Oppose the internment of Marian Price despite the reactionary politics of the 32CSM


In August 400 people marched through Dublin to protest the internment without trial of a 58 year old woman in ill health for over a year. In May her husband told the Belfast Telegraph she “is so ill that she had to be taken to a recent visit in a wheelchair. Her hair is falling out, she has lost a lot of weight, and her arthritis has got worse. She is suffering from severe depression after a year in solitary.”

Her case could be described as an obvious stitch up, except that she hasn’t been charged with any crime. So why only 400 people on a protest march? With the exception of the WSM and other anarchists, the left, the far left and the radicals involved in Dublin NGOs were almost entirely absent. Despite being a well-known republican (she received two life sentences for bombing the Old Bailey in London) there were only a handful of Sinn Fein members on the demonstration.

There is no mystery to this lack of support. Price is a member of one of the most unpopular political organisations on the island: the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, associated with the ‘Real IRA.’ This was the organisation that in 1998 bombed Omagh killing 29 people and injuring 220, as well as the shooting of two pizza delivery workers who were being used as bait to lure soldiers out of Massereene barracks in 2009.

The 32CSM embody some of the most reactionary aspects of Irish ‘republicanism’, particularly the view that there is no need for any popular base to their ‘war’: that the dead hand of the dead generations gives them the only mandate needed. Faced with a million northern Protestants (and growing numbers of Catholics) with no interest in unity with the south, their strategy is a campaign of bombing and assassinations aimed at deepening sectarian divisions, alongside a bombing campaign in Britain that could easily result in large scale civilian casualties, and a subsequent major retaliation by the British state in the North or against the Irish community in Britain.

All of this is aimed at provoking the resumption of a war in Ireland that no one wants, while their former republican comrades now hold distinguished positions within the Northern Irish devolved government – a further explanation as to why there is little support coming from the ranks of Sinn Fein, other than a respectable nod in favour of her release.

Add to this that one of the other prisoners interned (this time on ancient charges from 1981) is the far-right Catholic nationalist Gerry McGeough, who used his magazine to attack “left-wing revolutionaries and anarchists” and their “strong homosexual undercurrent”. This makes the lack of opposition to internment understandable but it is still short-sighted, counter- productive and wrong. To put it simply: we can’t only oppose human rights abuses when they happen to those we agree with.

After the overwhelming majority accepted partition by voting for the Good Friday agreement, the Workers Solidarity Movement went through a period of debate about what that meant for anti-imperialist politics in relation to Ireland. We recognised that the agreement opened up the possibility of a reactionary end to partition. While the armed actions of the RIRA are hardly likely to succeed, they illustrate that sort of possible outcome, where revolutionary republicanism is replaced by sectarian head counts. But we also recognised that state repression needs to be opposed, even if it is directed at this sort of reactionary nationalism (or indeed loyalism), writing “We generally support all calls for public enquiries and oppose all state repression even where we disagree with the politics of those who are the victims of the repression.”

No revolutionary can allow the state to define and intern its enemies arbitrarily. Once that practise becomes established all of us are targets. It’s worth remembering that as recently as 2004 sections of the Irish media were claiming that anarchists were planning a bombing campaign and to “Gas Bertie and 10,000 Dubliners.” Once a state is allowed to use these tactics with one group it rapidly expands their use to target others it defines as enemies. We would urge our readers to actively oppose the internment of Marian Price and other prisoners despite the contempt you may hold for their politics.

A shorter version of this article appeared in
Workers Solidarity 128 - Nov/Dec 2012