Bulletin of Marxist Studies, Vol. 1. No 3, Spring 1985
Northern Ireland: Marxism and the State
[Site editors note: This article was written for the Bulletin of Marxist Studies
, a journal produced by Militant suporters in Britain, and as such forms a part of our political heritage.
Readers should remember that the specific demands raised here in relation to the RUC, UDR, etc. have all been superceded by events, but the key issue is the Marxist method. This document is an excellent example of how Marxists should approach issues like the state, in a transistional manner. June 2004.]
The state, as Engels put it, can in the last analysis be reduced to 'armed bodies of men acting in defence of private property'. This understanding is fundamental to Marxism and helps to draw a line of division between the camps of reformism and revolution.
A state did not exist in all societies. When there were no classes there was no necessity for a separate body of administrators and agents of coercion to maintain class exploitation.
Only with the division of society into classes, each with conflicting economic interests, did the state arise. While appearing to stand neutral and arbitrate over these interests, the state inevitably comes down on one side. It is "an organisation of the exploiting class at each period for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, therefore in particular for the forcible holding down of the exploited class in the condition of oppression (slavery, bondage, or serfdom, wage labour) determined by the mode of production" (Engels).
The modern capitalist state is an instrument for the preservation of the rule of capital, for the maintenance of wage labour, and therefore ultimately for holding in check the movements of the working class to change society.
This is the essence of the question. But he essence of things generally only becomes fully apparent 'in the last analysis'. The question of the state, especially the modern Capitalist state, is a complex one. There are many forms of state through which the role of capital is ultimately exercised. Some are more, some less, under the direct control of the capitalists themselves.
While in Northern Ireland the essence of the state as 'armed bodies of men' is visibly apparent, in other European countries, and even to a degree in Northern Ireland, the state appears as an instrument of democratic rule, full of democratic checks and safeguards, as a neutral arbitrator above and apart from the conflicts within society.
Capitalist or 'bourgeois' democracy entails the granting of many democratic rights; the right to vote, to organise, to strike, etc., all of which have been won by the pressure of the working class. They could be 'afforded' by the capitalists at a time when their system, was expanding production and developing society.
In fact, under such conditions, bourgeois democracy is the favoured method by which the capitalists exercise their class rule. It permits class relations to be softened and the realities of exploitation and the dictatorship of capital to be hidden.
For the ruling class democratic rights are intended as a smokescreen to defuse the class struggle. They are permissible as long as they do not threaten the system. For the working class the rights to organise, to strike, etc., are important gains to be used to further their interests.
Ultimately these two divergent and antagonistic approaches to democratic rights must run into headlong collision. During periods of boom such a collision can be avoided. But in a period of downswing, as class conflict intensifies, the previously preferred methods of bourgeois democracy become intolerable to the ruling class. In his book, Inside Right, Tory 'wet' Ian Gilmour blurts the class truth that for the party of big business, the Conservatives, if democracy 'is leading to an end that is undesirable or inconsistent with itself, then there is a theoretical case for ending it'.
So it is that in the present epoch of stagnation the ruling class are determinedly setting out to reduce living standards and, by necessity, to whittle away the democratic rights by which the working class defend those standards.
In the colonial world the conditions of general poverty and severe exploitation have allowed no room for democratic finery. Here, capitalist rule has generally been in the form of rule by the sword. Bonapartist regimes, or military police dictatorships exist as the norm in virtually every country. Democratic rights, where they exist, have been conceded only in the teeth of revolutionary pressure. Such rights can never be consolidated, as was possible in the past in the advanced countries. Unless the working class moves forward to end capitalism and landlordism these rights, where they exist, will inevitably be curtailed. Hence the round of coups, revolutionary upheavals, occasional interludes of apparent 'democracy', further vengeful coups and countercoups which are the established pattern of political life in this entire arena.
What is already common currency in the colonial world is increasingly the direction in which the advanced capitalist countries seek to go. Hence the steps towards 'parliamentary bonapartism' being attempted by Thatcher and the similar tendencies in other countries.
In Ireland, north and south, the Provos' campaign has been used as the excuse for repressive legislation, the Criminal justice Bill in the South being the latest example. All of this, no matter on what pretext it is introduced, is class legislation for future use against the working class.
In Britain, the Thatcher government has been attempting to introduce semi-dictatorial measures. The banning of unions at GCHQ, anti-union laws, the centralisation of the state institutions, especially of the police, are all examples. Many of the illusions entertained by British workers in the democratic nature of their state institutions have been rudely shattered by the harassment, the arrests, the curfews and the broken skulls to which the police have treated the miners, during the present strike. In the first six months of this strike, five miners have died and over 7,000 have been arrested.
These measures are a warning as to the more serious steps which the ruling class will be driven towards taking at a later stage. In February 1981, Colonel Tejero placed his pistol at the head of the speaker of the Spanish parliament. This was a serious attempt by a large section of the generals in Spain at military reaction. It failed, because from the point of view of the ruling class it was premature. The Spanish bourgeoisie were not confident enough of the outcome to place themselves solidly behind the project.
If, over a period, capitalism is not overthrown, the ruling class will have no option but to confront head on the power of the working class. Even at the risk of a civil war in which they would not be sure of the outcome they would be forced to seek further Tejeros, further Zias and Pinochets to guard their interests.
Reality is always two sided. Despite the pessimism of the sects who have been proclaiming the advent of the police state in Britain sine the 1960's, it is not immediately possible for the capitalists to impose a Chilean solution in Europe or in any of the advanced capitalist countries. In their way stands the power of the working class. A paradox confronting the bourgeoisie is the fact that just at the moment when they are trying to curtail democracy, with the one exception of Turkey, a semi-developed country on the fringes of Europe, there is not a single military regime either in Europe or in any advanced capitalist country. In Britain many of the measures introduced by Thatcher cannot be implemented. Only after a period of defeats suffered by the working class could military reaction become a possibility.
The role of the Marxists is to explain things as they are. While defending every democratic gain and fighting to extend democratic rights there is no room in Marxism for illusions in the nature of this democracy. The only guarantee of democratic freedoms is the elimination of the class rule of the capitalists, the destruction of their coercive apparatus and the smashing of their state.
The programme and approach of Marxism on the state is basically on an understanding of how it arises and what it is. In a future socialist society the state will ultimately disappear. No separate apparatus for administration or coercion would be necessary. On the basis of a super-abundance of goods, and the abolition of want, the economic basis of the state, shortages, queues and a privileged group to keep these queues in order, would naturally disappear.
Engels vividly anticipated this future: "The society that organises production anew on the basis of a free and equal association of the producers will put the whole state machine where it will belong; in the museum of antiquities, side by side with the spinning wheel and the bronze axe."
To achieve this, Engels, like all other Marxists, understood that the complete smashing of the old capitalist state machine would be necessary. For those who, almost a century after Engels' death, still peddle illusions in the possibilities of building socialism while leaving the capitalist state intact, the experience of Chile in 1973 is the crushing and unanswerable counter-argument. The Chilean working class paid for the illusions of their leaders in the democratic nature of, particularly, the armed forces, with up to 58,000 dead. Instead of dismantling the old state Allende, advised and encouraged by the Communist Party, preserved the old institutions and even invited his future assassins into his cabinet.
Chile confirms the analysis of Marxism. It is not possible to carry out half a revolution. In a revolutionary situation gains which are not consolidated through the taking of economic and state power out of the hands of the capitalists will be lost. Marxism explains the need for the replacement of the old state by a state based upon the working class, for a workers' militia, for the ruling of society by workers' councils etc.
In periods of revolution, of dual power, these questions stand out starkly and can be posed sharply to the working class, particularly to its advanced layers. The demand for 'Power to the Soviets' gained an echo because of the conditions in Russia in the months before October 1917. So the slogan of workers' militias can strike a chord among the working class in periods of revolution or when the movement is under physical threat from fascism or other forms of reaction.
At other times this is not so. In non-revolutionary periods demands for the arming of the working class and the dismantling of the state will not be sufficient. These presuppose that the workers are arriving at or have already reached revolutionary conclusions. Soviets can only be demanded or established when objective conditions are ripe. The sects who understand nothing of the dynamics of class struggle raise the slogan of soviets at every turn. Their efforts to create thee bodies invariably produce only phantoms.
The programme of Marxism must be geared to the existing consciousness of the working class, or to that layer of the class to whom the propaganda at that time is directed. While explaining that the capitalists will not permit their state to be taken from them piece by piece any more than they will allow the economy to be nationalised industry by industry, it is necessary to raise demands for the democratisation of the existing state apparatus, the civil service, the courts, and the 'armed bodies of men' themselves.
At all times this programme must aim to shatter illusions in the neutrality of the state institutions and also, as far as is possible at each step, to explain to the workers the need to rely on their own strength; on the picket lines and not the police, on industrial action not the arbitration courts, etc. it must ultimately, as Lenin in a different context put it; "teach the people not to believe in words, but to depend wholly on their own strength, on their own organisation, on their own unity, and on their own arms".
Marxists oppose entry of troops
In Northern Ireland the state assumes a peculiar and special form. Certain democratic rights, equivalent to those in Britain, are preserved; the right to organise, to strike, etc. In this sense it is a bourgeois democracy. But it is a bourgeois democracy with strong elements of bonapartism already established. It is administered by a semi-parliamentary, semi-military clique. There is an appointed secretary of state whose powers are centrally tied into the tops of the army and the police to form a Westminster-appointed junta which exercises day-to-day control. This semi-bonapartist state authority rules through the sword of a powerful military-police apparatus set apart from society and exercising its control from behind huge military fortresses and through vicious repression. The opportunity and excuse for the construction of such a centralised apparatus has been provided by the false methods of individual terrorism. Ultimately, individual terror plays a reactionary role, strengthening the state and disorientating the class movements.
The complexity of the state must be taken into account in the programme of the Marxists. Demands put forward in relation to the state institutions must be all-sided, having regard to both its 'democratic' and its 'totalitarian' features and delicately related to the consciousness of all sections of the working class.
The illusions in the democratic nature of the present state, do not exist in the North to the extent they exist in Britain. This is especially true of the Catholic working class who have felt themselves alienated from the state since its inception. It is also at least partially true of Protestant workers.
When the state comes to mean armed bodies of men on the street, as is the case, the starting point for the Marxists must be the necessity to pose their programme in a sharper form. In the north the complicating factor of the national question makes this more the case. In relation to these armed bodies, the army, the police and the UDR, this is clear. In 1969 the Marxists opposed the entry of the British troops. This was not a popular position at the time. The Catholic areas, especially the Bogside, were under siege. B Specials were getting ready to move in and the threat existed of genocide at least on the scale of what happened in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatilla, at the hands of the Lebanese Phalange.
The mood in the catholic areas was to welcome the troops as 'saviours'. It is well known hat the ultra-left sects and those latter-day apologists for the Provos, like Bernadette Devlin, were swept along by this mood and were loud in their calls for the 'saviours' of the British Army to come in.
Defending the slogan of workers' self-defence detachments, Trotsky, in 1939, explained: "Revolution comes upon a society not by a steady unbroken process, but through a series of convulsions, separated by distinct, sometimes protracted intervals. During which the political relations are so modified that the very idea of revolution seems to lose any connection with reality. In accordance with this the slogan of self-defence units at one time will meet a sympathetic response, and at another will sound like a voice calling in the wilderness, and then again after a while will acquire a new popularity."
Marxists do not base their demands on what may be popular at any given time. Temporary moods often develop in which class realities can be obscured from the eyes of the working class. Under such conditions it is the responsibility of the Marxists not to be swept along by the prevailing current of popular opinion, but to defend their programme and to tell the working class the truth. In 1969 against the temporary mood of support for the troops, the Marxists explained the class nature of the army, and pointed out the anti-working class role they would play.
The army were sent in as agents of the British ruling class to protect their property and safeguard their interests. The army of a capitalist state is a class instrument which acts to defend class interests not to safeguard some abstract 'democracy'. The responsibility of the Marxists in 1969 was to explain these facts, to stand against eh illusions of workers in this capitalist institution, and to encourage the working class to rely on its own strength. Opposition to the entry of troops has been vindicated. The army ahs solved nothing and daily enacts its role of coercion and repression. Marxists stand for the unconditional withdrawal of troops and have done so since 1969. As with all demands, at times this call is to the forefront and at other times to the background of day-to-day propaganda, depending upon the objective situation
A correct demand can become incorrect if wrongly posed. It is not even just a question of what if said, but of who says it, in what context and for what reason. The sects who once welcomed the troops have turned head over heels and now demand their withdrawal. In truth they have graduated from opportunism to more opportunism.
In their mouths and the mouths of right-wing nationalists the demand for army withdrawal is tripped entirely of its class context, and is presented in a sectarian and ultimately reactionary manner. In Britain the Troops Out Movement panders to the most backward prejudices of those who see it as a matter of bringing 'our' boys home. In regard to Ireland, it is presented as a matter of getting the troops out and 'to hell with the consequences'. This is why it can be correct under certain circumstances, while standing for withdrawal, to oppose this proposal when, for example, it is formulated in a reactionary manner as an invitation to civil war.
When the Marxists have raised the issue of the troops it has always been in a class manner, linking it to the need to unite the working class, to end sectarianism and to transform society. Army withdrawal poses the question, 'What alternative?' it is a question which must be answered and answered in a class manner. Since 1969 the Marxists have raised the slogan of a trade union defence force to eliminate sectarianism.
How this demand has been formulated illustrates that the skill of agitation and propaganda is to listen to the moods of the working class and to respond. A programme is not a monologue but a dialogue with the working class, related to its consciousness and seeking to point the way forward.
Marxist programme a dialogue with the masses
In 1969 the Marxists were only a handful with no real influence on events. Their material was addressed to the small section of the most advanced workers who could be reached. The class itself was retreating under the heavy blows of sectarianism. Very little in the objective situation appeared to confirm the call for class unity and class action. It was a time when, in Trotsky's words, the ideas of Marxism appeared 'like a voice in the wilderness'. Under such hostile conditions the demand for a Trade Union Defence Force had to be put bluntly and sharply posed. At this time it could not convince the mass of the working class, who, in any case, were separated by events from the Marxists.
It could however, be used, as part of a general explanation, to convince the ones and twos who could be reached. Living experience has since filled out this demand. The influence of the Marxists has grown and objective conditions have moved in favour of class ideas. Above all the events of 1975-6, when the working class moved through the trade unions against sectarianism, have added flesh to an idea which previously could be raised only in skeleton form.
All this experience has to be incorporated in the formulation of the Marxist programme. In general, with the threat of sectarianism receding it is sufficient to accompany the demand for army withdrawal with the call for the working class to take whatever action is necessary, through the trade union movement, to defeat sectarianism. In periods where sectarianism does loom as a threat the demand can be raised for demonstrations, strikes, for a campaign, such as the Better Life for All Campaign, to end the killings. Linked to this the call for further action, defence units, a defence force, even an armed defence force could be put forward and would flow out of events depending on how things developed.
As with the army, so the attitude of Marxists to the other armed bodies, the police and the UDR, allows no room for fudging. The UDR is seen, especially by Catholics, as a revamped B Specials. Marxists stand for the disbandment of this regiment - a demand which does not require elaboration here.
On the police and on the question of policing the special and complex conditions of Northern Ireland have to be fully taken into account. IN Britain the Marxists have formulated a programme for reform of the police, a programme which has been adopted by wide layers of the labour movement.
In the past century police forces emerged in Britain as local bodies under the control, through committees, of local borough councils. At a time of limited franchise this effectively meant control by the rising industrial bourgeoisie. When the working class was given the vote and with the rise of the Labour Party, capitalist domination of these local committees was no longer guaranteed.
So the ruling class have sought to centralise police powers and to exercise central control. Various legislation, including by the present government, has sought to achieve this. The Chief Constables are now the appointees of the government and local police authorities are becoming increasingly toothless.
In this situation, and given the present attitude of workers to the police and policing, it is possible to raise demands for the reform of the police force, central to which is the demand for the return of all aspects of policing to the control of local police committees and for the democratisation of these bodies. Despite police violence against miners' picket lines these demands are more, not less, relevant. The call for community control of the police and the removal of the 'thugs' from their villages would get an immediate echo from the miners.
Policing in Ireland did not originate as in Britain. The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) by the 1820's and '30s was a centralised armed force, suspended above society. It was an arm of the British state and an instrument of national oppression. As Michael Davitt put it, it was 'an imperial force having none of the qualities of a police force, and that its extra political duty and reason d'etre is to form a bodyguard for Irish landlordism'.
After partition, in 1923, two new forces were set up, the RUC in the North and the Civic Guard, later the Garda Siochana, in the South. Both were centralised institutions formed under conditions of upheaval to impose the will of right-wing governments.
In the case of the Gardai, policing became even more centralised than under British rule. Until partition a separate Dublin Metropolitan Police had existed. In 1925 this was fused into the newly constituted Gardai. Today the Gardai are run by the Gardai Commissioner who is appointed by the government and responsible to the Minister for Justice. It is an executive arm of the government and ultimately of the capitalist class.
Against the bonapartist origins of the Gardai must be set the developments of the last fifty or sixty years. The Southern state managed to stabilise itself after the civil war of the early 1920's. Bourgeois democracy has existed since then. Inevitably illusions have developed in the democratic nature of state institutions, including the police. Even though these do not exist to the extent they do in Britain, they have developed and have to be taken into account. The bald demand for the abolition of the Gardai would be hopelessly ultra-left at the resent time. Instead, a programme of reform of the state institutions linked to the need to change society must be advanced.
As the Marxist develop in influence, especially within local communities where problems of crime raise the whole issue of policing, it will be necessary to advance demands for reform of, and control over, the Gardai. The Marxists would call for the decentralisation of the Gardai, for local police forces to be under the democratic control of local committees. Hand in hand with this would be demands for the repeal of all repressive legislation, abolition of the Special Branch, and no involvement in political or industrial activities, etc.
With the RUC it is a very different matter. From the word go this has been a paramilitary force, first an agent of the Unionist government and now part and parcel of the apparatus of British state repression. 'Ordinary policing' has at best been a sideline. Furthermore, there is its sectarian composition and character. In 1922 it was declared that it would be 30% Catholic overall and 50% Catholic in some areas. The 1969 Hunt report on the police revealed that Catholics in fact only made up 11% of the police. It is far less today.
For thee reasons the RUC is looked upon, especially by Catholics, not as a police force but as a baton waving, trigger happy and sectarian wing of an alien state. In Britain or the south, a call for the dissolution of the police would be ultra-left. To demand anything less than the disbandment of the RUC would be to lag behind the consciousness of the Catholic working class in particular. This is precisely the opportunist policy adopted by the so-called Workers' Party. Their cal for the 'reform of the RUC' must literally grate on the ears of those to whom it is addressed, especially the Catholic workers. There is a difference of attitude between Catholic and Protestant areas to the RUC. It is possible that the demand would at times need to be explained slightly differently in different areas and that for this reason it must be skilfully posed in general propaganda. But no matter how it is present, on the issue itself, the question of the abolition of the RUC, there can be no wooliness. No fudging.
Disbandment of the RUC
These general demands do not represent a finished programme on the state in Northern Ireland. As explained Northern Ireland is a bourgeois democracy, albeit one clamped in a military straitjacket. It is not the case that no illusions in bourgeois democracy exist. If this were so there would be a revolutionary consciousness and all that would be necessary would be the call for soviets, for the arming of the workers, for workers' justice, etc. Obviously this is not the case. The very lack of democracy over 60 years sows certain illusions in bourgeois rights and freedoms. In totalitarian regimes the struggle for basic democratic rights becomes more, not less, important. Marxists can only gain an echo by being the most consistent advocates of each and every democratic reform, but all the time linking these struggles to the need to change society.
So in Northern Ireland it is not enough to oppose repression and simply call for a workers' state. Immediate democratic demands must be raised. For example it would be absurd to demand the replacement of the Diplock Courts with workers' courts. Instead, the return to trial by jury, linked to proper safeguards and reforms of the judicial system, must be raised. On a day-to-day basis every aspect of repression, be it prison conditions, plastic bullets, supergrasses of whatever must be taken up. What will distinguish the Marxists is the non-sectarian class manner in which these things are raised, the understanding that sectarian based campaigns do not defeat repression, the struggle to mobilise the trade unions on these questions, and the linking of repression with other transitional demands.
Just as the call for an end to repressive legislation does not represent a finished programme on the courts and democratic rights, so the demand for the disbandment of the RUC is not a finished programme on policing.
Like in the South, as the Marxists develop in influence, answers to the problems of crime, muggings, rape, etc. will be demanded by the working class. The Marxists would encourage and support every movement of the workers in their areas against crime, vandalism, drug trafficking, etc. However, it would not be enough to simply counterpoise such activities to the existence of the state institutions and the need which workers feel for adequate policing of their areas.
While standing for the abolition of the RUC the Marxists would call for the establishment of police forces in local areas.
Demands must be related to concrete circumstances. What is advocated in Britain or the South cannot always be related to the north, given the factor of sectarianism and the legacy of oppression of the Catholic community. For example at this stage it would not be appropriate to advance the slogan 'For the election of judges'. With no developed working class political party this would be interpreted in Catholic areas as a call for Unionist control of the courts. So with the call for police forces under the control of local authorities. Given the present sectarian composition of the district councils this would be tantamount to demanding the disbandment of the RUC and its replacement by a new and worse form of RUC. Instead of control by the local authorities the Marxists advocate local police forces under the control of elected committees, the majority on these to be composed of representatives elected by the trade union movement.
The following demands at this stage could be the basis of a programme on policing:
1. Disband the RUC and UDR
2. For the establishment of local police forces in district council areas.
3. Control of these forces to be in the hands of local committees made up as follows:
1/3 elected by the local trade union movement through the trades councils or other local bodies deemed appropriate by the NIC-ICTU and the trades councils.
1/3 elected from trade unions representing the policemen, other workers employed by the force and from bona fide tenants and community organisations.
1/3 appointed by the district councils
4. These committees to have full powers to determine police policy and appoint al ranks.
5. All appointments to be vetted to ensure that no one with sectarian, paramilitary or fascists connections is recruited.
6. These forces to deal only with crime and to have no Special Branch, no political and no industrial functions.
7. Full trade union rights for the members of these forces.
8. A complaints board composed of majority trade union representation to be set up to hear grievances arising out of policing methods.
As well as raising the understanding of the working class with regard to state institutions the programme of Marxism seeks to open up the class divisions, which, in embryo at least, are always present within these institutions.
The civil service is a state institution whose tops are more and more being fused with big business, but whose ranks now form an increasingly militant section of the trade union movement. Just as the civil service is not a homogenous unit, neither is the army.
No great revolution has taken place which has not involved a successful appeal to the army rank and file. In Portugal in 1974 it was actually the junior officers who began the revolution which ultimately led to the entire army, outside of the clique of top officers, being disaffected and coming over to the side of the working class.
The fact that the British Army is not a conscript army makes not two pence worth of difference on this question. In reality its recruits are the product of economic conscription. Its rank and file are 'workers in uniform'.
As far as is possible it is not just correct, but very important, to aim socialist propaganda at the rank and file soldiers. This should raise the question of the day-to-day conditions, petty class distinction, and above all trade union rights including the right to strike. Also the demand, perhaps, more longer term, for the right to elect officers can be posed.
As usual the ultra-left sects have joined forces with the Provos on this question and have got themselves lost in nationalism. They reject the idea of appealing to the troops. The effect of this, like the effect of the Provo's campaign, is purely negative in that it merely drives the soldiers into the arms of their officers.
The argument has been raised, and this is a question which should be cleared up, that it is correct to appeal to the army but that it is in principle wrong to appeal to the ranks of the RUC or UDR. After all it is argued the Marxists point to the sectarian nature of these bodies and demand their abolition.
Revolution does not stand on ceremony. It does not move according to cut and dried formula or 'sacred' principle. In the heat of mass upheaval it would be ABC to workers to direct propaganda and appeals to all those forces ranged on the opposite side.
In 1969 while unrelentingly defending areas like the Bogside it would have been correct for the workers of that area to issue appeals to the police, even to B Specials. Even if nine occasions out of ten these fall on deaf ears. Nothing is lost while even the slightest hesitation or vacillation is an advantage to the workers. In 1968 even the CRS, the special riot squad, were affected by the revolutionary situation in France. In Russia, the Cossacks, part of the praetorian guard of Czarism, were in most cases at least neutralised by the revolution.
It is no principle of Marxism that a class appeal cannot be made to the ranks of reactionary organisations, even to the RUC and the UDR. The old RIC were a paramilitary and reactionary force. This did not stop James Larkin in 1907 issuing an appeal to the police on the basis of the hours they were working and their pay, even though the extra hours were spent on duty for the purpose of strike breaking. The question whether or not Larkin was correct is found not in some abstract anthology of the dos and don'ts of class struggle, but in the police strike which followed.
Although circumstances do not require that it now be raised, and while the antagonism felt by workers towards these organisations would affect the way in which it would be posed, the Marxists would advocate genuine trade union rights for the RUC and even the UDR. This in no way contradicts the main demand for the abolition of these organisations.
The programme of Marxism is an expression of the accumulated and living experience of the working class. It is related to the existing consciousness of workers and seeks to raise it. The programme of Marxism on the state will be correct if it flows directly out of the struggle of workers, if it provides a class answer to the issues raised in those struggles, if, while advocating democratic rights, it diminishes each and every illusion in capitalist state institutions and if it points the working class towards independent class action and revolutionary conclusions.
This series of articles on Northern Ireland from our archives are available here.
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