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Wheels within wheels: UVF end ceasefire

The announcement that the UVF are on the point of ending their ceasefire and that their voice, the ‘Progressive’ Unionist Party (PUP) were breaking off contact with Sinn Fein carries messages on a whole series of levels.  At one level it indicates how unlikely it is that the series of new capitulations, such as support for the RUC, being arranged by Sinn Fein will lead to the restoration of Stormont.  The PUP pose as the voice of class envy within loyalism, berating the capitalists for leaving the dirty work of sectarian murder to their footsoldiers.  In reality they are simply muscle for the Unionist Party in much the same way as the larger UDA act as muscle for Paisley’s Democratic Unionists.

Their disappearance from the scene indicates that the Unionists cannot afford to do any deal with Sinn Fein no matter what new surrender is proposed. Trimble will not accept surrender and the PUP cannot afford to appear less sectarian than Trimble.

A second element illuminated by the UVF tactic is the extent to which Britain calls the shots and the limited extent to which Loyalism can pretend to be an independent force.  The state forces were widely seen as running cover for the UVF in last year’s feud with the UDA.  The UVF have had carte blanche in their drug deals.  Within hours of them moving away from the peace process nine people were arrested on membership charges and guns and regalia seized.  To rub the lesson of loyalist dependence home the British cooled down an internal UDA feud by arresting their former protégé Adair and telling the other UDA leaders to take a holiday – an instruction they promptly obeyed.

A third level is the way in which the change of policy illuminates the criminally insane posturing of the tiny left forces.  To understand this we simply have to ask ourselves what an end to the UVF ceasefire would look like.  The answer is very simple.  The UVF is not a guerrilla force.  It is an irregular arm of the state.  Their tactic would be random sectarian murder aimed at terrorising the catholic working class.

Given this reality it is hard to understand why the Socialist Party attempted to promote a ‘left’ party including UVF membership or why some of their youth wing defend sectarianism (see their contributions to the indymedia web site).  Why is it that a leading figure in the Socialist Workers Party hailed a meeting with a tiny layer of the PUP as an advance of the working class or why another leading SWP member on more that one occasion has accused the PUP of ‘slipping back’ into sectarianism.

What makes these sorts of pronunciations so insane is that the PUP themselves never claimed to be socialist. They say what they are – populist loyalists.  A few members claim to be socialist – as long as they can say what it means. The policy of the PUP is and always has been apartheid.

The PUP have no progressive positions. Their presence in negotiations only helps shape the future structures of a sectarian state.  The delusion of much of the left, and of a number within Sinn Fein, can only leave workers open to confusion and lack of adequate political defence in the event of attack.

These forces have simply paved the way for the bureaucrats of the Northern Ireland Committee of ICTU to give much needed political cover for these paramilitaries by treating them as genuine representatives of the Protestant working class. In the same week that the PUP/UVF rattled their guns ICTU fronted a press conference with the PUP at which Protestant ‘community’ workers complained of being the subject of IRA intelligence gathering, having been notified of this by the new look RUC.  This is but the latest public demonstration of ICTU collaboration with loyalists, a collaboration that stands in stark contrast to their invisibility during the blockade of Holy Cross Primary School not to mention the whole loyalist sectarian onslaught that went well beyond intelligence.

More and more it is demonstrated that the cancer of sectarianism has infected almost every social organisation in the North.  Moralistic pleas for an end to it have proven to be inadequate as the State deepens further the divisions that exist.  The organisations, such as ICTU and parts of the left, which specialised in these vapid pleas have now collapsed into its most pernicious defenders.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions but some do not even appear to have this excuse.

John North



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