[Marxism] Article on Strategic Importance of Policing to Republicans

D OC donaloc at hotmail.com
Fri Dec 8 13:45:01 MST 2006


Loyalist Threats Reflect Reaction to Progress

Le Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh

If it wasn’t so potentially serious, Michael Stone’s 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 
Stone’s case, his motivation was probably self-publicisation. No doubt his 
‘art’ will be selling an extra hundred pounds an item following his latest 
political theatre.

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 what’s 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 Patten’s recommendations have been 
implemented and what else do we want in detail? These details should be on 
the tip of our tongues.

It’s not just about discussing though. What’s needed, certainly in the Six 
Counties, as identified in Declan Kearney’s 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 we’re 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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