|Organisation:||Socialist Workers' Party [UK]|
|Collection:||The British Left on Ireland|
|Discuss:||Comments on this document|
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As part of the Archive which addresses perceptions of the conflict on the island of Ireland during the past century, this is a useful example of the view from the Socialist Workers Party in Britain. This document starts with an Introduction that asserts:
British troops were sent to ‘keep the peace’ in Northern Ireland in August 1969. Eleven years and almost 2000 deaths later the army remains on the streets. The violence that followed their arrival has been far greater than what went before. We live in the shadow of that war. It affects us in many different ways. We in the SWP - and many other socialists too - believe that the only way to end the war for the benefit of the workers of Ireland and Britain is to get the troops out of Northern Ireland, and to get them out now. In these short pages we answer the arguments of those who oppose this view: Won’t there be a bloodbath? Surely the troops are keeping the peace over there? We will also look at some of the things that workers in this country can do to bring this war to an end.
And the same near chatty semi-informal style continues throughout.
The history of the development of the ‘Civil Rights Movement’ is given in a rather brief form, as seeen on page 5…
Against this discrimination the CRM marched, peacefully. But however ‘moderate’ their demands, these threatened the privileges of the Protestants that were the very foundation of the government and state of Northern Ireland. The government replied with force.
No mention is made of the genesis of the modern part of the conflict and the document seems to propose rather more continuity than most might accept…
‘While such a government and such a [sectarian] police force existed [in NI], the majority of Catholics knew their only protection lay in defending themselves. They determined that any future attacks would not find them unprepared. The IRA, previously a small, isolated group, started to grow rapidly. The growth of the IRA added a new political dimension to the situation, or more accurately it resurrected an old one. For the IRA had fought for a united Irish republic since before the partition of 1921. The open involvement of Republicans now raised the stakes from the pursuit of civil rights to the struggle for a re-united Ireland.
The Provisional IRA (and there is no differentiation in terms of the IRA’s) is presented as being ‘an essentially working-class organisation’…
The fact is that the growth of the Provisionals was essentially a defensive reaction to the presence of the British Army and the violence it uses. The IRA barely existed before the present ‘troubles’ began in 1969, and emerged from the remnants of the old republican movement to defend the Catholic areas against attacks by loyalists, the RUC, and then the Army. When it became clear that the Northern Ireland state was not capable of being ‘reformed’, the Provisionals went onto the offensive.
An interesting analysis.
And the document is unequivocal in its support of the IRA.
As socialists we give full support to all those who fight oppression and for the right of self-determination, whereever in the world they may be. This applies equally to the Provisionals, who are fighting a war against the oppression of a minority in Britain’s oldest colony. But this does not mean that we necessarily support the politics of the Provisionals, nor we consider them socialists, nor that we support all the tactics they use.
And perhaps an overly optimistic reading of the future, given that it was 1980.
Recently, however, the Provisional IRA have moved significantly away from their old traditions and are more receptive to explicitly socialist ideas. This does not mean they have made a clean break with the politics of nationalism, but it is a step towareds the struggle for a socialist republic. But whatever the criticisms we have of the politics of the Provisionals and other Republican groups, and their resulting tactics, we have to be clear that the people of Ireland have every right to control of their own country and the Provisionals are a leading force in that struggle.
There’s some useful material on what the SWP believes can be done in the UK context to argue for Troops Out.
The pamphlet itself is attributed on the inside cover to ‘members of the South Manchester and North London districts of the Socialist Workers Party’.