Why Socialists support a Border Poll.



By Michael McLaughlin

The ‘Socialist Party’ in their recent position paper (‘Why Socialists oppose a border poll, September 21st) make one good argument on the inherent instability and sectarian nature of the northern state.

For nearly a century left republicans have been putting forward the same argument using the same logic.

The sectarian state is at its core unsustainable and unstable, the product of an imperialist with a pencil and map, creating partitions causing perpetual global flashpoints from India to Pakistan, the Middle East to the Korean peninsula from Ireland to England.  

The uncomfortable truth for the Socialist Party is that ‘Northern Ireland’ is the product of imperialist occupation and until this core issue is addressed there can never be working class unity on this island.

At the beginning of their position paper the SP accept that ‘at the heart of sectarian division in Ireland are opposing national identities’, yet in contradictory fashion continue to base opposition to a border poll on the abhorrence of ‘two sectarian headcounts’ the prospect of more ‘sectarian polarisation’ and their contention that a border poll will ‘ferment sectarianism’ and cause a ‘sectarian civil war’.

Yes, unfortunately sectarianism may play a role in a future border poll, just as sectarianism plays a role in every facet of existence in the northern state which of course was built on sectarianism itself, no quantity of ultra-left utopianism can change the dynamics of the parameters which Irish Socialists inherited from the architects of partition.

For decades, the Socialist Party (formerly known as Militant Labour) have taken great pride in standing aloof from the Irish national question, yet in practice their aloofness has placed them firmly within the camp of ‘Unionism’ as understood in the British sense of that term.

The recent SP campaign to launch British Labour Party structures in the north is proof enough (if more was needed) that they have long since made their peace with the current constitutional set up and indeed are content to see the British occupation of Ireland continue indefinitely.

In regard to the prospect of a ‘sectarian civil war’ as (somewhat hysterically) cited within the SP objection to a border poll; the prospect of loyalist and republicans roaming the streets of the north indiscriminately killing civilians and each other, if anything demonstrates a detachment from reality which decades of retreat from the national question has promoted within party ranks.   

For two decades mainstream political loyalism, nationalists and left republicans have been meeting on a near monthly basis coordinating cross community projects, funding packages, building relationships, defusing tensions at interface flash points, working within trade unions and much, much more asides.

The sectarian civil war (so relied upon by Millitant Labour to justify their abstaining from national liberation struggle) simply put, will not occur. Mainstream loyalism in our opinion will accept a United Ireland, provided they have a stake in the process.

Should the Socialist Party consider coming out of self-imposed intellectual exile to actively engage with working class loyalism (as the IRSP have done) they would know this already.

A socialist society: the only answer’, is something that thankfully we can agree on at this point, if only briefly.

The prospect of ‘a new working class political party to transcend sectarianism’ in occupied Ireland is as likely and feasible as the building of a mass movement based upon a promise to give away free kittens, much like aspirations to ‘rebuild Northern Ireland’s Labour tradition’, the tradition which (nostalgia asides) tolerated the exclusion of Catholics from its workforce.

Recognising that the occupation of Ireland by the British and the European Union presents the biggest obstacles for building socialism here we must campaign first and foremost for an ending of partition and a break with the EU.

It will only by freeing the entire island from foreign interference in our affairs can there be reconciliation and compromise between the ‘two opposing national identities’.

Outside of these parameters the people of this island will never achieve nationalisation of its entire resources, the means of production or exchange, we shall never see workers control of production and distribution as long as partition remains.

A Socialist Party cabal, Unionist at heart and based around Belfast in particular have been spouting Anti-Republican nonsense for decades now and need to face up to some uncomfortable truths. Not only must they accept that they do not hold a monopoly on declaring what Socialist do or do not oppose, they may just might have to accept that they are the bad guys propping up an imperialist occupation with ultra-leftist jargon.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party takes this opportunity to challenge the Socialist Party to an open and public debate on their position on the Irish national question..  We can be contacted here [email protected]