his letter (Irish News 11 July), Councillor
McIvor raises two crucial questions: do so-called
"dissident" groups have a coherent strategy
and do I believe that it takes the "struggle"
forward? These are separate issues.
CIRA and RIRA have a coherent strategy that could
be summarized like this. The armed campaign is a sort
of "counter veto" to the British maintained
Unionist veto. It offers a counter-balance to and
frustrates the ability of the British state to impose
what orthodox Republicans see as a "pseudo solution"
(direct rule or GFA). It makes it difficult for the
British state to rule the North, the continued existence
of armed actions makes the subduing of the place impossible.
While armed struggle severly limits the options the
British state would like to include on the agenda,
it also shapes that agenda (as can be seenfrom specific
junctures like the 1972 abrogation of Stormont). The
ultimate aim of the military strategy is that by so
constraining the British state in its attempt to impose
its "solutions" and suppress the "Irish
problem", it has only one course of action left:
a declaration of intent to withdrawal. This is the
strategy of "military dissidents". The fundamental
weakness of that strategy is that it does not take
into account the reasons for the failure of previous
Republican military campaigns like the 1939-1945,
1956-1962 or 1970-1994 ones, and does not tell us
why they could be more successful now.
actions have to be judged by their concrete political
effects, and the political impact of RIRA and CIRA
attacks hardly indicates that they are moving the
struggle forward. The other problem is that those
organisations almost exclusively concentrate on denouncing
the Provisionals for having "sold out" on
the national question while ignoring important issues
like Sinn Fein in government administrating privatisation
there are other variety of so-called "dissidents"
that are opposed to a military campaign, like "The
Blanket" or the Republican Socialist Movement,
that have a more interesting alterative. The priority
should be to build a broad movement of the social
and economically marginalised what Tone called
"those of no property" that would
challenge the state and neoliberalism.
McIvor could point that this is a very abstract slogan,
so let me use a very concrete example of what this
means in practice. Sinn Fein went into government
and got a Minister for Health. That Minister closed
down hospitals and introduced PFI into health services.
would be the "dissident" alternative to
this that would move the struggle forward? First,
no question of going into government, the imperative
would be to organise a campaign to put public health
before private profit. "Dissidents" would
campaign to put all parts of the health care system,
including private hospitals and clinics under public
control and to scrap PFI. "Dissidents" would
campaign for the abolition of all prescription charges
and dental charges. They would develop an all-Ireland
campaign to regulate the prices charged by multinational
drug companies to the National Health System North
and South. They would argue the case for a graduated
income tax, and levy a profits tax upon the pharmaceutical
industry, which will be used to finance research and
development, especially in preventative health care
and medicine. That would be the "dissident"
Sinn Fein has much in common with Thatcher when it
argues that "there is no alternative". The
challenge for Republicans and Socialists, those who
dissent from the status-quo, is to develop a concrete
and relevant programme of action in all areas (health
service, education, economics, the national question
etc) that will enable to mobilise the people and move
the struggle forward.
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