Gerry Adams
a man you can do business with

The latest meeting between the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Sinn Féin leadership took place on March 25th. The CBI represents Britain's industrial parasites. Following the meeting, Bill Tosh of the Northern Ireland section of the CBI had this to say: "It (Sinn Féin) had a constructive role to play in economic regeneration." [1]

Sinn Féin's Mitchell McLoughlin described the meeting as a "useful and constructive exchange" and added "Our discussions centred on a number of issues including the growth challenge, inward investment and unemployment" [2]

Strange bedfellows for a party of, and which claims to represent, the working class. Does this mean that Sinn Féin now sees it's function as the attraction of multinational investment? Does the radical rhetoric of 'An Phoblacht/Republican News' mask a conservative reality? It would seem that so far this has nothing to do with the political expediency of the peace strategy. Whatever the Sinn Féin leadership and the CBI are constructing together it's not part of a path which leads to a united socialist Ireland.

United Ireland ?

The shaky alliances formed between Sinn Féin and American imperialists, green Tories and religious bigots under the banner of pan-nationalist consensus are justified by left-wing republicans on the basis that only after the birth of a united Ireland could working class solidarity across the sectarian divide develop. Why?

It is not as if the Protestant section of the working class constitute a privileged labour aristocracy sitting on top of the Catholics - material differences between Catholic and Protestant workers are marginal. Workers from both sides of the bosses' divide have come together around issues of common concern on countless occasions in the past; the 1919 Belfast engineering strike, the 1932 Belfast Unemployed riots, the 1980 half day general strike against cutbacks and unemployment, etc. Why should this not happen again in the future?

Furthermore there is no reason to suppose that Protestant workers subjected to a Catholic capitalist government from Dublin will have a sudden 'road to Damascus' style conversion to socialism. It is possible that Irish unity (on this basis) would only serve to entrench loyalism or even to launch a bloody civil war.

But, of course, a united Ireland is not even on the agenda, with every single Dáil party in support of the unionist veto. It seems that the pan nationalist consensus includes many who aren't even Nationalists. Truth is, the Southern establishment wets itself at the thought of having to govern "the six counties".

What will be on the agenda if Adams and Co. finally make it to the talks table is a few meaningless reforms - Irish street names, a cross border body in charge of tourism and another in charge of investment attraction; and, maybe, a devolved government with a power sharing agreement: Sunningdale MK II.

If peace is delivered Unionist and Nationalist politicians will be in competition over where the American or Japanese corporation builds its factory. If anything more substantial then a few crumbs off the master's table and the exploitation we're supposed to be thankful for are to be won, an anti-sectarian working class movement which unites Protestant and Catholics must be created. This is a task measured in years rather than months but then building with stone always took longer than building with sand.

Job Seekers Allowance

The strength of Unionism is testament to nothing more then the lack of a political challenge to it. If mainstream Sinn Féin had any commitment to the working class then it would not address itself exclusively to the concerns of the "nationalist community". For instance, one issue of common concern to both Protestant and Catholic workers is the Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

The JSA is the British government's new benefit scheme, in effect since October 1996, under which they plan to cut £410 million from their social security bill within two years. Under the JSA, the unemployed must prove that they are looking for work or accept a place on a training scheme, or they will lose their benefit. Benefit is also now means tested after 6 months rather than a year. The JSA is a general tightening of the screws aimed at pushing the unemployed into low wage employment and thereby reducing workers' wages.

Sinn Féin's contribution to the campaign against it has been a two page article in AP/RN and complaints to the Derry Social Security Agency over the wording of one of their JSA information leaflets! Given that the JSA aims at cheap labour and given that sectarian divisions weaken the working class and result in lower wages, and finally given that the Sinn Féin leadership's new pals include American bosses and the CBI whose only interest in Northern Ireland is cheap labour, should we be surprised when Sinn Féin do nothing about it?

Terry Dunne

1 The Guardian, March 26th. Page 9

2 Ibid.