user preferences

New Events

Ireland / Britain

no event posted in the last week

Ulster Loyalism, Flag Protests & the failure of zero sum politics

category ireland / britain | imperialism / war | feature author Wednesday January 09, 2013 03:14author by Sean Matthews - WSM Report this post to the editors

featured image

The continuing opposition by loyalists to the decision by Belfast city council to limit the flying of the Union Jack (bringing it into line with other council chambers) is a product of a deeply sectarian colonial settlement that smothers the importance of class.

The disturbances were pretty predicable in the context of summer riots over parading, intra-unionist rivalry and rising anger in traditional protestant working-class communities over shortage of jobs, housing and perceived gains made by the ‘nationalist’ community. The mass inflammatory leafleting by unionist parties in the days leading up to the council vote served to heighten fears in a constituency which is easily inflamed and mobilised in defence of the realm. This is not the cause of the disturbances; but the logical conclusion of capitalist decay and opportunist politicians battling for the hearts and minds of protestant working class communities - disenchanted and disillusioned with the peace dividends promised over 10 years ago.


Ulster Loyalism, Flag Protests & the failure of zero sum politics

The continuing opposition by loyalists to the decision by Belfast city council to limit the flying of the Union Jack (bringing it into line with other council chambers) is a product of a deeply sectarian colonial settlement that smothers the importance of class. The disturbances were pretty predicable in the context of summer riots over parading, intra-unionist rivalry and rising anger in traditional protestant working-class communities over shortage of jobs, housing and perceived gains made by the ‘nationalist’ community. The mass inflammatory leafleting by unionist parties in the days leading up to the council vote served to heighten fears in a constituency which is easily inflamed and mobilised in defence of the realm. This is not the cause of the disturbances; but the logical conclusion of capitalist decay and opportunist politicians battling for the hearts and minds of protestant working class communities - disenchanted and disillusioned with the peace dividends promised over 10 years ago.

Since December, roads continue to be sporadically blocked across the North for short periods of time along with pockets of rioting, while Alliance Party offices were attacked and in some cases burned and council chambers stormed - representing a challenge for the PSNI. The attempted storming of Belfast City Hall on the night of the vote was the fuse which lit the media fire as sections of the liberal press, business and political class lined up to condemn the violence as bad for business and the brand image of the new era. Incidentally, although reactionary by nature, these protests serve as a timely reminder that our ruling class only take notice when we actually move beyond the ritual art of ‘peaceful protest' and engage in civil disobedience and 'violence'.

Jason Walsh, a journalist based in Dublin, hit the nail on the head writing, "Press coverage has focused on outrage among the middle classes and the threat that the violence poses to traders and wider investment in the ‘New Northern Ireland’. Neither of these claims is inaccurate, but both are beside the point. The most revealing thing about the riots is that they show the vacuity of identity politics – on both sides of the sectarian divide". Walsh added, ‘’Smug, middle-class Unionists, republicans and liberals who can’t understand why there is all this kerfuffle over a flag would do well to ponder just who it was that transformed a territorial conflict into a cultural one and what the endgame was actually supposed to be".(1)

Flag Smokescreen?

Predictably various shades of republicans have cashed in on the flag riots in a triumphalist bemusing fashion, full of irony and humour - much of which has been documented on social media sites such as Facebook and Youtube. Rather than seeking to understand the underlying root causes of the disturbances, and their failure to make their politics relevant to the protestant working class beyond sound bites of ‘national liberation’ and references to the United Irishmen, their focus has been on the low level of policing and arrests in comparison to republican protests.

As anarchists we recognize the fact that imperialism has no progressive role to play in Ireland or anywhere else and has left a partisan legacy of collusion, torture and state sponsored terrorism. At the same time we are not surprised by the nature of state repression.

It is only natural that the ruling class and its armed wing will utilise all instruments of repression at its disposal against any perceived threat to ‘national security’ and its monopoly over the use of violence. In Ireland, republicanism has been traditionally cast as the main threat and ‘bogeyman’, while in other countries it has been anarchists and so forth.

However, anti-anarchist scaremongering is never far away from the media discourse even in the wee north. In a sensationalised headline in the Newtownabbey Times in December, following rioting in the staunchly loyalist estate of Mossley Hill and Rathcoole, the paper led off with ‘anarchists hell-bent on damage and destruction’.

According to The South and East Antrim Community Federation spokesman, Tommy Kirkham, a former independent loyalist councillor who previously represented the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group, described claims that known paramilitaries were behind the trouble as “convenient”, adding that young people intent on anti-social behaviour and “anarchists hell-bent on damage and destruction” were responsible for the disturbances.(2) While it would be a welcome development if there was a growing class struggle anarchist presence in Newtownabbey, these allegations are ridiculous and a complete distortion of reality as anarchism is opposed to all forms of nationalism and patriotism. We the working class have no business getting involved in the petty squabbles over flags between political parties who we have nothing in common with, as we need to get rid of the entire capitalist system.

While acknowledging the legacy of partisan policing, the reality is it is much easier to police, gather intelligence and make arrests at a peaceful sit down protest with the annual ritual of rioting which takes places in a small densely populated and confined community like Ardoyne than at illegal blockades and rolling demonstrations across the North. We also need to take into account that policing tactics have considerably evolved in the North over the last 30 years (in conjunction with policing ‘reform’) as the police tend to gather intelligence and make arrests (due to the higher threat level) after the event rather than using ‘snatch squads’ as in other parts of Europe. This is not an attempt to justify and legitimize state policing but to merely understand the PSNI facilitation of illegal protests and other dynamics at work which underpin some degree of policing in the 21st century.

Beneath the media spectacle and claims by Sinn Féin that this is a victory for the nationalist community is the ugly reality of a pacification zero-sum process which has strengthened and entrenched sectarianism, as symbols and emblems are used as cultural weapons to both hide internal class contradictions and instil fear. It is worth referring to Rudolf Rocker on the subject of nationalism and patriotism; “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."

For the Provisional movement, this limiting of the number of days the Union Jack flies outside Belfast City Hall is in reality a compromise rather than any real victory. This strategy is underpinned by a movement which is more concerned about playing the green card, ‘identity politics’ and the ‘parity of esteem’ rather than any notion of radical transformation and class unity. (Read- http://www.wsm.ie/c/review-politics-sinn-fein-kevin-bea...ntity) By embarking along this path, Sinn Féin have only served to alienate an important constituency which it needs for its long-term aim of an Ireland of equals and national reconciliation. In doing so republicanism and its most progressive currents is dealt a further blow being perceived as merely being a form of ‘catholic nationalism.’

The reactionary nature of Ulster Loyalism

For Ulster loyalism and unionism this is another PR disaster but one which a community that perceives itself to be under siege will have little empathy for. The riots bring to focus growing mistrust and alienation between ‘working class loyalism’ and ‘big-house’ unionism which has often been an ambiguous relationship (despite uniting when perceived to be under threat by the 'other’) that republicans ignore at their own peril. (3) It also provides a useful ‘cause’ for rival and divided loyalists to rally under as their credibility and image has been undermined in protestant working class areas by years of internal turmoil and conflict.

As expected, unionist politicians exploited the fears and tension of the flags debate, scapegoating the Alliance party and standing shoulder to shoulder with demonstrators on rallies and picket lines, while far-right elements facilitated by elements of loyalism are more than happy to fill the vacuum in loyalist heartlands. Former BNP members Paul Golding and Jim Dowson (with past offences for loyalist gun-running), who are now members of the British First party, were guest speakers at rallies organised by a group called the United Protestant Voice outside the City Hall. While links between loyalist paramilitaries and fascists is nothing new, this latest development sets a dangerous precedent for anti-fascists and progressive forces.

Anyone with any lingering notions in the ‘socialist’ Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) should take note as they seek to outgun and out-British each other in a manner and style similar to the English Defence League. Paradoxically they agreed a number of years ago to fly the flag on certain designated days. Despite the organisers promising that tens of thousands will take to the streets in villages and towns across the North nothing has appeared on this scale and they have been largely confined to 'unionist' working class areas. An indication of the steady decline from the days of the Drumcree standoff but this will provide little comfort for those living in interface areas.

Unlike Irish Republicanism, with all its faults, which at times developed significant ’left strands’’ only to be recuperated by green nationalism and the logic of ‘labour must wait’, Ulster Loyalism has once against revealed its true chauvinistic colours and reactionary sectarian agenda while conveniently ignoring the reality that any future Irish unity depends on its consent. It is a flexible counter-revolutionary reaction in all its forms which provides willing foot soldiers and henchmen for the ruling class and the far-right - a threat to any progressive movement that espouses real freedom and social equality.

However, despite claims by some shades of republicanism, variants of unionism are not simply dupes of British imperialism and at times exert their own agenda which can be in conflict with the crown on occasions. But it would be foolish to assume any progressive outcome of this and history tells us this. In this dangerous vacuum the wider left and labour movement needs to step up to the challenge and provide a principled alternative which provides a gateway to the politics of class and a better society from the ashes of sectarianism and imperialism.

It is worth dispelling some of the myths and fears over housing and deprivation that provide the wider backdrop to the continuing loyalist ‘grievances’’ which sections of the media help to legitimise without challenging and exposing.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) produced The Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2010, and it is viewed as ‘the official measure of spatial deprivation in Northern Ireland.’ It collates data relating to the status of individuals residing in every one of the 582 wards in Northern Ireland, using these figures to rank the status of each ward in relation to a range of domains including Income, Employment, Health Deprivation and Disability as well as Education, Skills and Training amongst others.

Whilst separate rankings exist for each domain, an accumulative overall multiple deprivation measure ranking is also provided. 14 of the 20 most deprived wards are predominantly catholic, including 8 of the most deprived 10 wards The Peace Monitoring Report 2012 made reference to the facts regarding greater catholic levels of deprivation, an enduring feature of northern Irish life, when it reported that “the proportion of people who are in low-income households is much higher among Catholics (26%) than among Protestants (16%).”

The figures outlined above collectively point to a conclusion that, across the range of poverty and deprivation indicators, it is not sustainable to suggest that working class protestant communities are losing out to their catholic neighbours, who continue to predominate the range of lists ranking the most deprived communities in the State. (4)

The anarchist alternative

As we enter 2013 it is worth remembering that the Union Jack will continue to fly over Belfast City Hall for 17 days of the year despite hundreds of protests and road blockades taking place since mid-December. The flag controversy and cries of 'no surrender' are the tip of the iceberg illustrating the continuing reality of a sectarian statelet propped up by Westminster which Northern Ireland Tourist Board cannot simply brand away.

In a wider context, the 'flag riots' help to gloss over class conflict providing a useful distraction for an unprecedented austerity programme of privatisation, cuts to public services, workplace/welfare rights which were won for by struggle over the years. The British state with their junior partners at Stormont are plunging working class communities into deeper levels of poverty, deprivation, rising cost of living and job insecurity - continuing the savage neo-liberal agenda of successive governments. Our response needs to be pro-active and aggressive because being right is not enough in a society built on protecting the wealth and privilege of the ruling class.

Quite clearly the future for any sustained working-class resistance to these measures across the sectarian divide is quite bleak, as long as we remain captive to the politics of fear and scaremongering that is promoted and fostered by those in power for their own selfish and strategic interests.

However there is hope, which does not lie in putting our faith in sectarian politicians and any so-called vanguard. The question we need to ask ourselves is not what flag we want to live under but what type of society do we want. By winning small battles in the workplace and community such as the Visteon workers' struggle in 2009 we can make small steps that build confidence, a culture of self-organisation and direct action that can steadily erode what may divide us. Yes, the task is a great one. But of course, we only want the world.

For those of us on the progressive left and wider labour movement it is important that we expose and exacerbate these contradictions from a revolutionary class perspective, in theory and practice, while providing a space to build an alternative movement to the rotten politics of zero-sum which at the end of the day only benefits our common enemy the ruling class.

Anarchists are "proud of being internationalists." We seek "the end of all oppression and of all exploitation," and so aim "to awaken a consciousness of the antagonism of interests between dominators and dominated, between exploiters and workers, and to develop the class struggle inside each country, and the solidarity among all workers across the frontiers, as against any prejudice and any passion of either race or nationality."- Errico Malatesta

Related Link: http://www.wsm.ie/ulster-loyalism-flag-protests-zero-su...cs%20
This page can be viewed in
English Italiano Deutsch
E

Ireland / Britain | Imperialism / War | en

Fri 25 Jul, 16:25

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 >>

imageInto the Shadows - Britain’s dirty war in Ireland Dec 28 by Sean Matthews 0 comments

The recent BBC documentary 'Panorama: Britain's Secret Terror Force' may have once again put a spotlight on the extent of British state-sponsored terrorism in the North and the activities of its various shadowy forces; but the level of orchestration, impunity, collusion and cover up is yet to be truly uncovered.

imageInternment, parading and the politics of class Aug 28 by Sean Matthews 0 comments

The eruption of conflict and intense rioting in Belfast over the last couple of months is a clear illustration that, no matter what lengths Stormont and the media circus go to to disguise the ugly reality of the ‘peace process’, the scars of the past and frequent eruption of sectarian conflict refuse to go away as political parties play the sectarian card to get one over on their rivals.

imageNuclear weapons and Scottish independence May 21 by Eric Chester 0 comments

The Scottish National Party has insisted that an independent Scotland would be free of nuclear weapons, says Eric Chester. This position reflects the fact that Scottish popular opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to the stationing of the Trident submarine system at Faslane. These subs, a leftover from the Cold War days, are nuclear powered and carry ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons. The SNP campaign to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons has provided one of the few salient arguments for independence. [Italiano]

imageWorking Class Unity, Not Sectarian Diversions Dec 24 by Workers Solidarity Movement 0 comments

Once again violence has flared across Belfast and other parts of the north as protests continue around the flags issue. The latest disturbances come as Stormont Assembly leaders, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness meet to discuss another wave of street protests, and their concerns about the damaging effect it is having on the economy leading up to the busiest shopping period of the calendar. But as each issued a separate statement calling for protests to come to an end, loyalist gangs flexed their muscles, blocking off streets and hijacking cars.

imagePat Finucane murder - British state sweeps the dirt under the carpet Dec 19 by Sean Matthews 0 comments

The publishing of the De Silva’s report into the murder of Pat Finucane may have exposed a bit of dirt from under the carpet of the British states secret war in Ireland but the scars and flames of the past have not gone away - they continue to shape policing in the 21st century. As Geraldine Finucane articulated, ’’The dirt has been swept under the carpet without any serious attempt to lift the lid on what really happened to Pat and so many others.’’

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 >>
© 2005-2014 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 ]