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This pamphlet, printed in July 1993, provides a snapshot of the Socialist Workers Movement attitude during a pivotal time in the North, a point where the Peace Process had started.
It’s a simply designed document, with the typical rather stark appearance of many SWM/SWP printed materials from the same period. A style, which whatever about that starkness, has the genuine virtue of being immediately identifiable.
The pamphlet takes the reader through the history of the conflict, starting with ‘Why is there sectarianism in Northern Ireland’, considering ‘Republicanism’, ‘Labourism in Northern Ireland’ and concluding with the ‘Socialist Alternative’.
The listing of various events where Protestant and Catholic workers made common cause is as one would expect. There are some oddities in the text. As was noted to me the date of the Plantations on page one is incorrect.
It provides a rather narrow analysis of the events of 1969 and suggests that ‘Prior to 1969, the IRA was a tiny force. According to one writer, Boyer Bell, the Belfast IRA in 1969 had ‘only a few active scattered volunteers, a collection of veteran republicans in reserve and almost no arms’.
Given the critical support formerly given to the Provisional IRA by the SWM in Ireland and the SWP in Britain it is notable that there is a certain coolness in the treatment of that political area. Therefore we read that ‘Even when Sinn Fein was going through its left phase it argued that the fight for socialism had to be postponed until the distant future’ and that ‘The fall of Eastern Europe in 1989 has brought about a change in political perspective in many nationalist movements across the world. Up to then groups like the IRA, the PLO, the ANC often adopted a left rhetoric. Their goal was always for their community or nation to join the world system as political equals. But they saw the USSR as representing the ‘socialist bloc’ in that system. When that regime collapsed they often decided that since there was only one superpower in existence they would have to come to terms with US imperialism’.
This has led many nationalist movements to drop their left rhetoric. Instead they now seek to press for a ‘social contract’ in their respective countries…. The nationalist grouping work actively to try to demobilise workers struggle.
Something of a similar process is at work in Ireland. Since the 1990s, the republicans rarely talk about socialism. Their aim is now simply to ‘raise the nationalist agenda’… All this shows that republicanism can never be considered a vehicle for bringing about a socialist Ireland’.
A useful contrast with previous documents from the SWM.