[Marxism] Article on Strategic Importance of Policing to Republicans
donaloc at hotmail.com
Fri Dec 8 13:45:01 MST 2006
Loyalist Threats Reflect Reaction to Progress
Le Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh
If it wasnt so potentially serious, Michael Stones assault on Stormont was
almost laughable. A man getting stuck in a revolving door at the entrance of
the building waving a gun about and being swatted by two security guards. In
Stones case, his motivation was probably self-publicisation. No doubt his
art will be selling an extra hundred pounds an item following his latest
As with these events, it is what the event signifies that we need to
analyse. Stone in some sense reflects a section of Irish society which has
lost contact with whats happening and which rails against that reality,
falling back on the only thing they know how.
The thing that came to my mind when I saw Stone was the killing of three AWB
White Supremacists by Black Police in a shootout in South Africa in 1994. It
was a seminal event which seemed to symbolise the final breakdown of the
putative fascist reaction that was building up to the threat of
power-sharing. Weeks before the AWB drove a vehicle into the building where
the ANC were negotiating with the South African Government.
Militant Loyalism seems to be where the AWB was then. They are marginalised
and outraged by what they view as a potential sell-out by those who they
have trusted for so long. The resort to violence or the threat of violence
is to be expected.
It is of interest that the loyalists of 1998, including Stone, supported the
Good Friday Agreement yet, now, many seem to be unsure of whether they
should support it. I think that this is reflective of their mistake at that
stage of looking at the deal in an idealised way: seeing it as a permanent
deal. They did not understand the Agreement as a process of change. This is
not unusual and stems from their ideology.
Republicans and Socialists know that all history is a process. Events are
never final. There is always movement. Socialists believe that the
fundamentals of how the economy changes end up determining both social and
political outcomes. Those Republicans who opposed the Good Friday Agreement
failed to understand history as a process and only saw the deal as the final
sell-out only to have to reuse that same terminology repeatedly over the
course of more years of struggle.
So what does it have to tell us as Republicans as we consider the choices
that face us. The first is to be certain that this process will continue, as
Leo Greene said at a recent meeting, until we get a United Ireland.
Negotiations are a site of struggle. The second is to notice that so long as
Republicans seek change we must approach issues politically not
ideologically. Our goal must be to continually make more people share our
opinions and to get active on them. Our ideology is only given force by our
political strength and the political strength of all those who share our
objectives on any particular issue.
The third thought we should note is the importance of the Black Policemen of
Bophuthatswana who shot those AWB fascists: the straw that cracked the back
of white supremacism. It reflects the importance of state power and
institutions even when they are not fully democratised. Just recall that
Bophuthatswana was a self-governing tribal area which the Apartheid
government had created to keep some tribes from supporting the ANC. When the
event occurred in 1994, South Africa was still not democratic. Negotiations
were ongoing on the form of the transition with the National Party trying to
stall things as much as they could.
If we are serious about undermining the constitutional basis of partition
which is the continued support of a section of Irish society for it then
our involvement in policing must be seen as potentially of key strategic
importance in that struggle. Just as the likes of Ivan Foster or Michael
Stone feel unable to stomach Sinn Féin in Government, imagine their
revulsion and alienation from their state when the Police are under the
direction of Sinn Féin members on Policing Boards. With potentially worse to
come when Policing and Justice powers are devolved.
Certainly, we need to be absolutely resolute in our opposition to anything
which might maintain an unaccountable force within a force just as we must
be resolute in opposing anything in the way that might curtail the freedom
of our Ministers within a Six County Executive. This means MI5 must have no
role in civic policing.
However, if we achieve that perhaps seemingly unlikely goal, we must not
shirk from seeing the revolutionary potential of civic policing as a way to
reclaim state institutions from the hands of the securocrats and the Brits
themselves. We must have the confidence to step into policing based on our
understanding that this is a journey, that where we were in 1998 is not
where we are today and that the tide of history is with us.
What this means is discussion on the hard questions around policing. So few
of us have a full grasp of where this crucial question sits at the moment.
Which of us can say just how many of Pattens recommendations have been
implemented and what else do we want in detail? These details should be on
the tip of our tongues.
Its not just about discussing though. Whats needed, certainly in the Six
Counties, as identified in Declan Kearneys powerful article of two weeks
ago, is that we get active on these demands. If we want the MI5 to have no
role in policing, then we should be out demanding that or at least making
the case for it in every meeting we have with those from business, the
media, etc. We could write letters to local papers letting people know what
is holding up this aspect of the negotiations.
Nobody could oppose the idea that political policing is a bad thing. Few
would welcome a force within a force. Indeed, if we widened discussion of
these issues many who today are critical of our course might actually
recognise the full significance and importance of what Gerry Kelly and
others are negotiating with the British and the other parties.
In short then, we need to popularise the negotiations on the basis of simple
demands which can be taken outside ourselves. Furthermore, I think that we
need to initiate a process whereby Republicans reach out and listen to wider
society in the north and perhaps elsewhere - with a grassroots
consultation on issues. It would possibly be much more worthwhile than a
canvass as it would be a great way to inform people of the work and the
progress that were making. The media is filling them with negative images
of all politicians and we need to counter it. Also, a grassroots
consultation which goes out beyond our activist base and into our
communities would enable our activists themselves to fully grasp the depth
of the popular demand to keep moving forward. It would give us a sense of
the popularity of this process, a process which this movement initiated and
has long come to be identified with in the popular mind.
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