Artificial barriers of religion and politics have been used down through the years to divide our people.
In the North in 1932 there was a time when there was total unity of the working class. This was during the outdoor relief (social assistance) strike, when Catholic and Protestant workers united and went on strike for the common good. Workers from the two communities fought side by side on the Falls and the Shankill as the state refused to give in to their demands.
Eventually, divisions were implanted in their ranks, as agents of the state suggested that the republicans were using the outdoor relief strike as a cover for overthrowing “Protestants’ rights.” The state knew well how to manipulate the situation. Despite this, it also had to give in to many of the legitimate demands in order to overcome the class unity and to continue the imperial dominance through a “carrot and stick” approach.
Sectarian tensions were fuelled by the ruling class and their provocateurs, who divided and conquered once again. It would not be until the late 1960s that unity of the people over the artificially manufactured divisions in society was to begin to happen again. Demands for civil rights made by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association were supported by sections of both communities.
This unity had the potential to grow. Once again the state used every means at its disposal to divide this unity at any cost, which resulted in thirty years of war and more than three thousand deaths.
The state believed it could control and win the war, and this option was better than class unity. It underestimated the resistance to colonial rule; and eventually military stalemate and war-weariness developed and a compromise was agreed in the form of the Belfast Agreement.
Both communities elected politicians to represent them in the new Assembly. The state has always used the same weapon to control the people, with an ingrained sectarian head count in the parliamentary system adopted as part of the agreement.
So the war goes on—this time without the killing but still with the same state-instilled and artificial sectarian hatred. Opportunities to unite the class do not regularly happen in this failed statelet.
Now, with the Brexit debate coming to the fore, the real common enemy—British and EU imperialism—is being exposed, with falling wages, cuts to services, privatisation, precarious work, and the switch to the uncertainty of private rented accommodation, to name a few of the realities of life under the neo-liberal system preferred by both Britain and the EU ruling elite.
This was not always obvious when the two communities were at war with each other. Both were being equally denied their rights by their imperial masters, who played one off against the other. Housing and employment were dire for both communities, but it was always weighted towards one side rather than the other.
A lot of the time the perception of one side being better off than the other was just that: a perception. The citizens of the North were among the most deprived in Europe. If you compare the standard of housing down the Shankill with the Falls it most certainly is far from superior, and often a lot worse. The segregation in the education system was a tool for keeping the two communities propping up their respective churches and in turn furthering sectarian hatred and division.
The National Health Service in the past was a lot better than what people had in the South, but it was paid for by the exploitation, plunder and pillage of the imperialism of the British Empire as capital compromised with labour after the Second World War to rebuild its industrial base. As the Orange state disintegrated and citizens suffered austerity equally, the true class nature of both British and European rule becomes as clear as day, as life is now run on a constant stream of debt, uncertainty, and despair.
The mask of a “social EU” is being exposed daily, and, with Brexit, British imperialism will be shown to be no different. The time has come for the ordinary people of the North to once again join together against their common enemy, that is, imperialism, both EU and British, and campaign for full exit from the EU and to join with the rest of the citizens in the South to demand an Irexit. One people, one country, united against European imperialism.
With the EU gone, the obvious solution to “soft border or hard border” is no border: an Irish EU exit at the same time. It makes no sense to remain in the EU any more: 65 per cent of exports and 73 per cent of imports are with non-EU countries.
That’s just the capitalist argument to leave, the same as was used when we were told in 1973 that we had to join once Britain did. This is not being discussed in the establishment media, as it is not in their interests, because the EU is deliberately designed to protect the interests of European big business, which in turn props up and supports the ruling classes of the member-states, at ordinary working people’s expense.
One people, one country, one democracy. Economic democracy for all the working class, and an end to the tyranny of capitalism for us all.