In Defence of

Trotskyism No. 20
£1 waged, 50p unwaged/low waged, €1.50

The IBT/Spart family ‘Interpenetrated peoples’ theory denies the rights of oppressed
nations to self-determination

What about the Palestinians? How
could the IBT take a neutral position
Amongst the “Protestants of
Northern Ireland” (must use the on the Al-Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe 1948? Israeli Jewish youth watch
official name of the British Imperialist-imposed state) there are a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and
international activists carrying names of
fascist gangs who emerge in
those who died in the Deir Yassin mastimes of revolutionary upsurge.
sacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem,
These are then taken by our
April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some
chauvinists as the legitimate
100-200 Palestinians, including women
representatives of the entire
and children, were killed by the extremProtestant community and so
ist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern
must be appeased. We say no,
Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yasthe fascists must be defeated,
sin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot
separated out from the mass of
the Protestant working class and organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount
not appeased ideologically or
the history of the village.
politically like this.

“Interpenetrated peoples?”

“Interpenetrated peoples” with no right to self-determination? By Gerry
Downing………….…………………………………..…...……………….....p. 3
BT/LTT Fusion Document For Trotskyism! (Spring 1987) ……..….......p. 12
Comment by Ian………………………………………….…………..…….p. 14
The Good Friday Agreement meant acceptance of the Loyalist veto on Ireland’s right to self-determination By Gerry Downing………...…...……...p. 16
Comment by Revolutionary programme (AG)…….…...…….…...….…... p33
Comment by Ian 21/02/2016 …………………………..…….…..…...…...p. 35

This pamphlet is consists of two articles on the Spart Family’s
‘interpenetrated peoples’ theory which was used by the early Spartacist
League of the US in the mid 1960 to justify James Robertson’s refusal
to defend the Palestinians against the murderous assault launched on
them by the fascist gangs of the Irgun and Stern Gang on behalf of the
state of Israel by taking a neutral position in that 1948 war. This was
then expanded to take an equally reactionary position on Ireland in
1977 by proclaiming that they oppose the reunification of Ireland under capitalism, thereby accepting the Loyalist Veto 21 years before
Gerry Adams’ Good Friday Agreement. All the modern ‘Spart Family’,
the ICL, the IBT and the IG/LFI continue to defend this nonsense, in
line with Robertson’s Shachtman origins. A reply by IBT supporter
Alan Gibson and two comments by Ian Donovan are also included.
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Signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of Socialist


“Interpenetrated peoples” with no
right to self-determination?

By Gerry Downing, 28/01/2016


was named in a Facebook thread involving the following
comrades, Wilhelm
Speklin, Jon Bonnevier,
Barbara Dorn, Patrik
Olofsson, Alan Gibson,
Jens-Hugo Nyberg,
some of whom are supporters of the International Bolshevik Tendency known to me, on
interpenetrated peoples
“I believe Gerald Joseph Downing, Socialist
Fight, disagrees with the “interpenetrated
peoples” theory.” I looked up the relevant
sections of the BT/LTT Fusion Document
of Spring 1987. It is section 5. The National
Question and ‘Interpenetrated Peoples’ (see p.
12). I had read this document years ago but
I was even more appalled at it now than I
was then.
Of course the “interpenetrated peoples”
is a product of the imaginings of Jim Robertson, the guru of the Sparts but every
other member of the ‘family’, the IBT and
the International Group/LFI, are obliged
to defend whatever nonsense he wrote
before they actually split from what they
imagine as the golden thread of Trotskyist
continuity to preserve it whole. The bogus
theory, with no precedent in the writings of
the great pioneers of Marxism, Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky, was evolved to explain what was happening in the north of

Ireland in the late 1960s and
from there served to justify
the pro-imperialist line that
the Sparts inherited from
the degenerating Forth International in 1948 and
from Max Shachtman himself, Robertson’s teachers.
Before we look at the baneful record of this theory in
Ireland and Israel let us
make some reassertion of
the Marxist position on the
self-determination of nations.
There were, of course, plenty “interpenetrated peoples” in the time of
the founders of modern Marxism but all of
them tackled these questions on the level
of the international class struggle and antiimperialism. In line with the opening sentence of the Communist Manifesto:
“The history of all hitherto existing society is
the history of class struggles. Freeman and
slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf,
guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant
opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a
fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in
the common ruin of the contending classes.”

So no room there for all the interpenetrated peoples nonsense about ethnic groups
who just could not stand the sight of each
other and frequently came to blows because they lacked that vital “anti-sectarian

class-against-class perspective” mentioned
in the IBT fusion document. Very telling is
the quote chopped from Lenin in 1913
that they uses to preface the section:

seventy per cent of the world’s population,
belong to the oppressed nations, which are
either in a state of direct colonial dependence
or are semi-colonies such as Persia, Turkey
and China, or else, having been defeated by
the armies of a big imperialist power, have
become greatly dependent on that power by
virtue of peace treaties. . . [2]

‘‘Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even of the ‘most just’, ‘purest’,
most refined and civilised brand. In place of
all forms of nationalism Marxism advances
internationalism….’’ V.I. Lenin, ‘‘Critical Of course we are all aware of Lenin’s last
Remarks on the National Question’’ (1913). struggle against Stalin on this very ques-

We would contend the Lenin developed
his position on the national question from
1913 when he praised Stalin’s very Second
International mechanical work on the
question. [1]
Certainly by 1920 and the Second Congress of the Communist International Lenin was sounding very different from this
quote, which certainly does not accurately
reflect his position on the question even in

tion. In their treatment of the Georgian
communists he correctly accused both
Stalin and Dzerzhinsky of ‘Great Russian
In the 31 December 1922 article Nationalities Issue” or about “Autonomization Lenin
criticized the actions of Felix Dzerzhinsky,
Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze, and Stalin in the
“Georgian Affair”, accusing them of
“Great Russian chauvinism”:
“It is quite natural that in such circumstances
the “freedom to secede from the union” by
which we justify ourselves will be a mere
scrap of paper, unable to defend the nonRussians from the onslaught of that really
Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist,
in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the
typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no
doubt that the infinitesimal percentage of
Soviet and sovietised workers will drown in
that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riffraff like a fly in milk.
“I think that a fatal role was played here by
hurry and the administrative impetuousness
of Stalin and also his infatuation with the
renowned “social-nationalism”. Infatuation
in politics generally and usually plays the
worst role… I think that Stalin’s haste and
his infatuation with pure administration, together with his spite against the notorious
“nationalist-socialism” [Stalin criticised the
minority nations for not being
“internationalist” because they did want to
unite with Russia], played a fatal role here. In

“First, what is the most important, the fundamental idea of our theses? The distinction
between oppressed and oppressor nations.
We emphasize this distinction–in diametric
contrast to the Second International and
bourgeois democracy. In the epoch of imperialism, it is particularly important for the
proletariat and the Communist International
to establish the concrete economic facts and
in the solution of all colonial and national
questions, to proceed not from abstract postulates but from concrete realities.
The characteristic feature of imperialism is
that the whole world, as we see, is now divided into a large number of oppressed nations
and an insignificant number of oppressor
nations, which command colossal wealth and
powerful armed forces. The overwhelming
majority of the world’s population, more
than a thousand million people, and very
probably 1,250 million–if we take the world’s
total population at 1,750 million–or about

politics spite generally plays the basest of
roles…” [3]

violation of this equality, if only through
negligence or jest- to the violation of that
equality by their proletarian comrades.” [4]

Lenin further spells out this position to
leave no doubt on where he stood against
Stalin on it:
“And I think that in the present instance,
as far as the Georgian nation is concerned,

As we can see the notion that the problem
was two nationalities or peoples who had
got mixed up together was absolutely alien
to Lenin’s way of thinking and his conwe have a typical case in which a genuinely tempt for Stalin’s attitude is essentially
proletarian attitude makes profound caution, contempt for that notion. And the failure
to identify the class forces operating in socalled ‘communalist’ conflicts is a constant
Spart fall back third camp position to
avoid taking anti-imperialist sides. We always look for the oppressor and the oppressed and those who are serving as the
proxy agents on imperialism and those
who are their victims and fight back in anti
-imperialist struggles.

The Sparts and the IBT on Ireland

Lenin on Stalin: “The Georgian [Stalin] who
is neglectful of this aspect of the question, or
who carelessly flings about accusations of
“nationalist-socialism” (whereas he himself is
a real and true “nationalist-socialist”, and
even a vulgar Great-Russian bully)”

thoughtfulness and a readiness to compromise a matter of necessity for us. The Georgian [Stalin] who is neglectful of this aspect
of the question, or who carelessly flings
about accusations of “nationalistsocialism” (whereas he himself is a real and
true “nationalist-socialist”, and even a vulgar
Great-Russian bully), violates, in substance,
the interests of proletarian class solidarity, for
nothing holds up the development and
strengthening of proletarian class solidarity
so much as national injustice; “offended”
nationals are not sensitive to anything so
much as to the feeling of equality and the

I had forgotten how truly appalling and
chauvinist their position on Ireland was as
set out in the Theses on Ireland (1977). [5]
What follows is part of the article Cultural
Imperialism, Ireland, Workers Power and the
Sparts in Socialist Fight No 9. Summer
I read it (the Theses on Ireland) last about
1986 and I am not sure I got to the end of
it then. Every second sentence contains a
direct lie or an outright political distortion.
It lies that the conflict in the north of Ireland was and is a religious one. It insists on
referring to Catholics and Protestants
throughout as if these backward Irish
could not get over their stupid religious
differences. I remember back in 1969 Bernadette Devlin attacked the backwardness
of this line of Imperialist propaganda; it
was about imperialist oppression not religious differences she correctly pointed out.
The document is full of patronising racism, “In the absence of any significant sec-

tion of the Irish working class historically
freed from national/communal insecurity”. In other words why are these thick
Paddys so worried about the murderous
assaults of the RUC and B Specials? They
are just suffering from some deep seated
and irrational psychological “national/
communal insecurity”.
Then follows their reactionary theory of
“inter-penetrated peoples” which is how
they avoid defending both the Irish nationalists and the Palestinians against murderous assaults. Ah no, they say, they are
entitled to defend themselves (thank you
very much!) but they can only do this via
workers’ militias which must contain a
member of the opposing community to
make sure it is not “nationalist”. The Loyalist would, of course, immediately shoot
the unfortunate foolish ‘taig’ who volunteered to join the Red Hand gang to make
sure it was not ‘sectarian’.

cause they have the state forces and the
British army to back them up, obviously.
Stout, brave Protestants as opposed to the
cowardly ‘Catholics’ is the implication,
here. And Spart leader James Robertson
comes from stout US New England
WASP stock.
Where do you start? Amongst the
“Protestants of Northern Ireland” (must
use the official name of the British Imperialist-imposed state) there are fascist gangs
who emerge in times of revolutionary upsurge. These are then taken by our chauvinists as the legitimate representatives of
the entire Protestant community and so
must be appeased. We say no, the fascists
must be defeated, separated out from the
mass of the Protestant working class and
not appeased ideologically or politically
like this.
And now the Big Lie on Lenin’s position
on the rights of nations and the difference
between oppressed and oppressor nations.
The Sparts say:

Protestants of “Northern Ireland”

And then the following from AJP Taylor,
whom they admit is a ‘bourgeois historian’:
“in the past ninety years the Protestants
of Northern Ireland have been taught to
think of themselves as a separate body,
almost separate nationality within Ireland, and have established now a long
term domination of Northern Ireland,
partly, because of their superior economic strength, because of the backing they
have received from the British Government, and partly because they are, or up
to now have been, the more determine.
For them Protestant domination is the
answer to the situation in Northern Ireland.’”
But why are they ‘more determined’? Be-

“Thus, the right to self-determination means
simply the right to establish a separate state,
the right to secede. We reject the notion that
it means ‘freedom from all outside interference and control’ or entails economic independence. In the general sense the right to
self-determination is unconditional, independent of the state that emerges or its leadership.”

This is just garbage. What use is selfdetermination if it does not entail some
form of economic independence to oppose the penetration of imperialist finance
capital to super-exploit that nation? They
‘In general our support for the right to selfdetermination is negative: intransigent opposition to every manifestation of national oppression as a means toward the unity of the

opposed to the interests of the international working class and
cannot be supported at
Only nations have the
selfdetermination. Imperialist enclaves like the
Malvinas kelpers, the
Gibraltarian British,
the Algerian colons
and the Loyalists in the
north of Ireland do not
have the right to ‘self-determination’, they
have no right to claim privileges and territory on behalf of their imperialist masters.
‘Ulster’ is not a nation and has no right to
self-determination and the Loyalists have
no right to prevent the re-unification of
Ireland on any basis. Talk of ‘opposition to
the capitalist re-unification of Ireland’ is to
oppose the demand in its entirety on behalf
of British Imperialism because the right to
self-determination is a democratic right
under capitalism and that is why Marxists
advance it.

working class, not as
the fulfilment of the
‘manifest destiny’ or
‘heritage’ of a nation,
nor as support for
’progressive’ nations
or nationalism. We
support the right of
self-determination and
national liberation
struggles in order to
remove the national
question from the
historic agenda, not to
create another such
question. Within the framework of capitalism
there can be no purely democratic solution
(for example through universal suffrage) to
the national question in cases of interpenetrated peoples.’

Lenin thought otherwise:
“That is why the focal point in the SocialDemocratic programme must be that division
of nations into oppressor and oppressed
which forms the essence of Imperialism, and
is deceitfully evaded by the social-chauvinists
and Kautsky. This division is not significant
from the angle of bourgeois pacifism or the
philistine Utopia of peaceful competition
among independent nations under capitalism,
but it is most significant from the angle of the
revolutionary struggle against Imperialism. It
is from this division that our definition of the
“right of nations to self-determination” must
follow, a definition that is consistently democratic, revolutionary, and in accord with the
general task of the immediate struggle for
socialism.” [6]

What is Loyalism?
“Though not yet (!!) a nation, the Protestants
are certainly not a part of the Irish nation and
are distinct from the Scottish and English
nations. Presently their separate existence is
defined in large part as against the Irish Catholic nation and at the ideological level is expressed in religious terms. With their own
social and cultural fabric (epitomised in the
Orange Order) and history of opposition to
the Irish nationalist cause, they have therefore
acted as the ‘loyalist’ allies of British Imperialism…In all likelihood, a definite resolution of
the exact character of the Ulster Protestant
community will be reached with the withdrawal of the British army and will depend on

That struggle for self-determination must
be, “most significant from the angle of the
revolutionary struggle against Imperialism.”
In other words imperialist-sponsored
‘national liberations movements’ like the
Kosovan KLA, the Tibetan Dali Lama or
the World Uyghur Congress are directly

circumas part of the
rounding this.
T h i s
that there can
[possibility of a
be no ‘capitalist
united Ireland]
united Ireland’
is a matter of
is abjectly to
r e l a t i v e
strength. Owthese fascistic
ing to the hiselements. It is
tory of the last
thirty years or
perhaps longer,
revolution in
owing to histo- Mustafa Barghouti:“What happened 65 years ago in
general in the
ry since 1885, Deir Yassin was a horrible massacre which prepared the name of wanting
when Randolph ground for the ethnic cleansing of 70 percent of the
a pure one. And
Churchill – Win- Palestinian people, The same ethnic cleansing is going
where does the
ston’s father – on today but in a different way. In 1948 they used direct
L o y a l i s t
first raised the massacres, now they use airstrikes in Gaza and shoot
‘superior ecocry of ‘Ulster will
nomic strength’
fight and Ulster
will be right’ – in the past ninety years the come from? Discrimination is the obvious
Protestants of Northern Ireland have been answer. And some things are just plain
taught to think of themselves as a separate wrong like;
body, almost separate nationality within Ire- “This insurrection (of 1798) against British
land, and have established now a longterm Imperialism, which was defeated in part by
domination of Northern Ireland, partly, be- development of the reactionary sectarian
cause of their superior economic strength, Orange Order and the mobilisation of the
partly because of the backing they have re- peasantry by Catholic priests, was the opporceived from the British Government, and tunity for the establishment of a modern
partly because they are, or up to now have nation of the whole island.”
been, the more determined. For them,
Protestant domination is the answer to the Anyone with the most rudimentary
knowledge of Irish history can tell you
situation in Northern Ireland.”

They are almost a nation, it seems, so selfdetermination is theirs. That they might be
a colonial people like the French colons
were who will either have to accept being
a minority nationality in a re-unified nation, a socialist republic for Marxists or a
‘democratic republic’ for nationalists.
Marxists say the ‘democratic republic’ is an
illusion but we cannot either rule it out or
oppose it politically if it comes into being

that the ‘the mobilisation of the peasantry
by Catholic priests’ fought with the United
Irishmen not with the British. This is an
ignorant attempt to transpose the situation
of the French monarchist counterrevolution peasantry in the Vendée war (1793 to
1796) to Ireland, where the monarch was
head of a foreign occupying army imposing the Protestant religion on them. He
was thus despised by the peasantry.
Those mobilised by the British were typ-

ically the Catholic underlings of the aristocracy, Squireens and Buckeens, the lower middle class landlords, like Daniel
O’Connell, who later posed as the Great
Liberator. These were gathered in militias
like the North Corks, who flew the Orange standard, brutally ‘pacified’ Ulster
(the Presbyterian Republicans), and were
credited with the invention of the pitchcap torture and half-hanging.
The Catholic Bishops naturally sided
with the British but the lower orders of
the clergy, like Fr. John Murphy in Wexford, who was pro-British before the uprising, led his parishioners with the call to
“die like men defending themselves, rather than to fall with folded arms under
the enemy’s sword”. He was horribly murdered by the redcoats, one of 20,000 who
were slaughtered in those two short autumnal weeks in north Country Wexford
in the reaction that was far worse than
revolutionary France’s entirely necessary
‘reign of terror’ (30,000 in six years).

the region had nothing to gain by the victory
of either. The Leninist position was therefore one of defeatism on both sides. For
both Arab and Hebrew workers the main
enemy was at home. The 1956 war was a
different matter; in that conflict the working
class had a side: with Nasser against the attempts of French and British imperialism
(aided by the Israelis) to reappropriate the
recently nationalized Suez Canal.” (see Appendix, p. 12)

Oh what about the Palestinians FFS?
How could you take a neutral position
on the Al-Nakba: the Palestinian Catastrophe 1948? 80 percent of the Arab inhabitants of what became Israel left or were
expelled from their homes? Figures in
excess of 800,000 have been quoted, their
exclusion planned in detail beforehand
and mass murder perpetrated against
them just to encourage them on their way.
The Deir Yassin massacre on April 9,
1948 was carried out by 120 of the Irgun
and Lehi neo-fascist paramilitaries. The
massacre of the 200 of the inhabitants
included women and children, some of
whom were paraded through the streets
of West Jerusalem before being shot,
while others died when hand grenades
were thrown into their homes. The Israeli
state still refuses to open the archives to
reveal what happened. This is where the
“interpenetrated peoples” gets you.
Of course we must make the case of
why support of Israel and neutrality was a
betrayal of enormous proportions. Yossi
Schwartz, in an extensive article critiquing
Tony Cliff, sets out the principles here:

How the IBT ‘advances’ its analysis of this appalling record
When directly challenged IBTers tend to
be a little circumspect on the 1977 Theses
on Ireland (why would ANYONE defend
stuff that is actually historically incorrect
like the bit that says the Irish peasants
supported the English monarch in 1798?)
but the 1987 fusion document is upfront
with its reactionary positions on Israel and
the Palestinians. Here it goes:
“The logic of capitulation to petty-bourgeois
nationalism led much of the left to support
the Arab rulers (the embodiment of the socalled ‘‘Arab Revolution’’) against the Israelis in the Mid-East wars of 1948, 1967 and
1973. In essence these were inter-capitalist
wars in which the workers and oppressed of

“As a result of its failure, the RCL (the Israel/Palestine Trotskyists) saw in the Arab
Uprising 1936-39 mainly a pogrom against
the Jews and remained on the sidelines of
history. It failed to assimilate the revolution9

ary position of the
the state of Israel,
Fourth International
de jure, whilst the
which supported the
Palestinians were
Arab Uprising in
fleeing for their
lives from guns
struggle against war
supplied by the
and its social source,
‘Communist’ govcapitalism, presupernment in Czechposes direct, active,
oslovakia. The inunequivocal support
flux of some
to the oppressed
colonial peoples in
200,000 Jews from
their struggles and
the Soviet bloc was
wars against imperi- Nakba refugees. IBT: “The foundation of the decisive event in
alism. A “neutral” the State if Israel was a victory for imperi- securing the imperiposition is tantaalist bridgehead.
alism against the Arab masses.”
mount to support of
Yossi shows that the
imperialism. Yet, among the announced adRCL
confused and cenherents of the London Bureau congress are
many correct
found ILPers who advocate leaving the coupoints
rageous Ethiopian warriors against marauding Italian fascism in the lurch on the Baer):
grounds of “neutrality,” and “Left” Poale
“insisted and correctly so that it is an illusion
Zionists who are even at this moment leanto think that imperialism was defeated by the
ing upon British imperialism in its savage
creation of a new independent state in an
campaign against the legitimate, even if conanti-imperialist struggle; or that the existence
fused, struggle of the Arab peasantry.” [7]
of this Jewish State has a progressive influHe argues cogently that in 1949 the Arab ence on the working-class and the labour
armies were forced to attack Israel because movement in the Arab countries of the Midof the huge uprising of the Arab masses in dle East; and that it is important to make
sympathy with the dreadful fate being im- clear to every socialist in the world that withposed on the Palestinians. That it is funda- out the support of Anglo-American imperialmentally wrong to equate the two sides by ism the State of Israel could not have been
saying that British and US imperialism was founded”. [8]

supporting the Arabs and not the Jewish He quotes Baer:
immigrants. In fact the position of imperi- “Had not the US delegation to the UN influalism was undergoing a change from sup- enced and bribed a certain number of deleport for the Arab fuedalist leaders to Isra- gations of small states, Haiti, Philippines and
el. Without the support of the US, Britain others; had not the US government allowed
and the USSR, Eastern Europe and Israel, to be supplied with money and materials so it could pay in dollars for CzechosloCzechoslovakia in guns, money and unrevakian arms; had it not given the new state
stricted immigration, on Stalin’s orders the recognition (de facto) within a few hours of
state of Israel could not have been found- its creation; had not the British army tolerated. The USSR was the first to recognise ed the opening of the road to Jerusalem by

conquest and evacuation of the Arab villages whose offices in Damascus were wrecked.”
along this road (on March 2, 1948, British This pressure of the Arab masses was the
troops joined the Hagana to break up an reason the rulers of the Arab states went to
Arab block at Bab al Wad, then early in April war with Israel. Today this is even recogit failed to intervene when military actions nized by Zionist historians like Benny Moralong the road began, then on April 6 the ris:
British brought some supply trains into the
“The massacre and the way it was trumpeted
city, etc.); had the British army not come to
in the Arab media added to the pressure on
the rescue of the Jewish settlements Dan and
the Arab states’ leaders to aid the embattled
Kfar Szold in Upper Galilee on the 9th of
Palestinians and hardened their resolve to
January; and last but not least, had not the
invade Palestine. The news had aroused
first truce which was imposed by the UN in
great public indignation – which the leaders
June 1948 saved Jewish Jerusalem from starwere unable to ignore.”[10]
vation and military collapse – had not all this
argues strongly that Israel immigrahappened the State of Israel could not have
Israel should have been opposed,
come into being.” [9]

He then points out that the FI was not
able to call for the defeat of Israel and
critical support for the Arab Armies because it identified the revolutionary will of
the Arab masses with its reactionary rulers:
“Instead of seeing the hate of the Arab
masses against the Zionist state as a form of
anti-imperialist resistance, he saw it as misdirected chauvinism manipulated by the imperialists: “The aim of Anglo-American imperialism was to create a force which would play
the same role in the framework of the Middle East as a whole that Zionism had played
for 30 years in Palestine. As a focus for
chauvinist hate it would serve to divert the
revolutionary struggles of the Middle Eastern Arab masses from anti-imperialist into
racial or religious channels.”

He continues and points out to the antiimperialist mass pressure in the Arab
“But something went wrong with the plan in
its initial stage in most of the Arab countries:
demonstrations were directed mainly against
foreign companies and establishments, including the Soviet Union because of its support of partition, and the Communist Party,

that the Palestinians should have been
given 100% support and that Israel had
and has no right to self-determination because it could only be exercised at the expense of the Palestinians. Hence the
“interpenetrated peoples” position is
wrong as is the bi-national state theory.
And we would claim, a strong defence of
the need for the principled operation of
the Anti-Imperialist United Front; critical
support for the Arab armies and the Palestinian leaderships in the wars of 1948,
1967 and 1973.
We would claim that the
“interpenetrated peoples” line is simply
left Shachtmanism, a rationalism of the
centrist line that the Fourth International
as a whole fell into in 1948 as outlined by
Yossi. And that the South African Workers Party (WPSA) were fundamentally correct against Tony Cliff and the Palestinian
RCL and the Fourth International in general had collapsed into centrism.
The betrayal of the 1952 Bolivian Revolution with only the small US West Coast
Venn-Ryan tendency objecting to this was
the next appalling consequence of this



BT/LTT Fusion Document
The National Question and
‘Interpenetrated Peoples’
‘‘Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even of the ‘most just’,
‘purest’, most refined and civilised brand.
In place of all forms of nationalism Marxism advances internationalism….’’
—V.I. Lenin, ‘‘Critical Remarks on the IBT: “The logic of capitulation to pettybourgeois nationalism led much of the left to
National Question’’ (1913)

support the Arab rulers (the embodiment of the

Marxism and nationalism are two funda- so-called ‘‘Arab Revolution’’) against the Israementally counterposed world views. We lis in the Mid-East wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973.”
uphold the principle of the equality of So IBT oppose the founding of the Israeli state
nations, and oppose any privileges for but were neutral in only way to prevent its founany nation.At the same time Marxists dation and continued existence, these wars.
reject all forms of nationalist ideology
and, in Lenin’s words, welcome ‘‘every pressor people be equated with the whites
kind of assimilation of nations, except in South Africa or the French colons in
that founded on force and privilege.’’
Algeria; i.e., a privileged settler-caste/
The Leninist program on the national labor aristocracy dependent on the superquestion is primarily a negative one de- exploitation of indigenous labor to mainsigned to take the national question off tain a standard of living qualitatively highthe agenda and undercut the appeal of er than the oppressed population.
petty-bourgeois nationalists, in order to Both the Irish Protestants and the Hemore starkly pose the class question.
brew-speaking population of Israel are
In ‘‘classic’’ cases of national oppression class-differentiated peoples. Each has a
(e.g., Quebec), we champion the right of bourgeoisie, a petty bourgeoisie and a
self-determination, without necessarily working class. Unlike guilty middle-class
advocating its exercise. In the more com- moralists, Leninists do not simply enplex cases of two peoples interspersed, or dorse the nationalism of the oppressed
‘‘interpenetrated,’’ throughout a single (or the petty-bourgeois political forgeographical territory (Cyprus, Northern mations which espouse it).
Ireland, Palestine/Israel), the abstract To do so simultaneously forecloses the
right of each to self-determination cannot possibility of exploiting the real class conbe realized equitably within the frame- tradictions in the ranks of the oppressor
work of capitalist property relations.
people and cements the hold of the naYet in none of these cases can the op- tionalists over the oppressed. The prole12

tarians of the ascendant people can never
be won to a nationalist perspective of
simply inverting the current unequal relationship. A significant section of them
can be won to an anti-sectarian classagainst-class perspective because it is in
their objective interests.
The logic of capitulation to pettybourgeois nationalism led much of the
left to support the Arab rulers (the embodiment of the so-called ‘‘Arab Revolution’’) against the Israelis in the Mid-East
wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973.
In essence these were inter-capitalist
wars in which the workers and oppressed
of the region had nothing to gain by the
victory of either.
The Leninist position was therefore one
of defeatism on both sides. For both Arab and Hebrew workers the main enemy
was at home.
The 1956 war was a different matter; in
that conflict the working class had a side:
with Nasser against the attempts of
French and British imperialism (aided by
the Israelis) to reappropriate the recently
nationalized Suez Canal.
While opposing nationalism as a matter
of principle, Leninists are not neutral in
conflicts between the oppressed people
and the oppressor state apparatus. In
Northern Ireland we demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of
British troops and we defend the blows
struck by the Irish Republican Army at
such imperialist targets as the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the British Army or
the hotel full of Conservative cabinet
ministers at Brighton.
Similarly, we militarily side with the
Palestinian Liberation Organization
against the forces of the Israeli state. In

no case do we defend terrorist acts directed at civilian populations.
This, despite the fact that the criminal
terrorism of the Zionist state against the
Palestinians, like that of the British army
and their Protestant allies against the
Catholics of Northern Ireland, is many
times greater than the acts of communal
terror by the oppressed.
The foundation of the State if Israel
was a victory for imperialism against
the Arab masses and the prospect for
world revolution. Those, like the
Shachtmanites who supported this,
and those who took a neural stance on
this a traitors to the cause of revolutionary socialism and/or are profoundly wrong.

[1] J. V. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question,
[2] V.I. Lenin, On the national and colonial questions
(Report to the Second Congress of the Communist International, July 1920)
[3] Lenin, December 31, 1922, The Question of Nationalities or “Autonomisation” https://
[4] Ibid.
[5] The Spart’s position on Ireland is the Theses on
Ireland, Spartacist no 24, Autumn 1977 http://
[6] V. I. Lenin, The Revolutionary Proletariat and the
Right of Nations to Self-Determination, October 1915,
h t t p :// w ww .m ar x i st s .o rg / ar c h i v e/ l e n i n/
[7] Israel’s War of 1948 and the Degeneration of
the Fourth International, By Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency
[8] Ibid.


Comment by Ian, 31/01/2016


partly agree with this, but consider it
one-sided. The concept of interpenetrated peoples has validity when the peoples
who interpenetrate are more or less equal in
terms of economic development and power
in a regional or international context, but it
should not be applied to settler populations
sponsored by modern capitalist imperialism.
Such settler populations necessarily oppress subject populations with the power of
imperialism at their disposal, and the national rights of the subject population therefore override their so-called ‘rights’.
This is very clear with Israeli Jews. It is
true, but slightly less obvious with the loyalist population in the North East of Ireland.
And of course it is and was true with the
South African Whites, which is the example
that the Sparts don’t like to cite, though
Roberston wobbled on even this.
All of these peoples constitute(d) formations whose very cohesion is or was
linked inextrictably with the suppression
and/or dispossession of the native population, and could therefore never exercise any
‘self-determination’ without oppressing that
same native population. The idea that the
oppressor has equal rights with the oppressed over territory or means of life taken
by force from the oppressed, is indeed
scandalous, and contrary to the best democratic impulses of Marxism.
It is partly true that the Spartacists’ positions on the Middle East and Ireland are
left-Shachtmanite. But the concept of interpenetrated peoples itself cannot be simply
equated with this. In formal terms, the current positions of the Spartacists and IBT
are similar not to Shachtmanism, but to the
position of the US SWP and indeed the
Fourth International itself, on the 1948 Israeli war (Naqba).

A position of defeatism on both sides.
This was a totally wrong position, to be
sure, but it was hardly Shachtmanite. The
Shachtmanite position was one of support
for the Israeli side, which was a much
worse, openly anti-Arab chauvinist position.
The Spartacists initially broke with this
position over the 1967 war, when they took
a defeat of both sides position. But they did
not retrospectively change their position on
1948 until 1973, with the publication of
Yossi Rad’s articles on the ‘Birth of the Zionist
state’, which advocated a defeatism on both
sides position on that conflict also.
It is difficult to equate this position with
Shachtmanism, because the actual Shachtmanites did not hold this position, whereas
other, ‘orthodox’ Trotskyist forces such as
Cannon’s US SWP (in 1948) and the French
Lambertistes (in 1967) did hold it.
The position was still wrong, and amounted to neutrality between the oppressor and
the oppressed, particularly scandalous in the
light of the outcome of both 1948 (the disposession of the Palestinians in 78 per cent
of Palestine) and 1967 (the 50 year occupation of the other 22 per cent).
This was not a position of ‘left Shachtmanism’, but a capitulation to Zionism by
mainstream elements in the Trotskyist
movement. The Spartacists actually treated

this neutral ‘orthodox’ position as an archetype and something to be emulated, and
extended it to Ireland in the 1970s (after
calling for a ‘socialist independent Ulster’ (!)
earlier in the ‘troubles’).
As I said, the interpenetrated peoples position cannot be applied to colonists acting as
agents of capitalist-imperialist conquest. It
does have validity, however, where there are
interpenetrated peoples of a (more or less)
co-equal level of development involved in
national and/or sectarian conflict.
One example of this given (falsely) to back
up the Spartacists position on Ireland is Cyprus, where neither the Greek nor Turkish
derived populations could be said to be in
any sense agents of British imperialism, but
whose divisive communal conflict gave a
reactionary twist to the movement against
British imperialism under Grivas/EOKA,
with the programme of unification with
Greece vs partition of Cyprus on ethnic
lines, both of which were reactionary
‘solutions’ to the national question in Cyprus.
This in the context of the reactionary
forced population transfers which occurred
between Greece and Turkey more widely in
the 20th Century, particularly after WWI.
Another example on a larger scale is India,
where partition was a reactionary solution
and had to be opposed, precisely because
the peoples were interpenetrated and could
not be divided into separate states without
massive slaughter and ethnic cleansing,
which did indeed happen and was one of
the greatest tragedies of the 20th Century.
The interpenetrated peoples position thus
has positive features, as well as flaws. Its
origins lie partially in a capitulation to Zionism, that is true. But in different contexts,
those who uphold this can on some questions hold better positions than those who

reject it too rigidly. One concrete example
of this in the 1990s was Bosnia, where many
on the left, such as in the USFI and also
Workers Power, in the name of defending
the ‘oppressed’ Bosnian Muslims against the
Serbs, defined as an oppressor people, capitulated to imperialism, whereas the Sparts
and IBT managed to maintain a principled
position of opposition to the imperialist
bombing of the Bosnian Serb militias in the
summer of 1995.
Jose Villa broke to the left from Workers
Power over their neutrality in this war;
though he never actually embraced the Spart
generalised position on interpenetrated peoples as applied to imperialist settlers, he did
in practice embrace it in the situation of
Bosnia, whose patchwork interpenetration
of peoples had other origins.
On this the Sparts and Spartoids were correct against the more traditional ‘antiimperialist’ left who ironically because of
their own one-sided inflexibility on this capitulated somewhat to imperialism. These
things are complex and have to be understood concretely, not abstractly, and every
situation analysed in its own specificity.
Just a further point on Jose Villa and Bosnia. In 1995 when he was in opposition to
the Workers Power leadership over this,
they became convinced that he was in some
way acting as an IBT ‘agent’ and in an irrational and bureaucratic response actually
passed a policy banning their members from
talking to IBT members.
They were completely wrong about this;
Villa never embraced the IBT position on
interpenetrated peoples with regard to the
Middle East and Ireland. But they did have
virtually identical views on Bosnia. This
does indicate something about the complexity and multi-sided element to this, and how
clarity has eluded the far left.

The Good Friday Agreement meant
acceptance of the Loyalist veto on
Ireland’s right to self-determination
By Gerry Downing, 07/02/2016


ollowing the publication of my piece,
Ireland and Palestine: Interpenetrated peoples
and the rights of oppressed nations to selfdetermination [1] and a subsequent discussion
and message exchange with Alan Gibson he
challenged me thus:

“You said that the implications of the interpenetrated peoples position is pro-imperialist
and appeasement of loyalism. You are of
course free to make that argument but if a
person serious about the political method of
revolutionary Marxism did so then they would
have to respond to the IBT quote I provided
“I am not asking you to agree with the interand explain how the clear anti-imperialism
penetrated people’s position and its political
and anti-loyalism expressed there was conconclusions (although I
sistent with that supdo think that explains
posed implication.
situations like the north
Are you such a perof Ireland very well). All I
son? Doing so would
am asking is that you relook something like:
tract your claim that the
“I have been alerted
IBT, and its supporters
to the following piece
like myself, are proby the IBT “…
imperialist appeaser of
“Despite the clear
loyalism. Or if you want
anti-imperialist and
to continue with that abanti-loyalist position
surd characterisation then The good Friday agreement adopted the outlined there I still
you at least have the polit- Loyalist veto and abandoned Ireland’s
believe …”
right to self-determination.
ical honesty, and confiThe piece Alan
dence in your argument,
quoted is from the
to use the IBT quote I provided and then
to the Troubles, Irish
explain how despite this your assertion is still
true. Refusing to do this exposes you as a
political charlatan who has no interest in polit- “The starting point for Marxists in dealing
ical clarity or substantive political debate.”
with Ireland has to be unconditional opposition to British imperialist intervention. We are
I replied:
for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal
“Of course I don’t think that. And I don’t
of British troops from Northern Ireland.
think I said it. My assertion was that appeaseMarxists stand for the military defence of the
ment of loyalism was the objective implicaIRA in conflicts with the British and NI state
tions of the theory. I’ll review the conversaforces, and we oppose criminal prosecution
tion and I will apologise if I said or directly
and imprisonment of Republicans by the imimplies you or your comrades were appeasers
perialists and their allies. Moreover, the existof Loyalism.”
ing order in Northern Ireland, with its marginAlan corrected me:
al privileges for Protestants and systematic
discrimination and repression of Catholics, is

something that the workers’ movement is
obliged to struggle against by all possible
means. We are unconditionally opposed to the
whole apparatus of Loyalist terror: the Royal
Ulster Constabulary, the Royal Irish Regiment, the Loyalist paramilitary murder
gangs.” [2]

This document relies on the previous Spartacist League/ICL 1977 Theses on Ireland but
is an independent IBT document which
Alan demands that I assess in its own right.
Whilst letting my original critique stand I
will therefore seek to prove that “the interpenetrated people’s position is proimperialist and appeasement of loyalism”
by referring to the political positions taken
in that document, and taking the whole
document, seek to demonstrate this by
showing that it is self-contradictory in several aspects, taking positions in some places
that are contradicted elsewhere.
I immediately acknowledge that the vast
majority of those in the whole Robertson
tradition, the ICL, the IG/LFI and the
IBT, are either unaware of and/or don’t
accept that these are absolute contradictions. I will seek to prove that the Theses on
Ireland of 1977 accepted the Loyalist veto
over Ireland’s right to self-determination
eleven years before Gerry Adams did in
1988 and the Irish ‘peace process’ document
backs it up seven years after it was signed.
Both documents are therefore a defence of
this peace process, even if this is not openly
I acknowledge that the ICL did oppose
the actual Peace Process in 1988 but their
opposition was so conditional as to be almost worthless. In particular the Irish ‘Peace
Process’ document accepts the bone fides of
Imperialism in the Peace Process discussions by the use of a few quotes from British imperialist politicians. The possibility

that Perfidious Albion might be lying is not
considered. The understanding shown in
both documents of the national question
and the rights of nations to selfdetermination is wrong. The understanding
of both documents of the Trotskyist theory
of Permanent Revolution is wrong.

The Loyalist veto over Ireland’s
right to self-determination
In order to make the case for interpenetrated peoples it is necessary to sanitise the role
of British imperialism in Ireland. There is
far too much understanding of the problems faced by British imperialism in Ireland. As the words of the old Dubliners’
song go:
Far away in dear old Cyprus, or in Kenya’s dusty
sand,/Where all bear the white man’s burden in
many a strange land,/As we look across our shoulder,
in West Belfast the school bell rings,/And we sigh for
dear old England, and the Captains and the Kings.

So in the Irish peace process we get:
“the Downing Street declaration of late 1993,
signed by British Prime Minister John Major
and then Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister)
Albert Reynolds, in which the struggle for a
united Ireland was declared to be a “legitimate
political goal.” It also repeated an earlier statement of the British minister for Northern
Ireland, Peter Brooke, that Britain has “no
selfish strategic, or economic interest in
Northern Ireland.”

Instead of seeing this as a clever piece of
lying manoeuvring by Perfidious Albion it
is taken at face value and designated as:
“a startling admission. The British ruling class
apparently now regards the sectarian mini
state, which it was instrumental in creating in
the early 1920s, as a liability.”

And later in attacking the ICL opposition
to the Peace Process:
“The bulk of the British bourgeoisie regards

the Protestants as a liability,
and would be quite happy to
wash its hands of them, and
even allow the terms of oppression to be reversed, provided this does not create a
Bosnia on Britain’s doorstep.”

“To the Tories, the
“harmonization” of an allIreland market is (they no
doubt hope) a means of gradually divesting themselves of
an embarrassing and expensive problem handed down to
them by previous generations
of their class.”

And then, quoting the ICL’s
Reuben Samuels, speaking of
the Unionist general strike of
1974, who observed:

“The colossal power of the working class”: Ulster Volunteer Force - Wikipedia: “It would attack the Republic again
in May 1974, during the two-week Ulster Workers' Council
strike. This was a general strike in protest against the Sunningdale Agreement, which meant sharing political power
with Irish nationalists and the Republic having more involvement in Northern Ireland. Along with the UDA, it
helped to enforce the strike by blocking roads, intimidating
workers, and shutting any businesses that opened”.

imperialist Britain and showing them
“The I973 [1974 in fact, GD] Ulster general where the real class interests of the British
Empire lay. We replied to Militant in
strike, a 14-day general strike that totally
shut down Northern Ireland, demonstrated IDOT No. 8:
that the social power and the social weight
of the proletariat is there, even if in this
particular case it was used for reactionary
ends. It was also an entirely anti-British
strike. The British had set up the Council of
Ireland, which was a scheme for a peaceful,
if forcible (through economic pressure) reunifying of Ireland and dumping Northern
Ireland, which has become a liability for
British imperialism.” Spartacist No. 24, Autumn 1977

This pleads the case of Loyalism and repeats the line of Militant on that same
1974 strike. It certainly was not an “an
entirely anti-British strike” no more than
the Curragh Mutiny of 1914 [3] was an
entirely anti-British mutiny. It was simply
a matter of the British state and reactionary imperialist Britain disciplining liberal

“The skilled Protestant workers, the institutionalised aristocracy of labour who have
traditionally looked to Apartheid South Africa, to Zionist Israel and to the US deep
South Jim Crow for inspiration, despised
the poor ‘papist’ nationalist/Catholic workers and were always determined to form a
cross-class alliance to deny them employment, housing, welfare and life itself whenever “croppy” became too uppity. But Militant pandered to them thus: “The whole
basis of life in modern society depends on
the working class. Nothing moved in
Northern Ireland without the permission of
the working class. Even bourgeois commentators, hostile to the aim of the strike were
forced to comment on the power and ingenuity displayed by the working class. Thus
the Times correspondent commented on
the situation in the Protestant Sandy Row

“Nothing moved in Northern Ireland without the permission of
the working class” cannot but
choke you. This “nothing” is primarily other workers, Protestants
who had solidarity with nationalist workers and nationalist workers themselves who were assaulted with fascistic enthusiasm by
Loyalist thugs with the covert assistance of the British Army and
the not-so-covert assistance of
the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

district of Belfast…” Between fifty and a
hundred men have operated a rubbish clearance service, going round in the backs of
lorries while others swept the streets. At the
weekend, brown paper rubbish bags arrived
and 22,000 have been given to families in the
past three days.” Connections were made
with sympathetic farmers who supplied the
areas with cheap food. [4]

This is the sentence that leaps out at you
from that article:
“Nevertheless, the strike also demonstrated in a distorted form and on a reactionary issue, the colossal power of the
working class when it moves into action
(which, as we saw, the IBT later parroted—GD).” Who would express such admiration for a neo-fascist uprising?
Would we admire the strength and discipline of Hitler’s Brownshirts because this
showed us what these workers could do if
there were socialists and not fascists? And
remember the material basis for discrimination in the north of Ireland. Here was
the real aristocracy of labour that was originally gathered in 1795 in the Orange Order, whose declared purpose in its initiation oath is still to “counter-revolution”.
“Nothing moved in Northern Ireland
without the permission of the working
class” cannot but choke you. This
“nothing” is primarily other workers,
Protestants who had solidarity with nationalist workers and nationalist workers
themselves who were assaulted with fascistic enthusiasm by Loyalist thugs with the
covert assistance of the British Army and
the not-so-covert assistance of the Royal
Ulster Constabulary. The various bourgeoisies, from the Irish pro-imperialists to
the bedrock of imperialist orthodoxy in
the columns of The Times, of course, were

not hostile to this strike, supported it but
had to be careful in how they expressed
their support, as Militant were. Hence the
mutual admiration between Militant and
the pro-imperialist bourgeoisie here. “Isn’t
it great to have the workers going on strike
for us instead against us for a change?” is
the common theme here supported by
Militant. Those in South Africa will recall
Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s strikes against the
ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. Do we all remember how supportive The Times was to
the 1926 General Strike and how it complemented the workers on their ingenuity
etc.? We though not! [5]
Was KwaZulu-Natal another case of
‘interpenetrated peoples’? It would seem
to fit the bill. Human beings are oppressed
by the social relations of production imposed by capitalism. Semi-colonial nations
as a whole are oppressed by imperialism.
The nationalist bourgeoisie here are a semi
-oppressed, semi-oppressing class. All
conflict takes place in that context and for
that reason. It DOES NOT happen because people are mixed up together.
This is just nonsense, it has no precedent

on the annals of Marxism. Neither
document produce any quotes from
the Marxist classics that suggest such
a silly thing. It is an indication of cultism to seek to defend such an indefensible notion.
The Spart family use it precisely for
that reason; it you are collectively defending an absurdity it becomes a
point of pride that no other Marxist
current on the planet agrees. You are
uniquely right and therefore the continuity
of Trotskyism. The Irish Peace Process goes
on to say:
“The national question in Ireland remains a
major obstacle to class struggle and social
progress. While there has been a partial selfdetermination of Irish Catholics in the
South, particularly since the twenty six counties became a republic after World War II,
the national conflict in the North still has a
major impact on Irish politics. The Northern conflict is not, as Republicans and their
guilty liberal apologists on the left pretend, a
simple one of an oppressed colonial people
fighting against an imperialist occupation.
There is a major component of that, to be
sure. But the existence of one million
Protestants who comprise 60 percent of the
population of the six counties means that
any attempt to unite the island forcibly will
inevitably ignite a sectarian conflict of Bosnian proportions.

“While opposing the imperialist presence,
Marxists must also oppose the reunification
of Ireland against the wishes of the

The national question in Ireland IS NOT
a major obstacle to class struggle and social progress. It is an integral part of the form
that the class struggle itself must take in order to
defeat imperialism and make socialist revolution.

Although the author may not be aware of
it this line constitutes a repudiation of the
Trotskyist theory of Permanent Revolution:
“With regard to countries with a belated
bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory
of the permanent revolution signifies that
the complete and genuine solution of their
tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the
subjugated nation, above all of its peasant
masses.” [6]

We contend that this makes it very clear
that the right to nations to selfdetermination affords no veto to reaction.
There are no workers in abstract, simply
defined by the relationship to the means
of production in capitalist society, the
class with nothing to sell but its labour
power. All workers also stand in some
relationship to the real masters of life,
global imperialism. If they are workers in
imperialist countries they tend to be proimperialist and accept more or less the
patriotism and social values of their own
country and the mass media and education system which constantly reinforces
the ideology that goes with this relationship to capitalism itself.
If they live in a country with a history of

struggle against imperialism then they
tend to be anti-imperialist – for instance
the sympathy of the majority of Irish
workers was with Argentina in the Malvinas war in 1982 and the Taoiseach,
Charlie Haughey, was forced to express
this sentiment in his own Fianna Fáil
party, the more anti-British of the two
main traditional parties in Ireland. This
put strains on his otherwise grovelling
relationship with Margaret Thatcher.
The dominant ideology in the Loyalist
community is far right pro-imperialism
bolstered by a cross class alliance between the capitalists and the aristocracy
of labour engendering a feeling of superiority over nationalist workers amongst
the Loyalist; and so they support Britain
in all its wars. It is to the Loyalist camp
that British and European fascists go for
support and they find a ready audience.
In Dublin on 6 February Irish Republican Left Action Against Fascism cleared
the streets of those attempting to rally
outside the GPO to form the Irish section of Pegida.
Such was the beating they took that it
is very unlikely they will ever attempt
such a thing again. We cannot imagine
such a force emerging from the Loyalist
community if they attempted the same
thing in Belfast; on the contrary they
would get ready Loyalist support but the
nationalist community would supply
their opponents; and that may well be
their next move. Even in the more remote arena of football in the north of
Ireland and in the West of Scotland the
Celtic fans and nationalists elsewhere
sing the Fields of Athenry, a clearly antiimperialist anthem – “For you stole Trevelyan’s corn, So the young might see the morn”,

and fly Palestinian flags to indicate support for the oppressed Palestinians. The
Rangers’ and other pro-Loyalists song is
the Billy Boys: “We’re up to our knees in
Fenian blood, Surrender or you’ll die, For we
are The Brigton Derry Boys.” Rangers and
other Loyalist fans fly the Zionist flag to
indicate support for Israel’s oppression
of the Palestinians.

Sectarian Killings

In an apparent endorsement the Irish
Peace Process says:
“The cessation of sectarian killings for the
time being by both Loyalist paramilitaries
and the IRA appears to have improved the
possibilities for unity between Protestant
and Catholic workers around class questions. But class struggle could easily be
submerged beneath a new wave of nationalism.”

However whilst the cessation of killing is
of course to be welcomed the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) has not brought
the communities closer together. In fact
segregation has increased since the GFA
and so has the number of peace walls
between the communities. The reason is
clear. Before the GFA Loyalist ideology
was always seen in some measure at least
in the Protestant community as a shameful thing and it was rejected at least partially because of the extreme reactionary
nature of its desire to discriminate and
oppress. The acceptance of the Loyalist Veto
by Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams, and by the
ICL 11 years beforehand, legitimised this reaction, it conciliated it and made it respectable.
Surveys find that the nationalists are far
more likely to want these peace wall to
stay than the Loyalists; they have a great
deal more to fear. The BBC reported:

In fact, the number of barricades in Belfast
has actually increased since the Good Friday Agreement brought the Northern Irish
conflict to an end in 1998. A 2012 study
found almost 100 walls, fences, gates and
roads forming “interfaces” between communities across the city.
For people living in the shadow of a concrete wall topped with fencing the peace
they bring can help cement divisions rather
than heal communities. Wall number one,
which divides the Falls and Shankill roads
at Cupar Street, went up in 1969 following
rioting and house burnings in west Belfast.
Over the years it has risen to more than six
metres. The last one went up last year in
the grounds of a north Belfast integrated
primary school following a period of local
tension. There are 53 Northern Ireland
Office maintained peace lines in four
towns and cities in the region – 42 in Belfast, five in Londonderry, five in Portadown and one in Lurgan.
However, community relations groups say
these are not the only peace lines, with
other structures and land being used to
keep communities apart. In a survey for
the Community Relations Council the Institute for Conflict Research listed a total
of 88 peace lines as well as 44 police CCTV
cameras. Some are listed as wasteland being used by housing authorities as buffer
zones, others include derelict houses as
well as walls and vegetation to the rear of
homes in interface areas. [7]

And Wiki tells us:
Public housing is overwhelmingly segregated between the two communities. Intercommunal tensions have forced substantial
numbers of people to move from mixed
areas into areas inhabited exclusively by
one denomination, thus increasing the degree of polarisation and segregation. The
extent of self-segregation grew very rapidly
with the outbreak of the Troubles. In 1969,
69 per cent of Protestants and 56 per cent

of Catholics lived in streets where they
were in their own majority; as the result of
large-scale flight from mixed areas between
1969 and 1971 following outbreaks of violence, the respective proportions had by
1972 increased to 99 per cent of
Protestants and 75 per cent of Catholics. In
Belfast, the 1970s were a time of rising
residential segregation. It was estimated in
2004 that 92.5% of public housing in
Northern Ireland was divided along religious lines, with the figure rising to 98% in
Belfast. Self-segregation is a continuing
process, despite the Northern Ireland
peace process. It was estimated in 2005
that more than 1,400 people a year were
being forced to move as a consequence of
In response to intercommunal violence, the
British Army constructed a number of high
walls called “peace lines“ to separate rival
neighbourhoods. These have multiplied
over the years and now number forty separate barriers, mostly located in Belfast. Despite the moves towards peace between
Northern Ireland’s political parties and
most of its paramilitary groups, the construction of “peace lines” has actually increased during the ongoing peace process;
the number of “peace lines” doubled in the
ten years between 1995 and 2005. In 2008
a process was proposed for the removal of
the peace walls.
The effective segregation of the two communities significantly affects the usage of
local services in “interface areas“ where
sectarian neighbourhoods adjoin. Surveys
in 2005 of 9,000 residents of interface areas
found that 75% refused to use the closest
facilities because of location, while 82%
routinely travelled to “safer” areas to access facilities even if the journey time was
longer. 60% refused to shop in areas dominated by the other community, with many
fearing ostracism by their own community
if they violated an unofficial de facto boycott

nationalists in defence
of this for this. This is
the essence of Loyalist

of their sectarian opposite
numbers. [8]

The essence of the
theory of interpenetrated peoples

“Sectional disputes were
frequent. To take one
The Irish ‘Peace Process’
example, disputes over
documents says: “But the
demarcation between
existence of one million
shipwrights and carpenProtestants who comprise
ters occurred in 1890,
60 percent of the popula1891, 1911 and 1913. In
tion of the six counties
that year, the apprentices
means that any attempt to
of Harland and Wolff also
unite the island forcibly will
went on strike. Less secinevitably ignite a sectarian
tional disputes occurred in
conflict of Bosnian propor1887, over the introductions”.
tion of fortnightly payBelfast Riots in July 1920. The
This is an acceptance of immediate causes were the shoot- ment, and in 1892 in support of the eight hour day.
the Loyalist veto and is ing of RIC man Smyth in Cork
the essence of the theory (he was from Banbridge) and the Then, in 1919, Belfast’s
shipyard workers joined
of interpenetrated peo- tensions arising from the 12th July thousands of others in a
ples. Whoever expected (fanned by Carson). The more
long term causes were fears about mass strike for a 44 hour
a peaceful revolution?
working week.
jobs by Protestant workers. ParWhen Ireland becomes kinson notes that unemployment In the following year,
was 26% in Belfast then after the however, the second
reunited there will be
theme of the shipyard’s
fierce resistance from the post-war depression. Protestant
felt they were taking their socio-political culture was
neo-fascist loyalist mur- workers
‘own’ jobs back.
dominant. Responding to
der gangs, amongst oththe establishment of the
ers. They must be defeatIrish
1919 and the outbreak
ed. They are NOT the legitimate repreof the IRA’s War of Independence, loyalist
sentatives of the Loyalist working class
workers expelled some 10,000 Catholics
or the ‘Protestant’ workers. To reject a
and ‘rotten Prods’—socialists and trade
historically progressive aim like Ireunion activists—from the yards.
land’s right to self-determination on the Outbreaks of sectarian violence involving
grounds that it will be fiercely resisted is shipyard workers were nothing new. There
had been disturbances during the 1912
to conciliate reaction.
Home Rule crisis, and an expulsion of
The following extract from The Boat FacCatholics in 1886. Five hundred loyalist
tory: Life in the Yard, A cultural history of
shipyard workers had fought running batshipbuilding in Belfast shows the long histotles with the police in 1872, and in 1864
ry of the ideology of the labour aristocraironworkers, carpenters and shipwrights
cy, of its supremacism and of its extreme
from the yards had been involved in
willingness to impose discrimination on
fighting with Catholic navvies engaged in

the excavation of new docks. The role of
the ‘Islandmen’ in the ‘battle of the navvies’
was commemorated in at least one loyalist
ballad: They sent unto the Island, and they challenged us that day;/ For they had guns and pistols
to begin a bloody fray; /Our arms we had to find
them, but we didn’t dally long,/And we marched
upon the Navvies in three columns stout and strong.
Trade union consciousness and sectarian
ideas found uneasy cohabitation in the populist unionism of groups like the Independent Orange Order, and in the outlook of
working class writers like Thomas Carnduff.
The conflict, often violent, between the two,
was the subject of the 1960 play, Over the
Bridge, by another shipyard worker, Sam
Thompson. [9]

I used to drink with a crew in Harlesden
of Irish, Scottish, English and West Indians in the early 90s. One weekend afternoon the north of Ireland came up. A
man from Aberdeen opined the Robertson stuff about it all being sectarian and
people not being able to agree and they
were all the same.
“No they are not”, I asserted “If you
were a Catholic and married a Protestant
you could live in West Belfast with no
problems but you could not live in East
Belfast They were not the same.”
“You shut up now or I will stick this
glass in your face” shouted the irate Orangeman.
Parkinson says there was about 93,000
Catholic workers in the city at this time
(Parkinson (2004), pp. 33-35) and he estimates that around 10,000 workers expelled including several hundred female
textile workers. He says that most of the
expulsions occurred within the first few
days but some intimidation did occur into
the following month and even into early
September when Catholic workers would

be forced out of work for refusing to sign
‘loyalty’ documents. Also, included were
about 1,800 Protestant trade unionists and
socialists who were also expelled from
their work – the latter were called ‘rotten
Prods’ by the unionist leadership
(Parkinson (2004), pp. 35-36 & 328).
Parkinson further estimates that over the
period of the conflict in Belfast (i.e. up to
summer 1922), over 20,000 Catholics
were displaced (Parkinson, p 62).
Parkinson also says that there is little evidence that Unionist Party had organised
expulsion but that the Unionist leaders
failed to condemn them. Carson was later
to express his ‘pride’ in the actions of his
shipyard ‘friends’ (Parkinson (2004), p.
31). He goes onto say ,
“members of the BPA and other loyalist
splinter groups undoubtedly benefited from
easy access to their considerable arsenal and
were certainly responsible for the initial industrial expulsions and several sectarian
murders. Although the unionist establishment may not have co-ordinated the campaign of violence, it is undeniable that the
Belfast authorities had been bracing themselves for an outbreak of communal disturbances during the summer of
1920.” (Parkinson (2004), pg 309)

He goes on to say that the more incisive
deployment of troops in Belfast would
have probably reduced the level of violence. McDermott says that,
“There is no significant evidence that the
unionist leadership ordered the expulsions
from the shipyards … but … the expulsions
mark the beginning of what … the whole of
the nationalist community called the
‘pogroms’. (McDermott (2001), pp 33)

The response by a number of prominent
nationalists and republicans in the North

in August (including Sean
McEntee; Denis McCullough;
Bishop McRory and Rev John Hassan) is to set a ‘Belfast Boycott
Committee’ which aims to force
Belfast businesses to take back expelled Catholic workers by pushing
a vigorous boycott of all goods
produced in Belfast. They have
success with county councils in the
South and, while initially reluctant,
the Dáil takes responsibility for it
from January 1921.
It should really go without saying
that the orientation of all serious Marxists
should be to those ‘rotten Prods’, socialists
and trade union activists’ within the
Protestant community and not to the Loyalist oppressors of the best of the workers
in that community and the nationalists in
The existence of these forces is not admitted at all in either of the documents
and yet the overwhelming domination of
the far right Loyalist ideology was establish by extreme violence in collaboration
with the British state. They were driven
from the shipyards by Loyalist thugs using
the infamous Belfast confetti, metal disks,
large ship-building rivets, nuts, bolts and
other metal scrap as missiles against the
Catholic workers to drive them out of the
shipyard in 1920. It really should logically
follow that it can only be remove in like
manner because we are entitled to assume
that the neo-fascists will defend their privileges as violently as in the past so we had
better draw the obvious conclusions from
And further the Irish Peace Process says:
“The situation is one of interpenetrated peoples:
two peoples living together on the same

piece of land. Any attempt by one or the
other of the peoples to exercise its right to
self-determination, that is, to create its own
political state, will necessarily lead either to
forced population transfers (“ethnic cleansing”), or conquest and subjugation.”

This totally contradicts the opening sentence of this section: “The starting point
for Marxists in dealing with Ireland has to
be unconditional opposition to British
imperialist intervention”. If the Irish nationalists succeed in reuniting Ireland,
even under capitalism, that would be a
defeat for British Imperialism. It is not a
question simply of economics, national
defence or wishing to avoid a ‘bloodbath’.
The British ruling class are NOT neutral,
their undercover MI5 agents constantly
collaborated with Loyalist death squads in
assassinating not only IRA men and prominent professional opponents like Pat Finucane in 1989, and Rosemary Nelson in
1999, but also random Catholics to spread
terror. They infiltrated the Belfast IRA in
particular so as to ensure they were either
ambushed or they deliberately placed
bombs or made sure they exploded prematurely or warnings were suppressed in

areas where a great number of civilians
were killed, so as to create a backlash.
They expended enormous resources in
fostering fratricidal warfare within the
ranks of Republican Socialism, the IRSP
and the INLA etc., recognising the dangerous implications of uniting the working class under the banner of both revolutionary socialism and anti-imperialism,
surely the essence of Permanent Revolution.
These are not the actions of a neural
force who regarded the struggle as a liability – they do not fear bombs in market
places or withdrawing from Ireland but
the effect such a defeat would have on
the British working class itself. If the Loyalist succeed in crushing the nationalist
resistance, and they have succeeded to a
great degree by winning Sinn Fein and the
IRA over to the Peace Process, then that
is a victory for imperialism, with all its
negative national and international implications for the global class consciousness
of workers, particularly in Britain.
A victory over imperialism would enormously strengthen the British working
class politically by undermining illusion in
the ideology of imperialism and in the
benefits they are getting from the booty
of Empire. For this very reason Trotsky
advocated critical support for Haile Selassie and Abyssinia against Italy in 1936, for
China led by Chiang Kai-shek against Japan in 1937 and, hypothetically, for Vargas and Brazil against Britain in 1938 despite the reactionary character of the leaderships of these three nations. I would say
the IRA and Sinn Fein stack up pretty
well against those; whilst they were
fighting British imperialism and its Loyalist agents they were deserving of the traditional Marxist critical but unconditional

support. Neither of the two documents
even considers this very important Marxist principle in the context of the global
class struggle.
This is also the essence of Marx’s famous Irish Turn in 1869. He spelled this
out in his letter to Ludwig Kugelmann. It
made no concessions to the Loyalists (he
had noticed them!) or to the anti-Marxist
notion of interpenetrated peoples:
“I have become more and more convinced
— and the thing now is to drum this conviction into the English working class —
that they will never be able to do anything
decisive here in England before they separate their attitude towards Ireland quite definitely from that of the ruling classes, and
not only make common cause with the
Irish, but even take the initiative in dissolving the Union established in 1801, and substituting a free federal relationship for it.
And this must be done not out of sympathy
for Ireland, but as a demand based on the
interests of the English proletariat. If not,
the English people will remain bound to the
leading-strings of the ruling classes, because
they will be forced to make a common front
with them against Ireland. Every movement
of the working class in England itself is crippled by the dissension with the Irish, who
form a very important section of the working class in England itself. The primary condition for emancipation here — the overthrow of the English landed oligarchy —
remains unattainable, since its positions
cannot be stormed here as long as it holds
its strongly-entrenched outposts in Ireland.
But over there, once affairs have been laid
in the hands of the Irish people themselves,
as soon as they have made themselves their
own legislators and rulers, as soon as they
have become autonomous, it will be infinitely easier there than here to abolish the
landed aristocracy (to a large extent the
same persons as the English landlords) since

in Ireland it is not just merely an economic
warp: they still think they are fighting the
question, but also a national one, as the landbattles of the Reformation and the “Glorious
lords there are not, as they are in England,
Revolution” of seventeenth century England.
traditional dignitaries and representatives, but
The ideology of Loyalism is a grotesque
the mortally-hated oppressors of the national- anachronism. But it has not been abandoned
ity. And not only does England’s internal
by the Protestant population. Marxists must
social development remain crippled by the
frame their demands on the national question
present relationship to Ireland, but also her
to undermine this consciousness, a product
foreign policy, in particular her policy with
of the “carnival of reaction” of which Conregard to Russia and the United States of
nolly spoke, and not drive the Protestant
working class into the arms of the Paisleyites
Since, however, the
(or worse) by echoing
English working
the Republicans’ declass undoubtedly
mand for “selfthrows the greatest
determination of the
weight on the
Irish people as a
scales of social
whole.” There is no
emancipation gensuch thing as “the Irish
erally, this is the
people as a whole;” the
point where the
Protestants do not feel
lever must be apthemselves to be part
plied. It is a fact
of any such people. If
that the English
there is to be any hope
Republic under
of uniting Catholic and
Battle of Vinegar Hill, 21 June 1798
Cromwell met
Protestant working
shipwreck in — Ireland. Non bis in idem!
classes, it cannot be demanded of the
[this shall not happen twice] The Irish have
Protestants that they accept Catholic nationplayed a capital joke on the English governalist aims as a condition for participating in
ment by electing the convict felon O’Donocommon struggle. While opposing the impevan Rossa as Member of Parliament. Govern- rialist presence, Marxists must also oppose
ment newspapers are already threatening a
the reunification of Ireland against the wishes
renewed suspension of the Habeas Corpus
of the Protestants.
Act, a renewed system of terror! In fact, Eng- Of course the document makes clear its
land never has and never can rule Ireland any opposition to these forces but then accepts
other way, as long as the present relationship
that they have a right to self-determination.
continues — only with the most abominable
Only nations have a right to selfreign of terror and the most reprehensible
determination. The Ulster Loyalists, the
corruption. [10]

Falkland Islanders, the Gibraltarians, the
inhabitants of Hong Kong or any other
imperialist outpost have no rights to occuThe Irish Peace Process says:
py other people’s lands and claim them for
The Protestants are not actually a fully devel- their imperialist masters. This was, in fact,
oped nation. Rather, they are a half formed
declared a crime in 1960 by the United
quasi national grouping, whose political con- Nations, that most pro imperialist of bodsciousness and identity exists as if in a time
ies which likes to pretend that modern im-

Ireland’s Right to SelfDetermination


perialism is not at all as bad as 19th century colonialism. [11]
The Loyalists are not a nation, they
do not want to be a nation and do not
claim to be a nation. The essence of loyalism is their ‘right’ to discriminate, to
assert their superiority over the nationalists in a cross class alliance with their
own ruling class and British imperialism.
It is not a disagreement between peoples, but a mode of imperialist rule. The
“half formed quasi national grouping”
should be given a real name; modern
colonialist infused with pro-imperialist
bigotry. Theirs is a supremacist ideology
like Zionism and apartheid South Africa
and the Deep South Jim Crow South
poor whites. And historically they have
made these connections themselves in
words and deeds. Ian Paisley received a
bogus honorary doctorate of divinity
from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina in
1966, to take one example. The sympathy for Zionism of many Loyalists is
legendary. And according to The Pensive

from January 1982 to December 1987 –
before the smuggling of the huge arsenal,
loyalists murdered 71 people. In the five
years after the weapons’ arrival, loyalists
killed 135 people – almost double the rate
before acquiring the South African
haul.” [12]

That perceived right to discriminate and
murder at will is the prime question, not
some bogus question of their right to
self-determination. But Alan objects:

“In January 1988, the UDA intelligence
boss and British agent Brian Nelson masterminded one of the biggest consignments
of illegal weapons to loyalists since the
Larne gun-running of 1914 to arm Carson’s Ulster Volunteers. The loyalist
bloodbath bonanza consisted of 200 Russian-made Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic
rifles; 90 American Browning 9 mm pistols; around 500 fragmentation grenades;
30,000 bullets; a dozen Russian-made
RPG7 rocket launchers, and an unknown
number of warheads. The South African
weapons had a major impact on the murder rate of the loyalist death squads. According to our sources, in the six years –

“It is not a question of giving a “right of
veto” to anyone but just recognising that
your solution of calling for the selfdetermination currently exercised in the
south of the island to be extended to the
north is not a democratic solution. Given
the current political/social reality in the
north what would that mean for the democratic rights of the 50% or so of the population who do not want that?
Of course nationalists in the north of Ireland or Palestinians should not accept being second-class citizens. I am not arguing
that they should and I find it deeply offensive that you are implying that I am. I am
just saying that there is no democratic solution possible within the framework of
capitalism. You on the other-hand seem
only to be able to counter-pose alternatives
within the framework of capitalism and so
there is a simple dichotomy between siding
with the oppressed or the oppressor. You
need to start thinking like a communist not
a radical bourgeois democrat. (As an aside
I am curious as to why you refer to South
African Blacks and Deep Southern Blacks
– what are you suggesting in terms of selfdetermination for them?) I think the nub
of the problem is that you miss a central
point of the Leninist position on selfdetermination. It is to encourage working
class unity. It is to undercut the political
appeal of nationalism, both in the oppressor nation and the oppressed nation. In-

stead you take the Leninist approach to the
right of self-determination as some overarching slogan in an ahistorical sense – thus
gutting it of its real content and political
purpose. And as another aside I have reread your piece today taking notes this time
and it really is a quite shoddy piece of work.
Creating, and then knocking over, straw
men combined with blatant political slanders. Your piece screams of liberal moral
outrage rather than Marxist science.”

I have tried to explain to him that differences between the nationalism of the
oppressor and that of the oppressed.
Lenin expanded it in great detail and the
quote the IBT put forward in their fusion
with the LTT makes no acknowledgement of this. [13] Supporting existing
oppression of the Irish nationalists (NOT
Catholics) by Loyalist (NOT Protestants)
on the grounds that if you do so the oppression might be reversed completely
dismisses the fight against imperialism
and the central position this must occupy
in the programme of all serious revolutionaries. In Israel it is Zionism repressing the Palestinians, a fear that imperialism’s agents might themselves be oppressed at a later date is a defence of current Imperialist oppression. That is the
essence of the argument, interpenetrated
peoples is an alternative explanation for
human oppression that blames human
nature and not the property relations of
capitalism and modern imperialism.
That’s the significance of the Lenin
Stalin debate, the Great Russian chauvinism of Stalin, the failure of Robertson to
call for the defeat of the British Expeditionary force to the south Atlantic in
1982, by far the most telling example of
the Sparts’ pro imperialism.

Christian Rakovsky and Leon Trotsky 1924

How Christian Rakovsky handled
the national question
Look at how Christian Rakovsky handled
the national question. Note how different
it is from Stalin, from the Lenin of 1913
(as presented so one-sidedly in that quote
from the BT/LTT Fusion document)
and from the Lenin that took such umbrage at Stalin’s Great Russian Chauvinism as he called it in regard to Georgia in
1922 until his death in 1924. This passage
relates how Rakovsky himself developed
his views on the subject; these views then
became those of the Left Opposition and
Trotsky’s own views:

“What was the specific problem which the
national question posed for the Communist
Party in the Soviet Union according to Rakovsky? In 1919, in the article already mentioned (Relations between the Republics),
Rakovsky had analysed nationalism and national culture as specific to the bourgeois
state order, an extension of the concept of
“private ownership” to the level of the state.
Therefore he saw the elimination of capitalist
private property as undermining once and
for all the basis of specifically “national”
consciousness and culture, and he saw the
federal and centralizing principle as a characteristic of the socialist order. The problem
had presented itself then in terms of the
“suppression” of national prejudice, national
boundaries etc., and he had been very optimistic in 1919 about the pace at which those
would disappear. At the Twelfth Congress
that optimism had disappeared: “the more
often we discuss this question the further
away we are from a communist understanding and solution of the national problem”.
“There were many in the party in 1923 who
believed that the national problem had already been solved. Rakovsky asked: “Tell me,
comrades, how many of you can explain in
what way the October revolution solved the
nationalities question?” It did not resolve it,
nor could it have. National culture does not
cease to exist because the state is a workers’
state or because the economy is no longer
privately owned. National culture is “the only
way” through which the working and peasant
masses will gain access to political and cultural life. “And hand in hand with national
consciousness comes that feeling of equality
which Lenin speaks of in his memorandum.
Because of centuries o tsarist domination,
the nationalities are now experiencing that
feeling of equality in a much deeper and
stronger way than we think.” So the problem
posed before the Communist Party was not
one of the suppression or “overcoming” of
national consciousness. “It (the party) faces

the question of how to find the bond between proletarian communist internationalism and the national development of wide
layers of the peasant masse with their aspirations for a national life, for their own national culture, for their own national state.” [14]

We have examined Loyalist culture and
shown that it is not a culture at all. Irish
culture compromise a vast range of literature and works of art, of plays and the theatre performances that moved from London to become based in Dublin during the
last decades of the 19th century. Also in
this period, in 1884, the Gael Athletic Association began to develop and codify a
whole series of unique national games
which remain enormously popular today;
hurling, Gaelic football for men and women, camogie and handball.
Although the hurling and football AllIreland Finals and semi Finals are invariably the biggest sporting events in Europe
and often in the world on the day, with
80,000 + attendances, yet no British press,
apart from The Sun which gives the score,
or TV station will report the results let
alone on the games themselves, but will
report on small rugby league and football
contests in the south of France with a few
hundred in attendance. The expulsion of
the forces of the Empire from the south
of Ireland in 1921 still rankles with the
British imperialist establishment and its
representatives in the mass media.

Pro-Imperialist Terminology
Finally on the language used in the documents. The offensive terminology like
Protestant and Catholic and the British
Isles that the documents use is an inadvertent expression of contempt for Ireland’s right to self-determination. Obviously the comrades are unaware that Brit-

ish Isles signifies a territorial
claim by Britain to the whole
of Ireland.
The Irish Government has
made it clear to Britain and to
international cartographers
that it objects strongly to the
use of the term. Nevertheless
the BBC and other British
imperialist spokespersons alTony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern sign the Good
ways uses it in weather forecasts and elsewhere. Tony Blair Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998. The document refers
to “These Isles” and never “the British Isles”
acceded to the request of the
Irish government and used the term
questioned the use of British Isles as a
“these islands” in the Good Friday Agree- purely geographic expression, noting:
[The] “Last Post has redoubled its efIts use is a cover for this wrong apforts to re-educate those labouring under
proach as is, for example, the constant use the misconception that Ireland is really
of the term ‘sectarian conflict’ to excuse
just British. When British Retail Week magand marginalise the role of British imperi- azine last week reported that a retailer was
alism and Protestant and Catholic to des- to make its British Isles debut in Dublin,
ignate the opposing camps in the north of we were puzzled. Is not Dublin the capital
Ireland. The correct terms are proof the Republic of Ireland? When Last
imperialist and anti-imperialist or Loyalist Post suggested the magazine might see its
and Nationalist/Republican.
way clear to correcting the error, an educaThe ICL programme states that: “We
tive e-mail to the publication…:
struggle for an Irish workers’ republic as
“…(which) I have called the Atlantic
part of a socialist federation of the British archipelago – since the term ‘British Isles’
Isles” No serious self-respecting Irish citi- is one which Irishmen reject and Englishzen would use such a term as is evidenced men decline to take quite seriously.” Poby the following notes from Wikipedia:
cock, J.G.A. [1974] (2005). “British History: A plea for a new subject”. The Discov“In standard English usage, the toponym
ery of Islands. Cambridge: Cambridge
“the British Isles” refers to a European archipelago consisting of Great Britain, Ireland University Press, p. 29. OCLC 60611042.
and adjacent islands. However, the word
“…what used to be called the “British
“British” is also an adjective and demonym Isles,” although that is now a politically
referring to the United Kingdom. For this
incorrect term.” Finnegan, Richard B.;
reason, the name British Isles is avoided in
Edward T. McCarron (2000). Ireland: HisIrish English as such usage could be contorical Echoes, Contemporary Politics.
strued to imply continued territorial claims
Boulder: Westview Press, p. 358.
or political overlordship of the Republic of
“In an attempt to coin a term that avoidIreland by the United Kingdom.
ed the ‘British Isles’ – a term often offenOn 18 July 2004, The Sunday Business Post

sive to Irish sensibilities – Pocock suggested a neutral geographical term for the
collection of islands located off the
northwest coast of continental Europe
which included Britain and Ireland: the
Atlantic archipelago…” Lambert, Peter;
Phillipp Schofield (2004). Making History: An Introduction to the History and
Practices of a Discipline. New York:
Routledge, p. 217.
“..the term is increasingly unacceptable
to Irish historians in particular, for whom
the Irish Sea is or ought to be a separating rather than a linking element. Sensitive to such susceptibilities, proponents
of the idea of a genuine British history, a
theme which has come to the fore during
the last couple of decades, are plumping
for a more neutral term to label the scattered islands peripheral to the two major
ones of Great Britain and Ireland.”
Roots, Ivan (1997).
The British Isles, A History of Four Nations,
Second edition, Cambridge University
Press, July 2006, Preface, Hugh Kearney.
“The title of this book is ‘The British
Isles’, not ‘Britain’, in order to emphasise
the multi-ethnic character of our intertwined histories. Almost inevitably many
within the Irish Republic find it objectionable. As Seamus Heaney put it when
he objected to being included in an anthology of British Poetry:
‘Don’t be surprised If I demur, for, be advised/ My passport’s green./ No glass of
ours was ever raised/ To toast the Queen.
(Open Letter, Field day Pamphlet no.2

The A to Z of Britain and Ireland by Trevor Montague “…although it is traditional to refer to the Republic of Ireland and
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and

Northern Ireland as the British Isles,
when considered as a single archipelago,
this nomenclature implies a proprietary
title which has long since ceased to exist,
if indeed it ever really did exist.” [15]


[1] Ireland and Palestine: Interpenetrated peoples and the rights of
oppressed nations to self-determination
[2] An End to the Troubles, Irish ‘Peace Process’ http://
[3] “On his return to the Curragh on 20th March, Paget
summoned his brigadiers and informed them that active
operations against Ulster were imminent. He indicated
that officers with homes in Ulster would be permitted to
be absent from duty without compromising their careers.
Unwisely (really, not Perfidious Albion again? – GD), he
added that any others who were not prepared to carry
out their duty were to say so and these would immediately be dismissed from the service. The brigadiers were to
put these alternatives to their men and report back; 57 of
the 70 officers consulted elected for dismissal. They were
led by Brigadier General Herbert Gough who, like many
of them, had Irish family connections.” http://
[4] John Throne, Militant International Review No. 9,
June 1974. Northern Ireland – the crisis deepens – Postscript,
[5] IDOT No 8: The CWI and IMT: Right Centrist Heirs
Of Ted Grant “Nevertheless, the (Ulster Workers Council) strike also demonstrated in a distorted form and on a
reactionary issue, the colossal power of the working class
when it moves into action.” Militant International Review No. 9 10 July 1974: https://
[6] Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution, 10. What is the
Permanent Revolution?, Basic Postulates, https://
[7] Forty years of peace lines
[8] Segregation in Northern Ireland, From Wikipedia,
[9] The Boat Factory: Life in the Yard, A cultural history of
shipbuilding in Belfast
[10] Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869, Marx To Ludwig
Kugelmann In Hanover,

[11] Edward McWhinney, Professor of International Law.
“The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to
Colonial Countries and Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 14 December 1960. The
deliberate location of the United Nations vote – in the
General Assembly rather than in the Security Council
where a permanent member’s veto would always be available to any one or more of the three permanent members
that still had “colonial” legal ties or associations – was an
obvious enough choice for the political activist States
sponsoring resolution 1514 (XV). And the timing of the
vote – in 1960, when the decolonisation process was
already well under way – was hardly fortuitous. A working
majority in favour of a patently anti-colonialist measure
would not become politically possible until the General
Assembly’s transformation from its original very narrow
base of representation limited to the States members of
the victorious wartime Alliance against Fascism to something more nearly reflective in cultural and ideological
terms of the world community at large. By 1960, this had
begun to be achieved, albeit on an intermittent, or casual,
step-by-step basis, over the decade and a half from War’s
end. The numerical breakthrough had occurred as late as
1955, when 16 new States had been admitted in one big
step to membership,
bringing the total to 76.
In 1960 itself, 19 new
States had been admitted, sealing the emergence of what became, in
Cold War terms, a neutralist or uncommitted,
majority voting coalition
variously styled as the
Non-Aligned bloc, the
Group of 77, the Bandoeng group, the Developing or Third World
countries. It was this
informal electoral alliance, that provided the
intellectual cohesiveness
and also the politicaltactical competence to
secure the adoption of
resolution 1514 (XV)
without a single expressed dissent in the General Assembly.”
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries
and Peoples, Adopted by General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV)
of 14 December 1960
[12] Loyalist guns from South Africa, September 22, 2012,
[13] From the International Bolshevik Tendency: BT/LTT

Fusion Document: For Trotskyism! https://
[14] Gus Fagan, Biographical Introduction, to Christian
Rakovsky, Rakovsky and the Ukraine (1919–23)https://
[15] British Isles naming dispute – Wikipedia, the free

Comment by Revolutionary programme (AG), 08/02/2016
You ask “Was KwaZulu-Natal another
case of ‘interpenetrated peoples’?” and
answer your own question – “It would
seem to fit the bill.”
This comment clearly shows your total
lack of understanding of the issues involved. KwaZulu-Natal, indeed South
Africa as a whole, is not a case of interpenetrated peoples. See for instance this
from the IBT’s major programmatic
document “For
“In ‘classic’ cases of
national oppression
(e.g., Quebec), we
champion the right of
without necessarily
advocating its exercise.
In the more complex
cases of two peoples
interspersed, or
throughout a single
geographical territory
(Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel),
the abstract right of each to selfdetermination cannot be realized equitably
within the framework of capitalist property
relations. Yet in none of these cases can the
oppressor people be equated with the whites
in South Africa or the French colons in Algeria; i.e., a privileged settler-caste/labor
aristocracy dependent on the super33

exploitation of indigenous labor to maintain
a standard of living qualitatively higher than
the oppressed population.”

Situations like South Africa (and KwaZulu
-Natal has an even lower percentage of
whites than the overall figure) are EXPLICITLY differentiated from situations
of interpenetrated peoples.
Your continued failure to understand the
actual position you claim to be arguing
against actually just shows your ignorance
of the core of the Marxist position on the
right of nations to self-determination –
defence of a bourgeois democratic right.
Lets look a bit more closely at the Trotsky quote from the Permanent Revolution
you provide in your latest piece:
“With regard to countries with a belated
bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory
of the permanent revolution signifies that the
complete and genuine solution of their tasks
of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the
subjugated nation, above all of its peasant

I presume that given your use of this
quote that you agree with Trotsky that
only the dictatorship of the proletariat can
bring about the complete and genuine solution of the tasks of achieving democracy
and national emancipation for oppressed
Despite this Leninism/Trotskyism recognises that in most cases where an oppressed nation has no separate state there
can be some level of democratic solution
to the tasks of achieving democracy and
national emancipation within the framework of capitalism – hence defence of the
right of nations to self-determination.
What the “interpenetrated peoples” posi-

tion deals with is the very small number of
cases where situations of national oppression cannot in any way be democratically
solved within the context of capitalism.
They can ONLY be resolved within the
context of the rule of the working class.
Your position on the other hand continues to be based on the fantasy that there
can be a democratic solution to the national question through self-determination
within the capitalist framework in situations of intermingled peoples where a majority, or even significant minority, of the
population are opposed to that setting up
of that capitalist state (or in the case or
Ireland the extension of the capitalist state
in the south).
Or even worse that you have raised the
bourgeois democratic right to national self
-determination to the level of a Marxist
principle and the question of whether its
achievement has any democratic content is
of no importance to you – that you are in
reality a nationalist rather than a Marxist.
We are BOTH for ending the oppression
of people in the north of Ireland based on
their membership of the nationalist/
Catholic/anti-imperialist community
(whatever term you want to use to describe that community of people).
The difference is over whether there is
any solution to this oppression within the
framework of capitalism that is supportable by Marxists. You say there is, I say
there is not. Until you deal with that actual
political difference your polemics are not
worth the paper they are written on (or
screen they are read on).
As an aside I also note the following
which reinforces this conclusion.
You correctly argue that the neo-fascist
loyalist murder gangs must be defeated


and “they are NOT the
legitimate representatives of the Loyalist
working class or the
‘Protestant’ workers”.
You also correctly state
“It should really go
without saying that the
orientation of all serious Marxists should be
to those ‘rotten Prods’,
January 1918
socialists and trade union activists’ within the
Protestant community and not to the Loyalist oppressors of the best of the workers
in that community and the nationalists in
However the clear implication of your
“it should really go without saying” is that
the IBT have a positive political orientation towards those neo-fascist loyalist
murder gangs.
I will remind you what the IBT’s actual
position is – “We are unconditionally opposed to the whole apparatus of Loyalist
terror: the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the
Royal Irish Regiment, the Loyalist paramilitary murder gangs.” Why do you continue with these fake polemics?

do undoubtedly possess the material forces to make an overturn of their respective oppressor states
unlikely without their
capitulation, which is
most likely to happen
materially if it is first
The real problem with
the ‘interpenetrated
peoples’ position here
is that it dignifies the oppressor with the
same legitimacy as the oppressed in national terms. It is the Middle East where
this is clearest, as the ‘self-determination’
of Israel Jews would not be possible without denying the right to return of Palestinian refugees. 20% of the population of
Israel proper are so-called Israeli Arabs: in
the Naqba of 1947-9 more than two
thirds of the Arab population were violently expelled, Simple arithmetic tells you
if that were reversed, there would be an
Arab majority in Israel ‘proper’ of more
than 60%. Not to mention that the separation between Israel proper and the West
Bank/Gaza is utterly artificial. We are
talking about a clearly, overwhelming maComment by Ian 21/02/2016 jority Arab population if basic democratic
In my view Ireland and Israel/Palestine
norms were observed.
are separate but related problems, with
Not only that, but Israel does not claim
distinct and separate elements to them,
to be a nation-state. It claims to be the
but there is also some commonality. The state of the Jews worldwide. And in bourfervent pro-Zionism of many loyalist big- geois terms, there is a certain reality to
ots speaks to the related nature of the two this, as highly influential sections of the
bourgeoisie in the US and to a slightly
It is hardly likely that either question can lesser extent Western Europe do regard
be resolved without in some sense the
Israel as their territorial asset. The Spart
‘consent’ of the oppressor groups inposition dignifies this thoroughly antivolved. Israeli Jews and Ulster Protestants democratic situation as being a conflict of

two nations, the Arathem is not to
bic and Hebrewbuild them up
speaking peoples.
into some quasiBut the “Hebrewnational commuspeaking peoples” do
nity with
not see themselves as
‘national rights’
a separate nation from
of their own –
world Jewry, and
which is a denial
therefore in trying to
of their nonmake the Israel Jews
nationhood and
into a separate nation,
being an extenyou are engaging in
sion of British
nation-building in a
imperialism. Instrange vicarious
stead we should
tell them the truth; that insofar as they
Marxists should be saying forcefully to act as separatists, their ‘identity’ is reacIsraeli Jews that their pan-Jewish
tionary crap. Those Protestants who
‘national’ consciousness has no legitima- wish to be progressives and democrats
cy and no democratic content, and that need to throw their lot in with the strugthey should solidarise with the Palestini- gle to reunify Ireland.
an people and endorse the basic demand
This is simply an extension of Marx’s
of democracy – the real Arab majority
point that a nation that oppresses anothshould rule. They should be saying that er cannot itself be free. If Israeli Jews, or
their nationalism is nonviable, and trying Protestants in North East Ulster, want to
to engage with the small but highly sigbe free, they have to embrace the strugnificant milieu of Israeli/Jewish intellec- gle of the people their privileged nontuals who are attacking the ‘secular’ Jew- national oppressor layers are suppressing
ish identity – the basis of Zionism, as
and/or frustrating.
inherently racist and chauvinist and adIt is true that the IBT, Spartacists et al,
vocating assimilation of Israeli Jews into raise correct demands against the various
the majority non-Jewish Palestinian pop- forces of the state in Ireland, the British
Army, or for that matter the Israeli state
In Ireland, likewise the Protestants do to an extent. If they did not, they would
not claim to be a separate nation. They
be as wretched as the overt Shachtmaniclaim to be part of Britain. The problem ties like the AWL etc.
for them is that much of the more enBut their approach to the national
lightened section of the British popula- question undermines these valid detion sees them as a bigoted and retromands, by giving political cover and legrade remnant of colonialism, and shud- gitimacy to the oppressor non-national
ders when they open their mouths. The groups that provide the social base for
demand that socialists should make of
the very reactionary state formations