I recently went to Northern Ireland, to the city of Belfast. The Left has generally supported those pro-catholics, who are working for a united Ireland as a part of a national liberation struggle from London rule. I decided to interview representatives of progressive parties on either side on the issues that socialists should really care about — social issues — to see how different they really are in their day-to-day politics in these current times of peace. This is the last of three parts, in which I conclude after having interviewed Hugh Smyth from the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and Paul Maskey from the socialist Irish-republican Sinn Feinn party.
So there we go. I interviewed a representative of a progressive party on either side of the divide, and their answers were remarkably similar.
Let us review their answers once more:
PM: Paul Maskey (Sinn Fein)
HS: Hugh Smyth (HS)
HS: not opposed to rich apartments, but percentage needs to be affordable
PM: not against private houses, but more social housing
parks and roads:
HS: no issue currently, under direct rule not enough funding
PM: various departments need to think more together, under British direct rule it wasn’t thought through
HS: lowest unemployment for over 50 years/ever, more apprenticeships (two year government program)
PM: built more hotels, tourism, insure employment opportunities for young people
HS: way behind, but current budget a lot better than under direct rule
PM: some very good, a lot very poor, way better now with local minister
HS: don’t scrape it before satisfactory alternative, party is split
PM: for area based education system, might work some places and not in others
HS: more money for councilors/youth workers (no budget cuts)
PM: has a lot to do with war, more money for councilors/youth services also from other government departments, all-Ireland approach
HS: more police presence needed
PM: part of youth worker program
HS: not sufficient men, need more funding
PM: party is going onto police boards to make them concerned about their issues
working class representation:
HS: better now than ever, but not good enough
PM: yes, his representing working class
What one might have expected is that Smyth is faith in the positive role the British police plays, whereas Maskey is more interested in an all-Ireland approach to fighting anti-social behavior. But besides such minor points, the two seem to have virtually the same program: apprenticeships/work opportunities for young people, more cheap housing without prohibiting rich people form building altogether, emphasis on investment in health care overall positive expectations from local rather than direct rule. In fact, under most other circumstances one would expect them to form a party together in order not to confuse the voter with too many similar choices. The reason that that wouldn’t work in this case is obviously that the militia groups connected with the two parties have too long a history of killing one-another.
For any progressive group from the outside though, it seems silly to be supporting one but not the other of these two. If anything, one should demand from the two to be cooperating on a parliamentary level and to work together to form majorities for their common points.
At the same time, while sounding thoroughly social democratic in their view points, different from the Schröders and Blair’s of this world, none of their immediate action program points to any revolutionary ambitions. Now one may say that’s good, especially in this case where undoubtably revolutions would be connected with endless bloodshed, and it is true that a coalition of these two would certainly be an improvement to today’s situation. But in the sense of revolutionary as setting forth a program that would transport one beyond capitalism, the parliamentary work of parties such as these will likely not suffice.