The End of the War

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Joined: 20-02-04
Dec 11 2005 10:43
The End of the War

The statement issued by the leadership of the PIRA on Thursday 28th of July, instructing an end to their armed campaign is significant beyond its declaration that the war is over. Ordering all volunteers to dump arms the statement included the wording:

"All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means."

This is clearly aimed at satisfying the British and Irish governments and unionism that the war is over and it sets the stage for a return of Sinn Fein to the Stormont Assembly and the possibility of coalition in the south. The timing of a return for the Stormont Assembly depends largely on there being some sort of change in the attitude of the majority unionist party, the DUP. The DUP line had been disbandment although a significant act of decommissioning, of “deeds not words”, may make such a hard line less tenable. And its hard to imagine why the PIRA wouldn’t proceed to a significant act of decommissioning, they can present it as calling Paisley’s bluff while the truth is that their war against the British state has been over for at least 11 years.

So, should we welcome this as creating peace in our time? Predictions like that have been made before only to become disastrously unstuck. The basis of the Good Friday Agreement and the Assembly set up in its wake is such that, even if it was re-established, it could collapse over policing, parades or any number of contentious issues – particularly given the political near domination that would be enjoyed by Sinn Fein and the DUP.

It is also the case that none of this is likely to see a reduction in sectarianism in our society. Back when the GFA, or Belfast Agreement, was brokered one of the predecessors of this organisation, Organise! - IWA stated:

"...sectarianism is far from eradicated from our society. The ‘Agreement’ isn’t really about that however, in fact it institutionalises sectarianism with members of the northern Assembly being required to identify themselves as Unionist, Nationalist or Other."

Other was then and is now a non-option as far as the sectarian and communal political carve up is concerned. Since then sectarianism on the ground has actually worsened.

The statement views the armed struggle as having been completely legitimate, and while the PIRA are not the sole combatants in the conflict, as libertarian communists we take issue with that assertion and we are mindful of the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who were bereaved, suffered injury, incarceration and death throughout this conflict where working class.

Paramilitarism and gangsterism continue to blight working class communities. State military institutions, troops and a paramilitary police force all need to go. Demilitarisation is a short term objective, removing nationalism from politics and building on class unity and solidarity are essential to achieving meaningful change for working class people in the north. As the Belfast Libertarian Group, who experienced the slide from civil rights campaigning into sectarian conflict, said back in 1973:

"Nothing is new or radical in Irish politics… Northern Irish politics are the politics of the dead. No organisation offers real hope to the working class in Ireland. No organisation can until nationalism is taken right out of politics."1

We all lose out as a result of sectarianism and nationalism (of the Irish, Ulster and British varieties) while Sinn Fein are happy to get back to the business of administering British rule – British rule that’s bent on implementing a neo-liberal agenda. Government from Westminster, Stormont nor Dublin offers us anything – north, south, east or west.

Working class prods are not going to be won to a battle to get rid of partition and create a united Irish republic – and in all seriousness why should they? No-one seriously believes that such an extended Irish state will have anything socialist about it. Beyond some young, naïve and deluded members of Ogra Shinn Fein no-one believes Sinn Fein's (increasingly rare) talk of socialism any more surely?

In reality there can be no satisfactory statist or capitalist solutions, the situation demands that working class people take matters into their own hands. In the short term we must increase working class resistance to attacks in our workplaces and communities, we must work to overcome segregation and to smash the grip of the churches on our education system. In the long-term we must strive towards a society based on working peoples direct control of our workplaces and communities, federating with others to ensure our needs are met. In this way we can abolish all borders and create a federal commonwealth of labour uniting the people of these islands and the globe in the pursuit of a world based on need and ability not greed and violence.

It may prove difficult after over 35 years of armed conflict but working class people must take this opportunity to bury the politics of the dead and develop a politics of the living.


1 Belfast Libertarian Group, 1973, Ireland, Dead or Alive, pp23-24.

From the pages of Working Class Resistance #10, magazine of Organise!