marxism-digest V1 #1168

Tue Aug 3 01:11:09 MDT 1999


Isn't it just the case that p. bourgeois nationalist
movements don't have any consistent principles, so they play
a revolutionary role at some point and then a reactionary
one at some other point? Don't they just borrow whatever
ideological trappings suit them at a particular juncture?
Notice how the rhetoric of the ANC shifted from
anti-imperialism to effectively pro-imperialist at just the
moment of power. That is in the nature of these movements,
isn't it? To look for some 'essentially' progressive or
fascist nature in them is a waste of time. Far better to
understand what they're up to at any given moment. Because
nationalist movements do play a very progressive role at
crucial points in history, I think.


>>> Philip L Ferguson <PLF13 at> 08/03
3:57 AM >>>

>George: Of course "Catholic" workers were "confused" by the
old =
>politics. All bourgeois politics, whether in its petty
bourgeois form or =
>not, is designed to both delude and confuse the working
class --this is =
>the ideological aspect of its function. If this were not
the case then =
>there would exist a revolutionary communist movement within
the working =

Philip: You have not proven anything.  You simply assert
that a movement
whichfought imperiaism for decades, whose members were
tortured, jailed and
murdered in the hundreds by the imperilaists, was really
Your starting point is not even open to discussion as far as
you are
concerned.  Then you simply fit everything in, and where it
doesn't fit in
you argue that this just shows how deviously pro-imperialist

You are like those religious people who tried witches.
Since they believed
in witches, there was no way anyone could prove they weren't
a witch.

>George: You beg the question by assuming assume what you
have not =

Philip: George, I think here you are engaging in what is
known as

>George: The point is the Provos never abandoned their
anti-imperialist =
>struggle since they never engaged in such struggle in the
first place.

Well, if fighting throughout this century to rid Ireland of
imperialist rule is not 'anti-imperialist' clearly nothing

>George: The proof of the pudding is the eating: The Provos
overt =
>acceptance of Partition as legitimate (in the context of
the Good Friday =
>Agreement) and active enforcement of it by participating in
a six county =
>executive provides irrefutable evidence of the
pro-imperialist character =
>of Provo politics.

Philip: Like I said before, this is like arguing the Second
betrayal of the working class in 1914 shows that the Second
was always pro-imperialist and counter-revolutionary.

The real point is that the Second International and the
*degenerated* politically.  You seem to be incapable of
recognising that
any movement *evolves* over time, in either a positive or
direction.  You have instead an 'original sin' version of

Try checking out dialectics.  It explains how contraidctions
are what the
world, including political formations, are made of and how
contradictions work themselves out over time, creating
qualitatively new.

My argument is that the republicans were a revolutionary
movement, with all the contradictions that involves.  In a
specific (and
unfavourable) context those contradictions worked themselves
out in a
negative way, and the republican leadership have undergone a
transformation, away from revolutionary nationalism and
towards, indeed
pretty much into, mainstream or bourgeois nationalism.

>>Philip: But are you seriously suggesting the republicans
are fascists?
>George: I never suggested that the Provos are fascist.>

Philip: Not quite true.  You never said *outright* they
were, but you made
a number of comparisons which suggested strong similarities.
 Likening the
membership of the IRA to the membership of fascist
organisations is
scurrilous, extremely poor politics, and unlikely to assist
political project you are promoting.

>Philip: Are you now suggesting that the Provos are
comparable to Nazi =
>George: Your question makes no sense.

Philip: But you are the one who dragged Nazi Germany into
the discussion as
a comparison.

>>Philip:  This is getting onto fantasy territory.  However
unfortunate it
>>may be there were no other forces developing armed
struggle. =20
>George: This is because the Provos disarmed any elements in
the process
>of arming themselves. There were many cases of elements
within the
>"Catholic" masses arming themselves independently of the
Provos. They
>were in general disarmed by the Provos in one way or
another. The Provos
>sought to bring all arms under their control. They used the
ideology of
>nationalism to assist in their heavy handed actions to
achieve this. The
>Provos did not want any popular armed militia developing
that challenged
>their position. Apart form this to say that there were no
>developing armed struggle is to misrepresent the situation:
>anti-democratic conduct of the Provos made the emergence of
>democratic armed militia nigh impossible.

Philip: Part of what happened is that the people in local
communities who
got arms began to constitute IRA units.  The development of
the provos in
the early 1970s was quite ad hoc.

They never tried to stop other left-wing forces from arming
either: eg the
IRSP and even the original People's Democracy group which
experimented with
a bit of armed action.

>>Philip: The interests of the British and Irish bourgeoisie
were that =
>there be no armed struggle *at all*
>George: You misrepresent the substance of my posting, I
never denied =

Philip: I don't think so, George.  You said that the armed
struggle was
pro-imperialist and served British interests.  In that case,
it would be
reasonable for me to assume that the British would welcome
something in
their interests.  Or maybe the British ruling class suffered
consciousness' and did not realise the armed struggle was in
interests, and so foolishly decided to kill, wound, torture
and imprison
the republicans carrying it out.

>>Philip: The problem was not that the republicans acted as
tools of =
>>imperiaism, but
>>that the Movement, and its leaders, vastly underestimated
the scope of
>>struggle necessary to win. =20
>George: You entirely misunderstand the nature of politics.
The role of =
>any political organisation is not based on information,
knowledge or =
>education. It is based on  politics. The bourgeois Irish
Labour Party is =
>not a bourgeois party because it, say, lacks information,
knowledge or =
>education concerning the real nature of the class struggle.
It is a =
>bourgeois party by virtue of its politics and not because
of its level =
>of enlightenment. Its degree of ignorance is neither here
nor there.

Philip: Well, you cut my comments off in a rather important
place.  Because
I did say, they didn't understand the scope of what was
necessary because
*they were not Marxists*.  I did not say it was because they
knowledge, information or any such thing.  I said "because
they were not
Marxists".  That is entirely political.

But once again you have dragged in a faulty comparison.
Having in previous
emails made analogies with fascist groups and Nazi Germany,
you now make an
analogy between the republicans and the bourgeois Labour
Party.  This
doesn't work either.  Revolutionary nationalism in the
oppressed countries
is vastly superior and qualitatively different to bourgeois
Labourism.  It
is a distinction which Lenin and Trotsky were fully
cognisant of, but which
escapes you altogether.

Re: IRA membership/class membership:
>George: This workerist conception of politics. as expressed
above. is a
>leitmotif running through all your responses in connection
with Karl
>Carlile's piece on the Provos.

Philip: Class membership is actually extremely important and
not at all a
'workerist conception'.  The Bolsheviks were vitally
concerned about the
class nature of their membership and supporters.  It was a
mark of great
importance (and pride) to Lenin that the Bolshie paper was
read and
supported by industrial workers in St Petersburg, while the
Menshie paper
was read by more privileged elements.

When WW1 broke out, the Bolshies decided to orient deeper
into the working
class to be able to withstand the pressures of pro-war
sentiment which were
gripping the middle class and the less disadvantaged

If you imagine that a gorup of middle class people is going
to make the
revolution, you will be waiting a long time.  Class
membership and
political programme *both* have to be proletarian.

Take a look at what Marx wrote about the Fenians.  He
regarded the fact
that they were a 'lower orders movement' as extremely
significant.  In fact
he said this was why they had a 'socialistic tendency'.  In
other words he
explained a crucial aspect of their politics, its
socialistic tendency, by
their class composition as a'lower orders movement'.  Their
class nature
propelled them in a certain political direction!  But maybe
Marx was just a
poor old workerist for having this view!

>George:  "Workers and bbs have some common interests and
some opposed
>interests." >What a profundity! Imperialists and workers
"have common
>interests and =
>some opposed interests" too. So what!

Philip: No, George, workers and imperialists do not have
"some common
interests".  They have no common interests, in the Marxist

>George: It is also a conception that elevates the =
>tactic of  entryism to a principle and philosophy. On one
day it may be =
>entry into the Provos on another, entry into the Labour

Philip: Where on earth does 'entryism' come in?  I am not,
nor have I ever
been, in favour of 'entryism' into the Provos.  I didn't
join SF as an
entryist, and anyone who did deserved to get biffed out on
their ear.

I also do not support entryism into bourgeois-liberal
parties like British
Labour (or NZ Labour).  I wouldn't even vote for the

>George: "The issue was which class position was going to
dominate, as
>workers =
>and pbs have some common interests and some opposed
interests." The =
>class position that "was going to dominate" is the class
position that =
>had been "dominating" --the class interests of the

Philip:  Grief!  Just how big and powerful do you think the
bourgeoisie is?  They had their hands full with Fine Gael
and Fianna Fail
(and Irish Labour) representing their interests.  They are a
only a small,
weak neo-colonial bourgeoisie.  They didn't have the Provos
rounded up and
representing their interests as well!

The Provos represent the interests of those sectors who lost
out by the
settlement of 1921: the northern nationalist masses, the
working class in
the south, and some sections of the petty-bourgeoisie.  No
sections of the

>George: conclude, as you do, that because there exist
within a political =
>organisation petty bourgeois and workers there will also
exist two =
>corresponding class positions  misrepresents the entire
nature of class =
>politics and is an absurdly workerist illusion.

Philip: Actually my view is the complete opposite of a
illusion", which is part of what you suffer.

To imagine that radical political formations in oppressed
nations, in which
a mass of underdeveloped classes and forms of consciousness
exist due to
the underdevelopment of capitalist social relations and
modern industry,
represent ONE class alone and are not riven by the same
contradictions to
be found across such societies, is an incredible workerist
illusion of the
worst sort.  It is banal and one-sided almost beyond belief.
 And it is
totally alien to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky who
recognised clearly
that revolutionary nationalist (and even less than
nationalist) movements contained different class interests.

It seems hard to believe that this has to be explained to

>George:The logic of this is =
>that if in the Tory Part there obtain elements from, say,
three =
>different "classes" there will feature in that Party three
different =
>class positions. No!

Philip: Sometimes when I think we are at least living on the
same planet,
you come out with something like this.

George, the point of analogies is to compare like with like,
or as close to
like as possible.  You don't undertsand Marx and Lenin's
view on
revolutionary nationalism, so when you make analogies
between the Provos
and others you end up using fascist groups, Nazi Germany and
the Tory party
to make your comparisons!

The Tory party represents the interests of the British
capitlaist class.
Britain is a highly developed imperialist power in which
contradictions have been simplified by the development of
namely, it is a straight capitalists vs workers situation.

You need to understand the difference between an imperialist
power and an
oppressed (and thus capitlaistically underdeveloped) nation.

>George: The reason workers join the Provos is because they
>are dominated by the political consciousness of the Provos
and thereby
>share their politics --petty bourgeois consciousness.

Phil: The reason workers joined the Provos was to fight for
their freedom.

>>Phil: Very few, if any, such shopkeepers in the republican
movement or =
>>its leadership, I'm afraid, George!  But maybe they picked
up the shopkeeper
>>mentality from shopping and chin-wagging at the corner
>George: Trivia, such as are the above (should I even call
them that) =
>comments, is no substitute for argument.=20

Phil: George, you are the one who dragged in shopkeepers as
a way of
describing the republican movement's politics.  I merely
pointed out the
silliness of your argument by developing it further.

>>Phil: No, my petard is currently definitely unhoisted
>George: Oh how funny you are Philip!

Philip: Thanks.

>>Philip: There is no contradiction at all in my saying the
republicans =
>>were anti-imperialist but did not have the politics to
carry through the

>George: One might just as much say that the Fine Gael Party
>anti-imperialist but does not have the politics to carry
through the

Philip: This too is nonsensical.  Fine Gael was formed in
1935 by a fusion
of the fascists, the old pro-Treaty party (Cumann na
nGaedheal) and the big
farmers' party.  It would make no sense at all to say they
are or were ever

SF/IRA is what Marx called a 'lower orders' movement which
imperialism throughout this century.

That you cannot distinguish between these two rather obvious
opposite poles
shows. . . .well, it is almost not worth continuing the

>>Philip: Revolutionary nationalist forces are always
confronted with the =
>>forward to revolutionary socialism or backward to
bourgeois nationalism.
>George: I disagree. There is no evidence to support the
above abstract
>subjective interpretation of the petty bourgeois politics
(what you
>call "revolutionary nationalists") of the Provos (Sinn

Philip: George, the 'abstract subjective interpretation' is
yours.  You
don't like the Provos, so you declare them 'pro-imperilaist'
against all
the evidence that they are anti-imperilaist fighters (or
were for most of
their existence).

It also amuses me the way you say stuff like  "what you call
nationalists'".  As I have pointed out before, this is what
the Bolshies
called them.

>Philip: The job of communists was to link up with the
revolutionary =
>nationalists, to support them including materially, and
seek to win them
>by >argument and example to further political development.
>George: Clearly the above job description of communists is
incorrect. It
>is not revolutionary communists job to assist the Provos to
pursue their
>petty bourgeois pro-imperialists politics --their
anti-working class

Philip: I said "was" and I was clearly talking about the
communist response
to revolutionary nationalists in general, as I had just
outlined Lenin's

I also made it quite clear that the job involves developing
the *strengths*
of revolutionary nationalism and helping revolutionary
nationalists make
the jump to revolutionary socialism.  Nothing at all about
the *weaker* sides of revolutionary nationalism.  Of course,
the weaker
sides of revolutionary nationalism are not 'pro-imperialist'
'anti-working class' anyway; those are attributes of
mainstream bourgeois

>>Philip: If you want to just sit on the sidelines
dismissing everything =
>>that moves no matter how radical it is and how gallantly
it might be fighting
>>imperialism, then stick to your current arguments. =20
>George: The above constitutes a gross misrepresentation of
the substance =
>of the common conception of Karl's and mine. Distortion and
slander is =
>never a valid substitute for correct politics and argument.

Philip: I find this an odd objection.  You make analogies
about the
republicans using the Tories, nazi Germany and fascist
groups, declare
Ireland's leading anti-imperialists to be 'pro-imperilaist
and anti-working
class' and then you take major offence when I suggest your
standpoint is
suitable only for sideline commentators.

>>>George: The Provos never "fought imperialism to a
>>Phil: Tell that to the imperialists!
>George: No! I dont think I will.

Philip: Oh, go on, be a sport!  The po-faced British
imperialists could do
with a laugh and would be amused by your naive declarations
that the
republicans have really been fighting for their interests.

>>Phil: And there is a rather massive difference between a
>>politics having "an inherent limiting character" and being
>>pro-imperilaist and serving the interests of imperialism.
>George: You know, there isn't really.

Philip: You know what, O Yes There Is.

Syndicalism, for instance, had an inherent limiting
character as well, but
that didn't make syndicalism a counter-revolutionary force
serving the
interests of imperialism.  The most left-wing syndicalists
were genuine
working class militants who wanted to make a revolution.

>>Philip: Because your analysis of Irish republicanism is so
poor you will =
>>find that it makes no impression on the large numbers of
>>fighters who >>are open to Marxist critiques of the
limitations of
>>republicanism and how =
>>these limitations have become the chief factor in
republicanism now and
>>make a
>>break with republicanism a vital necessity.

>George: You know, its not really poor at all.

Philip: You know what, Oh Yes It Is.

But warm regards to you anyway.

And good luck with building a mass revolutionary movement in


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