[Marxism] RE: Northern Ireland Beyond the Troubles
calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Sat Feb 21 09:59:52 MST 2004
Would anyone care to comment on the statements below taken from 'Beyond the
Troubles'- A history of the conflict in Northern Ireland since 1968 by top
Socialist Party member Peter Hadden? Hadden seems to believe that the PIRA
blew any chances of non-sectarian opposition to the British capitalist state
by engaging in apparently voluntaristic 'individual terrorism'. Is this
really the case? Wasn't it true that British repression of the civil rights
movement was wholly sectarian virtually from the start, letting loyalist
death squads operate in w/c areas, whilst cracking down on self-defence by
catholics from these same areas? Is it not true that Paisleyites at the time
were baying for blood and spreading full-on anti-catholic bigotry? In this
situation, was there any possibility of appeal to protestant workers, as
Hadden seems to suggest in his work? It seems Hadden's opposition to
terrorism clouds his mind to the reality of anti-catholic suppression in the
early seventies. Or am I getting my historical chronology mixed up....?
PS As Louis pointed out recently- wasn't the Lebanese car bomb in 1982 a
good example of individual terrorism having the desired effect?
"'Anti-unionist unity' was, and still is, nothing more than another term for
Catholic unity. In the name of this 'anti-unionist unity' any attempt at
building a bridge to the Protestant working class was abandoned."
"Methods of the IRA
The methods of the Provisionals and of the Officials, who for a period also
conducted a more limited military campaign, were a dead end. Although
described as a guerrilla war, this was no such thing. Guerrillaism is a
method of struggle which can only be applied in backward rural societies.
When applied to a society as developed and urbanised as Northern Ireland, it
becomes, not guerrillaism, but individual terrorism, that is, individual and
- isolated military actions carried out by small groups against the state.
There is no example anywhere of individual terrorism succeeding.
The only force capable of overthrowing a modem capitalist state is the
working class using the methods of mass struggle, demonstrations, strikes,
general strikes and ultimately an insurrection. The real answer to the
problems facing the Catholic working class in the early 1970s was mass
resistance, appealing to and as far as possible linking up with Protestant
workers in common action.
Individual terrorism substitutes the actions of a relatively small number
for action by the mass of people. Rather than mobilising the population it
turns them into spectators, with no role but to look on and applaud. It does
not weaken the state, but rather gives it the excuse to introduce repressive
laws and implement repressive methods which otherwise it would not have got
away with. A clear example of this came in November 1974. That autumn the
IRA had launched a bombing offensive in Britain, with bombs in Guildford,
Woolwich and Coventry. Then on 21 November two no-warning bombs in
Birmingham pubs killed 21 people, many of them teenagers. The anger and
revulsion which followed was seized on by the Labour government who rushed
the Prevention of Terrorism Act through parliament. This odious piece of
legislation, which allowed the British government to exclude Irish people
from England, Scotland and Wales, had cleared the House of Commons in just
In the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, the methods practiced
by the Provisionals were doubly foolish. The campaign was based on the
minority Catholic community and completely repelled the Protestants. It
divided and weakened the working class and in that sense it strengthened the
position of the ruling class by holding back the only force which would
stand against them.
It was also based on a fundamentally wrong analysis of the situation. The
main demand was British withdrawal. Yet the British ruling class would have
dearly loved to withdraw. That they could not do so was clown to Protestant
opposition and the threat of civil war.
Every action by the Provisionals further enraged Protestants, reinforced
their opposition to a united Ireland and so made it even more difficult for
the British to withdraw. This was the bitter irony underlying the whole
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