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All I tell you – ALL!  Socialists and sectarianism

John McAnulty

28th June 2002

A depressing element of the current round of sectarian conflicts in the North is the willingness of the political parties and trade union organisations to go along with the sectarian logic of the situation.  This is true even of the socialist organisations whom, one would expect, would be the most fervent opponents of sectarianism.

A good example is a recent statement by the youth wing of the Socialist Party.  They have a well-worn formula, which they produce on these occasions, of opposing ALL sectarianism.

This sounds fine until we ask what it means in the context of an organised campaign of sectarian intimidation by the UDA and UVF.   A moment’s reflection will tell us that the general “ALL” formula from the Socialist Party is a way of avoiding a specific opposition to the organisers of sectarianism in front of their nose.  Worse than this, if they refuse to identify a source of sectarianism the socialists are in reality blaming the working class as a whole for sectarianism!

To be fair to the Socialist Party, they immediately excuse the working class by saying that economic deprivation drives workers to attack other workers of a different religion.  They even, in their most recent statement, call for greater social spending so that sectarian apartheid in housing can be preserved in East Belfast!

Of course, if we follow the logic of this position to its conclusion it follows immediately that socialism is impossible and that sectarianism, communalism and racialism are the inevitable outcome of human nature.  The Socialist Party, and many others on the left, seem to prefer this conclusion to a simple reality that the sectarian division of working people is imposed by the deliberate and organised activity of Loyalist gangs and that there is overwhelming evidence that behind these gangs lies the British state which largely created them and to this day colludes with and conciliates sectarian reaction.

The good news is that the sectarian division of the working class is not inevitable.  The bad news is that you have to defeat loyalism and imperialism in order to end it.

A principled position by the Socialist Party would be a big step forward.

Below is a copy of a leaflet being distributed throughout Northern Ireland by Socialist Youth.

Opposing ALL sectarian attacks

by Gary - Socialist Party Tue, Jun 18 2002
address: Belfast

The recent escalation in sectarian clashes in East Belfast and other areas should be met with mass action by workers and youth to prevent a slide into a viciously sectarian summer.

Both Catholic & Protestant communities are suffering from regular attacks and intimidation. Everyday there are attacks on public service workers. School students from both communities are being targeted as they go to and return from school.

At interface areas, the sectarian organisations are fighting a war of attrition over territory. The battle to claim streets by intimidating residents and covering areas in bunting has intensified. All the main parties are to blame for whipping up sectarian hatred.

But it is also the levels of poverty, unemployment, poor housing and services which are to blame. The lack of affordable social housing is forcing communities to spread into “the other sides” areas. The privatisation of public land in the harbour is being used to build yuppy flats, while the local community in the Short Strand and Cluan Place are deprived of adequate social housing.

Socialist Youth believes working class and young people should come together and fight for housing rights, education rights, decent jobs and services.

Earlier this year 100,000 people came on to the streets to take a stand against sectarianism and to defend workers. Events forced the trade union movement to take the lead and mobilise the organised working class against sectarian attacks.

This shows the potential power working class people have when we unite on the issues which most affect us – jobs, housing, services etc. It is the failed right-wing policies being implemented by all the parties in the Assembly Executive which are to blame for these problems.

Young people and workers need a political alternative – a socialist alternative.
Socialist Youth is building an alternative for young people.

We are an anti-sectarian organisation, with members from both Catholic and Protestant areas.

Young people Unite!

After the disgusting sectarian murders of Ciaran Cummings and Gavin Brett, Socialist Youth were the only people to campaign against sectarian attacks. We also initiated School Students United Against Sectarianism and mobilised an impressive contingent of school students to the Jan 18 trade union demos.

Fighting for our rights!

We are opposed to the big business agenda of the political parties in the Assembly. None of them have delivered for young people. Instead they are responsible for privatising (through PPP/PFI) our schools, colleges, postal services, roads and other public services.
We fight on all the issues that effect young people like low pay, sectarianism, tuition fees etc.

Socialist Alternative

The society we live in, capitalism, can provide no stable secure future for young people.
A genuine democratic socialist society would put the needs of people before profit for the few. By owning and democratically managing the main industry and banks working people can provide for their needs.

The fight for socialism requires a well-organised movement. That is why Socialist Youth is building branches around the country and calling on young people to get involved!

Join us today, and build the alternative to sectarianism and capitalism!



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