[Marxism] DOC's misconceptions and New Sinn Fein

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Sat Dec 9 16:49:39 MST 2006

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.

My approach, of course, is predicated on the role of British
imperialism.  New Sinn Fein holds that British imperialism can be
benevolent - New Sinn Fein has sought to 'persuade' the imperialists to
be a force for peace and for the imperialists to 'persuade' the
unionists to come on board.

Then we have your comment on the harmlessness of "unarmed US

You seem rather confused about imperialism. 

> (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, 

Actually, Trotsky got it right on China.  He warned *in the 1920s* of
the disastrous strategy of the CP, on orders from Moscow, tail-ending
the KMT, a course which resulted in the massacre of the CP in the cities
in 1925-27.

In the 1930s, Trotsky favoured a united front between the CP and the KMT
against the Japanese - but without the CP subordinating itself to the
KMT as in the 1920s.

You clearly don't actually know what Trotsky's positions were on such

Moreover, unlike you or Gerry Adams, Trotsky was the military leader of
a socialist revolution - indeed, a socialist revolution in a country
that was as much feudal as capitalist and a country which, as Lenin
noted, was "a prisonhouse of nations".  So Trotsky knew quite a bit
about imperialism and how to fight it.  He was not only the head of the
Bolshevik's armed wing, the Military-Revolutionary Committee, which led
the armed insurrection in October 1917, he was subsequently given the
assignment of founding the Red Army.  The Red Army, led by Trotsky,
defeated 13 invading armies.  Who have you or Gerry Adams ever defeated?

Your comments that Trotsky didn't understand imperialism are, as I said
before, the political equivalent of the Spice Girls slagging off the
Beatles and the Beatles' contribution to pop music. 

>Permanent revolution irrevocably linked the tasks of the socialist
struggle with the national-liberation struggle 

True.  And so did the Provos up until recently.  That's why in the
1970s, the Provos got denounced as the "Provo-Trots" by the Officials.

Separating the tasks out into different historical periods was the mark
of Menshevism.  Adams and co, however, have taken New Sinn Fein well
beyond Menshevism and into simple bourgeois-nationalism.

>(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.

You are reciting the Lenin of 1905, not the Lenin of 1917.  Go away and
read the 'April Theses'.  

If the Bolsheviks had have followed the line you claim then they would
have entered the Provisional Government, not stood outside it with the
goal of overthrowing it.

The October revolution was a *socialist revolution*.  The Bolsheviks
never carried out a 'democratic revolution' separate in space and time
from a socialist revolution.

Once again you reveal your Menshevism.  It was the Mensheviks who went
into the Provisional Government and the Bolsheviks who overthrew them.  

If you want to make an analogy between Ireland today and Russia in 1917,
then what New Sinn Fein is doing in trying to get into a reformed
Stormont and help govern the six-county state is the equivalent of the
Menshevik attitude to going into the government established after the
February revolution.  The Bolsheviks, of course, denounced this as a
sell-out and began patiently organising to overthrow the Provisional

>(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.

The problem is that they have abandoned the demand for Irish liberation.
Instead of looking to the masses of the Irish people to achieve
liberation, they look to imperialist governments and alliances with
mainstream capitalist parties.

>(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 parties).

This is all part of the house-training of New Sinn Fein.  The British
hold out the carrot and keep taking it away again, so NSF moves further
and further away from its old principles.  The Brits are now pretty
satisfied with how far New Sinn Fein have moved.  New Labour types
understand this especially well as they performed a similar function in
the British Labour Party to what the Adamsites have performed atop

>(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. 

Actually, this is the worst sort of mechanical economic determinism that
was found in the Second International and demolished by Luxemburg in
'Reform or Revolution' and later by Lenin.  For Marxists, human agency
is decisive.

>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.

I doubt you have ever seriously read Gramsci, let alone Luxemburg and
Trotsky who you so arrogantly dismiss.

Like I said before, Gramsci was a revolutionary.  His idea of hegemony
was an explanation of how the ruling class rule and his idea of
counter-hegemony was about a revolutionary vanguard creating a
counter-pole in society in general, not through entering
imperialist-imposed institutions.

It's funny that you have to resort to the Laclau-Mouffe distortion of
Gramsci, a pair of hopeless academics, while you turn your nose up at
Luxemburg, Trotsky and the actual Lenin. 

> (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 process.

Most of this is just nonsense.

Accountability is these days enshrined in the mission statements of
police forces throughout the western world.  And you can't swing a cat
without hitting some kind of an ombdusman.

In the article in the 'Irish Times' about the meeting in Belfast
attended by 250 people, mainly opposed to SF's capitulation over
policing, an SF spokesperson turned up and mouthed this kind of rubbish.
Someone in the audience called out, "Wake him up!"  

I doubt, however, that you can be woken.

>(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

Any steps taken against New Sinn Fein are part of the process of

You typically vastly exaggerate ("a massive question"), just like your
nonsense about a securocrat conspiracy to prevent SF from getting into a
revamped Stormont. 

>(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.

Actually, the comparison shows the opposite.  The Maoists control 80
percent of the countryside and entered into negotiations from a point of
strength.  The Provos had no comparable strength.

The Nepalese Maoists have not attempted to enter into neo-colonial deals
and institutions.  Their demand for the abolition of the monarchy is the
equivalent to the demand for British withdrawal, not for the minor
tinkerings being sought by New Sinn Fein.  And, of course, they have not
disarmed and surrendered, as the IRA has.

>(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.

Most of this sits neatly with SDLP policy and with ideas developed by
people like Charles Haughey and Martin Manergh.

The idea that there will be an all-Ireland "social economy" and
structures at every level that allow for a swift "democratic revolution"
in Ireland is nonsense.  And, of course, runs totally counter to your
attempt to hijack Lenin.  Lenin went for a socialist revolution; Lenin
and the Bolsheviks chose not to limit themselves to a "democratic
revolution".  Let alone the kind of reformism which you outline, which
would have embarrassed even Kautsky.

>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 sellout...

Tell me, what workers' struggles have SF led recently?

Where is the mass campaigning on the ground?


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