Re(2): Republican Movement & GFA

jbm7 at jbm7 at
Sun Aug 1 12:25:59 MDT 1999

Reply from Jim Monaghan to George leaving in Philips points
>George: Karl never denied that you "dont promote imperialist oppression
>by fighting against it". However the point he made is that the Provos did
>not fight against imperialist oppression. Instead they have been
>promoting imperialism in both disguised undisguised forms.
>Philip: But it is *not true* to say this is not a defeat.  Indeed a major
>The point is that the opposition to British imperialism has been massively
>weakened and demoralised by the republican leadership's betrayal.
>George: The reverse is the case: What you call "the republican
>leadership's betrayal" is a result of the weakened and demoralised nature
>of the "Catholic" masses. However their weakened and demoralised state is
>principally a product of the combined role of the British state, Ulster
>"Unionist" forces, the SDLP and the Provos.

I do not think that the Nationalist masses are defeated. The Republican
leadership may have run out of steam but that is a different thing. The
Garvafghy Road resistence with support from many other ghettoes is
concrete proof of this. Even after the catastrophe of Omagh the residents
refused to be cowed. THe situation is fraught with danger and many are
hoping to profit from the situation but the reality is that even the Sinn
Fein vote is a sign of Natiuonalist confidence. 45% for Nationalist
canidates in the last eklection. Demoralised popullations cannot be
mobilised to vote. Look at the trends in the USA succesive betrayals of
the Democrats have caused a collapse of the workingclass and poor vote.
The Republican leadership would love a deal over Garvaghy but their masses
will not allow them to sell.
>Philip; But because republicanism has been the form through which the
>was manifested, the new course of Adams and co. serves to confuse and
>demoralise large numbers of activists and much of the radical section of
>the nationalist population in the north.

>George: The opposite has been the case: The Provos have been the form
>through which the popular opposition to the British state has been
>obstructed and  undermined as manifested, in concentrated form, in the
>Good Friday Agreement.
>Evidence of this is the degree of popularity enjoyed by the Provos as
>manifested in a variety of ways including the relatively strong electoral
>support they enjoy. The "new course of Adams and co." equally serves to
>confuse the Catholic  masses as  did the old form of their politics. If
>the politics of the Provos do not perform the bourgeois tasks of
>confusion, demoralisation and illusion then the conditions for their
>political existence would be absent.

What does this mean. Are you saying that if the Provos were
revolutionaries they woukld not exist. The Provos arose from the ashs of
Bombay street a true simplification
>Philip: Funny, then, that the imperialists didn't recognise that the
>armed struggle
>waged by republicans was actually in the interests of imperialism!  How
>odd, that the imperialists murdered, tortured and imprisoned all these
>republicans who were, after all, 'subverting' the resistance in the
>of imperialism.  I think Karl has lost the plot a bit. . .
>George: The very opposite has been the case: Imperialism has been
>rewarding the pro-imperialist role of the Provos in a variety of forms
>--the release of Provo prisoners; the promotion of Provo leaders as
>popular high profile media figures; a guaranteed place for them in the
>enforcement and administration of partition by the British state.
>There is no evidence to suggest, as you put it, that "the imperialists
>didn't recognise that the armed struggle waged by republican was actually
>in the interests of imperialism". The very fact that you purport to
>provide as evidence of the anti-imperialist nature of the Provos the fact
>that  "the imperialists murdered, tortured and imprisoned all these
>republicans" is, if anything, evidence as to how effectively these
>attacks on the Provos disguised the pro-imperialist character of their
>politics. Merely because the British and Irish bourgeoisie repressed the
>Provos and subjected them to attack does not necessarily mean that the
>latter's politics are not pro-imperialist. The deValera government
>cracked down on the Blueshirts yet that did not mean that the latter were
>not a right wing pro-imperialist political force. The Allied
>"imperialists murdered, tortured and imprisoned"  German soldiers during
>the second world war and did much more (bombed Dresden) yet that did not
>mean that the German state was not imperialist.

This is classic sectarianism. Next you will tell us that an obscure group
that abstained from the living struggle were the real revolutionaries.The
Provos warts and all were the leaders of the most sustained assault on
Imperialism in Ireland in the last 70 years.To put them in the same camp
as the Blueshirts( as just an alternative pro Imperailism) is the same as
the Stalinists who called for similar repression of the Trotskyists as the
Blackshirts. I suppoort many trade union struggles regardless of my
disagreements with their usually reformist leaderships.
>Philip: The elitism is also not very accurate.
>George: The Provos are elitist in the sense that they and not the masses
>are armed. There did not exist in any enduring way a democratically
>structured popular armed militia.  Indeed the Provos actively prevented
>any such development from establishing itself. The arms, instead, were
>controlled from above by a private secret organisation accountable to no
>one but itself. In that way they were able to determine the character of
>any armed action from above --they were able to contain and even prevent
>the development of a popular armed struggle. This suited the interests of
>the British and Irish bourgeoisie --which leads directly to the arms
>crisis and Charles Haughey.

There is no problem with accepting help from any quarter. The historical
truth is that the Provos did not accept conditions with the aid, in spite
of the Sticky allegations at the time. Lenin accepted a subsidised train
fare he did not accept conditions
>Philip: It is true in the sense that the actions of the republicans on
>the military
>level tended to leave the masses on the sideline.  But it is false in the
>sense that the IRA was comprised of the most oppressed people in Ireland.
>It wasn't some petty-bourgeois conspiracy a la the red brigades or Bader
>Meinhof.  Young working class people flocked into the IRA in droves in the
>north in the early 1970s in order to defend their communities.  The
>republicans emerged as the dominant political force in the nationalist
>ghettos because they were the ones who did the putting up when it was

True, it is the suppoort of a section of the masses that distinguishes
them. The fate of the INLA which had miniscule mass support is a proof of
>George: Young working class people joined the Irish and British armies
>too. So what? Young oppressed people, some would say lumpen elements,
>joined fascists parties too. Indeed much of the young working class
>people that have joined the Provos were very often lumpen in character or
>what some would call an under-class. Marx and Engels would hardly
>describe the lumpenproletariat as working class. It is this element that
>tends to gravitate towards fascist organisations. The political character
>of an organisation is not necessarily determined by the composition of
>its membership. It is the politics of the organisation that essentially
>determines its class character --whether it is revolutionary communist,
>petty bourgeois or bourgeois.

There is a difference in the defence of the ghettoes and attacking them.
Similar groups in the Black ghettoes played a similar role. The fact of
the matter is that Irish Republicanism is a progressive phenomenen. Talk
of abstraction everywhere at all times it is the young who fight the
wars.But in class terms the Republican fighters and say the NLF of Vietnam
arte on the progressive side and however misguided the foot soldiers of
Imperilaism are they are on the wrong side.
>You misunderstand the use of the term petty bourgeois. The Provos are
>petty bourgeois not because they exclusively consist of, say,
>shopkeepers. They are petty bourgeois because of the character of their
>politics. They are petty bourgeois because their politics is premised
>upon the utopian assumption that the conditions exist for the
>establishment of an independent native Irish bourgeois republic. As you
>yourself intimated even the southern bourgeoisie dont share this
>illusion. They know that they cannot exist independently of imperialism.
>They are aware of their weakness as a class and of their inability to
>seriously challenge the imperialist bourgeoisie. But petty bourgeois
>politics conceive the world in  a more utopian context --a shopkeeper's

Firste I heard of shopkeepers with ideals of any kind.

> They are under the illusion that native Irish capitalism can establish
>itself on an independent basis and thereby create an independent
>bourgeois republic --they mistakenly believe that the Irish bourgeoisie
>can successfully challenge the imperialist bourgeoisie.
>Baked into this is the mistaken view that under the conditions of the
>existence of an indigenous independent capitalist economy housed --if you
>like-- in a thirty two county republic, small petty capital can thrive
>and transform itself into  bigger and more independent forms of capital
>--the petty bourgeoisie have a tendency to seek to develop themselves,
>even if often only in imagination, into independent capitalists.

So do we wait for the big battalions of the main European countries.
Surely the point is that the National Liberations struggles are acomponent
part of the International class struggle.
>Philip: When I was in Sinn Fein it used to amuse me to see various left
>groups call
>SF 'petty bourgeois'.  SF was by far the most working class organisation
>the 'left' in Ireland.  The groups who came out with this stuff, on the
>other hand, were usually overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois.  The ones who
>strongly attacked 'petty bourgeois' republicans were always the most petty
>bourgeois of all.

I have to agree. Say the abnned Provo march in 1977 was more proletarian
and poor than the Mat Day march organised by the Dublin Trades Union
>George: As I have already indicated the composition of the membership of
>Sinn Fein/IRA does not necessarily define its political character. Marx,
>Engels, Lenin and Trotsky were middle class as was much of the leadership
>of the Bolshevik party.
>Philip: The republicans fought a heroic anti-imperialist struggle.  They
>have the politics to carry it through and, as a result, the leadership
>began retreating, as republican leaderships had before, rapidly ending up,
>as Adams and Co. now have, as - in political terms - bourgeois or
>mainstream nationalists.

I may be wrong but I think the rot is at the leadership level.
>George: You hoist yourself with your own petard here:  You say the
>republicans "didn't have the politics to carry it through". If they did
>not have the politics to carry through their putative "anti-imperialist
>struggle" then it was their politics that led them to the present
>position of open collaboration with the imperialist bourgeoisie. This is
>just what Karl and I have been arguing. Furthermore if the politics of
>the Provos was such as to prevent them from carrying through this
>struggle and led to their present more openly collaborationist position
>then clearly their politics were not anti-imperialist. If their politics
>were not anti-imperialist then it was impossible for them to be engaged
>in an anti-imperialist struggle. Accordingly if their "struggle" is not
>anti-imperialist then it must be pro-imperialist.

The point is thatthey have rejected their own politics in accepting the
GFA. The beginning of revolutionary politics in Ireland is the rejection
of partition. The Provos did not go past this necessary beginning.
>Philip: The problem is that revolutionary nationalism is inherently
>George: This is because its politics are petty bourgeois and thereby
>subject to zigagging.
>Philip: The republican leadership was unable to make the break with
>nationalism and
>transform itself into a revolutionary socialist movement.  In a period of
>defeat and demoralisation, it slid back, right back into plain Irish
>nationalism, which has always accommodated itself to British rule in
>particular and capitalism in general.
>George: Your position is choke full with contradiction: If, as you say
>above, the Provos are nationalists then how can they have "slid back,
>right back into plain Irish nationalism". Either the Provos are
>nationalists or they are not. You, on the other hand, want to have it
>both ways. In the above remarks you also claim that nationalism has
>"always accomodated itself to British rule in particular and capitalism
>in general." Capitalism in general logically includes imperialism which
>must mean that nationalism, by your own admission, is pro-bourgeois. This
>is just what Karl has argued in his piece on the IRA. The Provos, as
>nationalists, are pro-imperialist.

The only nationalism acceptable to Imperialism is the riverdance stuff.
>Philip: Karl seems to share the view of SF on this one.  Like Karl, the
>SF leaders
>think the 'national bourgeoisie' in the 26 counties really want a united
>Ireland.  They want no such thing, and have done everything possible for
>the past 77 years to prevent a national state being formed.
>George: The above is a total misrepresentation of what Karl wrote.
>Philip: The mass media have also overwhelmingly *opposed* an all-Ireland
>The mass media in the south has been virulently hostile to republicanism
>and often little more than a propaganda outlet for 26-county statism and
>British imperialism.
>George: Blatantly false! Adams, McGuinness et al have been regularly and
>frequently featured on world television and radio, in the big bourgeois
>newspapers and on the internet. Adams has been able to write relatively
>large articles in the Irish Times and, I'd say, other papers. They have
>received relatively massive coverage by the mass media.

This only occured after the Republican leadership started to drift from
their classical position
>Philip: The substance has changed dramatically.  Karl vastly
>underestimates the
>significance of what is going on in ireland in general and among
>republicans in particular.  A movement which fought imperialism to a
>standstill for a quarter century is no more.  That is *significant*.
>George: The Provos never "fought imperialism to a standstill". Indeed the
>basis of the Good Friday Agreement is the product of the very opposite
>development: The inability of the Provos to fight imperialism and
>especially fight it "to a standstill" promoted the conditions for the
>existence of the Good Friday Agreement.
>Philip: The problem was that, in the epoch of imperialism, revolutionary
>nationalism itself is unstable: it can take struggles for national
>liberation to a certain point but no further.  Unfortunately, the lack of
>any revolutionary centre globally and the lack of any Marxist vanguard in
>Ireland, meant that the best elements of revolutionary nationalism had
>nowhere to go when that point was reached.  So the weaknesses of
>revolutionary nationalism became stronger and stronger, and the retreat
>turned into a full flight from all that was best in republicanism.
>George: What you call revolutionary nationalism I call nationalism of a
>more radical variety --more radical than the "Buy Irish" kind of
>nationalism. In the above piece, in a sense, you get to the heart of  the
>Provos  petty bourgeois politics--notwithstanding your dressing it up in
>fancy rhetoric.
>Yes! There is, as the above remarks of yours might suggest, an inherent
>limiting character to the politics of the Provos. It is this inherent
>limitation that means they are incapable of actively participating in the
>class struggle of the Irish people for national self-determination --a
>communitarian workers' republic.
>Warm regards
>George Pennefather
>Be free to check out our Communist Think-Tank Website:

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