Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement

Given the sectarian character of the six county capitalist state in th enorth of Ireland it is clear that full civil rights cannot be achieved without the dynamic of the industrial working class. Given conditions as they existed in 1968 it was just as clear then that the industrial working class would not be available to provide the necessary dynamic that would make full civil rights achievable. In short the industrial working class lacked the necessary class consciousness and corresponding political character to offer itself as this dynamic.

To organise a civil rights campaign, under these circumstances, constituted a utopian venture designed to delude the Catholic masses and thereby obstruct the development of their political consciousness. The civil rights campaign was a form by which the development of the unity of the six county working class was to be obstructed. In this way the leadership of that campaign promoted a submerged sectarian agenda. Given the inability of this campaign to achieve civil rights in the absence of the support of the industrial working class the achievement of civil rights within the context of the six county state was impossible. As I intimated the civil rights leadership was petty bourgeois, utopian and sectarian in its politics. The unfolding of events verifies the correctness of this thesis.

Given the inability of the civil rights movement to achieve civil rights when confronted by the full resources of the sectarian capitalist state supported by the unionist and loyalist para- and extra- statal forces the only options left open was abject retreat or the development of the civl rights movement into the national struggle. The latter was the course taken. Consequently the leadership of the mass upsurge of the Catholic masses was taken over by the PIRA. The very fluid situation among the Catholic masses led to the replacement of one leadership by another --the civil rights leadership by the PIRA.

Since the civil rights leadership was verified by history as politically bankrupt it was replaced by a different leadership --the IRA. Given the failure of the industrial working class (predominantly Protestant) in the six counties to support civil rights the only other alternative was to broaden and deepen the struggle to a new level thereby transforming the civil rights movement into the national struggle. In this way it was hoped that the dynamic underlying the national struggle would serve as a substitute for the absent industrial working class. This was an admission that the Catholic masses were not immanently powerful enough to force through civil rights. The development of the civil rights struggle into the national struggle was an expression of the inherent weakness of the Catholic masses and the necessity of the industrial working as the driving force for any such struggle. The existence of the national struggle constituted a further turning away from the industrial working class by the leadership of the Catholic masses. Such a further shift away from the industrial working class constituted a programme for increased polarisation between Catholic and Protestant worker. Instead of taking the Catholic section of the working class towards the Protestant section of the working class thereby forging a revolutionary unity of the six county working class the former’s leadership lead it in the opposite direction thereby promoting sectarianism and guaranteeing that civil rights and the needs of the Catholic masses were never going to be met.

The national struggle was to prove essentially just as weak as the civil rights struggle. The national struggle proved inherently weak because again the industrial working class was absent as its driving force. Consequently, in so far as it can justifiably be deemed a national struggle, it assumed the form of a narrow petty bourgeois movement generating all kinds of stratagems, gimmicks etc as substitutes for the central and necessary dynamic --the industrial working class north and south. Because of its inherent weakness and the inherent weakness of the Catholic masses as a driving force the struggle assumed an elitist character in the form of a guerrilla force that was essentially private in character and independent of the masses.

It is the inherent weakness of the national struggle that also explains its leadership’s desire to ally itself with this and that petty bourgeois and even bourgeois force including the southern government and the Roman Catholic Church. It is this weakness that explains its crass opportunism and the confidence of the Unionist forces.

Indeed as the so called current peace process shows Sinn Fein is even prepared to ally itself with imperialism in the form of Washington and London. Over twenty five years on we are witnessing the truth of this in the present leadership of the struggle --its betrayal of its very own programme through its abject capitulation to the British and Irish bourgeoisie.

In the development of revolutionary politics there is never any substitute for the industrial working class as the agent of social revolution. There can only be one revolutionary vanguard --there are no shortcuts. Endless seeking of new vanguards -the Catholic masses in the north; the student movement etc can never- is a reactionary policy that betrays the class interests of the working class.