user preferences

New Events

Ireland / Britain

no event posted in the last week

Thoughts on Anarchism & the Irish 'National Question'

category ireland / britain | imperialism / war | opinion / analysis author Friday November 11, 2011 21:06author by Sean Matthews Report this post to the editors

Anyone who has been active on the left and broader labour movement will have faced the 'million dollar question from republicans on the 'national question'. The question of opposition or indifference to the partition of the island is often thrown by republicans like a dagger in the direction of the existing left. In responnse many become either wedded to the romantic idea of the flag removing all our sins or face the jibe of being a ‘gas and water socialist’ or at worst a sop to unionism. It’s the type of choice you get at Stormont every four years where you get to choose between Coca Cola and Pepsi. Equally it’s the type of approach of the PSNI press statement that presents every ’dissenter’ from the status-quo as being wedded to physical force republicanism. But of course its much more complicated than this….

Anyone who has been active on the left and broader labour movement will have faced the 'million dollar question from republicans on the 'national question'. The question of opposition or indifference to the partition of the island is often thrown by republicans like a dagger in the direction of the existing left. In responnse many become either wedded to the romantic idea of the flag removing all our sins or face the jibe of being a ‘gas and water socialist’ or at worst a sop to unionism. It’s the type of choice you get at Stormont every four years where you get to choose between Coca Cola and Pepsi. Equally it’s the type of approach of the PSNI press statement that presents every ’dissenter’ from the status-quo as being wedded to physical force republicanism. But of course its much more complicated than this….

To any of our readers who are unaware of the term ‘gas and water socialism’ it was first coined by James Connolly during his heated feud with his arch rival and labourite William Walker in the early 20th century. Connolly used it in reference to those on the left who simply focused on economic issues at the expense of the national question. In not wanting to simplify that debate which took place over many years I'll just say that it took into account the realm of strategy. The outcome is still fiercely contested and continues to haunt the left to this day.

This was evident during opposition to the Royal Irish Regiment military parade in Belfast city centre in 2009. Opposition to it was left to republicans while the wider left with the exception of the WSM (which mounted a small token protest) opposed any protest as sectarian, in fear perhaps of alienating significant levels of the protestant working class which supported ‘their troops’. The WSM felt it was important to oppose the parade on the basis of our opposition to militarism and sectarianism.

Gas and water socialists became a trademark description later developed by Seamus Costello, one of the co-founders of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, during their divorce from the Official IRA. The ’stickies’ emphasised a classic reformist staged approach emphasising the need to unite catholic, protestant and dissenter along bread and butter issues before the national question could be solved. Whatever about their reformism and Stalinist politics, their analysis that the armed struggle would entrench sectarianism and drive protestants further away from the republican project was correct. But the term Gas and water socialists has become a badge of dishonour for those republicans who want to close down debate and trade insults at anyone who does not believe in the holy scriptures laid down by Connolly and Pearse all those years ago.

There is a small left republican tradition which basically argues that the struggle for national liberation and social liberation are two sides of the same coin. But whatever about that theorietical position in terms of sectarian dynamic and composition how this type of politics manifests on the streets of the Northis quite different than it appears on paper. With the possible exception of the Spanish Civil and war of Independence from 1918-21 where class conflict and the wider labour movement played an instrumental role, labour has played second fiddle to capitalism and references to socialism has often merely been lip service to a populist social radicalism. The transition of the Provisional republican movement to an electoral machine of constitutional nationalism and eventually a pillar of the establishment, plus its support for range of anti-working class measures such as water charges and privatisation is the logical outcome in the problematic nature of ‘everything for everybody’ Irish republicanism. It is within these historical limitations that anarchism grew from.

Irish anarchism is a relatively new movement, internationalist in scope and therefore not wedded to the religious dogmas that underpin the land of ‘saints and scholars’ but this does not mean we have nothing to say. Refusing to dance to the national question is quite different to ignoring state repression and imperialism.

There are currently two anarchist organisations in Ireland, Organise! And the Workers Solidarity Movement. Anarchists believe that nationalism is no answer to capitalism and imperialism as it ignores class divisions and seeks to unite workers and bosses which have no common interests. However, the WSM recognises ‘the relationship of the British state with Ireland is imperialist because the decisions it has imposed have always been autonomous of the wishes of the people of the island and any section of the people. That is British state policy follows the perceived needs of the British state and not the wishes of the 'Irish people', those who are 'loyal to the crown' or even the local ruling class.’(Position paper on the Partition of Ireland)

The last 30 years of conflict in the North points to the fact that nationalism of a unionist and green flavour offers nothing to the working class except more of the same, sectarian division and conflict in the interests of self-serving politicians and paramilitary godfathers. As anarchist syndicalist Rudolf Rocker summed up when discussing nationalism: "we must not forget that we are always dealing with the organised selfishness of privileged minorities which hide behind the skirts of the nation, hide behind the credulity of the masses. We speak of national interests, national capital, national spheres of interest, national honour, and national spirit; but we forget that behind all this there are hidden merely the selfish interests of power-loving politicians and money-loving business men for whom the nation is a convenient cover to hide their personal greed and their schemes for political power from the eyes of the world." [Rocker, pp. 252-3]

While anarchists are internationalists opposed to all forms of exploitation and oppression, we have also been consistent in our opposition to imperialism and colonialism from Cuba, to Algeria and Ireland. Our response to national liberation struggles (NLS) has been mixed from complete opposition to participating in such movements as ’class collaboration and reformist’ to the majorative approach that NLS depending on the context and the dynamics of the struggle offer a useful vehicle to radicalise resistance into a social revolution against all bosses, native or foreign.

The WSM argues in their position paper on ’Capitalist Globalisation and Imperialism’ that ‘In relation to each situation we will seek to discover and promote the anti-authoritarian strands within that struggle, particularly those that seek to organise on a class rather then national, religious or ethnic basis and win these to anarchism. We will argue that the interests of the ordinary workers of the imperialist countries lies with the promotion of such strands and not with their own rulers. We will argue for and where possible build working class resistance to the imperialist strategies of their own ruling class and direct links with those in struggle.’

With the exception of the early civil rights movement and the mass mobilisation on the streets during the hunger-strikes this is a concept that has been unable to manifest itself in the North. This is due to the sectarian climate and militarisation of the struggle by the vanguard dictates of the IRA which minimised popular involvement and mass mobilisation. Nevertheless, despite there limited size and influence anarchists were involved from the early struggles against discrimination and state repression, to presently supporting the Maghaberry republican prisoners on a humanitarian basis.

Anarchists cannot speak for the rest of the left which mostly belong to the version of ‘state socialism’ that are still intent on imposing a repackaged version of the same failed politics of the past- Leninism and its cousin Stalinism. However for the most part we have never shied away from addressing the the national question despite the fact that we see little change under the Tricolour or the Union Jack. For us, our politics of class struggle and workers emancipation is not about changing the colour of the flag but about building a new type of society. One where the wealth produced by our labour is expropriated from the small minority to provide for the many, where each of us can develop our full potential and interests in a free and equal classless ans stateless society.

This is not a wish list but is something anarchists fight for everyday, from community struggles around housing and prisoner rights to workplace activity, to spreading anarchist ideas and methods of struggle. While political parties involve themselves in campaigns to build their profile for elections, we have no interest in opportunism or offering a blank cheque in the parliamentary circus. Our job is to radicalise working class struggles, ensure they are run from below upwards to win reforms rather than reformism by fostering a culture of direct action and solidarity. As Organise note in their pamphlet What is Direct Action?:

‘Direct action teaches us to control our own struggles while building a culture of resistance that links with other workers in struggles. Solidarity and mutual aid find real expression and as our confidence grows so too does our ability to change the world. It is needed now more than ever, and we also need a campaign which opposes all cuts and fees, which is controlled by its members & participants, which is ready & willing to promote direct action and is willing to fight.’

The question should not be about putting a new ruling class in power with all trappings of privilege and injustice, but about building a conscious mass movement that will wipe away wage slavery and capitalism. As the depression continues to unravel unleashing a vicious class war against the working class locally and globally, the national question becomes increasingly abstract from our everyday lives while the need to fight back on bread and butter issues and build a new world within the shell of the old becomes a necessity.

Related Link: http://www.wsm.ie
This page can be viewed in
English Italiano Deutsch
Employees at the Zarfati Garage in Mishur Adumim vote to strike on July 22, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Ma’an workers union)

Front page

Inside the Zimbabwean Uprising

La experiencia de Mujeres Libres: 80 años del surgimiento del feminismo anarquista organizado

Con Lucha Y Organización Fortalecemos La Resistencia

Algunas reflexiones en torno al poder y la institucionalidad a 80 años de la Revolución Española

80 aniversari de la insurrecció obrera i popular i de la revolució social

80 anni fa la rivoluzione comunista libertaria in Spagna

De los comités de defensa al análisis de los órganos de poder

The Coup in Turkey: Tyranny against tyranny does not make freedom

Greve, Piquete, Marcha e Ocupação! Educadores e Estudantes unidos pela Educação!

Making sense of the Brexit tide of reaction and the reality of the racist vote

[Colombia] Ante el acuerdo de cese al fuego bilateral y definitivo entre el gobierno colombiano y las FARC-EP

Coyuntura Política en Venezuela: Crisis, Tendencias y el Desafío de la Independencia de Clase

Orlando means fightback

Palestinian workers in Israel: between scylla and charybdis

A Socialist On City Council: A Look At The Career Of Kshama Sawant

Élargir la lutte et généraliser la grève pour gagner

Carta de Fundação OAZ

[Colombia] Documento de Formación: Análisis de Coyuntura 2015-2016

La NATO contro i Curdi: la Battaglia per A'zaz

Feminists in Ireland Say No To Pegida

Posició de Embat sobre el nou govern de la Generalitat i el procés constituent

A 120 años de su natalicio: la pluma rebelde de Manuel Rojas

Anarkismo.net wishes you all a 2016 of solidarity and resistance

Migranti e profughi

Ireland / Britain | Imperialism / War | en

Thu 25 Aug, 00:14

browse text browse image

Image:The Old Ruler, New Rulers Class War Continues.. banner being prepared the evening before the protest imageBritish Queen's Dublin Castle banquet protested by a few hundred as Garda harass activists 22:16 Fri 20 May by Andrew 0 comments

About 250 people took part in the éirígí organised march on the banquet for the British Queen staged in Dublin castle Wedensday night. WSM members joined the demonstration but Garda had intercepted the person transporting our flags and banner to the protest leaving us somewhat invisible. This was part of a pattern of suppression of visible protest that occurred throughout the visit of the British Queen despite Garda claims that they would "facilitate protest" in advance of the visit [Italiano]

article00c143e5900000578109_468x313.jpg imageWhy we don't welcome the visit of the British Queen 06:40 Fri 20 May by WSM 0 comments

The British Queen - An enemy of the working class, an enemy of the poor, head of the imperialist British state, symbol of privilege, inequality and oppression.

blairprotest.jpg imageHundreds protest war-criminal Tony Blair in Dublin 21:09 Mon 06 Sep by Julian & Andrew 0 comments

At 9:30 Saturday morning, people gathered on O'Connell Street In Dublin to protest against the presence of war criminal and ex British prime-minister Tony Blair. Blair arrived at Easons at around 10am for the book-signing of his recent autobiography, escorted and protected by a sizable gardai presence. Despite the heavy rain, hundreds of protestors took part.  At least one protester managed to get past the heavy security to try to make a citizens arrest of Blair for his war crimes. It is reported that Blair is now considering cancelling his London appearance.

e988dfebd315da.jpg imagePublic Meetings in Ireland - Haiti: Catastrophe and the legacy of imperialism 22:45 Wed 03 Feb by WSM PRO 0 comments

Public meetings to be held in Cork and Dublin this week will pose the question of how the legacy of U.S. imperialism has impacted on the catastrophe visited on Haiti in the recent earthquake.

notolisbon.jpg imageLisbon treaty and Democracy - Do We Really Have a Say? 18:21 Fri 04 Sep by James O'Brien 0 comments

It’s the time of year where we plebs get a chance to rectify our impertinence in rejecting the Lisbon Treaty. In itself, rerunning the referendum is hardly an affront to democracy. After all, people are simply being asked to confirm the decision made.

berlusconi.jpg imageNo to Lisbon - A Treaty for the Rich 17:41 Thu 03 Sep by WSM 2 comments

The WSM is calling for a No vote in the 2nd Lisbon referendum on the grounds that people in Ireland can do a lot better than a choice between the clowns in the Dáil or those in Brussels. We oppose the EU's policies of privatisation, militarisation and attacks on workers' conditions but don’t insult people’s intelligence by saying that our current society in Ireland with its severe recession, diabolical public services and corruption is anything better. The major lack of democracy in our lives is not between us and the EU but between the Irish government and us.

May 17th, Limerick. early days in the campaign imageWSM Vote No campaign on Munster's streets - 17th May to 7th June 18:45 Thu 12 Jun by Ray 1 comments

A photo-review of WSM activities in Munster cities during the Lisbon referendum campaign. The Cork WSM branch, with the help of other comrades from Limerick and Dublin, did 4 info stalls on the streets of Cork, Limerick and Waterford as part of our campaign activities. Each was blessed with good sunny weather and a public mood in some sympathy with our anarchist vote No message. We gave out thousands of leaflets, and made new contacts across the cities. It was also good to see what other campaigns were active on the ground across Munster.

250_0___20_0_0_0_0_0_20050723191234.jpg imageSinn Fein Vote To Back PSNI 20:16 Mon 29 Jan by W. 3 comments

On Sunday Sinn Fein voted to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland at their extraordinary ard fheis which was attended by approximately 1,000 delegates.

Red & black flags of the anti-war anarchist block imageAnarchist Block on anti-war demonstration in Britain 17:55 Fri 29 Sep by Northern Anarchist 0 comments

The anti-war demonstration in Manchester on September 23rd (taking place the weekend before the Labour party annual conference) was supported by a colourful and vocal 'anarchist block' with attendance from anarchist organisations and non-aligned anarchists from Manchester and across the country, at least 40 bodies in all. The block was called by the Anarchist Federation and Solidarity Federation, two of the class struggle anarchist organisations in Britain with international links (read the jointly produced leaflet 'Why We Haven't Stopped the War Yet'). The day started with an IWW picket of Starbucks in support of union workers in the USA, followed by the anti-war march.

textNot Guilty - Shannon Five war resisters acquitted on all charges 22:25 Thu 17 Aug by Sovietpop and others 0 comments

Just before the start of the war against Iraq in 2003 five Plougshares activists gained access to Shannon airport where US war planes were being refuelled. Using hammers and axes they damaged one of these planes. Loyal to George Bush the Irish government has been dragging these activists through the courts but late last month a jury ruled that the actions of the defendents were justifiable as they acted to preserve life in Iraq. These are reports and statements from the WSM on the trial.

more >>

text10 point guide for post Brexit resistance as racist right wins EU referendum Jun 26 by Andrew 2 comments

An anarchist analysis of the Brexit vote

textObservations on Brexit and Lexit in the UK EU membership referendum Jun 22 by Various 0 comments

Observations from anarchist in Ireland on the UK EU membership referendum. The referendum will take place in north east Ireland which is under British rule. Citizens of southern Ireland who live in the UK will also have a vote but because the UK is physically the gateway to Europe from Ireland all of the island will be effected by the result.

imageStormont Votes Against Ballymurphy massacre inquiry Nov 12 by Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird 0 comments

Today the story broke that an ex-soldier has been arrested in connection with Bloody Sunday in which 13 people (and another who later died from his injuries) were murdered at a protest against internment in Derry's Bogside on 30 January 1972.

textSolidarity with Jamaica to UK's “keep your prison, give us schools, give us infrastructure, not pris... Oct 17 by Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird 0 comments

In case you missed it, David Cameron does not believe that reparations or even apologies are the right approach when dealing with the legacy of the enslavement of the Jamaican people at the hands of British Imperialism.

imageA Brief Introduction to Modern Day Irish Republicanism. What Can Anarchists learn from Modern Day Re... Sep 29 by Joe Conlon 0 comments

Anarchists can learn a great deal from Republicanism, to make inroads to establishing our ideal in working class communities. We need to create a visible presence in all communities, we need to be seen to be believed. People are looking for answers and are falsely thinking it lies in Republicanism. Within Republicanism lies much of the same which lies in bourgeois society – that is hierarchy and privilege for the few. But I believe the secret to the salvation of society also lies within Republicanism. That is the revolutionary tradition of revolting against oppression, tyranny, and exploitation; which the working class, the oppressed and angry, gravitate towards. And likewise I think Republicans can learn a great deal from anarchism. Maybe from working together on community or workplace struggles we could both learn from each other.

more >>

imageWhy we don't welcome the visit of the British Queen May 20 Cork Branch 0 comments

The British Queen - An enemy of the working class, an enemy of the poor, head of the imperialist British state, symbol of privilege, inequality and oppression.

imagePublic Meetings in Ireland - Haiti: Catastrophe and the legacy of imperialism Feb 03 0 comments

Public meetings to be held in Cork and Dublin this week will pose the question of how the legacy of U.S. imperialism has impacted on the catastrophe visited on Haiti in the recent earthquake.

imageWSM Supports Direct Action Against RAYTHEON in Derry Aug 16 WSM 0 comments

The Workers Solidarity Movement supports the actions of the anti-war protestors who occupied and sabotaged American arms manufacturer Raytheon's Derry offices

imageAnti-War Action-Baldonnel Sunday,April 16th Apr 04 4 comments

On April 16th the Irish state is conducting a military style parade of its forces through Dublin city centre in commemoration of the 1916 insurrection and those who lost their lives in it.
Approximately 2,500 personnel representing all branches of the Defence Forces together
with representatives of ex-service personnel and veterans of UN service will be included
as will a large number of the Garda Síochána,
This celebration of resistance to British Imperialism is being funded by the Irish taxpayers, t
he same people who are paying for the murderous forces of the U.S military to use Baldonnel
and Shannon airports for the purposes of war.and imperialist domination in the Middle East.

textSouthern African anarchists condemn apparent Terrorist blasts in London Jul 08 ZACF 0 comments

We, the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) of southern Africa, stand foursquare with the working and poor people who were apparently the targets of the craven July 7th bus and train bombings in London.

more >>
© 2005-2016 Anarkismo.net. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by Anarkismo.net. [ Disclaimer | Privacy ]