In the last few weeks we have witnessed a debate in the media about the events on Bloody Sunday. Both Sunday and Bloody Sunday[two films] were released about the massacre 30 years ago.
Predictably, right-wing media started a hysterical campaign against these films for provoking the debate around the issues. The Daily Mailwas claiming that the TV programmes were only "bloody fantasy", while the more respectable media just call for reconciliation.
The films added fuel to the fire of the most reactionary elements in the ruling class, who started screaming about the outrageous investigation into Bloody Sunday, which simply casts a slur on the glorious role of the British army in Ireland.
The truth is that the British ruling class did not bother to justify the murders of Bloody Sunday, and were not even interested in maintaining the "facade" of British democracy.
The fear of the ruling class
The Labour government promised a full investigation and that has now taken place. However, any genuine independent investigation in Northern Ireland would certainly conclude that the army ‘overreacted’ (a euphemism for the killing of 14 innocent civilians) during Bloody Sunday. It would also expose demonstrate the real role of the army in defending the interests of the ruling class.
Both films (SundayandBloody Sunday) show the real behaviour of the paras based on the accounts of more than 500 eyewitnesses. The basic evidence is that the 1st Parachute Regiment opened fire on unarmed civilian demonstrators on January 30, 1972, killing 13 and wounding many others; one of them died later of his injuries.
The excuse for that massacre (also clear in both films) was a "banned" march called by the Civil Rights Association against Internment. The British Tory Government in August 1971 introduced internment.
During the civil rights campaign in 1968, the forces of Protestant reaction in the form of the B-Specials, started a campaign of violence against the Catholic areas, aimed at splitting the unity between Catholic and Protestant youth and workers.
The RUC, B-Specials and Unionist paramilitaries attempted to suppress the civil rights marches. These campaigns ended up in actual pogroms in the Catholic areas. In Derry especially, the bigoted forces of "order" clashed with the Derry Citizens Defence Association (DCDA), a self-defence militia led by the apprentices and the youth, through the labour associations.
The Labour Government in 1969 sent in the British army to restore of order in the Catholic areas. They sent to control the situation. Every "left" trend under the sun, except for the Marxists, supported the troops. From right-wing to far-left, all believed that the British army was going to support the Catholics. The left of the Labour Party,Tribune, even said that the 6,000 troop reinforcements were not enough. The sectarian groups on the fringes of the labour movement also praised the troops because "the troops do not have the same ingrained hatreds of the RUC and B Specials" and they "will not behave with the same viciousness..." They were later forced to eat their words given the brutal repression dished out by British troops. They forgot the real role of the British army. Just as in Kosovo or now in Afghanistan, they are there to defend the interests of the British ruling class, even if that means killing innocent people.
Only the Marxists and the Derry Young Socialists understood at that time, the British army was incapable of achieving anything except the defence of the interests of the British ruling class.
The enquiry into Bloody Sunday has started 30 years late. Vital evidence has disappeared. The rifles used on that day were destroyed by a "computing error". The two films demonstrate - though not consciously - that only a united movement of the working people can solve the problems of Catholic and Protestant. Tom Paulin, a Protestant poet, in a debate following the film pointed out that the temporary solutions tried in the past do not work. He also talked about Palestine and the "temporary" solution in Afghanistan. Bloody Sunday was an important landmark in Irish history. Thousands of youth driven to a frenzy by the actions of British imperialism, and betrayed by the Labour leaders, flooded into the Provisional IRA. Their policies of individual terrorism, rather than offering a solution, simply created a greater sectarian divide and the strengthening of the state.
Only a united movement of the working class and the youth can offer a way forward. In 1968-69 the struggle for civil rights involved the big majority of the population, Catholic and Protestant. The fear of such a united class movement was the real motive for the British ruling class in sending in troops.
In the last few weeks we have again seen a massive movement in the North against sectarianism. There were huge demonstrations in January of 30,000 in Belfast, and 5,000 in Derry, marching against the assassination of a Catholic postal worker by Unionist paramilitaries. Both marches contained Protestant and Catholic trade unionists. In Omagh, a 40,000-strong march (the biggest ever) against the closure of a hospital showed the potential of the united working class struggle in the North.
Capitalism cannot provide jobs, decent housing, healthcare, or decent education for working people of Ireland. Labour must put forward a class-based programme to unite the workers of Ireland, to take power from the hands of the corrupt capitalists, and smash their poison of religious sectarianism. Only when the workers run society for the benefit of society and not for the profit of a few, can we begin to eradicate the social problems, and put an end to religious bigotry and sectarianism once and for all.