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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
‘Dissident Republicanism’
Davy Carlin

As it has been an ongoing debate from and within various quarters I would like to touch specifically on the question of the strategy of the 'dissident Republicans'. I tend to look at this whole situation and attempt to understand such a mindset and the continual pursuit of their aims by armed struggle, knowing how much they embrace both tradition and principle in respect to their beliefs. I do this as one who over the years from my late teens has been sickened by the continual needless slaughter of innocents, but also now well aware how such analysis on historical tactics and strategy holds huge sway for many ‘Republican’ organisations today. One just has to presently look at Maghaberry prison for instance. So with that understanding I can see today a perceived strategy based on that historical tradition and principles, without it I believe in many cases having any real sense of the practicalities of present day.

One just has to look not only at historical Ireland but similar conflicts elsewhere and see that when the majority of those once involved in conflict whom then move into a post conflict situation in the search for peace, that those minority whom continue down that path will find little success. This not through lack of determination or belief but of the objective conditions in a developing post conflict situation (where the vast majority are for peace and tired of war). Given the circumstances of today for example with the advancement in state technology, the overwhelmingly support for peace, the obvious infiltration of such groups, the vast state forces directed against them and much more, it would be logical as before that such Republicans look at strategy not based solely on a particular element of historical tradition.

With the intensification of state mechanism against them and more importantly very limited support within a community at this time it is only logical that one needs to change tactics and develop a strategy that can realistically achieve one's aims given present conditions. This is not to set aside ones principles and beliefs, but to give positive leadership to tactically adapting those beliefs to the present while continually working a strategy on the principle of those aims.

Within Republicanism it is known by most that armed struggle is a tactic and not a principle, whether one is for or against such, it is nevertheless looked upon as such by many within those organisations. So therefore various leaderships of those various organisations wish to attempt ‘at times’ to hold true to historical tradition and various principles but to do so, (putting aside whether one believes or not that they are actually ad hearing to traditional Republican ideals in the first place) without putting it into the objective context of the present is madness.

I read of young persons jailed for many, many years, their lives all but over, following a historical line of many others, more innocents killed, more bombs being made etc, I ask if those ultimate aims could not be immediately achieved with many more volunteers and many more supporters with less advanced surveillance, and that war being fought to a standstill etc, how then will it be achieved now? I actually believe that this continual armed struggle by some is being fought on a basis of principle and such rather than a rational and concrete thinking through of how to possibly deliver on their objectives, within the practical context of the present. Giving leadership is not only about political lead but practical lead, not only of holding a tradition or principle but adapting it in a concrete way with vision. So much blood has already been lost, so many young lives spent in jail, so many more innocents maimed and slaughtered, and through it all still many lessons can be learnt. I believe that such whose mindset is still directed by the armed struggle should take a long hard realistic look at their strategy and ask to date what has it achieved and more importantly what can it achieve given those conditions.

Much though has changed and is changing, I see Provisional Republicanism competing now with mainstream Nationalism and its now ever embracement for unity of class Nationalism as opposed to that of Republicanism. I have seen and read of loyalism and its working class lead up and down so many hills by Paisley and the likes that it has made me dizzy, but now with some aspects of loyalism trying to change ’their communities’ from being playthings of such persons to now actively helping develop their communities.

As one whom is a socialist and seeks a United Ireland within that belief, looking objectively, I see and had seen over the years such armed struggle as an obstruction to and not for the advancement of achieving a British declaration to withdraw and a united Ireland. It keeps not only the state militarist mindset but hardens the bond for the British state to remain, it holds loyalism on edge, it takes those young activists# lives whom could partake in a strategy that may deliver and place them for many years in jail or death, it slaughters more innocents, it destroys more lives. Today it also says to the vast majority of the population including the over whelming majority of Republicans and Nationalists of this Island that your voices don’t count. I presume all those who voted yes are for the peace but that’s not to say all are for this particular process. Alternatives are always there (although we are told that there is no alternative to this centre right governance when up and running, what about a solid opposition to such a politic, for example?) but for them to succeed it must seek to reach out and attempt to include the majority. It is when tradition and principle become abstract from the practicalities and objective conditions of the present that such is doomed to failure.

While putting these points it is also important to raise that while I see the continuation of the armed struggle as both ill thought out and holding little chance of achieving anything progressive I do believe that what is going on and being directed and implemented by the state towards prisoners in Maghaberry is wrong and that the state is making a huge mistake going down this route.

Finally, leadership is about giving that lead, about attempting to deliver your objectives, about making the right decisions for those who follow that lead which is all the more important when lives are at stake. Giving good leadership is being able to adapt those principles, beliefs and traditions to the practicalities of today. It is to look outside a mindset however hard and look at the concrete situation, it is not to do for do’s sake but to do what is right with a realistic vision and strategy that can attempt to deliver for the people, but, as importantly with the support of the people.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

23 September 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Dissident Republicanism
Davy Carlin


Revenge or...
Pedram Moallemian


Chequers Nights
Eamon Sweeney


An Open Letter to Michael Moore: You Are Way Off Base About Wesley Clark
Terry Lodge


Remembering the other 9/11
Anthony McIntyre

The Letters Page has been updated.


18 September 2003


Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others
Eamon Sweeney


Members of 32CSM and IRPWA Physically Assaulted by RUC/PSNI
Andy Martin


Report: Belfast Anti Racist Meeting
Davy Carlin


The Shadows
Carrie Twomey


DHSS Lives
Liam O Ruairc


Freedom and Democracy in Cuba Depend on Support for Dissidents
Vaclav Havel, Arpad Göncz, Lech Walesa


Cancun - Whose Setback and Whose Opportunity?
Michael Youlton


How Do You Like Your Elections - Fixed and Murky?
Toni Solo


Armed Struggle
Anthony McIntyre


Republican Sinn Fein commemorates Robert Emmet




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