germs of the thinking behind the article that follows
were first planted after a careful study of a
lecture Bernadette Devlin McAliskey gave in Rocky
Sullivan's Pub, USA, on May 3, 2000. The title
of her lecture was The British Peace Process.
germs took a more concrete form with the events following
the attack on the World Trade Centre and the hysteria
that followed, resulting in the massacre of the people
of Afghanistan. Events that mirror themselves in occupied
Palestine currently and threaten to engulf us with
the reckless preparations and propaganda of invading
ideas were further localised following the first Nice
Referendum and Sinn Feins electoral success.
And they finally took a more definitive shape in the
current debate on the forthcoming second Nice Referendum,
as concepts such as sovereignty, globalisation,
neutrality and republicanism
are bandied about to support both the pro- and anti-Nice
then there was a
recent letter to The Blanket by Gary ODubhshlaine.
does republicanism mean to me - in the age of Empire?
being a republican in Ireland today to think and act
as if the peace process is the successful culmination
of the 30-year struggle for self-determination, sovereignty,
social justice and equality?
being a republican in Ireland today to look within
the peace process and see it as the culmination of
the success and just achievements, won again through
hard struggle and sacrifice? And trying to build on
that culmination by inserting yourself ever so deeper
into the political game of the 32 Counties - always,
of course, believing, or imagining, that youre
on the outside?
being a republican to claim victory when
you won the right, albeit constantly questioned,
to assist the British government in administering
British rule and sharing British power with the Unionists
in the North of Ireland -or as much as the British
would allow either to have.
being a republican in Ireland today to say that the
peace process is the worst thing that has happened
to us since we lost the 1798 Rebellion? Or, well not
quite, but certainly since we lost the War of Independence;
or perhaps, well maybe not quite, but certainly since
we lost the Civil War!
perhaps is being a republican in Ireland today to
oppose globalisation and the Nice
Treaty because you argue they both pave the
way for still another barbarian invasion
of hordes onto our shores leading to the destruction
of the rights of the Irish working class and the corruption
of our peoples morals?
being a republican in Ireland today, finally, to say
as a concept has moved on in its best form to recognize
..and incorporate equality for all citizens, for
all human beings. And that kind of republicanism
over the years has become socialist republicanism.
And republicanism in crisis has only one of two
ways to go
as a democratic ideology (it) will
move towards socialism and equality or it will move
Bernadette Devlin McAliskeys final paragraph
speech quoted above.
republicanism have only two ways to go? Isnt
there a third way?
will attempt to situate the debate elsewhere than
Bernadette. I will begin from what I consider to be
the most basic and fundamental historical element
of republicanism the world over and in Ireland historically:
The will to be against. For most people
likely to read this article the will to be against
should not require much explanation. Disobedience
to authority is one of the most natural and
healthy acts an individual can engage in right now
- and Irish republicanism has a powerful history in
this respect. It seems completely obvious to me that
those who are pushed around, and exploited will and
do resist and - given the necessary conditions - will
and do rebel.
can hear the voices already. I can hear the objections.
I can hear them saying : What does the will
to resist, the desire to say no, have to do with republicanism?
Or, Oh, sure, they are all republicans now!!
more objective may retort: The problem
is not why people rebel but why they do not!
Otherwise put so sweetly by Wilhelm Reich: Why
do people fight for their servitude as stubbornly
as though it were the salvation?
come back to my initial point: if we momentarily accept
that the most basic element of republicanism in Ireland
to day is the will to be against, where and against
whom do we direct this will - how do we determine
in detail and exactitude the object, the target, can
I say the enemy against which to rebel?
it Unionism? Is it British imperialism? Or both?
Fianna Fail perhaps? The PDs? Nice? London? Brussels?
The big bosses? The Yanks ? Bush himself and his
corrupt cronies? Blair? The Gardai? The UDA? The
judiciary? The multinationals? The destroyers of
the environment? Landlordism? Big capital? The Unions?
The Internet? The Peace Process? Paisley and/or
Trimble? The drunkard philandering and child-molesting
husband? The PPF? Men in general? Dublin? Violence?
Benchmarking? Or even Dana?
contemporary Ireland, the content of this boxed paragraph,
defines to a greater or lesser degree, depending on
the standpoint of you, the reader, the Other
Side. The precise configuration of that content
leads to a variety of political positions founded
on the dream of affirming our place in the world.
Separate from the Other Side.
Yet, again in contemporary Ireland, this spatial configuration
is changing - some would say has already changed.
Capitalist relations and values have completely invested
the entire social terrain, from the workplace to the
office, from the Falls to Limericks New Dockland
and beyond, from the GAA to the FAI and further. These
paradoxical circles, however, are part of a situation
where exploitation and control can no longer be localised.
Domination has no longer a determinate place.
And the dominated subjects, the brains, the minds
and the hands, are also engaged in an activity, a
living labour Marx would have said,
which ,while remaining very powerful, has been transformed
into an activity without focus. It takes place, it
fucks us up but it cannot be spatially located. It
is everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.
identification of the opposition, therefore, is no
small task given that control and exploitation tend
no longer to have a specific address so to speak.
Most people suffer alienation, powerlessness and exploitation
- there are elements of command out there but
we do not know where to locate the exact heart of
oppression. Yet we resist and fight and struggle and
rebel in our own ways. Whether we consciously consider
ourselves republicans, or, as is the case with many,
then does being a republican, or republicanism as
a guiding ideology to liberation, help one decipher
these logical paradoxes?
contents of that indented and boxed paragraph above
represents an inverted image - something we used to
call a photo-negative before digital photography came
upon us - of the productive and human world most of
us dream of. It isnt as if that power actually
is capable of either frightening or disciplining us.
Not in any direct sense. Weve gone beyond that
stage most of us.
we know in our skin, that it exercises command over
us through procedures and when they fail its police/repressive
apparatus. And that it constantly legitimises its
control through its information networks. And this
control on our flesh, the process of domination, has
no form - in a strange kind of way there is really
no place to hide. It isnt just outside
of us - we are against it in every place, we have
I propose, transforms us into being(s)-against. To
remind you that the first anti-fascist partisans in
Europe, armed deserters confronting their traitorous
governments, were aptly called against-men (no-uomini).
Variants of beings-against we know were referred to
in the past as Luddites, refuseniks or nihilists.
We have become their post-modern children.
is a crucial point - as we realise what we have been
made to become, the very early republican principles
of desertion, exodus and nomadism
reform and reappear as a reflective necessity, a guiding
light. These principles, well illustrated in the Irish
history of the last four centuries, assume an immediacy
a republican standpoint, you must oppose the content
of that blocked paragraph above; and, most often,
you are against it most effectively by adopting an
oblique or diagonal stance - not direct opposition.
You desert, you evacuate the places of power - instead
of going in to either sabotage them or, hopelessly
wishing, taking them over.
that implies mobility and mass nomadism, is perhaps
one of the most remarkable expressions of refusal,
resistance and the search for freedom and new conditions
is also one of the most significant social phenomena
of our times. If a spectre haunts the modern world
it is not the one of communism anymore, but that of
migration. All the powers of the old world are allied
in a merciless operation against it, but the nomadic
movement is irresistible. Nothing illustrates, in
my opinion, the power of the nomadic horde than the
fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the socialist
discipline that was savaged by the nomads.
do the above parameters situate our republicanism
in Ireland today?
republican political projects in the past assumed
mobility as a privileged terrain of resistance and
organisation: from the Tuscan and Lombard artisans
and apostles of the Reform who, banished from their
own country, fomented sedition against the Catholic
nations of the Renaissance; from Italy to Poland up
to the 17th century sects that went to America in
response to the massacres in Europe. From the agitators
of the IWW, many of them Irish, who organised right
across the US all the way down to Mexico in the 1910s
to the European autonomists of the 1970s and 80s who
reached the Irish shores. From the Young Irelanders
and the Fenians who criss -crossed the Atlantic to
many Republicans who continue to do so linking the
homeland with the nomadic Irish communities and their
allies, in the US and beyond.
mobility has a thousand threads that are interwoven
- old traditions and new needs are mixed together,
just as republicanism and modern class struggle were
those beings-against, the new republicans, while escaping
from the local and particular constraints of their
human condition, will try to construct a new body
and a new life. This, I believe, is a necessarily
violent and barbaric passage - but joining Walter
Benjamin, I will say this is positive barbarism.
The new barbarian republican will see nothing permanent.
And for this reason he or she will see ways everywhere.
No moment can know what the next will bring. What
exists will be slowly reduced to rubble, not for the
sake of it, but for that of the way leading through
are a long way away here from fighting for the 6th
Dail seat or from getting so-and-so into the local
Council. We are a million miles away from representativity.
And, equally, from executing still another
construction worker albeit by accident. We have left
barbaric deployments work on human relations in general.
But we can recognise them today first and foremost
in configurations of sexuality and gender. In our
bodies. Ireland, for example, has the largest percentage
or mothers-living-alone - does that tell us anything
at all re: our perception of attitudes to family?
If you find your body refusing the normal modes
of life, dont despair - realize your gift!
read a recent wall writing in London. The infinite
paths of the new barbarians must form a new mode of
life and of working.
transformation will remain weak and ambiguous, however,
so long as it is cast only in terms of form. Piercing
our ears or penis for that matter, dressing in drag,
or engaging in transsexuality may be, if pushed, precursors
of that corporal transformation that is going on at
the moment. Leaving the urban jungle - ditto. But
they will remain empty gestures. The simple refusal
of order, of the way things are, simply leaves us
on the edge of nothingness - or worse, these gestures
risk re-enforcing power rather than challenging it.
early as the 19th century, proletarians were recognised
as the nomads of the capitalist world. Certain peoples
such as the Italians, the Greeks and the Irish were
always referred to as nomadic peoples.
locate the proposition in the Marxian terrain: When
the relationship of what is inside and
what outside breaks down, when the use
value we create ceases to be expropriated by
capital, when the new forms of our productive capacity,
the new forms of labour power, are created, then we
will produce a new the human existence. A monumental
task, to be sure, but the only meaningful way forward.
this terrain, the juxtaposition of socialist
republicanism to nationalism, posed
by Bernadette, is rather dubious. For socialism, if
it means anything today, defines the inside
as use value and the outside as exchange
value and hence argues for a politics for the producers
of use value to appropriate that use value for themselves.
But today that separability of the two values, the
contradiction between the inside and the
outside is an illusion. Production and
exploitation continue, of course, but the multitudes
produce and are exploited in a much larger terrain
than socialism ever envisaged - much more diffuse
than the locality, the region, or indeed, the sovereign
Nation State. Much further than Lenins
formulation of imperialism.
is the concept I use to describe this process, the
non-place, of globalised production where labour is
exploited. And here is where I locate the key opponent
of revolutionary modern republicanism, which has no
possible correspondence with this Empire.
Empire that has neither risen spontaneously out of
the interactions of radically diverse global forces
nor as a harmonious concert orchestrated by either
the hidden hand of the world market or a set of conspirators.
This system which is not a perfecting, or, a variant
of, previous imperialisms.
republican today means going way beyond the gesture
and struggle fully against the constitution of this
- what Bush - the Father - called new world
order and we called an Empire. That system that
makes slaughter and calls it peace - that has resurrected
the very corrupt system of just wars
and served force back to us as being in the service
revolutionary republicanism will argue for a struggle
against all the hybrid modulating forms of the Empire,
as encapsulated by all those on the Other Side. The
Other Side that morphs imperceptibly depending on
where we are sitting. Yet its always there smirking
at us, kicking footballs, kissing babies, shaking
hands, making speeches, passing laws, writing books,
celebrating jubilees, cutting ribbons, erecting monuments
and playing the guitar. All the while controlling
and exploiting us.
this way we can re-create ourselves. We must leave
all moralisms and all nostalgia behind (including
all its socialist variants) and accept that globalisation
(and the gradual dismembering of the Nation
State it heralds) provides much greater possibilities
for not only creation, but also liberation. Refrains
of the Internationale should not blur
the fact that the utopian futures the workers of the
world were told to fight for came about despite the
defeat of their organisations and ideologies.
future belongs I am convinced to the be-againsts,
the barbaric multitudes, who will push through and
come out the other side. To those who wrote in 1995
on a Paris wall: Foreigners, please dont
leave us alone with the French! Whose struggles
will relate to one another not like links of an imaginary
chain but rather like a virus that modulates its form
to find in each context an adequate host. Against
and beyond Empire!
finish by quoting Jose Marti, the Cuban revolutionary
republican, Now is the time of the furnaces,
and only light should be seen.
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