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Commemorating Black and Tan Terror

Irish workers react to plans to kiss and make up with imperialism

09 January 2020

An attempt by the Irish government to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, forces that fought alongside the notorious Auxiliaries and Black and Tans to crush the movement for an independent Ireland, was abandoned in the face of widespread protest, although an overall plan, the 'Decade of Centenaries', remains in place and the RIC commemoration has been postponed, not abandoned.

A large section of the population were angered and bewildered by this attempt to commemorate the forces that used terror to suppress the Irish insurrection. The government has retreated but remains defiant.

Justice minister Flanagan said:

"There were those in the RIC who committed atrocities. The horrific record of the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries is well known. But there were thousands of other officers who behaved with dignity and honour."
Taoiseach LeoVaradkar said that the delay was a setback for a united Ireland because a united Ireland must be one that recognises a shared history and that there are "one million people on the island who identify as British and as being from a unionist background".

The ideology of Irish nationalism today is based on this bizarre form of identity politics. Unity does not mean a unitary Irish democracy, but a self-referential fog in which the struggle against imperialism is simultaneously a triumph and a disaster. British and Unionist reaction does not have to be defeated, rather we should cuddle up more closely.

Not surprisingly there is a class basis to the ideology. The Irish capitalist class opposed the Easter Rising and most stood to one side during the War of Independence. The Civil War, fought over the partitionist treaty, ended in victory for the counterrevolutionaries who suppressed the workers and ushered in a confessional state with only formal independence.  When Britain declared partition permanent it was meekly accepted by the Irish bourgeoisie.

Modern capitalism operates in the interests of global capital, dumping a massive banking debt on Irish workers and building a tax haven for the transnationals. They want Ireland's revolutionary tradition buried for good.

That was the hidden understanding in the Good Friday Agreement.  Partition would be permanent.  There would never be an Irish democracy.  Not surprisingly recent calls for unity have been firmly resisted by Varadkar and his friends. Democracy is not to be achieved through voting, but through cultural reconciliation. The new demand is that a United Ireland must depend, not on a northern majority, but on a majority of unionists supporting it.

The cultural hypnosis of the Decade of Commemorations has been under way for some time.  That makes the sudden revolt against it all the more surprising.  Why did it take so long? Quite simply Sinn Fein's support for the Good Friday Agreement smothered the consciousness of many Republican sympathizers.

Sinn Fein is now in decline. Holes have appeared in the blanket of self-satisfaction.  The current upset about the RIC will pale into insignificance when Irish capitalism moves next year to commemorate partition and the formation of a British colony in the north.

The task of socialists is to lead the protests against historical revisionism and link the counterrevolutionary past of Irish capitalism to its even more counter-revolutionary present and fight to overthrow it.

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