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John Wight

A talk given by John Wight (Scottish Socialist Party) at the G8 Alternatives Summit on July 3rd 2005 in Edinburgh


Over a three year period, whilst based in the US, I was privileged to represent the IRSM at various events all over Southern California. My role there was to solidify and strengthen solidarity and fraternal links between the Irish struggle and the struggles of oppressed peoples taking place within and without the US.

I have to tell you that this wasn't very difficult to do.

In meeting after meeting, hosted at various times by Chicano organizations; Latino; indigenous peoples, and African-American, I would always be the one and only white face in the room. As such, and perhaps unsurprisingly, a certain amount of hostility would come my way in the shape of stares and complaints to the organizers about my presence.

However, as soon as I was introduced by the chair, and the long history of Irish struggle and internationalism was spelt out to the audience, any and all hostility or rancour quickly gave way to respect and admiration.

This respect of course was not accorded to me due to any great personal talents or achievements on my part. Rather it was down to the heroic resistance to British colonialism and imperialism waged by generations of Irish men and women over the past 800 years.

I have never ceased to be humbled by the exalted status which a struggle in this tiny corner of northern Europe enjoys amongst people all over the world. Comrades from organizations such as the pan-Africanist AAPRP have a deep knowledge of the history and politics of the Irish struggle, stressing to me always how it has always been a source of inspiration to them in their own struggle.

They know, for example, all about the joint Irish and African slave revolts that took place on British slave plantations throughout the Caribbean and the southern states of America, where Irish rebels were sent in the early part of the 18th century. They know also of the San Patricios, an Irish regiment in the US army that, during the 1846-1848 Mexican-American War, after witnessing the atrocities being carried out on the Mexican population by US troops, switched sides and fought with distinction against the same oppression that they themselves had suffered back in their beloved Ireland at the hands of the British.

They would recall how members of the Black Panthers, in the early nineteen seventies, were in contact with the Republican movement, exchanging information and tactics. Of how the leaders of the Panthers - men like Huey Newton and Fred Hampton - regarded the Provisionals at that time as the standard against which all revolutionary movements should be measured in terms of strategy and effectiveness. Then, of course, there was Bernadette McAliskey's (nee Devlin) outstanding gesture of solidarity when, after being offered the freedom of New York in 1970 by the then Irish-American mayor of the city, John Lindsay, for her work in the civil rights movement, she handed it over to the Harlem chapter of the Black Panthers, recognizing as she did that they were struggling against the same oppression as the movement in Ireland had been.

All throughout its past and recent history, the Irish struggle has been viewed and regarded as having a major role in the international struggle against imperialism. From Cuba to Palestine, from Iran to Angola, revolutionaries have drawn inspiration and solidarity from the Republican movement.

It is precisely for this reason that the demise of mainstream Republicanism as a revolutionary movement has left people demoralized and confused, not just in the six counties and across the British Isles, but throughout the world.

If history reveals anything it's that the struggle for national liberation and socialism anywhere cannot be won by relying on the moral rectitude of your oppressor in a peace process designed to grant piecemeal rights and reforms in return for capitulation and accommodation. It is only as an anti-imperialist struggle, connected to anti-imperialist struggles all over the world, that any revolutionary movement derives its legitimacy. There is no legitimacy whatsoever in leaders of that movement glad-handing with US senators and presidents, leaders of a country which is the common enemy of working and poor people around the world, doing so like puppies rolling on their backs in supplication to its master begging for scraps.

Any struggle for national liberation at this juncture must involve the full participation of the people in a combined movement of civil disobedience, industrial action and mass protest. The strengthening of the community and support groups in nationalist communities which have always provided the foundation of the struggle must now be a priority. Any principled movement takes its orders from the weakest and most vulnerable members of the oppressed community it claims to represent. It does not allow itself to degenerate to the point where it becomes just another layer of that oppression.

The imperialist occupations of Iraq, Palestine, and the six counties in the north of Ireland are one and the same. More than ever we must reach across ethnic, cultural, religious and national boundaries and join hands with those who are engaged in resistance to such occupations.

Britain's involvement and presence in Ireland has distorted the political, cultural, economic and social landscape, poisoning relations between the people with religious sectarianism in order to divide the working class.

This is why it is vitally important to understand the necessity of ending British rule. This is why it is important that British Imperialism be reduced to a footnote in history sooner rather than later.

Thanks for listening.