[Marxism] Permanent Revolution (was RE:In there capitalism ... IsNorthern Ireland [sic] occupied?)

jmcanulty jmcanulty at tiscali.co.uk
Wed Oct 5 11:40:25 MDT 2005

I must say I'm suspicious of the formulations put forward by Joaquín . His declaration of qualified sympathy for Gerry Adams and company seem to cover a fairly rigid position that we are discussing tactics and strategy, where a few minutes research into the Good Friday agreement would convince most Marxists that the issue is a reversal of political programme. Similarly, I see no ground for discussing the generality of disbandment when the specific situation is that the IRA and they alone have disarmed and stood down when all their foes remain armed and on the field of battle - indeed where the Loyalist death squads remain active.

The some what erratic movement of  Joaquín's argument form the general to the particular and back again gives me the impression that he may be selling some brand of snake oil that I don't want to buy. I will therefore expand my views on the Irish question and only cautiously approach its lessons for other struggles.

I have spent my entire political life trying to apply permanent revolution in something like the formulation put forward by Joaquín  in the Irish context. The organisation I belonged to Peoples Democracy, attempt to apply the united front tactic to the republican movement in the hope that the movement would progress from revolutionary nationalism alone to taking up class questions and where the struggle in general would spill over from a relatively narrow base in the North to mobilise workers in the formally independent part of the country.

The specific peculiarity of the Irish question was that the national question had been partly resolved and, as a result, the majority of the Irish working class felt most directly the oppression of their 'own' capitalist class and did not have to deal with the issues of occupation and sectarian intimidation faced by workers in the North. Republicans and the left were able to organise sporadic mobilisations in the South but the issue of occupation and partition did not serve as an issue around which the southern working class organised independently. The outcome was a republican movement, straddling the gap between workers and the national bourgeoisie, which eventually fell over into alliance with the bourgeoisie and adoption of their programme, involving the indefinite partition of the Ireland and the presence of British troops. This collapse was so complete that even the opponents within republicanism have been unable to frame an alternative programme that would orient towards the working class.

In Ireland we believe that the national question remains a central question. However it is not a question which by itself will lead to the self-organisation of the working class. The issues of direct class oppression and of the semi-colonial nature of the formally independent area will also have to be addressed.

On a world scale I would not go beyond a suspicion that the era of 'national liberation movements' involving alliances that were usually not led by the working class may well be passed. A new feature of late capitalism appears to me, at an impressionistic level to be the absence of any sizable bourgeois current with any 'generally democratic content' outlined by Lenin.

John McAnulty

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