Redspark Interview #1 : On Brexit and the Irish Question

This interview with an organizer of the Irish Socialist Republicans (ISR) and Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland (AIA) is the first in a new series of Redspark interviews based in an MLM perspective on current events around the world.

Redspark: Recently, a lot of news have been talking about Brexit, and particularly about the complications it could bring regarding the occupation of the north of Ireland. What is your perspective on this issue?

Brexit is a deeply complex issue.

Firstly, I would like to assert that the question of Britain leaving the imperialist European Union was democratically decided at a referendum. Irish Socialist Republicans fully support and respect the democratic decision by Britain to leave the EU. We view the decision of Britain to leave the EU both as a weakening of European Imperialism and a weakening and isolation of British Imperialism on an International stage. We see that Brexit is driving a wedge between British and European Imperialism, a division which creates obvious contradictions that can be taken advantage of by revolutionaries in Ireland, in Britain and across Europe.

Secondly, Irish Socialist Republicans believe that all of Ireland should leave the Imperialist EU; this is a key part of our revolutionary political programme. Therefore, we view Brexit as a progressive step for anti-imperialism and for the struggle for National Liberation and socialism in Ireland.

To understand Brexit in an Irish context, it is first necessary to understand the material conditions in Ireland.

Ireland today is divided into two artificial states. In order to prevent the victory of the National Liberation struggle in Ireland, in the 1920s the Irish Nation was partitioned into two pro-imperialist states by Britain. Ireland in 2019 is therefore both a colony and a semi-colony. To quickly explain this to your readers, Ireland is a colony because Six Irish Counties remain under a direct military occupation by the Britain, and are ruled from the British Parliament in London. Ireland is a semi-colony because Britain maintains semi-colonial control and influence over the remaining 26 Irish counties, known as the Free State. The Free State is also dominated by EU and US Imperialism.

Brexit has brought the Irish Struggle for National Liberation and Socialism to the top of the National and international agenda, because if Britain successfully leaves the EU, it will take the occupied six counties out of the EU along with it, while the Free State will remain a member of the EU.

This situation will bring the illegal partition of Ireland and the ongoing occupation of the six counties back to the fore, because it will result in the creation of a physical land border, enforced by Britain, between the artificial 6 and 26 county states in Ireland.

To understand why this has become such a flashpoint, it is necessary to understand the role that British Imperialism and the EU, supported by the Free State have played in Ireland over the past twenty one years.

Twenty one years ago, with the signing of the Good Friday Treaty of Surrender between British Imperialism and a revisionist former section of the Republican Movement, many people in Ireland were tricked into believing that the national question in Ireland had been solved. This was because that treaty split the Republican Movement, with the revisionist section claiming there was now a peaceful road to National Liberation and also led to a significant reduction in the revolutionary Armed Struggle in Ireland. Under the terms of that Treaty, as both the Free State and Britain were members of the imperialist EU, the hard illegal British border between the six and twenty-six counties that had been enforced by armed imperialism, faded into the background, replaced by EU directives that allowed for the free movement of labour and goods within EU members states.

Under these conditions, the British Army were removed from Border checkpoints and from overt view in the occupied six counties, and although Britain’s terrorists have continued to operate covertly, many people believed that things were moving forward.

The Good Friday Treaty did not end the British Occupation of Ireland. Instead it has modernised it, copperfastened it and co-opted former revolutionaries into the colonial administration. Although Britain’s illegal border has continued to exist and has been constantly highlighted by Republicans in Ireland, the role of the EU has allowed British imperialism to hide its hand from the people.

Brexit will bring that illusion, so carefully fostered by Britain, the Free State and the corporate Media, tumbling down and the border and the occupation will be clear once again for all to see , with the result that imperialism in Ireland will be weakened and the Struggle for National Liberation and Socialism will be strengthened.

Redspark: So far, how has the struggle played out in the 26 county Free State?

In the 26 county Free State, the issue has played out differently, among the ruling class and the working class.

First, I will explain the position of the Free State ruling class on Brexit, but again in order to ensure your readers understand this position, I will first explain nature of that class.

The ruling class in the Free State was created by British Imperialism. It is a garrison class that administers the 26 counties on behalf of imperialist interests, principally the interests of British, EU and US Imperialism. This class is made up of Big Business, Big Farmers, Landlords, bankers and property developers, who are represented in the Free State Parliament at Leinster House by corrupt politicians. This class is totally reliant on foreign Imperialism for its survival and the maintenance of its position.

Historically, this class has been overwhelmingly loyal to British Imperialism. In recent years it has become increasingly pro-EU, bringing up a contradiction in the ruling class between the sections of the elite, which are primarily pro-British and those that are primarily pro-EU. One of the contradictions between these sections is that the pro-British camp is happy to accept a return of a hard border and were happy to police it along with Britain in the past, whereas the pro-EU camp is not, going so far as to argue that the only border in Ireland is the Irish Sea.

At the moment the pro-EU section of the Irish Capitalist Class is in the dominant position, but even within this section a strong loyalty to Britain remains. The Free State parliament is currently led by a representative of the pro-EU section, while his Number Two is from the pro-British camp. During the Brexit negotiations the Free State took a strong EU-led line, but continued to keep the door open with Britain. A successful British exit from the EU and the reintroduction of a physical border in will bring the contradictions between the Free State and British Imperialism to the fore and will also sharpen the contradictions between the primarily pro British and the primarily pro-EU sections of the Free State ruling class.

A successful Brexit therefore, also has the potential to weaken the Free State ruling class.

In terms of the great mass of the people, as an Island nation, the Irish people have not traditionally thought of ourselves as European, but as Irish and Celtic. While there is a vocal liberal petit bourgeois section of the population who identify as European and are overwhelmingly pro-EU, this is not the case among the working classes. The Irish working class has consistently voted against EU treaties, so much so, that the referendums have been run again and again until the ruling class gets the result that it wants. Turnout in EU elections shows an increasing downward spiral. For the last EU Elections in May 2019, during which Irish Socialist Republicans called for an active boycott of the poll, the voter turnout fell to about 45%, with some working class areas reporting turnout figures of just 14%. This is the case for both the occupied Six Counties and the Free State. This was against the trend reported across the rest of Europe. This trend can demonstrate the position of the Irish Working Class towards the EU without even mentioning the huge number among the Irish Working class who are not even registered to vote.

The Bank Bailout in 2008 and the austerity imposed on the Free State by the European Trokia, which of course, hit the working class hardest, led to strong anti-EU feelings in working class communities. In fishing communities all around our coasts, where the EU has decimated our native fishing industry and Irish fish stocks are robbed by European super trawlers, you would be hard pressed to find someone to say a good word about the EU. The situation is similar among Irish Small Farmers, while Big Farmers get massive payouts under the EU common Agricultural policy scheme.

So while the ruling class to varying degrees and the petit bourgeois are pro-EU, the same cannot be said about the Irish working Classes.

In terms of Brexit, all the recent opinion polls and surveys have suggested that up to 80% of people in the Free State hold the position that a successful Brexit should result in a United Ireland. It is likely therefore that a successful Brexit will result in increased support among the Irish working class for the struggle for national liberation.

Redspark: Please lay out the issues as you see it in terms of national liberation for Ireland, as well as for the interests of the proletariat

In terms of Brexit and the struggle for Irish National Liberation, we see a successful Brexit as a weakening of EU Imperialism and a weakening and isolation of British Imperialism on the international stage. We believe that Brexit will drive a wedge between EU and British Imperialism that will give rise to contradictions that can strengthen the position of revolutionary forces.

In Ireland we see that a successful Brexit will sharpen contradictions between British imperialism and the Free State Ruling class and will also sharpen the contradictions between the pro-British and pro-EU sections of the Free State ruling class. We believe these that these contradictions will lead to a weakening of British Imperialism and the Free State ruling class in Ireland and therefore result in a relative strengthening of the struggle for National Liberation and Socialism.

Furthermore, any return to a physical border in Ireland, which is very unlikely to be avoided in the aftermath of a successful Brexit, will bring the issues of partition and the occupation of Ireland back to the fore of the minds of the Irish people and will lead to an inevitable growth in support for the struggle for national liberation and socialism and for the revolutionary forces.

In terms of the proletariat, the Irish working class is exploited and oppressed by EU imperialism on a daily basis. Our People are exploited and oppressed through the robbery of our wealth and resources by EU imperialists, through EU directives that enforce low pay, precarious work, anti trade union laws and a block on collective bargaining. The class interests of the Irish proletariat therefore lie in breaking all connection with the imperialist EU, and a successful Brexit will bring us one step closer to that reality.

Redspark: Is your organisation doing any work around this issue specifically? Please describe?

Irish Socialist Republicans believe that All of Ireland should leave the imperialist EU. To advance this position, Irish Socialist Republicans advocated and actively campaigned in support of a Brexit in the occupied Six Counties. Our organisation continues to uphold this position and respect the democratic wish of Britain to leave the EU.

Irish Socialist Republicans believe that a key struggle in the fight to rebuild the All Ireland Socialist Republic will be the total withdrawal of Ireland from the EU. To forward this objective we established a broad based campaign for an Irexit, under the title IREXIT: FOR A SOCIALIST REPUBLIC, and we continue to work with other progressives to win support for this position in working class communities.

One of the most concerning parts of the Brexit campaign has been the attempts of the English far-Right, around the hate figure Nigel Farage, to organise a section of their movement in Ireland and tap into the anti-EU feeling of the Irish working class in order to strengthen British imperialism in the aftermath of Brexit. The Irish working class has seen through this. The fascist movement in Ireland is tiny and Farage’s supporters failed to make any impact in the EU elections. Throughout this time Irish Socialist Republicans have been to the fore in organising against attempts by the British far-Right to organise in Ireland, including taking direct action on the streets, and we will continue to ensure that fascists in Ireland are unable to organise or attempt to mislead the Irish working class with their dangerous philosophy.

Redspark: Does the republican movement in Ireland have a unified position on the issue of Brexit?

All Republican organisations would agree that Brexit is a matter for the British people alone and that the democratic wishes, expressed in the Brexit vote should be respected. The Irish people know only too well what it is like to have a nation’s democratic wish subverted and denied.

All organisations that are adhering to Socialist Republicanism would further generally agree that the EU is an imperialist empire and that the interests of the Irish working class can only be advanced through an Irish Exit from the EU. All Socialist Republicans would also welcome Brexit, as a successful Brexit will put the illegal partition of Ireland and the ongoing British occupation to the top of the national and international agenda and will put these burning issues at the forefront of the minds of the Irish Working class once more. This will inevitably lead to increasing support and a strengthening of the Revolutionary forces and the struggle for National Liberation and Socialism in Ireland.

For Irish Socialist Republicans, that is a good starting point to build a United Front against imperialism in Ireland. As Chairman Mao famously said, “A single spark can light a prairie fire”.

C. Kistler

Also editor of Nouvelle Turquie.