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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Magpie's Nest

Seaghán Ó Murchú • 6 July 2004

After asking us “Can You Hear Ho Chi Minh Laughing?”, Eoghan Ó Suilleabhain observes: “Radical rejection in the form of boycotts and a general refusal to engage with the invader anywhere would have prevented further factionalism and fostered a far better culture of Irish independence than the usual Brit tit dependence we are seeing now making 2016 no nearer than 3016.” I keep mulling over this point myself, as I wonder how Irish republicans can further our cause by peaceable methods. Always a magpie myself when rummaging through others’ nests to feather my own mind, I run the risk of stuffing my head with no idea, or only bird-brained fluff, that I can call my own. Yet, I see no alternative when it comes to keeping my perspectives open-ended rather than plough a furrow of ideological tautology.

I envision The Blanket as a forum where we can meet and talk to each other. Ó Suilleabhain’s assertion stimulates my own response. What it lacks in originality it may gain in relevance. Advocating a programme of mass resistance not through physical-force but alternative action against constitutional compromise appears rarely promoted within what I’ve read of contemporary republican ideology. Dominated by militancy over the past three decades and defeated when applying the civil-rights protests of the late 1960s, Irish strategies, as Eoghan’s remark implies, appear to avoid “radical rejection” of the invaders and their collaborationists. Such language, indeed, smacks of the French resistance rather than a society happy to shop at Tescos and participate in the flood of goods from China, the EU, and the rest of the WTO-dominated marketplace. If tanks aren’t on the streets, then the invader vanishes, and the threats recede, only exaggerated by a few anti-Strasbourg fanatics, Green protesters in animal masks or anarchist black.

So far, nothing new. Many republicans seek guidance from the left and progressive thought—this legacy has always sustained us. Being contrary, in my own studies, I have often been intrigued by failed conservative and ultra-nationalist collisions with republican thinking, far less prominent within the movement. Do not blame me as the messenger of what I report here. I often play devil’s advocate to keep my own thinking fresh. In the conversation afforded us by The Blanket, I offer what I’ve read to energise our debate.

Lately, in my own research into the far-right and its connections with Irish political populism in the mid-20c, I’ve been surfing into far-off shallows on and off the Net. Reading about fascism, in order to judge whether this too-often misused term can be applied to Irish factions around WWII, I’ve encountered an intriguing argument that may advance the “radical rejection” application. I’m not sure if stealing an idea from a tainted source poisons the idea itself, but I’m presenting it to provoke. Don’t flame me.

Derek Holland, who split from the British National Front in the 1980s, in a 1994 pamphlet on “The Political Soldier,” falls into the predictable prejudices of anti-semitism, anti-Zionism, Tridentine propaganda, and the Third Positionist insistence, promoted by a splinter group of self-styled “revolutionary nationalists” in the 1990s, of a return to a distributist ideal of wealth sharing that avoids capitalist concentration and communist control. Distrust of bankers, corporations, and multinationals meets disdain for statist consolidation of wealth and its ensuing dominance over liberty. This approach, after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, lost one of its enemies and so relied more upon the Russian rightist attacks on the godless West and some of its adherents longed after dubious models such as Qaddafi, Romania’s Iron Guard and Russian national bolshies. Their revival of the Freemason bogeyman seems almost quaint; I pass masonic temples that inevitably have signs “for lease.” TP appears to have itself fragmented late 1990s over the promotion of Catholicism; some entered the fascist occult; some revived the thinking of GK meets AK Chesterton, and some constructed “national anarchism.” What intrigued me despite the repellent allies (axis?) which the TP faction assembled was their use of how massive rejection of the status quo could spark “a general refusal to engage with the invader anywhere.” It rejects the so-called free-market along with statist centralisation.

Holland sidesteps, as any salesman of a novel product to a skeptical audience would advise, too direct an association of the more unsavoury ideas of the Iron Guard with the British audience he seeks to inspire. The Third Position Handbook tells recruiters: “the conversion process takes time and subtlety; learn when to move forwards, and when to remain stationary.” (27) In “The Political Soldier,” Holland cites Welsh nationalists approvingly, urges those with Celtic roots to learn their ancestral languages, and disapproves of “nationalists” like the IRA, the Stern Gang, ETA, and the right-wing dictators of Latin America: “If we proclaim that we love our People and Culture, what possible role in Nationalist politics can there be for methods that breed fear or hatred?” (17) They seek a devolved Britain, a sort of Council of the North Atlantic, with Ireland having a regional role in a co-operative entity run by an elite cadre. The BNP, more recently, has a NI page and a related Éire First site—both of which appear as neglected as the TP remnant’s Final Conflict site judging from their paucity of content and lack of cyber-revolutionary reaction. Defiantly, despite current somnolence, a quote from inspirational forebear, former MP Hilaire Belloc, echoes in the 1997 Handbook: “If democracy could change anything, the government would ban it.” Beyond left or right!

In the TP Handbook, most of all, the far-right and fascist (I keep the two terms separate) shared idealism based on spiritual rather than materialist values distinguishes such factions from capitalist or communist systems. The tenuous appeal to Christianity--or its reactionary Catholic variant as preached by Justin Barrett’s own Irish Cóir cell--brings such movements into conflict with the secular mentality shared by those who elevate profit over piety. (By the way, in my investigations, twice in June I sought contact from Barrett’s election site; twice I received no reply.) TP might have counselled Barrett not to bother. Neither voting nor bombing can change what ails us: “Just as electioneering presupposes that Power lies in the hands of Parliament, so Terrorism presupposes that Power lies in the hands of given Individuals. This is a false premise.” It continues: “What needs to be killed in the present System is a mentality, not people.” (16)

Here we can extract what might be plucked from this nest and transplanted into a republican structure. The Handbook explains that elections require “direct involvement within the System,” and terrorism “direct confrontation.” The ballot box and the armalite. The contradictions between the two we have all parsed over fifteen years and counting. “In both cases, the State is involved in the strategy as a matter of necessity, and that necessity is absolutely central.” (17) TP urges not central but peripheral, not necessary but incidental involvement with the State; here we find a model to apply to “radical rejection.” Again, I ask if this tempting kernel can be prised out of this raw husk.

The context gains elucidation: “we do not go up against the State, nor do we enter into the State; rather we go around it, seeking to make it obsolete wherever possible in respect of our politics and our lives. This conception of steady undermining is also coupled with steady building up. We make something obsolete not merely by getting rid of it, but by replacing it.” You know James Connolly’s warning about replacing the flag and not the system. We see the Provisionals’ campaign entering into the State without advancing the united Republic. The NI Assembly and the Dáil have not supplanted Parliament’s model.

The Handbook catechises “Counter-Power.” Rather than calling down the repressive forces of the State and the media upon resistance, rebels choose to fight from many fronts with a far less centralised strategy. Each member is a nucleus, two a cell, up to thirteen a nest—it borrows this term, from the Romanian Legionary cuib. For us Irish, we need a “nead,” to gaelicise the term and purify it of fascist odour. Does this mean the nest is a cuckoo’s nest? In stealing the eggs for our own omelette, in smashing the eggs in Leninist fashion to nourish a republican underground, would we retreat to dugouts and mountainy hideways? Shades of Dev in the last days of the Civil War, his government of All-Ireland seven hunted men starving in a shack. Does the TP example truly suggest a viable solution, an alternative third way between the outflanked rebel and the insider minister?

Students of republican history may remember that the 1970s policy of Éire Nua--proposed by Ruari Ó Brádaigh and Daithi Ó Conaill, then in charge of the Provos--sought a similar third course between capitalism and communism, hearkening back to elements in the 1919 Democratic Programme, 1930s papal encyclicals, and manifestoes debated by IRA tacticians incarcerated in the Curragh during the “Emergency.” In The Blanket, Liam Ó Ruairc has discussed comparisons between the 1940s Comhar na gComharsan and Nyerere’s Tanzanian socialism evangelised by Irish republicans in the 1970s. Widely derided by Provo militants and used by their Northern wing as evidence of Southern weakness in its advocacy of a federal Ireland giving “a sop to the Unionists,” the policy advanced more small-scale control of business, farms, and co-ops, a Small is Beautiful proto-Green vision. This utopia could not thrive in sectarian reality of 26 Counties eager to enter the EEC. I recall its fate to compare to any proposal charted by us today.

Based on realpolitik, what future could any entity have that rejected the multinational juggernaut? The Irish economy faces undercutting by Polish and Russian high-tech workers not to mention those farther abroad. Increasingly, its businesses fill the coffers of foreign owners. As for its political and cultural malaise, read today’s paper. Spiritually in a secularised climate, any appeal to papist inspiration to achieve moral recovery appears as unlikely as Justin Barrett’s entry into the European Parliament. Still, I have spilled my magpie’s jumble of thoughts, and close with two more from disparate recent readings.

First, in Michael Azerrad’s account of 1981-91 American indie music Our Band Could Be Your Life, the punk scene gradually becomes corporatised and compromised. Steve Albini, leader of the Chicago band Big Black, toys with his reactionary provocations but remains ethical when others sell out. When asked why he will not be interviewed by Rolling Stone (a formerly “radical” hippie rag turned Madison Avenue glossy whore), Albini reasons that even if his message was published there, I paraphrase: “what’s the impact of one true voice within a chorus of a thousand false ones?” Stalin sneered: how many legions does the Pope have? How does idealism square with pragmatism and force?

Last, as I was browsing--on the Fourth of July, thinking about the freedom of unpopular or unwanted speech-- through (Maulana Muhammad Ali’s version of) the Qur’an, I found these verses: “Say: Shall We inform you who are the greatest losers in respect of deeds? Those whose effort goes astray in this world’s life, and they think that they are making good manufactures.” (Surah Al Kahf: The Cave 18: 103-4) Ali footnotes (writing in 1917; #1527, p. 592) that “Manufacture is the one specialty and pride of the West.” Here we see us as our purported Muslim enemies—with whom TP, both wings of the IRA, and our superpowers have all made common cause—see us. The means and control of production that TP and Eire Nua sought to mitigate, that which today’s Shinners and our local mall seek to promote, and our foundation which we republicans must dig into or out of, Madonna’s material world where, in Ali’s estimation: “production and more production, that is the be-all and the end-all of life with them.”




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.
- Reuven Brenner

Index: Current Articles

8 July 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

"Fury at Community Newspaper Funding"
Carrie Twomey

Don't Buy A British Lie
Geraldine Adams

Encouraging Debate
Mick Hall

Magpie's Nest
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Scargill in Ireland
Anthony McIntyre

Rev. Ian Harte
Davy Carlin

Family and Community Workers Concerned at False Reporting
Monkstown Community Resource Centre

Food, Trade and US Power Politics in Latin America
Toni Solo

5 July 2004

Can You Hear Ho Chi Minh Laughing?
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia
David Adams

On Whose Side: Stakeknife
Mick Hall

Dogs and Lampposts
Anthony McIntyre

Towards a Republican Agenda for Scotland
Seamus Reader


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