The Blanket

Modernising Republicanism

Davy Carlin

The fact that the Republican Movement has decommissioned some of its weapons may well be deemed as surrender from one quarter or tactical from another. Nevertheless, whatever is said or done it is an event so blatant in its historical significance not only to the Republican Movement or like minded struggles but more importantly to the international ruling politic, that revisionist historians may barely be needed to taint or support a given line. What is most interesting for myself in this continual process is not the fact that weapons were decommissioned but the fact that very little of present day republican grassroots had questioned the persistent breaking of core principles.

While logically republicanism is modernizing itself to adapt to changing times through different avenues of struggle the reality though is that after that first long standing position was broken and once the first act of decommissioning was accepted everything else became and will become increasingly easier in the dissolving of past positions. Continual renewal of core principles then will evermore be articulated as a constant progression of moving forward to the goal of a united Ireland rather than to hold onto that which is holding them back. So now then moving forward within republicanism towards ever more solid constitutional nationalism. This is due in part to the constant need to forever establish broad party based class inclusiveness while administering centre-right governance.

Yet this is the circle found in many similar historical situations of similar post-conflict scenarios where political inclusiveness has meant not only moving aside past principles in the process of moving forward but also seeing growth in economic and social exclusiveness for many of their original core constituents. This enables the establishment to provide cosmetic changes in such areas, with those who once stood outside governance now implementing for them, and who bring along many of their constituents. And of course in doing so the establishment's politic is made more solid while dissent is further limited and isolated.

This is also a major reason in the calls for republicans to both sit on the policing boards and advocate that people join the police which they will undoubtedly do. Why? Firstly, Sinn Fein is a party of many internal ideas and beliefs. Consequently, then it will have many contradictions which are increasingly visible as modern republicanism continually redefines itself in many areas. In the past the joining of the police would have been put in the context of a principle within republicanism now it will be put in the context of modernizing republicanism for transitional governance. Socialists are opposed to the calling of persons to join the policing (force) service. The police are both an instrument and an extension of the state on behalf of that state interest. Such a force specialises in protecting affluent areas and property while harassing and demonizing working class communities areas. That is why there is more laws protecting private property than there is protecting persons. All this will not change no matter who sits on the policing boards. Republicans, like others before them, will change little on such boards serving as a mudguard to clean up and give only credence.

Secondly the police and its variants will not be held accountable on such boards by a handful of political representatives whose role for some will increasingly contradict their working class constituents and their state role as part representatives for such a force.The remarkable similarity of some post conflict situations tends to give an understanding of this problem despite some believing that we have a unique situation. Although materially conditions can differ there is though no political uniqueness in repressive or covert state tactics or the nurturing of, or legislative implementation of division. This has always been determined by the relevant interest of the state, the nature and size of the perceived threat and the conditions, political, economic or strategic weighted against it. Armed with the state it can then decide on coercion, opposition, support (overtly or covertly of whatever side) or repression inside or outside its own definitions of law. Whatever those conditions, state interest will dictate that level of response.

What changes then if any will working class areas see on the issue of policing? In South Africa for example the police batons passed from white hands to many black hands yet within many of the same towns and villages it is the same persons mainly feeling the brunt of such weapons as they continue to stand against the still growing economic inequality. So then also the orange baton will pass eventually to many green hands and it will be still the working communities and the most vulnerable who will feel the brunt of them. In reality their faces, religion or sexuality may change but the nature of the politic against working class communities will not. The only difference - and it is historically repetitive - is that those who had once opposed it will now be administering it.

In effect once again we will almost come that historic full circle and while I know of genuine socialists in the Republican Movement it is Sinn Fein's class contradictions that have helped them to a large extent implement the present policies in centre-right governance. It shall, therefore, to a large extent allow them to call for the joining of the force. As the shutters come down on a past era of conflict and with republicanism continually modernizing, could the progressing alignment towards greater constitutional nationalism in fact, if successful, deliver then for them only the Republic without Republicanism?








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A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.
- Adlai Stevenson

Index: Current Articles

8 August 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Billy Mitchell


Frances McAuley - Resisting the Loyal Sons of Hate

Anthony McIntyre


Intense Winters
Miguel Castells Artetxe


Modernising Republicanism
Davy Carlin


Another Death in Turkish Prison Hunger Strike


4 August 2002



Davy Carlin


Sectarians For Peace?
Sean Smyth


Nuff Said
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain


Saol Nua

Sean O'Lubaigh


Stake Knife Runs the Rafia
Brian Mór


The Death of Cú Chulainn
Brian Mór


SAS Stake Knife
Brian Mór


No Punishment Too Great

Anthony McIntyre


Foul Shots

Karen Cox


Insanity or Security?
John Chuckman




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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
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