25 Years On: in the debris of the Good Friday Agreement
Now do we love Big Brother?
10 April 2023
Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern sign the Good Friday Agreement
The 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is being marked by assemblies of the great and the good. Joe Biden rushes through the North, avoiding attention to the barren political landscape. On RTE television the ghost of Bertie Ahern dominates, while the high point will be the upcoming visit of Bill and Hilary Clinton and Tony Blair to a celebration at Queens University.
No-one will remark on the unsavoury character of these saints of peace. Even less will anyone notice that the fine mansion that they built is now in ruins. It's not just that Stormont is yet again collapsed, or that there are background discussions regarding a new version of the agreement that would reinforce the unionist veto and tempt the Democratic Unionist Party into returning to the administration, it is that all the bells and whistles of various North-South and East-West bodies have largely fallen into abeyance, that the British have reneged on many aspects of the agreement and that Irish nationalists have settled for a situation that protects their class interests.
The actual foundations of the agreement, redefining an anti-imperialist struggle as based on identity politics, have proved to be rotten. A good example is a current drug battle between various factions of the UDA. The police adopt a hands-off approach, parroting UDA statements that the violence is between former members who are drug dealers No one enquires what the expelled group were doing when they were members. (Drugs and loan sharking are the UDAs main sources of income). Masked hoodlums march through the streets of Newtownards and schools are locked down. No-one remembers that the UDA are an illegal paramilitary group because they have been embedded, through the mechanisms of the peace process, in the majority of civic and community organisations.
And of course, there is Brexit, driving a coach and horses through the GFA and marking a giant shift to the right by a British state supposedly guaranteeing nationalist rights.
The explanation can be found in the response of Sinn Féin to Brexit. They, and Irish nationalism generally, have no demands other than whatever concessions are needed be put in place to get the Northern Assembly up and running and the flow of patronage back in place.
At the end of George Orwell's novel 1984 the hero, Winston, finds that after years of coercion he now loves Big Brother. SF loves Big Brother. Having once opposed the colonial settlement in the North, no sacrifice is too great to bring about its restoration. They are supported by many in the middle classes and trade union leaderships. The universal call is that politicians must return and get Stormont working. In making this call the responsibility of the British secretary of state, who actually is in charge, is always ignored, as is the reality that when it sits the local assembly only serves to share out sectarian patronage. If it does return one of its first tasks will be to introduce a mass privatisation of the health service.
Standing in the carnage, Gerry Adams has announced that the next decade will be a decade of persuasion to convince unionists that they should join with the 26-county state. Yet Irish republicanism has traditionally criticised the partitioned state in the south and the reality is that the Irish nationalist government, run in the interests of transnational capital, is allowing mass eviction of the poor in defence of landlordism why should any section of the working class endorse this?
Sinn Féin, the party of a United Ireland, have forgotten that they were once the party of the Irish Republic and that many of their members were specifically in support of a workers’ republic.
In Socialist Democracy we despise Big Brother. We oppose the class victory if imperialism on which the current political settlement is based.
We stand with James Connolly:
If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain.The fundamental weakness of the Good Friday Agreement was that it has no sequel. All the contending classes in Irish society are to remain together indefinitely.
This was always impossible and it is now becoming more and more unlikely as class struggle gradually reasserts itself.