The Provisional IRA was not born out of popular consensus among northern Catholics for an all-Ireland Gaelic state. On the contrary, it was the rejection of the demand for jobs and homes and a widening of the franchise, to put them on a basis of perceived equality with Protestants within the northern state, that created the conditions out of which the Provisionals emerged. In other words, had the Unionist government been able to abolish unemployment and solve the disastrous housing problem in 1969, the Provisional IRA would never have emerged. Those people who rejected the IRA in 1956, when the IRA advocated the old nationalist shibboleths to muster support, only offered sympathy to the Provisionals after the Unionists had met their social and economic demands with violence. We would add that those who propped up the Provisionals were predominantly located to a few areas of absolute social deprivation.
The Socialist Standard wrote that analysis back in 1988. We now read echoes of it in a Guardian report following the callous murder of Lyra Mckee:
“...Here [the Creggan housing estate] almost two-thirds of children are born into poverty. Many grow up angry and alienated – fertile soil for dissident republicans...“They’ve no hope. They get sucked into paramilitarism, they get chucked into crap,” said Sharon McCloske...The number of children removed from family homes because of neglect in Derry hit a record high point last year. In a survey, 95% of young people questioned said that they saw no future in the city...”
The problems of the working class in Northern Ireland were, and remain, the problems of the working class of the world and originate in the class stratification of capitalist society. The New IRA is composed mainly of young workers unaware of the economic pressures that had given rise to the struggle. They are fighting for a phantom Ireland. Their “Ireland” is an abstraction, an “Ireland” opposite of what they know and live with. The aspiration to have a nation which belongs to you is in reality a desire to have a society which is yours — where you can feel a part of because it belongs to you. It is a reflection of alienated workers who want a place which they can call their own. Workers are right to seek a community which they can call their own, but which belongs to humanity and locals alike, something they can take pride in and no longer feel to be mere tenants in a country owned by others. But it is not an One-Ireland but a One-World.
Experience has shown us that under capitalism peace does not automatically mean prosperity. But the absence of killing, maiming and intimidation can bring an improvement to the quality of working class life in Northern Ireland and, especially, it can help the victims of capitalism to focus on the real cause of their problems. Behind all the ideologies that underlie all wars and all violence are the conflicts created among peoples by the divisive interests of capitalism. It follows that the only real ‘peace dividend’ is to end capitalism. It is left to a few socialists to rationally explain the irrationality of a system that imbues its wage slaves with deliberate disguises to hide the fact that, whether we perceive ourselves to be Catholic or Protestant. British or Irish, our way of life is dictated by our class position in society. It is our class position, and not the colour of the rag at the end of a flag-pole that inflicts on all of the working class its poverty and degradation. The problems of workers in the Creggan housing scheme are the same problems of wage slaves everywhere and they will not be solved separately from the rest of the working class.