First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly No. 7, Summer 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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It is both because of the complexity of the struggle in Ireland against British imperialism and because of its importance to the British working class that the CFB did not at its inception adopt an ’instant line’ on Ireland, but instigated a thorough-going polemic among its membership on the whole question. Following a prolonged and principled debate a General Meeting was held on May 18th and 19th. The following motions were passed and form the basis of CFB po1icy on Ireland. The first was passed with an overwhelming majority, the second-unanimously.
Progressive people in Britain are faced with two movements in British-annexed Northern Ireland. The minority community in the region has renewed its opposition to continued British rule there, starting with a movement of democratic civil rights in 1969. It is fighting the British state politically and militarily. The majority community, consisting of descendants of colonial planters and led by comprador capitalists and landed gentry, stands for British Crown in opposition to the minority.
These two struggles in Northern Ireland are a product of British imperialism’s age-old policy in Ireland. The relationship between Britain and Ireland has been between an exploiter and the exploited for the last 800 years. Imperialist exploitation has kept Ireland industrially backward, creating rival bourgeois groups and deep sectarian divisions amongst the people. In the North, industry has developed only in and around Belfast and these too are declining. Separated from the indigenous raw materials of this country new foreign penetration in industry is on the increase. The ownership of the means of production in the North is almost exclusively in the hands of British big business. In the South industry is proportionately less developed and the domination foreign capital continually increasing.
The uneven development of industrialisation in the north east and in the rest of Ireland which is a by-product of imperialist agrarian policy necessitated a dual tactic in exploiting the geologic, economic, and manpower resources of Ireland. Aided by British imperial market, certain industries were found to be advantageous through capital investment.
North and South Ireland combined is Britain’s third largest market in the world. In recent times 74% of the imports and 87% of exports of Northern Ireland have been with Britain. In the Republic the respective, figures are 53% and 82%.
Due to geographical proximity the close, links of the economy both parts of Ireland with the British-imperial market often the appearance of a single economy. In essence the basic nature of British exploitation is neo-colonialist bearing witness in puppet government, in the backward economy dominated by agriculture in the decline in traditional industries in the North and in devastated population. The so-called subsidies for North Ireland are a form of neo-colonial aid.
The competing bourgeois groups in Ireland were divided before the present administrative partition. The insistence by the British on a united Ireland would have resulted in Britain losing the north completely to the propertied classes there. A partitioned, Ireland ensured it the major political and economic control over both parts, but at the same time the imperialist solution1 of a divided Ireland continues to obstruct the industrial development of the whole country keeping the country’s resources split into two. In this situation, the democratic movement that has continued since 1793 has been rejuvenated with a new and last phase in the conditions created by imperialismís new global crisis in the late 1960s.
The consequences of such a movement in the era of the complete collapse of British imperialism are not unknown to the British bourgeoisie. Britainís exploitative interests can be prolonged only with a united bourgeoisie in Ireland. Such unification is not desired by the northern propertied classes as they fear to lose their dominating political power. Britain is attempting to resolve the contradiction between North and South exploiting classes through the proposed council of Ireland.
CFB realises that the divisions that have been created amongst the Irish working class constitute the main obstacle to progressive political-advance, within Ireland. Of prime concern is the opposition of many workers in the north east part of the country to the forces in the vanguard of the present struggles against British imperialism. To help overcome these divisions the CFB as part of the international working class movement will work to develop links with the working class forces throughout Ireland in the fight to throw off the domination of all foreign imperialism and to help achieve a socialist republic as advocated by the Irish revolutionary forces.
The enslavement of Ireland is the enslavement of the British working people as well. We demand that the British state sever all imperialist connections, with both parts of Ireland.
British troops out of Northern Ireland!
Solidarity with all forces in Ireland fighting British imperialism!!
Centuries of oppression and repression of basic democratic rights will breed reactions that at times impair the necessary development of unified class action to overthrow imperialism and move on towards socialism, such as worker killing worker for no other reason than difference of religion, and must therefore be opposed!
Where this happens it is regrettable, but at all times and on all occasions the prime responsibility for all acts of violence that lead to the death of innocent workers lies with the forces of British imperialism.