A change of course is needed!
Although we have many criticisms of the methods used by the Provisional IRA, we do not mean to disparage the heroism and good intentions of those who, out of impatience and lack of perspective, resorted to what they understood to be the armed struggle against British imperialism. How could one not grieve the long list of brave young people who have lost their lives fighting for a cause they held dear enough to make the ultimate sacrifice. But we fervently believe that these efforts and sacrifices could and should have been put to better and more effective use.
The argument about good intentions cuts no ice. It is well known that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. And wrong tactics have produced a hellish situation for the working class and youth of the Six Counties. We must judge the effectiveness of men's actions not on the basis of their intentions, but only on the results achieved. From this point of view, we are convinced that, if they are honest, the advocates of the kind of armed struggle pursued in the past period must agree with us that the results achieved bear no relation whatever to the losses incurred.
In the First World War, the generals on both sides sent millions of brave young men to their deaths in futile offensives, which achieved nothing except maybe a few hundred yards of muddy ground. Yet anyone who raised their voice in protest against this futile slaughter was immediately branded a coward and a traitor and even sentenced to be shot. Nowadays, with the wisdom of hindsight, those who had the courage to question an insane tactic have been rehabilitated, whereas the generals stand condemned. Moreover, the finest military minds that realised the worthlessness of the old tactics and worked out new and more efficient ones, were the ones who really advanced the science of warfare and prepared the tactics of the Second World War.
It is just the same with us. When it is clear to anyone capable of thinking that the old methods have failed, surely it is incumbent upon us to speak openly and without fear? Is it not abundantly clear that the time has come to demand a CHANGE OF COURSE? Yet, sadly, every attempt to get the Republican movement to re-examine its tactics and strategy in the light of experience is met with a howl of protest, dark accusations of cowardice and treachery, and even worse things. In order to silence criticism and stifle debate, unscrupulous appeals are made to dead comrades, who, being dead, cannot speak for themselves. To this demagogy, we reply: it is precisely out of respect for our dead that we feel the urgent obligation to speak out and say what is. For what would really be cowardice, what would really be an insult to those who so selflessly gave their lives for the Republican cause, would be to hush up the mistakes, crimes and blunders that have led us to the state we now find ourselves in. For then those who died would certainly have died in vain.
Thomas "Ta" Power
The Republican socialists however, have embarked on just such a serious discussion and criticism of Republicanism, of the movement's history, strategy and tactics, in order to chart a new course for the struggle. The conclusions drawn in the document written by Thomas "Ta" Power represent a serious attempt to draw lessons from the history of the movement, above all the need for politics, political ideas and political struggle to be placed at the top of the agenda. As the introduction to the document points out "The essay called for the armed aspect of the movement to subordinate itself to the political direction of the party. In Ireland, where physical force has been inseparably linked to the concept of republicanism for centuries, and where the party, if it existed at all, was usually no more than an apparatus through which the army spoke, this was a virtually unheard of concept."
Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that the document was written while Ta Power was an imprisoned member of the INLA. In January 1987 Ta Power was shot and killed by representatives of the so-called Irish People's Liberation Organisation - the IPLO. The only purpose for the existence of this group it seems was to try to destroy the Republican Socialist Movement.
Ta made a careful study of Marxist ideas while in prison, and the influence of these ideas is clear in the document. The primacy of politics in the movement is the starting point to which must be added the importance of internal democracy and a list of eight other organizational conclusions drawn from the previous experience of the movement. These are highly instructive. In reality they represent the skeleton of the structure of a genuinely revolutionary party.
Along with an honest history of the movement, the document seeks to point the way forward for republican socialists. Not just in its organizational analysis but above all the politics contained in this document represent an important contribution to that process. For example the document draws the following conclusions on the nature of the struggle in Ireland:
"What forces can bring the national question to a successful conclusion? Only the working class. The leading capitalist parties in the 6 and the 26 counties have no interest in solving the national question, but rather in crushing those trying to resolve it."
"Marxism tells us that before we can properly solve a problem, before we can work out a plan of action, etc., that we must first analyse the given process, i.e., that we must identify the basic contradiction which is inherent in it and which give rise to its development, and from which everything else springs."
"The basic contradiction in society is between the relations of production, i.e., socialized production by the working class and private appropriation by the capitalist class."
"It is impossible to bring about "fundamental change" unless the basic contradiction is tackled and changed."
"Therefore we have to ask now: why, if we're Marxists, do we neglect this? This fundamental of Marxism! Why do we fail to act accordingly? Marx, Lenin, etc., confronted all fundamentals in a courageous, merciless, ruthless manner. Why do we fail to do so? Is it inherent in us? Are we up to this task? Do we lack the courage and maturity to do this? Are we amateurs and not professionals? We know the lessons of history, we know the mistakes, and we either act accordingly or collapse. Salvation lies in clarity and the courage to implement change!"
Having outlined the central role of the working class, and the socialist tasks of the revolution, to deal with the fundamental contradiction in society which lies at the root of all other problems, the document also explains that this struggle is not to proceed in "stages" with the socialist revolution postponed until after national liberation has been achieved, but instead, as Connolly had always argued, the struggles for national and social emancipation are inseparably bound together, and both are tasks confronting the working class.
"When outlining earlier in the programme the front for a constitutional change etc., we don't see this as the so-called "stages" process in which, for example, once we have got rid of the British we will go through a period of capitalist rule, democratization etc…
"The whole question of a constitutional conference will be to debate the question of power. Anyhow, this will depend on the correlation of forces. Within and outside the country it will open up a period of intense struggle between two fundamental camps.
"Ireland continuing as a dependent capitalist country controlled and dominated by imperialism, and of firmly establishing our sovereignty and building a revolutionary socialist state.
"There is no middle ground between the two; there cannot be any middle road. The battle may be delayed or postponed but it must be fought eventually! We must be under no illusions about the utmost clarity if we are to confront it and be successful.
"In Connolly's words: 'we cannot conceive of a free Ireland with a subject working class, we cannot conceive of a subject Ireland with a free working class.'
"We come once more ot the role of the revolutionary party, which is absolutely essential if we are to be successful. Without that clear guide role, without a revolutionary ideology, without an analysis of the forces arranged against us, without the application of the correct tactics and strategy the struggle will fail."
This question of building a revolutionary party, and what tactics and strategy such a party should adopt is a central theme of the document.
"A revolutionary party must have a revolutionary ideology, an ideology that enables us to analyse the world, the motive force at work in the world, and plan a campaign based on the analysis.
"A campaign that is consistent, principled, and bold in its implementation, maxims as a guide to action is ideology; it represents the historical interests of the working class, which through the medium of a revolutionary party, aims to overthrow the capitalist order and begin the construction of communism."
"There is no easy road to a socialist republic, no short cuts, we must strive towards uniting and politicizing the working class no matter what obstacles confront us in our task, for we cannot win our struggle without the working class.
"We cannot make the revolution without them, without their active participation in a united and politically conscious manner. We need to be able to bring to the fore their deeply felt aspirations and social needs. To bring to the fore their underlying anti-imperialist sentiment, showing up the class nature of the Irish state, establishment parties etc., in acting to repress, jail and crush their people in order to protect British rule in Ireland.
"We must be able to inject into the struggle, or rather, call forth from the people the values and ideals of solidarity, self-sacrifice, non-sectarianism, unity and internationalism etc., values that transcend our own individual existence, that lead to greater awareness, greater participation, and greater aliveness in oneself. We must be somehow able to grip the mass of people if we are to change the world…
"Finally we must constantly review, criticise and self-criticise all aspects of our actions, policies, tactics etc., keep appraising the whole situation and keep striving to raise the class consciousness, spirit, and capacity to fight and win of the working class."
The tasks which are placed in front of the republican socialist movement in these lines are crystal clear. The building of a revolutionary party of the working class, on the bedrock of Marxist ideas, a party that explains those ideas in a clear way to workers; that constantly strives to raise the consciousness of the working class; and strives for the unity of the working class on all occasions. A party built on internal democracy, on clear ideas, and on internationalism.
These are the conclusions which Ta and other republican socialists drew from an honest appraisal of the development of their movement over a period of decades. The bourgeois and petit bourgeois trend in republicanism meanwhile, is incapable of such an analysis. Not only would such conclusions be alien to them, they would certainly not be willing to admit mistakes and errors, they would not even be willing to discuss such matters.
The leaders of the Provisionals have understood nothing from the history of the last 30 years. Understandably, they do not want a democratic and open debate, because the rank and file would begin to draw uncomfortable conclusions. In the ranks of the Provisionals there were many sincere and heroic individuals. But the class nature of the movement is ultimately determined by the leadership, its class outlook, programme and policies. The Provo leadership, although it included some ex-lefts like Gerry Adams, have consistently displayed their hostility to socialism in deeds. But the whole history of the national liberation struggle in Ireland shows that neither the bourgeoisie nor the petty bourgeoisie are capable of leading the movement to victory and the history of the last thirty years is no exception to this rule. In the end, their policies and tactics have proven to be bankrupt.
This sad truth is beginning to dawn on rank and file Republicans, most of whom are ordinary working people and youths who are fighting for a better life. There is a ferment in the Republican movement, which will mean that many good militants will now be open to the ideas of socialism. This is the only way to save the movement and lead it onto a new and higher level, having drawn all the necessary political and organizational conclusions form past mistakes. It is not enough to lament the past and ask forgiveness for old mistakes. It is necessary to learn from the past in order not to repeat the same mistakes in the future.
The question of armed struggle
"To imagine that we can establish a republic solely by constitutional means is utter folly". (Seamus Costello)
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The burning question - the priority for us is to build a revolutionary party - as Lenin said about the Social Revolutionaries, ‘their terrorism is not connected in any way with work among the masses, or together with the masses. It distracts our very scanty organizational forces from their difficult and by no means complete task of organizing a revolutionary party.' "(Ta Power)
The question of armed struggle has a long history in Ireland. A people or a class that is not prepared to fight for its freedom, arms in hand, does not deserve to be free. Despite all the talk of the pacifists, history shows that in the end all serious questions are determined by force, whether in the struggle between nations or in the struggle between classes. Marxists do not require any lessons on this particular topic. Let it not be forgotten that the main force behind the Easter Rising was Connolly's Citizens' Army. Sinn Fein played no role at all, while the middle class leaders of the Irish Volunteers treacherously stabbed the Rising in the back. In the end, yet again, it was the "men of no property" who were in the first rank of the fighters for Irish freedom.
Yes, we understand only too well the significance of armed struggle. For us it is a question of ABC. But after ABC there are other letters in the alphabet. To reduce everything to the question of arms is clearly a mistake. The working class should certainly learn how to use arms, but it must also learn many other things, including when to use arms and when not to use them. The class struggle has many weapons and many different forms of struggle: the strike, the general strike, mass demonstrations, boycotts, the parliamentary struggle etc. It must learn how to make use of all these methods to further its cause. Moreover, different methods will be appropriate for different period and contexts.
The methods of struggle of the working class are different to the methods of other classes, like the peasantry, the petty bourgeois and lumpenproletariat. Its methods are collective methods, reflecting its role in production. The strike and the general strike involve mass participation and democratic discussion and decision-making. It is a real school for socialism, leading to a raising of class consciousness. By contrast, the method of a so-called "armed struggle" when it is waged by a minority in the name of the working class and behind the backs of the latter is worse than useless. It is not only ineffective but actually counterproductive, since it tends to lower the level of consciousness of the class and undermine its confidence in itself.
Connolly's Citizens' Army was based on the working class and the Labour Movement. It was organized on class lines. Its perspective was not just an Irish republic, but an Irish Workers' Republic. That was a cause which working people could identify with! That was a cause for which they were prepared to fight and die. Therefore, the Citizens' Army had nothing in common with the Provisional IRA, either in its aims, policies or methods. In reality, the three things cannot be separated. The policies of the proletarian party flow from its aims and the methods also. The working class cannot borrow its methods of struggle from other classes, like the petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry. The proletariat differs from all other classes in society in its role in production. It is the only class with an instinctive collectivist consciousness that comes from its role in social production.
Before the Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks used to call the terrorists of Narodnaya Volya "liberals with a bomb". This is now seen to be literally true. Adams and MacGuinness cast aside the armalite and the bomb and take up their ministerial portfolios with the ease of a man passing from the second to the first class carriage of a train. What has all of this achieved? They achieved the exact opposite of what was intended. What policy do these republicans now pursue in their assembly (when it meets)? They pursue a capitalist policy not in the interests of workers from any background.
We are against individual terrorism. But we are not pacifists. The attempt to counterpose pacifism to the tactics of the Provisional IRA inevitably ended in a farce, although there were undoubtedly many sincere people involved in the various Peace movements. Like individual terrorism, pacifism also achieves the opposite to what it intends. Weakness invites aggression. We are in favour of making use of all the legal opportunities open to us. We are not against participating in parliament. We do not advocate violence, but we are also realists and we understand that no ruling class in history has ever given up its power and privileges without a fight. We are not pacifists but the notion that the armed struggle has an independent significance, divorced from the mass movement, is entirely false.
The organized Labour movement must conquer one position at a time: in the workplace, in the housing estates, in the local councils and the Assembly. By strengthening its organizations, it is preparing the ground for the final goal: the socialist revolution. The armed struggle is part and parcel of that struggle, but it is only a part, not the whole. Among a section of the movement there has been a tendency to overestimate the independent power of the gun. This is a serious mistake. A moment's reflection should suffice to convince us that if this were really the case, no revolution in history could ever have succeeded, since the state always possesses much greater military resources than the revolutionaries. The reason why revolutions succeed is not because they possess enormous military strength, but because behind the revolution stand the masses. It is only the movement of the masses, which can disorganize the state and render it powerless.
Divorced from the movement of the masses, the armed struggle cannot fulfill the role required by the socialist revolution. In 1905, the Bolsheviks formed armed units that carried out military actions, such as expropriations to finance the movement. In the course of the revolution, when the mass movement was at its high point, this was correct and necessary. But as soon as Lenin saw that the revolutionary movement was ebbing, he called for an end to the expropriations and a halt to guerrilla actions.
The reason for this is clear. The armed struggle, from the standpoint of the proletarian revolution, must be an integral part of the mass movement of the working class, and strictly subordinated to the leadership of the workers' party. As long as the mass movement is in action, there is little danger that the armed groups will degenerate. But when the movement ebbs, that can change. The armed wing attracts many of the most militant and self-sacrificing elements. But is can also attract other types: adventurers, lumpen proletarians and even common criminals. Without the firm guiding hand of the party, and without the control of the masses, such organizations can degenerate into simple criminal outfits. This has been seen many times in the history of the movement, and in many different countries, not least in Ireland.
The question must be posed concretely. How, for example, do we deal with the sectarian madmen who terrorise and murder innocent people? How do we deal with the criminal elements who all too often shelter behind the façade of paramilitary organisations? How do we protect our communities, when no trust can be placed in the police? Only by the establishment of a workers' militia, based on the unions, with cells in every factory and housing estate and close links with the community - that is to say, a militia on the lines of the ICA. The first duty of the militia is to defend the working people against criminals and sectarians. But this defensive function is a concrete way of preparing the proletariat for offensive actions against Capital at a later date, if and when conditions demand it.
The advocates of the armed struggle in Ireland over the last few decades showed that they did not have the least understanding of what a real armed struggle involves. Sure, they had all the necessary technical skills to cause mayhem. At the same time there were different tendencies involved with different perspectives for the struggle. But they lacked the understanding that would have permitted them to achieve their goals. In the end they failed totally. The conclusion is obvious: The military wing of the movement must always be under the strict control of the political wing. Where this has not been the case, the most negative consequences have been seen. This is exactly the conclusion outlined by Ta Power in his document on the history of the Irish Republican Socialist movement.
In the Russian revolution of October 1917, nine tenths of the task of the armed insurrection were accomplished in the months before the uprising. These were not military tasks, but political ones: patient and systematic work among the masses, in the army, in the factories, in the trade unions and in the soviets (workers' councils) to win over the working class to the side of the revolutionaries. Lenin's slogan at this time (from March to November) was not "armed struggle" but "patiently explain!" That is not a bad slogan for Republicans today! Our task is not to win power but to win the masses.
Marx explained long ago that ideas become a material force when they grip the minds of the masses. This is shown by the history of every revolution. The first aim of the revolution is therefore to win the masses. This is, in the first case, not a military but a political task. Before we can conquer power, we must first of all conquer the masses. Without a prolonged preliminary period of agitation, propaganda and organization, there can be no question of a successful military struggle against the state. Any attempt to defeat the state by means of "single combat" will inevitably end in defeat and the disorganization and demoralization of the revolutionary forces. The experience of the past 30 years in Ireland amply confirms this prognosis.
Of course, we understand that, in the final analysis, the decisive questions are resolved by armed struggle. No devil has ever cut off its own claws! But in order to be successful, it must be an armed uprising of the masses, and not the activities of an armed elite operating outside the masses, and without any reference to them. The way to prepare for mass revolutionary action is by teaching the masses to have confidence in themselves. That was precisely what was achieved by the movement around the hunger strikes. This is what educates the masses in a revolutionary direction. The other tactic merely educates the masses backwards. It teaches them to trust in heroes and saviours, but not in themselves.
Guerrilla war is the classical mode of struggle, not of the proletariat, but of the peasantry. It makes some sense in a backward agrarian society such as Ireland was in the days of the Fenians, or China where there were peasant wars for several thousand years. There also the revolution took the form of a peasant war. In tsarist Russia, where the proletariat only numbered four million out of a total population of 150 million, and the peasantry was the overwhelming majority, the Bolsheviks nevertheless based themselves on the working class. True, they also made use of guerrilla war, but only as an auxiliary to the movement of the working class in the towns. Lenin supported guerrilla warfare in this sense in Russia in 1905, but as soon as the mass movement in the towns entered into decline after the defeat of the Moscow insurrection, he called a halt to the guerrilla tactics.
However, the tactic of guerrilla war makes no sense at all in a developed capitalist country such as Ireland today, where the overwhelming majority of the population lives in towns. The so-called tactic of "urban guerrillaism" is only individual terrorism under a different name. In such a society, none of the conditions for waging a successful guerrilla struggle exist - and least of all in Northern Ireland. What is involved here is not the armed movement of the masses, but an armed elite which, while speaking in the name of the masses, operates behind the backs of the masses and without reference to them. The problem with this is that it does nothing to raise the revolutionary self-consciousness of the masses or their confidence in themselves.
The idea is cultivated that the masses must look for their salvation to a group of people who will somehow "save" them from their oppressors. It is clear that such tactics - even if they were to succeed - can never lead to a regime of workers' democracy. In the best variant, they would lead to the establishment of a regime where power would be in the hands of the elite that waged the struggle and would demand the fruits of their sacrifices. The masses would remain as passive cheerleaders. Once again the masses would find themselves excluded from power and victims of a new form of oppression.
In practice, however, even such a variant is ruled out. This type of armed struggle could never succeed in its objectives. And it has NOT succeeded. The British state, which they were supposed to be fighting against, has not been defeated, or even weakened. On the contrary, it is stronger than ever, armed and equipped with a battery of new weapons, anti-terrorist laws, reserve powers of all kinds, an army of spies and informers. Over thirty years they have perfected their methods of struggle against us and in the meantime brutalized a generation of British soldiers and accustomed British public opinion to all kinds of anti-democratic measures which in the past would have met with serious opposition. If the London government has partially scaled down the military presence in Northern Ireland, it has not been because they have been defeated but because they feel more confident - rightly or wrongly - that the situation is under control.
Connolly explained that the degree of violence required to settle accounts with the old ruling class depends on the concrete situation and the balance of class forces, which cannot be established a priori. But as a general rule we can say that the degree of violence that is required is in inverse proportion to the degree of support which the revolutionaries have built up among the masses. A colossal amount of power lies in the hands of the working class in modern society. Without the kind permission of the workers, not a light bulb shines, not a wheel turns, not a telephone rings. This is a formidable power, once it is organized and directed to the socialist transformation of society.
The problem is that the working class does not realize that it holds such power. It is the task of the revolutionary party to build up the confidence of the proletariat in its own power, and to convince it that it must use this power to effect a fundamental change in society, that, consequently, it does not require the services of saviours who will generously hand power to them on a silver platter - whether these "saviours" act from the ministerial bench or with bombs in their hands.
What conclusions should be drawn?
The dialectic of individual terrorism is always to achieve the opposite of what was intended. In the days of the Fenians, Marx warned that they could not expect the British workers to accept bombings directed at themselves. Actions such as the Birmingham pub bombings led to a wave of anti-Irish feeling in Britain, which did not help but hindered the national liberation struggle. On the other hand, the strengthening of the state and the stepping-up of repression constitute a threat and a danger to the Labour movement, north and south of the border and in Britain also.
The first principle is to fight for the UNITY OF THE WORKING CLASS. In Ireland, we saw how Connolly and Larkin consistently fought to unite the workers and succeeded in bridging the sectarian divide. The argument that it is not possible to unite Protestant and Catholic workers in common struggle is wrong. At every key moment, there was a tendency of the workers to unite in struggle, as we have pointed out. The imperialists and capitalists strove to destroy this unity: that is the root of the problem we face today.
At every decisive turn, the possibility existed for developing a mass movement of the working people that could have cut across sectarianism. This was shown by Larkin and Connolly in 1911-14. It was again revealed in the unemployment struggles of the 1930s. In 1968-9, there was a spontaneous movement by the workers and shop stewards of Harland and Wolffs to set up committees to keep sectarian violence out of the shipyards. Unfortunately, there was no leadership of the caliber of Larkin and Connolly to give an organized and conscious expression to these strivings, and the opportunities were thrown away one by one with the most tragic results.
During the Hunger Strikes there was a mass movement of at least 100,000 people. With correct leadership this could have developed into a mass revolutionary movement against imperialism. But the Provisional leadership had no interest in promoting such a movement. They even opposed the proposal of the socialist Republicans to broaden the movement to include the trade unions, preferring to limit it to those elements that supported the "armed struggle". Once again, the opportunity was thrown away.
The Labour Movement, North and South, holds the key to the future. There was always a Labour tradition in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) got 26 percent of the votes in 1962. As late as 1970 it still got 100,000 votes. But after decades of reformist degeneration, the NILP ended up as a tool of Orange sectarianism. This ruled it out as a political option for many workers. As a result, many workers from a Catholic background supported the SDLP, although this middle class moderate nationalist party was "Labour" in name only. The division of the Labour vote on sectarian lines hastened the demise of the NILP. After all, if one requires a sectarian party, why bother with a poor imitation, when one can have the genuine article?
The prior condition for success is the creation of a party based on the working class. Connolly and Larkin fought all their lives to build the Irish Labour Party. We have to win back this position in open struggle with the middle class nationalists. A vital task is the setting up of a Party of Labour based on the trade unions. The working class must re-establish its own independent voice, absent for so long. The trade unions, despite everything, remain united, solid and undefeated. Despite the disastrous policies of the union bureaucracy, this remains the case, and gives the only hope for future betterment. The recent strikes in the Republic, and the shift to the left in the unions in Britain opens up the prospect of a renewal of the class struggle that can cut across the deadly morass of sectarianism and prepare the ground for a new stage in the struggle.
We saw a magnificent display of class unity in the shape of the January 18 general strike against sectarianism, following the murder of postal worker Daniel McColgan by the loyalist thugs of the UFF. Unfortunately the trade union leaders failed to build on this unity. But the potential for united struggles on the part of the working class was clear for all to see.
The only cause worth fighting for is the struggle for the emancipation of the working class. In turn, the working class must inscribe on its banner the fight against all forms of oppression, including national oppression. "The border must be abolished!" Yes, of course! But the question is how? The old methods have failed to do this. It can only be achieved as a by-product of the socialist revolution. The question of the border can only be solved by the working class North and South conquering political power. Then it will be swept aside, as a man sweeps aside an irritating insect. The border question can only be solved by the working class as a by-product of the socialist revolution. That is the lesson of the last hundred years of the national liberation struggle in Ireland and particularly the last thirty years.
The first condition for a successful struggle against British imperialism is to unite the working class in the North, and to cut the ground from under sectarianism, which constitutes the main weapon in the imperialists' armory. But this can never be achieved by the tactic of individual terrorism, which merely serves to drive the Unionist community into the arms of the British state and even to bolster loyalism. If we have not learned that lesson from the past 30 years, we have learned nothing at all.
For those who imagine that the solution of all our problems lie in the elimination of the border, this will be seen at best as an irrelevance, at worse as a harmful diversion. For those of us who understand that the abolition of the border, though highly desirable and progressive - on a capitalist basis, even if it were possible, would solve precisely nothing, and that the only real solution is workers' power, it is a matter of life and death. The issue of the border cannot be separated from the revolutionary struggle against capitalism.
The petty bourgeoisie is an unstable class that always tends to swerve between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Its hallmark is extreme volatility. In critical situations, it tends to develop extreme and fanatical responses. Fascism and fundamentalism are examples of this. Extreme chauvinism is often a feature of petty bourgeois movements. The proletariat moves in an entirely different way. Its basic instinct is for class unity and tolerance. We must base ourselves on this healthy class instinct.
The re-establishment of an independent movement of the working class and of class unity are the prior conditions for the creation of a militant anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement in the North and South of Ireland. As a first step, an energetic campaign should be launched for the setting up of a real Party of Labour, based on the trade unions. The programme of this Party must be democratically determined by the workers themselves, but it will clearly take its as its starting point the burning problems that affect all sections of the class in the North, which have for too long been pushed into the background. The questions which affect workers of all backgrounds, housing, health, education, if they are addressed from a class point of view, can expose the establishment parties of all shades who all support PFI, privatization, and anti-working class policies to one extent or another.
For 80 years Labour has been told that it must wait. It has waited long enough. The argument that all the burning problems of working people must be put to one side until the issue of the border is solved can no longer be accepted. Moreover, the idea that a united Ireland will solve all our problems is false to the core. A united Ireland on a capitalist basis will solve absolutely nothing. We must address the immediate problems that face workers - both Catholics and Protestants - the lack of jobs and decent housing, wages and pensions, schools and hospitals.
While the southern economy has experienced something of a boom in the last period, in the North unemployment has risen. The traditional industries of shipbuilding and textiles had all but died, or were moved to developing nations in Asia. While there were attempts to bring in new investment, nothing major took hold. The DeLorean scandal was one of many cases of exploitation by multinationals of the conflict in the North for profit. The North didn't get the massive high-tech development the South did, so it has yet to feel effects of the changes in production being felt elsewhere in the world.
In addition, the working class must fight for all democratic demands: free speech, the abolition of all anti-terrorist and anti-trade union legislation. full civil rights for prisoners. etc. This is part of our struggle, which we cannot renounce. But we will fight on these and every other issue, with our own methods and our own class demands. The unity of the working class in the North of Ireland can only brought about by the pursuit of class politics. Nothing else will do. A programme based on issues that can unite the class: jobs, wages, conditions, housing, women's rights - only the struggle for this can succeed where all else has failed. This is the way to prepare the ground for the ultimate aim: the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism in Ireland - North and South of the border - and in Britain, and on a European and world scale.