Thursday, March 31, 2016

Northern Ireland - after the elections (1985)

From the September 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fellow workers,
A short time ago you exercised your democratic right to elect candidates onto your local councils. On what basis did you make your choice of party or candidate?

Because they will work in my interests?
This would seem to be a logical reason to elect a political representative. Does your experience of the past live up to your hopes for the future? Mending the pot-holes in the roads may satisfy a few motorists that the people in the Town Hall are doing a good job, but an overall view of Northern Ireland tells us that our interests, as workers or unemployed. have been served miserably.

However sincere the new councillors may be, they are incapable of waving an economic wand to conjure away our problems. No one seriously believes any more that politicians are capable of improving matters. Our interests as workers have not been served in the past and, unless we are prepared to reconsider our whole approach to politics, have no prospect of being served in the future.

Because the candidate was a Protestant, a Catholic, a Nationalist or a Unionist?
Whatever "side" you voted for, it is important to examine the difference your loyalty made in the past and is likely to make in the future. If you choose any of the major problems that affect your life — bad wages, unemployment, bad housing, or the other miseries inflicted on the working class — has it made any difference whether the people in power were "Orange" or "Green"? When you sign on the dole does the colour of the flag above the "bru" office improve your ability to stretch your Giro cheque any further? When you become frustrated because of the impoverished condition of the district in which you live, do the slogans on the walls make your poverty less obvious, or your life more bearable? When in dispute with your boss over the pittance you are paid, does it matter whether he or she is a nationalist or a unionist? If you cannot afford to feed your family, is the religion of the grocer of any relevance?

You may feel that by voting the way your parents voted you are being loyal to "the cause". Reality tells you that "the cause", whatever its colour, is laughing in your face — just as it laughed in the faces of your parents. Maintaining the "tradition" has simply meant maintaining the poverty and indignity of your working-class life. Because your parents did not learn from their mistakes does not mean that you can’t.

Well . . . what can I do?
There is an alternative to the repetitive routine of electing the same old politicians and parties to run the same failed system. We would contend that these politicians are not only incapable of solving our problems but that, in fact, all of them — irrespective of heir religion or their political label — actually ensure the continuation of those problems by administering the obscene, anti-human system which creates them.

The social system we live under is capitalism, which can only function on the basis of exploiting the working class. It does not matter whether we profess a particular religion or consider ourselves British or Irish; capitalism is immune to religion and nationality and can never serve our interests. It can only offer us continued poverty and misery.

The parties and politicians you voted for stand for capitalism. Those elected are in office now on your mandate; you elected them to preside over your own poverty and exploitation. We would suggest that you consider taking control of your own lives. Instead of electing politicians and parties to run your own exploitation, you can organise your own future. We, the working class, can mandate our own representatives to go into the seats of government, local, national and international, and abolish the entire system of private and/or State ownership of the means of living which gives the accumulation of profits priority over our needs.

We call on all workers to join us to establish a society based on serving our needs instead of the profit needs of the minority class which dominates our lives today We can create a world in which poverty, famine, slums, unemployment and international conflict could not exist. Such a system we call socialism: a moneyless, classless world in which we all share in the ownership of wealth; a world in which we co-operate voluntarily to produce all the things we need and where we will have free and equal access to satisfy our requirements.

Sounds utopian? Not as utopian as expecting our working-class lives to have changed for the better by the time the next election comes around.
Belfast Branch 

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