response to Gerry Adam's article published in the Irish Times on 12-2-96
was the absence of negotiations and the consequent failure to address and
resolve the causes of conflict which made the re-occurrence of conflict
absence of negotiations are not what make the re-occurrence of conflict
inevitable. What make the re-occurrence of conflict possible is the
deep-seated contradictions inherent in six county society and indeed in Irish
capitalist society as a whole. To suggest the absence of negotiations as cause
is to mistakenly confine to surface phenomena the cause of conflict. Again
negotiations donít necessarily resolve the causes of conflict. It is the
struggle between social classes that can lead to the resolution of conflict.
Furthermore it is simplistic to suggest that the ending of the ceasefire meant
a re-occurrence of the conflict. Even during the so called Provo ceasefire
conflict continues under other forms. Furthermore the character of
negotiations is no more than a reflection of the relationship of power between
the classes. Gerry Adams, not recognizing this fact, fetishes negotiations.
people of this island do have the ability to come to an agreed and democratic
accommodation. The vehicle for this is democratic and inclusive dialogue and
the people of Ireland do have this ability then this is tantamount to falsely
claiming that the struggle for national self-determination of the Irish people
is superfluous since discursive activity can be substituted for this struggle.
The only thing that has significance is dialogue; all else is meaningless.
This is postmodernism at its most cynical. Language substitutes itself for
reality. Adams fails to understand that the character of specific dialogue
reflects the asymmetrical power relations that underpin it. Words on their own
are meaningless. The success of a political interest participating in dialogue
is a function of both its political power and the character of its
relationship with the relevant different political powers. It is not a
function of its debating skills. If the Provos had no political power the
Irish, British and American bourgeois governments would not have given it
anything like the attention it has received.
IRA cessation was, itself, the culmination of a long process of dialogue
within Irish nationalist opinion aimed at identifying a method of resolving
the conflict and building a lasting political settlement.
for Adams dialogue produced the IRA ceasfire. Words take on the power of
concrete struggle. The armed struggle of the IRA generated dialogue, words,
and these words in turn generated the IRA ceasefire. Adamís mystifies the
power of words. He is the prisoner of words and images. Consequently his world
is one of fantasy; an Irish Don Quixote. The real situation is that the Provos
ceased their armed struggle because of concrete political considerations and
not because of mere dialogue.
very fact that the IRA found it necessary to end the ceasefire is proof of the
limitations of dialogue, of language. The IRA bombing in the London docklands
has already generated a modification in the political situation in a way that
dialogue could not. Indeed the only reason that Sinn Fein have been allowed to
even talk with the Irish government is because of the political significance
of their armed campaign. If the IRA had not waged their campaign then no
dialogue would have taken place. Therefore it was not, as Adams believes,
language that led to language. The gun compelled the bourgeoisie to enter into
talks with the Provos. The problem is that the guns of the IRA are not proving
powerful enough to achieve an independent 32 county republic.
Irish Government of that time, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and key elements of Irish
America were all agreed that inclusive negotiation, without preconditions or
vetoes, is the only way to resolve the conflict and secure a lasting peace. It
was agreed that peace could be achieved only by replacing the failed political
structures with a new political arrangement on the island, based on democratic
principles of agreement and consent.
the only way to resolve the conflict is through "inclusive
negotiation" then why has it not been achieved? If a settlement, as Gerry
Adams believes, is simply a matter of the different parties sitting around a
table to talk then there can be no reason why all the parties would object to
this. However because it is far from as simple as this the parties have not
engaged in this inter-communicative exercise. It has not been achieved because
words have their limits and are not as Adams believes the essence of social
being. The armed conflict reflects class interests which are concrete material
interests. A resolution cannot then be a simple matter of discursive reason;
of the application of reason to a socio-historical problem. A problem of this
kind can only be resolved through politics which entails class struggle.
Social conflicts never have and never will be solved by means of discursive
was an intensive and unprecedented dialogue within Irish nationalist opinion
in its broadest sense, a dialogue which required courage, imagination and a
new approach on all sides, not least on the part of the then Taoiseach, Albert
Reynolds, and the SDLP leader, John Hume, who, despite intense opposition,
turned their backs on the failed policies of isolation and took the risk
required in the building of the Irish peace process.
the dialogue "required courage, imagination and a new approach" is
irrelevant. Of relevance, however, is that Reynolds, Spring and Hume were
simply serving their own class interests by engaging in such dialogue. They
"turned their backs on the failed policies of isolation" simply
because they had found another and perhaps more effective strategy to either
crush, encourage the Provos to surrender or accept a compromise. Sections of
the Irish bourgeoisie had changed their strategy in an attempt to further
stabilise bourgeois conditions on the island. But it must be remembered that
it may be "the failed policies of isolation" that played a strategic
role in generating the kind of Provo leadership that is prepared to fall for
what maybe a new strategy of sections of the bourgeoise.
a clear commitment by all the major Irish nationalist parties proactively to
pursue a new, negotiated and democratic political arrangement, and a public
commitment by the British government to convene with the Irish Government the
necessary peace talks to achieve this agreement, the Sinn Fein leadership gave
an assessment to the IRA leadership of the prospects for a lasting political
settlement. It was on the basis of clearly-stated commitments and agreements
that the IRA announced a complete cessation of military operations on August
above remarks suggest that the present Sinn Fein leadership accepted the word
of its enemy, an enemy it had been struggling against for over twenty five
years. Adams does not understand that these manoeuvres by London may have
formed part of a political strategy to defeat the Provos. Adams now wants to
criticize the British government because the Adamites may have made the
significant political mistake of naively taking their enemy at his word.
However there are those who would suggest a more sinister reason for their
apparent political innocence.
the 18 months of the IRA cessation, the British government stalled the
commencement of all-party peace talks time and time again. The unilateral
dumping of the Mitchell report, and the introduction of a unionist proposal
for a six-county election, placed an unbearable strain on the peace process.
Sinn Fein warned repeatedly of the dangers. Our warnings were treated as
threats when they were intended to alert those responsible that the peace
process needed to be consolidated and built upon.
all this simply proves that words are not a substitute for concrete reality.
If it is only a matter of rational dialogue then there is no reason why
Unionism, London and Dublin cannot sit around the table with the Provos to
arrive at a solution. This has not happened because social problems in the six
count state Ireland cannot be reduced to mere words.
stalling, the negativity, the introduction of new preconditions was steadily
undermining the position of those, myself included, who had argued that a
viable peaceful way forward could be constructed.
above remarks mean that Adams admits that his position has been undermined
which can only mean that the Adamites may have played a vital part in the
Provos suffering a defeat at the hands of the Tory government. Adams does not
understand that this may be just what London intended as part of a possible
strategy to split the Provos and make its defeat easier. This may then mean
that the Adamites are John Majorís best allies.
this background and with consternation I, and those who had worked to put this
peace process together, watched as Private Lee Clegg was released and then
promoted, as David Trimble and Ian Paisley marched through the nationalist
community in Garvaghy Road, as Irish prisoners were mistreated in English
jails, as plastic bullets were fired at peaceful demonstrators, as nationalist
homes continued to be wrecked in RUC raids. And, most fundamentally, we
pointed out, with a growing sense of desperation, that there could be no
negotiated peace without peace negotiations; that without peace talks there
was no peace process.
may be surprised to know that there is nothing new in this. This is the kind
of conduct British imperialism has engaged over many years. More surprising
might have been the discontinuation of this conduct by the British state.
Given British imperialismís enduringly oppressive role in Ireland it is
ironical that the Adamsí leadership naively believed British imperialismís
promises. Then when the British bourgeoisie fails to meet these promises it
engages in posturing that suggests surprise. Such a naive belief in British
imperialismís good intentions mistakenly suggests that imperialism can play
a non-oppressive neutral role and that it is not inherently oppressive. The
politics of the present Provo leadership, the Adamites, also paints American
imperialism in bright colours by depicting the Clinton administration as
facilitator of the struggle for Irish national self-determination. In this way
it promotes the view that British and American imperialism are progressive and
not essentially oppressive of other peoples. Essentially then the Adams
leadership is pro-imperialist.
to isolate Sinn Fein failed in the past. The Taoiseach knows that our party is
committed to dialogue, that we are not involved in armed actions and that we
have a democratic mandate.
declares that Sinn Fein is "committed to dialogue". This is a truism
of no political significance. Many political organizations, including fascist
ones, are committed to dialogue. But they are committed to many other things
too. It has been known for many years that Sinn Fein have always been
committed to dialogue. It has always been known that Sinn Fein, as such, are
not involved in armed actions. However Sinn Fein has been under the control of
the IRA leadership and the latter has been engaged in armed action. Sinn Fein
has enduringly supported the armed struggle of the IRA and has been its
political arm. There is also dual membership of both organizations. The only
reason Sinn Fein have received more than generous media and political
attention is because of this relationship to the IRA. It may also be because
the Adams leadership is in the process of betraying what was the original
political aim of the Provos. There is no other reason why the bourgeoisie now
treat as royalty the leadership of an organization that it has so persistently
sought to suppress, sometimes with great savagery, over many years.
of those whom we represent? Are they to be discriminated against by the Irish
Government in a crude attempt by that government to pressurise an organisation
for which Sinn Fein and our electorate have no responsibility or control? The
Taoiseach also knows that I have honoured every commitment I made. He knew how
fragile the peace process was. All of us have to reflect on our stewardship of
the peace process. Mr Bruton must reflect, as I must, on the lessons of the
last 18 months.
Fein have a responsibility for the existence of the IRA by their failure to
seriously criticise it and by their general political support for the actions
of the IRA.
thing is clear. It is not possible to make peace in Ireland unless the British
government wants to make peace also. It is also very important that the
Taoiseach's unilateral decision to refuse to accord Sinn Fein our democratic
rights is set aside so that we can all find ways through dialogue to rescue
the peace process.
is tantamount to claiming that there cannot be a successful struggle for
national self-determination by the Irish people. Political conditions in
Ireland depend, according to Gerry Adams, on whether "the British
government wants to make peace". No longer is it a problem of the Irish
masses defeating British imperialism and thereby forcing its troops out of
Ireland. Instead the masses simply wait until British imperialism wants to
take its troops out of Ireland.
to what Adam claims the struggle for national self-determination of the Irish
people can only achieve success through the establishment of a workersí
republic or a federation of workersí republics supported by sections of the
petit bourgeoisie. Such a workersí republic or federation of workersí
republics can only be consolidated through the establishment of a federation
of workersí republics on both the islands of Ireland and Britain.
The Communist Think-Tank