“This was MURDER”
More analysis on the outcome of the Saville report into the massacre of 13 civilians by British paratroopers on Sunday, 30th January 1972 will follow soon on socialistworld.net. Below we publish an article carried in Militant, newspaper of the Militant tendency (CWI – predecessor of the Socialist Party) on that tragic day’s events.
Derry: This was MURDER
Withdraw troops – Replace with Armed Trade Union force Militant 4th February 1972
The murder of 13 unarmed demonstrators in Derry on Sunday, 30th January 1972, will go down in history as the North of Ireland’s BLOODY SUNDAY. It is to be compared to the Croke Park massacre of 1920 when ’Black and Tans’ shot down 12 civilians. The modern ’Black and Tans’ are the thug detachments of British Paratroopers who, despite the lying accounts which first appeared in the British Press, in an orgy of terror indiscriminately shot defenceless men and boys, some of them in the back.
The more serious reporters have cut through the tissue of lies to show that the Army excuses were a complete fabrication. The Financial Times reporters, John Graham, wrote "..nobody who was preset heard any nail bombs, or the 50 or 80 shots which, the Army claims, started the battle." (31.1.72)
A photographer was quoted in The Times " .I was appalled. They opened up into a crowd of people. As far as I could see, they didn’t fire over peoples heads at all."
Dozens of other reporters have given similar testimony of the criminal actions of the paratroopers. Specially flown in from Belfast, where they had been given a ’training spin’ against the catholic population there, they whetted their sadistic appetites to the full.
Nell McCafferty reported in the Irish Times "..I watched the paratrooper with blackened face, smash the butt of his rifle against her head, kick her to the stomach and force her back into line."
And if this was not enough the eyewitness accounts detailed here by our supporters on the spot at the time, show the terror which was unleashed in Derry.
But the responsibility lies not just with the paratroopers who are candidates for the role of the praetorian guards of British Imperialism, but the Tory Government, finance capital which backs them and the system they represent. The terrible bloodletting in Northern Ireland is the legacy of centuries of domination by the British ruling classes, Their rule has traditionally been one of blood and iron. This massacre is just the latest chapter of horrors so far as the Irish people are concerned.
"Criminals in Uniform"
In the past period, as we show in our special reports in this issue, they have carried through a policy of systematic intimidation and terror against the Catholic population of Belfast in particular. These ’criminals in uniform’, as a Catholic priest correctly described the paratroopers, merely ’over stepped the mark’ on this occasion. They carried out the ’instalment plan’ in one foul swoop.
But in so doing, they have provoked a wave of bitter anger and mass strikes in all the Catholic areas of Northern Ireland. In the South also, it is reported that strikes have been spontaneously organised in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and other towns. The outraged Catholic youths have flooded towards the Provisional and Official IRA. Thus, the very calculations of British Imperialism, of carefully suppressing the IRA and attempting to isolate them from the mass of the Catholic population, has blown up in their faces. There will now be a new influx of Catholic youth into the ranks of the IRA.
The rage of the Catholic population is entirely understandable. They feel like striking back, with arms, against those responsible for this massacre. But to propose a new campaign of terror and reprisals is no way to avenge the dead and will only reproduce the bloody events of Derry on a larger scale later. The British ruling class can be made to pay for these events only if a strategy for an attack on the whole capitalist system is worked out by the leadership of these organisations. A campaign of individual assignations of British soldiers can only provide excuse for further repression. Also, it can only reinforce the hostility of the ordinary soldier to the Catholic population.
"Prepared to wade through blood"
Already, before these events, some soldiers in Belfast were expressing opposition to the criminal activities of the paratroopers in Belfast, as was reported in the Guardian. There have been defections of individual soldiers such as the Sergeant who came from Wolverhampton, who went over the Border because they were indignant at the lumpen attitude of the specially trained Special Air Services and the paratroopers. The rank and file soldier comes in the main from Merseyside, Glasgow, Newcastle, etc. – areas of high unemployment akin to Northern Ireland itself. They could be appealed to on a class basis and won away from the Army brass, if a clear socialist alternative was given to them.
At the moment this proposal to appeal to the troops, to support the idea of Trade Union rights for soldiers, will not meet with great support by the Catholic workers. Their anger and determination to make the British troops pay will find expression in the proposed campaign of the IRA. However, the Russian workers experienced their Bloody Sunday of 1905, when a demonstration led by a priest, Father Gapon, was bloodily suppressed by Cossack troops. But in the February Revolution of 1917, one of the decisive events which brought about the downfall of Tsarism was the winning over of these same troops to the side of the workers.
It will not take as long for the advanced sections of the Catholic workers to realise that they must adopt a similar approach. The events of the last three years have shown that the Catholic population will not entertain the idea that they should give up their means of defending their area. Only contemptible pacifists can eschew the right of the Catholic population to defend their areas from sectarian attack and now from the rampage of the British Army. But a bitter harvest will be reaped in the loss of potential class fighters, if a strategy of ’taking on’ the British Army is adopted.
British imperialism, although it has suffered an upset in its calculations, at the same time is prepared to wade through more blood to carry through its policy. It cannot afford an all-out military defeat in Northern Ireland. If necessary, it will pour in arms and men in order to maintain their position. Nor will the Protestant population be coerced into a capitalist united Ireland. They have a reported 300,000 guns and they will fight if necessary. There is no way to bring about the withdrawal of British troops and British Imperialist domination except on a class basis.
This is the only way to strike a lasting blow at British Imperialism. To date, the Labour and trade union leaders have applied themselves more to the job of avoiding ’taking sides’ than outlining a clear class position. The bloody events in Derry rebut this policy. The very real danger of widespread sectarian clashes poses in an acute form the need for some common defence organisations embracing Catholics and Protestants alike. Only the trade unions have the authority in the eyes of both sections of the working class. A bold policy now would cut the ground from under the bigots on both sides of the sectarian divide.
Also, we in the British Labour and Trade Union Movement can ignore the events in Northern Ireland only at our peril. It is no accident that a British Army officer, Kitson, has written a book recently about tactics to adopt in confronting not only the IRA but the British Labour and trade Union Movement.
Another has justified his ’study’ of guerrilla warfare in Belfast because of ’possible uses’ in Britain later. The strategists of the ruling class are using the events in Northern Ireland to perfect methods to be used in the next decade against the British workers.
The British Territorial Army has recently been supplied with CS gas and rubber bullets!
Connolly’s Citizen’s Army
The denial of elementary democratic rights by the Unionist and British Imperialism is also a blow against the British Labour Movement. Our elementary duty is to fight against the present wave of repression in Ireland. A clear and open condemnation of the dirty work of the British Army in Derry must be made by the leaders of the Labour and Trade Union Movement. The forces of the British Labour Movement must be used as a lever to bring the workers together in the Northern and to organise a Trade Union Defence Force along the lines of Connolly’s 1916 Citizens’ Army.
A commission of enquiry, if considered necessary by the Catholic workers, should be composed of rank-and-file trade unionists, to ascertain the guilt of those responsible for this massacre.
This would find that it is British Imperialism, its most consummate representatives – the Tories and the Big Business backers – who stand indicted and that the only way to prevent the blood of Catholic workers and Protestant workers being spilt more, is to organise a common struggle to rid Ireland of these parasites and their armed bands and unite the country on a Socialist basis.