“a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy..”

So Mary Lou McDonald, MEP, is launching a week of events organised by Sinn Féin to commemorate the death of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. And the Northern Ireland Executive junior minister, and former bomber, Gerry Kelly, MLA, is to attend the last event – the Deputy First minister is obviously unavailable. But why exactly?

We know that Gerry Adams is a fan of the middle-class would-be permanent revolutionary. But is it still chic to worship Che in Sinn Féin in this new ‘indigenous’ deal? [Ógra Shinn Fein I could understand – Ed] Or just a ‘loved the movie’ moment? Or just another example of a party with a Cuba fixation? Or perhaps it’s a nod to Guevara’s call to arms in his last published article in 1967

“Our mission, in the first hour, shall be to survive; later, we shall follow the perennial example of the guerrilla, carrying out armed propaganda (in the Vietnamese sense, that is, the bullets of propaganda, of the battles won or lost — but fought — against the enemy). The great lesson of the invincibility of the guerrillas taking root in the dispossessed masses. The galvanizing of the national spirit, the preparation for harder tasks, for resisting even more violent repressions. Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy. “

Adds Frank at the Cedar Lounge wonders whether “it’s time Gerry Adams donned a beret and fatigues again”Adds again I’ll just add these lines from Guevara’s last published article, which follow on from the quoted paragraph above.

“We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war. It is necessary to prevent him from having a moment of peace, a quiet moment outside his barracks or even inside; we must attack him wherever he may be; make him feel like a cornered beast wherever he may move. Then his moral fiber shall begin to decline. He will even become more beastly, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to appear.”

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  • Pete Baker

    I’d just add, Mick, that in keeping with the direction from Guevara in 1967, “they were forced” is inaccurate.

    It was a chosen strategy at the time.

    And Guevara himself pointed to the expected result of such a strategy – “He [the enemy] will even become more beastly, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to appear.”

    As for, “Where did it go?”

    Well, I think we’ve seen a recent example..

  • Dewi

    what’s a maroon ?

  • Mick Fealty

    Pete,

    I meant forced in terms of the actions open to them under their chosen strategy.

  • Pete Baker

    Well I’d argue that their chosen targets were their chosen targets.

    As in the anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist, rhetoric of ‘Che’ was adopted by commandantes more focused on local conditions.

  • Sean

    All that “mechanism” is is an acknowledgement of what would happen in a “normal” political situation and still doesn’t address address the problem that occurred the last time there was a plebiscite on the future of Ireland

    And since when are politics normal in nIreland

    Snakebrain
    I know that I have several friends who are intermarried so I know as individuals most people are generally decent people its the collective psyche that invariably starts the trouble

    As individuals Americans are nice people friendly and decent but as a nation they are over bearing , over reaching and hyporitical beyond belief. Still never met many americans I didnt like and I have met quite alot of them

  • Garibaldy

    Pete,

    You seem to be hinting heavily here that Provo strategy was to some extent predicated on Che’s presctiption in this last document. I don’t think that’s the case, althouh you’ve doubtless be quick to tell me if I’m wrong.

    Mick,

    Part of the hatred has dissipated. Hence ex-terrorists being all friendly with ecaeh other. However, as we’re all aware large parts of it have not. What the decline shows is the extent to which the tit-for-tat element was necessary to keep things on the boil. But the election results suggest the hatred hasn’t gone away you know.#

    Sean,

    NICRA did succeed in virtually all its goals by 1971. The contuining violence saw many of its major successes clawed back as repression increased. Violence made things worse, not better. For everyone. Politics has made it better.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sean,

    “…there’s no evidence there ever was anything but hardened hearts.”

    Either you genuinely don’t know what you are talking about or you are spinning a line for a team. I suspect it is the former.

    It’s nonsense, because it is just not true of any pre-conflict society. I recently talked to a guy who used to live in Sarajevo, who noted that people really had to be goaded with endless barrages of television and radio propaganda before they could be persuaded to kill their neighbours.

    That is not to say that NI was a happy place during the sixties and there were killings before ’69, but people did not hate and/or distrust remotely in the visceral way they did both during and after ‘the war’.

    As for evidence: the fact that in 1969 people lived side by side on streets that are now segregated.

  • Pete Baker

    Garibaldy

    “You seem to be hinting heavily here that Provo strategy was to some extent predicated on Che’s presctiption in this last document. I don’t think that’s the case, althouh you’ve doubtless be quick to tell me if I’m wrong.”

    The chosen strategy by the provisionals in the early 70s very much follows that pattern.

    We also have the same idolisation of Ernesto.. beret included at the time.

    If you have evidence to the contrary then, by all means..

  • Dewi

    Mick and Pete – so where do you go from here. And here is where you have to start from – almost post-conflict but not quite ? – or try and eliminate the immediate conflict promoting catalysts first ?

  • Pete Baker

    Dewi

    Here’s a good first step..

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dewi: “what’s a maroon ? ”

    I always took it from context ala WB / Bugs Bunny as being a simpleton / bumpkin… although that appears to be slang from a less politically correct era.

  • snakebrain

    Mick

    On the question of Pandora’s box..

    I had a very similar conversation to yours with a Muslim guy from Kosovo. He talked about how sad he was that his country had been destroyed, and how much it troubled him that it was still a UN protectorate, but that’s another story. He also talked about how he had come to realise that his school-teachers and the other people he had grown up with, and whom he had been conditioned to fear and distrust, were not a threat, and that his feelings of warmth towards them were not a betrayal of his ethnic identity.

    What interested me in your last comment was the “goading” that was necessary to persuade people that they really did hate their neighbours enough to kill them. The converse of that is that if you remove the psychological pressure on people to behave in a way that is fundamentally unnatural and contrary to all their basic values, it doesn’t take long before they start to swing back towards a more rational and peaceful position.

    Obviously the population here has become extremely polarised, and one legacy of the Troubles has been the bitterness it has left in many hearts, but in the absence of the constant reinforcement of negative stereotypes of the “other side” by acts of violence perpetrated on communities I believe the return to a more balanced and tolerant perspective is inevitable.

    As the memories of the past fade, and a new generation of children grow up without the recollection of acts of barbarity and savagery that are imprinted on our minds, it will become harder and harder to justify the “us and them” mentality. Gradually, the knowledge that the “other side” are people just like us will come to prevail.

    It will take time; our role now is to maintain the fragile peace, and concentrate on the unglamourous task of building the framework on which a new society, not characterised by sectarian divisions, can be built. Hopefully, if we can manage that part, the rest will slowly come of its own accord.

  • Garibaldy

    Pete,

    I think that the Provos were able to evolve their strategy without reference to Che. Many of whom in the early 1970s would have seen him as a godless communist and not mourned his passing. The people they were inspired by were Dan Breen, Tom Barry etc, and – certainly in Mac Stiofain’s case – EOKA. I’ve never seen any reference to Che in the description of strategy at this stage in either interviews or by academics, though such references may have come later in the 1980s when they were reading some mad stuff in the gaol and trying to create liberated zones as Mao advocated.

    I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that the berets were lifted from Che, but they go back before that.

  • Pete Baker

    Garibaldy

    I’m suggesting that their, Adams’, chosen strategy was, quite clearly, lifted from Che.

    Regardless of whom you think they claimed to be inspired by.

    A godless communist, indeed.

  • Garibaldy

    Pete,

    I’m talking about the very early period, when Adams wasn’t that influential.

    I’m suggesting that we can point to several factors – Irish historical experience, the proven admiration for EOKA among leading Provos, and sheer logic and cunning – that would mean such a strategy could be evolved without reference to Che. I don’t think we can even say for sure that this document was reported in full in Ireland, and that anyone there would have had the chance to read it.

    In the mid-1970s when Adams, Ivor Bell and co were really getting up and running, it was Gadaffi they tended to talk about. Some really good analysis of that stuff in Richard Bourke’s ‘Peace in Ireland: The War of Ideas’ (2003?)

    Can we point to any specific instance during the Troubles where a Provo cites Che as an inspiration for military strategy? I’m not sure we can, though we can point to evidence for the other things I’ve identified. Coincidence is not the same as a proven link.

  • Garibaldy

    And Moloney too on the Libyan example. Better than Bourke on it.

  • andy

    Peter
    Garibaldy is right. MacStiofin did jail time with some EOKA guys and was clearly influenced by them. I read his autobiography and can’t remember him talking about Che at all.
    I didnt think Adams came to prominence nationally until the late 70s.

  • Turgon

    Mick Fealty,
    I am interested about your Pandora’s box question. I have no doubt that the hatred and mistrust is still there. It may be very well hidden in middle class Belfast and I think amongst many of the chattering classes and Lisburn / Malone Road jet set it probably does not exist.

    Go into the country areas and it is still there though. The only areas I can really comment on are South Londonderry and South Fermanagh (via Elenwe) and there has been no real change there in terms of mistrust, I would not call it hatred but definitely mistrust. In some people mistrust can be stoked into hatred and when that hatred has matured into violence.

    I of course have said before that I have very little optimism regarding a permanent end to violence. I think it will take another 10-20 years but once a new cohort of people with real or perceived grivances come to late teens / early twenties: have forgotten the gastly realities of violence, and there are still the siren voices of older people to encourage them, then, it will start again.

    Even on this web site we have poeple who clearly think the troubles were a good idea and some (or in a few cases all) of the actions of “their own” terrorists were either righteous, justifable or at least explicable. We even have self professed young people who are quite happy to say there are circumstances where they would get involved in violence; remember Finite Drone’s contributions.

    So I hope and pray I am wrong but I doubt I will retire before it starts again.

  • Bran Mak Morn

    If “Che’s” image didn’t lend itself for such a striking t-shirt design he would be remembered as the sadistic bloodthirsty bastard he really was – a concentration camp chief obsessed with violence. How many Cubans have risked and even lost their lives trying to escape the “benefits” that Guevarra and Castro brought to them? Shame on those who idolise him and the sooner the Castro dynasty is ended the better for the people of Cuba.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Turgon: “I am interested about your Pandora’s box question. I have no doubt that the hatred and mistrust is still there. It may be very well hidden in middle class Belfast and I think amongst many of the chattering classes and Lisburn / Malone Road jet set it probably does not exist. ”

    Optimist… my own personal wager is that it exists, albeit in the “Guess who’s coming to dinner” fashion — folks impressed by their self-perceived tolerance, when that tolerance is never truly tested — “Sure, they’re ok, but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one” goes the thinking.

    On the broader issue, it’s always harder to get the genie back into the bottle. Here we have a conflict that stretches back at least two generations, if we measure the most recent eruption. Conflict has seperated the populations, by and large, so that, lacking familiarity, the tribal other remains the other. It is difficult to destroy ugly myths when the reality has been sequestered away.

    Turgon: “I of course have said before that I have very little optimism regarding a permanent end to violence. I think it will take another 10-20 years but once a new cohort of people with real or perceived grivances come to late teens / early twenties: have forgotten the gastly realities of violence, and there are still the siren voices of older people to encourage them, then, it will start again.”

    Although things went aglee with the initial violence, it was not until the first retaliations that the die was set.

    As for the young, in nature, be they deer, sheep or human, the rutty young bucks of any herd species have an excess of energy, a dearth of wit and a need to prove themselves, especially when allowed to roam in packs. If not sectarian shenannigans, it would be street gangs of one stripe or another.

    Turgon: “Even on this web site we have poeple who clearly think the troubles were a good idea and some (or in a few cases all) of the actions of “their own” terrorists were either righteous, justifable or at least explicable.”

    Which is the result partly of the segregation of the populace — parallel societies, each with its own mythology, for lack of a better word, on how this vale of tears was come to, resulting in sectarian bun-fights and the notion that the UDA isn’t a collection of hoods, all IRA members are noble, swashbuckling heroes and that it was the other rotter who started it.

  • Pete Baker

    Garibaldy

    It may be that I am implying too direct an influence.. but the comparison between Guevara’s “total war” strategy, with added hatred, and the chosen strategy of the Provisionals is there.

    Unless certain individuals start to talk about those decisions.. we’ll not know for certain.

    In the meantime whether Gerry A ever read that article beforehand is, ultimately, irrelevant.

    It accords with the chosen tactic – which would be reason enough for the current veneration of Che.

  • Garibaldy

    Pete,

    It might well accord for the veneration of Che. I suspect however that it’s more radical pose than regard for his military philosophy. Then again, the fact Gerry Kelly was picked to speak at this does suggest that there was a deliberate attempt to excite the audience with a whiff of grapeshot.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Turgon: “Oh yes those good men who murdered men, women and children. Those good men who attacked churches, who murdered workmen, who blew up war memorials, who blew up hotels, who blew up fish shops, who tied a man into a human bomb, who shot women and children for supposedly being informers. Yes they were good men weren’t they parci. ”

    As I noted elsewhere, civilization is a fad. Scratch most folks and, like the foil of a chocolate bunny, the darker interior is readily revealed.

    Once the genie was out of the bottle, it’s damned hard to stuff the bastard back. Let’s arbitrarily take Bloody Sunday as a starting point, mainly for the sake of argument, but also because it is a watershed moment. You’re a NICRA marcher — you’ve just seen people gunned down in the street — innocent marchers, unarmed — by the fine men of British Army. What is that individual’s mind-set at that moment?

    The “natural” response is to repay like with like, Turgon. Once the die has been cast, that which follows is the product of that die. The “civilized” response — harnessing the shock, grief and disgust of the moment is, for lack of more elegant language, an unnatural act. The first instinct is to strike back, as hard, if not harder, than your assailant.

    With the first retaliation comes the rationalization that the massacre was perhaps justified. Now the lines are hardened.

    The British, deft hands at colonial wars, put into action the same play-book they used in Kenya and Aden and we’re off to the races.

    Of course both sides make rationalizations for their acts, saying this one is an informant and that one was a member of this gang or that. No one wants to admit their guy is a child-killer. They spin their myths, salve their consciences and soldier on.

  • Pete Baker

    Graibaldy

    “It might well accord for the veneration of Che. I suspect however that it’s more radical pose than regard for his military philosophy.”

    Except that the description, in that article by Che, fits closely with the chosen tactic of the Provisionals.

    Being generous, to a fault, I’d suggest a retrospective hat-tip to someone who came to the same conclusion as his then-revolutionary comrades.

  • Garibaldy

    Pete,

    I think a look at the behaviour of the IRA in places like Cork in the 1920s, the Resistance in France, or EOKA, or any number of other campaigns could lead one to the same conclusions. The Provos of course never had the capacity to completely deny their enemies rest due to the limited geographical nature of their dominance, and the mass support for the government.

    There is evidence that the Provos in the gaols during the 1980s were looking systematically abroad for inspiration both in terms of theory and practice, but I don’t see much evidence Che was among the influences. I don’t find it as surprising as you that people engaged in the same type of thing come to similar conclusions.

  • Pete Baker

    “but I don’t see much evidence Che was among the influences”

    Perhaps you’re not looking back far enough..

    As evidenced here

    Bobby threw himself into the new education regime. When he was not in classes or debating in the yard, Tomboy Loudon often found him lying on the bed in the cubicle they now shared in the Gaeltacht hut, holding a book by Che Guevara in his right hand and writing notes on the partition wall with the pen he held in his left. He began to organise notebooks on ‘guerilla struggle’ and ‘the Cuban Revolution’.

    Although I will note that the book was published in 2005 and portrays Adams as being, perhaps bizarrely, as anti-Che.

    Which he’s now not… apparently..

  • Garibaldy

    I admire your digging skills Pete.

    However, I’d take that entire book, like Sands’ poetry, with a huge pinch of salt. Might be true, but this is the image that suits them to present.

  • Garibaldy

    Didn’t finish. Likely reading Che, but whether that article was in it or not is another matter.

  • Pete Baker

    Garibaldy

    To repeat the point made previously.. and avoided..

    “Except that the description, in that article by Che, fits closely with the chosen tactic of the Provisionals.”

    i.e. not the image.. but the reality.

  • snakebrain

    “Bobby threw himself into the new education regime. When he was not in classes or debating in the yard, Tomboy Loudon often found him lying on the bed in the cubicle they now shared in the Gaeltacht hut, holding a book by Che Guevara in his right hand and writing notes on the partition wall with the pen he held in his left. He began to organise notebooks on ‘guerilla struggle’ and ‘the Cuban Revolution’.”

    That reads like a Wilbur Smith novel. I’m just waiting for the heroine to arrive amidst a tempestuous storm that howled and screamed like a million of the hornets she remembered so well from the time they’d passed together in the mountains, drenching her and letting Gerry and the boys see her dark nipples, like olives protuding from under her wet linen blouse. Hard men all of them, they ignored her and went back to reading Che, preparing for their revolutionary war.

    Apologies for the pastiche, but it’s about as likely as the first bit.

  • Garibaldy

    I didn’t think I avoided the point at all Pete. I thought I had been saying that the Provos evolving similar tactics to those advocated in the document was not surprising, due to logic, and to previous examples (including in Ireland) where those tactics had been used. After all, Collins trapped lots of government officials in the Castle. Why would Irish people aware of their history need Che to copy that?