The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

St Andrews Agreement and 'the Left'



Davy Carlin • 18 October 2006

Over recent times I have listened to and read those within various Republican circles commenting on the St Andrews Agreement. Much of it depending on what aspect of the various Republican positions being listened to; many would find their words of little surprise. Indeed in regard to one such point - that of Sinn Fein constantly dropping once held principles, that is of little surprise to many given that SF anew is a constitutional Nationalist party, in real terms, whose way forward, they believe, is based on electoralism. Therefore if it sees electoralism as its main avenue for moving forward, then such principles (that are believed to be holding it back) will be dropped as they move ever further to the right in the search for more votes and their acknowledgement also of an ever changing world. And of course some have had the experience, the support, and the grip on the Movement to ensure that such votes can be won regardless of the dropping of once held principles.

Yet the reality is that the vast majority of those long stuck on the fact that SF are constantly dropping such principles are indeed ex-members or members of the broader SF and Republican 'Movements', as well as some commentators, and elements of the left. For the vast majority of people though outside of that and in the wider local world most dropped principles people may care little about let alone wanting to know more about. Also in relation to the more prominent 'principles, well if you ask the ordinary punter on the street would they like to see a local accountable police service in their area, the vast majority will say yes. If you ask them would they like direct rule from London or would they like to see the politicians they have elected sitting and governing here, the vast majority would again want local representation. Many will not worry (or indeed even know) that some principles from some parties over the years are being dropped or how part of a once solidly held ideology is being broken. And many, even if they knew, would not care, as such developments post-conflict presently flow with their own interests or would not affect their daily lives for the worse.

Many though will worry when it comes to the centre right governance and neo liberal consensus that will beckon from any new assembly, where they will at least have the opportunity to lobby and protest on such issues at a local level. In addition it will show up those parties who talk left and implement right, and those who will fight for one side or the other as opposed to those who seek benefit for all our citizens.

The bringing together of the DUP and the Shinners many thought could not be moved to happen, but Friday the 13th 2006 was a day in which it all began, at least in word. And if it can be continued to be moved forward we will see who are negotiating for the rights of all citizens and who are more especially fighting for the rights of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. One aspect that has already been highlighted is the issue of the 11 plus and more especially that of Academic Selection. Such selection affects those most from disadvantaged and working class areas, and therefore many would think that the Shinners would instinctively fight the corner on this one, if it indeed really is the case that it is to be kept. But as some commentators have stated that as with other principles or pledges such a stance could be dropped as bums on ministerial seats may be of more importance.

If the case, then as had been done previous (through such campaigns as the Campaign Against Selection - CAS) it will be up to grassroots activists to push this issue forward and to remobilise and agitate etc on this issue once again. This should be done, rather than solely standing at the sides constantly shouting 'Sell Outs' and 'Traitors' at the dropping of each principle or pledge while practically offering little else.

Of course the Shinners have taken a well-trodden path seen in many places and on many occasions around the world. And in relation to the Shinners it has seen them being moved from that once Revolutionary War and mass street protests through to that of Constitutional Nationalism and Reformism with the soon to be administering and cementing, until the majority states otherwise, of most aspects of British rule in the North

On the issue of such grassroots activism many such initiatives (such as CAS) had come from the grassroots and initial handfuls of activists over recent years, and have highlighted, mobilised and moved other larger forces into action. It is also through such agitation - whether it be against privatisation, or if the Assembly agrees to cut and close essential services, or if they implement policies that attack the most vulnerable and the disadvantaged, as is being done with the 11 plus and Academic Selection - that many citizens will see such in such light. And in doing so they may march and mobilise with many others as before, as they come to realise, for themselves, how such parties' deeds are so far removed from such words and rhetoric.

The first such substantial fight back I believe will be on Water Charges, and as an activist within the We Won't Pay campaign ( many of us from across 'the Divide' are preparing the ground for such a fight back if and when required.

Therefore as with many saying that they need a police service many may well say well we need that hospital kept open, or we are already paying those charges etc. Therefore in wider society it will not be a matter of someone dropping a long held ideological principle (that irks many of us on the left) that may make many come to an understanding, But it will be a matter of something that effects them more directly that will make them think and then acknowledge that there is a difference between such words of principle and deeds in action.

Similar as with the assembly some on the 'Left' of politics should start from a position of where the majority are at, rather than where they wish them to be. Some Leftist principled calls I hear include points such as 'we believe in having no police' through to 'we believe in a society of no money'. Yet while many on the left may wish to see a future society of that making the reality is that such calls will have most people seeing such coming from people with two heads or those who seek to bring us back to collectives of people digging up the earth in rag clothes with the back end bone of a once living animal. This more so if the calls are coming solely from those shouting at the sides. To get a hearing it is much better to get into the heart of such debates with the majority while involved in and initiating activism and struggle that relates to such, while attempting to show up the contradictions and rhetoric of others.

We have come a long way from the 'war and there has been much change, yet it is only the beginning. With the possible cementing over the coming years of the Assembly we will over time see bread and butter issues taking primacy over once matters of conflict. Of course Sectarianism will still be there as will I believe the still continued rise of Racism, and all such issues will need to be tackled. Yet and at the end of the day it is inevitable that such once 'enemies would have to come together at some stage (as their and other interests dictated that) in a developing post-conflict situation. And anyone who has an understanding of such recent post-conflict situations will know that the primacy of peace also sees the attempted primacy of a stable neo liberalism agenda. With that knowledge we can be sure to know where the Assembly is going. And on that previous recent limited experience of Northern Ireland governance we also know in what economic direction all the parties are going in which deed took primacy over word and rhetoric on many issues, as I believe it will do again.

Whatever the 'Left's' problems are with the proposed Assembly the reality is that the majority of citizens will want local representation as they will want the police accountable and transparent at a local level etc. That is not to say that as the 'Left', we ride along with all of this. Indeed on many issues the opposite will be the case. We will need to battle against the neo liberalism that they will espouse, we will need to mobilise against the anti-working class policies that they may seek to impose. Yet within it all and throughout it all, we will need to point out the real contradictions of those whose former words are cemented by now the opposite in deeds - if the case, and if the deal is done.

And with that then some real politics will begin to come to the fore and while it will be to the benefit to the isle of Ireland, the struggle will continue for the benefit that can be won through seeking an equal, just, and libertarian society for all our citizens.



Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

7 November 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

When It's Time for Change, No One Is Irreplaceable
Mick Hall

Date Fixed For Flawed Landmark Case
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

Souper Sinn Fein
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Dr John Coulter

St Andrews Agreement & 'the Left'
Davy Carlin

Shotgun Wedding
John Kennedy

...and to create the space for a diversity of views...
Noel Dolan

'Undo the Great Betrayal, Free the Occupied 26'
Dr John Coulter

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Anthony McIntyre

Power & Powerlessness
Patricia Campbell

The Constantine Institute
Terry O'Neill

Mary Robinson Spotlights Human Rights Abuses in Darfur
William Hughes

Fearless Speech
Anthony McIntyre

30 October 2006

Granny Josie
Anthony McIntyre

Guardians of Perjury
Martin Galvin

Writing on the Wall
John Kennedy

The Litmus Test of Republicanism
Charlie Clarke

Monkey Business
Anthony McIntyre

Northern Invasion
Dr John Coulter

Eamon McGuire: The Life of an Undercover IRA Activist
William Hughes

Deal Will Underline Delusions
David Adams

Blood in the Water
Dr John Coulter

Muslims = Terrorists
M. Shahid Alam

Nothing Could Be More Offensive!
Maryam Namazie



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices