August 2013        

A new Act of Union (by another name)

The reconstruction of the old pre-1922 United Kingdom is right on track. Following the slobber-fest in Dublin Castle when the British queen was feted by a fawning Irish elite in May 2011, the British prime minister, David Cameron, remarked that the occasion marked the beginning of a new and closer relationship between Ireland and Great Britain. How right he was!
     As might be expected, Irish media lapdogs gave no attention this year to the huge contrast between two important public events. A low-key “in and out of the GPO” official commemoration of the 1916 Rising by the President, Michael D. Higgins, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and a tiny military presence was one of these events. The other was the much more grandiose official joint commemoration at Islandbridge of the Irish dead in the British army and of Irish army personnel who died on UN peace missions, attended by the President, the full Government, ambassadors, bands, and a large military detachment.
     Does this mean that Irish army personnel who died on UN duty are to be regarded as the heirs of Ireland’s British army dead rather than of Óglaigh na hÉireann and the Irish Citizen Army, on whose sacrifices the Irish state was founded? On the basis of their inclusion in the Islandbridge ceremony, apparently so!
     Does it mean that 1916 will continue to be commemorated as an event of mainly folkloric significance? On the basis of a projected Irish-British economic integration, also apparently so!
     One hardly needs to be a Marxist to understand that such superstructural shifts bespeak an underlying economic dimension. Thus we are not surprised to read (Irish Independent, 18 July 2013):
The Irish and British governments are poised to unveil an economic master plan designed to deepen integration between the two countries. A study, commissioned by both governments, outlines a range of proposals in which Dublin and London would collaborate, including joint Irish and UK trade missions, boosting electrical interconnection and a common tourist visa for both countries. The plan is expected to be jointly launched in a statement from British Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. It follows agreement from both leaders in March last year to set out a vision of closer bilateral co-operation between Britain and Ireland over the next decade.
     Recommended areas of collaboration include:
     • joint Irish-British trade missions, with British ministers promoting the benefits of Ireland overseas and vice versa; developing joint trade and promotional proposals in the agri-food sector;
     • increased electrical interconnection capacity, boosting the number of companies active in the market, thereby boosting competition and lowering prices;
     • a common travel area visa, allowing for a single visa for travel to both countries, building on the existing short-stay visa waiver scheme;
     • closer co-operation in banking and financial services, allowing for the two countries to take a co-ordinated approach on international negotiations;
     • spreading the cost of investing in research and development facilities and expertise between the two countries, with ICT and bio-technology getting the greatest benefit.
     The study draws on contributions from “policy-makers, industry experts, and businesses.”
     In short: a new Act of Union by another name, with a rampantly capitalist Ireland maintaining its now empty symbols of national independence.
     Just as big fish in the corporate world swallow up the smaller fish, such “integration” of capitalist economies follows the well-worn pathway described by Marx and Lenin—with dire consequences for the working class, as the hegemony of neo-liberalism in today’s world so clearly demonstrates.
     James Connolly saw clearly that the only worthwhile way for Irish workers to advance the interests of the vast majority of our people was to break the link with imperial Britain and to establish an Irish socialist republic embodying the egalitarian principles of the 1916 Proclamation.
     Connolly’s insight is every bit as valid today as it was in the early twentieth century.

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