[Marxism] Reply to DOC on NSF

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Dec 7 18:09:01 MST 2006

>The fact that MI5 will not be able to operate 'hand in glove' with a police service within what they deem to be their 'state' is not a big issue?? I'll leave that for the audience who might be following this discussion to think about.

If you imagine that the secret arm of the British imperialist state is not going to operate within a 'reformed' police service in the six counties, then you are even more naïve and gullible than you usually appear.

>I honestly wish SF could enter policing structures where they are based on civic policing and under community control/operation but right now that is not an option.

It will be happening shortly.  If the New Sinn Fein leaders don't sign up to it in the next month or two they will sign up to it in the next year or two.


>The conditions I have enumerated are not minor. The Six County PSNI is now - already - the most accountable police force anywhere in the West - of course that's not particularly a huge thing to say. Similarly, the Equality Duties in the GFA lead the world in ensuring bourgeois 'equality of opportunity' but again no small gain. The issue is to wrest the remainder of the police force under the people's grasp and to open up further the British state in Ireland.

This merely shows what a hopeless and incorrigible reformist you are.  "Wrest(ing) the remainder of the police force under the people's grasp. . ." - this is classic reformism.  And these kinds of views masquerade as the 'left' within New Sinn Fein.  

Poor old Connolly.  He got it all wrong.  He should simply have tried to convert the RIC to multiculturalism and tried to "open up the British state".

Actually, Donal your views are so hopelessly reformist that you don't even understand that it is now the *norm* for every police force in the world to have equal opportunities and accountability enshrined in their mission statements.  In Australia, gay police march in the annual gay Mardi Gras in Sydney; in NZ, the police have special relationships with every minority community as part of their day-to-day practice.

This is what modern capitalist policing looks like!

Also a good way for the cops to be on top of what is happening in minority communities!

All this proves is that SF are bourgeois modernisers.  There's nothing at all politically radical about it.

And, of course, the whole point of modernising the structures of the capitalist state is to make them more effective.  

How the Brits must love New Sinn Fein.   

>Yes, I said I couldn't see the IRA disarm. They ended up putting all their weapons beyond use. All without a split. Maybe you should ask yourself why that is. 

Significant numbers have left.  There also has been a split.  Most of the Engineering and Quartermasters sections of the IRA split - you, of course, are perfectly aware of where the Real IRA came from.

You are certainly right, however, that there has been no major split of the scale of 1969-70.

There are several reasons for this: one is that Adams spent years and years lying and manoeuvring, getting rid of people like Ivor Bell and others who could have brought about a serious split.  Another is that by the time most people realised where things were going, the process was pretty much unstoppable.  Another is the limitations of the politics of the Provos - turns out the dominant politics were nationalist/Catholic Defenderism and not republican.  The northern 'radicals' turned out to be primarily nationalists rather than republicans (something Marion Price has pointed out for a number of years now).  Another is that people like Adams and McGuinness had a stature because of their role in the armed struggle and people just couldn't believe they would sell out and have continuously given them the benefit of the doubt.


>You said that SF would be on the Policing Boards, the IRA would disband, etc (was it in six months?) repeatedly in the past. None of this has happened instead the negotiations with the British continue to happen at a furious rate on issues right now. 

I said the IRA would disarm and they did.  And soon they will disband.  It is only a matter of time before New Sinn Fein joins the policing boards.  You are like some inveterate member of the British Labour Party who argues that Blair and Labour are still "socialist".


>The problem I have is that you can't understand a process you are disconnected from - any more than I could assess your trajectory in New Zealand from merely reading press clippings.

The reason is that I am not disconnected.  I was a member for the best part of eight years and saw then, or certainly towards the end, where things were going.  Like a lot of other people, I simply left.

I also keep in touch with people in Ireland, mainly in Belfast, but also elsewhere, so I am very familiar with what is going on.  

>I look at entry into Policing structures, on the correct structural basis, as a potential leap forward in undermining British control.

It's great when you say this on a Marxist list.  It makes clear to everyone here how deeply and committedly reformist your politics are.  And you're on the 'left' within New Sinn Fein, so it allows comrades on the list to get an idea of how truly awful the politics of the mainstream leadership of New Sinn Fein are.

Me earlier:

>>By the way, the function of the police in a capitalist society is to ensure capitalist social order. Whether or not they "recreate a force within a force". 

You in reply:
>You avoid the main issue here. The issue is undermining the British imperialist state in the north. 

Ah yes, undermining the imperialists by helping them administer the six-county state.  Very clever revolutionary strategy!


>At times that over-riding strategic imperative will force the vanguard to make hard decisions - just like it did in China or any other serious revolution. Besides, we are not talking about a simple capitalist state - just like your neat Trotskyist models are based upon. 

Which neat "Trotskyist" models might these be?  Since I am not a Trotskyist I don't have such models.

I am quite familiar, however, with the models in places like Nepal - not "a simple capitalist state", but one in which feudal and capitalist forms are intertwined.  In Nepal, two lines have been thoroughly tested.  What was the largest faction of the CP there entered into the state apparatus, supposedly to burrow away within.  Needless to say, they soon became part of the apparatus and part of the problem.  A minority faction broke away and are now by far the biggest CP in Nepal and control about 80 percent of the countryside. 

New Sinn Fein is a collaborationist party.  It is now everything that it used to denounce the SDLP for being.

>We talking about a different form of revolutionary process underpinned by the partial success of the military campaign. This is about the reconquest of Ireland by the Irish under the lead of the people's party.

No, it's about the selling out of a struggle for national liberation and socialism.  The argument used to be that these were two sides of the same coin.  The socialism side has now been relegated to some distant 'stage' in the future (echoes of the Officials there, eh?) and the only thing going on now is manoeuvring around a very limited form of nationalism.  It isn't even a limited nationalist *struggle* now, because the entire process has been taken off the streets and into the sphere of manoeuvring with the Brits.


>I see that you have blinded yourself to the realities of the last few years. First, states are not simply composed of one-dimensional capitalist-imperialists but a variegated collection of differing interest groups. There are some imperialists in Britain who just want out, some who want to neuter Republicanism, some that want to crush Republicanism. Your crude Trotskyist formulations are unworthy of anyone with pretensions to be a marxist. 

Actually, my formulations are just basic Marxist ones.  They are shared by Trots, Maoists, and Marxists of no other particular 'ism'.  

In fact, you deliberately misrepresent my views here in two ways.  One by the smear that I'm a Trotskyist, when I clearly am not.  Secondly, by pretending that I don't recognise different sections within the ruling class.  Since I have always stated that the *dominant* section of the British ruling class wants to incorporate New Sinn Fein, it is perfectly clear that I know there are different fractions of the capitalist class.

You, of course, make out that a few securocrats want to sabotage the process and act as if this was the main aspect of British policy.  In fact, not only do the dominant section of the Brit ruling class want to incorporate New Sinn Fein, most of the securocrats do too.  That's why they have helped Adams so much.  Hell, they even recently saved his life.  We can also look at the role played by the biggest name agent the securocrats ran in SF - Denis Donaldson.  Donaldson was a staunch advocate of the Adams' strategy.


>Phil, I don't know why it is you want to confuse people who are trying to read our conversation. You quote yourself pretending it was me. I never mentioned non-sectarian partition - that sentence was yours. If people doubt me please check the previous emails. You are guilty of consciously attempting to mislead people who are reading this. Why?

Oops, yes, sorry. That was my mistake.  But no, it wasn't conscious.  I was replying to you replying to me and, third time around, in putting in the >> bits I got confused.  But no conspiracy, Donal.


Me earlier:
>>For the first couple of decades after 1921 republicans mainly fought the southern Irish state. 

>Rubbish. There was civil war in Belfast throughout the early 1920s. Also Michael Collins himself directed an operation along the border with government troops just weeks before the auxiliaries shot him. Yes, of course there was a civil war but don't forget what was happening in the north at the time - the IRA maintained unity to fight the British. In the end up of the war of independence, the British had hundreds of IRA volunteers locked up on the Argenta prison ship. To talk about decades of struggle mainly being directed at the south is to completely forget history. Following the end of the civil war, the IRA continued to fight against the British albeit at a lower rate. De Valera took many more volunteers out of action but it erupted all over again with the Emergency period in the 1940s. Before that many IRA volunteers fought against the fascists in Spain and were involved in street fights with the fascists in Ireland.

I didn't say "decades" as if it was 50 or 60 years.  I was very precise, I said "two decades" (the 1920s and 1930s).  

The fact that you dismiss this simply indicates the ignorance of many northerners about southern history, even when it's the history of their own movement.  The IRA never waged any campaign of armed struggle against the northern state until the WW2 campaign.  The major focus of the IRA - and the vast bulk of the IRA was in the south in the 1920s and 1930s - was against the southern state.  Simply a matter of history, Donal.


>Of course imperialism remains the main problem. That's why Republicans are looking to exclude the MI5 from Policing. That's not Unionism but an aspect of the British imperialist state. We are looking for power-sharing with the Paisleyites - that's Unionism taking power away from the British. This is a process where Irish people collectively take power from the British state. A process which can only accelerate into the future.

Actually, Donal it's called neo-colonialism.  It won't be a matter of taking power away from the British - at best, it will be a matter of the British being content to withdraw after they are sure that a good neo-colonial structure with good neo-colonial personnel will administer things.  And that's a "best case" scenario.  Like what the Brits did in Africa and India.

Neo-colonialism isn't a big step on the road to socialism.  It's a new barrier to socialism.

>US imperialism in relation to Ireland potentially stands at a slight angle to British imperialism - so if we can we must use one against the other. 

And this is where chumming up to corporate America and organising $1,000 a plate events with rich Americans to fund SF comes in?  Haven't you heard, Donal - he who pays the piper calls the tune.


>Why not? Better for now to replace armed British imperialists by unarmed US businessmen. As the old saying goes, we'll accept the devil himself to get rid of the English. But then you'd never understand such an 'Irish' attitude to our struggle - it has to pass through Trotskyism's varying rulebook conventions. Just like Lenin said, you need to see a bunch of guys flying the red flag coming out and fighting another bunch of guys until you recognise a revolution - Trotsky totally misunderstood the 1916 rising for that very reason.

Since I've written about Trotsky's idiotic view of the Easter Rising and how Lenin had a much better understanding, this is really quite daft of you.

The idea that unarmed American businessman are an improvement on armed British imperialists is a hoot.  Tell that to the masses in the countries of Africa who got independence from the Brits only to fall under the neo-colonial control of "unarmed American businessmen".  The American comrades who make up most of the members of this list will be especially amused to read about the merits of "unarmed American businessmen".  


>If the Brits can order Paisley about - it is because they can threaten him with what they term 'Plan B' which is effectively Joint-Sovereignty or at the least Joint-Management. This is abcs. Republicans do not accept the principle of consent but are realistic enough to realise that we must achieve our goals in an environment where every other single party - and the bulk of the Irish people - are content to leave it there. 

It's true that *republicans* don't accept the principle of unionist consent, but *New Sinn Fein does*.  In fact, you New Sinn Fein people signed up to it.

>This revolution will proceed on the basis of the will of the people not through a putsch. Republicans are not strong enough to overturn British imperialist rule through military means and must seek to do so through winning the people to their banner - which they have made a decent stab at so far.

And who exactly has argued for a putsch?

This paragraph reveals the limitations of your politics and reformism in general.  All you can conceive of is a narrow military struggle or a narrow set of negotiations with the imperialists.  You simply cannot conceive of a mass anti-imperialist struggle which involves both armed and non-armed elements.  So much for your grasp of dialectics.

Instead of wasting people's time arguing about Trotskyism, take a look at the mass movements in the Philippines, India and Nepal.  They have both armed struggle and huge mass movements.  Both their armed struggle and their non-armed mass movements dwarf anything New Sinn Fein has to offer.  

Me earlier:

>>Rosa Luxemburg destroyed this reformist nonsense back in 1899 or 1900 when she demolished Eduard Bernstein. The capitalist state is not some neutral force in which a struggle takes place over whether it will be oriented towards "empowering" or "disempowering" the mass of society. 

Donal in response:
>We are not dealing with a capitalist state. We are dealing with a colonial regime in transition following on from a stalemate military conflict. The new structures are a transitional state structure which potentially allow for mass empowerment through consultative fora and democratised organs of the state. These structures are now replicated at every level of governance in Ireland. 

Of course you are dealing with a capitalist state.  A colonial state is still a capitalist state.  Grief!

However, it is also a *specific* form of capitalist state.  One of its specific characteristics is that it is even more directly oppressive and even less responsive to pressure than a bourgeois-democratic capitalist state. 

And yet it is this state which you are entering into!

And your highest horizon is to convert it from a neo-colonial capitalist state into a normal bourgeois-democratic capitalist state.  Classic reformism.  And, of course, in modernising the state in this way, you are actually making it more relevant to the 21st century and thereby strengthening its fundamental facets - like the maintenance of social order conducive to the reproduction and exploitation of labour-power.

>The goal of revolutionaries must be to develop these mass openings and encourage the people to seize further power on a radical platform. The question is whether the masses are ready to take up such struggle at this time. To use power in the transitional phase to encourage the independent political life of the masses and their direct participation in the democratic organisation of the life of the state from the bottom up.

Grief, all of history's revolutionaries were misguided.  Lenin shouldn't have sought to overthrow the Provisional Government, merely to bring its police force under more community control and opened up the government to include the Bolsheviks.  Castro and Guevara shouldn't have sought to overthrow Batista and carry out a socialist revolution - they should've just argued that he should include the July 26 Movement in his government and put his police under more community control.  Etc etc etc.

What a pity these poor ignorant revolutionaries didn't have you and Gerry Adams to guide them.

>Rosa Luxemburg was not discussing a colonial situation so I don't see its relevance. Knowing her she might have got that wrong in any case as she shared Trotsky's abject failure to fully comprehend the realities of colonialism on the colonised and stuck to idealised categories of thought misappropriated from Marx.

Poor Rosa.  Obviously politically inferior to British Minister Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, he who hobnobs with wealthy Americans.

Me on the state:
>>It is an institution which actually represents - and is dependent on - the masses having already been disempowered. 

Donal in reply:
>Only in a stable Western democracy - which is anything but what you might describe the Six County statelet as. The six county statelet has not had representative democracy for almost 30 years before the GFA. 

Eh?  Actually the Northern state never had "representative democracy" from the time it was established in 1921 - 77 years before the GFA.  In fact, the whole notion that the six-county state could ever have "representative democracy" is a nonsense because it is an artificial state existing through the denial of representative democracy to the Irish people.

So I actually turn out to be dead right about the state being "an institution which actually represents - and is dependent on - the masses having already been disempowered."  

Far from the six-county state being an exception to this, it is a particularly intense and blighted example!


>A transitional state is one in which the power is contested. Gramsci went some way in developing some of the dynamics in this.

Actually  he didn't.  Gramsci was a revolutionary.  Gramsci argued that establishing revolutionary hegemony was a necessary prerequisite for the *seizure of state power*.  He was not an advocate of neo-colonialism and neo-colonial states.

Also, it's amusing how you reject Rosa L because she wasn't writing about colonies when Gramsci wasn't either.   

What you are arguing, in fact, is not Gramsci but the Laclau-Mouffe etc distortion of Gramsci, a distortion which gave rise to postmodernism and 'Third Way' politics.  And, of course, the examples of these politics in action are New Labour in Britain and New Sinn Fein in Ireland. 

Go away and read some actual Gramsci or at least people who understood him.

Me earlier:
>>Republican goals have never included the "political reconquest of Ireland" by the Unionists. Rather they were about the economic and political liberation of the Irish masses and the abolition of the distinctions imposed by British rule. You write above as if Unionism is just another legitimate part of the Irish nation, rather than a creation of imperialism precisely to prevent Irish nationhood and national liberation. 

>Who are the Unionist people if not Irish? 

Perhaps you should tell Jim Gibney this.  In the 'Irish News' last month he wrote about 'Planter and Gael'.  Perhaps poor Jim thinks the Falls Road is actually inhabited by 'Gaels' and the Shankill Road next door by 'Planters'.


 >If they are Irish then they must share, with us, the role of the political reconquest of Ireland from the British state. 

But, of course, if the people who are currently unionists were to share in this process they wouldn't be unionists would they?  


 >Will one million unionists simply evaporate upon reunification? Of course not. In the process to reunification - this transition - what must the orientation of Republicans be to unionism? One in which we find ways to build trust between our communities - which the British divided. One in which we develop a shared commitment to equality and power sharing - and that is a struggle. These are the tasks of the moment. They are the pre-requisites for undermining the veto which the British maintain in Ireland. What's your great masterplan to undermine British imperialism? This is a process where Republicans connect the dots in their various localised (and economistic) struggles and end up building a revolutionary socialist Ireland - its how to do that is the question.

Actually, the process you have signed up *entrenches* the division.  Instead of attempting to mobilise the masses on an all-Ireland basis, a project which would have some chance of opening up divisions within the unionist population in the north-east and winning some of them over to republicanism and socialism, you have joined a neo-colonial project which cuts off that possibility. 

Donal venting yet again his obsession with "Trotskyites"

>And leave the floor open to rrrevolutionaries like yourself... The fact that this hasn't happened in a sense demonstrates the gap in your argument. That would seem the logical thing to happen to someone inculcated with Trotskyite idealised thoughts about revolutions. The problem for idealists like Trotsky himself is that reality is far more multicoloured than he allowed for in his theory of permanent revolution. Revolutionaries must proceed from concrete analysis alongside mass work. Instead, sectarians proceed from idealised theories in isolated, miniscule cults.

Since I'm not an advocate of permanent revolution theory, and I don't think you even know what it means anyway, this is another bizarre argument.

The counter to your model of going forward is not what Trotsky said in 1905 but what the Bolsheviks achieved in 1917, what Castro and Guevara achieved in 1959, what Mao achieved in 1949 and what the Asian Maoists are achieving today.  These people *led* revolutions.  What SF is doing is pretty miserable fare by comparison.

And, while I'm not a Trotskyist, I will say this for Trotsky.  He was the military leader of an actual revolution.  When did you or Gerry Adams actually lead a successful revolution?  So your slagging off at Trotsky is the political equivalent of the Spice Girls slagging off the Beatles.


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