marxism-digest V1 #3206

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Tue Feb 13 22:01:08 MST 2001

>> I can imagine that of Caoimhin.  He's probably quite good as a local
>> councillor, arguing for improved roads in Monaghan but he certainly
>> the sharpest knife among their southern candidates for Leinster House.

>The man is a cretin. You get used to Sinn Feiners turning up to a
>demonstration or picket for fifteen minutes, rushing out front with their
>little placards (half of which are always about the RUC - regardless of the
>purpose of the demonstration), jumping in front of any cameras and then
>leaving as soon as the press go. That just amuses me.

This sounds extremely unlike Sinn Fein!  The average SFer would have stood
on picket lines longer than anyone else in Ireland.

>O'Caolain though,
>makes my hackles rise. I can't recall him saying one useful thing since he
>was elected, not one. I'd suggest to Sinn Fein that they get Sean Crowe a
>mask and pull a switch, but Crowe managed to disgrace himself recently too
>by giving out about travellers in Tallaght.

I can believe that Caoimhin is not a great asset in Leinster House.

I'm surprised at Jack Crowe.  Also, SF used to have the formal party
position of always siding with travellers, even where the settled community
was against them (a position I didn't entirely agree with, by the way).  So
they must have changed views on the traveller issue too.

>  Now that the war has been packed
>> away, Adams can actually appear as some kind of Nelson Mandela figure
>> (which, indeed, he is).  The southern masses have always been quite
>> anti-British imperialism, and SF is the party with the street cred on the
>> issue.  With the war over and the anti-republican censorship in the South
>> lifted, I would think that the northern leaders are a huge asset to SF in
>> the South.  In fact, I think Adams could win a seat in Leinster House.
>I suspect you'd think wrong - he'd have no local base :-)

>More seriously, the Northerners aren't always an asset. They paticularly
>hurt SF when it comes to lower preference votes. They don't get any
>transfers worth speaking of - and that's a result of the North and its
>corrolorary, the 30 year propaganda campaign in the South.

I would think that no politician in the South could attract as many people
to a meeting there as Adams.

Because he is seen as the person who both stood up to the Brits and brought
peace, he has a gravitas, including in the South, that few southern
politicians would have.  His politics these days may be crap, but then so
are Nelson Mandela's, but Mandela is still immensely popular in South

>> I noticed recently, that there was a poll among teenagers or high school
>> students and SF ranked the second most popular party (behind FF).
>You will note that none of those people have the vote. Seriously. SFs
>support is rising, but they will have to be patient about seat gains. And
>to be fair to them they're being cautious. They understand the
>demoralisation which could result from over optimistic predicitons. I stand
>by my predictions - one to five seats, most likely two. I could be badly
>wrong though - STV is a very difficult system to predict.

But these students will have a vote at the next election or the one after.
Adams is still only in his early 50s, and has a good ten years in
mainstream politics left, as do the other central leaders - or more in many

I tend to think that SF is the Irish version of the Third Way.  Which also
puts them in good stead to making substantial gains in the South.

>> Of course, they would then be faced with forming a coalition with FF.
>> Hopefully, this would be the last straw for whatever remains of a left
>> within SF/IRA.
>There's no doubt that a coalition with FF is the plan.

I agree with you that such a coalition would be bad news for the masses.

But I think you must apppreciate it if I take this criticism coming from
the Socilaist Party with a grain of salt.  After all, you guys were deep
entryists in a party (Labour) that was in coalition with Fine Gael and that
carried out some of the worst repression against the republican movement
and civil liberties in general.  You'd probably still be there, except
Spring started throwing you out.

So, although I would agree politically more with you than with where the SF
leadership is these days, I don't think the SP record is anything to
compare with a national liberation movement which fought an incredibly
difficult struggle for 30 years while the SP, at that time the Militant
Tendency, was safely ensconced in the Irish Labour Party, well away from
anything dangerous, and doing nothing to challenge the LP's collaboration
with British imperialism.

I've a lot more respect for Adams' past than that of Peter Taaffe and his
Irish followers.

Which may be why we got into a ruck on the list some time back. . .

>> Nicky always struck me (I only knew him slightly in the late 80s/early
>> as a man with an eye for getting on for himself.

>I only know him by reputation, so I was astonished to hear that he is now
>on the Fine Gael fringes.

Doesn't surprise me at all.  I'm not sure what Nicky's 'reputation' was,
but basically he got bashed up and fitted up by a government of Fine Gael
and your old Labour Party.  Did seven years or so for a crime he didn't do.
When he got out, he could have used his name and contacts to hhelp advance
the radical cause in Ireland or, if he'd just had enough, he could have
walked away from politics and retired.  Either choice wuld have been

Instead he decided to turn his 'fame' into a career move, attaching himself
to people like the Guildford 4 and Birmingham 6, and helping steer them
away from any kind of association with republicanism.  He was all over Paul
Hill like a hot rash, and an obstacle to getting people like Hill to
denounce extradition.  He got in with the religious crowd around the
'justice' commission run by the bishops, people who were determined as hell
that British 'miscarriages of justice' (ie deliberate British frame-ups)
would not be politicised and certainly not be in any way associated with
the national question.

I remember being shocked to also find out that Nicky had a whole big
personal contact list that he kept to himself, that would have been useful
to various campaigns, like the camp[aign against extradition, and that he
used to do paid speaking engagements along the lines of 'An Evening With
Nicky Kelly' at convents or whatever the places are called that the priests
hang out in.  I gathered that these were quite remunerative.
Again, none of the contacts from this stuff, were ever given to people who
really needed them - campaigns for people who were *still* in jail and
doing much longer stretches than Nicky.

My closest friend in Ireland was Rose Dugdale.  Rose lost everything she
had (which was quite a lot, she was an English heiress and had worked for
the IKLO in Geneva, taught university in the States etc) when she threw in
her lot with the struggle.  When she was captured, she was several months
pregnant and had a hell of a time in prison in Limerick's Women's Prison -
she still has a scar from a bashing from warders.  When she came out of
jail, she was straight back into the struggle - living on the smell of an
oily rag, ciagrettes and coffee, in a one-bedroom terraced 'house' in the
Liberties, which no front or back yard, shared with her son and a huge
Alsatian, continuously harassed by the cops etc etc etc.  She was still
wanted in the North and England, so couldn't leave the South.  She was
totally disinherited and disowned by her family.  She was probably the most
(in)famous female republican in the South for years.  She was fairly
shabbiuly treated in the Movement, and always suspected of being 'too
left-wing'.  She could have written an autobiography and made a packet,
especially if she had've left the Movement.  She could have found her way
back to bourgeois respectability and turned her revoltuionary years to
personal advantage.  Instead she laboured on.  I always compared Nicky
Kelly to her in my mind, and so I never had much time for the man.

>> I don't think SFers are actually interested in ministerial cars.
>Not the present leadership, but certainly a layer of newer people are. That
>wasn't what I was getting at though - I meant the opportunity to take part
>in a right wing government, not the actual cars and salaries. Sloppy
>phrasing on my part.

An incoming FF government would be no more right-wing, in fact lless so,
than various governments the LP took part in when you guys were in the LP.
If any of you had've got elected as Labour TDs, you would have been fully
part of it.

FF is 'right wing' in the sense only that it is a mainstream capitalist
party.  For much of its existence, its programme was probably to the left
of Labour.  Basically it occupied the political ground that a LP would have
if the Irish Labour Party hadn't have been so pro-imperialist politically
and right-wing economically.

I always was amused when Irish Trotskyists frothed over Fianna Fail and
then called for a vote for Labour.  Most workers, even most trade
unionists, voted FF because Labour was so bloody awful.

Don't get me wrong - I hate Fianna Fail, I'd love to see them burn in hell
if there was such a place.  But I'd throw an LPer into the fiery pit for
every FFer.

>> The problem was always that revolutioary nationalism was an unstable form
>> of politics.  It was a good starting point, but unless revoluionary
>> nationalists progressed to revoolutionary socialism, they were going to
>>go  backwards to bourgeois nationalism.
>> The critical period in SF/IRA was the late 80s/early 90s, when the
>> Hartley 'pan-nationalist alliance' position won out over the left-wing of
>> republicanism.

>Here we are re-entering more difficult territory. As I recall, it was about
>this point that we recently broke off a squabble about the republican
>While I'm not sure if I want to get back into the broader issue here, can I
>clear something up? Do you rate this change in the RM as a consequence of
>the 1986 split?

Splits in the Movement were always odd, which is connected to the way the
national question works.  In the 1969/70 spl;it the Officials appeared to
the left, they were the ones talkng abut socialism etc etc.  But they
quickly degenerated into Stalinism and open support for imperialism.  The
supposedly 'right-wing' Provos emerged as the anti-imperialists and got
very interested in socialism and Marxism.

The 1986 split was a bit similar.  The people who followed Ruairi O
Bradaigh out were more rural than urban, more socially conservative than
the people who stayed.  For instamce, some of the most virulent
anti-abortion people sided with O Bradaigh.  Some of them were probably
even anti-divorce, although O Bradaigh himself was and is reasonably
progressive on social issues.  But, generally, it appeared that the layer
that left with O Bradaigh was a socially conservative, rural Catholic rump.
Yet, O Bradaigh was the only SF leader I ever heard articulate the
centrality of dual power to the struggle for a revolution in Ireland.  It
wasn't just rhetorical either - it was in the context of a specific
political argument, I think the year before his actual walk out, where he
didn't need to articulate that viewpoint, but did because he actually
believed it.

If the O Bradaigh wing had've stayed I think it would have been more
difficult for Adams et al to sell out, but it would also have been more
difficult for SF to do even the very limited stuff it did on certain social

Once they were gone, it was easier for Adams et al.  But they wouldn't have
been decisive.  The real opposition to Adams came from people who were to
the left of the Adams cabal on *everything*, not from the O Bradaigh forces
who were more determined than Adams in relation to the war but to the right
of him on a lot of other stuff.

After the 1986 split, I would say that the views represented by Tom Hartley
were the right-wing of SF/IRA, and Adams was more in the middle.  But
leaning toward Hartley.  Hartkey used to write in 'An Phoblacht/Republican
News' under the name Hilda MacThomais, and I never really understoood how
imprtant he was in the scheme of things until they made him joint general
secretary with Lucilita Breatnach.  Lucilita was a good working class
fighter, she'd been a cleaner at Trintity Colege and heavily involved in a
cleaners' struggle there, but she was basically 100 percent loyal to the
Movement and that meant whoever was running things in the north.  So when
she became general secretary, the real power was still in the north.  And
the northern leadership had very little understanding of southern realities
and a kind of schizophrenic view of the Southern state - on the one hand
they totally refused to recognise it and denounced it as an
imperilaist-imposed neo-colonial state (dead right) but at the same time
the other side of their brain treated it like some kind of liberated
territory whose political parties really would like to 'do the right thing'
by the northern nationalists'.  It was Hartley rather than Adams who most
clearly articulated this viewpoint.

When the debate broke out between Hartley's pan-nationalist broad front
position, which drew sustenance from the ANC and PLO evolution, - Hartley
had even rushed out a press statement welcoming the formation of a
'Palestinian state' on the West Bank and Gaza Strip! - and a Connollyist
position, developed basically by Jim Monaghan (former OC of republican POWs
in Portlaoise) and Rose Dugdale, the response to Jim and Rose's paper was
hysterical.  They were denounced for 'downplaying' the national question
and there was a great venting of rage.  At the internal conference, a
number of northerners were literally screaming.  Unfortunately, this served
to intimidate some of the more left people in the South, although not Jim
and Rose themselves.  There was then a whispering campaign that they were
against the armed struggle, which was a hoot given their staunchness on the
issue and that it was the cumann they bleonged to which was responsible for
the SF party plicy that all candidates to public office had to publicly
state support for the armed struggle - and people like Adams and hartley
wanted to get rid of that policy.  Fairly soon, Jim and Rose were pushed ut
of the leadership and isolated and that was that.  A lot of people who had
gotten interested in Marxism while in jail drifted away, especially in the
north.  Siome of them are probably now associated with 'Forthwrite' and the
Irish Writers Group.  Others just went along with things, figuring it was
better to get some kind of deal than pass on another 30 years of bloodshed
and repression to their kids.

>> But, tell me abut McGuiness and the term time workers in the north.
>That one is a simpler story.

(Snip details).

I wrote a few things in which I said all this would happen as SF would be
part and parcel of administering capitalism in the north.  I wrote it in
the Irish solidarity journal here, and the response of one leader of SF was
that I should have my head ripped off my shoulders.  So I can well believe
McGuiness went spare over the SP's campaign.

Tragic really.  McGuiness was a working class kid in his teens who played a
leading role in organising the defence of the Bogside and by his early 20s
was a leader of the IRA.  Now he's just another grubby six-county
politician, like the whole string of those whom he used to despise and
fight against.

>It was quite funny when the idea of banning foriegn donations was
>mentioned. The establishment parties didn't even bother pretending that
>such a law would be for any purpose other than separating Sinn Fein from
>their American loot. They now recieve more cash in donations than any other
>party in the Southern state - including Fianna Fail last year.

That is amusing.  It must really piss off the establishment parties.  After
all mthere they have been for decades doing imperilaism's dirty work and
the bloody peopple they were suppressing yesterday are now the recipients
of imperialist largesse.

And clever old imperialism.  They always make sure, at some point, they
have two horses running in the race.


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