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The politics of the phoney loyalist cessation
‘The Nazis were convinced that evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction’ - Franz Borkenau
On Wednesday 14th the self styled Inner Council of the Ulster Defence Association claimed that the organisation was not involved in orchestrating the sustained pipe and petrol bomb war being waged against ‘Catholics’ right across the north of Ireland. In the past month alone there have been at least fifty such attacks, with the small towns of Larne, Coleraine and Antrim being badly hit. A typical attack occurred in North Belfast last weekend when a pipe bomb was tossed into the living room home of an ordinary working class family causing an extensive fire. The young children living in the house narrowly missed death because of the prompt action of the father and some good luck.
There is abundant evidence to prove that all of the loyalist organisations are in fact more or less involved in a comprehensive campaign of sectarian terror directed mainly at the nationalist population. The idea that only mavericks are involved is nonsense but it is the sort of nonsense that all of the pro-peace process parties are willing to play along with as long as the mouthpieces of the organisations continue to mouth their platitudes in support of the Belfast Agreement. The claim that the ‘socialist’ UVF-PUP was not participating in the sectarian violence was well and truly discredited when two pipe bomb making factories belonging to the organisation were discovered in North Belfast and in Newtonabbey on Feb twelve. The primed pipe bombs belonged to the Mount Vernon UVF, one of the units loyal to the political leadership during recent the inter- loyalist feud.
Government statements expressing continued confidence in the integrity of the loyalist cease-fire now sound so ridiculous that even David Ervine the most able spokesperson of the PUP, has found it difficult to stand by them ‘the relationship between myself and elements in the UFV would be unsustainable if it turns out that they have been involved in this’ Of course such word of comfort means absolutely nothing, they are only to get by an awkward moment, and you can be sure that Ervine won’t be breaking off giving his political advice to the pipe bombers of the UVF.
There is good reason to believe that the UDA was encouraged to make such an unbelievable public denial by officials acting on behalf of the British government (the UDA had only just met with the decommissioning body) to allow it to continue with its policy of maintaining that the loyalist cease-fire is ‘still intact.’ The government line on loyalist violence was restated by a senior police officer after the discovery of the UVF pipe bomb making factory in Newtownabbey :
‘There is nothing to say that the UFV is involved as an organisation, but there may be individuals taking action as individuals’
Then there is nothing new about this ruling political culture of taking lithely loyalist crimes. For over thirty years there has been a permissive government and unionist toleration of loyalist violence. It is now generally accepted that undercover British army units, (the Force Research Unit) that took their chain of command from the Joint Security Committee were heavily involved in directing loyalist violence. A recent Irish Human Rights Watch report indicted FRU agents in the direct killing of at least 14 people between 1986 and 1990 using loyalist gunmen as the instrument of death.
Collusion between the state forces and loyalists has not always been so direct. Usually it has taken a more indirect form, of security documents detailing the names, addresses, workplaces, car registrations of ‘suspects’ mysteriously falling into the laps of loyalists. This is still a very regular occurrence, hardly a week goes by without someone being told by the RUC that their details are now in the possession of loyalists. The horrible irony is that those who find themselves in this unenviable position are never told how their security file ended up with loyalists for ‘security reasons.’
Though the worst of loyalist violence is aimed at nationalist it is still important to remind nationalists that the loyalist paramilitary is first and foremost a criminal parasite living of the Protestant working class, and then only afterwards is he a sectarian thug. Even when he is adhering to a cease-fire Billy loyalist is up to no good. He never ceases for even one minute to exploit the Protestant working class community. One of the features of capitalism in general is a frequent kinship between the respectable capitalist and the mobster. The secret alliance between American capitalists , politicians and the mob has been well documented, especially in relation to Cuba. Such alliances are not unique to the USA. The mobster is someone who belongs to the mob, a category of de-classed individuals and drifters who seem to be a permanent presence within capitalist society.
There is a sort of secret affinity between the capitalist and the mobster in the sense that the mobster is an aggressive individualist determined to make it big in capitalist terms, anyway, anyhow. The mobster’s morality is the morality of the market at its most extreme . He is closer in kind to the finance capitalist than the industrial capitalist because he wants all the trappings of wealth to come quickly and without any expenditure of labour . Perhaps it is this secret affinity that explains the high prevalence of gangster ‘success’ and ‘failure’ stories in the culture of our time.
The past thirty years of political instability in the north has offered the mobster a near perfect condition in which to prosper. The Unionist property class has tolerated and sometimes facilitated the criminal behaviour of the loyalist mobster in return for his political services. The loyalist strike of 1974 was the pinnacle of the co-operation between the Unionist politician and the mobster. This covert alliance has never really ended. Every week tens of thousands of pounds is extracted from working class Protestant housing estates in the form of money lending, building racketeering, drug, cigarette and drink smuggling, security services and prostitution. The typical unionist politician mostly turns a blind eye to the criminality because it is perpetrated mainly against the working class. A most pernicious side of loyalist criminality is its loan-sharking, this is very widespread but rarely ever brought to attention as a problem by the politicians or the media.
Yet the affluent lifestyles of loyalists many of whom have only just came out of prison is there for all to see. Johnny Adair, unemployed, drives an expensive new car, is dripping with gold, takes his winter holiday in the Caribbean and plans to open up a night club. His friend John White lives in a small mansion on the ‘Gold’ coast, breeds horses and owns numerous properties. Just before Adair’s release from prison White denied that the UDA had prepared a £150,000 home for him to move into but did admit that ‘it is not unusual for ex- loyalist prisoners to live in the best areas. There is quite a few living in north Down’ North Down is the were the wealthiest of the unionist bourgeoisie reside.
Most media articles dealing with loyalism dwell on the politics or the sectarianism but very rarely ever on its most pervasive side, the criminality. The feud that occurred last August between the UVF and the UDA which led to nearly a dozen deaths and scores of attacks on homes caught most of the pundits out because they could not explain what it was about by looking to the political motivations or accounts provided by the participants . The reality was that it was a mob war over criminal profits. The truth is that the political leaders of the Unionist bourgeoisie tolerate the existence of ordinary loyalist violence because it can be turned against republicans and nationalists and because it doesn’t seriously impede big business or middle class lifestyle. The Protestant working class will continue to be used and abused by loyalism This means that for the foreseeable future all the present talk about a real crackdown on loyalist gangs will remain just that , talk!. One of the most urgent tasks of the socialist workers movement today must be to continue to expose these loyalists parasites for what they really are, mobsters at the service of sectarian politicians.