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US Imperialism and the Irish "Peace Process"

Matt Siegfried

The United States has played a very large role in the "peace process" in Ireland.  It is important for all those engaged in the struggle against British occupation both in Ireland and in the United States to understand the reasons for US involvement and what American involvement has achieved.  Myths must be dispelled and half-truths told whole.  It is no coincidence that US investment in Ireland, north and south, has increased with its participation in the "peace process".  After the European Union the United States is the largest importer and exporter from Ireland.  In fact the Untied States is Ireland's leading source of imports and destination of exports after Great Britain and in certain industries far surpasses Britain.

Bertie Ahern has proclaimed that Ireland is the recipient of 28% of all US investment currently coming to Europe.  American investment in Ireland is not just the product of the "peace process" but of the economic upswing following the US's recession ending in 1992.  The two are closely connected.  "Democracy" as a form of rule is cheaper for the ruling elites of the imperialist countries than dictatorship.  The bourgeoisie having extended democratic rights to each other find it invaluable to pretend to extend them to the people it subjugates.  "Democracy" under what is, in essence, a class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie helps to mask its class dictatorship and subdue the various social conflicts that arise because of that rule, creates a more stable environment within which to extract profits, and co-opts the more conservative elements of resistance to that rule into agents of imperialist rule itself.  When the economy is good the ruling class often feels itself able to afford class peace through the granting of reforms, the bettering of wages and living conditions, creation of (largely impotent) institutions open to broader layers of society, etc.  When the economy contracts and the ruling class is less able to buy that peace often class and social tensions  rise.  Anyone driving down the Falls Road can see the building boom now underway.  Visiting Dublin now is almost to visit a different city than 15  years ago.  This new money, both foreign capitalist investment and EU aid,  help build a local class of intermediaries whose new found wealth ties them  to their imperialist paymasters.  This is true not just in terms of entrepreneurial projects but in the dispensation of, wholly kind-hearted  we are sure, aid to the more disadvantaged communities.  This creates a whole new layer of bureaucracy drawn form the oppressed. These freshly converted defenders of the status quo and their own, new and meager, benefits from the dominant social constructs act as brakes on the struggle in which they were recently engaged.  Revolutionaries become bureaucrats, "nationalists" proponents of foreign intervention.

"Peace" in Ireland makes investment less risky and more profitable but it requires investment to create the new layers to pursue that "peace".  The exchange rate for every dollar and Euro invested in Ireland as capital or aid is the exchange of ideals for "pragmatism", resistance to acceptance, real peace for pacification.   The United States is not a neutral arbitrator of conflicts.  Whether in Ireland or the Middle East, it has its own agenda.   Its agenda is based on a continuation of the status of social relations in which the great majority suffer under the tiny minority's tyranny; economic, military, political, cultural, etc.  While the United States has not always agreed with the British ruling class on the handling of her colony they have usually left the British to their own devices.  But let us be clear about whom is subordinate to whom.  America rules the world now and most of the world lives on her rations.  Contrary to the media, especially the English media, the bulk of Irish America has never been more than passively sympathetic to Irish Republicanism and more often than not, hostile to it.  Not in the current phase of the conflict (with the exceptions of Bloody Sunday and the Hunger Strikes) have Irish America organized in great number concerning the injustices perpetrated in the land of their ancestors.  When they have raised their voices it has been with the politics of the SDLP, not Sinn Fein.  The British have been, more or less, left to their own desires in Ireland.  The British hyena to the American lion on the world stage has long been a reality and a relationship that the US government did not wish to upset.  The British knew that without American involvement in the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement it would be difficult to confine the debates to the relationship between the unionist and nationalist communities.  The British did not want to be brought in as a "participant" in the debates so as to deflect the outcome from the reality of their continued rule over the six counties.

The US seemed to spurn the English by allowing Gerry Adams into the United States on a visa for a weekend, thereby showing their impartiality and notifying the republicans of the possible photo-ops available to them should they tow the line.  This cynical move, among others, seemed to have worked as Sinn Fein accepted George Mitchell as an honest broker, thereby, from the beginning, keeping the parameters of the process leading to the GFA well within the imperialist framework.   The United States' first priority was to lock the republicans into the process.  This was done in a variety of ways.  Meetings with high placed American officials would allow the republican  leadership to return to their base with the claim that they had the "ear of  the American President", meanwhile the Americans increasingly had Sinn Fein by the short and curlies.  The promise of investment in the blighted nationalist communities of the north was hard to reject and the newfound aura of "legitimacy" was enticing.  The British, having gotten off the hook by the Americans during the negotiations, are now being called upon by Sinn Fein to force the unionists to conform to the letter if not the spirit of the GFA.  The British are now, because the United States acted as referee in the beginning of the  process, able to act as arbitrator in its implementation.  British rule never came into serious question in the negotiations.  Because of that it became  haggling between the two communities over the creation of various institutions and the resulting positions within those institutions within  the confines of the northern state.  The sectarian nature of the northern state has been greatly strengthened by the GFA; in fact it has been enshrined by it. Far from being a stepping-stone to a united Ireland, the GFA has brought  important parts of the southern government closer to Great Britain.  The reality of American investment will accentuate this.  The growth rate in the south over the last five years has been the highest in Europe.  Cheap,  highly educated workers have found jobs in the extremely profitable high-tech, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.  Many of these corporations are based in the United States.  As the US economy continues to contract, as it appears it will, these corporations will concentrate back in the US closing down many of their operations in Ireland.  This seems to now be the case with layoffs being announced daily by nearly all the trans-nationals now operating in Ireland.

The GFA may be harder to work as the recession hits Ireland.  But that does not mean that the Agreement will  necessarily be challenged by the left, the disadvantaged and oppressed.  Rather it is more probable, given the current leadership in the north, that the sectarian nature of the Agreement will become more pronounced as the political parties champion the various claims from their representative communities to the crumbs from the table of the imperialist economy.  While the United States role in the "peace process" has been in the advantage of its own interests, it can never be forgotten that a strong and stable Britain is deeply apart of those interests.  The struggle in Britain's rebellious Irish colony has always had the potential of radicalizing the working class of the south of Ireland, the United States, even of Britain herself.  The vast majority of commercial interests in Ireland owned by foreign companies are still owned by British firms.  Protecting that interest and stabilizing the region has long been a priority of the United States in its goal of creating economic blocs to compete with and balance the European Economic Union and sphere of Japanese economic hegemony in Asia.  Continued British rule in Ireland is to the advantage of American imperialism and it is with this concern that it engaged in the "peace process" there.  Any honest evaluation of the debacle that Irish Republicanism now finds itself in must include a serious critique of US imperialism's role.  Far from being an arbitrator in conflict, the US is the biggest slave trader the world has ever known.  It is a pity that those who sought to break their chains with England sought a new set with the United States.



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