Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Sat Nov 25 21:52:15 MST 2000

Danielle wrote, in response to Mac's question about why a resumption of
armed struggle would not be helpful:

>Thirty years of armed struggle delivered the Good Friday Agreement (or the
>Get Fucked Agreement as some people I know call it).
>Will a few more loud bangs put an end to British occupation?  Is the
>Nationalist working class of the Six Counties, who traditionally supported
>the armed struggle, in support of its continuation?  To both questions, the
>answer is in the negative.
>And if there was any support for it, the Real IRA's Omagh blunder put a
>stake in it.

I generally agree with this.  I think it is a *bit* overboard to say that
all 30 years of armed struggle led to was GFA.  In fact it did help force
the Brits to the table and make the old form of rule in the north
unsustainable.  So, I think we should keep that in mind.

The problem was the lack of a broader political struggle - in particular
one which could unite people across the border.  As long as the South was
quiescent and the national question was really confined to the six
counties, there was never a hope in Hades of winning.

To build a 32-county struggle really required a socialist programme.  This
was the argument of the left-wing of SF during the debate over the way
forward in the late 80s/early 90s.  Tom Hartley argued that pan-nationalism
could provide a broader basis for the struggle, which meant forgetting two
centuries of republican history.  This history had clearly shown that there
was no basis for a cross-class 'pan-nationalist' struggle and, indeed,
republicans had rejected such a conception for two centuries.  That the
pan-nationalist persepctive was adopted was an indication of the political
retreat/degeneration of the dominant elements of the leadership.  Wolfe
Tone's two-centuries old politics (based on the people of no property and
complete separation of Ireland from Britain) were better in the 1990s than
Adams/Hartley et al.

>What I believe is needed is a cessation of the armed struggle while
>strategies are rethought and support is rebuilt on the ground.  What's the
>point if we just repeat past mistakes and have little support?

By the early 1990s, there was no point in the armed struggle.  In fact,
although there were some brilliant operations which I totally suporrted (eg
the bomb in central London which caused 2 billion quids worth of damage and
never killed any civilians) I think it was criminally irresponsible of the
leadership to keep the armed struggle going when all they were using it for
was to strengthen their *personal positions*.  They were prepared to risk
the lives of Volunteers and of civilians all just in order to get
*themselves* a place at the top table, and a few positons helping
administer partition capitalism.

The problem with the groups who have kept going with armed actions is that,
as Danielle notes, none of them really represent anything.  Her
organisation's military wing was quite right to declare a ceasefire of
their own.  On fact, their ceasefire was a kind of model of what the IRA
could have done.  The INLA simply declared a ceasefire, without signing any
pacts and making any compromises with the Brits.

In the past, the IRA had done this as well.  In the early 1920s the IRA
gave up armed struggle against the southern state and simply dumped arms.
They didn't buy their way into administering the southern state.  In the
early 1940s, the IRA  ended another period of armed struggle, without in
any way compromising their position.  In the early 1960s, at the end of the
border campaign, the IRA also stopped fighting, without giving anything

SF/IRA in the early 90s could have simply ceased armed operations - ie put
them on hold for the indefinite future - protected their arms dumps,
continued to recruit and train militarily, but put their organising focus
on unarmed political organising.

Philip Ferguson

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