[Marxism] RE: The Misuse of the Term "Sectarianism" in the Irish Struggle

Calvin Broadbent calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 15 10:53:37 MST 2004

I read an article by SWP member Eamonn McCann lately, where he was referring 
to the INLA as 'guttersnipes with guns' (a curious Victorian-sounding sort 
of term- a stylistic barb designed to make its author sound eminently 
respectable no doubt). I have also noticed that the IRSP has been totally 
excluded from the SEA coalition or athe broader Convention of the Left which 
recently took place in Derry. Indeed, this is for precisely the reasons that 
James lists- total opposition to any mentioning of the 'national question' 
(and an apparently concomittant labelling of anyone who raises that issue as 
'sectarian'). I certainly appreciate James' disavowal of using the term to 
describe the nature or origins of the Northern Ireland conflict- tho it 
would be hard not to find quite a few sectarians running around 'the 
province' (sic).
I think Eamonn McCann is acting in a most elitist, overly-moralistic, 
patronising and disrespectful way to the republican socialist movement. I 
don't see how (and perhaps I am wrong) he can justify constantly moralising 
over and continually attacking the INLA, portraying them as no better than 
loyalist death squads. He seems not to have taken into account the concrete 
relations on the ground in North Belfast (in particular, with regard to 
policiing, the nature of the police force in N.I. and the use of informers, 
etc.) or the actual wishes of the people there (which is not to say the INLA 
actions taken against anti-social types were wholly justified- I don't 
really know).
The problem I have with the republican socialist perspective, in terms of 
actual political practice, is how on earth it is possible to build socialist 
class-consciousness in working class protestant areas on a Republican 
(socialist) platform. Might not the SEA open up some sort of space for 
dialogue and cross-class (instead of the usual old intra-class) solidarity? 
As I say, I don't think the latter cause is well served by demonising and 
characaturing republican socialists; I think the SEA has been totally wrong 
to do this, in its attempt to build support amongst non-marxist 
organisations, in particular.
Anyway, from what I've seen, the SEA, like the N.I. Paisleyite government, 
seem totally adamant on excluding any and all republican perspectives. I 
don't think this will be conducive either to peace (which is what we want) 
or progress.

>Message: 6
>Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 13:39:54 -0000
>From: "James Daly" <james.irldaly at ntlworld.com>
>Subject: [Marxism] The Misuse of the Term "Sectarianism" in the Irish
>	Struggle
>To: <Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
>Message-ID: <001901c40a93$038da020$dfe76a51 at D2RH1H0J>
>Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="Windows-1252"
>List members may be interested in (an amended version of) my reply to
>Michael Keaney, who invited me to explain on A-list why I eschew the
>use of the word "sectarian" in the context of the six northeastern
>Irish counties.

>A Worker's Party poster  showed a fist throttling a snake with the
>slogan "Smash Sectarianism!". That is of course typically and totally
>abstract and meaningless, but what is implied (apart from "Smash the
>*Provisionals*") is "Don't Raise the Divisive 'National' Question:
>Unite Catholic and Protestant Workers on Bread-and-butter Issues".
>The WP is the unpopular and insignificant rump of the Stalinist
>*"Official"* Republicans (!) -- but Trotskyists like Eamon McCann have
>always said and still do say the same.  The WP's scientific
>know-it-all leaders, whose actual support and votes (no longer
>existent) came only from the Catholic community, define imperialism as
>the concern of science, an impersonal economic process, export of
>capital; any concern with political imperialism is seen as (religious)
>"sectarianism", and "green Hibernian nationalism" -- if not fascism.
>In search of clarity,

Find a cheaper internet access deal - choose one to suit you. 

More information about the Marxism mailing list