[Marxism] On recent events in Ireland

DoC donaloc at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 9 16:07:09 MDT 2005

A chairde,

I have largely been absent from the recent discussions around the moves
by the IRA to declare an end to its armed struggle. This was not
intended. However, I feel that Calvin Broadbent - who is not a member of
the Republican movement  (note well) and who lives in Belfast has, in my
view, more than adequately dealt with most of the issues presented. I
think that whilst the jury is out on the success (or otherwise) of the
current Republican strategy complaints by those on the ultra-left fringe
really display a chronic misunderstanding of the nature of the struggle
in Ireland today.

First, however, a few concessions. I did not expect the IRA to produce
this statement two or three years ago. I didn't think that this would be
necessary. That it did come about might be looked upon as weakness but
it could equally be looked upon as strength. I predicted that the IRA
would not state this - it turned out different than expected. Like all
history - we are living through a process of change. But then again, for
all you fans of Trotsky - didn't he predict that WWII would lead to the
collapse of the 'bureaucracy' in the Soviet Union. Dialectical analysis
is no guarantee to fortune-telling as it is always based on incomplete
knowledge until after the event.

Onto the offensive:  Phil Ferguson says that SF have only managed to
*modernise capitalism* or should that be capitalist relations of
production. To say this with any understanding of the nature of the 6C
statelet is fundamentally un-marxist in my view. Currently Catholics
remain twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants. When the impact
of 'economic inactivity is included' this is more near to three times
more likely. This is a situation which has remained largely unchanged
since the 1960s. In many council areas in the occupied north, SF and
nationalist representatives are excluded from every form of power and in
some cases are openly discriminated against. Pro-British unionists
maintain absolute dominance in civil service positions across the range
of governmental bodies in the north and have used these positions to
undermine the economic (bourgeois) logic of Irish reunification or even
(bourgeois equality of opportunity). This situation is not limited to
only unionist-majority areas either - since pro-British unionists have
significant civil society hegemony which is underpinned by organisations
such as the Orange Order and the Masonic Lodge who promote 'favourable'
individuals. If SF was to achieve even the gains associated with a
bourgeois democratic revolution (understood in a marxist sense) then
just as Calvin says - it would undermine partition directly as the
social and economic basis of partition has been the preferential status
accorded to Protestants concretised through the Orange-Unionist hegemon.

On the other hand, the recent events need more critical self-analysis.
The above assessment of where things are at is fine if one is tied to a
'stagist' approach to revolutionary activity in Ireland. The IRA passing
from the scene removes the vestiges of any excuse the opponents of
bourgeois unity would have to argue against progress. SF are destined to
growth - probably accompanied by a governmental role both sides of the
border taking forward both unity and (bourgeois) equality.

However, Ireland is a unique situation when it comes to the tasks
associated with the bourgeois and socialist revolutions. I am
fundamentally opposed to Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution - yet
it might be more appropriate than the stagist conception which some
attribute (mistakenly) to Stalin. What is critical is the concrete
analysis of concrete circumstance - there are no universal models of
revolution. Irish democratic unity requires a socialist dynamic.

Irish unity is now dependent (in the context of the British-Irish
Agreement and recent moves by both the IRA and British Army) I believe
to overcoming the unionist hegemony within the Protestant population. It
is the case as a result of the commitments entered into by the British
Government in the Good Friday Agreement. This agreement set up a number
(albeit limited - but expanding nevertheless) of all-Ireland
Governmental structures - in effect, the north is partially governed on
an all-Ireland basis). Republicans are faced with nothing less than the
fracturing of the remaining Unionist-political hegemony. The current
dominance by the most reactionary and reactive form of political
unionism (Ian Paisley's DUP) is significant in that context - consider
the differential impacts of middle-class liberal unionists and
lower-class sectarian unionists on that hegemony in the context of
continued paralysis - all blamed on their own parties' extremism. The
potential of the British Government to play a historic role in
confronting reactionary unionism and in driving forward a process of
disengagement is immense. Can it be delivered upon - well let's test it.
Disbanding 3 divisions of the unionist militia 'the Royal Irish
Regiment' was a huge step forwards. Similarly, removal of strategic
British military watchtowers in Republican areas. The next steps to be
watched for are moves towards transfering powers for policing and
justice back to a 6C and all-Ireland Executive. Will this be done as the
past two have been over the heads of anti-agreement unionism?

It makes a complete lie of all that hot air which passes for ultraleft
analysis. Sure, Republicans have put our noses in the mud, but aren't
revolutions built upon brave and popular actions as opposed to
ideological piety in splendid isolation. Why do the left have to
criticise that which is successful? We find similar criticisms of
absolutely every form of struggle and power in the left pantheon from
Marx to Lenin, from Castro to Chavez to Adams and Mao. Yet, who is
without fault. Is it not better to succeed with errors than to fail in
perfection? Or perhaps does successful struggle indicate a more
comprehensive analysis of the dialectic than those tied to 'models' from
ideological gurus?

So in order to bring that 4 - 5% of pro-union with Britain Irish in the
north on board and to begin the task of challenging the 26C
reactionaries - who incidentally are as oppositional to the current
events as any in the north - we need to complement the process of
building a challenge within all available apparatuses of power - north
and south; with organising within grassroots or mass struggles. This
form of socialist protest must be combined and fully integrated into the
top-down struggle which itself must be combined and fully integrated
into that bottom-up struggle.

For the first time in my memory I have seen large scale SF involvement
in protests across Ireland - on the issue of the Corrib Gas find.
Someone said to me recently that the party haven't been on the streets
in such volumes since 1981. This issue is a huge one: for 20 years big
gas companies have known about huge gas reserves in the fields west of
Ireland - in 1992 Ray Burke sold them to a consortium (currently headed
by Shell) for £500. Today five people have been imprisoned 5 weeks as a
result of their alleged contempt of a Dublin Court - they were opposing
the construction of a land-based refinery line over their farms and
there have been protests of thousands in towns across Ireland.

This is a good campaign issue. There are many others, however. The
central task now is to combine work on such campaigns with the struggle
in the various parliamentary chambers. That will not be easy. There are
contradictory factors at play. However, it is not true to say that they
are or have to become antagonistic. Neither is it true to say that unity
of the contradiction cannot be resolved. The effective solution to this
task, I believe, will determine our success at this juncture.

Those looking at the IRA statement need to recognise it as an
acknowledge of where we are at in Ireland today. Those waiting for a
statement saying that the IRA is disbanding will wait till they die or
until a 32C DSR is achieved. I have said that before and am ultimately
confident on that score. Those who see nothing but a failed ending -
both have to engage in some concrete analysis but also apply the living
(and continuous) dialectic to our struggle.

The left can and must be on the rise in much of the world today. This is
because of concrete factors impacting - most notably the effects of
globalisation, the war on terror and oil shortages. If we are not, be
sure that the fascists will be. I do not say that lightly nor without
thought. All these factors are twin-edged swords.

Growing success in South America and Asia needs to be echoed in Africa
and Europe if we are to have any hope. I am sure that Ireland will play
a part way above our size in global terms - as we always have done. I
hope that comrades in the rest of the world are clear on the level of
determination and the level of consciousness which exist here.

Le meas,

More information about the Marxism mailing list