Ireland is virtually alone in the EU, with the exception of the Baltic States and Luxembourg, in not having an imperialist past, but rather, like the Baltic States, having experienced centuries of domination by an imperialist neighbour.
Since the first moves in the 1960s to apply for membership of what was then the European Economic Community, there has always been principled opposition in Ireland to immersing the nation in what was seen as a pan-European imperialist project and aligning itself with those countries which have wreaked a trail of destruction on nations and peoples around the world. It was believed by many opponents of the proposed Irish membership of the EEC that our proper place in the world was as part of that global collective of those victims of European imperialism known as the non-aligned movement.
The non-aligned movement is an organisation of 118 member states, and 18 states with ‘observer’ status. It was created as a ‘third way’, an alternative to alignment with either the West or the Soviet Union in that power-play that was the ‘Cold War’. It is largely made up of nations and peoples that are former colonies of European imperialist nations.
There is a set of requirements for membership of the organisation, which are:
- Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
- Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
- Recognition of the movements for national independence.
- Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations, large and small.
- Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
- Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
- Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
- Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
- Promotion of mutual interests and co-operation.
- Respect for justice and international obligations.
‘The purpose of the organisation as stated in the Havana Declaration of 1979 is to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.” (Source – Wikipedia)
Contained in that Declaration are many of the issues that now confront Ireland, and which were identified by opponents to EEC membership from the 1960s on, but rubbished by the proponents of membership. Joining the non-aligned movement would see Ireland reclaim its independence and sovereignty, including its fiscal sovereignty with the reintroduction of its own currency and the consequent power to revalue that currency when conditions demanded that should be done in the interest of the nation – the nation being all of the people and not a wealthy minority.
What of the other members of the non-aligned movement and how would Ireland sit among them? It is a simple task to identify regimes with which we would have serious issues, but the same is the case with some member states of the EU. On the other side, there are very many members of the NAM that share significant elements of history with us (domination and colonialism by European states, and the difficulties of working through the post-colonial period). Many of the member states have had their borders artificially constructed or manipulated by the imperialists, and we share that experience. Like them, we have experienced the deliberate colonialist policies of destruction of our language and culture and the fostering of sectarian divisions with all of the long-term problems that have arisen as a result.
And what of the argument that by leaving the EU we would materially damage Ireland’s economy and therefore its capacity to maintain its independence? The quick answer to that is evidenced by the assault on our fiscal independence, and therefore our sovereignty, by the larger member states of the EU to protect their own banks, bond holders, etc. But the positive answer is to look at the trading opportunities – both material and intellectual – that would be available in a body of nations that not only includes super-economies such as India, China, Brazil, but also includes over half of the world’s population, about 80% of the world’s oil resources, and the vast bulk and variety of other precious metals and minerals – on which the EU is almost totally dependent.
Other beneficial considerations of our re-alignment would include the proper control and management of our very valuable fisheries, and of our (to be nationalised) oil and gas resources through a fair partnership with other non-aligned nations who have the technical expertise and equipment available. The opening up of global markets for value-added agricultural produce in a world which is experiencing food shortages is another enormous potential benefit.
Despite the damage done to Ireland which has come to a climax with the EU-IMF intervention in Black November 2010, there is little doubt that we are capable of successfully taking a different fork in the road that is the nation’s journey. There is much to gain from this new approach – not just in terms of independence and sovereignty and pride, or in terms of our economy and society, but more crucially there is a moral component to it in terms of our attitude to war and injustice and exploitation – all hallmarks of European and US policy towards the rest of the non-NATO world.
We are not Europeans as we have allowed ourselves to be misled into thinking. As Bob Quinn suggests, we are the Atlantean Irish, with our gaze directed not just at Europe, but at the world at large. We have the twenty-twenty vision of a people at the periphery, once we remove the EU blindfold. Why would we limit the scope of our ambitions by aligning ourselves with imperialists with so much blood on their hands, and an ambition to expand their activities, when we can take our place among the non-aligned nations of the world as equals – nations who, unlike Europe and the US, and even ourselves, hold the Irish in some considerable regard.
It is time to open a real debate on our future, to stop limiting ourselves by surrendering to the demands of a union of unequal states, but instead to open our minds to the possibility that we can change ourselves and the world for the better. Time, as James Connolly wished, to build a sovereign republic that will act as a beacon of hope to the oppressed people of the world. We are most certainly capable of doing that.