[Marxism] Ireland: reply to Donal

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Sat Feb 21 18:42:29 MST 2004

 > Well, Phil there is a limit to how much I want to be saying here.
 > Suffice it to say that I know *all* Republican movements are obviously
 > inflicted with Brit Agents. But then there is a qualitative difference
 > between that situation and one where an organisation is *fundamentally*
 > compromised. It is not me saying this alone - nor even the RM itself -
 > but the original leadership of the RIRA itself (all of whom are
 > currently languishing in jail). They won't say openly who's behind
 > this - they say that the current (outside) leadership are criminals but
 > you should read into these things. I can state categorically that that
 > bunch are compromised at the highest level. As another contributor put
 > it - the Omagh bombing looks to be conducted by M15 agents - at least
 > one in the team is reportedly an agent. There is much more. I won't go
 > into to it for obvious reasons.
 > I don't claim that the INLA are run by Brits - even though I disagree
 > with them. Or even the CIRA - although they're pretty fucked up too.
 > Just consider this fact - since they were formed the RIRA have killed
 > not a single armed British soldier or RUC man. Yet they've managed to
 > blow up almost 30 civilians and did countless other blunders. Something
 > seriously wrong?? Wake up and smell the coffee.

Yes, and the something seriously wrong is that the RIRA was formed as a
reaction to the Provo leadership's sell-out, rather than having any
serious politics and strategy.  They have no social base, and so they
carry out militarist activities.

I am not denying they probably have Brit agents.  Their whole style
makes them easy for the brits to use provocateurs and therefore
discredit any opposition to the GFA.  Which, of course, works in the
Provos' favour, because then the Provos can appear as the only
reasonable game in town.

Me earlier:
 >>Actually, the real British agents in the north of Ireland these days
 > the leadership of the Provos, whom you suport.  They aren't undercover
 > agents, they are openly helping run the six-county state as part of
 > Britain and doing Britain's dirty work.

 > This is your usual gratuitous crap. If we were agents of Brit
 > Imperialism as you claim they wouldn't have collapsed the Assembly here
 > and they wouldn't have called an election in which the DUP smashed the
 > old UUP. And they wouldn't be worrying about how much support we were
 > going to get from the 26Counties in the upcoming elections. And they
 > wouldn't be spying on us or conducting a high grade antagonistic
 > militaristic build up along the border to get our people pushing for the
 > button.

Well, this is what republicans said of the Treatyites in 1921.  It's
also what the Provo leadership said of all the other earlier leaders who
did deals with the Brits and the Free State.  Now, they are all upset
because they are being held account to the same standards and principles.

If the Brits were so worried about SF, they wouldn't have collapsed the
Assembly and held elections in which they knew SF would overtake the SDLP.

The only fears the Brits may have about SF is that the onward march of
SF may well raise people's expectations.  However the Brits - and the
Southern state - have the measure of the Provo leadership and likely
understand the ability of that leadership to lower peeople's
expactations and horizons, like Provo executive ministers in the
northern government have by implementing health and education cuts
rather than spearheading resistance to such cuts.

Me earlier:
 >>So if you want to get into a discussion about arrogance, I'd just say
 > that it is arrogant in the extreme for anyone who supports Britain's
 > chief republican agents to start throwing around claims that RIRA is
 > being run by the British state.

 > No. I'd say it was arrogant to talk as if you knew about things you
 > haven't (and have never had) a clue about.

I know who intiated the RIRA, and they were lifelong republicans, not
Brit agents.  Even you kind of admit this, by saying that the imprisoned
leadership (who were the founders) are calling the current people
running the show agents.

Me earlier:
 >>Personally, I think RIRA should disband, or at least knock off armed
 > actions.  This is not because they are being run by the Brits, but
 > because there is simply no base upon which to organise an armed struggle
 > in Ireland today, thanks to the Provo sell-out.

 > Even here you are wrong. I don't for a minute believe that the base for
 > further military action has somehow dissipated. To be honest, most
 > people almost expect a return to come.

Not at all wrong.  This is precisely the reason why the INLA suspended
armed actions.  If they thought there was a serious base of any kind of
mass, or mini-mass, proportions, it would be unlikely there would be an
INLA ceasefire.

The Provo leadership are not about to return to armed struggle.  They
are committed to becoming part of the establishment.  Although I don't 
doubt that a few of them engage in wink and nod activities with the 
membership to lull them into believing that a return to the armed 
struggle is possible.  You'd have to be pretty gullible, this late in 
the peace, to fall for that though.

Moreover, since Adams and co. replaced the previous leadership in no
small part because of the negative effects of the mid-70s ceasefire,
they know they wouldn't long survive a return to war, even if they were 
inclined to it (which Id oubt very much).

 >>It is that lack of a social base which could act as a political
 > corrective, and not British
 > control, which explains why RIRA has carried out some crazy military
 > operations.
 > Some crazy military operations. I challenge you Phil Ferguson (in front
 > of all the others following this thread) to actually name *one* (just
 > one) single action by the RIRA which wasn't fucked up. I can't. Not one.

No, I can't think of one either.  *That* is precisely why I say that
there is no social base for the armed struggle at present and that
people who try to ignore that will *inevitably* engage in crazy operations.

 > What does that tell you. Your portrayal of these guys as somehow hard
 > core *militarists* fails to see the realities of what they (and all
 > other dissident groups) are really about: money.

This is another smear of "all dissidents".  This is exactly the smear
that the Brits, the RUC, the SDLP and the Officials used to use against
the Provos.

Again, the same smears that were used by the state and their friends on
the 'left' against the Provos are now being used by the Provos against
"all dissident" republicans.

You should be embarrassed to resort to this tactic, and ashamed of 
yourself in hindsight.

But it's difficult to see how even crazy operations like Omagh had
mnetary befits for RIRA.  If they were only interested in money, they'd
just rob banks and organise protection rackets.

And of course, there are plenty of other dissidents, like CIRA/RSF and
the pople around 'Fourthwrite', not to mention the IRSP/INLA.

If you want to talk about money, take a look at the article Brendan
Hughes (former OC of the republican POWS in the H-Blocks) wrote a couple
of years ago about how well people associated with the Provos have done
out of the GFA.  You can find it on the 'Fourthwrite' website.

Me earlier:
 >>I think it is also necessary to ask who is responsible for the
 > existence
 > of RIRA.  RIRA exists because the Provo leadership did deals with the
 > Brits *behind the backs of the mass of activists in the movement
 > itself*.

 > If you had your way negotiations would be open to all. We'd be bringing
 > our negotiating strategy down to the base so that the Brits would know
 > what we'd say before we'd say it.

This is a typical bourgeois-nationalist ruse.  This is the same excuse
that the Treatyites used when doing the 1921 deal behind the backs of
the movement as a whole.

Moreover, if you imagine that the Brits did not know what Adams and co.
were going to say in advance, then you are very naive.

 > That's not the way any guerrilla
 > movement works.

Actually, it is.  Leaders do not engage in secret discussions with the
enemy that the membership *doesn't even know about*.  Nor do they commit
themselves to agreements without the approval of the membership.  Well,
unless they're Yasser Arafat.  And, unfortunately, that's the model the
Provo leadership have taken up.

 >This is why you are arrogant - you think you know how to
 > run a war.

I've never suggested any such thing.  Moreover, I joined the political 
wing rather than the military wing, precisely because I have no 
illusions about knowing how to run a war.

None of the left critics of the GFA and current course of the Provos 
have based their criticisms on the conduct of the war.  So your comment
here is a red herring.

Quite to the contrary, our criticisms are based on how the Provo
leadership conducts *the peace*.

In relationship to the negotiations, however, I do know democracy and
accountability are very important in a genuinely revolutionary
organisation and that when these are not being observed you can bet
something is afoot.  Secret diplomacy always ends with the interests of 
the foot-soldiers and the masses being handed away.

Btw, since this is a Marxist list, we might in bring in Brest-Litovsk, 
the famous concessionary treaty the Bolsheviks were forced to make with 
the Germans.  There was a very lively and harshly critical discussion 
about this in the Bolshevik Party, before, during and after it's 
signing.  Contrast this to the skullduggery of Provo leaders who 
conducted secret meetings with the Brits, made deals and then engaged in 
all kinds of trickery because they knew they could not openly tell the 
ranks what they were committed to (more about this below).

 > From what I've heard you found it hard enough to run an
 > anti-extradiction campaign.

Another gratuitous smear, not even worth replying to.

 > 9 times out of 10 its the same thing. You
 > guys really want to be our Gerry Adams. Then you think you would run it
 > better. Every one wants to be Lenin. And if you're not - you think it's
 > a sell-out.

"You guys"?

Actually, the Great Leader outlook you evince here is pretty foreign to
genuine revolutionaries.

Look at who is saying it is a sell-out.  People like Brendan Hughes,
people like Bernadette.  People like Ruairi og.  Are you really saying
that they want to be Lenin and are only pissed off with the GFA and what
the Provo leadership have done becau

Me earlier:
>>  The result was that some people drew the conclusion, as has
> happened plenty of times in Irish republican history, that the
> 'politicals' had sold out yet again and that a bit of good old-fashioned
> militarism was the necessary antidote.

> That's just bullshit. Nobody thinks that. I doubt if anyone actually
> thought it in the past. I think not even Ruairi O'Bradaigh would admit
> to being a bone-headed militarist. That's just pure chauvinism. We dumb
> Irish resort to violence when we can't understand political struggle
> which a few 'intellectuals' engage in. It's quite offensive too. 

It's not in the slightest offensive.  It's what republicans have said 
themselves.  It's quite a common republican observation that when 
politics is seen to fail there is a resort to militarism.

It's hardly ethnic either, because it happens all over the world.  It 
has nothing to do with 'dumb Irish'.

Don't be so childish.

> I'll
> defend the intelligence of people like McKevitt - that 'tabloid'
> characterisation falls far short of him. That's why I gave you that
> website - but obviously your inherent superiority has prevented you from
> feeling the necessity of actually seeing where those guys are coming
> from. It ain't puerile militarism anyhow. They just don't see our
> strategy working. 

Exactly!  They don't see *politics* as working, so they have returned to 
a military-centred strategy.  Which is militarism.

> I know many comrades in the movement who don't see it
> working - I certainly do - but we discuss it. It isn't as if people are
> just following leadership. We often have a meeting and ask a provocative
> question like 'did the hunger strikers die for nothing' or 'is 6
> cross-border agencies what the war was about'. It's about getting people
> to understand a dialectical process. Of course to you, ideologue as you
> are - that's all obvious - but I honestly think that some of our people
> who can hardly read have a better understanding of the dynamic of
> struggle now after 10 years of this political war.

There is no 'political war'.  There is the incorporation of the Provo 
leadership into the institutions of state.  The same way as with the 
Treatyites, Fianna Fail, Cumann na Poblachta and the Sticks.

The fact that you refuse to see it indicates that you are the ideologue. 
    Rather than draw on lessons of history, you are ideologically 
committed to a process that you call the 'political war' but which is 
pretty clear to other people is the process of incorporation that has 
happened time and again in Irish history and, indeed, internationally, 
where liberation movements, or more particularly their leaderships, have 
been incorporated into either outright imperialist or else neo-colonial 
political structures.

Me earlier:
>> Unfortunately, you support those secret deals and the participation of
> the Provo leadership in helping run the colonial statelet in the six
> counties.

> Whether deals were progressed in secret - they're now all on the table.
> People can see them. I think people understand that these supposed
> 'deals' were just processes - they couldn't see that when expressed in
> ideological terms but when after years of protracted negotiations,
> collapses, problems people see things changing and understand that this
> is a process, that the current leadership is absolutely committed to
> achieving its objective and that we are growing in strength and in
> power. I could expand but why should I?

Yes, the deals are now on the table, because they are fait accompli and 
people can do nothing about them.

But when the deals were being made, they were not on the table and the 
republican grassroots were effectively disenfranchised.

I can still recall the way in which 'Pathways to Peace' was manipulated 
so it became policy withut being adopted by the ranks.  It was first put 
forward merely as a 'discussion document'.  This meant it could not be 
voted on by an ard fheis, so the membership were excluded from 
discussing it at party conferences let alone voting on it.  The next 
thing we knew, it would be quoted or put forward in some other way, as 
if it were party policy.  When people would object or want to know the 
status of it, they would be told, "Oh no, no, it's still just a 
discussion document", so people were reassured or, more accurately, 
still prevented from voting on it.  It became used more and more, and 
just took on the status of official policy.  And so, it became an 
historic document, guiding the orientation of the party without having 
been adopted.

With the GFA, the leadership was astutue enough to know they couldn't 
get this through an ard fheis straight away.  So they postponed votes, 
and worked to ensure a situation, or at least an ard fheis composition, 
where they could get it through.

Hardly new, btw, this is exactly what the Sticks did in 1969/70, with 
the army convention and then the party ard fheis.

Me earlier:
>> This also explains why you have the awful position on Iraq 
> and are making excuses for the quisling Iraqi CP and its participation
> in the imperialist 'governing council'.

> First of all. I don't think anyone has actually responded to the issue I
> was raising. Secondly, you are dealing with straw men here. I never said
> that I make excuses for participation of the CPI anywhere. I didn't.
> Indeed, if you read carefully you will find that I always inserted
> conditions on what I was discussing. I'm afraid I tend to argue at the
> level of generalisms and to avoid specificities - simply because I don't
> know what the situation is in Iraq - although you do of course. You the
> individual who didn't even understand what was happening in Ireland
> while you were here. 

Another of your increasingly typical gratuitous insults.  I guess it 
points up the weakness of your political argument, however.

> So go back and try and find my statements in
> support of the CP of Iraq. You'll find conditions attached throughout.

Ah, now who's being condescending and know-all.  You are attaching 
conditions to the IRaqi CP being in the governing council.

I'm not attaching any conditions.

I'm just saying it shows they are quislings - which is how large 
sections of the Iraqi population see them.

 >Unfortunately for
> you I raised it at a slightly higher level and said (I'm paraphrasing
> the original argument) that such a position was defensible in principle
> but whether it was correct in practice
> depended on the 'objective circumstances' on the ground and whether such
> a strategy was most appropriate. Sadly enough, you've never been able to
> see the value of such a dialectical and non-dogmatic approach to
> strategy. You like to deal in absolutes:

Ah, but of course you deal in absolutes.

Here's one of your absolutes:

It is an absolute principle that all principles are up for sale.

Here's another of your absolutes:

It is an absolute principle that leaders have the right to engage in 
secret discussions, make secret deals and use whatever tactics necessary 
to get these deals accepted by the ranks.

The difference is that I'm just honest enogh to admit that I do have 
some absolute principles.  One - I'd say this is the over-riding one, 
too - is that you don't sell out the things you believe in, and that 
masses of people have fought, suffered and died for, just so you can get 
a position at the top table of this rotten system.

> As an aside, looking back at it I think that Louis (who spoke the second
> of these - but I feel I could apply it to yourself equally) means
> something entirely different to me when he says 'support'. For him
> support is a judgement on the validity of their cause. For him to
> support a group means that he recognises that they are acting in the
> objective best interests of humanity. For me,

Yeh, for you it is all relative and negotiable.

Philip Ferguson

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