Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Mon Dec 6 16:06:05 MST 1999

Gary writes:

>Hi George,
>I have been deluded here with people asking me what will happen?

I hope you mean deluged, Gary!

>Do I
>support the peace deal, etc? I agree and disagree with what you have
>said.  The war has ended through the exhaustion of the people.

I think it is true that people in the north are exhausted, but an important
part of the reason for that exhaustion is the inability of the republican
leadership to develop a revolutionary politics which could really bring the
South into the ballgame.

Of course, the British left and British labour movement bear a good deal of
the responsibility as well since, by and large, they left the northern
Irish nationalists to fight alone against the British state.

One of the saddest things for me is to see people who 'fought the good
fight' and suffered mightily for it, and who even opposed the whole drift
of the republican leadership in this direction, but who have ended up
capitulating because they can see no alternative.  My dearest friend in
Ireland, Rose Dugdale, is one of these.  Rose fought tooth and nail against
the pan-nationalist perspective (SF co-general secretary at the time) Tom
Hartley theorised in the late 1980s.  As a result she had a rumour campaign
begun against her, was squeezed off the leadership, and eventually
basically forced out of the movement as the powers-that-be fused our cumann
(local branch) with a pro-Hartley cumann, totally against our will.  This
finished off Rose, and most of our cumann then dropped out.

Since she is still wanted in the north and Britain, she is stuck living in
the South and the only way she can see to play any role in politics there
is through realigning with SF and saying the GFA is OK.  It is horrible.
We still keep in touch regularly, but it is not the same person I am
talking to anymore.

>It is as
>you say an acceptance of partition by the republicans.  Still the dialectic
>never dies.  To have a Martin McGuinness as Minister for Education is also
>a signal to the Orange Establishment that their time too is up.  I have
>been thinking hard here about what Phillip has said on this. Perhaps we are
>in a new era.  The struggle to unite Ulster on terms other than those
>provided by the British may be impossible, but is it any less difficult
>than the project of driving out the British by bombing Manchester?  I do
>not agree of course with these polarities but that is what the choice had
>come down to in the end.

I think you are dead right that this is the choice things had come down to
in the end.  And I guess that is the tragedy of republicanism over the past
three decades.

For a while it was different, or appeared that it could be different.  In
the late 70s and early 80s a lot of prisoners were studying Marxism, and it
seemed that the movement's day had come.  I remember being really excited
around 1984/85, before I went to Ireland, at the prospect of SF overtaking
the Stoop Down Low Party (SDLP, the bourgeois nationalist party in the
north for those not familiar with Irish politics) and the movement making
the transition from revolutionary nationalism to revolutionary socialism.

The fact that it didn't cured me for life of illusions in how far
spontaneous activity, even the most militant forms of it, lead to any
profound revolutionary politics.  (I should say here, in case anyone takes
this the wrong way, that I have no problem with spontaneous outbursts, they
are essential and inevitable, and can be great.  The point is that various
isms - Irish republicanism, feminism, etc etc do not have any inherent
logic that leads to socialism.  They can just as easily, and more likely in
fact,  lead back to capitalism with some new faces.)

The new settlement also is scarcely different from what the Brits offered
at Sunningdale in 1973.  So the republicans fought for another 22 years,
and a lot of people died and suffered greatly in other ways, for a deal
that the republicans, it turns out, could have accepted way back then.

Bernadette in a piece in the (Dublin weekly) Sunday Tribune back in 1993 (I
think it was 93, because I was still in Dublib when I read it) said that
any republican who accepted what was offered by the Brits through the GFA
would go down in history with complete ignominy.  Given what people like
Adams and McGuiness have gone through in their lives, it gives me no
satisfaction to think that is their fate, but for what they have done over
the past few years, I doubt history will be kind to them.  Bernadette
remains the light in a very dark situation, however.  She became my hero
when I was about ten years old and it's nice to see she is still unbuyable
by the Brits.


More information about the Marxism mailing list