The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Nothing is more difficult and nothing requires more character than to find oneself in open opposition to one's time and to say loudly: NO! - Kurt Tucholsky

Liam O Ruairc • July 20, 2003

In his letter (Irish News 11 July), Councillor McIvor raises two crucial questions: do so-called "dissident" groups have a coherent strategy and do I believe that it takes the "struggle" forward? These are separate issues.

The CIRA and RIRA have a coherent strategy that could be summarized like this. The armed campaign is a sort of "counter veto" to the British maintained Unionist veto. It offers a counter-balance to and frustrates the ability of the British state to impose what orthodox Republicans see as a "pseudo solution" (direct rule or GFA). It makes it difficult for the British state to rule the North, the continued existence of armed actions makes the subduing of the place impossible. While armed struggle severly limits the options the British state would like to include on the agenda, it also shapes that agenda (as can be seenfrom specific junctures like the 1972 abrogation of Stormont). The ultimate aim of the military strategy is that by so constraining the British state in its attempt to impose its "solutions" and suppress the "Irish problem", it has only one course of action left: a declaration of intent to withdrawal. This is the strategy of "military dissidents". The fundamental weakness of that strategy is that it does not take into account the reasons for the failure of previous Republican military campaigns like the 1939-1945, 1956-1962 or 1970-1994 ones, and does not tell us why they could be more successful now.

Armed actions have to be judged by their concrete political effects, and the political impact of RIRA and CIRA attacks hardly indicates that they are moving the struggle forward. The other problem is that those organisations almost exclusively concentrate on denouncing the Provisionals for having "sold out" on the national question while ignoring important issues like Sinn Fein in government administrating privatisation and neoliberalism.

However, there are other variety of so-called "dissidents" that are opposed to a military campaign, like "The Blanket" or the Republican Socialist Movement, that have a more interesting alterative. The priority should be to build a broad movement of the social and economically marginalised —what Tone called "those of no property"— that would challenge the state and neoliberalism.

Councillor McIvor could point that this is a very abstract slogan, so let me use a very concrete example of what this means in practice. Sinn Fein went into government and got a Minister for Health. That Minister closed down hospitals and introduced PFI into health services.

What would be the "dissident" alternative to this that would move the struggle forward? First, no question of going into government, the imperative would be to organise a campaign to put public health before private profit. "Dissidents" would campaign to put all parts of the health care system, including private hospitals and clinics under public control and to scrap PFI. "Dissidents" would campaign for the abolition of all prescription charges and dental charges. They would develop an all-Ireland campaign to regulate the prices charged by multinational drug companies to the National Health System North and South. They would argue the case for a graduated income tax, and levy a profits tax upon the pharmaceutical industry, which will be used to finance research and development, especially in preventative health care and medicine. That would be the "dissident" alternative.

Ironically, Sinn Fein has much in common with Thatcher when it argues that "there is no alternative". The challenge for Republicans and Socialists, those who dissent from the status-quo, is to develop a concrete and relevant programme of action in all areas (health service, education, economics, the national question etc) that will enable to mobilise the people and move the struggle forward.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



"As a rule, dictatorships guarantee safe streets and terror of the doorbell. In democracy the streets may be unsafe after dark, but the most likely visitor in the early hours will be the milkman."
- Adam Michnik

Index: Current Articles

20 July 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
Anthony McIntyre


Sinn Fein Support for Prisoners' Demand
Mick Hall



Liam O Ruairc


Revenge of the Bureaucrats
Julie Brown


What It's Like to be Raided
Carrie Twomey


Raid on McIntyre Home


3 July 2003


Protest at Dundonald House
Anthony McIntyre


Dundonald House Protest (Photos)
Carrie Twomey


Conditions at Maghaberry Worsen

Lorraine Corr, relative; and statements from the IRPWA


Letters from Republican Prisoners
Rory O'More and Martin Brogan




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