The IRA and The Good Friday Agreement
The recent farce at Stormont which resulted in the establishment of a six county government that lasted a mere ten minutes raises questions as to the real political nature of Sinn Fein/IRA.
Sinn Fein/IRA by actively supporting the Good Friday Agreement has openly accepted partition. Its entrance into the erstwhile six county executive means that Sinn Fein/IRA has agreed to administer a reconstituted partition and use state power against any threat to the existence of partition.
Sinn Fein has effectively abandoned its official republican programme and its armed struggle. It has agreed to actively participate in administering the oppression of the “nationalist” section of the working class in particular and the working class of the six counties in general. Up to now, this present period of apparent overt betrayal of republican doctrine, Sinn Fein/IRA’s promotion of imperialist oppression assumed a more disguised form. Due to the exhaustion and demoralisation of the “Catholic” masses partly as a consequence of both Sinn Fein/IRA’s conservative leadership and organisational forms it can now abandon its formal adherence to republican principles while increasing its electoral support. This exhaustion is a consequence of the continuous organised violence directed against the Catholic masses by the British state over the last thirty years together with the reactionary leadership provided by the SDLP and Sinn Fein/IRA.
Sinn Fein/IRA is facilitating the advancement of the class interests of the bourgeoisie through its programme to reconstitute the six county state in accordance with the new objective conditions that obtain both nationally, regionally and globally.
Consequently there is no question of the present settlement meaning, as has been claimed by Bernadette McAliskey and others, a defeat for the “nationalist community”. Instead an adjustment is being made to the character of the six county statelet in correspondence with the changing politico-economic context within which it is organised. In short an adjustment is being made to the form of class rule in the six counties, the Irish Republic and Gt. Britain.
Concerning the “Catholic” section of the working class the new adjustment will simply mean a change in the form of its national oppression. There is no question of this constituting defeat. Indeed the popular upsurge of the Catholic masses in the North against national oppression experienced defeat a considerable time ago. This defeat manifested itself in the form of the growing hegemony of the conservative forces, in the form of the SDLP (including its precursors) and Sinn Fein/IRA, over the “Catholic” masses in the face of the savage imperialist response to that insurrection. The latter response manifested itself as the increased mass terror of the British state in the form of internment, the active oppression of the British Army and its paramilitary loyalist gangs against the “Catholic” masses.
The political role of Sinn Fein/IRA as a key player has been changing. Sinn Fein/IRA’s bombing and shooting is the form through which the popular insurrection of the “Catholic” masses was subverted in the interests of imperialism. Civilian bombings and attacks on state and loyalist military forces by elitist “republican” organisations were the subversive form eventually assumed by the spontaneous potentially revolutionary revolt of the Catholic masses. In this way a positive popular challenge to the system was subverted in this reactionary form --in the form of Sinn Fein/IRA, the SDLP and other minor elements. The place for a revolutionary communist movement was filled by the reactionary politics of Sinn Fein/IRA. When this form of petty bourgeois politics had served its purpose by nihilistically assisting in the destruction of popular revolt in the North the traditional role of Sinn Fein/IRA was no longer called for. Sinn Fein/IRA was now required by capitalism to play the new role of leading sections of the “Catholic” masses into constitutional politics by actively promoting continued partition around the bourgeois peace process. Its purpose was to lead the “Catholic” masses into acceptance of partition under the guise of an apparently new and promising settlement, the Good Friday Agreement, that was presented by Sin Fein/IRA as the embryonic form of a thirty two county Irish republic. The latter illusion was, in some degree, the product of an elaborate ideology constructed by the bourgeoisie and sections of the petty bourgeoisie (Sinn Fein/IRA, sections of the mass media etc.).
To suggest that the GFA constitutes a defeat for Sinn Fein/IRA is to entirely misrepresent the real character of the current situation. What is mistakenly defined as a betrayal of republican principles is simply a continuation of Sinn Fein/IRA’s pro-imperialist politics in another form. At present Sinn Fein/IRA is simply seeking the best terms from the ruling class in exchange for their acceptance and active support for a new variety of national oppression of the “Catholic” masses and the Irish working class as a whole–a form that shall enhance bourgeois political stability and thereby the conditions for the exploitation of the labour power of the working class. Unionism, on the other hand, is seeking to minimise the concessions offered to Sinn Fein/IRA. They are seeking to force Sinn Fein/IRA to change tack for as small a price as possible. Complementing this the Blair government, as has been implied above, is seeking a new form for the continued national oppression of the six county masses that corresponds with changing overall objective conditions. However both seek this adjustment in such a way as to concede as little as possible to Sinn Fein/IRA. London is using Ulster Unionism as the means by which it can minimise any concessions granted to Sinn Fein/IRA. To argue that the nationalist community will have been defeated by the implementation of the GFA is mere ideology designed to conceal the real nature of political development in Ireland and Britain while sowing despair and passivity within the ranks of the working class. The situation is that the “nationalist” working class will continue to be essentially exploited and oppressed. The difference is that the conditions of national oppression will have undergone adjustment. This adjustment is intended by imperialism to enhance the conditions for the further exploitation of labour power.
The more Sinn Fein/IRA surrender the old traditional obsolescent form of its politics and the less it gets in return is not necessarily a defeat for it. It simply means that it has been forced to change the form of its politics on conditions less satisfactory than it had perhaps hoped. The point is that Sinn Fein/IRA is settling and going to settle. The question is the price at which it will settle. It is this process that is currently taking place. The substance of the politics of Sinn Fein/IRA has not been changing –just the form. Sinn Fein/IRA is a petty bourgeois organisation that ultimately serves the interests of imperialism in particular and capitalism in general. However given its petty bourgeois character Sinn Fein/IRA’s politics tend to have a zigzag character --a function of the changing balance of class forces at any given time.
The upshot is that Sinn Fein/IRA was never essentially a revolutionary political force representing the class interests of the Irish working class north and south of the Irish border. Thereby it was incapable of leading a struggle of national determination of the Irish people because of its political character. Its present machinations around the GFA provide clear and unadulterated evidence of this. The real reactionary nature of Sinn Fein/IRA is being increasingly exposed as events unfold.
The Communist Think-Tank