Sunday, 6 February 2011

Forward to a Sixth International!

On a more sober note than my cheekily ironic headline, I'll just comment that this is a welcome step. A group of revolutionary socialists in Belfast has decided to join Counterfire. Via Counterfire:

'We are a group of activists based in Belfast who are from the International Socialist tradition.

Over the last 5 years we have been at the forefront of a number of campaigns: in support of the occupation at Visteon; against racist attacks on migrants, protesting the BNP appearing on the BBC, and recently protesting against Vodafone and other tax avoiders.

We have also been active in many other campaigns including preventing the implementation of Water Charges in Northern Ireland, opposing the Israeli onslaught on Palestine and campaigning for the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland through the Alliance for Choice.

Last year our group established the "No to Public Assemblies Bill" campaign which significantly defeated the Northern Irish Assembly's attempt to curtail the right to protest.

A number of our members are active in their Trades Unions. They also sit and are influential on the local Trades Council.

Our members are key activists in the Anti Racism Network which has organised protests against anti Muslim and anti Roma racism. Through our associations with Love Music Hate Racism NI we have celebrated the new diversity of Northern Ireland and raised awareness of both racism and sectarianism, which divides and weakens the working class here.

Through Love Music Hate Racism NI we have drawn in many of Northern Ireland's most popular bands and DJ's, while Di-Verse (Poets against Racism), organises an International event, "Celebrate Diversity, through poetry, music and the spoken word" which is held in over 60 cities around the world in April each year.

We have been looking at making links with other organisations internationally and have been impressed with the Counterfire group, particularly the major political initiatives such as the setting up of the Coalition of Resistance and the serious intervention in the student protests and occupations in London.

We have also been impressed with both the general and the theoretical material available on the Counterfire website.

We wish to join Counterfire to be part of the international campaign to fight austerity and, in the process, further the Marxist tradition and the struggle for Socialism.'



  1. There has been a long and bad tradition of British socialist groups having the same relationship to their sister organisations in Ireland that branches of Boots and Marks and Spencers have to the London head office. Exactly the same promotional campaigns are launched in Galway, Derry, Birmingham and Sheffield simultaneously and all the big strategic decisions are made on "the mainland".

    There has always been more than a hint of imperial power relations in this dynamic. It has also been very unhelpful to the development of revolutionary Marxism in Ireland. The weight of the British Labour Movement on the British far left has made some of its larger organisations very ambivalent on the question of British imperialism. This affects the Irish groups which seek shelter in the comforting idea of a working class unity which ducks the questions both of breaking the Protestant working class from unionism and addressing the neo-colonial nature of the southern state.

    What struck me about the Belfast comrades' letter is that it could have been written in an English town. The Stormont assembly is a big victory for British imperialism and they say nothing either about it, the inevitable rise in sectarianism as unemployment rises or even what their view is on partition.

    One would think that clarity on these issues is of major importance for a socialist group wishing to be part of an international current. Unless the assumption is that Belfast is as British as Finchley.

  2. Liam, you may or may not be right about your historical points, but they have very little relevance to this letter. It is an independent group based in Belfast that has - quite reasonably - decided to establish a close relationship with a UK counterpart. They aren't liquidating themselves into a UK organisation, subordinating themslves to a London leadership, or sacrificing their uncompromising commitment to a united Ireland (a commitment which should be taken as obvious - it doesn't need to be spelled out in a statement of this kind).

  3. Actually I think it does. Any union bureaucrat in the north of Ireland can sound off about the Con Dem cuts and they often do.

    A newly emerging Marxist current has to have something to say about imperialism, the pseudo parliament at Stormont, the defeat of Republicanism and the nature of the northern state. These are fundamental questions for the working class in Ireland and applying a British template does not work there.