“shouldn’t stretch facts to fit a particular party’s particular analysis..”

In the Derry Journal Eamonn McCann takes issue with a recent editorial in the paper [this one presumably] responding to Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness’ rhetoric about dissenting republican paramilitaries.

“It’s OK by me if Sinn Fein leaders offer a different account. It’s hardly unusual for a political party to offer a version of its past (re)designed to meet present needs. But the rest of us, when purporting to offer a fair and objective opinion, shouldn’t stretch facts to fit a particular party’s particular analysis.

The scary fact which Tuesdays editorial writer seemed to me to be squirming to avoid is that the ‘dissidents’ aren’t dissident at all, but are following the path already trodden by every previous generation of Republicans. That doesn’t mean that they are right. It means that if they are wrong, then so is the Republican tradition itself.

To deny the legitimacy of armed struggle in the present while simultaneously celebrating armed struggle in the past is not to make any useful point of principle but is implicitly to support a particular political party.”

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  • willowfield

    “To deny the legitimacy of armed struggle in the present while simultaneously celebrating armed struggle in the past is not to make any useful point of principle but is implicitly to support a particular political party”.

    Not in this specific case, no, but in general terms it is quite possible that “armed struggle” in one text is justifiable, but not in another.

  • Steve

    Equivocating already willowfield?

  • Good point Willowfield. McCann is being blatantly dishonest in equating NI in 1969 with NI in 2008. The context in which the armed struggle takes place is crucial. This does not mean that any or all aspects of the PIRA campaign were justified of course.

  • willowfield

    No – the PIRA campaign was wrong, just as the CIRA/RIRA campaigns are wrong.

    I was thinking more of 1919-21. While, admittedly, the campaign was totally unjustified at the outset, ultimately it did (I think) come under the control of the Dáil and one could argue that it was legitimate.

  • willowfield

    Sorry, my post no. 1 should say “context”, not “text”.

  • Steve

    Wf

    prod violence = good

    catholic Violence = bad

    How very predictable except on the other post you were denying that this was your position

  • In defence of the editorial that prompted McCann’s piece: it does not ‘celebrate armed struggle in the past’, but it does correctly point out the background environment that made it possible and allowed it to fester.
    It’s regrettable that McCann focuses on this aspect of the story, in effect legitimising the murder of Emmet Shiels, rather than denouncing the cowards that committed this crime.

  • Steve – the Dail were Prods now?

  • willowfield

    I think we can place Steve safely into the “bigot” category, along with Concubhar and Horseman. Rather than respond to what people of a different PoV say, they prefer falsely to attribute positions to them that they do not espouse and have never expressed.

    Let everyone see this tactic in action.

  • Garibaldy

    I note Mc Cann say that he opposed the Provisional campaign. Well the organisation he’s a member of gave it full but critical support, I think was the phrase. So I’m note entirely sure that he was being honest there. Kind of undercuts the argument.

  • Dewi

    Which organisation is that Garibaldy?

  • Rory

    The position of the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) on the Provisional IRA campaign was, in line with other Trotskyist groups, one of “unconditional but critical support”. Criticism was to be of “a fraternal nature”. This “principled” stand was rather more honoured in the breach by the SWP and it was left to groups like the International Marxist Group (IMG) and SWP splinter groups like Worker’s Power to take this stand more vociferously at least. The IMG journal Red Mole carried the headline “Victory to the IRA” above the famous photograph of Joe McCann shot against a burning building in the Markets in one issue in order to highlight how much more “seriously” it took the principle of unconditional solidarity than its rival group.

    But then the SWP were always a bunch of vacillators perhaps best demonstrated by their chant at an anti-Vietnam War rally – “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, How many Trots have you done in?”. To
    which my muttered retort was “Not enough obviously”.

  • Garibaldy

    Thanks for the proper phrase Rory. Victory of course to the socialists of the Officials like Joe McCann rather than the “all our Volunteers go to mass on a Sunday”, not to extreme socialism of the Provisionals I assume when that was published.

  • Dewi

    He’s still in the SWP??? He must the last one…

  • willowfield

    Did these SWP types think the Provos were socialists?

  • Willowfield

    Not in this specific case, no, but in general terms it is quite possible that “armed struggle” in one text is justifiable, but not in another.

    I would contest your point that armed struggle is sometimes right. By its very definition it seems relatively noble, but “armed struggle” defined as simply the tactical use of human suffering puts another spin on it.

    Of course, armed struggle is just the tactical use of human suffering and can never therefore be justifiable in any moral sense. Violence is always counterproductive to the cause it is supposed to help and therefore armed struggle is a process of learned stupidity. In that sense it is always wrong to inflict suffering in your own interests.

    An eye for an eye is wrong and putting a spin on it as good old armed struggle is just a delusional stand. Non-violence is always the best approach as it makes friends rather then hardened enemies.

    Dissident violence is as wrong as the PIRA violence and the editorial in the Derry Joutrnal is just one crony Sinn Fein republican afraid to be logical in the face of a similar campaign to the PIRA campaign.

  • Rory

    Garibaldy,

    Initially the IMG were attracted to some idea of Official IRA “socialism” but then three things changed that. The first was a realisation of the “Stalinist” nature of the Officials, the second was the influence of members like former Republican activist Gery Lawless, the Scot, Bob Purdie and strangely, Tariq Ali who began to see the Provisionals as the authentic expression of “resistance to imperialist oppression” and persuaded that line (the third reason) on the majority – not without dissent but democratic centralism prevailed and the Provos gained the blessing.

    God! When I read over the above it reads like something the late Humphrey Littleton might have fun with at the opening of I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue. Please don’t blame me.

  • Garibaldy

    I certainly don’t blame you Rory. Such groups are always good for a laugh. You should check out the Irish Left Archive on Cedarlounge if you haven’t seen it. Lots of ramblings from such groups on the north in one helpful place. Including the CPI (ML) who may have been madder than all of the above.

  • Rory

    John O’Connell does make me laugh with:

    “Non-violence is always the best approach as it makes friends rather then hardened enemies”.

    I can just picture Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse riding out to Custer at the Little Big Horn with ” Hey, White Eyes, let’s all be pals”.

    I thought Ali G had already dealt with this question definitively when faced with a protestor at an environmental protest who argued that “Violence never solves anything”. But watch it for yourself here:

  • Garibaldy

    Havne’t seen that in ages Rory. Awesome.

  • Garibaldy

    Although in fairness, I don’t speak for Boyzone from Sue Ramsey takes some beating as well.

  • willowfield

    JOhn O’Connell

    I would contest your point that armed struggle is sometimes right. By its very definition it seems relatively noble, but “armed struggle” defined as simply the tactical use of human suffering puts another spin on it.

    So the Russian counter-offensive against Hitler’s armies cannot be justified in any moral sense?

    Dissident violence is as wrong as the PIRA violence

    Couldn’t agree more with you on that one.

  • Rory

    Nothing worthwhile in the video.

    The rules of self interest do not define morality.
    Custer would not be there if he believed in a valid moral code.

    Willowfield

    In a moral world we would not have had Hitler. Self interest is not morality, as above.

    The same point remains that SF/IRA set out in response to oppression in the North to use use “armed struggle”. They had a choice. They could have chosen not to use evil methodology. They could have avoided using the tactical use of human suffering. Instead they sought revenge rather than a productive method of achieving their goal – a united Ireland. An eye for an eye was chosen instead of a productive approach that might have led them to their goal.

    The reason they didn’t follow the SDLP into non-violence was because they didn’t really want a united Ireland but a mechanism to respond to their humiliation at the hands of the British and unionists.

  • willowfield

    John O’Connell

    In a moral world we would not have had Hitler.

    Er, but we did have Hilter, John.

    The same point remains that SF/IRA set out in response to oppression in the North to use use “armed struggle”. They had a choice. They could have chosen not to use evil methodology. They could have avoided using the tactical use of human suffering. Instead they sought revenge rather than a productive method of achieving their goal – a united Ireland. An eye for an eye was chosen instead of a productive approach that might have led them to their goal.

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • BenDover

    One thing though. Just because the IRA had had SOME oppression that could stand up to scrutiny to point to, it does not mean that the oppression that they were seeking revenge for was not actually substantially imagined rather than being entirely real. The same could be said of the loyalists joining up at the time the Anglo Irish Agreement in some kind of expectation that in five years they might actually be firing on Republic of Ireland forces on their own street. Or SWP members believing that they were being “exploited” by capitalists for that matter. Many people were led by the nose by fictional threats or fictional accounts of their victimhood, NOT just real ones. A lot of the “oppression” used to motivate the Republican campaign was hyperbole of one sort or another. So even there the truth has to be sifted from the bollocks by some process.