2.The Provos Turn to Politics

Submitted by dalcassian on 23 May, 2014 - 7:30

CHARLES J HAUGHEY would not be the British government's first choice for Taoiseach. It is unlikely, however, that his election will be a serious blow to the plans for a new British government 'initiative' in Ireland. The showing of the Provos and their allies in the election may even help it along.

It has been shown that the upsurge around the hunger strikes was not hard support for the activities of the Provos — and nationalism in the South seems for now to have ebbed back into the safe channels of ossified Fianna Fail 'republicanism'.

The election showed the political bankruptcy of the various republican factions under a glaring light. It also revealed — to put it moderately — the political inadequacy of those like People's Democracy (PD) who tail after them and mimic their politics.

Because the Provisionals (and to an extent the INLA, linked to the IRSP) lead the struggle of the Catholic community in the North against the British government, they have to be given critical support by British socialists. Any solution to the impasse in Northern Ireland, however, depends on breaking out of the crippling limitations of a national struggle conducted only by a fragment of the Irish people, the Catholic minority in the North.

Any possibility of bridging the gap between Protestant and Catholic communities depends on developing working class politics. In the South an advanced capitalist society exists. A revolutionary workers' movement in the south could begin — over time, and it would probably take a long time: there are no miracles likely — to create the conditions for a united working class solution to the stalemate in Northern Ireland.

All the Republicans showed in the election how far they are from being able to play the irreplaceable combined role of being both revolutionary Irish republicans and revolutionary socialists.

To the electors of the South they had nothing to offer but a combination of nationalist and socialist rhetoric, and the call to support the Northern Catholics.

The Provisionals paper An Phoblacht (4.2.82) explained that by standing in the 26 County election 'for the first time in 20 years', they gave the electorate 'a clear opportunity for another true declaration of Irish nationalism which was made so forcibly last year in the vote for the H-Block candidates. By standing candidates in the South Sinn Fein — the only Republican party — is complementing and ' reinforcing the Republican fight in the North'.

And the concerns and struggles of the South'? 'If elected' (Sinn Fein candidates) 'will not take their seats in the partitionist parliament of Leinster House, but will work as elected representatives within their own constituencies' — whatever that may mean.

'Primarily a vote for Sinn Fein is a demand for British withdrawal. It is a declaration of support for the Republican struggle to secure that withdrawal... it is a loud expression of disgust at the determined collaboration with Britain by successive Free State governments, for which' (the editorial writer adds, to get in tune with the budget debate) 'the voters are being forced to pay out of their own pockets'.

There follows some general rhetoric about socialism — almost totally unrelated to the concerns, other than the Northern struggle, of those who are being called on to rally to the Provos.

•The IRA", said An Phoblacht on February 18, "not only has a monopoly of true Irish patriotism, which its volunteers register through their continual sacrifice, but it has additional political, social and economic goals, which Sinn Fein shares, as incentives in the struggle for a free Ireland — a 32-county, democratic, socialist republic'' (emphasis added).

You won't get the Republicans' way of seeing social questions in the South spelled out more plainly than that.

And again: "The only way to break the chains of slavery is through the revolutionary force of armed struggle. The Republican movement is responsible for) bringing about a united Ireland. Arising from this solemn and proud task is the necessity for sustaining the struggle, not alone through the call to patriotism, but through radical and realistic political activity on all issues which confront the urban and rural communities, where possible tackling their problems with them" (emphasis added).'

This is far from working class politics. Armed struggle, as James Connolly understood over 80 years ago, is a possible tool of revolutionaries, but is not in itself social revolution. In terms of social programme and class concerns, the Provos are far from being adequate revolutionaries.

The national struggle is the main concern and main attraction of the Provos. The February 11 'An Phoblacht' front page says: Vote Sinn Fein — the only Republican party'.

The rebuff at the polls is likely to dampen the recent Provisional enthusiasm for taking a ballot paper in one hand to complement the Armalite in the other.

S O 4 March 1982

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