[Marxism] My Protestant brothers and sisters

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sun Jan 13 16:03:14 MST 2013

It is difficult to feel sympathy for the rioters in Belfast.  And I
don't.  Indeed I have to struggle with a veritable tsunami of
schadenfreude as the Protestant protestors struggle to "protect their
culture".  At the heart of the protests was the extraordinary decision
to restrict the flying of the Union Jack over the City Hall to
something like 17 days a year.

Out on cue came the de-inustrialised proletariat of East Belfast,
foaming about the need to protect their "British way of life".  That
way of life had supported their forefathers at the shipyards which at
their peak employed 10, 000 workers, 9,500 of whom were Protestants.
Now no more. Deprivation is now their lot.  But they refuse to
acknowledge it and to draw the conclusion that to improve their
material existence they need to move into opposition to that "British
way of life".

I have always argued that the Irish are the most abstract people I
have ever met. We seem to be able to live and die for symbols.  What
does it matter how often the Union Jack flies over the City Hall?  But
to us it does and deeply so.

What though of the other dream of we Irish Leftists?  What of the
longed for unity between Catholic and Protestant workers against
capitalism?  There have been moments of course, but moments they have
remained. Always the state has been able to get the Protestant working
class back on side through a careful administration of privileges in
terms of jobs and housing.

Have the new power sharing arrangements meant an end to such
privileges?  Perhaps. Certainly they have meant that the Catholic
population has become more confident and assertive and that is what is
sticking in the throats of the protestors.
But they have also enshrined confessional politics at the heart of the
state's administration.  As such they reinforce sectarianism.

So Northern Irish politics exist in a kind fly in amber type stasis.
Tensions erupt, but the progress of the Irish revolution remains
halted. Not until both sides realise that their are on the same side
in the class struggle will we get out of this impasse.  Part of that
will involve a change among the Protestant working class.  They will
have to evolve a class conscious leadership.  The old bigotted Orange
leadership served the Protestant proletariat well in the past, but no

As for the Catholics they too will have to move in a class conscious
direction. In some ways that may be a longer journey than what their
Protestant brothers and sisters have to take. But that might be the
topic for another post.



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