Friday, 21 January 2011

Who's the Neanderthal?

To be honest there was little surprise from any republican about the condemnations following the IRA attack in Derry recently. There is a media ebb and flow in relation to the current campaign and the printed responses have gained an almost hysterical nature in their attempts to outdo each other in vitriol. Although occasionally humorous in their contradictory analysis, I particularly enjoy the oft repeated "no support" line which is followed quickly by "minority support", these statements can give us some insight into the mindsets of those issuing them. Martin McGuiness however managed to take the top prize for inventive language by lambasting republicans, from a Tory party podium as being "conflict junkies and Neanderthals". The sdlp, no doubt still smarting from the provisional movement snatching the mantle of constitutional nationalism, chose instead to label them as "born again provos". No doubt these sound bites were rehearsed well in advance and they were waiting with baited breath for the IRA to strike so that they might be deployed! But it may be a useful exercise to analyse the terms themselves which I think not only highlight the lack of real insight into republicanism today but also display a not inconsiderable concern that republicans are making real inroads in the six counties.

McGuinness has consistently shot himself in the foot with his abuse of republicans, in particular during the notorious "traitors" press conference which seemed to take even Hugh Orde by surprise in its sheer hypocrisy and stupidity. There is an air of near paternal outrage about martin when he starts mouthing off on the topic of the IRA. He has all the mannerisms of a disgruntled parent dealing with a difficult child. I think that analogy does in fact sum up his view of republicans. He is most annoyed, not at our refusal to submit to British rule but our refusal to submit to provisional rule. The personality cult surrounding the provisional leadership was not put in place overnight but rather grew over a period of many years. The cult of leadership was wielded as a weapon to suppress dissent. Unfortunately for martin his authority has no credibility amongst republicans in Derry. It is this cold hard fact that nags at his ego. And it is this fact that drove him to use the term "Neanderthal". Martin isn't an anthropologist so I think it's safe to say that he was intent on depicting "dissidents" as backwards, politically unsophisticated and stupid.

The truth however is that republicanism since the Good Friday Agreement has been forced to undergo an even greater degree of political turmoil that has led to a greater questioning of its role as an ideology and that has led to lengthy debate and discussion about its future. Constitutional nationalism on the other hand has merely retreated to its most comfortable and its original stance, that of a pressure group for middle class Catholics.

Any student of history can point to movements such as the home rule party as being largely representative of the nature of nationalism in Ireland. That is to say moderate, and more often than not seeking to build a broad coalition of powerful institutions to argue for internal reform rather than revolution. In the past this usually focused on the Catholic Church as seen in the structuring of both the GAA and the Home rule movement along parish lines. Thankfully the Catholic Church does not wield the influence that it once did but this hasn't fundamentally altered the tactics of nationalists. The relationship with the Irish-American lobby is a good example as it shows how political elites are recruited as allies to try and gain a sympathetic ear whilst Martin begs for crumbs from Cameron.

Republicanism on the other hand is fundamentally a revolutionary tradition, the only tradition on this island with the longevity and historical and social importance that is capable of enacting radical change. With the changing of circumstances republicanism too has undergone reality checks and it would be most unwise to pursue any revolutionary agenda on this island that did not seek to fundamentally change the economic and power structures currently in place. This message is gaining ground, whilst the provisional's are forced into populist left-nationalist rhetoric whilst sitting in coalition with a reactionary and sectarian party. The so-called Neanderthals it would seem are the ones developing their political analysis and seeking to transform rather than reform their country.

Martin couldn't resist painting republicans as war mongering either, ironic given his party's contention that it was the IRA who made their ideal peace agreement possible! Calling republicans conflict junkies was no doubt designed to portray us as those with no agenda other than mayhem. But how does that square with reality?

A bomb timed to cause maximum political capital and directed against a capitalist target is not a tactic wielded by individuals ignorant of sophisticated political thinking. Rather it is the product of a strategy designed to cause maximum disruption to an uneasy settlement that is and always has been predicated on lies. There are those in the media who contend that republicans have no strategy other than chaos, this is untrue. The strategy is clear. They may not like it, or agree with it but it is undeniably effective. The New Zealand government issued travel warnings to its citizens travelling to the six counties recently. The myth of tranquillity is being blown apart in the so-called city of culture! The message being sent around the world however is not necessarily what's worrying Martin most, rather it is the message that is being listened to by increasing numbers of people in the Bogside and Creggan. For it is from communities such as these that his own movement was born and sustained and he knows it! His compatriot in the SDLP also cast some interesting light on the conflict within nationalism. His use of the term born again provos makes little actual sense in any historical way. It is common knowledge that the IRA has within its ranks the majority of those who in 1997 rejected fundamentally changing the raison d'être of the IRA.

Therefore it is in fact the provisionals who have been evangelized to the church of constitutional reform. However it was as much a jibe aimed at Sinn Fein as it was one against republicans. For the stoops have not forgotten that not so long ago it was they who stood alone condemning republican actions whilst Martin defended them. They resent the fact that PSF stole their language and their voting base. So they seek to remind what is left of their voters that these people are hiding behind a carefully constructed façade, a narrative of deceit. Unfortunately for them it will do them little good. The provisionals successfully ditched republicanism whilst deluding many republicans into following them. Having achieved that they began to seduce the nationalists who did not have the stomach for fighting the brits but were more than happy to have the republican rhetoric without the armalites to back it up!

And so whilst our one time comrades seek to condemn and cajole republicans we can sit content in the knowledge that if they are that worked up about us, we must be doing something right.

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