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The Upsurge in Violence and the Lessons of History March 10, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Northern Ireland, Terrorism.
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So after Saturday’s attack on soldiers and pizza delivery drivers that resulted in the deaths of two soldiers, we now have a policeman murdered in Craigavon. The first attack was carried out by the Real IRA, and it seems likely it carried out the second shooting too. Having said that, Craigavon has been a centre for dissident activity, and several groups are active there, both paramilitary and political, and so it could be another group. Three deaths. Doubtless those responsible believe that this represents a great success, that it proves that they are serious players, and that in doing this they have asserted Ireland’s right to freedom in a way parallel to that of Easter Week.

All this of course is rubbish. They have not struck a blow for Irish freedom. They have not brought unity a step nearer, and have in fact put it further off by increasing the resolve of unionism and British public opinion. They have not raised their reputation among the massive majority of the people of Ireland who reject their means, or increased national consciousness. What they have done, however, is raised their status in the eyes of the politically-bankrupt who think that the republican struggle involves threatening traffic wardens in west Belfast, or detailing your exploits (such as punching an MLA and being out of your head) on Bebo.

What, then, is the republican struggle in the eyes of these people? We know it is about independence. But what sort of independence? An independence achieved by uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter? An independence achieved through the political mobilisation of the mass of the people of Ireland? Apparently not. The RIRA and its associated political group, the Thirty Two Country Soveriegnty Movement, has deliberately avoided forging a political programme beyond national sovereignty. It is, then, an independence that will be forged through a deliberately apolitical campaign of violence. They are back to the view held among some in the wake of the Treaty that politics automatically meant compromise and defeat, that only the gun was reliable (although having said that, I don’t think that this strain was as strong as some historians would have us believe). Even to take these people on their own terms, independence movements in Ireland have always been at their strongest when they have mixed national with social and economic politics. And if we look elsewhere, most of the successful struggles for independence in the second half of the twentieth century did the same. This retreat into naked militarism seems to fly in the face of both Irish history, and that of other countries.

In the twenty first century, the dissident worldview is simply unsustainable. We are in an unprecedented situation. While the MI5 base in Hollywood and the garrisoned troops are regularly pointed to as examples of how nothing has changed, the reality is that all has changed. Utterly. The political institutions of the northern state enjoy almost total acceptance among the population. The structural circumstances that led to the Troubles have gone; discrimination in jobs and housing, unequal political rights, a powerful reactionary loyalism opposed to and able to frustrate any form of compromise have left the stage. It is also hard to believe that the state could carry out an action that would cause a massive upswing in alienation and support for violence on the scale of the Falls Curfew or internment. The effort of the dissidents have until this weekend called to mind Marx’ famous dictum about history repeating itself. However, this weekend, tragedy has replaced farce. We can only hope that the tragedy does not spread to encomapass more people, through a heavy-handed state response, or loyalists carrying out sectarian murders, or the dissidents succeeding in killing more people.

UPDATE The Continuity IRA has claimed responsibility for the murder of the policeman. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time it has killed a member of the security forces since it was formed in 1986. Let’s hope it is the last. RSF clearly has more politics than the Real IRA, though I strongly suspect the programme espoused by Ó Bradaigh et al scarcely reflects the type of people who join the CIRA in the north.

Comments»

1. WorldbyStorm - March 10, 2009

Your third paragraph points up my thoughts exactly. That’s what is most striking about this current strain of thinking. It is almost entirely detached from a political programme, indeed it does almost everything it can to eschew such a programme. Purity through minimalism, which is all fine if ones viewpoint is near entirely self-referential but absolutely useless when it comes to forging the societal connections necessary to sustain such actions through years, let alone decades. Which isn’t to dismiss the basic fact that picking up a weapon and using it is essentially a simple matter.

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2. WorldbyStorm - March 10, 2009

And to add to that, if anything these actions demonstrate how essentially ‘unserious’ despite the seriousness of their consequences on the human level RIRA and other groups are. This is a minimal but abrasive level of activity. In essence more about propping up their own self-image than any other functional purpose.

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3. splinteredsunrise - March 10, 2009

The minimalism is an important thing. There is a smallish but fairly significant republican constituency in the north that does reject the peace process, but even there you don’t find much appetite for a return to armed struggle. In the meetings that take place from time to time, generally you find people talking in terms of political alternatives even if they aren’t very clear on what those alternatives might be.

And then somebody from the Real Republicans gets up and insists on their right to take a pop at the Brits whenever they feel like it. Difficult to argue against in terms of fundamentalist republican theology, but nonetheless not an overwhelmingly popular position even within the anti-process milieu. On the other hand, a group that reckons pizza delivery men count as “collaborators” clearly doesn’t care about popular support.

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4. cogadh - March 10, 2009

‘a powerful reactionary loyalism opposed to and able to frustrate any form of compromise have left the stage.’

So what’s the DUP then? They do a pretty good job at filling that role (some might say it’s pretty much their raison d’etre).

Of course, that doesn’t justify the RIRA and the CIRA (who I believe have taken responsibility for Craigavon shooting) but the flipside of that should be equally true that dissident’s unjustified attacks don’t justify you distorting or downplay the facts for your own agenda.

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5. Garibaldy - March 10, 2009

Cogadh,

The DUP no longer represent a loyalism opposed to any form of compromise. They now represent a hard-nosed loyalism over what compromises are made. The fact that they sit in government with everybody else, and that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness act in concert to control the agenda of the Executive, ought to have made that clear, and I shouldn’t really have to explain that when it is obvious for all to see.

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6. cogadh - March 10, 2009

Well come on now don’t be so silly, you said, as well as oppose any compromise, ‘able to frustrate’ any compromise, they are willing and able to do so, look at the Irish Language Act etc. As I said it’s their raison d’etre.

I have to say, on a broader point, reading the reactions to this in the media and elsewhere I have been very disappointed by the usual squawking heads and their oh-so-typical reaction, as it tends to highlight that the more people shout ‘we’ve moved on’, the more it’s apparent that we really haven’t.

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7. Garibaldy - March 10, 2009

Cogadh,

I see the problem lies in the meaning of the term any compromise. I meant the ability to frustrate any compromise at all and not any given measure, which I thought was clear from the text. The example I had in mind was the UWC strike, when reactionary loyalism destroyed a settlement. Reactionary loyalism failed to destroy the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and then the DUP failed miserably to destroy the GFA. They ended up the prime administrators of compromise. That is a massive leap, and the DUP has become a different beast than it was. Reactionary loyalism remains in the TUV, but it has next to no influence on the political process.

We have moved on to an extent, but I agree that many problems remain.

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8. entdinglichung - March 10, 2009

good text … is there any reference towards socialism in the programme of the “Thirty Two Country Soveriegnty Movement”?

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9. Garibaldy - March 10, 2009

Not as far as I know. I read their stuff when they emerged and it was all about sovereignty from what I remember, and its members were always very clear that they were not a political party. I don’t know if the Sovereign Nation is online still, but it should have further details I should think.

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10. splinteredsunrise - March 10, 2009

Wilsonian sovereignty seemed to be their big idea. They kept banging on about how the Government of Ireland Act had never been recognised by the League of Nations. Which frankly, is much more abstruse than anything you read in Saoirse.

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11. smiffy - March 10, 2009

Don’t forget their ‘submission’ to the United Nations: http://www.dublin32csm.com/unsubmission.htm.

Of course, if you have plenty of time on your hands and nothing better to do, try engaging with them over on politics.ie, and asking them exactly which United Nations body the submission was supposedly ‘lodged’ with, and what its actual status is. That gets them all very ratty.

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12. Garibaldy - March 10, 2009

I had a root around the net. It seems they no longer maintain a central website, though there are some for various areas. But the Dublin site makes clear that sovereignty is the single issue for them.

Splintered,

That League of Nations thing is nuts.

Smiffy,

Fish in a barrell springs to mind.

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13. Jim Monaghan - March 10, 2009

I would suggest that people bear it in mind that there are dissident Republicans like Fourthwrite and Eirigi for a start who are not militarists.
It is not surprising that these things happened. A determined group can always do a spectaculure for good or bad. There was a leftwing group in Greece that maintained a campaign for a few decades. The real fact is that politically the CIRA and the RIRA count for next to nothing.
There is no substituting for politics. A lesson indeed for those who believe in action from these people to the weatherpeople.
The legalese is at most amusing on a par with deciding which minor European aristo. is the legitimate Stuart monarch.

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14. ejh - March 10, 2009

Only one contender at the moment, or so Wikipedia unreliably claims….

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15. entdinglichung - March 10, 2009

@ejh: … he isn’t really a contender, Wikipedia says “Since Henry’s death [1807], none of the Jacobite heirs has made a public claim to the English or Scottish or combined British thrones.” 😉

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16. ejh - March 10, 2009

Yeah, but Lady Jane Grey didn’t want the throne either (very wisely, as it turned out) but they gave it to her anyway.

Also Claudius.

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17. Fergal - March 11, 2009

Interesting piece.Maybe Garibaldy it isn’t Marx that’s relevant here but Hege, which in a nutshell said ‘what we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from it’

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18. Fergal - March 11, 2009

Hegel not Hege-oops!

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19. edifice - March 13, 2009

All the usual eloquence to avoid upsetting the status quo. Good old smiffy, could never address the substance of the UN Submission so sought refuge in ‘through what door was it handed in and was that the right door to do so’. Not to mention his running in to town to see what Risteard looked like.

The website is here http://32csm.info/index.html
There you will find, if you care to look, our efforts at “forging a political programme beyond national sovereignty.”

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20. WorldbyStorm - March 13, 2009

In fairness edifice, I think smiffy had a point. Actually more than a point.

As for the status quo. Yeah, and it was voted on by the Irish people. That’s a tad more eloquent than what happened at the weekend and earlier this week and it’s up to all of us to deal with that whether we agree or disagree with the outcome…

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21. edifice - March 13, 2009

No WBS, he didn’t he merely had a tactic to avoid addressing what was actually in it. But lets face it smiffy doesn’t actually do anything political now does he?

But what are you going to do about the weekend? What is Garibaldy going to do? Tut tutting platitudes won’t count for much.

32 County Sovereignty Movement
12/03/2009
End The Conflict, End British Rule In Ireland
If the conflict in Ireland is to end once and for all, so too must the illegal British claim to sovereignty over the Six Counties. That has been made clear in light of the violent events of recent days. That the so called peace process failed to openly address this central core issue of conflict is the reason for its failure now. Attempts to cocoon the problem in a puppet British Assembly arguing along sectarian lines are doomed to failure. From the outset of this process the British government have moved to defend their illegal sovereign claim to Irelands territory. This was evident when they made it an absolute pre-condition that the entry fee into negotiations was the acceptance of a partitionist outcome. Once republican leaders acquiesced to this British demand the republican project within that process was doomed. As it limped from crisis to crisis its British and unionist credentials began to assert themselves. What also emerged was the clear fact that rather than accept their abject defeat in negotiations with the British, republican leaders dug deeper into the morass whilst making outlandish and unsustainable claims about achieving Irish unity by certain dates to keep supporters on board. It was a classic British trap. This British strategy has now reached its pinnacle with a Provisional Sinn Fein leader standing at Stormont, under the British flag, as a minister of the British crown, calling IRA Volunteers ‘traitors’ for continuing to resist British occupation.

We note the ritual chorus of condemnation emanating from Leinster House. Far from reflecting a unity of purpose it represents a bankruptcy of will from that institution to pursue the objective of a Sovereign Irish Republic. From its inception Leinster House abandoned the Irish people in the Six Counties. It abandoned them further under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. It evolved a politics which made it a slave to vested interests. It is economically on its knees because of financial and political corruption at the highest level. It has selectively spurned its own referenda results because it lacked the courage to represent those results to the political elite in Europe. It is no position to lecture to anyone on any matter of substance.
From its inception the 32 County Sovereignty Movement has endeavored to place the issue of Irish National Sovereignty at the heart of the political process via peaceful methods. We sought to raise our concerns by pursuing our case at the United Nations only to have that peaceful route disbarred to us when London and Dublin petitioned Washington to have our organization declared illegal in the US. We petitioned all the main parties with detailed submissions but were met with silence. We sought peace. We seek peace, but we recognise clearly that this can only be achieved if true parity is brought to a negotiations process. Britain’s claim to have ‘no selfish, strategic or economic reasons’ to remain in Ireland is laid bare when one sees its use of Irish soil to train and dispatch British soldiers to kill in foreign wars. The British are not neutral in Ireland, no more than they are in Afghanistan or Iraq. To allow them to claim this, which the Good Friday Agreement does, represents a massive abdication of duty and responsibility by all those supposed nationalists who support it. The recent loss of life as a result of military action is yet another tragedy in the continuing conflict in Ireland. What is required to resolve it is an end to British Parliamentary activity in Ireland so that the people of the island can come to their own democratic arrangements as to how we govern ourselves.

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22. WorldbyStorm - March 13, 2009

What I won’t do is support the use of violence in the context of a political situation generated from the Agreement on this island (which as you know from our discussions in the past is far from, in my view, the be all and end all but is a good starting point). It’s sort of as simple as that. And the tut tutting platitudes in the statement about Iraq and Afghanistan or indeed Lisbon doesn’t convince me otherwise.

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23. edifice - March 13, 2009

This is what the 32CSM support.

http://www.32csm.info/rui.html

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24. WorldbyStorm - March 13, 2009

Indeed.

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