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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Socialist Objection and Alternative


Eamonn McCann • 24 February 2005

The governments and mainstream parties want rid of the IRA because its very existence is an implicit threat to established ideas of law and order and to the stability of the Northern and Southern States. In the wake of the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney, they are demanding that Sinn Fein ditch the military wing and lead their followers into full acceptance of the political and constitutional set-up.

The socialist objection to the IRA is different.

The Governments are encouraged by the fact that the Provisional IRA would appear to be less popular today than at any time in the last quarter century in the working-class Catholic areas of the North where it has been most deeply-rooted. This isn’t on account of the supposed immorality of robbing a bank. But the multi-million pound, trans-national money operation in which the IRA appears subsequently to have been involved clearly had nothing to do with leading people to liberation, in any sense of the phrase, or with ending partition. Instead, it indicated that IRA activities aren’t aligned with the interests of the people in whose name it purports to act. The IRA was hanging out with a different class of people entirely.

The brutal killing of Robert McCartney illustrates the same point.

Some former members and supporters of Sinn Fein and/or the IRA have concluded that what’s needed is a reformed or refurbished Republican Movement, with a leadership committed to true Republican ideals rather than to personal or political advancement. They largely attribute the current debacle to bad leadership, wrong turnings or sinister motivation on the part of Gerry Adams and his associates. This is an inadequate conclusion.

At the heart of the tradition represented in Ireland by the Socialist Workers’ Party is the idea that socialism must come from below, that it cannot be imposed or bestowed upon the working class from above, whether by parliamentarians or paramilitaries, but can be accomplished only by working-class people themselves organising in their workplaces and communities to advance their situation, ultimately to overthrow the capitalist system.

Commentators have contrasted the role of the IRA in the 1970s in the Short Strand and the role now exemplified by the IRA members involved in the McCartney killing. Once they were protectors of the community, it is said. Now they are oppressors. There is truth in this as far as it goes. But it misses the connection between the IRA then and now.

The IRA may on occasion have given the community physical protection, particularly in the circumstances of the early ‘70s. But it was never answerable or accountable to the community. It has sometimes styled itself the “peoples army.“ But it organises and operates out of sight of the people. It was and is, necessarily, a clandestine organisation. Its members are oath-bound to give total allegiance to paramilitary chiefs who, far from finding validation in endorsement by the people, must keep their very identities hidden from the people.

This is true of the IRA in defender as well as oppressor mode. Is one of the keys to understanding the transition.

Every ruling class voice is currently raised high urging Republicans to ditch paramilitarism, become totally respectable and join the conservative consensus. Forgiveness and glittering prizes are on offer to those who accept. This would represent abandonment of struggle.

Republicans who think of themselves also as socialists should reject the blandishments of the bourgeoisie and turn instead to the socialist ideas of self-liberation which alone offer a road forward.





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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

24 February 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Socialist Objection and Alternative
Eamonn McCann

Taking the Peace
Jimmy Sands

Life Amongst the Proveau Riche
Brian Mór

A Far Cry from the Hunger Strikers' Sacrifices
Anthony McIntyre

Tragic Legacy
Mick Hall

Some Economic Results of the Civilizing Mission
M. Shahid Alam

21 February 2005

Time to Go
Anthony McIntyre

Stand Together in Pursuit of Justice for Robert
Catherine McCartney

The Murder of Eoin Morely
Ivan Morely

Exclusion Orders
Brian Mór

The 'Gud Auld' Days
Dr John Coulter

The Courage of Ward Churchill
Ghali Hassan

Awaiting the Prisoner of Zion From Within Israel's First Circle
Mary La Rosa



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