Friday, June 5, 2009

Against Premature Republican Unity

Against Premature Republican Unity

On the surface, calls for the various Republican groups to work together may seem like common sense. After all, could we not do much more if we all worked together? Without doubt that is true, but what does working together really mean? We are coming out of a period where Republicanism was thrown into confusion and disarray after the defection of the Adamsites and their abject adoption of the bourgeois ideology of British constitutional reformism. The massive amounts of money spent on promoting the GFA among the population has left our theoretical position more and more difficult. People say to us, quite reasonably: if all you want is a united Ireland, then is it not better to wait until it peacefully comes about? What’s the point of people getting killed and rotting in jail for something that is going to come about eventually anyway? I don’t think any Republican group has given a good answer to this – at least not one that will stand up to a rigorous examination.

It seems to me that each Republican group, and, indeed, each individual Republican, has the responsibility to fill in this theoretical gap. Otherwise the ruling class and their paid lackeys will continue to have a very easy time – even as the financial crisis deepens. What we have is a range of Republican groups, and I don’t see that any one of them has an entirely logical, theoretically rigorous program. The idea of several groups coming together before they have sorted out their own theoretical failings is just a recipe for chaos. All that will really happen is that people will start saying that the important thing is activism not theory – even if that activism is, at best, achieving nothing and, at worst, actually helping the enemy. (All we need to do is consider how easily Adams hijacked a theoretically confused movement in the early 80s.) Since theory is bound to cause friction in such a Unity Program, no doubt it will be pushed even further into the backround to make way for frictionless activism, were everyone can feel happy that they are "doing something."

Why have the Republican organizations not been able to get their theoretical houses in order? Well, there are probably many answers to that, but we can say for sure that if a single Republican organization cant work out a rigorous and consistent revolutionary program, what chance have they in doing so with a host of other groups – all with very different ideas of what is important. The thing to do is for each group to separately work out their programs, and then see which other group is working on the same wavelength. Then you have a meeting of minds – not just some indistinct porridge.

Marx wrote to the leaders of the Gotha Program:

"If you must unite, then enter into agreements to satisfy the practical aims of the movement, but do not allow any bargaining over principles, do not make theoretical 'concessions'."

Marx was here assuming that they had a solid theoretical base that they might make concession on. It seems to me that some of the Republican groups have a lot of work to do before they even get to that stage.

Lenin wrote in his What is to be done:

"Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This idea cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity."

This is the vital point at this time. It’s all too easy for activism to become an excuse for not thinking. But somebody will be thinking, you can be sure of that. The Brits will be thinking, and doing their best to direct all that activism into a cul-de-sac of their own making. I need hardly mention the GFA. Small shifts, that activists may not even notice, may have disastrous consequences later on. This is the importance of revolutionary theory – to channel our activism into a direction that helps our cause; not the cause of the enemy.

We must remember that, as Engels pointed out, and Lenin emphasised, that we are engaged in three struggles not two (political and economic), we are also involved in a life or death theoretical struggle with the ruling class. The ruling class have universities full of bought and paid for professors and doctors, despicable lackeys, developing theoretical bombs and bullets to keep the landless workers in fear, ignorance and awe. This is the weapon of mass destruction that has done far more damage in recent times than the British army or RUC.


  1. Comrade great post but as I get server busy every time I try an access I presume I'm no longer on.. ah well.. a bit of history for you.. See any WSM parallels the second time as farce.. 'Michael Gabriel, an anarchist, settled in Bayview Avenue off the North Strand, and in June 1885 began to distribute Socialist League leaflets and the group’s newspaper, The Commonweal. Gabriel was a 27-year-old lithographic artist from Middlesex (his father John had also been an artist), and it is likely that he moved to Dublin to work with the socialist Fritz Schumann, who operated a small lithographic print business in the city. Copenhagen-born Schumann (1843–1910) was a talented lithographic artist and designer; christened Claus Friedrich Schümann, he was a trade union and socialist activist in Denmark and England before coming to Ireland, and later was active politically in the United States. Max Nettlau, the prominent anarchist historian, met Schumann in Dublin in 1888 and believed him to be an anarchist, though at that time the demarcation between anarchism and Marxism was not always clear.' some more clips of Harvey

  2. 'Many of the Socialist Leaguers remained politically active over the following years, and some, such as Arthur Kavanagh, John O’Gorman and George King, had connections with James Connolly’s ISRP. O’Gorman’s antipathy to nationalism was probably responsible for his failure to formally join the ISRP, though he was helpful and spoke at an ISRP Paris Commune commemoration in 1899. Anarchism, however, had diminished as a political current in Dublin by the mid-1890s, partly owing to the departure of activists such as Michael Gabriel. The 1891 British census indicates that Gabriel had moved back to London by then. Another Dublin-based anarchist and Socialist League member, the Frenchman Auguste Coulon, also surfaced in London, where he was exposed in 1892 as a bomb-maker, advocate of terrorism and agent provocateur for the police.'