Monthly Archives: February 2013
Morgan, Purdie and divided Ireland
This is an historical one. The review below appeared in Ireland Socialist Review #8, winter 1980/81. I gather that #8 was the final issue of this particular magazine. Pity; it looks like a good magazine. Thanks to Liam O Ruairc for drawing my attention to it.
Austen Morgan and Bob Purdie, Ireland: divided nation, divided class, London, Ink Links,
reviewed by Richard Chessum
“We have no doubt that, historically, progressive social and economic developments were associated with Irish nationalism. We also have no doubt that the current entrenchment of the Irish left in the ‘battle of the nations’ is not justified, either by Marxist theory or by the real needs of the Irish working class. The Northern state partially collapsed between 1968 and 1972 because of the uprising of the Catholic minority against unionist resistance to reform. . . The partial c ollapse of the sate did not logically imply that it had to be destroyed by a section of the Catholic minority and replaced by a unitary Irish state. Unless, that is the crisis was seen through Republican spectacles and Unionist hegemony was interpreted simply as a British strategy for suppressing the historic Irish nation. While it was correct for socialists to respond to events as they occurred, it is not obvious why they should have placed all the chips on the green or orange numbers. . . It is by no means clear why socialists should pose a national question as the central political question when this merely raises a problem which cannot be solved and also obscures the global class struggle.”
In these words, Morgan and Purdie, the editors of this new collection of essays, sum up their starting point in their quest for a new Marxist understanding of the possibilities for socialism in Ireland. Many of the readers of Ireland Socialist Review may feel that the starting point is not new. Indeed, one way or another, socialists, reformist or revolutionary, have been at this one before. Yet the national question continues to pose itself – or rather, significant individuals and social forces obstinately persist in pushing it to the forefront of political discussion. One suspects that Morgan and Purdie will have little more success than King Canute in ordering the waves to go back, no matter how many books they edit. Moreover, it is by no means clear (to use their own expression) how many loyal supporters these latter day Canutes have amongst the contributors to this collection of essays, or how many of these latter might wish to add some sort of disclaimer to the views expressed by them.
When the editors speak in their Introduction of “the varied composition of the seminar” at which the papers upon which this book is based were presented, this is a polite way of saying that there was little common agreement on very basic issues amongst the contributors. This, of course, does not invalidate the book. But readers should not be left to assume that those who contributed to it would all assent to the view that the national question is a diversion. The present reviewer attended the seminar in question (held at Warwick University) and it was apparent that Read the rest of this entry