The Crisis in The Unionist Party
Organisation: Irish Communist Organisation
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

29th November 2010

This is an useful document from the Irish Communist Organisation, of which we have this document already in the Archive.

Briefly, the ICO was a precursor to the British and Irish Communist Organisation. Unlike the latter group the ICO can be regarded as more orthodox in its view of partition, at least until the latter part of its existence.

This document, issued in May 1969 at a time of profound crisis in Northern Ireland.

As the document notes in its Introduction ‘The Politics of ‘Non Politics”:

There is little doubt that a vast amount of confusion exists in the working class movement in Ireland and Britain about the basis of the political crisis within the Unionist Party and the relationship of this crisis to the social upheavals of the past few months. It is equally indisputable that, to a large extent, this confusion is the direct result of the political policies of the official civil rights movement and particularly of those supposedly ‘socialist’ organisations who, together with a few small capitalists and professional people, dominate the leadership of it.

The document is particularly negative towards other left wing groupings involved in the Civil Rights Association

Why for example have representatives of the so-called ‘Communist’ Party of Northern Ireland even resigned from the Civil Rights Association in protest over the ‘intrusion’ of other varieties of bourgeois politics - as represented by the Trotskyist and Anarchist tendencies in the Peoples Democracy - into the official civil rights movement, not to mention working class politics? And why has this absolute determination to maintain the ‘non-political’ label of the civil rights movement by the sham ‘communists’ of the CPNI been vigorously applauded by another so-called revolutionary organisation, Sinn Féin (see United Irishman, March 1969). The reason is not hard to find…. During any crisis in capitalist society… The working class has a chance to free itself much more easily from bourgeois influences, taking advantage of favourable conditions to develop itself politically in the class struggle.

In the main essay, ‘The Two Faces of Unionism - the basis of Sectarianism in the North’ the document attempts to deal with ‘old’ and ‘new’ faces of Unionism. It concludes that:

…the basis for change in Unionist Party politics (and Nationalist politics too) lies in these developments; the solid business community, who, for solid business reasons, supported the fascist and sectarian policies of the Unionist Party in the past, have now become ‘democrats’ in the furtherance of the same solid business interests in a changed situation.

And it further argues that:

The crisis in the Unionist Party has arisen because certain parts of the fascist machine, erected carefully over a period of fifty years, are attempting to resist ‘democratisation’. The demagoguery of five decades is not easily neutralised, old habits die hard. But however loudly the Paisleyites may shout, however much short term support they can command, it is quite clear that they do not have the support where it counts - they do not have the support of British imperialism.

There’s more and well worth reading.

There’s also a copy of ICO’s The Economic of Partition cued up for the Archive, a document which provides a link between the ICO and BICO incarnations. Expect that early in the new year.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 29 Nov 2010 16:28:15

    What’s interesting about this is just how hardline its Republicanism, and how late in the history of the ICO it was published. The Unionists are repeatedly described as “fascists” for instance.

    The reversal of line must have been very swift.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Tue, 30 Nov 2010 18:56:29

    In reply to Mark P.

    The CCO doc above gives some indication of that as well.

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Thu, 02 Dec 2010 10:06:58

    […] Irish Communist Organisation (ICO): The Crisis in the Unionist Party […]

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  • By: Left Archive: The Economics of Irish Partition, Irish Communist Organisation, 2nd edition, November 1969 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution Mon, 13 Jun 2011 06:06:41

    […] 1971, The Irish Communist Organisation already has the following documents in the Archive, and here. There’s also a critique in the Archive from the Cork Communist Organisation on the […]

    Reply on the CLR