"Dissident" Republicans in Armed Struggle Cul-de-sac


When “dissident” republicans killed policeman Ronan Kerr with a booby-trap car bomb on Saturday, they were pursuing what they believed was a strategy that would eventually lead to the defeat of British imperialism in Ireland, firstly by destroying the policy of normalisation, "ulsterisation" and the co-option of  republicans into the political system, and ultimately in breaking the will of the British ruling class to maintain their hold in Ireland.

They were wrong of course. If we have learned anything from 30 years of armed struggle it teaches us that, but worse than that the very action carried out to defeat imperialism and those who have been co-opted by it actually reinforces the state and the forces which they seek to defeat.  The fact is the vast majority of people in the north and also the vast majority of the” nationalist” working class and further the vast majority of republicans do not want a return to war.  Indeed if you could point to the one thing that unifies people in Ireland the most it is a determination not to drift back into war.  Yes Sinn Fein have betrayed what they once proclaimed to believe in, yes imperialism still plays a role here, yes the institutions in the north represent a sectarian carve up that divides the working class into two competing communities, yes it weds people to their tribal leaders and yes it secures the division of Ireland between north and south and rich in poor, but blowing up Ronan Kerr or any other policeman will not change that.

Every bomb attack and every shooting allows Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson off the hook as they are presiding over massive cutbacks and attacks on the working class,  who are the only people that can deliver a united socialist Ireland.  People are wedded to these leaders and their parties because they portray their way as the only way to maintain peace and insure progress.  Whilst left republicans, socialists, anarchists etc. might loudly protest the cuts, and call and work for working class unity, the constant rumble of potential war in the background drives people back into the arms of Sinn Féin and the DUP. The northern state is no longer run in the sole interests of the unionist capitalist class as allies of the British ruling class,  interests that necessitated massive discrimination against catholics at all levels, but rather it is now run in the interests of both the nationalist and unionist capitalist class with the nationalists given a guaranteed share of state power. The oppressed are now the working class of whatever hue.  

A recent Eirigi document uses the phrase “Only through socialism can the salvation of Ireland come”, a James Connolly quote. It is instructive to note that the most progressive sections of republican opinion recognises the centrality of the question of socialism and seek the well of James Connolly for some inspiration.  The key to defeating imperialism in Ireland is in winning all sections of the working class to socialism, in such a context unionism makes no sense to “protestant” workers nor does narrow nationalism make sense to “catholic” ones.  The ideas propagated by Sinn Féin of cross-class catholic unity and the DUP of the same to protestants can only be challenged in the sphere of shared working class interest. I am not suggesting ignoring or down playing the role of imperialism, but let's fight together against the common enemy and develop a vision of what sort of society we wish to see, that socialist and democratic vision will set us on the road to a united socialist Ireland.

For the “dissidents”the key should be an honest assessment of what can bring the objective closer and a realisation that the armed struggle in the context of the six counties is a cul-de-sac. Shut down the war, get the prisoners home, develop a strategy that wins people to ideas that liberate them economically and socially and maybe progress can be made.

WORDS: James McBarron