Correspondence: Brexit protests. Who's in charge?
09 March 2021
I was interested in your article Uniting Ireland - Uniting Workers.
It seems to be a departure from your earlier article which suggested the DUP's actions are limited by the UK government's different needs. The attempted mobilisations (Ulster Hall) just before the 2019 general election failed - the DUP lost Belfast North and South.
Do you think the paramilitaries can reseize the political initiative, as they did with the 2011 Flag Riots and that Rees-Mogg's verbal backing now represents a significant force in UK politics?
Who is included in the vast majority of small socialist groups who support Irexit/Brexit? Clearly the CPI hasn't changed, but it appears that PbP have moved over to Sinn Fein's position, distancing themselves from Johnson's bad Brexit.
All the best,
Reply: Brexit - Boris is in charge
Hi Richard, sorry for the delay in replying and thanks for the questions.
There is a difference in tone between the two articles which I will try to explain. In our view the determinant power is the British. The DUP are subordinate to the British and the paramilitaries subordinate to the DUP and the state forces.
The DUP's role is very clearly illustrated in the recent protests. The closure of the port offices was organised by the DUP and the paramilitary threat was asserted by them. This was also the case with the flag riots. The DUP led the mobilisation and were in the background throughout.
The main mechanism is fear of Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice and his growing vote. The mobilisation alongside the paramilitaries is a traditional way of asserting unionist unity, as is tearing up legal constraints.
That said, the overall picture is of disintegration. The DUP helped paint themselves into this corner by their rabid support for Brexit while a majority of the population and a number of their own supporters opposed it. They are in a scissors with the TUV on their right and Alliance on their left. While paramilitary violence cannot be ruled out, the paramilitary leaders are aging and drawing immense funds from drugs and extortion and from a torrent of community funds. In any case it is hard for them to see how sectarian violence can be used as a lever against the British.
The media seem to believe that if the DUP receive a minority of the Unionist vote there will be a transfer of the First Ministers position to Sinn Fein. In reality unionist reluctant acceptance of the St. Andrew's Agreement is based on them remaining top dog, so there would be a further unravelling of the settlement.
But, as I said, the change in tone between the two articles is due to a shift in the British position. They used the DUP as Brexit support and then dumped them in pursuit of a deal. The fact that they are offering sympathy now appears to mean that we are back to attempts to modify the agreement.
Brexit has proved a disaster. the City of London has not proved the guarantee the Tories thought it would be. The EU and US are unlikely to be sympathetic. The temptation on the Tory right must be to go for broke and convert to hard Brexit. That would mean a hard border in Ireland and a push towards Singapore on Thames. The retreat from a negotiated Brexit would at some stage lead to a decay of the Sinn Fein vote when they find themselves back to square one with little to show but their own bums on seats.
As for the left groups, as far as I know they are still Lexiteers. They keep very quiet about it as they realise it is not at all popular. Sinn Fein propaganda now touts their fulsome support for the existing capitalist Europe.
We will be covering the formation
of a "new" PbP alliance in the near future and will be willing to discuss
that analysis when it is published.