Loyalist socialist?

WHILE THE mainstream unionist parties are expressing outrage at the contents of last week’s leaked framework document proposing cross-border bodies and are accusing the government of continuing to ‘appease the IRA’, some grassroots republican and loyalist activists have begun to set up working contact groups.

One example was the meeting which took place in West Belfast earlier this week on proposals for ‘community development’. This included on the one hand Tommy Gorman, former IRA activist, and on the other Billy Hutchinson of the Progressive Unionist Party, closely allied to the loyalist murder gang, the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Tommy was interned for civil rights activities in 1971, escaped, was re-arrested and only released with the ending of internment in 1975. He then took up the IRA cause and was arrested again in 1978, spending three years ‘on the blanket’ in Long Kesh. Apart from a brief period of freedom in 1981, he spent the whole of the decade incarcerated by the British state.

So how is it that this heroic revolutionary now finds himself sitting opposite a representative of sectarian killers, whose sole purpose of existence has been to ‘maintain the British link’ - that is, act as an auxiliary army for British imperialism?

“Billy is a chink, an exception,” says Tommy. “He is very open-minded.”

We do not think that this is the case. Hutchinson’s ‘socialist’ rhetoric and concern “to accommodate both Irishness and Britishness” has more to do with an opportunist appeal for popularity among loyalist workers than real working class politics.

In 1987 the Morning Star published a disgraceful interview with Gusty Spence, central to the UVF’s reformation in the sixties. Spence expressed keenness to “sit down round a table and talk” to Sinn Fein - “if the IRA put down its guns”. Like Hutchinson, Spence too claimed to be a socialist. He described the PUP as “the only socialist unionist party in Northern Ireland”.

As we commented in The Leninist, “There is no such thing as a pro-imperialist socialist, and the link with Britain is there to ensure Britain’s continued domination of Ireland.”

The British state is the main enemy of workers both in Britain and the Six Counties.

Billy Hutchinson sees the cross-border institutions proposed in the leaked framework document as presenting no problem - “They could be of mutual benefit.” This is quite a contrast to the mainstream unionist parties’ knee-jerk reaction, but much more in tune with most loyalist opinion. The difference is that official unionism is peeved at being side-lined by the discussions around the ‘peace process’, while the smaller groups believe that their day has come: they know that what is proposed amounts to a new Stormont, perhaps with a power-sharing element.

But what of Hutchinson’s call for class politics, “a realignment on a left-right basis”? His vision of a Workers Party/PUP alliance ‘on the left’, facing the SDLP/Official Unionists on the right, says it all. It is a vision for a bourgeois ‘socialism’ within the existing capitalist Six County statelet.

Jim Blackstock