The effective ending of the Irish Peace Process by the bombs in London in February - all of which have been claimed by the IRA - can only be described as a tragedy. It is still too early to speculate on whether there will be a full resumption of the 'armed struggle' by the IRA or as to whether the Loyalist paramilitary organisations - the UDA and the UVF - will respond. What is clear, however, is that an important opportunity has been lost. The Workers Solidarity Movement unreservedly condemns this, and lays the blame for the failure of the 'Peace Process' at the door of the British Government.
When the cease-fire began eighteen months ago it was far from certain, even then, as to whether a long term peace settlement would emerge. In our Statement on the Cease-fire (7/9194), at that time, we warned that: It is far from clear that the British Government will fulfil its part of whatever deal has been made. At a minimum this would seem to be the requirement for an early release for all political prisoners, the amending of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act to allow for unity if a majority in the six counties votes for it and allowing of Sinn Fein into direct discussions. Britain has destroyed the possibility of peace before by refusing to honour commitments. ' This is exactly what has happened. Despite considerable goodwill, over a significant period of time, the British Government failed in any substantial way to move towards a situation in which it might meet some minimum concerns: there was no release of political prisoners - in fact the conditions for the prisoners held in the UK deteriorated during this time - nor was there any substantial reduction in the number of troops 'stationed' in the six counties. John Major was more concerned with the survival of his government then with maintaining the cease-fire.
As anarchists we welcomed the cease-fire but condemned the Peace Process in the sense that it has never at any time concerned itself with the reality of life that faces working class people in Ireland, both north and south of the border. Unemployment remains high in Ireland, as do the levels of poverty and inequality. This disastrous situation is one that has been created and 'managed' by two of the most important players within the Peace Process - the Irish and British Governments. They have never been offering anything else throughout the last eighteen months other than more of the same. These social conditions, and the fertile grounds they offer to the politics of sectarianism within Ireland, are the real problems that must be faced if a lasting peace is ever to be attained. Nationalism doesn't recognise this; it offers no solutions to capitalism. It seeks to bind us together on the basis of 'Irishness' or 'Englishness' - so that we may be properly and securely exploited by both Irish and English bosses. This has been the underlying basis of the Peace Process from its inception. The Workers Solidarity Movement rejects it.
The real peace process that is needed is the development of a new politics within the working class communities - a politics that will recognise that anti-imperialism need not be the same as nationalism. The elitist and militarist armed struggle should be abandoned and replaced with mass action.
We are working for a new Ireland, an anarchist society where production is to satisfy needs and where control rests in the hands of the working class. The colour of the flag that flies over our heads is not important, but the quality of our lives is. Compared to the possibility of real socialism and real freedom, republicanism is politically bankrupt.
Many on the left, both inside and outside Ireland, have looked at Sinn Fein over the years as a party offering a 'real alternative'. Some have even claimed that it is a socialist organisation - with anti-capitalist objectives. The WSM has disputed this. We, along with others, have pointed out that Sinn Fein has based its strategy on the politics of nationalism - the so called 'Pan-Nationalist Strategy'. This has sought an alliance between the main Irish nationalist forces - the Irish Government, the SDLP, the Catholic Hierarchy, Irish-Americans and Sinn Fein, of course. It has been an appalling strategy and it has led Sinn Fein into defending some of the strangest and most worthless of things. To give but one example, in 1994, when the Irish Government fell - following a prolonged crisis over an alleged cover-up in a case of child sex abuse - Sinn Fein, almost alone among political parties in Ireland, was calling for support for this Labour-Fianna Fail Government, at a time when it was totally discredited. Strange politics indeed.
The Irish Peace Process has been one of the most important events in politics in Ireland in recent times. It achieved a substantial peace over an eighteen month period - a reality that was welcomed by most people in Ireland, but particularly so within the six counties. But, throughout that time, it existed as a 'Peace Process' that was conducted in a traditionally elitist way. Deals were brokered, and agreements were made - some of which never even saw the light of day! People were manipulated to show their support - a particularly important example being the Bill Clinton visit - but they were never invited to involve themselves in any substantial way in bringing about a lasting peace. Sinn Fein as much as anyone else, were part of this elitist strategy. It showed itself to be a party well able to 'walk the corridors of power'. It met with business leaders and it was feted at $1000-a-plate dinners. But, it created no mass movement anywhere, at any time, to challenge those who are entrenched in power either in the six counties or in Southern Ireland. Instead, it worked with the powers-that-be and attempted to wheel and deal - it was as elitist in its approach as anyone else. It is this politics - if one can even call it that - that stands discredited by the ending of the cease-fire. Now that the IRA's objective has been reduced from Brits Out to All Party Talks (What is required is a meaningful process that is capable of leading to a negotiated settlement; APRN interview with IRA 15th February) they have even less to offer to the working class.
We as anarchists recognise that a new period is now beginning in Irish politics. For this reason, we ask all those interested in bringing change to consider the choices that now face us on this island: If there is to be a full resumption in the, 'armed struggle' by the IRA can we expect this to bring any real or substantial change to Ireland? On the other hand, can the idea of peace be left to the John Brutons, the Gerry Adams, the David Trimbles, the John Majors or the Bill Clintons of this world. The answer to both these questions in our opinion is NO. We must build a real social movement based on working class power on this island. We must build for freedom. This is the realistic way forward.