The winners in last week’s elections were our own local nationalisms – British and Irish. The already tight grip they collectively hold on political power was strengthened even further by an overwhelming majority of voters.
Well over 50% of first preference votes went to either Sinn Fein or the DUP. Smaller nationalist parties like the TUV and Aontu were also endorsed by the electorate.
The losers are anybody and everybody who wants an end to sectarian division, segregated education, segregated housing and tribal politics. Anybody and everybody who wants secure well-paid employment, an end to the culture of zero hours contracts, a low wage economy and an absence of affordable, flexible childcare.
In fact, anybody and everyone who wants a progressive, caring and supportive society can say goodbye to the possibility of movement on any of those fronts.
Nationalism, British or Irish, is not about any of these things. It is about division, difference, belligerence and tribalism. It is also about capitalist economics. That is why we are a Workers Party, that is why our politics and our programme are class based. That is why we refuse to roll over and submerge ourselves in sectarian populism.
Make no mistake, nationalism, both British and Irish, is a political poison that stands in the way of uniting working people here, just as it divides workers across the globe.
Nationalism is not only a backward political philosophy: it is a toxic one. It seeks to divide and exploit difference. It is a political cancer that deliberately subverts working class unity and the struggle for socialism. We must strive at every turn to combat this toxic ideology, and never give an inch in our relentless struggle against it. We have seen time and again where it leads.
It is hard to reconcile the actions of the thousands of trade unionists, workers, their families and friends who have taken to the picket lines, marches and rallies in recent months in defence of public services, jobs, better conditions, better pay and a better society, with the outcome of the local elections.
The left urgently needs to re-analyse and re-orientate itself to face down this growing political cancer and its consequences.
The trade union movement needs to ask itself if it is a vehicle for protest or a vehicle for change. We all need to ask how the power, the dynamism and the class consciousness of working people, so clearly demonstrated in recent times, can become a catalyst for positive change and a bulwark against the most reactionary and divisive elements of our society.
It is not a task that can wait.