[Marxism] RE: Northern Ireland Beyond the Troubles

Calvin Broadbent 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 
two days.

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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