Left Archive: Why the Troops Must Get Out – Chris Bambery – A Socialist Worker Pamphlet, Socialist Workers Party (UK), 1992 November 25, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers Party UK, Socialist Workers' Movement.
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To download the above file please click on the following link: SWPIRLTROOPS
This is a short eight page document issued by the SWP UK in 1992. Written by Chris Bambery it outlines why, in the view of the SWP (UK), the British Army must leave Northern Ireland.
The introduction starts by asking the reader to:
Imagine the town you live in. Imagine that each day heavily armed troops patrol your street. Each afternoon, as school comes out, troops train their guns on the children and their mothers. When you drive to work or to the shops your car is halted at a check point and searched. In the sky helicopters monitor movements below. At night their searchlights scan the streets.
This is real life for the Catholic Community in Northern Ireland. Yet this society is supposed to be part of Britain, no different John Major’s Huntingdon constituency. In truth it is a world apart.
Once you begin to understand the reality of NI it is not so surprising that ordinary, working people fight back against the security forces and the system they uphold.
Again and again we are told by the British government – whether Tory or Labour – that the violence in Northern Ireland is senseless. It is the product of a few criminal minds, of a few psychopaths. We are told that British troops are trapped in the middle trying to keep two warring sides apart.
These argument have been carefully woven to conceal the truth. The divisions in Northern Ireland have been carefully nurtured and maintained by Britain, just as they used a policy of divide and rule in the Indian subcontinent, in South Africa and in Cyprus. A continued Briths presence can offer no solutions to the problems of Northern Ireland. There can be no peace there until Britain gets out.
The rest of the document is divided into various sections, ‘Why the British troops went in’, ‘The reality of the Northern Ireland State’, ‘Have Things Changed?’, ‘Violence Who’s to Blame?’ and so on. It’s interesting to read the outline of the history of the conflict, which reiterates the idea that ‘in 1969 the IRA was a tiny band of people on the sidelines of events’ and that ‘they had no guns to fire back with even if they wanted to. Angry Catholics wrote ‘IRA-I Ran Away’ on Belfast walls’.
Interestingly the SWM in Ireland was as late as 1974 calling for a vote for both Sinn Féin’s.
Left Archive: “Before you make up your mind” – Secondary Schools Leaflet on Abortion from the Socialist Workers Movement, 1992 December 3, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Movement.
To download the above file please click on the following link: SWM A4 leaflet
Many thanks to the person who forwarded this short but apposite document to the Archive. They give some background detail below.
This leaflet dates from March/April 1992. In the aftermath of the ‘X’ case and the big mobilisations demanding the teenage rape victim be allowed travel to Britain, abortion was back on the political landscape. The SWM had been active in many of the protests and there was a feeling that the issue would continue to be important and that there was likely to be a backlash from the Catholic right. Going by the experience of the 1980s it was thought likely that the ‘pro-lifers’ would mobilise in the schools and use their connections to get anti-choice videos shown, guest lecturers from SPUC [Society for the Protection of Unborn Children] into classes etc. The SWM had a couple of contacts who were school students so we decided to draw up a leaflet specifically aimed at them, with the idea that where we had a contact they would distribute the leaflet inside their school and hopefully get some of their mates to do the same: and we would also leaflet some schools from outside.
While recruiting new members was obviously never far from our agenda, this leaflet was primarily aimed at countering the right, and the SWM aspect was kept fairly low key. The leaflet was drawn up and about 5,000 printed (in red ink, because we were out of black I think) and was ready to go.
I drew up a list of schools in various areas- it there was a good response we were going to print more. A few young comrades were agreeable to doing the outside the gate leafleting (I was aware that anyone over the age of 20 might look a bit odd standing at a school gate) and then…the leaflets stayed in their boxes for weeks, as SWM attention deficit disorder took its usual course. By the time May came around I was told the leaflets were no longer a priority and by that stage the school year was nearly finished. I’ve no idea where the leaflets ended up, but they were never distributed. This one, however, I found cleaning out the shed a few weeks ago.
Left Archive: International Socialism 51, International Socialists (UK), April-June 1972 May 2, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Socialists [UK], Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Movement, Socialist Workers' Party.
To download the above file please click on the following link: INTL SOC 72
This is an handsome document, issued by the International Socialists in Britain, predecessors of the SWP [UK], in 1972, is a special issue with a focus on Ireland.
The range of contributors is striking, from amongst others Eamonn McCann, John Palmer and Brian Trench. McCann considers ‘After 5th October 1968′, Palmer ‘The Gombeen Republic’ and Trench ‘The Two Nations Fallacy’ and there is ‘A factual survey’ of the Six Counties by Paul Gerhardt.
The article by Brian Trench is, perhaps, of particular interest in that it engages directly with the Irish Communist Organisation which it describes as a ‘reactionary Stalinist sect’. And it notes that ‘this group moved within the course of one year from describing Paisleyites as fascists to seeing them as the organised expression of legitimate Protestant national demands’.
It further argues that ‘in adopting this position, the ICO, and others who have since followed them, condemned themselves to inactivity. While state forces attacked the opponents of the Unionist regime, and the nationalist population in general, the advocates of the ‘two nations’ theory were so concerned with distancing themselves from supposed Catholic nationalist desires to oppress the Protestants, that they were unable to oppose the actual repression!’
The Eamonn McCann piece has an interesting analysis on some of the reasons for the emergence of the Provisionals, one of which it ascribes to the Left being ‘still imprisoned within the sectarian strait jacket, forced to operate almost excluseively within the Catholic community but unable to give any clear lead to the Catholic masses… and unwilling to cause a split in the [Defence Committee] barricaded area [in Derry] and doubtful about the extent of its own support, it never seriously attempted to wrest leadership from the moderates’.
The raging bitterness of the Catholics in Belfast especially after the August days was certain sooner or later to swamp Fitt and Hume. Emotions were too strong to be contained for long within the thin shell of timid respectability. The Provisionals filled the vacuum created by the effective absence of the left and the irrelevance of the right.
This last point is of some interest, given the concentration in many accounts of the period on the left and less focus on right and centre right forces and the part they played.
The Palmer piece is also of interest as it engages with the nature of British capital in the Irish economy.
And it notes that “The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that between a third and a half of all manufacturing concerns are either controlled or owned outright by British firms. Perhaps 70 per cent of the 100 largest companies in the Twenty-six counties are British controlled in part or entirely.”
In 1971 profits totalling £21 millions – 60 per cent of total profits of all publicly quoted companies – were pocketed by British investors.
Also published is the Programme of the Socialist Workers Movement. This is headlined as follows:
An important development in Irish Politics is the appearance of the Socialist Workers Movement, a marxist organisation based largely in the republic but with connections in the six counties.
It’s a fascinating document, not least because of the more contemporary echoes. Consider by way of example a review by one Chris Hitchens, or the list of names on the editorial board. Also note the front cover, a painting by Robert Ballagh and the short and sympathetic piece on the Underground Press which examines Oz, Time Out and IT magazines.
[Original file now replaced by one compressed by Conor to a little over 2mb]
Many thanks to Mark P for forwarding this document which was produced by the Galway branch of the Socialist Workers’ Movement. It’s a brief four page leaflet, hand typed and dealing with issues like redundancies, the Westcon Ltd. dispute and Life in a Galway Flat.
What is most immediately striking is the emphasis on local issues to the exclusion of all else – remarkable given the period of time in which it was produced. This doesn’t incorporate to any great extent a theoretical analyses or even make much reference to broader political issues on the island. That said it does contain the following outline of an approach:
A Coisti Oibri na Gaeltachta [which] must be formed as a priority… it must build form the start close links of practical active solidarity with the Galway Shop Stewards and rank and File Committee and affiliate to the National Rank and File Movement.
A minimum program on which all workers willing to go on the offensive [to]? the bosses can fight must be worked out in fully democratic discussions to become the basic program of these Committees.
Revolutionary Socialists accepting this minimum program must be free to propose within the Committees their strategy for fighting all the basic issues facing the working class in such a way as to mobilize the class as a whole and organize it for the seizure of power in a workers revolution that will build the workers Republic over the bones of the Capitalist Class.
And it stands as a contrast to the more polished documents issued by the Socialist Workers’ Movement during and after this period.
Left Archive: Northern Ireland: Can Protestant and Catholic workers unite? Mark Hewitt – A Socialist Worker pamphlet, 1993, Socialist Workers Movement, Belfast May 10, 2010Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Movement, Uncategorized.
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.
Irish Left Archive: What Happened in Derry. Eamonn McCann (1972), A Socialist Worker Pamphlet February 2, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Movement.
Firstly this document is available at CAIN in black and white (and perhaps this is preaching to the converted, but there is a store of interesting material from the Troubles there). I hope this version is a bit more true to its actual physical presence incorporating the colour cover, map sections and gray scale pages.
Notable are the introduction by Bernadette Devlin and the reproduction of the front page of the Official Republican “The Starry Plough”.
This provides a forensic and extremely clear overview of the events on the day that captures both the rage that was felt by those who had experienced it and a sense that it provided a pivotal turning point in the course of the relationship between state and people during this period.
A welcome addition to the Archive this week with a copy of The Worker from the SWM. It’s a reasonably well produced broadsheet magazine, eight pages long. The black and red colour scheme is fairly striking.
In terms of content it takes a strongly all-island approach and one that is profoundly hostile to the state in both jurisdictions.
There is a strong emphasis on industrial actions and union issues. So one reads articles on the struggles in Chrysler and Unidare, and the level of detail is considerable. There is a piece on the Irish Defence Forces which unsurprisingly paints the training regimen in the most negative of terms.
Yet it is not confined to that, there are articles on RUC and British army ‘counter-revolutionary warfare’ and a deliberate effort to make a linkage between the situation in the North and that in workplaces.
In addition to that is an excoriating article on Official Republicanism on page 5 which takes them to task for talking with the UVF. Interestingly, though, on the previous page it recommends that for he local elections in the Republic:
If there is a left-wing candidate of any variety standing in your area, although we would criticise him [sic] in detail, he should be given a vote. Such candidates would be those of Sinn Fein (Gardiner Place) and the Communist Party, left-wing members of the Labour Party and of Sinn Féin (Kevin Street) and individuals standing on a left-wing platform.