Ireland and strategy

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Mon Nov 18 17:52:21 MST 2002

I wrote (re debate on strategy in SF/IRA in late 80s/early 90s):
> "two completely divergent lines were posed: one was that the Provos
> needed to consciously adopt a Connolly-type perspective, welding together
> the socio-economic and national questions on a 32-county basis, the other
> was that the Provos needed to embrace 'pan-nationalism' and try to unite all
> nationalists in Ireland, across class lines, to 'convince' the Brits to
> withdraw and 'convince' the brits to 'convince' the Unionists of the
> benefits of a united Ireland."

> This is precisely our difference. You do not appreciate the need for
> coalition work with 'impure' elements in advancing the struggle for national
> liberation. In effect, you want everyone struggling for a 32 County
> Democratic Socialist republic to gang together and try to establish it all
> on their own. That's just a recipe for disaster - it's like something the
> SWP would advance - a 'vanguard' with the right programme waiting for time
> and the working-class to sweep behind them. A truly pitiful strategy - in
> fact, the Brits would love it.

You're conflating two quite different things here Donal and need to pay
more attention to what I actually write.

I am in favour of uniting *socialist republicans* in Ireland into a
Marxist-Connollyist kind of party, which I also favour having an armed
wing.  At the same time I favour working with all kinds of people around
limited objectives.  I might also point out that it was precisely people
like Bernadette and also the IRSP (esp Costello and his proposals for an
anti-imperialist front) who were arguing this when the Provos would work
with no-one unless they supported the IRA and everything it did.  So
lectures in working with other people are a bit rich.

For myself, I have *never* opposed working with non-socialist
republicans.  In fact, in that very email, I describe non-socialist
republicans as part of the (lower case) republican movement.  In my time
in SF I continually worked with non-socialist republicans and even with
nationalists who weren't totally republican.  One of my main areas of
work was the anti-extradition campaign, which I had the main
responsibility for, as a full-timer, on a day-to-day basis for several
years.  In that I worked with various individuals who were in Fianna
Fail, retired senior Free State army officers (a bunch of whom strongly
opposed extradition and continually allowed us - the anti-extradition
campaign - to use their names) and even 1960s ex-Free State cabinet
ministers like Kevin Boland.  In fact, on a personal level, I even quite
liked Kevin Boland.  Once, and he was well into his 70s, he even drove
Martha Ellis and myself from Dublin to Waterford and back, all in one
evening.  (He also put up 10,000 quid bail for one of the comrades
facing extradition, who then did a runner.)

None of these people were socialists and some of them probably had some
very conservative views on various social issues as well, but they were
all genuinely opposed to extradition and prepared to take action in
relation to it.  Stopping extradition would have significantly helped
the struggle, not just militarily (where I don't think it made all that
much difference), but mainly politically as it would have put a big hole
in the criminalisation campaign.  By doing this it would have been a
small but real step forward for national liberation and thus for the
struggle for socialism.

So please desist from these ridiculous caricatures of my political positions.

The point is that *you work with whoever can be worked with* around
*limited issues* which *help advance the struggle*.  But *the struggle
itself* has to be *aimed at the goal of a 32-county socialist republic*,
and *not* limited to a bourgeois-nationalist solution which is what the
leadership of SF/IRA has opted for.

In your previous email you also caricatured my position as being for a
one-step instant socialism.  Of course, I have never said anything like
this.  The key is a revolutionary struggle for power - how quickly or
how slowly socialism then comes about depends on a whole host of
factors, ranging from the consciousness of the masses, the
socio-economic development of the country, the response of the
imperialists etc etc.

It is this revolutionary struggle that has been abandoned.  It has been
sold off in exchange for a few seats at the master's table and the
welcome mat in Washington DC.  In turn, the master will demand a high
price for allowing Adams and co. a place at the table.  The price will
be the entire demobilisation of the movement, the renunciation of all
revolutionary politics and the conversion of the movement (most
especially, its leadership) into a new, modernising capitalist
management team.  And when the IRA is disbanded and Provos are sitting
on the police boards and in the corridors of power, showing their
'fiscal responsibility' by closing hospitals and cutting social services
and their 'political responsibility' by supporting the state suppression
of left dissidents, you will be still be telling us that it is all just
a clever way to bring about the socialist republic.

I think I'll stick with Connolly and Bernadette.  And Costello.

Tiocfaidh ar la,

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