The ‘Socialist Party’ and the screws

I don’t usually bother commenting here on the gas-and-water socialists because I figure anyone serious about revolutionary politics, which are of necessity anti-imperialist, isn’t much interested in them or doesn’t have illusions in them.  However, the statement by the Republican Network for Unity (see below) raises an especially serious issue in relation to the Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW) and its relationship with screws.  This also casts a shadow over the Irish SP.

SPEW is the present-day manifestation of the old ‘Militant Tendency’ which spent decades deep in the British Labour Party and developed a weird amalgam of Fabianism and archeo-Trotskyism.  Although it initially opposed the entry of British troops into the north in 1969, it soon dumped that position and in the following decades went along with the British occupation.  In 1981 it not only opposed the demands of the hunger strikers but within the British trade unions and the Labour Party it staunchly opposed the adoption of any motions in support of the hunger strikers.  Having scabbed on the hunger strikes, it then went along with Thatcher’s war in the South Atlantic in 1982.  While most of the British left, even many of the Labour ‘lefts’, called for the withdrawal of the British fleet steaming down to the Malvinas/Falklands, these folks totally opposed that demand and called instead for the unionisation of the British imperialist forces.

SPEW’s involvement in the POA, then, isn’t an aberration; it’s part-and-parcel of decades of practice.  And, as a mate of mine said to me in July of the SP in Ireland, “they’re not revolutionary; they’re pink Unionists”.  Will they distance themselves from SPEW in relation to the POA?  Well, if they had an ounce of revolutionary spirit they would.  But don’t hold your breath.

N+Ireland+News+8-1RNU statement:

RNU have been made aware of the latest twist in the joint campaign by the Maghaberry Prison Administration and the Loyalist ‘Prison Officers Association’ to degrade and break the resolve of Republican prisoners in Roe 3 and Roe 4 of the Gaol. We understand that in the past few days, a regime of particularly strict controlled movement has been introduced onto both landings on Roe House using a ‘staff/prisoner ratio system’ in which the numbers of prisoners allowed out of their cells at any one time is limited depending on staff levels and quoting a fake risk assessment levels as an excuse.

The primary objective of this tactic is to deny prisoners access to fresh air, exercise and shower facilities; it is most commonly used during periods of particularly hot weather when cells turn into virtual sweat boxes.

The tactic has been used many times in the past ten years since the establishment of the Maghaberry Republican wing and is the brainchild of leading figures within the ‘Prison Officers Association’, which claims to represent the interests of Screws in the Six Counties, England and Scotland.

The ‘POA’ objected vehemently to the establishment of Roe House as a Republican wing due to the overtly Unionist political persuasion of its membership and indeed it organised a walk-out of staff when segregation was achieved by the Republican ‘No wash/Dirty’ protest in September 2003.

Since then the ‘POA’ have been central to creating tactics aimed at degrading and severely restricting the lives of Republican Prisoners. On a monthly basis POA-directed screws led by Finlay Spratt sought to create and exploit invented ‘logistical problems’ on the wings ultimately aimed at making life on Roe 3 & 4 as miserable as possible, and hoping to force men into leaving the landing altogether, as well as to secure extra shifts and ‘danger money’ for POA members.

Excessive lock up, denial of basic hygiene facilities and education, denial of exercise and fresh air as well as forced strip searches have been the lot of republican prisoners ever since and under the careful design of the ‘Prison Officers Association’. All independent reports have criticised the excessive levels of security on Roe 3 & 4 and those with insight recognise what is happening as a gross campaign of human rights abuses directed against vulnerable political prisoners.

It is therefore nothing less than shocking to learn that a self-professed revolutionary movement which is active in Ireland

has struck up and even boasts of an alliance with this pseudo-union. The ‘Socialist Party’ has in recent times not only attended POA conferences in England, it has even recruited several POA screws into its ranks including POA national executive member John Hancock and POA general secretary Brian Caton, a fact boasted about on the ‘Socialist Party’ website.


Joe Simpson, POA assistant general secretary, addresses Socialist Party conference 2011

Given their professed position as ‘Internationalists’ there is no way that the SP in Ireland can write off their movement’s links with the right-wing POA as an English Issue, nor can they with any credibility describe the actions of the POA here as ‘Industrial Action’. What is happening in Maghaberry is a sustained campaign of human rights abuses, conducted against vulnerable political prisoners and directed by the ‘Prison Officers Association’ along with the Gaol administration.

Nobody is claiming that the Socialist Party in Ireland supports the abuse of Republican Prisoners in Maghaberry, however they can no longer ignore it as they attend and support events addressed by the architects of torture. It is the duty of all self-proclaimed socialists to oppose such abuses, and the Socialist Party here must begin by demanding that their movement breaks links with the bourgeois and self-serving ‘Prison Officers Association’.

The Irish group does, however, have a few internal critics of its politics and practices; see, for instance, here;  for a useful reminder that some occupations, like these, should be beyond the pale for real socialist organisations, see Liam MacCuaid’s comments, here.

Posted on August 21, 2013, in British state repression (general), Democratic rights - general, Irish politics today, Political education and theory, Prisoners - current, Repression and resistance in the six counties today, Republican Network for Unity, Scabs. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The ‘Socialist Party’ and the screws.

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