written for A-Infos by Andrew Flood Dublin - Ireland (22/May/98)
The aftermath of the 1918 election saw a war of independence against Britain, a war that was only settled after the nationalist struggle threatened to pour over into a class struggle. During the war the city of Limerick briefly declared itself a soviet, land occupations swept the south of the country and 'Soviet' occupations occurred at Cork Harbour, North Cork railways, the quarry and the fishing fleet at Castleconnell, the gasworks and a coachbuilders in Tipperary, a clothing factory in Dublin's York Street, sawmills in Ballinacourty and Killarney, the Drogheda Iron foundry, Waterford Gas, mines at Arigna and Ballinderry, two flour mills in Cork, Sir John Kean's farm in Cappoquin, the Monaghan asylum.
The War of Independence ended with the treaty that partitioned Ireland. The settlement was favourable to the bosses, not only did it restore stability but in the north they favoured free trade and in they south they sought protectionism. For the working class it led as James Connolly predicted to 'a carnival of reaction'. The north saw pogroms against Catholics (and socialist Protestants), the south saw a bitter Civil War and the construction of a clerical state.
At the end of the '60's the British government brutally crushed a Civil Rights movement that had emerged in the north. In 1972 British troops in Derry opened fire on a mass demonstration, killing 13 people. This single event, more then any other factor created the war that waged in Ireland, occasionally Britain and sometimes even continental Europe over the next 25 years. A war in which thousands were killed and tens of thousands jailed.
The 'peace deal' which is being voted on today may well be recorded in history as marking the end of that war. But like the 1922 treaty the agreement is a bosses deal worked out between and in the interests of the rulers and would be rulers of Ireland and Britain. Far from tackling sectarianism by fighting its causes, unemployment and poverty, it will reinforce and institutionalise it.
Politicians elected to the proposed Assembly must declare themselves either 'unionist' or 'nationalist' - those who refuse will not have their votes counted in measuring the cross community support necessary for passing legislation. We are supposed to line up behind Catholic/Green or Protestant/Orange banners and seek the best deal for 'our community'.
The agreement will be carried by a large majority, north and south. It will be carried because there is no alternative offered by any of the political parties but a return to war. It will be carried because it offers to release the remaining political prisoners within two years of its signing. It will be carried because it is tied up with a host of economic promises which will offer some improvement for workers in the north and the border counties. It will be carried because the construction of the European superstate is more concerned with stable conditions for capital in the north then who exactly supervises the working class there.
Early radio reports indicated that previously unheard of numbers of people were voting in the north. In the south some media predict a turnout highest then the previous best of 75% for the 1937 constitution. These figures indicate the hope among ordinary people that the agreement can create peace.
It may create peace for a while but it cannot create a just society. For that to happen the Irish working must first unite and throw off all the parasites that spent two long years drafting this deal. Anarchists in Ireland, north and south, will be abstaining or spoiling our votes on this historic day. That is our response to the false choice of sectarian peace or sectarian war!
About the author:
I am an anarchist from and living in Ireland. I am a member of the Workers Solidarity Movement but this article is a personal view.