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'P-IRA' - A New Beginning?:
Echoes of the Wolfe Tone Society
‘P-IRA’ – A New Beginning?:

Echoes of the Wolfe Tone Society

By a republican veteran

The basic ideas of the Wolfe Tone Society (WTS) appeared in Tuairisc No.7, a bulletin of Republican opinion, produced by its Dublin branch, dated August 31st, 1966. Among other things it proclaimed:

1. There is nothing stronger than an idea whose time has come. It will then root itself in the minds of the people, burgeon into fruitful action, change the old ways of looking at social reality, and act as an organizing force. Superior ideas are more effective than armies in that the changes they bring about are more permanent. Efficiency of organization, strength of numbers, dedication of personnel, can never serve to bring about a revolution unless our movement’s ideas – as embodied in its aims, programme and policy – are superior to those of our opponents. If we are not superior in our ideas we inevitably court defeat.

2. Our idea is the achievement of an All-Ireland Republic – politically and economically in control of its own destiny, the home of a nation of free and educated citizens, in which the exploitation of man by man has been abolished (unquote)

The ideas of the WTS , listed in numerical order, were essentially based on face to face dialogue, talking to each other, not at each other. Such threw up a more intensive written analysis to tease out those “political, economic and cultural ideas which will equip our movement, and the several organizations and elements composing it in the broadest sense”. The WTS’s weaponry was primarily “intellectual equipment, ideology, effective enough to defeat the ideas of our opponents and convince the mass of the Irish people that our way is the right way and that it is we who deserve their political trust and the leadership of the nation.” Some will immediately say, “we have come a long way since the days of the WTS” – but have we really? Yes, we have experienced thirty years of what some refer to as “the Long War” – but look now to its ‘unintended’ conservative results. Once again genuine Republicans are back at square one, almost exactly where the WTS was in 1966, 4-5 years on from G.H.Q’s order to dump arms, heralding the ending of “the Border Campaign” (1956-62). Mid-way through 2000 AD, the need for a new beginning should be clear to all who reject the status quo, promoted by our traditionally ‘enlightened betters’, strengthened now by entry into, and acceptance of rule from Stormont, by what is dubiously termed ‘mainstream republicans’. But if we declare ourselves for a new beginning, let us make sure that history will not be permitted to repeat itself – for if it does, and we accept that every crossed ‘T’ and dotted ‘I’ will be implemented, then the means of practical defence may not be sufficient to prevent a repeat performance. The supposed “Pan-Nationalist” approach is a recipe for continued naked sectarianism, regardless of how it is dressed up or tricolurs waved. Is it not both paradoxical and illogical for ‘mainstreamers’ to jump on this contention? For, do they not daily accept and operate Stormont’s updated, and more-refined institutionalized sectarianism? The GFA essentially embodied and promotes the policies of diverse ‘think tanks’. These have adopted an incremental approach, which seeks to establish the lowest possible denominator, whereby an Orange-Green consensus can emerge. Think what you like of the GFA, we must admit these ‘think-tanks’ have excelled themselves, far beyond the expectation of most grass-root republicans, who really didn’t understand where they were being taken.. Local collaboration has made it possible for London to now play two trump cards at the one time - Orange and Green. Both cards are essential to keeping the working class divided while pursuing an overall strategy to erase radical republicanism from our nation’s consciousness – or so they believe!

The best method to be employed against “Pan-Nationalism” is to begin the incremental construction of a new strategy –‘ P-IRA’ – A pan-Irish republican alliance. Prolonged daily dedication, since mid-1998, has created a pro-active global network - the Irish Anti-Partition League (ia_pl32@hotmail.com) Could such possibly be employed to provide a pivotal springboard? Any envisaged alliance should not be all embracing to include every individual or group that merely declare in favour of the Republic. The specific nature of ‘the republic’ diverse elements desire, should be the acid test, before any doors are opened. Analysis, dialogue and agreement on the way forward, would be the only key to pro-active progress. The first real assault on ‘Pan-Nationalism’ should be the early planning for future implementation of a comprehensive electoral boycott campaign. This tactic should be publicly linked to a conscious effort to deny legitimacy to both partitionist states. Such would attract tens of thousands of disillusioned working-class people who abhor ‘brown envelope politics’ and blatant cronyism, remembering well past official calls to “tighten your [proletarian] belts”. Within such a boycott campaign the task of creating alternative republican policies should be viewed as essential. To obtain productive answers, qualitative questions must be posed both in the individual and collective sense. Such an exercise acknowledges some of the fundamental problems facing us, which need to be articulated in intellectual terms - ‘What kind of a republic do we want? On what programme can we come together to forge a degree of pro-active unity? What are the issues and campaigns that must be taken up, to advance that agreed programme, in a bid to secure mass mobilization? The very notion of “let’s wait and see how things turn out” should now be viewed, as the sole preserve of fools, armchair radicals and the barstool apolitical. The problem facing the WTS, all those years ago, has not gone away you know - “As it is, republicans can justifiably claim to be the conscience of the Irish people. The people have the utmost respect for the aims and ideals of the movement. But this respect is accorded because of the dedication and altruism of republicans, not because the intellectual superiority of the republican programme and policy is recognized. It is our desire to contribute to changing this”. The WTS went on to note, “We emphasize “contribute”. Those who edit and write for this bulletin presume to no monopoly of political truth. We welcome discussion and disagreement, so long as it is constructive, that is, based on a genuine desire to develop an effective programme for the progressive movement in Ireland, republican and labour.” Does Fourthwrite meet the bill in this regard? The WTS was not advocating mere constitutional change. It argued for “a reversal of the present dominant political and social trends in Ireland and the defeat of the interests bound up with them. In other words it entails a revolution”. Then, and even more so now, there were the constitutional and revolutionary republicans, and there are more of the former today, than the latter, as in 1921, for reasons that should be all too clear. Like the WTS we must be “realists, social and intellectual”, and that must surely mean getting away from seeing politics in terms of flag-waving, media-generals, elected personalities or parties. The politics of any revolutionary republican must continue to be firmly rooted in the physical protection, welfare and future advancement of the common people, from whence we spring. As realists we must recognize that we are at the beginning of a task which may take years, but already small advances are being made against great odds. It is not the possible length of time that counts, but our patience, perseverance and dedication. This, after all, is true of any significant achievement. The Belfast Agreement, which falls far short of even Sunningdale (1974), is not worthy of past patience, perseverance, dedication or the major sacrifices of the nationally-minded common people, their militant defenders, and martyrs. Halting the military campaign would have been no disgrace, accepting the so-called “consent principle”, and all that flows from that, was. Therefore, “Pan-Nationalism” must first be unraveled, then unveiled, exposed to total nakedness, whereby it will be seen for what it is, a sectarian spirit which seeks to win for a tiny few the credit of being the organizers of so-called victories.

Dialectically pro-Stormont republicans can move only one way, to the right of centre. By implication they now reject the notion of the Stormont state being “a failed entity”. This new Provo revisionism necessarily entails that Crown-paid representatives need to turn recent history, principles, experience and logic on their heads to ensure the Stormont system actually survives politically and becomes ideologically acceptable. We owe it to many, the living and dead, to ensure they can never afford to ignore the work of others who have not deserted, and remain determined to serve the cause of socialist republicanism. The small-mindedness of middle-class and clerically inspired ‘Pan-Nationalism’ has lead to a waste of effort and an expense of the revolutionary spirit, which we can ill afford at this present critical stage of our national life. Armed republicanism, on its own, is no major threat to the status quo. It will always have its place in the context that ‘self-defence is no offence’, but to advocate merely ‘a repeat performance’ is the height of political and military ineptitude. What flowed from the efforts of the WTS, and others within the broader movement deserves closer study, as we still have much to learn from the struggles of the “Swinging Sixties”. Then, as now, we must continue to conspire and collaborate for a real Republic. Does the ‘P-IRA’ strategy not at the very least deserves serious individual and collective consideration, as a possible way forward?.


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By Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh
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