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What For the Future?

Mick Hall • 14 August 2005

With the standing down of the PIRA, Irish Republicanism is now going to have to face the same thorny problem that revolutionaries though-out the western world have faced before them. If revolutionary change is not on the immediate or medium term agenda, where does that leave revolutionaries? Do they keep the flame of revolution burning to await better days, by huddling together in tiny groups on the edge of society and the fringe of the political life of the nation? Or accept the fact that a revolutionary situation is unlikely to erupt within their lifetimes and cut their political cloth accordingly, in the process accepting, if reluctantly, some of the institutions of the very state they had previously pledged to destroy?

There is of course a third option open to them and it is one which has been trod by generations of Irish Republicans down the years; it is commonly known as 'returning the pike to the thatch'. Those who having failed to achieve their aim of removing the oppressive British yoke from Ireland, despite having given it their all, simply could not face entering the daily grind of bourgeois politics, let alone help administer what they regard as their oppressors political institutions, believing were they to do so it would be a betrayal of all they and their fallen comrades had stood for. Thus they withdraw from all political activity, returning to private life, hoping that a future generation will take up the struggle where they left it and succeed where they failed.

However, after the titanic struggle conducted by the Provisional Republican Movement's volunteers and supporters over the last thirty odd years, is it really likely any future generation, sword in hand, could even emulate, let alone surpass the self sacrifice, dedication and stamina the volunteers of Oglaigh na hEireann have shown during the 1969-97 campaign?* If not, then it is difficult not to conclude the days of Republicanism's armed struggle are all but over (unless some unforeseen but advantageous event intervenes).

I realize this suggestion will be difficult if not impossible for many physical force republicans to digest, preferring to believe the 69-97 campaign failed because of a corrupt and venal leadership as epitomized by Gerry Adams, and all that is needed is a new leadership with the correct/traditional policies and strategy and all will be to play for. As time goes by, the manner in which the Adams leadership have been economical with the truth** and cleverly manipulated and bureaucratically maneuvered their membership will increasingly come to the fore, making the 'one more heave' variety of Republicanism as practiced by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and RSF attractive to some. However, I doubt these groups will be able to draw more than a minority of Republicans to their banners.

Although the physical force Republicans will continue to exist as they have always done, they will in all probability bed down as a minority group, much like the Trotskyists have elsewhere, stuck in a time warp. Armed Republicanism will act as a propaganda outfit, whose raison d'être is merely the means of carrying on the tradition of a minority of each generation, by force of arms demonstrating their refusal to accept the writ of the British State in the north of Ireland. In other words, it is propaganda by deed which in itself has little to do with militarily removing the British presence from the six counties.

As to Sinn Fein, it is clear the current leadership have mapped out a Social Democratic if not Christian Democratic future for the party, which will they hope make them fully acceptable in the Chancelleries of the world's political elite. If anyone still doubts this they only have to read the articles that have begun to appear of late in the PRM press, which are designed to acclimatize the SF membership before a move to the right. How else can one read the following sentence which was taken from an article in Daily Ireland: "Radical politics is for

This rightward shift will inevitably bring them into conflict with their membership, a sizable section of which is well to the left of its leadership and, as important, with its core support base, the Irish working classes, whose needs are the opposite of the middle classes political wish-list Gerry Adams' rightward drift is designed to attract.

Clearly the Adams leadership is staking all on SF being able to expand its support base into the middle classes. In the north, with the decline of the SDLP this may be a possibility, but it is far from a certainty in the south as the political landscape to the right is already very crowded, with Fianna Fail, the Labour Party, the Greens and the two Irish Conservative parties Fine Gael and the PDs vying for the votes of this section of the electorate.

The Shinners also have the added problem in the north of the PSNI police committees etc., a rubicon the nationalist middle classes in the north expect them to cross. It is hard to see how any revolutionary Republican could square this particular circle, for in any State the police are the sharp elbows of power. By placing a few Republicans in the uniforms of the PSNI, far from making that force acceptable, will simply turn these poor unfortunates into ex-Republicans and Broy Harriers to boot.

Having said this there is absolutely no reason why SF need accept the legitimacy of the PSNI; it can simply cherry pick what aspects of the police 'service' they feel are acceptable and of use to the nationalist community and oppose those that are not, i. e., Special Branch etc. Indeed, this is the attitude revolutionaries in most western countries take towards the police. For example if a child goes missing or a neighbour's home is burgled, they would support the police, whereas when the police are used to crush a strike or force a Nazi march through a multi-racial area, they oppose the police with all their vigor. As to sitting on police committees, the experience of these committees elsewhere in the UK shows they are nothing but window dressing, as operational control remains with the Chief Constables and Home Office.

To conclude, perhaps what is needed from Republicans in the coming months is a period of reflection about the future of Irish Republicanism in which all options are considered, and all factions and currents are included. The fixed positions which have emerged out of the last thirty years of intense struggle need to be re-assessed as to their viability in the current situation.

One can only hope the standing down of the PIRA will have helped to facilitate a democratic dialogue between all Republicans, something that has been somewhat absent in some quarters of late. A dialogue where if comrades enter into blue sky thinking over the PSNI, the inadequacies and reactionary nature of vanguard politics, whether it be Adamite or Leninist, or indeed any other matter, they are not condemned as traitors, sell out merchants, or lickspittles, but are challenged in a civilized and democratic manner to justify their thought process. Most of all, Republicans must not simply repeat what they wish for, as this is self evident (a thirty two county Socialist Republic), but consider what the Irish working classes need and are prepared to fight for at this period in history.

If Irish Republicanism has one core eternal thread, it is being in the same trench as the dispossessed, the men and women of no property, and the wretched of the earth.



* Although prior to 1969, few could have imagined the corner and plough boys and girls who made up the PIRA would have had the determination, dedication and stamina to take on the armed might of the British State for thirty years, thus as far as Irish Republicanism is concerned it is wise never to say never.

** Not a single bullet, not an ounce [of semtex].





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

17 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Changes Needed All Over
Eamonn McCann

Get Tough Now
Dr John Coulter

What for the Future?
Mick Hall

Why has Gerry Adams never finished Ulysses?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bombing London is No Longer Good News for the IRA
Anthony McIntyre

The Conflict Encapsulated
David Adams

No More Second Class Citizens
Paul Little

Nothing Has Changed
Anthony McIntyre

Venezuela: Lessons of Struggle
Tomas Gorman

10 August 2005

Failed Entity
Anthony McIntyre

Towards Justice: Damien Walsh Lecture
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Where Terror Reigns
Fred A Wilcox

Lack of Trust — Or Courage?
Mick Hall

Process of Consulting Loses Sway
David Adams

Unionism Can't Run on Empey
Anthony McIntyre

Another Side to the Surrender
Brian Mór

Provisional Surrender A Sell-Out
Joe Dillon

The Greatest Betrayal of All
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Censorship at the Irish Echo
John McDonagh & Brian Mór

Take Ireland Out of the War: Irish Anti War Movement News
Michael Youlton

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses
Tomas Gorman



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