Thursday, August 6, 2009

Class War and the GFA

It seems to me that the GFA made no attempt to solve the problem of the split between Nationalist and Unionist at all, but merely tried to change our view of that split. Instead of seeing the split or gulf that could only be overcome by the destruction of one side or the other, it was hoped that it could be seen as a dialectical process that would see two opposing and contradicting ideas being synthesised into a new third idea - a "democratic Northern Ireland."

The problem with this is that it is such a simple model that it had to leave most of the contradictions outside the door of Stormont - most importantly, the contradiction of class struggle. Stripped of these other more important contradictions, Stormont becomes a museum where ancient sectarian conflict is played out over and over again without any hope of a break in the cycle. This is all the more so, since the participants are well paid to put on the show and there is no cost in blood and tears. The new third idea became a circus or masquerade, completely devoid of reality or consequence and having no influence or traction on the real conflict outside the doors of Stormont.

That Republicans could have been sucked into such a process only showed how divorced from reality Republicanism itself had become and how much it had tried to avoid class war as the underlying reality which drove all other forms of conflict.

This seems to have been the result of the split between the Stickies and the Provisionals in 69/70. In the chaos and recriminations both sides threw out the baby with the bath water. The Stickies threw out the National Struggle and the Provos threw out the Class Struggle - thus both sides became ideologically castrated, ineffective and destined only for complete defeat.

The GFA also brings up another question for Republican Socialists. The formation of parties and the participation in representational democracy necessarily increases the participation in the liberal democratic system and thus strengthens it - thus focusing attention on the liberal democratic system and away for any possible alternative structures.

On the other hand, the fact that liberal democracy allows us to participate in it gives us a ready made platform - such as the country councils - that we wouldnt have ourselves. There is a sense of the possibility of using the system to overthrow the system. In practice this has never happened. The bourgeois system is very good at absorbing and co-opting opposing forces within it, and turning opposition to its own benefit.

So its a matter of weighing up the advantages of using the bougeois system against the advantages of not using it. It seems clear to me that while there are no actual alternative structures in place, based on direct democracy, then participation in the representational bourgeois democratic system is of little or no value - and really just takes up a lot of time and energy that should be going into building up direct democratic structures. Not only that, but we just become a mirror image of that which we claim to want to destroy.

When direct democratic structures are up and running, then there may well be benefit from using the bourgeois democratic system as a platform, but not until then.

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