Irish Stalinists

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Tue Nov 7 20:42:46 MST 2000

Brian Cahill writes:

>I think you are offering a somewhat distorted picture of what happened. The
>"Republican Movement" shifted to the left in the 1960s after the abject
>failure of the abortive Border Campaign. The CPs certainly played some role
>in influencing its political direction, but the primary stimulus was a
>realisation that almost nobody supported their 1950s "armed struggle"
>(otherwise known as a strategy of individual terrorism).

It's funny how often this claim is made.  In fact, the year after the
border campaign commenced, SF won four seats in the southern elections.
When Fearghal O'Hanlon and another IRA volunteer were killed in one of the
attacks on a British barracks there was a huge outpouring of grief and
solidarity in the South, involving hundreds of thousands of people.

Please show me how the 'superior' tactics of Irish Trots have led to
anything like this kind of mass support!

Also, putting quote marks around armed struggle and referring to it as
individual terrorism simply shows you have a lot to learn about
revolutionary struggles.

>This in turn led
>to the IRA and their supporting milieu putting their weight behind the
>Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights Movement, as we all know, changed
>everything in the North.
>The Provo\Official split was not the simple result of CPI influence over
>the Republican leadership.

Brian, you will note the subject header is 'Irish Stalinists', so I was
looking *purely* at the role of Irish Stalinists, including in the
Provo/Official split.  I was *clearly* not pretending to put forward any
kind of exhaustive analysis of *all* the factors in the split.

>At the time of the split both factions had uncompromisingly anti-British
>attitudes. Both were waging campaigns of bombings and assassinations.

Well, that's what the British imperialists said about them.

The oppressed masses in the north, however, flocked to join both the
Officials and, especially, the Provos because they were defending the
nationalist ghettoes and trying to go on the offensive against the Brits.

Actually both the Officials and the Provos were involved in non-armed forms
of political struggle as well.

>Officials, however, regarded the Provos as little more than a bunch of
>sectarian killers. In that they were wrong. The Provisionals were and
>remain a much more complex beast than that. But that their fundamental long
>term strategy has been to unite all Catholics regardless of class and to,
>at best, ignore the Protestant working class cannot be doubted.

Well, that would explain why the programme of the Provos was for a
'Democratic Socialist Republic' and why, for years, they concentrated on
working class areas and fought tooth and nail against the Catholic
bourgeoisie.  While the Trot bases were in the universities, the Provo
bases were in impoverished working class ghettos, north and south, so give
me a break about the multiclass nature of the Provos and the proletarian
credentials of the Trots!

Your claim that the Provos 'ignored' the Protestant working class and that
this 'cannot be doubted', is yet another piece of your post that sounds
like it is written in a Fleet Street press office.

To the contrary, for a long period of time, the Provos were vitally
interested in the Protestant working class.  They believed, however, that
it was necessary to force the Brits out in order to achieve the unity of
the working class of Ireland since partition was the key instrument in
dividing the class.

The more economistic elements of the Trot left dwelt on some other rarefied
planet where they believed working class unity would come first, around
'bread and butter' issues, and this would somehow metamorphosise into
anti-imperialism.  Those elements of the Trot left who actually had some
involvement in revolutionary/mass struggle - eg People's Democracy - tended
to have a much better analysis of the national question.

Of course, your own tendency, the IST, had such a wonderful position on
Ireland that your British party's most publicly well-known leader, Paul
Foot, wrote a book in which he gave helpful advice to the British ruling
class that the best way of beating the IRA was withdrawing the troops!  The
book created outrage among the more revolutionary-minded elements of the
Irish SWM, especially in Derry, like Eamonn McCann, who wrote an irate
letter to the British SWP repudiating this obnoxious, reactionary approach.

In my earlier posts I actually went easy on the British SWP and only took
swipes at the NLR and Militant for downplaying the importance of the Irish
national liberation struggle.  But, given the absolutely shoddy record of
the British SWP, which even supported the troops going in in the first
place (!!!) and did sweet bugger all to get them out over the next 25
years, it ill-behoves you to pop up with a
more-revolutionary-than-the-Provos act here.

I also recall that the Irish SWM argued that the South of Ireland was no
longer a neo-colony!  And, in the whole course of the struggle, when part
of Ireland was under occupation by an imperialist army, the revolutionary
heroes of the SWM never managed to throw so much as a small stone (a la
Edward Said in Paletsine) at the occupying forces.  Of course,
anti-imperialism was never one of the IST's strong points, was it?

Slan anois,

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