An argument related to the demand that Ukraine should be supported on the grounds of national self-determination is a general argument that there is a right to self-defence, although this is a no more cogent argument than that deriving from a claim to self-determination. The civilian population of Donetsk could claim the same right to defend themselves from increased attacks by the Ukrainian military just before 24 February 2022, and the population of Crimea and Donbas more generally have the same right against the plans of the Ukrainian state to conquer and reoccupy their territories. By demanding membership of NATO the Ukrainian state has given validity to assertion of this same right by the Russian state to defend itself and its supporters in these areas. Lacking any class basis those supporting either Ukraine or Russia can, and do, parrot the same arguments that thus expose each other to the same rejoinder and counterclaim.
This argument is not to say that at the level of individual Ukrainians it is not permissible for them to defend themselves, but what the pro-war left is proposing is political support to the Ukrainian state and armed forces that are carrying out the fighting. This is how those Ukrainians who are fighting for their state see it, expressed in nationalist terms as defence of their country. But as Marxists maintain, countries are not united and the interests of the different classes composing it are antagonistic. At the level of individuals, it has made more sense to leave the county or relocate, as millions have done, and as we have noted before, those nearer the front line are more in favour of peace than those further away cheering for victory.
In other words, this claim that seems so straightforward, and may even appear to be so at the level of the individual, does not exist, and what we need is what we set out at the start – a Marxist analysis of the cause and nature of the war as determined by its historical origins and development and the nature of the participants and their objectives.
The reliance on an abstract right to self-defence is empty since socialists recognise no such right for the capitalist class or its state, which is why the support for the latter by the Second International was recognised as such a historical betrayal in August 1914. What its twenty-first century imitators repeat is the lack of any principled Marxist position, retreating to the refuge of abstract moralism, which Marxists, going back as far as Marx himself, find repugnant because behind it lies the interests of the capitalist class–presented as universal truths–universal precisely because everyone, from right to left, can espouse them.
So, what we are left with are vacuous moral statements that don’t amount to an argument – that invasions are bad, that the Russians are aggressive and cruel and human rights must be protected. That a Ukrainian invasion of Crimea would be bad, that the demand for NATO membership is aggressive and that Ukrainian fascists can hardly be trusted not to be cruel and deny human rights, are all objections to such claims. It could be argued that the first catalogue of Russian immorality is what counts but that requires argument that the Ukrainian one doesn’t, (or perhaps doesn’t even exist if the western media is to be believed). But it’s obvious that occupation of Crimea would involve violence and oppression, that NATO is an aggressive imperialist alliance, that fascist units exist in the Ukrainian armed forces and that these armed forces are not the first to abide strictly by the laws of war.
So much of the argument in support of Ukraine is therefore based on arguments which dissolve when attached to concrete reality, only to return in abstract moral declarations. We are not therefore on the terrain of Marxist analysis and Marxist politics, which explains why it is impossible for this left to take such a position. It is why their arguments are so similar to that of western imperialism, its politicians, think tanks and media commentators, and their solutions so aligned.
Marxism is thus utterly unnecessary and irrelevant to the arguments of the pro-war Left, all of which can be repeated without any reference to it, something that has escaped them. There are no grounds presented for even the theoretical unity of all the workers of Ukraine and Russia; their support for war involves their unity with Ukrainian capitalism and western imperialism, something that doesn’t escape their notice but the significance of which does.
If successful, the victory of Ukraine, US imperialism and its NATO satraps would mean the occupation of areas where they are rejected by the local population and will see Ukraine subject to the tender mercies of western imperialism. To expect ‘a more just and democratic post-war reconstruction’ from this partnership that they have supported is the height of naivety, if not stupidity.
The pro-war left claims ‘that If we are not seen to be on the side of the people of Ukraine, then the only voices they will hear will be those of western imperialists, not those of the socialists and internationalists.’ But if these so-called ‘socialist and internationalist’ voices are saying the same thing as the western imperialists, and they are, why should anyone care?
Supporters of Ukraine claim that those who refuse to support its state deny the agency of Ukrainians and make it all about the west and western imperialist intervention. But it is these people who deny the agency of Ukraine and Ukrainians.
Ukraine, for them, has no role in starting the war but is simply its victim. We are asked to support ‘Ukraine’ and the ‘Ukrainian resistance’ but these have no agency outside the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian armed forces because outside them they don’t exist. The first is a corrupt capitalist state on a level with Russia and the second is the major repressive force of this state, with particularly reactionary elements such as fascist units in the army. Supporters of Ukraine do not so much justify support for them as dissolve them into abstractions that do not exist in concrete realties.
The motivation of western imperialist backing of Ukraine is usually not examined, or passed over with nebulous remarks that have no significance to taking a political stand. The history of its intervention is treated as irrelevant; its inherently oppressive and repressive character has gone missing, and what this implies for the nature of its intervention in Ukraine and the politics of the war is normally terra incognita and is staying that way. It would appear that all we can do is point out the absurdity of the demands of those supporting Ukraine, such as the call for Britain ‘gifting to Ukraine . . . all the surplus UK military equipment due to be replaced, especially the 79 Challenger tanks, 170 Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles, all Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, Typhoon fighter aircraft – to help Ukraine win more quickly, with less suffering.’
This must be the first time tanks, fighting vehicles and fighter aircraft will ensure ‘less suffering.’ It is assumed that Ukraine will win and win more quickly, presumably because the western media has told them this, and that winning more quickly will not involve inflicting suffering more quickly, or perhaps this is something that also does not exist–the suffering of others. Meanwhile the British capitalist state can get on with modernising its tanks, fighting vehicles and war planes, perhaps for its next progressive imperialist intervention, or whatever.
However, yet another solidarity with Ukraine statement has felt the need to address the role of NATO but does so by somehow giving it no real agency in enforcing its own interests; becoming a prop in the war that is subsidiary in determining its nature, while the rest of the world, including the Ukrainian state, regards its role as vital and critical to success. The supporters of Ukraine again invent a world that does not exist.
The statement says that ‘we should be critical of of the Zelenski government which has embraced neoliberalism . . . and seeks to join the European Union and NATO’, but this criticism is not an obstacle to support! It says that ‘the supply of arms should be without strings or illusions in NATO and the West because the supply of arms can be used to control the scope and duration of the war’. So imperialism with not seek to impose its own interests but supply billions of dollars and Euros of weapons without strings, and this is called politics without illusions! When has imperialism not acted in its own interest but instead on behalf of a ‘national liberation’ struggle?
‘NATO and Western imperialism are backing Ukraine for their own geopolitical interests, so there should be no illusion that NATO and Western imperialism are forces for democracy’, the statement says. No more ‘illusions’ again; but if NATO is backing a ‘national liberation’ struggle then, by definition, it is a ‘force for democracy’. It doesn’t matter how many times you say ‘but NATO is not a force for democracy’ and ‘is the military wing of Western imperialism . . .’ and NATO is acting to ‘defend its geopolitical interests’ while it also supports a war that you claim is progressive and justified. Something has to give.
So who is mistaken here? Is imperialism being fooled into supporting a progressive war of national liberation, an anti-imperialist war? Or are the Left supporters of the Ukrainian state denying the reactionary character of the Ukrainian state and its pursuit of NATO membership; and wrongly supporting NATO intervention in the belief that its geopolitical interests advance democracy, although we are asked to believe that this is not what NATO is about? In what world does any of this make any sense?
Perhaps it is the one that exists in the ‘proxy war between Western and Russian imperialism’ in which ‘NATO has used the Russian invasion to give itself a new purpose’; but whatever new purpose NATO has given itself, it is not one of fighting for democracy. Such a world does not exist and all claims to it doing so are false, shockingly misleading the workers living in NATO countries.
But let us give it one more chance. We are told that ‘when internationalists support the Ukrainians’ right to resist military the Russian invasion and obtain arms from NATO countries, it is not an endorsement of NATO. There have been many movements of national liberation in the past which have called upon imperialist countries for arms without being condemned by socialists: Irish nationalists in 1917, the Spanish republic in 1936, the communist resistance in World War Two, to name a few.’
So maybe such a world existed in the past?
Let’s just take the Irish example. Was Ireland an independent state in 1916 or a British colony? Were the Irish rebels in 1916 seeking to join the German imperialist alliance, or did they claim ‘We serve neither King nor Kaiser’? Did the Irish workers movement participate as a separate political and armed force from the bourgeois nationalists, and did not James Connolly repeatedly declare the political independence of the Irish working class? Was his anti-imperialism the anti-imperialism of opposition to foreign rule or opposition also to capitalism and for the creation of a Socialist Republic? Where does the capitalist Ukrainian state and the ‘Ukrainian resistance’ stand on all these questions today?
But let’s not leave the Irish analogy there. What happened to the Irish national struggle when the forces of the working class proved to be too weak and the movement became a purely bourgeois one? ‘Labour’ was told to wait, just as in Ukraine today, and the forces of bourgeois nationalism accepted a settlement with imperialism that left the working class more divided than before, subject to two reactionary regimes that inflicted years of austerity, unemployment and emigration built upon Catholic Church abuse of women and children and Protestant sectarianism and discrimination. Today the capitalist Irish state supports the Ukrainian capitalist state and imperialism, particularly that of the US, upon which its current success depends; which brings us to the core argument of the left supporters of Ukraine.
Beside the unprecedented assortment of support from western imperialism the left supporters of Ukraine present one Marxist-sounding justification, although bourgeois politicians and the media state it as well. This is the demand for Ukrainian self-determination, upon which we get the idea of national liberation and the analogy with Ireland. In this there might seem an argument that at least exists, and it does, except it does not exist for Marxists.
After World War I, US President Woodrow Wilson made himself and the policy famous through his espousal of self-determination, but this is not the grounds for a socialist argument, including his ignoring the demands of some nationalities while upholding others. Through the Treaty of Versailles, the ground was prepared for another world war that further exposed the elastic character of bourgeois support for self-determination. Even before this, the credo of self-determination of nations had failed in the 1848 revolutions in Europe.
The demand, in so far as Lenin actually upheld it, is subsidiary to the self-determination of the working class and involved supporting, if necessary, the demands of nationalities imprisoned within empires or held as colonies. Ukraine became an independent state in 1991 and does not cease to be one because it is losing (or winning according to its supporters) a war with another independent capitalist state. If it is further claimed that socialists should support the prerogatives of a capitalist state in war then it should be clear what this means – the demands of the capitalist state assume priority, which must necessarily therefore involve the subordination of the working class to its rights and requirements.
The interests of the working class either do not then exist, or are identical to those of its capitalist state. If it is further claimed that it is only in this one respect that the interest of the working class and capitalist state are the same, then this fails to recogniser that self-determination of the Ukrainian capitalist state means that it determines what it requires, what it does, and its freedoms without restriction, otherwise it is not self-determining.
If the attempt is made to wriggle out of this definitional constraint and it is claimed that it is the country (or nationality) that self-determination applies to, then we must recall Marx’s description of history: ‘History does nothing . . . it “wages no battles”. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; “history” is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims.” In our case, it is not ‘the country’, or ‘Ukraine’, that ‘wages battles’ but the Ukrainian state and its armed forces.
For the supporters of Ukraine the idea of an immaterial entity to which self-determination applies has been propagated through repeated use of the words Ukraine, Ukrainian resistance, and Ukrainian people when what that corresponds to in reality is the state, the armed forces of that state and a population divided by class in which these socialists wrap up the interests of the working class inside that of the first two – the state and its armed forces.
Reference is sometimes made to particular Ukrainian workers, with the pious invocation to accept their views, as if their coming from a Ukrainian must entail unimpeachable endorsement and acceptance, although their views are presented as privileged not because of their power to advance our understanding but because of their position as potential victims of war. In effect they become props to a story that is being more and more determined by western imperialism, and certainly not by any independent political role that these workers play.
The term ‘Ukrainian people’ is an abstraction without apposite reality, since this people is divided, with some supporting Russia. For supporters of the Ukrainian state this latter people effectively does not exist, so the argument for self-determination does not apply for them. Not so much Lenin as Woodrow Wilson again.
In any case the Leninist argument advances only the right to set up a separate state and this the Ukrainians already have. What the capitalists and its politicians do with this is something else entirely, and socialists do not follow them in order to ensure this capitalist state achieves maximum capacity to act autonomously and independently. Even if we did, it would be a very hard argument to make that the dependence on western imperialism is the road to such freedoms. Since Ukraine has been, and still does, seek membership of NATO, such membership could easily be accused of threatening the same rights that would logically have to apply to Russia.
The only counterargument to this is to claim that Ukraine should not be subordinated to imperialism (e.g. should not be subject to debt dependence), which as we have seen in the statement of the Ukrainian Solidarity Campaign is not an argument but a pious wish, and one that support for reliance on the west and its weapons exposes as either rank stupidity or hypocrisy. Again a reality is invoked that does not and cannot exist.
“What appears to characterise (opportunist) practice above all? A certain hostility to ‘theory’. This is quite natural, for our “theory”, that is, the principles of scientific socialism, impose clearly marked limitations to practical activity–insofar as it concerns the aims of this activity, the means used in attaining these aims, and the method employed in this activity. It is quite natural for people who run after immediate “practical” results to want to free themselves from such limitations and to render their practice independent of our “theory”. However, this outlook is refuted by every attempt to apply it in reality.”
Rosa Luxemburg, ‘Reform or Revolution’.
A year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine the clear and hard division in the socialist movement can hardly be said to have mellowed. The escalation of western involvement has not caused supporters of Ukraine to miss a beat in their support, despite initial indications that they saw possible limits to their defence of imperialist intervention. Indeed, the most startling aspect of their response was the immediate support given to the intrusion of western imperialism, thus placing themselves on the same side as the US, and with objectives identical to it and its NATO allies. Anti-imperialist rhetoric continues to be espoused by pointing solely at Russia while demanding that their own imperialist state intervene more strongly to arm the Ukrainian state.
So sudden and complete was this conversion to seeing western imperialism as key to a progressive solution that no further political moves were required to justify the alliance of this left with their own capitalist state and its imperialist allies. This leap into bed with its previous class enemies was carried out with agreement on what the nature of the war was, who the necessary allies were, what the objectives of the war were, and what should be done about it.
Of course, like repeated references to a certain imperialism, the rhetoric has included left phraseology, but this can’t disguise the fundamental identities: the courtiers of western imperialism have themslves denounced imperialism. Such has been the decisiveness of the embrace of the Ukrainian state that their ‘opposition’ to the war means opposition to Ukrainian defeat, not to the war itself, and Ukrainian victory is construed in the most comprehensive and absolute terms.
Their position is bolstered by the unprecedented support for the war by the Western media, which has been little more than propaganda for this imperialist alliance; war pornography but without the pictures that reveal the real brutality. Their moral certitude, which they believe arises from the clarity of what is happening, is assisted enormously by the western media’s one-sided presentation. Even when western diplomats get exasperated at Ukrainian lies, such as its continued claim that it was a Russian missile that landed in Poland and killed two men, this left does not miss a beat to ask what else might not be true? The effect of sanctions on the world’s poor or on workers living standards in their own countries are all an inevitable price to be paid from the perspective of the war being Russia’s fault and its effects only to be ended by its defeat. Nothing its own imperialist state does can be challenged when it is recognised as the only force able to help win the war that it supports. When you have picked a horse, it is relatively easy to see everything through its blinkers.
A third factor is the unattractive nature of Russia itself, a corrupt and authoritarian capitalist state, but this only invites comparison with the Ukrainian state itself, which is hardly very different and certainly not when it is allied with western imperialism, whose toll of death and destruction dwarfs that of Russia. If Putin is a criminal, Bush and Blair are godfathers, and their successors Biden and Johnson, Truss and Sunak etc. are no different. But it is precisely the refusal to go there that is the problem, because the signal fact that the Russian invasion on 24 February was wrong cannot possibly justify support for the Ukrainian capitalist state and its imperialist backers.
Writing from Ireland it is beyond lamentable to see people who opposed the British armed forces in the North of Ireland suddenly find common cause; effectively demanding that the Minister of Defence, whose own military record here is censored, call for their power to be wielded to implement imperialist interests in Eastern Europe.
Condemning the Russian invasion on the grounds of opposition to imperialism while failing to recognise the Ukrainian desire to become part of the biggest imperialist alliance, and also failing to recognise the role of this alliance in a war in which Ukraine is its proxy, makes all claims to support for Ukraine on an ‘anti-imperialist’ basis not only groundless but thoroughly dishonest.
And this is the issue; a position on the war can only be satisfactorily approached through a Marxist analysis – of the cause and nature of the war as determined by its historical origins and development and the nature of the participants and their objectives. When we look at it from this aspect, left support for Ukraine does not so much fall apart as simply not exist.
So right from 24 February 2022 their claim was that the war was caused by Putin. One man caused it, arising out of his cranium with his imperialist obsession and a distorted and false view of Ukrainian history, including the view that Ukraine was not a real country and Ukrainians were a variety of Russian. Far from looking for the material roots of a war that has impacted the world, the moral left discovered from the start that it was Putin’s view of history that explained it.
Not that Putin’s ideas explained everything, for this left everything did not have to be explained, only the invasion, as this determined everything relevant to understand and upon which to strike a political position. And because nothing prior to this matters, and everything subsequent depends absolutely on it, disagreement with their political position is admission of moral failure. As the late socialist Andrew Collier put it, ‘liberals have a notorious tendency to construct values which might explain their opponents’ policies.’
That this justification for their approach does not fall apart but simply does not exist is illustrated, among other things, by the fact that what Putin actually said before the invasion–that was most directly relevant to it–was all but ignored, which we shall look at in a future post along with other claims.
The ‘Windsor Framework’ agreement between the EU and Britain to maintain or replace (take your pick) the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is a truly remarkable document. It allows Northern Ireland to have free access to both the EU single and UK markets for goods.
The British Prime Minister visited to ensure we knew how great this was even though, as a staunch Brexiteer, he had helped ensure that Britain walked away from this “privilege”, this “prize” that put Northern Ireland in a “unique”, “unbelievably special position” . . . ‘like the world’s most exciting economic zone”, that ensures we are an “incredibly attractive place to invest for businesses”. Perhaps the most fulsome declarations against Brexit I have ever heard.
Yet the truly remarkable factor is that such an arrangement is supposed to be impossible. When Russia claimed that Ukraine could have close trading relationships with the EU and also with its own Eurasian Customs Union, the EU claimed it couldn’t be done. Ukraine had to look decisively West and could not continue its attempts to straddle between it and Russia. We know, of course, that this provoked the Maidan uprising in 2013-2014, when the Ukrainian President decided that the price of greater access to the EU and erecting barriers to Russia was too high.
Ukraine split over his decision, with the open intervention of the United States, repression by the Ukrainian security forces, violence by protesters and seizure of weapons by pro-western elements, including the far right and fascists. This led to a counter-mobilisation in the East of the country among pro-Russia Ukrainians and a civil war that led to Russian armed intervention in Crimea and then Donbas. The conflict never really ended and, of course, we know that this eventually led to the Russian invasion and the proxy war between the US with its NATO allies, and Russia.
So, why is it that what has just been achieved in the North of Ireland could not be done in Ukraine?
The answer, of course, is that the decision in respect of Ukraine was a geopolitical one aimed not just at Ukraine but against Russia, even if some claim that the bureaucrats in Brussels did not fully appreciate this aspect of what they were doing. In any case, the new ‘Windsor Framework’ is essentially a political agreement with political significance that does not primarily lie in the North of Ireland.
It has been pointed out by commentators that the EU and British have put entirely different spins on the significance of what has been agreed, with the former claiming that it has not “renegotiated the protocol” while the British have claimed that the deal “fundamentally amends the text and provisions of the original protocol”; lots of ‘dancing on the heads of pins’ according to one journalist.
Nevertheless, the protocol stays, there remains a ‘border on the Irish sea’ and not inside the island, and the fundamental relationship between the EU and Britain remains. The EU has made concessions and the British have agreed measures that the EU thinks it can live with which minimise physical and other trade-related interventions. The EU Q&A is replete with references to the limits of its flexibility. So, the trusted trader scheme can be suspended if ‘1) the UK fails to provide the EU with access to the relevant UK IT customs systems and databases, or 2) the UK does not live up to the commitments it undertook when setting up the trusted trader scheme.’ On excise ‘the UK will not be able to apply any duty rate below the EU minima’; on duty rates for small producers of alcoholic beverages ‘the UK will not be able to set duty rates for small producers below EU minima rates. The respect for EU minima rates will protect the level playing field with the EU’ etc.
Breaches of the controls are inevitable, but it must be considered that these are going to be relatively unimportant. Northern Ireland is both small and peripheral and ultimately so in the political sense as well, a far cry from Ukraine. The EU was quick to claim the deal as a one-off, so the Swiss can’t follow up on it. The significance of the deal agreed lies in the British acceptance that the road is running out on hostilities with the EU, a project that is taking its Tory sponsors to electoral defeat.
The deal is not however the last word. The disapplication of EU laws is still winding its way through Westminster and controls on imports to Britain have still not been introduced; Brexit has still not been ‘done’. The ’Windsor Framework’ has still to be implemented while deadlines for the various steps are part of the agreement. Beyond this, the problem of continued divergence between the EU and Britain remains, as does its potential impact. While on the British side the debate is about the extent of future divergence, or even its advisability, on the EU side the debate will be about the potential benefits of further deepening, where consideration of its effect on relations with Britain will be a minor concern.
The major innovation beyond the rather technical aspects of trade policy is the introduction of a ‘Stormont Brake’, as an ‘emergency mechanism that will allow the UK government, at the request of 30 Members of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland (Stormont), in the most exceptional circumstances, as a last resort . . . to stop the application of amended or replacing provisions of EU law . . .’
‘The Stormont Brake can be triggered only after having used every other available mechanism, and where the amended or replacing EU act, or a part of it, significantly differs in scope or content from the previous one and application of such amended or replacing act would have a significant impact specific to everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland in a way that is liable to persist. . . . If triggered and if the conditions are met, the amended EU act would not apply automatically in Northern Ireland.’
This represents the introduction into the workings of the Protocol a mechanism akin to the ‘petition of concern’ introduced in the last British initiative to save the Stormont administration–New Decade, New Approach–meant to get Stormont to work after the previous breakdown. The original devolution arrangements, meant to demonstrate that the Northern Ireland polity could function ‘normally’ and without conflict, introduced powers of veto for each sectarian bloc as a key incentive to make them work it.
The petition of concern was meant to be a last resort insurance-type mechanism but was reportedly used 115 times in five years, a testament not to it working, or to the number of issues absolutely vital to one side or the other, but to the degree of sectarian division. It has quickly been speculated that the restrictive grounds of its use, mirrored in the wording of the new deal as set out above, would make no difference to the willingness of unionists to paralyse the Protocol agreement with the EU. There is no reason why this might not be the case except for the different circumstances of the ‘Windsor Framework’.
Like the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal, it requires 30 members of Stormont to trigger it from at least two parties, and since there are 37 unionists out of a total of 90 members, this looks eminently possible, even accounting for those specifically excluded. Once triggered it would take a harder to procure ‘cross-community’ vote to allow any suspension of a new EU law to be lifted.
While there are various other, on the face of it, rather onerous requirements, including for consultation, the key difference is that the British government is required to apply the veto on any new law, and the British government is not going to do this if it is not in their interest as well, regardless of what unionists think. If it does, the EU can then take retaliatory measures that are proportionate.
It is just about feasible for unionists to repeatedly attempt to apply the brakes, but this would lead to ridicule for themselves and their Brexit cause, and would fail, not mainly because of this but because the British government is in charge. The British, by making the agreement in the first place and failing to meet the Democratic Unionist Party’s seven tests, have shown that the demands of unionism are not its priority.
The Stormont Brake has been characterised as a carrot to unionism but one that requires the DUP to return to Stormont and end its boycott, as it can only be triggered in a functioning Assembly. The offer of a veto is thus a sardonic judgement on the power of the veto the DUP already wields.
It was widely thought, even before the appearance of the new deal, that the DUP would play for time so that it would withhold judgement before the local elections in May. These, it is thought, would reveal the verdict of the majority of unionists on the deal to be negative, or certainly negative enough to damage the DUP should it accept it. This would hardly be a surprise since an oft-repeated unionist expression is ‘not an inch’. Unfortunately, it cannot retake the ground itself and the crisis is of its own making – by supporting Brexit, accepting the different circumstances of Northern Ireland, opposing the alternative Theresa May deal, even if it could have worked, and the initial support it gave for the Protocol’s benefits. This leaves it ill-prepared for a battle against the British government.
Postponing decision on the deal might appear smart, especially since the party is divided, but it might not take that long before this looks weak, and vulnerable to accusations from rivals that it is. The main rival is Traditional Unionist Voice, which is a one-man band, which itself illustrates the hollowness of unionist opposition. This, however, can just breed frustration and anger. Far from protecting themselves, DUP delay may simply strengthen unionist opposition by opening the door to those willing to be clear and forthright, with resignation developing among others of its supporters. In any event, in local terms, the Windsor Framework is a defeat for unionism. You can tell this, when even the King gets it in the neck.