Year 2000 No.18, February 2, 2000

The British Government Cannot Be the Arbiter of Progress in Northern Ireland

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

The British Government Cannot Be the Arbiter of Progress in Northern Ireland

Working for Progress and Stability - Speech by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams

Student Occupation Broken Up by Police

Readers Forum: On Overproduction

News In Brief
Albanian Musicians on Hunger Strike against the End of State Subsidies

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The British Government Cannot Be the Arbiter of Progress in Northern Ireland

Just before midnight on Monday, January 31, the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning to the British and Irish governments delivered its report. It was handed over by General John de Chastelain and his two commissioners.

Secretary of State Peter Mandelson met the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowan yesterday afternoon, February 1, to discuss the report, but the report was not published yesterday as scheduled.

It seems certain that the Decommissioning Report will say that, although the IRA has appointed a representative to discuss the modalities of decommissioning arms, no arms have in fact been handed in. While the Ulster Unionist members of the Northern Ireland Assembly have threatened to walk out, saying that the Report will prove that what they allege as a deadline has not been met, the government will suspend the Executive and pass emergency legislation to once more institute direct rule from Westminster.

The Labour government would be flying in the face of the right of the people of northern Ireland to sort out their own affairs, in the context of a developing all-Ireland dimension, if they did so. Of course, Peter Mandelson has urbanely called on everyone to keep "cool heads", but it is all very well for him to speak as if the problem was the sectarian divide in the six counties and the British government was the arbiter of progress there. It was the government who drew up the legislation which institutionalised the "two communities" in the way the Northern Ireland Assembly is set up, elected and functions. And they had very good reasons for doing so. They wish to keep the pot boiling, keep a presence in the north of Ireland, give themselves umpteen pretexts of intervening there, while freeing themselves from military conflict in the north. There are two basic reasons for this. One is their economic and political aim to exploit Ireland and its working class and people, as well as intervening militarily and in other ways further afield, in Europe for example. Second, is their underlying purpose to head off the workers of Scotland, Wales, and particularly England, from challenging their rule in Britain by sowing divisions, and diverting attention from the fact that the workers here should also demand their right to constitute themselves as the nation. Sovereign states whether of Ireland as a whole, of Scotland, of Wales and of England, cannot be tolerated under the government’s plans which serve the interests not of the Irish people or the peoples of Britain, but of the English bourgeoisie. The government still aims to be the external factor to which the Unionists can appeal if they are goaded to present ultimata and complain about lack of progress. And, of course, it could not be conceived that it is the British government which is organising the goading!

In this situation, Gerry Adams has pointed out that if the Peace Process collapses, "The political vacuum which would be created leaves all of us hostage." Furthermore, the British government has not fulfilled its responsibility to demilitarise the north of Ireland, where they maintain a large military presence, particularly in South Armagh and other places, not the mention their network of military intelligence.

Only if the government ceases all attempts to maintain the archaic and extremely reactionary entity of the "United Kingdom" by all the means at its disposal, an entity which recognises neither national rights nor the rights of people themselves to exercise sovereignty, will justice and progress prevail. The working class have an important responsibility in this regard to uphold the rights of nations and peoples and fight for this programme.

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Working for Progress and Stability

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams gave a speech in Newry, Co Down, on January 27. In focusing on the decommissioning issue, Gerry Adams said:

``I remain committed to decommissioning as an essential part of the peace process and I will continue to work to try and bring this about. But I have to say that the achievement of this objective has been set back by the way it is being used as a political football by the unionists at this time.

``I understand why unionists and others want decommissioning now. I can see it from the unionist point of view. But non-republicans need to see this issue from the IRA's point of view, a view that is shared by many nationalists. It is not easy to get the IRA, or indeed any of the armed groups, to do this speedily. This is the reality. I know there are other and opposite realities so Sinn Féin have attempted to base our peace strategy in realpolitik in our efforts to bring about a complete and absolute end of conflict. We are not dealing with tokens or symbols, gestures or stunts. Our approach is much more deep-rooted and durable than that.

``In my view the vast majority of people appreciate the significance of the IRA cessation They understand the political dynamic that brought this about and they have a sense of the huge effort it took for the IRA to engage with the Decommissioning Commission.

``So, there is a need for unionism to be patient and for people to have faith.

``Sinn Féin is genuinely committed to resolving the arms issue and I believe that this issue will be resolved. The IRA has shown its willingness to enhance the peace process through the silence of its guns and through the engagement with the IICD. Is this to be thrown back in their faces?

``It is a fundamental mistake in strategy to try to force decommissioning by seeking to marginalise a political party and its electorate. The strategy of political exclusion has failed and the redeployment of this strategy, no matter how it is dressed up, will guarantee failure in the future as it has always done in the past.

``The reality is that a collapse or even a soft landing or another review phase would recreate a political vacuum, would reinforce and encourage negative unionism, would put the entire process into jeopardy, and would make decommissioning even more difficult than it has been so far.

``There is speculation that the British Government may be considering triggering a review before the UUP ministers would resign because there is some doubt about whether the First Minister would get re-elected.

``The only premise - and it would be an entirely fabricated one - would be for this to be presented as a default on decommissioning. There is no basis whatsoever for this and there is no basis in the Good Friday Agreement for the British Government to trigger a review at this time outside of the collapse of the Executive.

``There has been no default on decommissioning. There is no reason for the Executive to collapse or for any minister to resign. Given the progress that has been made and the progress which it is still possible to make, there is no reason why the IICD report cannot be allowed to get on with its work and why the forthcoming report cannot contribute positively to this.

``We want this process to work We want the institutions to work. We want the permanent and lasting peace that will come with political progress and stability. We want the economic benefits for a1l our people that a stable political situation can deliver.

``With patience and perseverance I believe all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement will be achieved. Let each of us give the other the space that is needed to make a better job of our future than we have of our past."

Article Index

Student Occupation Broken Up by Police

The occupation of part of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) by students was broken up with force by police and bailiffs in the early hours at the weekend.

Around 200 students had joined the sit-in to demand an end to charges for students working overseas and the scrapping of the £1,000 per year tuition fees, which the students rightly point out are excluding poor students from going to university. They were calling for a more flexible approach by the authorities to students who are having great difficulty paying their fees. The occupation began last week after a Student Union vote in solidarity with Oxford and London University students who are facing expulsion for non-payment of fees.

Around 30 police and four bailiffs forced their way into the management offices in which the occupying students were asleep at 5.30 am. One student protested that "students involved in a peaceful demonstration awoke to find truncheon-wielding policemen standing over them".

WDIE condemns this use of force and the utilisation of the police against the students who have legitimate grievances. Such serious matters and political issues cannot and should not be resolved through attacks by the state which is attempting to turn such issues into purely law and order questions. Instead, the government should pay heed as the students develop the movement for the ending of tuition fees and demand that education be recognised as a right.

It is reported that students at University College London (UCL) and Goldsmiths College in New Cross are also planning occupations this week. Other actions are expected at Oxford, Middlesex and Leeds.

Article Index

Readers’ Forum

On Overproduction

(WDIE reply to reader’s query, continued from issue No. 14, January 27)

The facts given about Dunlop, Sumitomo and Goodyear demonstrate very well the dynamic which has given rise to the plans to make 650 workers redundant at Fort Dunlop. These workers are no more than a statistic to Goodyear, little more than half of one percent of the people it employs world-wide, but a component part of the larger picture of its "global rationalisation plan", which means cuts in jobs, even closures of whole plants, in various parts of the world. It shows that capitalism cannot proceed, especially in this period of globalisation and the neo-liberal agenda, without wholesale destruction of productive forces on a massive scale.

The picture is one where separate, but nevertheless huge, capitalist concerns of Dunlop in Britain, Sumitomo in Japan and Goodyear in America were competing to capture markets in order to control these markets and sell tyres. Various arrangements are made, in the sense that Dunlop is taken over, the world market is carved up between Goodyear and Sumitomo and in the course of monopolisation, competition is intensified, while one monopoly "merges" with or takes over, acquires a controlling stake in another. Of course, then "rationalisation" must take place, in the name of competition, of becoming "number one" or at least "number two" in every single market globally. The various enterprises need "streamlining", because whereas, for the sake of example, one plant in Europe of one tyre monopoly is producing commercial truck tyres and so is another plant of the other tyre monopoly in cut-throat competition with each other, when the "association" or "merger" or "take-over", whatever it may be, occurs, then clearly one of the plants is basically redundant, or at least part of its productive capacity is, depending on the market. This is the kind of "overproduction" which takes place.

Also, in this particular instance, Goodyear/Sumitomo does not yet possess the sole monopoly of tyre production. There is also Bridgestone, as Formula 1 devotees will be aware. Here is another massive monopoly, established in Japan in 1931, establishing a marketing subsidiary in the US in 1967, acquiring Firestone, the second largest US tyre manufacturer, in 1988 and "integrating" (another of these euphemisms) its North American operations, setting up an integrated European marketing and distribution operation, and so on. Competition becomes even more cut-throat.

Is the aim of this production to serve the needs of the world’s car and lorry owners with tyres, to simply supply what the "consumer" needs to use? If one were to believe Bridgestone’s motto of "Serving society with products of superior quality," then this is the case. But quite clearly the motive of production is the domination of the market in order to make the maximum profit.

(to be continued)

Article Index

News In Brief

Albanian Musicians on Hunger Strike against the End of State Subsidies

Albanian police evicted seven opera musicians last Thursday, January 27, from a theatre where they had been staging a hunger strike to protest against the end of state subsidies.

The musicians went on hunger striker over a new law which threatens the survival of Albania’s only opera house by forcing the repayment of subsidies it receives to stage performances. The musicians – the orchestra conductor, two tenors and four members of the orchestra – had also demanded the resignation of the Minister of Culture, Edi Rama.

Police broke into the theatre after Prime Minister Ilir Meta said he supported the Culture Minister. The musicians, who had fasted for five days, were taken to hospital. They vowed to continue their protest, neither performing nor eating until their demands are met.

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