FOR A UNITED IRELAND
The struggle to end British colonial rule in the Six Counties of the north of Ireland is a struggle for Irish national independence and self-determination. The modern demand for independence began at the close of 18th century by the Irish people who lived in appalling conditions entirely due to the brutal exploitation of the colonial power. As the struggle intensified in the 19th century, the response of British imperialism was to stir up religious hatred and ferment sectarian strife using the venal leaders of the Protestant community in the north of the island as their willing tools.
The Easter Rising in 1916 sparked off the armed struggle which led to the declaration of the Republic of Ireland in 1919 and all-out war against the might of British imperialism. Divisions in the nationalist ranks led to the acceptance of a British imposed settlement which partitioned the country in 1920.
The current struggle to end the British occupation of the north of Ireland, led by Sinn Féin, began in 1969. Thousands of lives have been lost since then, entirely due to British imperialism's determination to retain its hold on the Six Counties through military might, political manipulation, repressive laws and economic domination. Through these methods, British imperialism, since 1921, has also been able to extend its influence over the Irish governments in the south.
Since our last Congress some progress has been made. The renewed IRA cease-fire, rapidly followed by Labour's victory in the 1997 general election, raised hopes that the new British government would respond realistically to the demands of the Irish people for an end to partition.
We have long recognised the right of the Irish people to determine the nature of their struggle to end British colonial rule in the occupied north. We believe that the conflict will finally end when British imperialism recognises that it must withdraw from the north of Ireland, end partition and permit the re-unification of the country it criminally divided in 1921.
We welcomed the all-party talks which led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which provides for a government of the north of Ireland which includes Sinn Féin and the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, seeks to end the discrimination and institutionalised sectarianism against the Catholic community, provides for cross-border authorities and the limited participation of the Irish government, on the basis that it was acceptable to Sinn Féin.
The Good Friday Agreement was given a democratic mandate by the all-Ireland referendum - the first all-Ireland election since l9l8 in which it was endorsed by 85 per cent of voters. The continued failure by the British government to ensure implementation of the agreement reflects the true attitude of the British ruling class towards the wishes of the people of Ireland as a whole, while its continued presence in the occupied six counties is justified on the basis of the Unionist "majority" artificially manufactured in 1921.
Sinn Féin's acceptance was on the basis that the Good Friday Agreement provided a way forward for achieving re-unification through dialogue, discussion and negotiation. The IRA ceasefire continues and Sinn Féin has made substantial concessions to further the cause of peace. Sinn Féin has agreed to take part in the Six County Assembly and the constitutional changes demanded from the Irish government as part of the process.
Now the agreement is in danger of collapse due to the intransigence of the Unionist parties in the north of Ireland, backed by the British ruling class which seeks to claw back what it had conceded when the Good Friday deal was struck.
The demand that the IRA hand over its weapons is entirely unrealistic as it plainly only applies to them. The British government makes no serious attempt to disarm the Unionist militias and death-squads which serve as auxiliaries for the British Army. Indeed, the presentation of de-commissioning by both the Unionists and the British government is completely at odds with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. This clearly stated that all parties to the agreement would work with the De Chastelain Commission, using their best endeavours to facilitate the start of all round de-commissioning by May 2000. The Government has still to move on the question of reforming the para-military Royal Ulster Constabulary let alone move to withdraw its garrisons.
Despite the maintenance of the IRA's second military cessation for over two years, attacks on the Catholic/nationalist community by the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries have continued unabated. Among the 16 people killed by loyalist paramilitaries during this period have been Robert Hamill and human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. The reactionary Orange Order continues to insist on the right to display its bigotry and supremacy over Catholics, and has maintained its siege of the Garvaghy Road community in Portadown for 14 months. The Orange Order's displays of bigotry, backed up by a militarised RUC, would not be tolerated anywhere in Britain.
The British labour and peace movements have a crucial role to play in using their influence to put pressure on the Labour government to stop stalling and trying to renege on the Good Friday Agreement. British working people must demand a genuine decommissioning of weapons from all parties including the British Army and the RUC, and the removal of the Unionists' veto in the British union and political arena.
The demand raised by Sinn Féin for the demilitarisation of the six counties and for the removal of all guns from Irish politics is a principled position which deserves the support of the British labour movement. Unionist opposition is but the latest manifestation of their assumed right to a veto over all political developments within the six counties and with regard to relations between Britain and Ireland. This is simply not acceptable.
The New Communist Party will continue to build solidarity with the Irish people and their struggle to end British colonial rule over part of their country and continue to work with the Irish solidarity and prisoners' campaigns in Britain.
The simple truth is that a continued British presence is incompatible
with democracy in Ireland. The NCP demands a united sovereign Ireland
free from all outside interference, and an end to racism and discrimination
against people of Irish descent living in Britain. The NCP acknowledges
the role of Sinn Féin as the vanguard force in the struggle for
national liberation. and pays tribute to the revolutionary commitment and
sacrifices of its members over the years and decades. The NCP will
continue to work with the Wolfe Tone Society and the Connolly Association
in support of the peace process and complete British disengagement from
THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN BRITAIN
The New Communist Party welcomed the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly by the Labour government. The party has long recognised the rights of the Scottish and Welsh nations to full national self-determination. The creation of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly reflected the demands of Scottish and Welsh workers for greater democratic control of their own lives and their own distinct national cultures.
We support Scottish and Welsh demands for the right to preserve and develop their cultural heritage and national identity. We support their right to possess and control all the physical and other resources present on their land or in their territorial waters.
We also support the demand for genuine self-governing powers for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, which at the moment are intended to be little more than regional authorities. And the powers of both Houses are clearly limited by the Act which established them which makes it clear that sovereignty remains with the Westminster Parliament.
Though the Scottish Parliament does have the right to vary income tax by up to three per cent, constitutional questions, social security, general economic development, defence and foreign policy remain in the hands of the Westminster Parliament. The Welsh Assembly has no fiscal powers at all and will simply administer the responsibilities formerly held solely by the Secretary of State for Wales and decide on the spending of the Welsh budget allocated by Westminster.
The New Communist Party supports the demand for the encouragement of the Welsh language, which should be raised, in practice as well as in theory, to equal standing with English, throughout Wales. We support demands for the encouragement of Scottish Gaelic in those areas of Scotland where it is spoken.
Though a degree of local autonomy has been won by the Scots and Welsh it, in itself, is no guarantee that the national traditions and culture of the Scottish and Welsh people will be developed, nor will it automatically lead to the strengthening of working class power.
The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, both British dependencies, have always retained local governments with powers far greater than any granted to the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly, though ultimately they too are answerable to the Westminster Parliament and the Crown. These island governments comprised of local exploiters have presided over the virtual demise of their entire heritage and culture while creating tax-havens for themselves and wealthy mainlanders. These governments did nothing over the past hundred years to preserve the Manx Gaelic language or the Channel Islanders' French dialect from terminal decline. Their labour laws and practices are even worse than those in Britain. We fully support the struggles of the labour movement in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands and the efforts by the citizens of these islands for democratic and progressive change and genuine cultural revival.
The struggle for genuine national independence for the Scottish and Welsh nations is an integral part of the struggle of the working class of England, Scotland and Wales for socialist revolution.
The separatist Scottish National Party argument for independence within the European Union, and the platform of the Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales, reflect the bourgeois class basis of both these nationalist parties and deny the economic unity which capitalist development has brought to all three countries.
No independent class of big capitalists exists in Scotland or Wales. Therefore as long as Wales and Scotland remain capitalist they cannot be independent from England and as long England remains capitalist it would not tolerate a socialist Scotland or Wales. Nor is there a separate English, Welsh or Scottish working class. It is one, integrated working class.
The united struggle by the Scottish, Welsh and English working class,
together with all the ethnic minorities which also live in these three
countries, is essential to the defence and advancement of national rights.
It is an essential part of the organisational unity of the working class
which already exists within the trade union movement. It is an essential
part in the revolutionary process which will end the rule of the capitalist
class and establish a republican federal socialist system based on equality
for all the nations and peoples living in England, Scotland and Wales.
The New Communist Party was founded in 1977 to make a clean break with the revisionist and social-democratic trends within the old Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). That party no longer exists. Its successor, the Democratic Left, is an irrelevant right social-democratic debating society. But the left social democratic and revisionist ideas of the CPGB's British Road to Socialism live on in its direct heirs, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and the Communist Party of Scotland (CPS).
At the same time we have always recognised that there is the possibility of co-operation on certain issues such as peace, anti-racism, or the wages struggle with these parties and others which have sprung from the British communist movement. There is certainly the need to exchange views with all of them on a regular basis. This was recognised back in 1995 by the CPB leaders themselves who convened a round-table conference of communist parties which the NCP attended.
We felt this was a positive initiative and often called for further meetings on the same basis. It was never followed-up by the CPB leadership.
Our own proposals for a communist round-table are:
1. For a communist liaison committee which would allow for the regular exchanges of information and views between the various communist parties in Britain at a leadership level. It would be a non-voting, non-executive body and the only offices, that of chairperson and convenor, would rotate between the participating parties.
2. We believe the round-table should consist of the New Communist Party, Communist Party of Britain, Communist Party of Scotland, Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML) and the Communist Party of Britain (ML) should the latter wish to take part. Participation by other movements after the establishment of the round-table would then be on the basis of unanimous agreement of the existing members of the committee.
3. The meetings should be held in a labour movement building, preferably Marx House. If that was not possible then the venues could rotate amongst the participating members of the committee.
4. The party delegations should consist of at least two representatives though there should be no upward limit.
5. Each delegation will take turns in chairing the meetings and each delegation would take turns in convening the next meeting.
6. Minutes of the discussions will be the responsibility of each delegation and they will be assumed to be open and for the record unless there is prior agreement at the meeting for an off-the-record or confidential discussion.
7. The round-table should meet quarterly and any expenses incurred by the committee, such as hire of rooms, would be met by the participating delegations.
The formal name for this committee and its terms of reference would have to be agreed at the first working session.
These proposals were put to the CPB in July, 1998 and were rejected. Nevertheless we believe the provide the only basis for regular exchanges of information and views. They therefore remain on the table.