Category Archives: Repression and resistance in 1970s and 1980s

Socialist Workers Network and civil rights: misremembering the past, promoting reformism today

People’s Democracy’s famous Belfast to Derry march, January 1969; the march was attacked by both loyalist and police thugs

The article below is from the Irish revolutionary group Socialist Democracy, the successor current to the original radical student-based group People’s Democracy, which played a key role in the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

The Socialist Workers Party, one of the two main Trotskyist organisations in Ireland, has just dissolved as a party organisation.  It is now just a ‘network’ which operates through, and rather bureaucratically controls, the People Before Profit Alliance, an electoralist and non-revolutionary formation. 

On March 24th a meeting under the banner of “Remembering 1968: The Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland” was held as part of events organized by the Institute of Irish Studies. A supporter of Socialist Democracy attended under the impression that it was an academic symposium to discuss the origins of the civil rights movement.

It quickly became clear that the appearance of academic neutrality was cast into doubt by the role of Socialist Workers Party/People Before Profit. A PBP councillor, Matt Collins, opened the seminar with an exposition which displayed a common fault of his organization- viewing the past through the prism of the current political line of the organization. We can take it for granted that this is the first bird of spring and that political groups from all sides will shortly be presenting their own misremembering of the civil rights struggle. In fact the first shots have been exchanged in a dispute between Sinn Fein and Bernadette McAliskey about a fictitious role for Sinn Fein in the early struggle.

The SWP’s economism led to Matt portraying the revolutionary left organization People’s Democracy as resembling an early version of the Alliance Party. The presence of students from nationalist and unionist backgrounds seemed more important than their common commitment to the revolutionary overthrow of the Stormont regime.

The speaker could easily have clarified things by discussing with Socialist Democracy, the successor organization of People’s Democracy. However the SWP had closed that door with a “theoretical” document claiming that the success of their electoral opportunism in the North made their organization the inheritors of People’s Democracy.

Eamonn McCann could have, if he wished, corrected some of the misconceptions. However he arrived late and confined himself to anecdotes of the early days. Historian Brian Hanley added some gravitas to the day but was Read the rest of this entry

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The Adams legacy

Adams getting up close and personal with new friend

by Kevin Bean

One of the most frequently reproduced images of the Irish Republican Army’s 1994 ceasefire was of a Sinn Féin car cavalcade driving through west Belfast with tricolours flying and bystanders cheering. Its message was clear: the IRA was undefeated and the Provisional movement remained a force to be reckoned with. In a language that would become familiar over the next 25 years, the IRA’s statement announcing the ceasefire argued that republican objectives could now be pursued politically through “unarmed struggle” and dialogue as part of an Irish peace process. It continued:

Our struggle has seen many gains and advances made by nationalists and for the democratic position. We believe that an opportunity to secure a just and lasting settlement has been created. We are therefore entering into a new situation … determined that the injustices which created the conflict will be removed and confident in the strength and justice of our struggle to achieve this … We urge everyone to approach this new situation with energy, determination and patience.1

This statement and the orchestration of these events in the early stages of the peace process tell us a great deal about the politics and strategy that Gerry Adams and his comrades in the Provisional leadership would pursue in the future. For the next quarter of a century Adams would constantly repeat that political retreat was a form of Read the rest of this entry

Remembering rubber and plastic bullet killings by ‘Crown forces’

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the civil rights movement as a mass movement on the streets of the north-east of Ireland.

A peaceful movement was met with fierce repression by the Orange state – peaceful protesters were assaulted with police truncheons and tear gas.  Sections of the Special Powers Act, legislation jealously admired by the apartheid regime in South Africa, were used to try to ban marches and other civil rights activity.  Orange mobs, protected by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, were also unleashed on the nationalist population.

In 1971 Emma Groves was blinded in both eyes when a British soldier fired a rubber bullet at her, through her window, as she stood in her living room

As the nationalist working class began to effectively defend its areas with barricades and street fighting, the British government sent in troops to “restore order”, ie put a risen people back in their place.

An array of repression

Over the following decades the British used a whole array of repressive measures against the nationalist people: batons and tear gas, along with stun guns, live rounds, rubber and then plastic bullets, internment, non-jury Diplock Courts, supergrass frame-up trials and shoot-to-kill (ie execution) policies were all deployed.  While the British state widely used terror  Read the rest of this entry

Grief porn for the curious: ‘The Funeral Murders’ (BBC) reviewed

Funeral cortege of the Gibraltar Three, Belfast, 16 March 1988. Photograph: Unknown/BBC/Chris Steele-Perkins

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (21 March 2018)

I had great expectations from this documentary. Its own publicity said it was the first documentary to deal with the events of March 1988 and that it included footage and interviews with people who had never spoken about the events before. That much was true; there are new interviews included. On that level the documentary lived up to the hype.

It included interviews with RUC officers in charge of security on the days in question, loyalist paramilitaries, republicans and relatives of those killed. Some of the interviews are informative and many of the interviews with republicans and relatives are poignant and they are allowed speak for themselves. The technique employed by the documentary maker is to let the interviews to speak for themselves, with very little input or voiceover. This is supposed to lend an air of objectivity or neutrality, but it doesn’t. The infrequency of commentary and discussion serve only to highlight the bias and the political position of the documentary. This is, we are told, a documentary about a time in the north when Protestants and Catholics were fighting each other – there is no mention of the British state as part of the conflict. We are introduced to a Read the rest of this entry

Commemorating victims of state terrorism, Dublin event on Wednesday, January 31

Liam Sutcliffe commemoration

On Sunday (December 3) about 100 people attended a special political commemoration for veteran socialist-republican Liam Sutcliffe, who died on Friday, November 3 and whose funeral took place in Dublin on Tuesday, November 7.

See: Liam Sutcliffe: a revolutionary life

and Filmed Interview with Liam Sutcliffe

Repose and funeral details for Liam Sutcliffe

Liam by The Spire of Dublin, the monument which eventually replaced Nelson’s Pillar. Photo: Luke Fallon

 

Reposing at the Fanagan Funeral Home, Aungier Street, Dublin from 5pm until 7.30pm, Tuesday, 7th November, with family in attendance.

Requiem Mass at 11.30am on Wednesday, 8th November, in Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar Street (Aungier Street), Dublin.

Funeral thereafter to Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold’s Cross Road, Dublin 6W.

 

Support anti-extradition protest, Newry, 1pm, Saturday, November 11

No automatic alt text available.Saoradh in Ard Mhacha is organising an anti-extradition protest on November 11 in Newry.

The protest will take place at Newry courthouse, a long-standing symbol of British oppression in the border town.

Commenting ahead of the protest local Saoradh activist Clíodhna McCool said, “There are currently three Irish Republicans facing extradition from the Free State to the 6 counties.

“If this goes ahead they will be sent to Maghaberry prison where they will suffer Read the rest of this entry

In review: UVF – behind the mask

I agree with most of this review.  And the review is well worth reading and thinking about, which is why I’ve reblogged it.  However, it also has a problem.  Mike M notes that whenever catholic and protestant workers have united, the protestant establishment has played the Orange card, and this has always succeeded in getting the protestant workers to split and line up again behind their exploiters.  Very true.  Yet, at the end of the review, what does Mike suggest? 

Well, he suggests protestant and catholic workers unting on economic issues!  The reason is that the political tendency Mike identifies with has never understood the importance of the national question.  At least, unlike the CWI followers in Ireland, they recognise that there is a national question; but they fail to integrate it into the reasons for the divisions in the working class in the north-east. 

So Mike falls back into suggesting as a road forward something he has already identified as failing!  Moreover, as Seamus Costello noted way back in the 1970s, you can’t trick the protestant working class into a false unity by ignoring the national question; they’re not stupid.  You have to be honest with them on the national question.  Instead of adopting a partitionist view which focuses on uniting wage-workers in the six counties across the sectarian divide, by ignoring the national question, it is necessary to counterpose the solving together of the national and class questions through uniting the mass of the Irish working class on an all-island basis.  This points to an all-Ireland workers’ republic in which the protestant workers would be free, instead of being the alienated tools of imperialism. – P.F.

Aaron Edwards, UVF: Behind the Mask, Dublin, Merrion Press, 2017, £14.99; reviewed by Mike Milotte.

UVF: Behind the Mask is a vast if somewhat episodic account of the killings, feuds and internal factionalism of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force written by a lecturer at Sandhurst, the British Army’s officer training college. It would barely merit mention in this journal* were it not for its underlying, yet never fully argued thesis that Ulster loyalism is a genuine expression of Protestant working class discontent, while the violent conflict in Northern Ireland in which the UVF played such a significant part, was an “ethnic civil war”.

The author, Aaron Edwards, comes from an area of Belfast where the UVF was particularly active. During the “peace process” he befriended several leading UVF figures, one of whom persuaded him to write this book. While he rejects UVF violence, the book itself is permeated with a sense of Edwards’ high opinion of some of its worst perpetrators.

Socialists or pro-imperialists?

Edwards expresses sympathy for the views of former UVF men who have declared themselves to be socialists, but his key formulations are clearly at odds with the view of most left-wing activists and writers for whom working class loyalism is a form of Read the rest of this entry

Miriam Daly – murdered revolutionary