1972 saw a massive escalation in the conflict in Northern Ireland.
At that time it was not at all easy or 'popular', in Northern Ireland or Britain, to point out the facts of the situation in Northern Ireland, even to the most advanced workers.
On Sunday 30 January, at the height of the miners' strike, 13 unarmed demonstrators were shot down in Derry. Our headline was: "Derry - this was murder". We said that the day would "go down in history as the North of Ireland's Bloody Sunday." This edition came out when a rally of striking miners took place in Trafalgar Square.
Many miners reacted - and not at all positively - to the brutal facts outlined in the pages of Militant. We said that this event was "to be compared to the Croke Park massacre of 1920 when 'black and tans' (the paramilitary police auxiliaries) shot down 12 civilians." (1) We carried eyewitness reports. Brian Docherty, a Militant supporter, wrote:
Paul Jones, another Militant supporter, wrote:
Representing Militant, I had been in 'Free Derry' at the invitation of local socialists only a week before this incident. Then it was still possible to find, at least in Derry, enthusiastic support for the ideas of a non-sectarian, class alternative. But in the aftermath of these events, Militant reported:
What about the troops?
With regard to the use of British troops, we stated:
A report (based on my visit before Bloody Sunday) pointed out: "One thing is absolutely certain; the British army... has welded practically the whole Catholic population against them by their methods." I saw at first hand the methods used by the British army in searching a street:
The level of repression was intense:
Following the events of Bloody Sunday, the whole of Ireland was convulsed by protests. A general strike broke out in the South which paralysed the country. The fate of Irish capitalism itself seemed to hang by a thread; the mass of the Irish population were blaming the Irish government for doing nothing to protect their counterparts in the North.
The rage against the British government and British imperialism, who they clearly held responsible for the massacre in the North, culminated in a mass march on the British embassy in Dublin. The Irish government and police were compelled to stand back impotently as the crowd burnt the embassy to the ground.
Because there was no lead from the tops of the workers' organisations, either in the South or the North, this movement inevitably subsided. But the events of Bloody Sunday further deepened the morass which British imperialism found itself in over Northern Ireland. Its campaign of repression acted as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA. Militant representatives were to visit Northern Ireland as well as Southern Ireland consistently during the early 1970s.
Military coup in Chile
Events in Chile also featured heavily in Militant between the Allende government's election in 1970 and General Pinochet's coup of September 1973. In 1972 the paper warned that this would be
These proved to be prophetic words. Militant warned against the vacillation and dangerously irresponsible reformist illusions of Allende, the 'Marxist' president. He had held the masses back:
Despite the claims that Chile was the 'England of Latin America', the Chilean army had organised no less than nine coups since 1920.
Allende was only allowed to take office after promising, in a little publicised document, that the armed forces would remain untouched by his government. This was a guarantee that the reactionary officer caste would retain its reactionary grip. It would be ready to strike at the most appropriate moment. Militant pointed out that throughout 1971,
Militant stated bluntly:
Allende's response to the pressure from the left was: "We must not forget that we are within the framework of a legal bourgeois regime." This was only to encourage the reaction and to increase the impatience of those on the left. In the concrete situation, Militant stated:
A few months later, we warned: 'Generals poised'. The article detailed the attempts at reaction - the shopkeepers' strike in September and the lorry owners' stoppage and lockout throughout Chile in October to undermine the Popular Unity government. These measures were testing the ground for the time when the generals could step forward:
The Middle Classes could be won
The other side of the process was also highlighted: "But the reactionaries still live in mortal dread of the Chilean workers." In relation to the protests of the middle class, we stated that
A clear warning was given:
Militant called for the Chilean workers to
At this time, the Labour Party Young Socialists sent a letter to their Chilean counterparts, the youth of the Socialist Party of Chile, which found a ready response. In the issue of 15 December Militant stated that: "Even Allende pointed out that the country was 'on the brink of civil war'." The denouement was not to come for almost nine months, but it came on 11 September 1973, with terrible consequences for the Chilean workers.
All of the warnings about a threatened military coup seemed to be borne out. In August Militant pointed out that a national stoppage had been organised by the lorry owners' association, openly backed by internal counter-revolutionary forces linking up with the CIA. The July crisis had been "'resolved' by bringing three military commanders into the UP (Popular Unity) government. The UP government ended up granting all the lorry owners' main demands." (16)
The counter-revolution had attempted a coup, prematurely in June. The reason why the coup had failed was because "if so far the Chilean army has held back, the explanation is to be sought not in any peculiar national tradition, but in the formidable strength now acquired by the labour movement." In effect, the ground had not been fully prepared for open reaction and "loyal army units" had rallied to the side of the government.
At the same time, we pointed out that, "As news of the coup spread, thousands of workers struck, occupied their factories and, leaving armed pickets on the gates, marched on the presidential palace." If only this kind of approach had been adopted when the fatal blow was to strike in September.
It was quite clear that "there is no shortage of courage, or willingness to fight. What is lacking is leadership." (17)
Reports were carried showing that the armed forces had disarmed workers and were conducting vicious and rigorous searches for arms in factories and workers' districts. "Naval officers have taken harsh action against the sailors who had been affected by revolutionary propaganda, conducting searches among them."
In effect, the officer caste in Valparaiso had arrested and were torturing those soldiers and naval ratings who were warning of a coup and urging Allende to arm the working class. Militant demanded that "the workers' organisations need to be armed in defence against the fascists." Militant appealed to the
Above all, warned Militant "the capitalist class is preparing for civil war." The tragedy was that these words were written in a British newspaper without full access to the genuine forces of Marxism in Chile. The latter did not have a clear understanding or perspectives of how to change the situation. There were undoubtedly many heroic rank-and-file members of the Socialist and Communist Parties who were prepared to fight. There was a significant section of the youth in the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) who were armed. But there were no serious attempts to set up broad-based genuine workers' defence organisations. The lack of such organisations, flowing from the false policies of Socialist and Communist leaders, resulted in a catastrophe for the Chilean workers.
Two months later, after Pinochet launched his military coup, Militant reported, "Thousands of workers have died defending their occupied factories, or defiantly facing military assassination squads." We stated:
Only a few days before the coup, on Sunday 9 September, over a million workers had marched passed Allende on the balcony of the presidential palace in Santiago, the majority demanding arms. The workers tried heroically to defend the gains of 1970-73. However the tactics deployed were not those that could guarantee victory.