Final words etc

mmcdon mmcdon at
Wed Aug 9 11:50:25 MDT 2000

> From: Gary MacLennan <g.maclennan at>
> To: marxism at

> Dear Mr. Cahill keep the 'meas'.  I do not want it.

Do you think, in retrospect, that you might have been being a little bit
childish with this bit?

> If you  believe that the Loyalist Death Squads were autonomous then you
> quite simply naive.

I believe that calling Loyalist killers "death squads" is innaccurate and
misleading, portraying them as mere proxies of the British security forces.
The Loyalist paramilitary organisations were many times larger than the
Republican ones (at some stages, during the peak of the UDA, perhaps dozens
of times larger). They were (and indeed are) organised on a much looser
basis. Most "operations" involved little planning. Of the 600 - 700 murders
carried out by the various Loyalist groups, drink and local sectarianism
were responsible for many more than any kind of orders from the British.

The UDA, UVF et al were a spontaneous reaction on the part of a significant
section of working class Protestants to the events of the late 1960s and
early 1970s. They were not the creation of the British government, or of
the British security apparatus. They have been used by the British machine,
when convenient. They have sometimes been aided by that machine. But they
are not an integrated part of that machine. And no number of "An Phoblacht"
editorials will change that.

> Moreover your position on the IRA also flies in the face of facts.  No
> elite could fight the British Army alone for 30 years.  They had to have
> substantial links to a base.

The IRA did indeed have some support. A sizeable minority of the Catholic
minority. However the numbers of actual IRA volunteers at any one time have
been miniscule (at most stages in or around 600). They formed a tiny,
self-selecting, military elite, carrying out a campaign of individual
terrorism. Their tactics were not only incapable of removing the British
presence, they further polarised sectarianism on the ground. Understand
that this criticism, while undoubtedly harsh, is of their tactics rather
than of their desire to remove the British presence.

[snip peasantry as "doomed class", a separate issue to which I will return]

> But finally what I take objection to is your sneering denigration of the
> suffering of the  people of Northern Ireland in the struggle against
> British Imperialism.

A telling sentence. Most of "the people of Northern Ireland" were not
involved in a struggle against British Imperialism. As with many people
sympathetic to Provisional Republicanism, the Protestants simply disappear
from your analysis to make way for a near morality play featuring just a
section of the Catholic population versus their Imperial masters.

 Of course they were primarily Catholic but not
> exclusively so

Overwhelmingly so.

 and there's was never a confessional
> struggle.  Republicanism is non-sectarian.

This has the ring of an article of faith rather than an item of analysis.
The IRA carried out over 130 bluntly sectarian assassinations (mostly in
the period 1975-1976). Republicanism as some kind of ideal-category could
arguably be non-sectarian. Republicanism as it actually exists in Northern
Ireland could hardly be uninfluenced by the sectarian reality of life

Is mise le meas,
Brian Cahill

More information about the Marxism mailing list