the clashes in north Belfast. It is one thing for the politicians to pontificate about "peace" and "conflict resolution" (!) but for the ordinary working class people on the ground, this seems very far removed from the real world. The conflict between Catholics and Protestants is far worse now than what it was thirty years ago. The Provo's campaign has created a vast abysm between the two communities which will be impossible to bridge on the present basis. Only a radical break with capitalism can overcome this problem. The idea that one can abolish the sectarian divide by diplomacy, clever speeches by spin doctors and the like, is pure utopianism. The cracks may be temporarily papered over at the top, but the essential problem will not go away. The false promises made by both Republican and Unionist leaders will be shown up for what they are. There will be disillusionment on both sides. Unless a class policy is adopted, this will inevitably manifest itself as a revival of sectarian violence and bloodshed, of an even worse character than before.

The Loyalists

Blair has promised the status quo to the Protestants. And, in effect, this is what they will get. Northern Ireland is part of Britain, and will remain so for an indefinite period of time. But the Protestants are not satisfied, and opposition to the present deal is already building up. It is one thing for middle class Protestant and Catholic politicians to share out the spoils of office, but life in the underprivileged estates of Belfast is another matter. At rank-and-file level, the mood of the Protestants is grim and fearful. There is at best sullen acceptance of the inevitable, but this may not hold for long. They feel that they have gained nothing from the Good Friday Agreement and given a lot . Although this is not really the case, since most of the "concessions" to Sinn Fein are of a purely cosmetic character, the press propaganda inclines them to think otherwise. They fear for the future and are suspicious of the intentions of the Provos. This bitter mood of sectarianism, which has surfaced in the clashes in north Belfast, is the poisonous fruit of the Provos bombing campaign. It is the reactionary consequence of a reactionary policy.

Paisley's Democratic Unionists are demanding complete disarmament by February 2002. This is a joke. London swiftly replied that they did not see this as a deadline. On the other hand, David Trimble, the leader of the official Unionists accepted the deal with alacrity, and immediately announced that he would return to the Assembly executive. Trimble is a sectarian politician, and an opportunist who will go with every wind that blows. His strength (such as it is) depends on the fact that he is backed by the British ruling class and its puppet Tony Blair. But he is leading a deeply divided party, which may even split in the next period.

In his indecent haste to get his ministerial portfolio back, he failed even to ask his party's ruling executive to back his bid to get re-elected as Stormont first minister. He will probably get a majority to support him but he will then face a new challenge as he needs all his assembly party to vote for him to regain his post. Hard-line Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said the party should retain the right to withdraw from government again if the Provisionals did not continue to disarm. But imposing any conditions on their return to Stormont would infuriate republicans and could again put the peace process in jeopardy. Thus, the road ahead is littered with mines.

There has been no move towards decommissioning of the so-called loyalist paramilitaries: "Of greater concern is a potential backlash from pro-unionist paramilitaries, whose "guns and bombs are being used almost on a daily basis," according to the BBC. None of the paramilitaries -- including the Loyalist Volunteer Force, Ulster Defence Association or Ulster Volunteer Force -- have indicated they intend to reciprocate. "Decommissioning [by loyalists] is not on the cards," said one source from the UDA, which has orchestrated some of the worst sectarian violence in the history of the Troubles, The Guardian reported."

The loyalists' unease on decommissioning underlines a growing disaffection with the peace process. Security sources have become deeply alarmed in recent months by the threat posed by the loyalists, particularly the UDA. John White, a leading member of the Ulster Democratic Party, the political wing of the UDA, made clear that decommissioning remained a long way off. "There is kudos for Sinn Fein/IRA in decommissioning, but there is nothing for loyalists," he said. "There is also a lot of anger in the UDA after the secretary of state declared its cease-fire was over, effectively throwing it out of the peace process." (The Guardian, 24 October)

The next day White insisted that loyalists were not ready to disarm: "I believe it will take some time before [the UDA] make that decision," he said. "What they are saying is that the IRA have taken almost eight years to come to this point. Before they came to this point they have wrung concession after concession from the process." White made clear that the UDA would demand concessions from the government before making any moves. "The paramilitaries will look at the concessions that the IRA have achieved out of the process, and I'm sure that before they make that decision, they will be looking for concessions also," he said." The problem is that concessions to one side are seen as a provocation by the other side.

The paramilitaries are an extreme expression of the sectarian divisions that plague the Six Counties and have been aggravated by the fruitless "military campaign" waged by the Provos over the last three decades. But there is widespread discontent also among ordinary Protestants, as The Guardian points out: " Security sources have been alarmed by the scale of the UDA's campaign of violence, which has been caused by two main factors - the sectarian hatred of one of Northern Ireland's most brutal paramilitary groups and the loyalist disaffection with the peace process." Even the UVF, whose cease-fire is still recognised by the government, is not ready to disarm. Billy Hutchinson of the PUP said loyalists would not disarm in response to the IRA. "You are asking loyalists to decommission weapons to keep two republicans in government," he was quoted as saying.

The Provisionals

The Republicans are also divided. The IRA's seven-member army council acted independently on the initial decommissioning, according to The Guardian. The body decided against seeking approval from the membership at large, as is customary for major decisions. There is bound to be dissent within the wider membership, much of which views the IRA as a legitimate army fighting for independence from Britain and would see any negotiated settlement as tantamount to surrender. This view is held more strongly by breakaway groups like the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, which have claimed responsibility for several bombings and are attracting disgruntled mainstream IRA members.

Among the Catholic population there is also a growing feeling of anxiety. The Guardian reported: "Despite the government's attempts to present its "demilitarisation" as a grand gesture, the move was met with derision in south Armagh yesterday. Mr Fearon, who will still have to live in the shadow of a watchtower, said: 'This is a minimal step by the British government, which we are supposed to see as generous. That is a joke'."

"Despite the 'minimal' response by the government, Mr McElroy [a farmer in South Armagh] supports the IRA's decision to disarm as 'courageous'. His views were not shared by lunch time drinkers in Short's bar in Crossmaglen, a republican border village where the IRA's notorious sniper used to murder British troops. Paddy Short, the landlord, felt uneasy about the IRA's decision to disarm even though his niece, Clare Short, sits round the British Cabinet table.

" 'I always assumed that the IRA would never decommission until the look-out posts and the army were off the streets,' Mr Short said. 'I am assuming that Sinn Fein have won something we don't know about. But people say the IRA should not have decommissioned, because people will feel scared. The loyalists are still going - what's to stop them coming down here again? The IRA did act as a deterrent.' "

In other words, this is a temporary and unstable agreement, hanging by a thread. It can last for a while, but will inevitably break down. Another article entitled "It's a turning point, not a triumph" pointed out that:

"In truth, not much has changed, save for a sudden surge of optimism. That too could be dangerous, for once the politicians get back to the mundane business of governing, they will find they are divided over much more than disarmament. Already, there are unionist and loyalist concerns about how much the IRA got in return for cementing an unknown quantity of weapons into the ground. We know that the government is moving towards what the republicans call "demilitarisation" in the province, by dismantling at least four British army installations.

"That will annoy many unionists. What would infuriate them would be any more radical policing reforms - another item high on the republican wish-list. Nationalists and republicans too have cause for concern in the aftermath of the protracted stand-off over IRA weapons. They will be demanding a quid pro quo from the loyalist paramilitaries, and worrying about what concessions those paramilitaries will wring from the government in return."

The truth is that the Provos have gained precisely nothing. Adams and McGuiness have hailed the dismantling of a few towers as a great victory. That is nonsense. Despite the dismantling of some of the most visible symbols of British military presence, nothing has really changed. Northern Ireland remains part of Britain, as before. And the British state still holds in its hands more than sufficient means of repression to deal with any problems that the IRA dissidents may pose. The big stick is still there, behind their backs, and can be brought out whenever required. In the event of a new bombing campaign, the authorities will crack down ferociously - presumably with the support of the Sinn Fein ministers in the N.I. Assembly.

"A question of bread"

Adams and McGuiness want a role as politicians. There will be jobs for them, and for the SDLP, as well as the Unionists - if they play ball with London. But what solution do the leaders of Sinn Fein propose for the burning problems of the working class of Northern Ireland? None at all. They believe that it is necessary to work within the capitalist system. In this, they are no different to any other reformist politicians. And they will conduct themselves in exactly the same way. The problem is that if you accept the capitalist system, you must obey its laws. They will find that they will have to go along with all the counter-reforms, cuts, etc., demanded by the bosses, particularly with the economy in recession. They will justify this in the name of "realism". But the workers know this "realism" only too well.

We have explained many times that there is no solution to the Irish question on a capitalist basis. Lenin explained that the national question is a question of bread in the last analysis. It is a question of the lack of jobs and houses under capitalism, and the bad conditions and low wages which affect both Catholic and Protestant workers. How can these problems be solved on a capitalist basis? The moment steps are taken to give jobs and houses to one community, the cry will go up about discrimination, and the sectarian differences will become even more embittered. Only a class policy to unite the workers, irrespective of their religious affiliation, can overcome this poisonous divide. The potential for class unity exits already: it exists in the trade unions where Catholic and Protestant workers both participate.

Any possibility for an amelioration of the conditions of the people of Northern Ireland will be destroyed by the developing slump in world capitalism. This will hit Northern Ireland hard. And rising unemployment will in turn lead to a further embitterment of relations between the two communities. Blair promises to be "generous", but Gordon Brown has already warned government ministers not to ask for any extra money, alleging the demands of the "war against terrorism". The same promises of generous aid were made in the past by Clinton, and amounted to nothing. This is mere demagogy, designed to persuade people to accept the proposals from London. Hopes will be raised, which will only lead to bitter disappointment. This will pave the way for future crises, the breakdown of the agreement, and a renewal of violence at a certain stage.

Among the population there must be a growing sense of weariness with the position that has been created. There is no desire to return to the infernal spiral of violence of the past period, but no clear idea of where to go and what to do next. The best elements will now be looking for a way out. After the horrors of the last three decades, the majority of people in the North want peace. Of course! Who does not want peace? But the question is: how do we get it? How is a genuine and lasting peace to be achieved? The only way to get peace is by dealing with the real problems facing the people in their everyday lives. This is the only way to tackle the social roots of sectarianism.

One must distinguish between form and content. The British have installed a parliament, so that they can continue to rule. This really makes little fundamental difference. The whole thing is a caricature and will boomerang, as we pointed out in advance. There was nothing progressive in the Good Friday Agreement, and we did not support it, although it got a majority in the referendum. We were in a minority, but we could not take any responsibility for the deal. The same is true today. We must honestly say to the people of Northern Ireland: this deal will not solve your problems!

In 1969 the overwhelming majority were in favour of sending British troops to Northern Ireland, including the "Communist" Party, the SWP and all the other sects. Furthermore, most of the Catholics in Northern Ireland were also in favour, under the delusion that the presence of British troops would protect them and bring peace. We had to explain that the British army was not being sent to Belfast to defend the Catholics but to defend the interests of British imperialism. We were in a minority then, too, but we told the truth, and that was shown to be correct. We are the only ones today who can hold our heads high, and the only ones who are not afraid to reprint today what we wrote then. The SWP and the other sects would prefer to forget what they wrote. That is no way for revolutionaries to behave!

The sects in Britain could never understand why we opposed the Provisional IRA. Now they have their answer. In 1969, the British Marxists opposed the sending of British troops to the North of Ireland, and moved a resolution in the Labour Party Conference on these lines. We were the ONLY ones to do so. At that time, the Provos were talking about "victory in one year". Now their perspectives of military victory have been reduced to rubble. The announcement of decommissioning is a thinly-veiled capitulation to British imperialism.

For years these people have been harping on about the border. But what have they done to resolve it? The remnant of the national question in Ireland - the border question - is in reality the unsolved task of the bourgeois democratic revolution, which ought to have been solved eighty years ago. But it can never be solved by the bourgeoisie. Only the coming to power of the proletariat can solve it. We are for the unification of Ireland, but we are opposed to the Stalinist theory of stages, which says that we must postpone the perspective of socialist revolution "until Ireland is united". On the contrary! Ireland will never be united until the working class takes power north and south of the border. By subordinating the socialist revolution and the general interests of the proletariat to the border issue, the petit bourgeois nationalists have prepared a catastrophe.

Dilemma of British imperialism

The biggest joke of all is that the British imperialists no longer have any interest in maintaining control over the six counties. In the past, they extracted profits from Northern Ireland, which was the most industrialised part of Ireland at the time of partition. No longer. It is costing them two billion pounds a year, between military and police expenditure and social security and other costs. On the other hand, the strategic importance of the ports of Ireland for the British navy has ceased to have any significance. It is a drain of resources which they would be glad to get rid of. But they cannot do so.

The reason that the British stay in Northern Ireland is because they are terrified of the consequences of withdrawal. They fear that the resulting chaos will lead to a spiral of violence that would spread to Britain. The degenerate Irish bourgeoisie do not want a million disaffected and resentful Protestants in the South. More importantly, the Protestant population of Northern Ireland will never accept reunification without a fight. There would be a nightmare situation of civil war between Protestants and Catholics which nobody could control. Both London and Dublin fear this. Therefore, the British are stuck with the present position.

Thus, under modern conditions, the national question cannot be solved by the bourgeoisie or petit bourgeoisie. If any proof of this is needed, just look at the mess in the former Yugoslavia. Attempts to solve the problems on a capitalist basis, on the programme of nationalism and redrawing the frontiers, has led to a terrible blood bath and all the horrors of ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter. No solutions for the problems of working people can be found on this road! Ten years later, the problems have got much worse, not better. One must draw the conclusions from all this.

Under present-day conditions, nationalism inevitably leads us into a blind alley. It offers no solution to the problems of the working class. Marxists stand for internationalism and a class policy. The problems that beset the North of Ireland today are the result of the absence of a strong Marxist revolutionary alternative. This is what leads sections of the youth, despairing of any other solution, to adopt the mistaken, futile and counter-productive tactic of individual terrorism.

A fatal role has also been played by those so-called Marxists in Britain who have acted as cheer-leaders for the Provisional IRA, giving uncritical support to their disastrous tactics. This was a betrayal of Marxism and revolutionary internationalism. It is necessary now to work to unite all those honest revolutionary elements in Ireland who wish to break with the mistaken methods and policies of the past and build a genuine mass working class movement on the basis of the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and above all that marvellous revolutionary Marxist and martyr of the working class, James Connolly.

All the sects say they agree with Connolly. They feel safe to say this, only because Connolly is dead and cannot defend himself against such a calumny. In practice, however, they have an entirely different position - precisely the opposite to that of Connolly, who always based himself on a class position. Only the working class can solve the national question, by fighting for its own, independent class demands, against the bourgeoisie and imperialism. Once the proletariat takes power into its hands, as in Russia in 1917, it can easily solve the national question, as a simple by-product of the socialist revolution. For a united Ireland? Yes! But a Socialist United Ireland, for Connolly's Workers' Republic - the only republic worth fighting for.

They will tell us that this is difficult, that it is utopian, that we must be realistic in our aims. But can it be more difficult than the long Calvary which the people of the Six Counties have traversed for the last three bloody decades? Is it really utopian to propose the unity of the working class in struggle for its own interests as a class? And as for "realism", we have seen where the realism of the Sinn Fein leadership has led the movement, and want none of it! There is nothing unrealistic about proposing the united struggle of all workers - Protestant or Catholic - in the fight for jobs, houses and all the other basic necessities we lack. We have a common enemy: the bankers, landlords and capitalists.

The basic problem is the absence of the subjective factor - the revolutionary party and leadership. The building of this factor constitutes the most urgent task. The possibilities are there. Amongst both Republicans and some sections of Loyalists there are elements who are groping towards a class position. There is a growing questioning, particularly among the youth. We appeal to all honest Republicans, workers and youth to draw the necessary political, tactical and organisational conclusions.

Above all in the trade unions, which despite everything have not succumbed to the sectarian madness, there is a wide and fertile field of work. It is necessary to gather together the best of the shop stewards and working class activists on a programme of class demands. However, on the basis of trade union demands alone, the problems will not be resolved. It is necessary to fight for a mass political alternative, The question must be raised of a party of Labour based on the unions. Resolutions should be passed, calling on the unions to take up this initiative, conferences of workers should be called to discuss and debate the issue. It is time to give the working class a voice and a banner of its own! At a certain stage, this demand will get a mass echo, as people realise that their interests are served by neither the so-called Republicans nor the so-called Loyalists. Only by decisively breaking from the bourgeois and middle class parties that perpetuate sectarianism, can we begin to find the way forward.

Nationalism, with its harmful mixture of chauvinism and utopianism, is incompatible with socialism. On this road no way forward is possible. Marxists must conduct an implacable struggle against bourgeois and petit bourgeois nationalism which confuses and divides the working class. We must have a dialectical approach, separating what is progressive from what is reactionary. Flexible tactics are necessary. We stand on Marxist theory, and must win over the advanced workers who, in turn, will carry our message to the masses.

Once the masses are mobilised under a revolutionary leadership, the problem would be solved. The only way forward is to overthrow capitalism and institute a planned economy under democratic workers control and management. We would introduce special measures to cater for the interests of small businesses, self-employed, farmers etc.

So-called independence on a capitalist basis will solve nothing, as Connolly explained long ago. Irish socialists must go back to the marvellous ideas of Connolly and patiently explain this perspective to the workers, beginning with the most advanced layer. In the long term, the only way forward is on the basis of a socialist revolution in the North and South of Ireland and in Britain, leading to the establishment of a voluntary democratic socialist federation of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, as the first step to the creation of the Socialist United States of Europe and a Socialist World Federation.