The Blanket

Response to George Young
TJ O Conchuir • 21 December 2003

Mr Young, I agree with almost everything you said as well. You make a valid point that we should not call the republican resistance 'terrorist' as this aids the black propaganda of England. The volunteers that served in the various Irish Republican paramilitaries were indeed very brave.


However, there was a deliberate reason I used the term nationalist-terrorist in stark contrast to republican-guerilla. My mistake was only that I wasn't specific enough.


Guerillaism and terrorism are distinguished by strategy but often not by tactics. Guerillaism is using hit-and-run tactics, bombings and various methods of irregular warfare to gradually build up liberated zones, Free Derry being a perfect example. These are used to mount larger attacks and militarily drive the enemy from a territory.


The examples in Cuba, the founding of the USA, the Macabes v Rome, Vietnam and (urban facets of) the Spainish Civil War are instances of guerilla war.


Terrorism is by contrast using violence, or the threat of, to achieve a social or political objective. It is not a campaign to actually force the enemy to leave, but to bring them to the negotiating table or achieve a reform.


By its very nature terrorism tends to isolate and not be as revolutionary. The difference between each strategy is not a moral issue as it is mostly used today. Typically the differences are presented in everyday usage as being guerilla = legitimate, terrorist = illegitimate and not following the rules and conducts of warfare.


However, it is actually theoretically possible to be a guerilla and maim or kill many innocent people (look at some of the wars in Africa right now) and to be a terrorist and never even hurt any person but just damage property. Some anarchists would fit this description.


Gerry Adams changed the nature of the IRA's war from the brigade structure to a cell structure. This made the IRA incapable of expanding the war even when they had many more weapons and support.


Gradually the campaign was undermined and the IRA was led by people who had little grasp of republicanism or guerillasim. The opportunist leadership sought to bring the Brits to the negotiating table. They were also much more nationalist in outlook in the Redmonite sense. These were conservative catholics who, it is clear in hindsight, sought institutional power and not the building of new institutions as occured in the period between 1918-1921 in Ireland.


It is important that we learn from the mistakes of the past. The provos moved gradually from guerillaism and keeping the british state out of their communities, to terrorism that sought to negotiate a brit withdrawl and evenutally to actually administering British rule in Ireland. As guerillaism was not suffeciently pursued, so too did the provos reject mass struggle or class analysis.


I don't mean to besmirch the fine record of republican resistance. Clearly the republican movement did an amazing and unprecedented job of taking the war to the British state. I don't lay the blame at the feet of the rank-and-file either. I did mean however, to distinguish the current leadership and their strategy from the past.





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