discussions into the small hours, shuttle diplomacy and the combined
weight of Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen and still the deadlock continues
over the devolution of policing and justice in the North. The process
is meant to have been agreed years ago, but the deep contradictions in
the North mean that every issue and every syllable has to be fought
over. The “peace process”, far from solving the problems of the working
class has enshrined sectarian division and entombed the leadership of
Sinn Féin and the DUP in Stormont, presiding over the minutiae of what
is more or less an overblown County Council.
the intention of British and American Imperialism was to “normalise”
politics in the North, but any faint hope that this would elevate the
role of the SDLP and the UUP has been dashed because of the underlying
contradictions in the situation. It’s no surprise that the issue of
policing and the Parades Commission have become such stumbling blocks.
The SF leaders are under pressure to make some progress towards setting
a date for the devolution of police arrangements and the DUP are very
conscious of the political divisions within unionism which have lead to
the development of Traditional Unionist Voice and the closer links
between the Ulster Unionists and the British Tories. They can’t afford
to appear soft on the question of the parades and must appear as
intransigent as possible over the PSNI question also.
Centre of the whirlwind
the tensions have become very apparent, the dialectic of the situation
means that both SF and the DUP have been pushed into a position where
they are in the centre of the whirlwind, they have a lot riding on the
existing situation. They aren’t in the same position that they were in
a few years ago where they were in the minority competing with the SDLP
and the Official Unionists, they have succeeded in becoming the
dominant parties and now face each other directly, but at what cost –
to their standing.
is the alternative? A breakdown of the Executive and the Assembly would
mean that the SF strategy would have failed. That would create big
divisions within SF over the way forward and at the same time would
place huge pressures on the DUP leadership. It’s unlikely that either
side would be ready to easily abandon Stormont, particularly when there
is a growing polarisation in the north and growing political divisions
on both side. The underlying contradictions mean that the DUP and SF
are trapped in a cul-de-sac. For that reason, it’s likely that some
diplomatic compromise will be arrived at. At the time of writing “round
table discussions” are in progress.
economic situation in the North is likely to change for the worse in
the next period. Up to a point the fact that 63% of the jobs in the
north are dependent on the state has meant that the effects of the
slump were muted, at first. The cross border shopping expeditions have
helped to buoy up the economy also. But the flip side of this is that
the £370m of cuts that Sammy Wilson described recently will have a
significant impact on the public sector in the North. The huge movement
against wage cuts south of the border will have an affect as well. A
movement of the working class in the North would demonstrate in
practice that neither SF nor the DUP have any clear answers for working
people. Likewise, the armed campaigns of the dissident republicans are
a blind alley.
Good Friday agreement was also underpinned by the capitalist boom.
Despite the fact that this was largely based on speculation, credit,
and often two parents in a family working longer hours it bought
relative social peace for a period. It’s clear that these foundations
will begin to fracture with the real onset of the economic crisis.
class issues in the North, unemployment, low wages, housing and health
remain. In fact they will only get worse over the next few years. There
is a huge political vacuum in the north. This is most apparent in
respect to working class political representation. The trade unions are
potentially the most powerful organisations in society, especially were
they to take the step of establishing a genuine worker’s party to fight
for the interests of the working class as a whole. The best trade union
activists and the youth will provide the basis for a Marxist tendency
with the perspective of uniting the working class in struggle against
capitalism and imperialism and for a socialist future.