The immediate cause of last weekend’s loyalist riots in Northern Ireland was the prevention of an Orange Order march entering a Catholic area. These marches are about upholding sectarianism and reminding Catholics that they are traditionally second class citizens in the Northern Irish state.
Over the last three decades loyalists have clashed with the British army, but ultimately they want to maintain their traditional control of the Northern Ireland state and its membership of the United Kingdom.
The British government broadly defends the union but no longer has any interest in allowing loyalists to rule on their own.
The working class in Northern Ireland is left facing wages 25 percent lower than in Britain and a highly precarious economy. One response is to fall back on sectarianism.
The police and the army like to portray themselves as being caught between two warring tribes. The truth is that Northern Ireland is a state which nurtures sectarian divide and rule.
Every working person in Northern Ireland is paying a price for such division.
This summer saw a rise in loyalist sectarian violence. But it also saw a rise in strike figures and a significant Make Poverty History mobilisation. This is only a beginning but it points to an alternative to the dead end of sectarian politics.
Politics in the workplace
The last few weeks have seen three crucial strikes at Heathrow, Rolls Royce and Sefton. All have had a deep impact in revealing the reality of corporate Britain but have not yet led to a breakthrough in shopfloor resistance.
Most people in work have not experienced standing up to, and beating, management. The rot started 30 years ago when trade union leaders decided to police their members on behalf of a Labour government, turning their back on the solidarity and strikes which had removed a Tory government.
Over pensions, outsourcing, privatisation and much else there is struggle to come. But for a sustained breakthrough to happen we need to bring the spirit of the anti-war and anti-capitalist movement into the workplaces and organise those who understand loyalty to New Labour acts as a shackle on our ability to fight.
That starts by getting union and workplace delegations on the 24 September march and by organising Respect at workplace level.
Who gets to vote?
Democracy in Britain is withering month by month. A report from the electoral commission last week showed that 3.5 million people are not even registered to vote.
And while 6 percent of white people are unregistered, the figure rises to 17 percent for ethnic minorities, including an extraordinary 37 percent for black Africans.
At the last election Labour won with 36 percent of the vote on a 61 percent turnout of an electorate that was 91 percent of the eligible population. So Blair glories in a mandate from 19.9 percent of the possible voters.
Democracy is about far more than voting, but we should support Respect’s campaign for people to register so that they can vote to throw out the undemocratic clique that runs Britain.