Why the IRA was wrong to fight the British

Niall Mulholland argues a socialist line on why the IRA was wrong to fight its long war against the British in Northern Ireland.

  • peteb

    Whatever analysis there may be in that piece, Mick, it’s ultimately and fatally undermined by this paragraph –

    I tuned out at “The task of ending capitalism….”

  • smcgiff

    ‘I tuned out at “The task of ending capitalism….”‘

    You got farther than I did. I saw the work Marxism in the top right hand corner and exited post haste.

  • peteb

    Well I’m clearly more tolerant/foolish* [delete as appropriate] than you, smcgiff. 😉

    It’s not a terrible assessment of the wider process in general [I’ve seen worse].. but the resorting to tired out-dated slogans to rally converts/convertibles under the red banner a) marks out the zealot; b) holds on to the prospect of using violence when the [working-class] party faithful are ready.

  • smcgiff

    ‘It’s not a terrible assessment of the wider process in general’

    Like any likeminded organisation, it’s key to have as much sane commentary as possible (hey, a bit like Slugger!) to wean the gullible.

  • Yoda

    I read it to the end.

    An interesting attempt at a non-sectarian look at NI; the author says that “socialists” want an end to so-called “individual terrorism” while moving towards mass-movement “insurrection.”

    Marxian-type texts can be interesting for their analyses of how capitalist states work, but I really don’t see how “the task of ending capitalism” is to be accomplished. We believe we are so individual that we will all act in unison to prove it.

    Pete, why do you believe the piece is “fatally” undermined by the sentence you cite? (genuine question)

  • peteb

    Oh I read it to the end, Yoda… another five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

    As for being fatally undermined. As you remarked the writer has accepted for himself, and hopes to persuade others of, “the task of ending capitalism”. This tract falls into the category, as I’d suspect the writer intended, of propaganda towards that goal.

    It can be looked at as an interesting analysis in a detached academic point of view. But it’s intent is more than simply analysis.

    That undermines it in my view.

    More importantly, however, is that the resort to insurrection is maintained as a valid option. So, arguably, for the writer it wasn’t that the IRA were wrong to fight their long war.. just they were the wrong organisation to do it.

  • bigwhitedove

    My God,
    I wish I had the time/energy/patience to dissect this “opinion piece” to show what a load of misinformation this really is!!!!
    I suppose Niall might read this and the one question I have for him is
    Could you please identify one “health cut” Bairbre de Brun made as Minister for Health?

  • Yoda

    Cheers, Pete.

    So, arguably, for the writer it wasn’t that the IRA were wrong to fight their long war.. just they were the wrong organisation to do it.

    I completely agree that that is what he’s driving at.

    It’s also interesting that he targets religion in the way that he does; it’s like he recognises that these other “mass movements” are in competition with the socialist enterprise for hearts, minds and material souls.

  • Denny Boy

    “Nationalist, right-wing leaders, like John Hume, were able to dominate the civil rights struggle, giving it a ‘Green’ colour.”

    John Hume right wing??!! A man who agitated as much as anyone for change? Are they saying he’s a conservative?

  • missfitz

    It’s great to see Niall back and writing again, and it warms my heart to no end. I think I have some substantive issues, but hey! great to see you on the keyboard Niall

  • Comrade Stalin

    Denny, Hume is/was very conservative, hence his supremacy over the SDLP left wing old guard (Fitt/Devlin etc)

    I don’t understand how anyone who was watching the news as the Berlin Wall came down could still stand up and argue for a totalitarian state being established to achieve a utopian fantasy world.

  • Denny Boy

    Comrade, if he was conservative, what did he wish to conserve?

  • Brian Boru

    Of course the PIRA campaign was unjustified.

  • Denny Boy

    All campaigns of violence are, Brian, but they spiral out of control. In hindsight it was disgusting but ask the players what else they could have done at the time and there’ll be a lot of head-scratching.

  • Alan McDonald

    Denny,

    I don’t think “conservative” has anything to do with conserving any more. I think it simply means being less liberal than (fill in someone whose policies are more to the left). I myself have referred to the SDLP as being the more conservative nationalist party in Northern Ireland in discussions with other Americans.

  • Denny Boy

    Alan, I was teasing the Comrade!

    It’s just that I found myself immersed yesterday in a discussion about how words change their meaning. Somebody mentioned “sophisticated”, somebody else “gay”. We argued about “left wing” and “right wing”.

    By far the best remark was one somebody nicked from the radio. “Countryside”: the killing of Piers Morgan* :0)

    I have to say that Niall’s article made me go all nostalgic for the days of the class struggle. I may have pots of money now (well, more than an Ulsterbus driver but less than an Ulster loyalist dealer) but I still consider myself to be a socialist.

    *You’ll have to google this one, Alan….

  • Alan McDonald

    All right then, Denny, flog me with your Brit humo(u)r!

    Back in my college days (Brooklyn College, as a matter of fact), we had a crappy student newspaper. My classmate pointed out to me that in one article, there was a typo: the word country had been spelled without the “o”.

    “I get it,” he said, “that must be the opposite of gentry.”

  • Denny Boy

    LOL

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Brian Boru: “Of course the PIRA campaign was unjustified.”

    Denny Boy: “All campaigns of violence are, Brian, but they spiral out of control. In hindsight it was disgusting but ask the players what else they could have done at the time and there’ll be a lot of head-scratching.”

    I would disagree that campaigns of violence are never justified. Without getting into whataboutery, there are and will continue to be cases where violence in the only *APPARENT* way to remedy a tyrannical situation… To pick a topic well away from Ireland, does anyone imagine that Mugabe will suddenly get back on his meds and realize what a mess he’s making of the nation formerly known as Rhodesia? It is apparent that polite political agitation is not moving him, no is rational thought. I think Denny has it half right — at the time, violence appears to be the only solution. The catch is, sometimes it IS the only solution and sometimes it only looks it.

    Not fighting is sometimes as dangerous, or more dangerous, that fighting. I would have thought Czechoslovakia would have made that clear. Sometimes “peace in out times” is simply a pause between courses.

  • peteb

    That’s straying more than slightly off-topic Dread.

    The argument presented in the article is that the oppressor isn’t a totalitarian regime.. or a dictator of any kind.. it’s capitalism –

    It’s better to keep the focus on the topic rather than generalising, or re-focusing, to a point whereby the original target of the article is lost.

  • Yoda

    But it’s not like capitalism has never harmed anyone or taken away their rights.

    Just because we can’t name a specific individual doesn’t mean that the system or structure of capitalism doesn’t behave like a dictator in some jurisdictions.

  • peteb

    Et tu, Yoda? 😉

  • Yoda

    Shite. Sorry Pete.

    Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

  • ch in dallas

    “Why the IRA campaign failed to defeat the British state” was the actual title of the ball in question, not that the IRA was “wrong”. I agree with peteb that this socialist bit was lamenting the fact that the IRA was so ineffective, and that not only must the U.K. go, but capitalism with it. When steaming toward capitalists societies, the Good Ship Red always goes aground on the shoals of roast beef and apple pie. With full bellies and a few quid in the pocket, the “masses” are generally content. And of course, we have our “opiate”.

  • peteb

    “With full bellies and a few quid in the pocket, the “masses” are generally content”

    WTF??

    ch in dallas?

  • ch in dallas

    peteb, I was trying to parlence in a way that my socialist friends would understand, maybe poorly.

    The gist is that if people have jobs, and a paycheck, are eating well, and have a little money in the bank, all that red propaganda has little appeal. America has no credible socialist party, because here there is no need for one. Yea, a few college kids spouting off the party line with their Che G. tee-shirts, all the while drinking a $5 latte’ and driving dad’s Volvo. True red believers don’t want “power to the people” anyway, they want power to the party and the useful idiots necessary to get them there.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    peteb: “That’s straying more than slightly off-topic Dread.”

    Just playing the ball that Brian Boru and Denny Boy rolled into play, peteb. The arguement that “violent campaigns are never justified” was presented, I responded. In fact, I do seem to remember I quoted what I was responding to, so as to make clear my response wasn’t just coming out of thin air.

    peteb: “The argument presented in the article is that the oppressor isn’t a totalitarian regime.. or a dictator of any kind.. it’s capitalism.”

    Well, that’s a silly notion — anyone whose actually read Marx and Engels, as opposed to writing about it, knows capitalism is a necessary step in the evolution of socialism. Capitalism is necessary for industrialization and is, hence, necessary for the development of the urban proletariat. So necessary is captialism and industrialization that Lenin, upon deposing the Czarist and installing a Marxist / Socialist government had to back up and loosen the central control of the government, just to give them space to sufficiently industrialize. Now, the Communist revoultion in China showed, should the forces of socialism be sufficiently impatient re: the withering away of the state, that the urban proles are near useless, since cities are too easily controlled. Once the proles decide its time to rise up, they need to be as “a fish in the sea” not “fish in a barrel.” (also, the importance of non-water soluable dye for your red bandanas and neckerchiefs, lest the powers that be discover you once your “urban revolution” fails…) To my knowledge, a true, sustained “socialist” state has never evolved naturally, but results only through violence of one stripe or another — even Western Europe’s “soft” social democracies exist primarily because of the security guarantee of NATO / US forces, i.e the threat of violence, else Western Europe would have had to develop functioning militaries, at a cost of a couple of percentages of GDP and would require freer markets and more aggressive economies. In fact, the Western European nanny-states are winding down — France and Germany are running on borrowed time and cannot sustain their socialist programs.

    As for the socialist and communist nations elsewhere in the world, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the puppets of Eastern Europe and the tin-pot dictators that mouth the party line in Africa and the Carribean / Central America all came about not as a result of a well-thought out public relations campaign but through revolution and maintain their postions not through the goodwill of the people, but through the bore of a rifle. Hence, the discussion of violence and its justification was valid.

    peteb: “The task of ending capitalism and transforming society falls to the working class, using mass struggle, including demonstrations, strikes, mass civil disobedience, general strikes and, ultimately, insurrection”

    In other words, Denny Boy’s thesis — campaigns of violence are unjustified,is fallacious on its face — even socialists would appear to justify and require “insurrection,” which would seem to imply more violent than harsh language. What was it that Mao said — power comes from the bore of a rifle?

    Secondly, its a load of tripe — the working classes in the cities are far to easily controlled — the Shanghai rebellion showed that. Likewise, the revolts in the Soviet satellite nations showed how readily demonstrations and “mass civil disobedience” is crushed. Funny how the political bodies the least tolerant towards “civil disobedience” are the “workers’ paradises” of this world — Tiennamin Square being the most obvious example in recent memory.

    peteb: “It’s better to keep the focus on the topic rather than generalising, or re-focusing, to a point whereby the original target of the article is lost.”

    If you want to complain about a tangent, go to its source, if you would. The thesis that “violence is never justified” was put into play by someone else. Not to be pedantic (I know, too late…) it was a foolish thesis that needed to be addressed. Societal change is, as a rule, inherently violent, as the old boss is usually not happy about the prospects of demotion. A response to the notion that “violent campaigns are never justified” is germane to the topic at hand. Now, if you have a problem with the thesis as a whole, please address the source of the thesis. I’m just playing the ball, mate, just playing the ball.

  • peteb

    Dread

    I’ll keep this brief, if you don’t mind.

    The issue of the writer justifying the use violence in the “task of ending capitalism” was addressed earlier in the thread using his own words – the ones you attributed to me in the middle of your comment.

    In response to your, rather lengthy, comment, I’ll just point to – “Societal change is, as a rule, inherently violent, as the old boss is usually not happy about the prospects of demotion.”

    Make that “Forced societal change”, and you’d get more agreement.

    Hence my earlier highlighting of the writer’s self-appointed task.

    As for – “anyone whose actually read Marx and Engels, as opposed to writing about it, knows capitalism is a necessary step in the evolution of socialism.”

    That would be according to Marx and Engels.. of course.

  • Whatabout

    The republican paramilitary campaign was always doomed to failure. It failed to attract any support from a government outside of the British Isles, therefore it was never really taken seriously. The only reason it ended is because our government declared no selfish interest in Northern Ireland and encouraged Sinn Fein in their efforts to demilitarise the situation. I hold that if the IRA had not hijacked the civil unrest ongoing in the late 60s Ireland would be much closer to being united today, thousands of lives would not have been lost and the community they tried to unite by force would be “one” instead of “two” (or more). The Ireland (and the world!) of the 60s is very different morally, socially and economically than it is today. The community in Northern Ireland has been held back on all these fronts by having to continuously focus on self-preservation for 30 years. Why do we expect them to change overnight? Sinn Fein have only there own selfish ends at heart – but then they’re as magnanimous as any other party.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    peteb: “In response to your, rather lengthy, comment, I’ll just point to – “Societal change is, as a rule, inherently violent, as the old boss is usually not happy about the prospects of demotion.”

    Make that “Forced societal change”, and you’d get more agreement.”

    Most, if not all, of the great societal changes have required at least implicit force, peteb. The development of the nationstate, the fall of monarchies, the rise of democracies, the end of colonial empires — all of these required some level of violence. Even “pure” democracy has its moments — pure democracy, without constitutional protections as they have in the states, ends up being 5 wolves and 3 sheep “voting” on what is for dinner.

    In fact, most of the peaceful ones I can think of lead to violence on one level or another — even the transition from hunter-gather to agriculture society eventually fed the need / desire for slaves. As I said before, the “soft” socialist states of western Europe rely on the security guarantee — the implied violence — of NATO so as to justify their ability to skimp on defense spending to fund their nanny-states. The old ones of Eastern Europe were openly violent, as are most of the rest of the socialist “workers paradises” around the world.

    To draw the microscope down lower, the establishment of trade unions, while nowadays relatively peaceful, with little more than implied violence, had their bloody past, fro the Molly Maguires to the street brawls of the thirties. Every “great change” is bought in blood, peteb, either on the front side, or, with interest on the back.

  • MACSWINEY

    Lets put it this way;

    I remember walking through Cornmarket one Saturday in the mid 90’s when the whole peace process bandwagon was underway. I was stopped by a guy selling a magazine for The Socialist Workers Party (or someone like that). As a young Catholic from a working class area I should have been prime target material. The magazine contained an “analysis” of the reasons for the outbreak of conflict in The North with the staggering claim that there had never been discrimination against Catholics prior to 1969. It continued with the ludicrous claim that it was the entire working classes who had been conned by an uncaring British Government and that only a working class revolution could solve the centuries-old conflict. From that moment on I gave all local “socialist” groups a VERY wide berth. Most of them were’nt even working-class. Many were middle-class kids going through their ‘right-on’ student phase before graduating and running the financial division of daddy’s latest company. Historical Revisionism is appalling no matter which part of it is given a makeover. The problem with local socialist groups is that the question of national identity and the border will NEVER go away. You CANNOT hide from it, you CANNOT pretend it will go away, and you CANNOT run a political party without having a definitive view on it.