Panem et circenses


This morning I held my nose and read the latest Socialist Worker, something I do more out of duty than pleasure. What I was looking for, and indeed found, was coverage of the Save Our Barracks campaign, which we have previously covered here. I was confident we would find something, because the SWP can’t be involved in anything without boasting about it.

So we have an article by Seán Mitchell on the Glen Road barracks site and the campaign around it. “The People before Profit Alliance, local residents, and independent activists recently launched the Stop the Sell Off campaign in West Belfast. The SSOC was formed to campaign against the proposed sell off of public land on the Glen road.” Indeed.

Most of the article is the usual SWP boilerplate about “public land”, “privatisation” and “privateers” (God, they love their alliteration, don’t they?). As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly friendly to developers and not hostile to the idea of a community project, but I’m still scratching my head over the hysterical defence of a small patch of derelict land.

A clue can be found towards the end of the wee lad’s article:

Local politicians from the SDLP and Sinn Fein, who both originally welcomed the proposal have now backtracked significantly and have come in line with much of the campaigns demands. Despite their acceptance that the site should be 100 % community, they still insisted, at the campaign launch, that some form of private finance is needed.

This was rebutted by several speakers, who argued that this was a contradiction in terms, private finance means private profit, and this isn’t welcome.

Readers with long enough memories will recall the Provos’ engagement with the White House in the early stages of the peace process, which set off a few alarm bells among the radical fringe of the base. In response to this, Eoin Ó Broin vaingloriously declared, “We’ve got Clinton by the balls!” The SWP’s fond belief that they are leading the Provos by the nose is even less credible. And yet that’s what they really seem to believe. According to the wee lad’s scenario, they are mobilising the masses of West Belfast around SWP politics, and the Provos are scrambling to get on board.

Contrast this with the coverage in the Andytown News, which is running regular articles on how Grizzly is taking the issue in hand, pictures of him meeting protesters etc. Now which newspaper of record do you believe – Socialist Worker or the Andytown News? It’s a bit like choosing between the National Enquirer and the Sunday Sport.


  1. Gerry said,

    August 12, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Splinty, Splinty , Splinty. Another blatant ‘ I hate the SWP post’ by yourself. Its great to see though after all these years you are still buying the paper.
    You said your still ‘scratching your head over the hysterical defence over a small patch of land’. I am not sure in your eyes what size of land constitutes as deserving a public campaign to defend it from the greedy developers .I don’t think you can differentiate one bit of privatisation from another . Also I doubt very much that the description of a small piece of land in this case is precise to say the least.
    Comparing and Contrasting the situation with the Provo’s and Clinton and the so called ‘ball-grip’ and relating it to the SWP situation now is totally incomprehensible and risible if I may say so. The SWP or PBP for that matter don’t claim to be leading SF by the nose, they are the only ones who are taking up the issue of privatisation and the repercussions and the hangovers which it creates . Surely that alone would warrant your support wouldn’t it ?

  2. Brian Kelly said,

    August 13, 2007 at 6:54 am

    I’m sorry for the trauma you seem to have suffered earlier in life, apparently at the hands of the SWP, but you should consider seeking counseling rather than try to work through your issues online. I’ve only visited your blog twice and the ‘SWP ate my children’ approach is not nearly as heartrending as you seem to think it is. It’s not even original, as all self-respecting blogs should be.

    The short excerpt from Sean Mitchell’s article reads differently from your own take. He is right to point out that PBP and a number of independent activists initiated the campaign. That is just simply stating the facts. If you could tear yourself away from blogging and step out on occasion you’d have known that the Stop the Sell-Off Campaign organised a public meeting attended by 150 people, mostly locals. Mitchell spoke (as did Atwood, Michael Brown from SF)and his arguments about privatisation etc. caught the mood of the crowd better than anyone else. You may not like that, but it is true anyway. Both the main parties came out initially for the Carvill development, but were pushed back by local anger and by the campaign itself. That is a matter of record, and you might do a better service for your readers by trawling through the party web site for the evolution of their position over recent weeks. Its all there.

    Its hard not to draw the conclusion from your blog that the reason you are so snide about this campaign is because the SWP is centrally involved. The site in question is not just a ‘small patch of land,’ as you know well, but the [large] site of the former A’town RUC barracks, at the junction of three of the main roads in West Belfast. The DSD excluded local residents from any say in plans for its development and handed it off to a private developer for the construction of six floors of private apartments. The SWP, for all their alleged sins, have been to the front in organising resistance to the DSD and Carvill. Meanwhile you, the untainted anti-sectarian, can’t bring yourself to doing anything except blogging against the campaign. It’s a sad, sad life you’ve built for yourself. Why share the misery?

  3. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 13, 2007 at 7:44 am

    I was at a water charges meeting a little while back – I get out quite a bit, though I rarely see Brian – and distinctly heard Mark Hewitt say that the population weren’t interested in “abstract” issues like privatisation, but only in the bills coming through the door. This leads me to suspect there’s rather a lot of opportunistic posturing going on.

    Hate the SWP? Hardly. But there isn’t one I’d buy a used car off.

  4. Ed Hayes said,

    August 13, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Have to say to Brian and Gerry that if this was simply a ‘hate the SWP’ site it would get a lot of hits, given that the hundreds of ex-members out there tend to resent the organisation. You should ask yourselves why so many people who gave up their time and energy for the party do feel bitter about it and the cynicism of the likes of comrade Allen et al.

  5. chekov said,

    August 13, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Feck’s sake that’s a pretty extreme example of the stock SWP response to criticism.

    It seems that the only issue is whether splinteredsunrise’s problem is psychiatric (irrational hatred) or just a personality disorder (sad internet loser who doesn’t get out enough). Especially silly is the boast that this has been deduced from a mere glance at the blog a couple of times.

    Folks, if you can deduce such conclusions from such a brief glance at the evidence, you should consider whether you’ve already arrived at the conclusions for the general case of criticism. I mean I look at this blog fairly regularly and I don’t really have much of a clue about the psychiatric state or the personality disorders of the author.

    You’re talking about somebody who is at least interested enough to read the party’s press and whose politics aren’t a million miles away from the SWPs. Launching such personal attacks on him just looks terrible to any neutrals who might be reading it. For PR reasons if nothing else, you really need to pretend that you think that your critics are genuine.

  6. October 6, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    […] have on one or two past occasions been a bit flippant about the Save Our Barracks campaign in Andytown. It seems I […]

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