Council elections in the North: winning by fooling

There’s nothing like the craic on the street during election campaigning. Memorable quotes are born like: “we want real change not loose change”. But mostly there is a carnivalesque atmosphere around canvassing and people can appear to become interested in what the candidates are saying. You are told wonderful stories of how politics should work and about how they have been failed by the system. And, oh yes, you are always getting their number one. People are wonderful and they will never send you away feeling you haven’t convinced them to vote for you.

All of this hides a deeper and, as history has shown, an often lethal story. Local Council elections are certainly not disconnected from the sectarian basis upon which this statelet was set up. In fact everything about elections in the North follows a strict “them and us” theme. Even election literature and posters overtly reflect whose side each candidate is on or, in some cases, is not. One hundred years after imperialist-imposed partition, very little has changed in this respect.

But there are great efforts by everyone involved to hide the sectarian elements that are central to who votes for what. It’s a well-practiced art. Silence by the electorate on who they actually vote for is the greatest method used to hide the obvious. Unionist political parties say a vote for them protects the Union. In reality, it’s to keep the Taigs in their box. Nationalist parties say they just want to “work for all”. The real motive is somewhat different. It says “we have overtaken, numerically, our former masters”. Again, this has its origins in the years of lethal conflicts since the foundation of this statelet. The rule always was and still is “Say nothing, about anything, ’til you hear more”. The wink and the nod secures the deal. The advent of the pacification process dressed up as peace here by the GFA, has only added to that way of thinking. Sectarianism is now institutionalised and official. The obvious question is: who does all this sectarian politicking really suit?

It certainly suits the three imperialisms who control Ireland – Britain, the US and the EU – with the willing help of the local ruling class. Sectarianism and the invented political excuses it requires ensure that the real intentions and interests of capitalism and the local ruling class are hidden from most of the population. The common-sense narrative is that the “warring factions” cannot agree and therefore have to be managed. The good-sense narrative is, in turn, carefully hidden. And it’s true that even those of us who know better get drawn into the “them and us” sham battles: such is the power of a century of the “Green and Orange” engineered divide.

This time, as a consequence of all of the above, “the good guys” lost the election and their clear socialist message was not heard amidst the clamour to ensure that “the other side” were defeated. The old maxim “vote them in to vote them out” was alive and well. Independent Socialist Republican candidates (among others) who do not subscribe to the Us and Them political fear-mongering, were defeated. Well, we are down but certainly not out.

So what is next? What is to be done? Socialist Republicans will continue to build within their communities for a People-Powered Participatory Democracy in a 32-county Ireland. They will continue to pursue social and economic justice for the 99% of the population, and the right of the working class to own, control and distribute the wealth they create. They will continue to fight for a proper all-Ireland health care system, free at the point of use; for public housing; for free education; and work for all of the rights of humanity. They will continue to fight inequality and exploitation, wherever and whenever they can.

The counter-revolutionary former republicans have clearly teamed up with all three imperialisms in Ireland to ensure they are the chosen managers of the country’s future. In time an increasing number of the electorate in the North will come to realise that the “sectarian headcount” which was the recent local council elections, cannot be in their material interests. In the next four years it will become apparent to the wider population, that inequality and exploitation is still a constant feature in their lives.

The craic and promises of “the phantom number ones” during campaigning, is all fine and dandy, but the only result at the end of the day must be “real change not loose change”. That is, an end to all imperialist and capitalist ruling by fooling.