[Marxism] IRSP Critiques Scottish Socialist Party

James Daly james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Mon Apr 5 03:31:22 MDT 2004

I received this IRSP reply to Paul Cockshott from Peter Urban.  He
pointed out to me off list that my choice of word "condemns" was too
strong. -- J. D.

Paul Cockshott is mistaken when he states that the IRSP criticised the
SSP for not embracing an Irish nationalist ideology. In fact, the IRSP
criticised the SSP for not embracing an anti-imperialist and
republican orientation towards the issue of Ireland's partition and
occupation by the British Army. And, there is every reason to believe
that a working class party should subscribe to both these
orientations, two of the most prominent being:

<There exists within Scotland a significant population of Irish
descent. There also exists within Northern Ireland a majority
population of Scottish descent.>

It is true that it would pose difficulties for the SSP to express such
positions because the <antagonisms between the Scottish and Irish
descendant populations in Northern Ireland have had a considerable
echo within Scotland in the form of sectarian antagonisms>. There is a
word for the tactical avoidance of such difficulties. That word is

The British state has long liked to characterise the conflict in the
six counties as one of two mutually opposed sectarian communities, but
this is inaccurate. The conflict chiefly exists between one section
community opposed to the British state's continued administration of a
part of the island of Ireland on one side and on the other side the
military and paramilitary forces of the British occupation, with the
support of another six county community motivated by sectarian hatred
of the other community within that territory. As anyone with actual
familiarity with the nationalist community of the six counties will
verify, it is exceedingly rare to find sentiments of hatred for
Protestantism or Protestants there. On the contrary, Irish republicans
within that community will point with some degree of pride to the fact
that Irish republicanism's founding figures hailed chiefly from the
ranks of the Protestant community and to the present day members of
that community participate in the various Irish republican and
republican socialist organisations active in the six counties. Ronnie
Bunting, a particularly notable example, was fully embraced as a
member of the leadership of the Irish Republican Socialist Party and
the Irish National Liberation Army, despite coming out of the
Protestant community of the six counties. Following his assassination,
his widow Suzanne (also a member of the IRSP), though she too comes
from the Protestant community, has been forced to reside within the
ranks of the nationalist community  for the safety of herself and her
children from the threat of violence by loyalist death squads, and she
continues to feel quite welcome there.

Were the conflict one between two mutually hostile, sectarian
communities, the SSP might have cause to stand aloof, but it is not.
Those who would seek to challenge the continuation of sectarianism in
the six counties need to take the matter up with those guilty of
sectarianism, not with those of us, who like the IRSP have stated that
we recognise the existence of a British working class within Ireland
with a distinct history and culture, which they are justified in
celebrating and who have in the past and continue to this day to
welcome with open arms members of the Protestant community who share
our perspective that the class struggle and national liberation
struggle are inseparable within the Irish context.

The fact that the SSP has come to the conclusion that the interests of
Scottish working people are best served by the creation of an
independent Scottish socialist republic is something which could
provide a powerful means of enabling a reassessment of where their own
interests lie by the (primarily) Scottish descended section of the six
counties working class, one that could help to facilitate their
disengagement from support for the continuation of British imperialism
in Ireland. Accordingly, the failure of the SSP to maintain a
consistent anti-imperialist line, by excluding discussion of the
legacy and contemporary reality of British imperialism in Ireland,
calls for a harsher condemnation than might otherwise be merited by an
omission of a specific nation's experience otherwise.

"Since (the SSP's) aim is to unite the working class in Scotland in
the struggle for socialism", the SSP would do well to ask itself how
it can succeed in orientating Scottish workers towards the creation of
an independent Scottish socialist republic, if it will not challenge
the thinking of a section of the Scottish working class who support
the imperialist occupation and exploitation of the Irish nation by
British imperialism and oppose the creation of an independent
socialist republic on the island of Ireland?

Regarding the "establishment of socialism on anything less than a
European scale", we would remind comrade Cockshott that the same
statement he is criticising opposed taking a position in favour of a
socialist federation of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England by
rather insisting that the smallest federation to which federation
might be advocated be that of Europe as a whole. Beyond this, one
might wonder why comrade Cockshott belongs to a party which advocates
the creation of an independent Scottish socialist republic, when his
own opinion is that such would be unviable?

Moreover, I suppose I need to clarify, if a single island, such as
Ireland, could not strive to build a socialist republic (despite Marx
and Engels noting that the though the struggle of the proletariat for
socialism is an international struggle, it is within the context of
the nation/state that the socialist revolution will be made), does
comrade Cockshott also feel that it was ill-advised for another island
nation, such as Cuba, to have attempted to do so?

In closing, however, what needs to be said is that the SSP are
probably correct to foresee the impact of their openly declaring for a
32-county Irish workers' republic as the loss of support from Scottish
workers who continue to identify with British imperialism in Ireland.
But what they must conclude from this, is that they must fully embrace
the task of bringing to an end any section of the Scottish working
class holding such views, because as long as such views significantly
survive within the class, the ability to unite Scottish workers in
support of the creation of a Scottish socialist republic will be a
hopeless pipe dream. In order for the working class of any nation to
be mobilised into struggle in support of its own class interests,
class consciousness must be raised and the shackles imposed by the
retention of capitalist ideology must be cast off. That is now, and
ever must be, the primary concern of any party seeking to mobilise the
working class towards the revolutionary transformation of society and
the sooner the SSP begins efforts to accomplish this, the better.

Adh mor,

Peter Urban IRSP International Department

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