SF Discussions

D OC donaloc at peterquinn.com
Tue Sep 3 06:56:17 MDT 2002

A chairde,

I anticipated that the last posting I made would get Phil into a state of
apoplexy but I feel he completely fails to understand the sort of
determination and thinking which characterises the movement. I posted that
speech because I want to demonstrate the nature of internal discussions over
the issue - as I said, I have some difficulties with the conclusions being
moved towards but I do not share Phil's fundamental difficulties.

Despite my respect for the IRSP - a foreign reader must be very clear that
there is a qualitative difference in it and SF. There is no alternative
arising from the existence of the IRSP - SF has a grouping in virtually
every village in the North and increasingly in virtually every town in the
Republic - the IRSP are nowhere near that stage and IMHO will never be. Many
criticise our politics for not being revolutionary enough - that is due to
two factors - a concrete assessment of where we stand and what we can do
(i.e. the primary question *what to do next*) and the nature of any large
party in Ireland today. It is simply not possible to build a mass party on
marxist doctrinal purity in Ireland at this stage - our focus on
reunification has contributed significantly to our growth and, where it is
in place, our educational programme helps to identify the links between
opposing imperialism and seeking national economic rights and greater

Whilst the arguments levelled by the IRSP are worthwhile as one assessment
of where we are at, the decisive battle for militant republicanism is
occuring within the Republican Movement. United Front calls are about as
likely to be successful as Phil's own efforts in New Zealand - a few hundred
votes here and there. In my own county, anti-GFA Republicans lost their only
council seat last year - they weren't even in the running and, for RSF, that
was their single strongest area in Ireland. The opposition is dying on its
feet - in fact, with time most Republicans are getting confidence back after
the one or two 'hiccups' - the situation in Belfast has concretised our
support-base and the SDLP are looking incredibly vulnerable right now. If
the Assembly falls or collapses after the next election and the Brits cut a
deal for 'Joint Authority' with the Dublin Government the impact on the
dissident support base will be dramatic - suffice it to say, they will all
but disappear.

To make my position on the article explicit, I do not have some
'fundamental' objection to going into coalition with Fianna Fáil in the
twenty-six counties - my objections is that it would be premature under the
specific organisation forms and strengths today. Phil's outright and
'fundamental' rejection of such tactics smacks of the sort of 'spontaneous
revolutionary posturing' you might expect from the SWP or the like. We have
to chart a path to 'state power' in a reunified Ireland - that is the
challenge - not some contest about who can have the most 'hard-core'
policies or even about who can have the most notches on the butt of a rifle.

For me, the issues which we need to focus on in the 'post-road map'
discussions are things like our organisational capacity to deliver optimal
results within any structures and the capacity of those structures to
withstand and contain our struggle. These are issues that every serious
organisation will have to address at some time and I am sure that our
movement will offer lessons given our position today - in the same way, we
must learn from lessons elsewhere, e.g. the Sandanistas, ANC and PLO.

The sort of thinking which encourages leading comrades discussing entry into
Governmental forms is precisely that generated through years of struggle
within prisons - it is the sense that 'we defeated the jail system now we
can defeat the State's Governmental apparatus'. Such thinking might make
some self-professed revolutionaries queezy but its the sort of bold step
necessary to seize power in our current situation - barring a massive
upsurge in militancy or a successful military-based insurgency. My primary
concern is that such thinking needs to be conditioned by a recognition of
the need to take steps to see this activism in a much broader sense with the
construction of broader democratic movements and structures. Such thinking,
I believe, is a pre-requisite to actually considering such bold steps as are
being discussed right now. Such a wide conception of our strategy will,
however, need a full and honest appraisal of where we are at and what it is
we are doing.

I actually believe that this thinking is also occuring within the heads of
those making these suggestions but discussion and analysis are needed in
order to clarify what are the precise forms which this extra-parliamentary
activism needs to take and what forms of internal organisational structure
are necessary to maintain a consistent revolutionary outlook.

Phil, by comparison, seems to be convinced that it is an absolute lack of
integrity which has informed our recent strategic maneuvreing, rather than
cold analysis which you might expect from people who have the background
which he acknowledges they have. People are working 18 hour days to advance
this struggle - these same people do not 'sell out'. Phil's comments about
individual's owning 'holiday homes' are more a criticism of his own
understanding of Irish politics than anything else. Those few who have
opposed the current strategy seek to embellish their perhaps 'legitimate'
criticisms with very cheap point-scoring, they like to say we enjoy riding
around in big cars and the like. Of course, that appeals to shallow thinkers
and people who are living abroad and don't realise just how rough it is but
dedicated revolutionists remain focussed on 'fundamental' issues and that is
why the bulk of Republicans through Ireland are with us. If Phil's
allegations and innuendo about individuals were even remotely true in fact,
I'm sure he would know what would happen. The fact that such talk is only
repeated by stooges of British Imperial interests is indicative of its
sources and its accuracy.

If Gerry Adams did get a holiday home in the Gaeltacht of Donegal from
booksales - far dues to him - I suspect, knowing Gerry, it will be well used
by many hard-pressed individuals around the Country. Indeed, from the little
gossip I have listened to on this subject - he has plans to stay there when
he retires - in the meantime he continues in his many roles and I'm sure he
doesn't get too much free time. As for the other allegations - they are
contentless and mostly opinionated.

The main problem with Phil's analysis is that he demonstrates a clear lack
of comprehension of the central mover in the Republican movement. I am
certainly not trying to use this as a justification for anything but a good
understanding of that is absolutely essential to really see what is

Phil makes a number of criticisms about how entry into OSF by 800 students
in Galway is indicative of how the middle-class are coming 'on board'
whereas Danielle says that:

"On a related subject, it's interesting to hear how the petit-bourgeoisie in
Ireland have twisted the history of the struggle into one where Republicans
were nothing but criminals who masked their deeds with political
ideology.  This came up in a recent discussion with members of Fianna Fail
and the SDLP."

It is my view that Danielle is much closer to the truth. In a similar way,
SF was still considered  'beyond the pale' by even many upper-working class
types up until a few years ago - although this is changing as a result of
our assumption of a more central role as the 'true opposition' in the
political life of the twenty-six counties. In a sense, it is this move out
of the ghettoes (or more accurately out from the ghettoes) which was
signified by our vote in the last 26 County election. The difficulties which
the partitionist Labour Party are now facing (with the resignation of Ruairi
Quinn as leader) are inextricably related to their failure to defend their
left flank from Sinn Fein and even the SPI and Greens. As far as Phil's
ill-defined middle-class are concerned, I think he would need to really
think a little about what he's writing and his evidence for making such rash
and blatently untrue comments.

When the article speaks of:

"For example, we will have to adapt to managing the Six-County economy in
its aspects for the foreseeable future. This means finding the money from a
dwindling pot to fund the ministries we manage. In time, if and when the
legislative, political and practical conditions are fully met, we will have
to assume roles in the oversight of the Six-County policing service. And,
with growing political strength and continued diffusion of 26-County
political forces; according to the right strategic circumstances, the party
may face the prospect of sitting in coalition government in this state also:
with all the institutional implications this scenario would bring.

All of these future scenarios, and more, arise beyond our Road Map, and
before we achieve the Republic. But as activists in struggle we must see
them as opportunities to move steadily forward. The republican struggle is
not threatened by any of these situations if our activists and base are
absolutely clear, from a revolutionary republican point of view, why we
enter such sites of struggle and then how we strategically organise our

It is being brutally honest - it takes on issues which virtually every
Republican hates to think about even whether its the Policing Boards or
Capitalist Austerity, these lines will get up the noses of every activist.
You are misconstrueing him when you say that he sees these 'transitional'
arrangements as 'ends-in-themselves' and the fact that the writer faces
these issues head on and in their most difficult form is proof of his
commitment to longer-term objectives. That is the strength of this piece for
me - it is going into challenging territory and attempting to open up a
grassroots discussion over it.

For me, the key line in the whole thing is the bit: 'the republican struggle
is not threatened by any of these situations if our activists and base are
absolutely clear, from a revolutionary republican point of view, why we
enter such sites of struggle and then how we strategically organise our
approach'. Clearly, the author recognises that these situations involve
distasteful compromises but feels that such are required to achieve the
'republican struggle'.

Phil and Danielle need to read this with a confidence in its honesty -
unless they do this then they will gain nothing from my posting of this
discussion; my differences lie with the analysis of objective realities
which are the next issue on the agenda. These have been left ill-defined in
this piece - as such it makes such conditions as to limit potential hard
criticism - but the analysis of these conditional statements are critical
issues in order to justify the logic that entry into these structures will
advance us to 'state power'. Where the article says: "if and when the
legislative, political and practical conditions are fully met," and
"according to the right strategic circumstances," these are massive
disclaimers - and they need to be fully dissected. To me, that is the
pressing outcome arising from this lecture.

Talk of the 'Adams Cabal' is actually quite amusing - there must be hundreds
of 'cabals' or cliques within our wider structures - identification of
individuals with policies is not something I would encourage either.

The questions for Phil to answer in all his criticisms is 'what is his
alternative' and 'why haven't the forces which are advancing such
alternatives aroused anything more than a handful of old-activists'. In
Dublin, the movement is growing massively - mostly youths from lower to
middle- working-class areas and the universities - in the rural areas in the
Republic we are also expanding rapidly.

Internal debates are commonplace - discussions over strategy are actively
encouraged as are any educational moves by individual members - so long as
they occur within the generally agreed framework and make a contribution and
do not sow seeds of dissension which our opponents might use. In the end,
discipline in maintaining organisation unity is an absolute requirement.
Having said I believe that there are problems which we are only slowly
addressing and in piecemeal fashion; however, I am convinced that as a
movement the tide of progression is sweeping forward in a general fashion.
Indeed, these problems are symptomatic of growth and development where
individuals and groups feel challenged by new cadres and where power is
being reconstituted towards the base.

Again, I find it difficult to broadcast my views fully given the absolutely
open nature of this forum. Suffice it to say that I do not, for one moment,
agree with his analysis that the author is secretly directing us towards
becoming Ireland's New Labour.


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