The “yes” vote victory in last week’s referendum over abortion rights in Ireland, shows that history is finally moving forward in the Republic. No longer is the old reactionary coalition between the Catholic Church and traditionalist male politicians able to impose its diktats over Irish women.
A positive step for all the exploited...
This vote is certainly partly due to the discredit of the Catholic Church, after the long series of scandals in which it was caught covering up the sexual abuse of children in its orphanages and the enslavement of single mothers in its sweatshops.
But it primarily shows that the vast majority of the Irish electorate has now decided that it is time to get rid of the sexist prejudices and institutional hypocrisy which have caused so much suffering - and deaths - among Irish women. Significantly, over 85% of all voters under 35 voted “yes”. The younger generation rightly wants society to move forward!
Of course, this does not mean that women’s struggle to free themselves from the straitjacket of their age-old social oppression is over in Ireland. It is on-going, like everywhere else in the world.
Women’s emancipation, just like the emancipation of the working class from capitalist exploitation, will take much more than changing the law. It will take replacing capitalism and its built-in social inequalities with a new social order, free of the class divisions which are the root cause of all forms of exploitation and oppression. This is why the struggle for women’s rights is an integral part of the working class struggle against the profit system. For us, workers, therefore, the outcome of the Irish referendum is a positive step.
... which exposes Ireland’s absurd divide
Following the outcome of the Irish referendum, May has come under renewed pressure to at least extend the provisions of British legislation to cover Northern Ireland. But, so far, the answer has been a loud “No”.
The reason is not hard to figure out: May owes her parliamentary majority to the support of DUP. And in addition to being a far-right outfit, the DUP is also linked to one of Northern Ireland’s most backward protestant sects, which is dead against any form of abortion rights.
And since May would rather loose both eyes than her parliamentary majority (and, by the same token, her prime ministerial throne), she is not likely to change her stance on this issue!
So, while women’s conditions are finally getting a bit better in the Republic, in the British-occupied North, women are still going to be subjected to the provisions of anti-abortion legislation dating back to 1861, which treat women as criminals for acts which have been perfectly legal in mainland Britain, ever since 1967! And all this just because of the political manoeuvring and factional in-fighting of May’s Tory party.
If anything exposes the absurdity of the North’s continuing status as a “province” of Britain, instead of being reunited with the Republic from which it was carved out at gunpoint almost a century ago, this is certainly it!
Brexit - a step backward for all
But, of course, there may be even worse coming, due to the Brexit saga.
The threat which is now hanging over Northern Ireland is that of being separated again from the Republic by a hard border - as it was before the 1994 cease-fire. And this means drastic restrictions to the free movement of Irish people across this totally artificial border, which should never have existed in the first place.
Of course, May claims to have two miracle schemes which “might” avoid this by using all kinds of wonderful technology. The only problem is that all this hi-tech nonsense will be costly (half as much as Britain’s current contribution to the EU budget, according to HMRC). Besides, it won’t be ready in time and, above all, it will only spare physical controls for “trusted businesses” - not for ordinary people.
The truth is that, despite May’s desperate attempts to pretend that she can have her cake and eat it, the only logic of her policy of tail-ending her party’s loony hard-Brexiteers, is to imprison Britain and its population within a wall of hard borders against the rest of Europe. And no amount of hi-tech gimmicks will change anything to this fact.
Just as Britain’s occupation of Northern Ireland is keeping women’s conditions there stuck in a distant past, the logic of Brexit is to turn the clock back for the rest of us, by isolating us from the rest of the world and dividing our ranks according to passport, skin colour or religion.
There is nothing for us, workers, to gain out of the divisive demagogy of these politicians. On the contrary, we should be proud to be the first class in history to have no interest in maintaining these artificial divisions and the obsolete national borders on which they are built. We are THE international working class. Let’s not allow ourselves to be dragged back into the past by the demagogic fantasies of the Westminster Brexiteers!