[Marxism] Review of Peace Process

D OC donaloc at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 13 10:40:44 MST 2006

On the dreadful book on the IRA by Ed Moloney - I wouldn't be recommending 
it. His main sources would appear to be anti-SF, ex-Republican individuals 
who have not even identified themselves. The book has a number of obvious 
errors and a serious number of misrepresentations, it misses out any 
discussion of the impact of the Hunger Strikes, leaves the internal 
development within the RM undiscussed during the 1990s and fails to identify 
the strategic importance of Canary wharf. The aim of the book is to sell 
itself on the basis of salacious slurs and potentially to encourage internal 
suspicion within SF. The problem is that it signally failed to do the latter 
because it made some suggestions which were widely known to be just wrong.

If people want to get one book on recent history - then Peter Taylor's is 
okay - something more on the long-war, then Bowyer-Bell is the best. Maloney 
is like a Red-Top tabloid version with sensationalised accounts of stuff 
most people either knew already or just doesn't seem important. One thing 
that Philip says that is true is that it doesn't deal with the politics of 
the transition only makes a one-sided and malicious presentation of its 

That Philip can spare the time to read this sort of tripe and to promote it 
on a marxism list really says much more about him than I can explain. One of 
the problems with this form of list is that those who are serious - and who 
have be responsible - cannot discuss things openly or as fully as is 
possible in private conversations. Suffice it to say, then, that the overall 
impact of a book like that of Maloney on serious people - many of whom would 
have went out and bought it with an open mind as to what it set out to prove 
- where such things can be discussed in private was virtually nil. A serious 
correspondent is limited as to exactly what they can write in public - a 
revolutionary phrase-monger can make weak arguments and then dally onto the 
next subject with as little care.

More widely a serious activist must make hard choices based on analysis - 
unsure about whether they will work out or not - but together with others 
discussing and reviewing all the time together. A revolutionary phrase 
monger does not have to face up to hard choices, they instead just continue 
to line up the hoops for compliance with inherited dogma and continue in 
their little 'revolutionary circles' or in many cases on their as 
cyber-warriors. An activist is not totally certain but characterised by 
determination and hope for the future. Was it Gramsci - 'pessimism of the 
intellect, optimism of the will'. A revolutionary phrase-monger is 
cock-sure, pays little attention to the detail of arguments and lacks any 
commitment to see the task through to the bitter end. I ask those serious 
marxists to think about this and which one is described aptly.

The path which SF is pursuing is a challenging one. It cannot be otherwise 
as the potential of a military campaign to succeed is highly remote and the 
party must struggle towards its goals on the basis of winning mass support 
for its positions and strategies.

I believe that Philip is making a mistake in trying to transpose the 
categories of Russia 1917 to Ireland in 2006. In some way, this parallels 
the mistake of Trotsky himself in transposing the Russian revolutionary 
model to China in 1927. Indeed, he outdoes Trotsky as China was not at that 
time in any way invaded by a foreign occupying force whereas Ireland is - 
that fundamentally changes the scenario. I am glad, however, that he appears 
to have clarified his position on the democratic revolution growing over 
into the socialist revolution as opposed to the nonsense model of Permanent 

He then tries to make the comparison with Nepal claiming that the Nepalese 
maoist insurgency had not disarmed unlike the IRA only to be forced to admit 
that it had signed up to it. Then, he claimed that the Nepalese guerillas 
secured substantially more than the IRA had. He claims that they have 
succeeded in deposing the Nepalese King (untrue so far) and that this is 
better than Martin McGuinness getting one of the First Minister-deputy First 
Minister positions in the north. Of course, this is a huge over 
simplification and again, it absolutely fails to acknowledge the most 
salient features of struggle in the north of Ireland today - those which 
should be abcs for an materialist analysis i.e. number one that the IRA have 
not proved capable of defeating the British although the British themselves 
have not succeeded in beating the IRA either and, number two, that SF or 
militant Republicans do not command any where near a majority level of 
support across the island or even in the north. Comparing the situation with 
that in Nepal where the Maoists were winning the insurgency war and where 
they were commanding a huge level of popular support is absolutely mindless. 
Comparing the relative gains made by both is even more stupid.

A serious analysis of the current situation cannot begin in 2006 but needs 
to be set in the context of the now 800 year old struggle of Irish people 
against the British military. I realise that not all readers might 
understand all of this and might be unsure quite why the overwhelming 
majority of Irish Republicans have followed their leadership into the Peace 
Process. Moreover, they may be unsure from this list that this is even the 
case and perhaps unaware that those who oppose SF from a purported 
Republican viewpoint represent a political base of probably less than 1% of 
the total population in the north.

The GFA represented a historic compromise for Republicans. As an agreement 
it represented the relative balance of forces between the various parties to 
the conflict in the north of Ireland. it involved significant concessions by 
Republicans in particular represented a recognition by SF that it could not 
dictate the terms of negotiations themselves and enforce the rightful 
national sovereignty of the Irish people. As the only significant party on 
the island to oppose the British-imposed principle of consent (which states 
that the majority in the Six Counties have the right to determine when there 
is reunification), SF was simply not powerful enough to force through the 
overturning of this principle - which let us recall was specifically 
acknowledged as being on the table in the negotiations by the British at the 
time. The agreement did, however, recognise formally the right of the Irish 
people as a whole to self-determination, conditional on this veto, but also 
established Institutions of all-Ireland governance including parallel 
participatory structures at every level in the interim. Furthermore, the 
agreement included provisions for all governmental policies to be screened 
as to their impact on equality, the provision for the development of a Bill 
of Rights and a promised 'new beginning' to Policing in the north. It 
represented a constitutional platform within which the British Act of Union 
1800 and its amendment in 1921 were overturned - these gave the British 
parliament final say over British union not the Irish people themselves - a 
platform in which the Irish people would have the opportunity to achieve 
independence albeit subject to the unionist majority in the north. It 
represented a fundamental compromise to Republicanism - which had previous 
to that simply demanded a British withdrawal and recognition of the 
sovereignty of the Irish people taken as a whole. SF at no point accepted 
the validity of the principle of consent but recognised that they would have 
to work within a system on its basis.

Despite this however, it was decided by the overwhelming majority of Irish 
Republicans that this process offered space to achieve their goal. The RM as 
a whole went into the arrangements in order to achieve that. Some rejected 
the strategy - most of whom did nothing but occasionally carp on with others 
who had done nothing for years, a few of the dissenters went out on a very 
unsuccessful bombing campaign which culminated in the Omagh bombing which 
killed 31 civilians. It should be noted that no British soldier has been 
shot since the IRA ceasefire despite the 'campaigns' of a number of 
organisations. Some other organisations outside the RM decided to go on 
their own ceasefire and conduct social struggles although these have 
amounted to virtually nothing as has been admitted by John McAnulty on this 

Some of what was promised in the GFA was delivered. Much was subject to 
continued wrangling with other parties and subject to the British government 
- which did not take long to move away from the terms of the agreement 
applying unilateral authority with the tacit agreement of the Dublin 
Government. SF which on signing the agreement had about 16% of the vote grew 
in popularity both north and south of the border to the extent that it now 
is the largest pro-Agreement political party in the north. This itself is 
responsible for the continuation of the peace process as a process involving 
continually more negotiations as the negotiations themselves reflect the 
relative strengths of the contending parties.

Note that it is highly possible that if the DUP split on the putative deal 
that they see before them, that SF might become the largest political party 
in the north and acquire the apparently more important role of First 
Minister of the north (the reality is that the powers of First 
Minister-deputy First Minister are in actual fact tied together and 
co-equal). The impact of the image of this alone on Unionist mindsets - 
which are possibly only intelligible by comparison to the average Klansman 
in the USA or an Afrikaner in old South Africa - can only be imagined. It 
might destabilise the north to such an extent that the British pursue 
direct-rule in conjunction with the Dublin Government until the north 
finally is reabsorbed into a united Ireland.

It should be clear from the above presentation that SF is proactively 
seeking to advance and popularise its struggle for Irish unity through 
engaging with institutions. A natural consequence of that is that they will 
have to adopt a position in relation to policing and justice institutions 
themselves which are administrated in a period when the British still 
maintain their occupation of the north. Not to be forgotten is the history 
of these institutions which were responsible for sending approximately 
10,000 (mainly) IRA volunteers to serve imprisonments over the course of the 
last 30 years. That's about 2% of the entire nationalist population in the 
north and maybe as much as about 5% of the male population over the age of 
30. Over the course of the conflict the RUC (now PSNI) worked hand-in-glove 
with loyalist killers, British security apparatus and with the UDR - a 
unionist militia - to put down the IRA (sometimes INLA) campaign. They 
killed civilians, tortured people and run agents who's sole purpose was 
often merely to sow mistrust within the RM, gather information or else to 
eliminate those who were considered dangerous. It is hard to imagine a more 
difficult task than to have been an IRA commander during this period of 

So this is a very difficult position for Republicans and this is why people 
like Gerry Kelly have indicated their determination to get Policing 'right'. 
At the same time, not entering policing structures will have serious 
implications for the progress of the Peace process and will allow the 
enemies of Republicanism to continue to present SF as a collection of 
criminals (Margaret Thatcher tried to portray the Republican struggle as 
criminal as early as 1980 and this strategy continues to this day). People 
who for decades have never contacted the largely unionist police force are 
being forced to contact them through both political normalisation and 
through the explosion in criminality which occurred as a result of the 
prolonged absence of the IRA from the streets and fields.

SF are therefore demanding that the policing and justice systems be reformed 
fundamentally. The bourgeois nationalist party, the SDLP, accepted the 
initial reforms offered by the British in 1998 under the Patten reform which 
created the PSNI. SF held firm and have seen these initial offerings 
augmented through two subsequent British bills on Justice powers and three 
further bills on Policing. There is another bill currently gone through 
which enables the devolution of final control of Policing and Justice powers 
at some future point - when all parties agree to it on a cross-community 
basis - and this will represent a repatriation of control over policing 
powers to the north. The British created accountability mechanisms including 
an independent ombudsman, local boards composed of political parties (in 
some areas with SF/nationalist majorities) with significant powers over 
local police. There are also procedures allowing for the 'contracting out' 
of policing to local policing services as identified by local policing 
boards. Unionists have expressed concern that this will allow IRA units to 
run policing in their own areas - although the British have denied this and 
taken steps to exclude anyone found guilty of terrorism offences from such 
activities. The bills also provide for community-run Community Restorative 
Justice systems to be implemented which take an entirely different approach 
to crime and criminality than that found in traditional western policing 
textbooks and is based on community-led approaches to policing.

SF are still not satisfied with this, however, the party has made it clear 
that it wants a clear timeframe for the transfer of powers and complete 
separation between British security services (i.e. MI5) and the local civic 
police service. As we speak, there is no indication that these demands have 
been met by the British.

At the same time, political unionism has faced a crisis of unparalleled 
proportions. On the night that the IRA ceasefire was declared the then 
leader of the UUP forecast that it represented the greatest single challenge 
to the stability of the Six County statelet. The UUP leader was not only 
leader of the largest party in the north but the party which had created the 
north and which had ruled it as a dictatorship from 1921 to 1972 when their 
one-party and discriminatory statelet was prorogued by the British 
Government in response to the rising conflict.

The UUP had maintained its rule through political gerrymandering 
guaranteeing its ability to run the north despite lacking majorities in 
areas. The UUP had also oversaw the creation of a near apartheid state where 
everything was separated between Catholics and Protestants. The latter 
received preferential employment and the former had to live at the margins. 
This created a stimulus for Catholics to leave the north and not return 
undercutting their population growth and securing the pro-British majority. 
This preferential treatment was not restricted to the huge 
military-industrial complex which grew out of a very militarised society but 
was concentrated in the industrial base in the east, in the large 
land-holdings of the west and even in Belfast port was expressed in a dry 
dock (Protestants only) and a wet dock (Catholics doing the 'dirty work' for 
less money). This situation largely remained in place until the 1990s and 
was only undercut through the disinvestment by the British in its 
manufacturing sector at that time.

The Peace Process must also be seen in the context of a very substantial 
demographic change in the north. While politics cannot be simplified down to 
headcounts, it is important both to account of rising nationalist confidence 
and growing unionist fear. Currently Protestants outnumber Catholics 3 to 1 
over the age of 65 yet Catholics outnumber Protestants 2 to 1 under the age 
of 10. This does not mean that Republicans should await for 'the revenge of 
the cradle' - as it would neither be sensible nor politically moral - but it 
is of significance in understanding the context. Note also that the massive 
demographic change is reflective of a number of factors not just simply 
higher birth rates in Nationalists (i.e. Protestants live substantially 
longer, child-bearing age Protestants are now emigrating in larger numbers 
and the number of Catholics over 65 is smaller due to the past 
discriminatory statelet which encourages their haemhorraging away from the 

Discrimination was not all a Catholic could expect in those times, many 
lived in poverty stricken conditions, every July Catholics had to disappear 
for the pro-British parades conducted by the Orange Order through their 
areas. Some Catholics were murdered or shot by the Protestant militia the 
B-specials - including one of my own - anticedent to the UDR (then RIR now 
disbanded). There were sporadic campaigns by the IRA across the border but 
these were limited by low levels of support and a negative attitude by the 
Irish government. Labour struggles were restricted by the sectarian 
division. The few marxists who did exist in the Protestant community and who 
had been educated by Connolly were largely isolated by the 1930s by 
sectarianism. Republicans were split on socialism with many holding greater 
allegiance to the Catholic church and narrow-minded nationalism. The CP 
itself was even split given the preponderance of pro-British trade unionists 
in Belfast and the pro-Republican communists in the rest of Ireland.

The Agreement threatened that statelet. It is necessary to remember what it 
was like living under Orange rule in the Orange statelet in Ireland. It is 
all too easy to forget how much has already been achieved. One by one the 
struts which held up the British state in Ireland have been undercut. The 
Orange order can no longer walk down Catholic streets singing anti-papist 
songs and making threats. Worse for them, this failure to continue their 
traditions of intimidation has resulted in a fracturing of the order itself 
and its chronic weakening. The monolithic UUP which ruled over the north for 
decades was decimated at the last elections and seems like it will never 
recover. The B-specials who changed uniforms to become the UDR and then the 
RIR were just disbanded by a British government which felt that it didn't 
need them any longer. The Justice system which underpinned injustice in the 
north now is fundamentally reformed and much more open and accountable. Many 
nationalist Catholics are rapidly climbing up its structures. The RUC (now 
PSNI) is being reformed and it remains to be determined whether its 
sectarian ethos can withstand the entry of SF into structures pending the 
British changes. Already the force has unparalleled 'absence' rates among 
its sectarian membership and is arguably more hated in pro-British working 
class (Loyalist) areas than in Catholic ones these days. The British army 
has retired to its bases and many of these have been removed including the 
famous ones in South Armagh and in West Belfast.

In equality, the agenda of the Peace process has been largely frustrated. 
This is mainly due to the instability of the institutions themselves and the 
inherent sectarianism of many leading Civil servants in the north, who in 
the absence of local politicians, have reverted to type. Contrary to what is 
presented by anti-Republicans from the mainsteam, equality is still a huge 
issue in the north. Unemployment differentials remain (particularly where 
they are assess from a perspective of hidden unemployment). Catholics take 
50% more time in Belfast to get a house on the housing list than 
Protestants. For further details on the range of equality issues see recent 
report by the Committee for the Administration of Justice.

The recent process has also seen the emergence of greater involvement in 
politics by the trades unions, community sector and even business sectors. 
This is largely because of the failure of the institutions to prove stable 
enough to generate democratic leadership. This is of consequence to those 
who seek genuine democratic change in Ireland in the long run and represents 
a drastic change from the attitudes of these groups in prior periods of the 

Those who have argued from the sidelines against the process have actually 
been further isolated as it has progressed. There is undoubtedly a 
significant debate occuring within SF. For the first time, this is a 
decision on which the party alone must make its judgement. The leadership 
have indicated that it will be for the party itself to determine at an 
extraordinary Ard Fheis - national conference - and that this will only be 
called when the leadership themselves are satisfied that their demands for 
considering it have been complied with.

That the main debate is occuring within SF itself and not among the anti-SF 
micro-groups and assorted lunatic fringe parties is of significance. SF has 
a mass support which its opponents recognise and will carry the people with 
it. There are some who for all the reasons above find entering policing 
arrangements under any circumstances a step too far. There are many others 
who feel that SF should be in policing already. For most, however, this is 
fundamentally a decision on the modalities of entry into Policing 
structures. What is the minimum that will allow a forward moving dynamic to 

The focus of this email has been primarily to explain the politics of the 
Six County statelet. By necessity it cannot be provided without referencing 
to the all-Ireland situation. The dramatic growth of the Celtic Tiger 
economy has placed substantial impetus to business in the north, the EU, the 
two Governments and even all parties talking up cross-border integration. 
With every passing day, Ireland moves closer to unity in some regard.

At the same time, SF's social agenda is slowly gaining support in the Free 
State - which remains difficult because of the rabid anti-SF attitude of its 
media barons and state media. It is not admittedly overtly revolutionary but 
focussed on measures to achieve equality. By its definition, this is a 
bourgeois conception and relatively vacuous - however, it gives the party 
enough room to maneuvre to gain support from those who have been left 
marginalised by recent growth yet still make a strong case for Irish 
reunification, make demands for structural changes to empower the people 
themselves and to link the social and national struggles either side of the 

Phil no doubt would judge all this to be menshevism as per his little 
oversimplified textbook of revolution. I anticipate that the same level of 
analysis would have led the Philips of the world to adjudge Mao's book 'On 
Coalition' or 'On New Democracy' as menshevik and maybe would result in a 
characterisation of Ho's negotiations with the French in 1946 as a betrayal 
of the struggle there at that time. None of these fall neatly into your 

The reality is that the preceding analysis is the level at which the 
question of Policing in the Six Counties must be set. This represents both 
the reality on the ground and in the popular mind.

I don't intend posting much more as this is becoming tedious making the same 
points over and over again.

le meas,

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