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Left Archive: Rebel, Revolutionary Struggle, July, 1981 June 28, 2010

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Revolutionary Struggle.
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RS REBEL 82

Many thanks to Tommy Graham, editor of ‘History Ireland’, for this donation.

This publication Rebel was issued by left group Revolutionary Struggle, referenced throughout almost exclusively as ‘RS’. Revolutionary Struggle is one of the more intriguing groups active on the Irish left in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Much of the information from the wiki entry is taken from Liam O Ruairc’s piece on Saor Éire on The Blanket which can be found here. You can also find information in this DCTV documentary. It was involved in the Ripening of Time collective [see below]. A shooting at a meeting in Trinity College Dublin was the cause of some controversy. Revolutionary Struggle disbanded in the mid 1980s with former members going to various points on the political compass.

Rebel is quite distinctly different in nature to The Ripening of Time being magazine rather than pamphlet like. But then, unlike Ripening of Time, it was a specific RS production.

That said its scope is fairly wide with a range of pieces dealing with issues from the hunger strikes (this edition went to press just before Joe McDonnell died), Bob Marley through to Dioxin (which conceptually links in with another piece on plans to use Dunsink/Finglas as a ‘toxic dump). It also notes a CIE unofficial strike.There’s also mention of the Carnsore campaign, which was presumably winding down at this point, and various services, such as Limerick Family Planning clinic.

There is a fascinating central essay that considers the role of violence and also the issue of ‘revolutionary political practice’.

On the former point it argues that:

…there are two dominant approaches… the first, Republicanism, argues that it is illusory to look for – and therefore argue for – a ‘specifically’ working class standpoint. So, various variants of Labour must wait are put forward as the only answer to the problems facing the people. The most sophisticated reps of this position, be they Trotskyist, Maoist or left Social Democrats, can go no further than argue old and discredited formulas of class compromise based on Broad/United/Popular Fronts… where the workers, or more precisely their spokespeople, will work with and (hopefully) try to radicalise the dominant forms of Republicanism…

It continues:

On the opposite pole stands the second approach, anti-Republicanism. Those who like SFWP argue that the national question is, in fact, a non-issue as far as the working class is concerned. That living standards, jobs, income and rights can only be guaranteed in a divided but stable capitalist society where proletarian can only be asserted by the gradual multiplication of Sherlocks and Kemmys. That’s this is the only way to fight ideological and material divisions among the people.

This position speaks from the logic of the State – today. It is forced constantly to mystify and deny the peoples movement in reality, lives a constant lie. A lie which can never win – an illusion which is under the thumb of capital.

And…

Faced with the two dominant forces of pro- and anti- Republicanism, our politics in Revolutionary Struggle [note that this is almost the only mention of the name spelled out in full in the document as a whole - wbs] maturing through our political practice inside the people over the past 6-7 years, have taken shape. We have argued consistently that both Republicanism and anti-Republicanism are incompatible with proletarian perspectives… and this not only in the long-run but T O D A Y.

It is this contradiction we have tried to tackle time and again… mostly it must be said relatively unsuccessfully. We said no to the ultra sirens of the anti-national purists while we continue to battle it out with the prostituted pro-Republican currents.

We have set continuously parameters and guidelines for our political intervention. We started from the recognition of the national question as the primary contradiction in Irish society. We supported and sustained the anti-imperialist war, at times even participated in it gingerly faced with howling rage from both sides. We argued and tried to practice a practical insertion of communists in the general process of national liberation. We were maligned, attacked, harassed and marginalised as a result. Always in search of an honest and realistic position based on a revolutionary working class standpoint.

Later the essay considers that…

In Social Democratic jargon violence and its uses are the privileges of the Party – and of the State if the SD party has a share in its control. In a certain peculiar sense social – democrats (and Provisional Sinn Féin are no exception) see themselves as the legitimate institutionalisation of violence. I, and I think all present members of the organisation Revolutionary Struggle, are against this image of the Party so beloved by SF, SF-WP, IRSP, CP and others… even some anarchists. We believe that if the party has the monopoly of violence it implies that it sees itself as a State substitute… an anti-State, but a State no less… the ‘other’ State. Gulags and shattered knees flow abundant from such a conception.

Violence is a synthesis NOT an antithesis. It is an expression of power, against all States, all authority… it is counter-power. The only power regulating that synthesis is the power of the organisations of the class – not just A PARTY. Such class violence is uncontrollable… it attacks the outside, deepens the separation, unsettles and demoralizes the enemy, destabilises the State. Bullets and bombs are of no use there. The only final State medicine for such violence is holocaust and nuclear destruction. And, as far as Ireland is concerned, that’s not on.

Viewed like this inside a mass oppositional project, violence does not have to expose itself like an exemplary prick. And irrational as it may sound, such violence ends up being the only rational judgement of class struggle. It provides the only link between proletarian existence, resistance, destructuring and destabilising. A red filament.

One curiosity is the piece under the heading ‘Invitation’ which seeks to broaden the participation of readers of Rebel and to transform it into an ‘educating and accessible newspaper – bigger, more regular…’.

It claims that ‘there are 750 regular Rebel readers in Limerick and Shannon, many of whom have been supporting the paper regularly since the earliest issues two and a half years ago’. It would be useful to know what if any was the basis for that figure of 750.

Addendum:

Here is an excellent series of posts on the Ripening of Time at Dublin Opinion and the Irish Left Review. We have had a copy scanned in for some months now, and it will be added to the Archive over the summer – simply in order that we have a representative sample of RT, but in the meantime Conor’s posts are essential reading. Also, here’s some additional information from him and others in the comments here As more arrives I’ll attempt to integrate it into the post above so that a cohesive picture can be built up of a most interesting organisation.

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Comments»

1. Jim Monaghan - June 28, 2010

“Violence is a synthesis NOT an antithesis. It is an expression of power, against all States, all authority”
This to me promotes one form of struggle over all others.So agitating in your union, selling papers etc. is not the “real” thing.If I have failed to follow the dialectic perhaps someone can enlighten me.
At least the Provos had the support of a section of the nationalist masses who for good reasons gave them a sea to swim in.The problem with the Provo struggle is that it did not have sufficient mass support to win.The mass support is what distinguishes the Provo struggle from the Red Army Faction and other “armed” struggle tendencies. But if you followed (in my opinion) the logic of the above it did not matter.
I look at all forms of struggle from the simple viewpoint of does it advance or impede the struggle not whether it appears more militant or dangerous.Taking a particular form of struggle out of context and giving it a timeless aspect ( welI, suppose you all know where it can lead.)
I recently reread a book on the so-called “Bonnot gang”, anarchists of the deed who robbed banks in pre WW1 France. They scared the bourgeoisie, for a short while, and they resulted in nothing more than a strengthening of repression.
In a period where the fightback against the cuts is fairly small we must avoid and counsel against ideas that there are shortcuts.

WorldbyStorm - June 28, 2010

Jim I borrowed that book from you and I think the lessons you draw from it are well made. RS seems to me, and perhaps I do them a disservice, to be a most interesting group and in some ways a hugely unlikely manifestation in the Irish left political context drawing on clearly European far left, as distinct from further left, approaches – Italian in particular.

ejh - June 28, 2010

I think there’s likely to be a certain number of angry young men and women who are going to need that advice in the next few years. I am not sure that they’ll listen.

WorldbyStorm - June 28, 2010

Yep.

2. Jim Monaghan - June 29, 2010

“I think there’s likely to be a certain number of angry young men and women who are going to need that advice in the next few years. I am not sure that they’ll listen.”
Totally agree. I call it short cutism and a stupid moralistic justification of what is lunacy. For instance the messing outside the Dail. Which was just messing anyway as the organisers are not stupid. But there is an army garrison in Kildare st. The state would love a distraction where the “great and the god”could murmur about threats to democracy etc. Anyway the total lot of the left would be hard put to have a piss up in a brewery at this stage. As well as that I am less than impressed at the antics of the Black Block. To take on the state you have to have incredible amounts of support and a demoralised repressive system as in Russia and say Argentina after the state had lost a war. The Provos with 1000s of volunteers and lost/loads of bravery and a degree of mass support failed. And not for want of trying.
We have to be realistic about what is possible and about what stage we are at. This is propaganda and agitation for the foreseeable future.
On influences I would look across the water to the semi anarchist Angry Brigade. I have a soft spot for the anarchist Stewart Christie who did work in Spain during the Franco era. You had to be serious to do that.

WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2010

That makes sense, the Angry Brigade certainly resonate through the document above.

3. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - June 30, 2010

[...] * Revolutionary Struggle: Rebel, Juli 1981 [...]

4. Left Archive: Ripening of Time, No. 4, The Capitalist State, 1976 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 11, 2010

[...] (and to provide a counterpoint to the later Revolutionary Struggle material which you can find here), but in the meantime the analysis of the Ripening of Time and the editions that Conor has posted [...]


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