Socialist Worker

Bloody Sunday: Violence flows from nature of the state

Issue No. 2206

Bloody Sunday exposes the brutality at the heart of the British state. And if also shows that if anything critical of the state emerges, our rulers will try to convince us that it was an aberration.

We are told how the murders happened at a time of growing violence in Northern Ireland and that the 14 who died should be seen in the context of the many more who died during Northern Ireland’s “Troubles”.

But Bloody Sunday was not simply down to a few hotheaded paratroopers – it was cold-blooded murder by the British state of its own citizens, something not supposed to occur in liberal democracies.

That is why the establishment moved rapidly and systematically to cover up what happened.

Brutality and cover-ups have always been a central part of British imperial policy. This applies from Britain’s imperialist wars in the 19th century to admissions that government ministers knew about torture in Iraq and US rendition flights.

What these have in common is the need to preserve the myth that Britain only invades and seizes countries for the noblest of motives.

This becomes harder to maintain if the British public know the truth about Bloody Sunday or the brutality and torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

The government’s defence of the deeply unpopular war in Afghanistan would be harder if it admitted how unpopular the invasions are in those countries and how brutal they have to be to sustain it.

Documents released to the Iraq inquiry showed that ministers wanted to hide their true intentions by informing only “very small numbers” of officials.


One way to stop people questioning murderous government actions is to spread division – most commonly, racism.

Most people who didn’t live through the British government’s war on Irish Republicanism would have difficulty believing the vicious level of racism against Irish people.

The best way to realise what it was like is to look at the way Muslims are demonised now.

As with Iraq and Afghanistan, the presentation of the Bloody Sunday conflict was controlled from the top.

Colin Wallace worked for British Military Intelligence. His job was to smear republicans and help to cover-up what took place. But when he criticised some of his department’s actions he was himself smeared and framed for murder.

Each time the state is caught out and proved to have been lying, it will claim it has reformed and can be trusted. The mainstream media trots along obediently with these lies.

States are brutal under capitalism – they have to be to protect the interests of the ruling class. And to keep control they are prepared to wage war and murder innocent people.

That is why as socialists we argue that we need to overthrow the capitalist state to end murderous injustices like Bloody Sunday.

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