[Marxism] Reply to Phil
donaloc at hotmail.com
Fri Dec 8 08:20:34 MST 2006
I spent about two hours going through your mail paragraph by paragraph and
developing answers only to clumsily close down the hotmail window and lose
all. I just don't feel up to doing it all over again, so I'm afraid that
I'll have to leave your message largely unanswered. I suspect that it
wouldn't change many minds anyhow one way or the other.
A few points from what I remember though:
(a) I think that your approach to revolutionary strategy in Ireland is
highly idealised. It doesn't take sufficient account of the role of British
imperialism and the strategic imperative to remove that influence to advance
to further gains. It is also idealised in the sense that it sees deals as
'permanent' when the reality is that negotiations are a process which will
continue until Irish unity.
(b) I think that much of what passes for marxism in the west is highly
influenced by Trotskyist thinking in relation to third world struggles. I
agree with those who feel that Trotsky himself did not fully understand
imperialism. That is why he got it wrong in China, the Trots got in wrong in
Cuba in 1959 and they keep getting it wrong all over in relation to third
world struggles. If you are not a Trotskyist then I think you are highly
influenced by this thinking. Permanent revolution irrevocably linked the
tasks of the socialist struggle with the national-liberation struggle and
enabled the most sectarian and negative approach to revolutionary struggle
in colonies. PR has been proven incorrect repeatedly by history and should
be consigned to a box labelled idealised marxist strategies (also containing
eurocommunism and peaceful coexistence). Demonstrate to me where your
thinking on Ireland differs from the logic of Permanent Revolution?
(c) The correct formulation in relation to the tasks of the democratic
revolution is that of Lenin himself. These changed as material circumstances
in Russia changed. It is the highest expression of applied dialectical
materialist IMO. Lenin was also lucky as the material conditions in Russia
were objectively revolutionary and so both the practical and theoretical
imperatives coalesced - this is an underestimated aspect of Lenin's legacy.
Few are lucky enough to live in such a situation. Irish Republicans are
living in one where it is partially applicable - there is the material basis
for a democratic revolution in Ireland.
(d) Right now the task for Republicans is to continue their growth as a
force demanding Irish liberation and social equality. Whether you consider
that reformist is probably determined by how idealised your thought is. The
question is how they do that. They aren't too far off the track I think.
(e) Entry into the institutions of the Six County statelet by SF have
actually undermined the stability of that state in every case. This is
evidenced by the repeated British suspensions of Executive institutions and
the crisis in pro-British Unionism (now applying to all Unionist political
(f) Marxism is a monist science. It is based on the theory, that in the last
analysis, all superstructural phenomena are determined by the
social-economic base (albeit in a dialectical and interconnected manner).
The fact that every aspect of the Irish economy - whether private, public or
community-run - are driving towards unity, will inevitably result in
political reunification. Virtually all major actors currently agree on that
inevitability. The game is to make the transition faster or slower. That
structure by nature involves the establishment of competing hegemonies -
that is why some of what Gramsci wrote is useful.
(g) The reforms which SF are seeking to policing are fundamental. They are
not merely equality duties and the like - that you would know about in NZ.
They are *structural* and include significant accountability mechanisms.
Things like the ability of an independent Ombudsman (Nuala O'Loan) to bug
any policeman she sees fit or to seek disclosure of any documentation held
by any police officer in the north and to present her findings to both local
politicians and the people. This is already in place. Under a devolved
institution, all aspects of policing will be directly accountable to elected
representatives not just on a statelet-wide basis but on a county-wide
basis. The form of policing will change too with community-run policing
structures (CRJ) which are already established being mandated by local
policing structures to replace 'external' policing. Nowhere else has
anything like it -not in the West that is. Of course, some blocks remain
unplaced but that is clearly where things are heading before SF signs up to
policing. The demand that MI5 play absolutely *no* role in local policing is
central to all of that. The fact that you can't believe it could happen is
evidence of your own failure to understand just how much the state has had
to concede to growing Republicanism. Of course, there will be bad-faith on
their part - but the protections will be in place to expose it and to fight
it with a further undermining of the British state in Ireland. That is the
(h) There is no significant crisis in SF. The party is actually having a
good discussion with all viewpoints expressed and listened to. I think that
is healthy. The loss of 8,000 voters in West Belfast is precisely of the
usual order for that constituency. It is estimated that 200,000 voters were
knocked off the register by British policies across the Six Counties. This
is reflective of their fear of SF's growth. If they didn't fear SF why would
they try to undermine their vote? If they thought SF a useful tool why do
this? A massive question for you to answer.
(i) I believe that imperialist profits created an aristocracy of labour in
which the bulk of imperialist workers had a material advantage over their
third world counterparts. This created the material basis for a
stabilisation of the capitalist order. People like Lenin but also Rhodes
recognised this. The failure to understand this is what underpins the crisis
in marxist revolutionary theory. Trends such as social reformism were an
accommodation to that reality and originated in the working class
themselves. I don't think that social reformism is a viable ideology for a
colonial country without access to some form of capital generating
resources, though. There is insufficient material basis and even a socialist
government in a poor third world country is usually forced into either
clumsy state-socialism, capitalist growth strategies or a combination of
(j) Eurocommunism and Negri-Hardt are again the ideological expression of
that same material situation hitting the CPs through their links into the
privileged (imperialist) working class. I don't agree with either school of
thought - although the polar opposite line - that of focussing exclusively
on the working class as the revolutionary class - is usually inappropriate
to colonial struggles which by their nature tend to be cross-class
alliances. That's where I think Gramsci comes useful - as he lies between
the extremism of Negri-Hardt and the polar extremism of Permanent Revolution
(opportunism and ultra-leftism respectively). That's why I see Gramsci as
essentially a Leninist although many who quote him (e.g. Togliatti) were
reformist opportunists. The problem with Gramsci is that his thoughts are so
fragmented due to his imprisonment - it allows everyone to claim him. I
think Joll did a good job collecting his thoughts but no substitute for
reading the prison notebooks themselves.
(k) With ever greater integration of the world market, the relative
privilege of the western workers will be ever more eroded. Mass immigration
will do that too. Logically the trend must be towards a convergence of the
conditions of workers in countries such as China and the West. This can only
open up opportunities for struggle in the imperialist centres. I believe
that the role of revolutionary socialist/communist parties such as your own
in NZ will be critical to the potential to seize these opportunities moving
(l) Your enthusiasm for the Nepalese Maoists is shared. Of great interest is
the strong parallels between their recent peace process and that in Ireland
just as pointed out by Luko in his post.
(m) And I'll have to leave it at this. I believe that the social concessions
which the British and Dublin governments have had/will have to concede over
the course of the Peace Process e.g. All-ireland Consultative Forum,
All-Ireland Charter of Rights (incl. Social and economic rights),
Community-run policing structures, an all-ireland Social Economy
(Cooperative) Agency and participative structures at every level of
governance allow for a future potential swift rolling over of the democratic
revolution in Ireland. That rolling-over isn't going to happen spontaneously
however and will depend on people seeing the potential for such a rolling
over and working towards that goal. Whether that ends up as reformism or
revolution is up to revolutionaries at that stage not to them today.
Right now the struggle is on to liberate Ireland while achieving as many of
these strategic concessions as possible. By necessity that involves
grassroots work integrated alongside negotiations and institutional work.
All aspects are required and need to dovetail. I'm not going to flood this
list with unwelcome details of campaigns - I simply don't have the time -
but just check out e.g. the Shell to Sea campaign on indymedia. SF members
getting a hammering by Garda when you say that they're enjoying the
I totally disagree with your idealised and negative opinions on Ireland.
However, I sincerely wish you well with the struggle in NZ and I think that
your approach there will be as good as any as it is a relatively a pure -
worker based - struggle. No doubt you have good links with the Maori
struggle and others...
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