Ulster Loyalism, Flag Protests & the failure of zero sum politics

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  • user warning: Table './external/cache_views_data' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache_views_data SET data = 'a:3:{s:6:\"result\";a:6:{i:0;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8695\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:59:\"The housing crisis in Ireland - 8 points on the big picture\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:745:\"<p><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/HousingMarch.jpg\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 320px; margin: 3px; float: right;\" />The WSM has been having a &#39;big picture&#39; discussion around the housing crisis from which the following points emerged. We are publishing them ahead of the December 1st demonstration in Dublon (14.00 Parnell square).</p>\r\n<p>1. We built our cities and the houses of our cities. They are ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own*.</p>\r\n<p>2. The contemporary crisis of capitalism has made markedly visible the relationship between finance capital and property speculation, between the concentrated money-power of bankers and speculators and the shaping of the built environment in our towns and cities.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1543494053\";}i:1;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8679\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:25:\"DABF Safer spaces policy \";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:593:\"<div>\r\n This policy applies to the bookfair, the fundraising afterparty, the meeting spaces and online spaces. This policy is made in order to create an environment to foster free discussion and sharing of ideas, those engaging in abusive or oppressive behaviour will be asked to leave the space. We encourage all attendees to be aware of this policy, and to report to book-fair volunteers if they observe people engaging in abusive or oppressive behaviour.</div>\r\n<div>\r\n &nbsp;</div>\r\n<div>\r\n We define the following as abusive behaviours which are not tolerated in this space;</div>\r\n<div>\r\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1536841535\";}i:2;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8675\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:47:\"Get your Dublin Anarchist Bookfair 2018 T-shirt\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:310:\"<p><strong>Get your Dublin Anarchist Bookfair t-shirt! [ONLINE SALES ARE NOW CLOSED]</strong><br />\r\n <img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/Womens%20tee.jpg\" style=\"width: 300px; height: 300px;\" />&nbsp;&nbsp;<img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/Mens%20tee_0.jpg\" style=\"width: 300px; height: 300px;\" /></p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1536010979\";}i:3;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"6387\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:97:\"12th Dublin Anarchist Bookfair - 14th & 15th September 2018 - Teachers Club 35 Parnell sq & Wynns\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:745:\"<p><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/DABF_FB_Event.png\" style=\"width: 350px; height: 195px; margin: 3px; float: right;\" />The 12th Dublin Anarchist Bookfair took place on the 15th September 2018 at the Teachers Club 35 Parnell square and on the evening of the 14th at Wynns hotel. &nbsp;Every year hundreds of people attend the Dublin Anarchist Bookfair for a day of inspiring discussions and the opportunity of meeting lots of other radicals, browsing books and meeting campaigns.</p>\r\n<p>We will be uploading about a dozen audio and video recordings of the panels at the bookfair, follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get notification of new uploads or check&nbsp;<a href=\"https://www.wsm.ie/anarchist-bookfair\">Anarchist bookfair</a></p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1528363710\";}i:4;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8642\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:51:\"8 reasons we are voting Yes to Repeal the hated 8th\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:375:\"<p class=\"rtecenter\"><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/Repeal8thWSMbannerthin.jpg\" style=\"width: 650px; height: 307px; margin: 3px;\" /></p>\r\n<p>On May 25th we finally get to vote to Repeal the hated 8th amendment. &nbsp;Here we present the 8 reasons we are voting Yes to Repeal along with many of the articles we have published on the issue in recent months. &nbsp;</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1527172249\";}i:5;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8639\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:52:\"What Happened When Portugal Decriminalised Abortion?\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:970:\"<p dir=\"ltr\"><strong>With the referendum to repeal the 8th <strong><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/portugal%20abortion%20pic.png\" style=\"height: 341px; width: 400px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 3px; float: right;\" /></strong>amendment on May 25th drawing nearer, it&rsquo;s with great interest that we look at the experience of other countries which have struggled against an abortion ban like ours, to learn from the lessons of the campaign, and to &lsquo;look into the future&rsquo;, as it were, and see the result of decriminalising abortion. As such, here are some brief notes on Portugal.</strong></p>\r\n<p dir=\"ltr\">On 11th February 2007, in a national referendum, the Portuguese voted in favor of the decriminalization of the &quot;voluntary interruption of the pregnancy&quot; (VGI). It was the end of more than 30 years of struggles, advances and retreats, with many public debates dividing several quarters of Portuguese society.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1525798800\";}}s:10:\"total_rows\";i:1579;s:5:\"pager\";a:5:{s:9:\"use_pager\";s:1:\"0\";s:14:\"items_per_page\";i:6;s:7:\"element\";i:0;s:6:\"offset\";i:0;s:12:\"current_page\";i:0;}}', created = 1566496643, expire = 1566496943, headers = '', serialized = 1 WHERE cid = 'wsm_only:block_1:results:692e0a14e0b7ab966d18830fa49232e2' in /var/www/public/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
  • user warning: Table './external/cache_views_data' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache_views_data SET data = 'a:4:{s:4:\"head\";s:0:\"\";s:3:\"css\";a:0:{}s:2:\"js\";a:0:{}s:6:\"output\";s:3201:\"<div class=\"view view-wsm-only view-id-wsm_only view-display-id-block_1 view-dom-id-4\">\n \n \n \n <div class=\"view-content\">\n <div class=\"views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first\">\n \n <div class=\"views-field-title\">\n <span class=\"field-content\"><a href=\"/c/housing-crisis-notes-big-picture-ireland\" title=\"The housing crisis in Ireland - 8 points on the big picture\">The housing crisis in Ireland - 8 points on the big...</a></span>\n </div>\n \n <div class=\"views-field-teaser\">\n <span class=\"field-content\">The WSM has been having a &#39;big picture&#39; discussion around the housing crisis...</span>\n </div>\n </div>\n <div class=\"views-row views-row-2 views-row-even\">\n \n <div class=\"views-field-title\">\n <span class=\"field-content\"><a href=\"/c/dabf-safer-spaces-policy\" title=\"DABF Safer spaces policy \">DABF Safer spaces policy</a></span>\n </div>\n \n <div class=\"views-field-teaser\">\n <span class=\"field-content\">\n This policy applies to the bookfair, the fundraising afterparty, the meeting spaces...</span>\n </div>\n </div>\n <div class=\"views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd\">\n \n <div class=\"views-field-title\">\n <span class=\"field-content\"><a href=\"/c/get-your-dublin-anarchist-bookfair-2018-t-shirt\">Get your Dublin Anarchist Bookfair 2018 T-shirt</a></span>\n </div>\n \n <div class=\"views-field-teaser\">\n <span class=\"field-content\">Get your Dublin Anarchist Bookfair t-shirt! [ONLINE SALES ARE NOW CLOSED]\n &nbsp;&nbsp;</span>\n </div>\n </div>\n <div class=\"views-row views-row-4 views-row-even\">\n \n <div class=\"views-field-title\">\n <span class=\"field-content\"><a href=\"/c/dublin-anarchist-bookfair-latest\" title=\"12th Dublin Anarchist Bookfair - 14th &amp; 15th September 2018 - Teachers Club 35 Parnell sq &amp; Wynns\">12th Dublin Anarchist Bookfair - 14th &amp; 15th...</a></span>\n </div>\n \n <div class=\"views-field-teaser\">\n <span class=\"field-content\">The 12th Dublin Anarchist Bookfair took place on the 15th September 2018 at the...</span>\n </div>\n </div>\n <div class=\"views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd\">\n \n <div class=\"views-field-title\">\n <span class=\"field-content\"><a href=\"/c/8-reasons-vote-yes-to-repeal\">8 reasons we are voting Yes to Repeal the hated 8th</a></span>\n </div>\n \n <div class=\"views-field-teaser\">\n <span class=\"field-content\">\nOn May 25th we finally get to vote to Repeal the hated 8th amendment. &nbsp;Here we...</span>\n </div>\n </div>\n <div class=\"views-row views-row-6 views-row-even views-row-last\">\n \n <div class=\"views-field-title\">\n <span class=\"field-content\"><a href=\"/c/what-happened-portugal-decriminalised-abortion-anarchism\">What Happened When Portugal Decriminalised Abortion?</a></span>\n </div>\n \n <div class=\"views-field-teaser\">\n <span class=\"field-content\">With the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment on May 25th drawing nearer, it&rsquo;s...</span>\n </div>\n </div>\n </div>\n \n \n \n \n<div class=\"more-link\">\n <a href=\"/all\">\n more </a>\n</div>\n \n \n \n</div> \";}', created = 1566496643, expire = 1566496943, headers = '', serialized = 1 WHERE cid = 'wsm_only:block_1:output:30e25f9bd85c357eb10c6c886f8c678d' in /var/www/public/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './external/cache_views_data' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache_views_data SET data = 'a:3:{s:6:\"result\";a:6:{i:0;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8692\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:57:\"No LNG terminal on the Shannon - Climate Change & Methane\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:786:\"<p>We interviewed William Hederman, an environmental researcher living in County Clare, about the planned Liquefied Natural Gas terminal on the Shannon. Construction of it will mean Ireland will fail to meet its Climate Change commitments and will instead be tied into pumping out additional Greenhouse Gases for decades. As the LNG will come from the US it will includes fracked gas, a process banned in Ireland that releases three times as much of the very powerful Climate Change gas methane as conventional gas. [<a href=\"https://youtu.be/iO960KeoaHE\">video</a>]</p>\r\n<p><iframe allow=\"accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture\" allowfullscreen=\"\" frameborder=\"0\" height=\"315\" src=\"https://www.youtube.com/embed/iO960KeoaHE\" width=\"560\"></iframe></p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1542897581\";}i:1;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8687\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:30:\"Moral philosophy and abortion \";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1167:\"<p><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/Philosophers.jpg\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 309px; margin: 3px; float: right;\" />The debate around abortion is sometimes characterised as an opposition between the morals of the church and personal morals. But is this an accurate description? Moral philosophy can broadly be defined as the branch of philosophy that contemplates what is right and wrong. It explores the nature of morality and examines how people should live their lives in relation to others. But a closer look at what characterises moral philosophy leads to the conclusion that while the expression &ldquo;relying on personal morals&rdquo; may come across as a useful shortcut to describe what the pro-choice stance is about, it is also a misuse of moral terminology which has the effect of casting a positive light on moral philosophy, rather than helping us come to terms with the deeply problematic nature of this field. As I hope to make clear, arguments in favour of abortion rights are rooted in anti-authoritarianism whereas moral philosophy can only exist as a rhetorical tool of authoritarianism (even when it is used with good intentions).</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1538146665\";}i:2;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8686\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:88:\"Let Them Drown: Climate Change is War - and Wall Street is Winning audio from #DABF 2018\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:587:\"<p>This audio is an independently organised panel from the 2018 Dublin Anarchist Bookfair on the bleak reality of climate change and its intersections with financial capitalism, state politics and migration. [<a href=\"https://www.mixcloud.com/workerssolidarity/climate-change-is-war-and-wall-street-is-winning-audio-from-dabf-2018/\">audio</a>]</p>\r\n<p><iframe frameborder=\"0\" height=\"120\" src=\"https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?hide_cover=1&amp;light=1&amp;feed=%2Fworkerssolidarity%2Fclimate-change-is-war-and-wall-street-is-winning-audio-from-dabf-2018%2F\" width=\"100%\"></iframe>\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1538128457\";}i:3;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8685\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:99:\"Ending Direct Provision: Migrant Voices speak out about the Asylum process in Ireland at #DABF 2018\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:765:\"<p>People currently in Direct Provision talk about the dehumanising conditions and the large profits being made out of their suffering by the companies that own the direct provision centres. People don&rsquo;t understand why we ended up in Direct Provision, we hope to bring our stories out of the shadows of Irish society. [<a href=\"https://www.mixcloud.com/workerssolidarity/ending-direct-provision-migrant-voices-speak-out-about-the-asylum-process-in-ireland-at-dabf-2018/\">audio</a>]</p>\r\n<p><iframe frameborder=\"0\" height=\"120\" src=\"https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?hide_cover=1&amp;light=1&amp;feed=%2Fworkerssolidarity%2Fending-direct-provision-migrant-voices-speak-out-about-the-asylum-process-in-ireland-at-dabf-2018%2F\" width=\"100%\"></iframe></p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1537883979\";}i:4;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8684\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:66:\"How my politics is intersectional - audio from panel at 2018 #DABF\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:634:\"<p>Panel from the 2018 Dublin Anarchist bookfair on the intersection between race politics, class and gender in Ireland with a particular focus on the current housing struggles and the Together for Yes referendum campaign / Repeal movement. [<a href=\"https://www.mixcloud.com/workerssolidarity/how-my-politics-is-intersectional-panel-at-2018-dublin-anarchist-bookfair/\">audio</a>]</p>\r\n<p><iframe frameborder=\"0\" height=\"120\" src=\"https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?hide_cover=1&amp;light=1&amp;feed=%2Fworkerssolidarity%2Fhow-my-politics-is-intersectional-panel-at-2018-dublin-anarchist-bookfair%2F\" width=\"100%\"></iframe></p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1537536634\";}i:5;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8683\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:91:\"Rojava: Eyewitness to a women\'s revolution - report back from a May 2018 trip at #DABF 2018\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:597:\"<p>The 12th Dublin anarchist bookfair heard this account from Wendy, a Human Rights &amp; immigration lawyer who visited Rojava in May 2018 as part of a fact finding delegation. [<a href=\"https://www.mixcloud.com/workerssolidarity/rojava-eyewitness-to-a-womens-revolution-report-back-from-a-may-2018-trip-at-dabf-2018/\">audio</a>]</p>\r\n<p><iframe frameborder=\"0\" height=\"120\" src=\"https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?hide_cover=1&amp;light=1&amp;feed=%2Fworkerssolidarity%2Frojava-eyewitness-to-a-womens-revolution-report-back-from-a-may-2018-trip-at-dabf-2018%2F\" width=\"100%\"></iframe></p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1537442594\";}}s:10:\"total_rows\";i:807;s:5:\"pager\";a:5:{s:9:\"use_pager\";s:1:\"0\";s:14:\"items_per_page\";i:6;s:7:\"element\";i:0;s:6:\"offset\";i:2;s:12:\"current_page\";i:0;}}', created = 1566496643, expire = 1566496943, headers = '', serialized = 1 WHERE cid = 'not_wsm:block_1:results:6f171fd0922b167e997398452392a596' in /var/www/public/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
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Date:

The continuing opposition by loyalists to the decision by Belfast city council to limit the flying of the Union Jack  is a product of a deeply sectarian colonial settlement that smothers the importance of class.  The disturbances were pretty predicable in the context of summer riots over parading, intra unionist rivalry and rising anger in traditional protestant working class communities over shortage of jobs, housing and perceived gains made by the ‘nationalist’ community.  The mass inflammatory leafleting by unionist parties in the days leading up to the council vote served to heighten fears in a constituency which is easily inflamed and mobilised in defence of the realm. This is not the cause of the disturbances; but the logical conclusion of capitalist decay and opportunist politicians battling for the hearts and minds of protestant working class communities- disenchanted and disillusioned with the peace dividends promised over 10 years ago.

Since December, roads continue to be sporadically blocked across the North for short periods of time along with pockets of rioting, while Alliance Party offices were attacked and in some cases burned and council chambers stormed - representing a challenge for the PSNI. The attempted storming of Belfast City Hall on the night of the vote was the fuse which lit the media fire as sections of the liberal press, business and political class lined up to condemn the violence as bad for business and the brand image of the new era. Incidentally, although reactionary by nature, these protests serve as a timely reminder that our ruling class only take notice when we actually move beyond the ritual art of ‘peaceful protest' and engage in civil disobedience and 'violence'.

Jason Walsh, a journalist based in Dublin, hit the nail on the head writing, ‘Press coverage has focused on outrage among the middle classes and the threat that the violence poses to traders and wider investment in the ‘New Northern Ireland’. Neither of these claims is inaccurate, but both are beside the point. The most revealing thing about the riots is that they show the vacuity of identity politics – on both sides of the sectarian divide.  Walsh added, ‘’Smug, middle-class Unionists, republicans and liberals who can’t understand why there is all this kerfuffle over a flag would do well to ponder just who it was that transformed a territorial conflict into a cultural one and what the endgame was actually supposed to be.(1)

Flag Smokescreen?

Predictably various shades of republicans have cashed in on the flag riots in a triumphalist bemusing fashion, full of irony and humour- much of which has been documented on social media sites such as Facebook and Youtube. Rather than seeking to understand the underlying root causes of the disturbances, and their failure to make their politics relevant to the protestant working class beyond sound bites of ‘national liberation’ and references to the United Irishmen, their focus has been on the low level of policing and arrests in comparison to republican protests.

As anarchists we recognize the fact that imperialism has no progressive role to play in Ireland or anywhere else and has left a partisan legacy of collusion, torture and state sponsored terrorism.  At the same time we are not surprised by the nature of state repression.

It is only natural that the ruling class and its armed wing will utilise all instruments of repression at its disposal against any perceived threat to ‘national security’ and its monopoly over the use of violence. In Ireland, republicanism has been traditionally cast as the main threat and ‘bogeyman’, while in other countries it has been anarchists and so forth.

However, anti anarchist scaremongering is never far away from the media discourse even in the wee north. In a sensationalised headline in the Newtownabbey Times in December, following rioting in the staunchly loyalist estate of Mossley Hill and Rathcoole, the paper led off with ‘anarchists hell-bent on damage and destruction’.

According to The South and East Antrim Community Federation spokesman, Tommy Kirkham, a former independent loyalist councillor who previously represented the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group, described claims that known paramilitaries were behind the trouble as “convenient”, adding that young people intent on anti-social behaviour and “anarchists hell-bent on damage and destruction” were responsible for the disturbances.(2) While it would be a welcome development if there was a growing class struggle anarchist presence in Newtownabbey, these allegations are ridiculous and a complete distortion of reality as anarchism is opposed to all forms of nationalism and patriotism. We the working class have no business getting involved in the petty squabbles over flags between political parties who we have nothing in common with, as we need to get rid of the entire capitalist system.

While acknowledging the legacy of partisan policing, the reality is it is much easier to police, gather intelligence and make arrests at a peaceful sit down protest with the annual ritual of rioting which takes places in a small densely populated and confined community like Ardoyne than at illegal blockades and rolling demonstrations across the North. We also need to take into account that policing tactics have considerably evolved in the North over the last 30 years (in conjunction with policing ‘reform’) as the police tend to gather intelligence and make arrests (due to the higher threat level) after the event rather than using ‘snatch squads’ as in other parts of Europe.  This is not an attempt to justify and legitimize state policing but to merely understand the PSNI facilitation of illegal protests and other dynamics at work which underpin some degree of policing in the 21st century.

Beneath the media spectacle and claims by Sinn Fein that this is a victory for the nationalist community is the ugly reality of a pacification zero-sum process which has strengthened and entrenched sectarianism, as symbols and emblems are used as cultural weapons to both hide internal class contradictions and instil fear. It is worth referring to Rudolf Rocker on the subject of nationalism and patriotism; “we must not forget that we are always dealing with the organised selfishness of privileged minorities which hide behind the skirts of the nation, hide behind the credulity of the masses. We speak of national interests, national capital, national spheres of interest, national honour, and national spirit; but we forget that behind all this there are hidden merely the selfish interests of power-loving politicians and money-loving business men for whom the nation is a convenient cover to hide their personal greed and their schemes for political power from the eyes of the world.’

For the Provisional movement this limiting of the number of days the Union Jack flies outside Belfast City Hall is in reality a compromise rather than any real victory. This strategy is underpinned by a movement which is more concerned about playing the green card, ‘identity politics’ and the ‘parity of esteem’ rather than any notion of radical transformation and class unity. (Read- http://www.wsm.ie/c/review-politics-sinn-fein-kevin-bean-insurgency-identity) By embarking along this path,  Sinn Fein have only served to alienate an important constituency which it needs for its long-term aim of an Ireland of equals and national reconciliation. In doing so republicanism and its most progressive currents is dealt a further blow being perceived as merely being a form of ‘catholic nationalism.’

The reactionary nature of Ulster Loyalism

For Ulster loyalism and unionism this is another PR disaster but one which a community that perceives itself to be under siege will have little empathy for. The riots bring to focus growing mistrust and alienation between ‘working class loyalism’ and ‘big-house’ unionism which has often been an ambiguous relationship (despite uniting when perceived to be under threat by the 'other’)  that republicans ignore at their own peril. (3) It also provides a useful ‘cause’ for rival and divided loyalists to rally under as their credibility and image has been undermined in protestant working class areas by years of internal turmoil and conflict.

As expected, unionist politicians exploited the fears and tension of the flags debate, scapegoating the Alliance party and standing shoulder to shoulder with demonstrators on rallies and picket lines, while far-right elements  facilitated by elements of loyalism are more than happy to fill the vacuum in loyalist heartlands. Former BNP members Paul Golding and Jim Dowson (with past offences for loyalist gun-running) who are now members of the British First party were guest speakers at rallies organised by a group called the United Protestant Voice outside the city hall. While links between loyalist paramilitaries and fascists is nothing new, this latest development sets a dangerous precedent for anti-fascists and progressive forces.

Anyone with any lingering notions in the ‘socialist’ Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) should take note as they seek to outgun and out-British each other in a manner and style similar to the English Defence League. Paradoxically they agreed a number of years ago to fly the flag on certain designated days.  Despite the organisers promising that tens of thousands will take to the streets in villages and towns across the North nothing has appeared on this scale and they have been largely confined to 'unionist' working class areas. An indication of the steady decline from the days of the Drumcree standoff but this will provide little comfort for those living in interface areas.

Unlike Irish Republicanism, with all its faults, which at times developed significant ’left strands’’ only to be recuperated by green nationalism and the logic of ‘labour must wait’, Ulster Loyalism has once against revealed its true chauvinistic colours and reactionary sectarian agenda while conveniently ignoring the reality that any future Irish unity depends on its consent. It serves a reactionary agenda in all its forms providing foot soldiers and henchmen for the ruling class and the far-right- a threat to any progressive movement that espouses real freedom and social equality.

However, despite claims by some shades of republicanism, variants of unionism are not simply dupes of British imperialism and at times exert their own agenda which can be in conflict with the crown.  But it would be foolish to assume any progressive outcome of this ambigous relationship and this latest flashpoint hightlights this. In this dangerous vacuum the wider left and labour movement needs to step up to the challenge and provide a principled alternative which provides a gateway to the politics of class and a better society from the ashes of sectarianism and imperialism. 

It is worth dispelling some of the myths and fears over housing and deprivation that provide the wider backdrop to the continuing loyalist ‘grievances’’ which sections of the media help to legitimise without challenging and exposing.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) produced The Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2010, and it is viewed as ‘the official measure of spatial deprivation in Northern Ireland.’ It collates data relating to the status of individuals residing in every one of the 582 wards in Northern Ireland, using these figures to rank the status of each ward in relation to a range of domains including Income, Employment, Health Deprivation and Disability as well as Education, Skills and Training amongst others.

Whilst separate rankings exist for each domain, an accumulative overall multiple deprivation measure ranking is also provided. 14 of the 20 most deprived wards are predominantly catholic, including 8 of the most deprived 10 wards The Peace Monitoring Report 2012 made reference to the facts regarding greater catholic levels of deprivation, an enduring feature of northern Irish life, when it reported that “the proportion of people who are in low-income households is much higher among Catholics (26%) than among Protestants (16%).”

The figures outlined above collectively point to a conclusion that, across the range of poverty and deprivation indicators, there is no material basis other than pandering to sectarianism in suggesting that working class protestant communities are losing out to their catholic neighbours, who continue to predominate the range of lists ranking the most deprived communities in the State. (4)

The anarchist alternative

As we enter 2013 it is worth remembering that the Union Jack will continue to fly over Belfast city hall for 17 days of the year despite hundreds of protests and road blockades taking place since mid-December. The flag controversy and cries of 'no surrender' iare the tip of the iceberg illustrating the continuing reality of a sectarian statelet propped up by Westminster which Northern Ireland Tourist Board cannot simply brand away.

In a wider context, the 'flag riots' help to gloss over class conflict providing a useful distraction for an unprecedented austerity programme of privatisation, cuts to public services, workplace/welfare rights which were won for by struggle over the years. The British state with their junior partners at Stormont are plunging working class communities into deeper levels of poverty, deprivation, rising cost of living and job insecurity - continuing the savage neo-liberal agenda of successive governments. Our response needs to be pro-active and aggressive because being right is not enough in a society built on protecting the wealth and privilege of the ruling class.

Quite clearly the future for any sustained working class resistance to these measures across the sectarian divide is quite bleak as long as we remain captive to the politics of fear and scaremongering that is promoted and fostered by those in power for their own selfish and strategic interests. 

However there is hope, which does not lie in putting our faith in sectarian politicians and any so-called vanguard. The question we need to ask ourselves is not what flag we want to live under but what type of society do we want. By winning small battles in the workplace and community such as the Visteon workers struggle in 2009 we can make small steps that build confidence, a culture of self-organisation and direct action that can steadily erode what may divide us. Yes, the task is a great one. But of course, we only want the world.

For those of us on the progressive left and wider labour movement it is important that we expose and exacerbate these contradictions from a revolutionary class perspective, in theory and practice, while providing a space to build an alternative movement to the rotten politics of zero-sum which at the end of the day only benefits our common enemy the ruling class.  

Anarchists are "proud of being internationalists." We seek "the end of all oppression and of all exploitation," and so aim "to awaken a consciousness of the antagonism of interests between dominators and dominated, between exploiters and workers, and to develop the class struggle inside each country, and the solidarity among all workers across the frontiers, as against any prejudice and any passion of either race or nationality."- Errico Malatesta

Words: Sean Matthews

 

1)       http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/13161

2) http://www.newtownabbeytoday.co.uk/news/anarchists-hell-bent-on-damage-a...

3) ‘Protestant Socialists’? Ulster Loyalism and Working-class Politics: 1969-1974 (http://www.ucc.ie/en/history/scrinium/FrenettUlster.pdf)

4http://sluggerotoole.com/2012/10/03/dispelling-the-myths-sustaining-loya...

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