Wednesday 5 December 2007

The Plough Vol 04 No 26

The Plough
(Web site
Vol. 4- No 26
Wednesday December 5th 2007
E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party

1) Editorial: So What’s The Alternative?

2) Government Pay Hikes an Insult to the Workers!

3) Book Review

4) Without comment.

5) What’s On?

Editorial: So What’s The Alternative?

In many of our activities as a Party we in the IRSP are often asked, occasionally in a hostile manner, but more often in a resigned but curious way,

“So What’s your Alternative to the Good Friday Agreement?”

Often as not the question is posed by supporters of the Provisionals or by ex members of that movement who simply walked away in disgust at the direction their movement had taken. It is a genuine question. It is one that requires a serious answer. And it is not a question to be answered in pubs and social clubs as former ex-combatants reminisce over a few pints and ask where did it all go wrong? That’s when the mixing can be begin and as the drink flows in so does the wit flow out.

Those who now are in the ascendancy – those who now walk the corridors of power when once they walked the streets in protest, can feel secure in the knowledge that there is no serious opposition to their hegemony.

The Administration At Stormont (TASS) has no serious parliamentary opposition. The pathetic little Alliance party is desperately trying to get the Ulster Unionist Party to give up the fruits of office and join them in opposition. But any opposition based on the Alliance or unionist perspectives would be a false opposition because they all fundamentally accept the prevailing economic policies pushed by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the USA Government.

Of course there will be minor differences within TASS. The two main nationalist Parties PSF and SDLP will place more emphasis on “social justice” and “equality” while the unionist parties will emphasise issues s such as “law and order” and “economic stability” and “prudence.” When elections loom both sides will then revert to banging the big drum of nationalism of unionism to stroke up the sectarian flames and bring out their voters.

It is also most unlikely that a coherent electoral opposition could be established before the next elections to create a new TAAS. Any such opposition would have to be built on clear opposition to the economic and social policies of the current TASS. It would have to be socialist, have some prospects of success to generate support and have no illusions that there really is a parliamentary road to socialism. No organisation now existing would seem to have these credentials. Nor would there necessarily be agreement that such credentials would be essential. In other words all those on the left would soon find reasons to fall out with each other and denounce the SWP/SP/CPI/ etc as traitors to the class struggle.

So in the sense of parliamentary opposition it is true there is no alternative to the GFA.

But generally the question is not posed in terms of economic or social alternatives but in republican terms and is posed in such terms that really only two alternatives are allowed for – the continuation of armed struggle or settling for TASS.

Armed struggle in Ireland has a romantic tinge about it, particularly when posed in terms of heroic sacrifice or in terms of the heroism of the Easter Week uprising. Indeed it has almost achieved such status that to question its efficacy is akin to blasphemy. During the period of the seventies and eighties few dared to raise their voices within republican circles about armed struggle. To do so would be to invite all sorts of insults such as “sticky” or “peace lover” Ironic is it not that some of those most passionate about denouncing “Stickies” are the very ones who stole the “Stickie’s” clothes and now implement their policies!!!

So armed struggle was the tactic used to achieve the goal. Oh yes the goal! What exactly was that the armed struggle was for? Simple! The Socialist Republic! What does that mean? Don’t worry we will sort that out when we achieve it !! At least that was what the volunteers were told.

Yes indeed. There was in reality a lot of sloganising, a lot of passion, a lot of violence but little long term thought. Those who began to question, who raised awkward questions either about the armed strategy or the direction their leadership was going were sidelined, dismissed or killed in action. Consequently when the strategy of the long war began to look more and more threadbare and experienced volunteers became disillusioned there was little appetite for resistance to the new direction. Action had been all theory nothing. So when the action stopped Republicans were left bemused

On the issue of the validity of armed struggle in the present day there is much argument but little clarity. Let us state clearly that as long as there is a British claim to sovereignty over any part of the island of Ireland there will always be republicans who regard it as perfectly legitimate to use force to resist that claim. That is a given.

However the question republican socialists would pose is it a viable tactic to use at this moment in time? Does it have any possibility of success? Are the balance of forces both nationally and internationally favourable to the pursuit of armed struggle. Are the forces of resistance well armed, trained, freed from informers and agents and capable of sustaining a campaign that would win popular support from the people of Ireland and be capable in the long run of forcing the British and Unionists to the negotiating table to hammer out a deal for better than the current deal encapsulated by the GFA and the St. Andrews agreement? The answer is obviously no.

Some may think that the unification of the various republican forces such as the INLA and the varying IRA’S could create a strong armed group capable of taking on the Imperialists. Not so. The political differences and analysis are so wide that it could not happen. Currently it is nearly impossible to get agreement on mounting pickets. No chance of agreement of running a war.

Also it needs to be stated clearly that the Republican Socialist analysis is such that it precludes a unification with others forces with very different approaches and policies. Our analysis is simply put. The class and national question are so intertwined that to pursue one without the other is to invite almost certain defeat. Following the defeat of the republican armed struggle and the temporary stabilisation of the six county state with its shaky TASS and coalition of four neo-liberal parties republicans must take a different direction. And clearly that direction is back to the class –the working class- for the James Connolly approach is as relevant now, if not more relevant than, when he was alive.

For at least the past 12 years we have been saying that the liberation of the working class is the task of the working class itself- that there can be no liberation without socialism. We have consistently argued against an elitist approach to the revolutionary struggle firmly basing our positions not only on Connolly and the great Marxist writers but also on our founder Seamus Costello and of course our fallen comrade Ta Power.

But of course if you read the writings of some of the “real” or “continuity” Marxists you would never know this. Take this piece of writing

“We have just come through a quite savage conflict. It seems to us that at a very minimum a new movement would have to offer some critique of the militarist strategy that led to defeat and also to have some orientation to the working class and at least initial expressions of class hostility to the Irish capitalist class and its role in advancing the imperialist offensive.”-

“A major problem over the past decade has been the reluctance of even quite sharp critics of the republican leadership to leave the republican family. “

Socialist Democracy 2nd April 2007 (

The IRSP have offered a critique of the militarist strategy. We have clearly articulated our class position in our newspapers, our public meetings in this e-mail newsletter and in public conferences. A cursory search of our web site will confirm that.

And as regards the so-called reluctance to “leave the republican family” we have also a very clear position on that. We deny there is any such thing as a republican family. Nor is there any such thing now as the “republican movement” What we say is there are differing republican traditions. We are the republican socialist tradition and we recognise there are other traditions such as the provisional republican movement and so on .We make no claim to be the republican movement. Such claims bear no relation to the class forces in Irish society or take account of the reality of capitalism or imperialism.

In the above-mentioned correspondence it is unclear if Socialist Democracy favour a break with Republicanism or see a new form of resistance arising from a break with provisionalism. There is however no room for ambiguity in the Socialist Workers Party’s guru Eamon McCann. Writing recently in the “radical Marxist revolutionary” newspaper, The Belfast Telegraph McCann in a critique of Gerry Adams speech at Edentubber gave his clear position

“Within the parameters of republican thinking, they have a point. And there's the problem. Republicanism. 

The problem is republicanism.” (

Sadly for Eamon and the Socialist Workers Party and all the other “real” socialists and Marxists, Irish republicanism for all its faults, (and we in the IRSP have been critical of those faults) is a revolutionary tendency that cannot be ignored or dismissed. We believe that it can form the core of any new revolutionary upsurge of the working class in Ireland against both imperialism and capitalism. Building such a movement is the real alternative to the Good Friday agreement. Join us in building that alternative.



By now most people on this island will be aware of the twenty-six county governments recent pay hike. Many, including branches of the media, are asking the question whether An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, should reject the pay rise of 18% or, in the case of Mr. Ahern €38,000, while they are telling the rest of us to tighten our belts?
On Monday 19th November the Irish Independent, under the headline ’UNION BOSSES STAY SILENT ON AHERN’S MASSIVE PAY RISE’ could inform us of the silence on this issue by ten of the states leading union leaders. These union bosses, David Begg ICTU, Jack O’Connor SIPTU, Peter McLoone IMPACT, John Douglas MANDATE, John Bolger T&G UNITE (formerly ATGWU), John Carr INTO, Blair Horan Civil and Public Sector Union, Steve Fitzpatrick Communication Workers Union, Larry Broderick Irish Bank Officials Association and Padraig Walshe Irish Farmers Association were asked two simple questions by the newspaper. Question 1 Do you believe the Taoiseach and his cabinet should reject their personal pay awards outlined in the report by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the public sector?
Question 2 Do you believe all of the pay increases for top public service posts outlined in the report should be rejected at this time, yes or no?
Of the ten union leaders asked these two questions only John Bolger answered yes while the other nine ’refused to answer’.

These pay rises to most other workers are higher than the annual salary which they receive in the form of a monetary wage a point not missed by the Irish Labour Party front bench who, for political gain purposes only, in the form of Ciaran Lynch said “for most people €38,000 is not a pay increase, it’s a salary”. This is perfectly true but the question which must be asked of the Labour Party, now part and parcel of the bourgeois political set up, if they were in governmental power and an outside review body awarded them the same pay rise would they accept or reject?

It must be remembered that the Labour Party, like their British counterparts are not the same as that formed by James Connolly and James Kier Hardy respectively which, particularly in the case of the former, were revolutionary at their outset. My own opinion is that if the Irish Labour Party were in control of the affairs of capitalism and a pay award of this magnitude was to be recommended they would accept, probably sitting the fact that it was recommended by an outside body, much the same as Mr Ahern has done.

It should be pointed out to be objective that Minister for the Environment, John Gormley and Eamon Ryan of the Green Party are to hand back their cash award either to the party or groups who promote the fight against climate change or perhaps split the cash between both. Whatever these two ministers will not be accepting the pay hike.

On now to the silence of the lambs within the trade union leadership! On the surface the union bosses should almost certainly have come out in total condemnation of these pay rises. However on closer examination it may not be as clear cut as it first appears. For example next year these same union leaders will be entering negotiations on pay under towards 2016, an initiative involving government, trade unions and employers used to tell workers they must tighten their belts, this government pay hike could, used correctly, be a good negotiating tool. If, and it is a big if, these union bosses enter negotiations with a demand for a 28% pay rise, as their top line which should always be kept secret, with a bottom line of 18%, the same as the government, with the exception of two, have accepted then it may well be a good move to stay quiet for the moment. However if these same champions of class warfare and workers struggle (sic) stay silent and settle for anything less than 18% for example 3% or 4%, which I am fearful to say is the likely outcome, then the silence of the lambs will mean exactly that and could only be described as yet another betrayal by the union leadership in order to secure their own co-existence.

The union leadership should have battle plans drawn up for, what should be, the coming showdown which should include calling out their members on indefinite strike action in the event of the rejection by the government and employers of their 18% pay demand. After all if we are talking about a benchmark well surely this has now being set at 18%. We must await with interest the outcome of this potentially volatile situation. The union bosses should be delighted that they have this precedent in their negotiating armoury the reality is, sadly, somewhat different.

Kevin Morley IRSP, Dublin

Book Review

What is to be done today?

Lenin Reloaded: Toward a Politics of Truth, edited by Sebastian Budgen,
Stathis Kouvelakis, and Slavoj Žižek, Duke University Press, Durham, 2007. 337 pp
While in recent years Marx has become quite fashionable again and revolutionary figures like Che Guevara remain popular, Lenin is still popularly seen as a blood-thirsty dictator, the precursor of Stalin, and most philosophers disparage his writings as crude and vulgar. All the contributors to Lenin Reloaded maintain that he is of continued intellectual significance, certainly enough to deserve renewed attention. Furthermore, all agree that it was Lenin who made Marx’s thought explicitly political; who extended it beyond the confines of Europe; and who in many respects actually put it into practice. However, they are divided as to just what is to be done with Lenin now.
The essays originated in a conference on Lenin held in Essen, Germany in February 2001. The contributors include many of today’s leading lights, from Žižek, Badiou and Balibar, to Eagleton, Jameson and Negri. All address the relevance of Lenin for the 21st century rather than, say, his historical significance for Bolshevism. Some are very broad in scope, such as Eagleton’s on the relevance of Lenin for our postmodern age, while others, like Lecercle’s highly original attempt to work out how Lenin’s concepts, strategies and tactics contribute to a philosophy of language, have a narrower scope. Some, like Negri’s essay, unsurprisingly has very un-Leninist conclusions.
In the words of Badiou, all contributors to this book ‘are taking up Lenin’s work in order to reactivate the very question of theory along political lines’. For the collection’s editors:
‘Lenin’ is not the nostalgic name for old dogmatic certainty; quite the contrary, the Lenin that we want to retrieve is the Lenin-in-becoming, the Lenin whose fundamental experience was that of being thrown into a catastrophic new constellation in which old reference points proved useless, and who was thus compelled to reinvent Marxism. The idea is that it is not enough simply to return to Lenin…for we must repeat or reload him: that is, we must retrieve the same impulse in today’s constellation.
In other words, what the book urges is a reinvention of the revolutionary project for the present in the same manner that Lenin retooled Marx’s thought for specific historical conditions in 1914.
For Balibar, there is only one philosophical moment in Lenin and it is precisely the First World War that determines it. Lenin’s turn to questions of epistemology and dialectical method, as it is recorded in his philosophical notebooks of 1914-1915, constitutes the first decisive step of an entire strategy to overcome the crisis of leadership of the working class that erupted with the beginnings of the war and the collapse of the Second International. These led Lenin to a profound rethinking of his earlier categories and to the lucid intuition that the methodological Achilles heel of Second International Marxism was its incomprehension of dialectics; hence his famous remark that ‘none of the Marxists understood Marx’. In letting the true content of Hegel’s logic emerge, Lenin was able to restore the properly revolutionary impulse of Marxism itself, its dialectical heart. For example, his notes on Hegel’s doctrine of Being end with the well-known exclamations on the ‘leaps’ and their necessity, thus distancing himself from the gradualism of Second International Marxism. The clear and informative essays by Kevin B. Anderson and Kouvelakis in particular demonstrate how Lenin’s reading of Hegel opened the way to a new beginning, a genuine re-foundation of Marxism itself.
For Lenin there was no revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory. Callinicos emphasizes how, for Lenin, every significant turn in events drove him to reconsider how best the situation was to be understood from a theoretical perspective in order to intervene in the conjuncture. Lenin’s famous dictum that ‘politics is the most concentrated expression of economics’ is intended to highlight the necessity of focusing on the ways in which social conflicts are refracted in the political field in a specific and irreducible form, governed by the logic of the struggle for state power. Lenin thought of politics as a time full of struggle, a time of crises and collapses. The specificity of the political is expressed in the concept of the revolutionary crisis. Lukács was right to call ‘the actuality of revolution’ the core of Lenin’s thought.
Daniel Bensaïd and Callinicos counter pose the Leninist concept of crisis to Badiou’s concept of ‘event’ and the Left-Decisionism of Žižek:
The dialectical relation between necessity and contingency, structure and break, history and event, lays the basis for the possibility of a politics organised in duration, whereas the arbitrarily voluntarist gamble on the sudden explosion of an event may allow us to resist the mood of the times, but it generally leads to a stance of aesthetic resistance rather than militant commitment to patiently modify the course of things.

Sylvain Lazarus, a co-thinker of Badiou, argues for ‘an intellectuality of politics without party or revolution’; whereas Bensaïd defends the necessity of political organization:
‘A politics without parties…ends up in most cases as a politics without politics: either an aimless tailism towards the spontaneity of social movements, or the worst form of elitist individualist vanguardism, or finally a repression of the political in favour of the aesthetic or the ethical’.
The Leninist mode of politics is often thought to be elitist and authoritarian, but Lars T Lih’s contribution responds to those kind of criticisms by arguing that Lenin’s ideas have often been misunderstood as a result of confusions sometimes caused by mistranslations. Eagleton gives the following example to illustrate Lenin’s much maligned concept of the vanguard:
Those members of the Citizen Army and Irish Volunteers who fought with James Connolly against the British imperial state in the Dublin Post Office in 1916 constituted a vanguard. But this was not because they were middle-class intellectuals – on the contrary, they were mostly Dublin working men and women – or because they had some innate faculty of superior insight into human affairs, or because they were in serene possession of the scientific laws of history. They were a vanguard because of their relational situation – because, like the revolutionary cultural avant-guardes in contrast with modernist coteries, they saw themselves not as a timeless elite but as the shock troops or front line of a mass movement. There can be no vanguard in and for itself, as coteries are by definition in and for themselves. And a vanguard would not be in business unless it trusted profoundly in the capacities of ordinary people, as elites by definition disdain them.

Badiou notes how today the political oeuvre of Lenin is entirely dominated by the canonical opposition between democracy and totalitarian dictatorship. In an excellent essay, Domenico Losurdo undermines this opposition by examining the relation between Western democracy and imperialism/colonialism. He contrasts the thought of classical figures of the liberal tradition, such as Tocqueville or John Stuart Mill, with the central role of the critique of colonialism and imperialism in Lenin’s thought. Lenin represents a break not only at the political level but also at the level of epistemology. Democracy cannot be defined by abstracting the fate of the excluded. Also, in periods of crisis, war and other ‘states of exception’, democracy tends to be suspended, with power resting on the unelected and repressive apparatus of the state. This why the Leninist understanding of the state is not just of the specific material condensation of the balance of forces between classes, but one of an essentially coercive body.

This collection of essays is recommended, not just because of the quality of the various contributions, but above all because Lenin’s philosophical interventions have been largely neglected and ignored since Althusser. The book has one negative aspect though, in that no essay discusses Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (aside from occasional negative remarks, such as Eagleton claiming that it is ‘a work in which one can hear the occasional gurgling of a man well out of his depths’). However, it remains interesting as a political mode of intervention into epistemological questions of science (there, a crisis of physics). Finally, none of the authors really address a decisive political consideration: whether the ‘historical Lenin’, still much demonised today, remains an obstacle to their attempt to reload Lenin for the 21st century.

Originally published in RADICAL PHILOSOPHY (

Liam O’Ruairc

Without comment.

Paisley and McGuinness in US to 'sell' the North
Belfast Briefing: "Hello corporate America - we're open for business." That's the all-important message Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness are out to promote this week in the United States


Paisley and McGuinness merger gets welcome on Wall Street

The North's First Minister, the Rev Ian Paisley, and Deputy First
Minister, Martin McGuinness, have begun a week-long visit to the United
States with a visit to the New York Stock Exchange, where they received
a rapturous reception from Irish-American business leaders.In the warped logic of a few SFers who delude themselves they are still
socialists, this is no doubt just a "new site of struggle".

A little learning is a dangerous thing. There is a layer of people in
SF who, while in prison, learned the Laclau-Mouffe bastardisation of
Gramsci rather than Gramsci himself. (PF)


Almost 1.5 million people have salaries of less than the €38,000 pay rise recently granted to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.


“Northern Ireland Water has spent more than £16 million on consultants sinceApril, it has been revealed.”


“The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg today ruled that allegations of security force collusion in the loyalist murders of eight men in South Armagh in the 1970s had not properly been investigated.

The case was taken to Europe by the families of the eight men following what they considered to be a failure by the Government to properly have investigated detailed allegations of collusion made by a former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1999.

The court ruled unanimously that in all the cases there had been a violation of Article 2 [right to life] of the European Convention on Human Rights due to the lack of independence of the RUC which handled the initial stages of the investigation into the allegations. “


The PSNI has told Northern Ireland's senior coroner that John Stalker's report on "shoot to kill" incidents remains classified as " top secret", 20 years after it was completed.


Pressure is building on Unilever at the OECD, whose Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises require overseas subsidiaries of transnational companies to conform to international standards of trade union and human rights. Fourteen months after the IUF charged Unilever with gross violations of the Guidelines through the fraudulent sale and closure > of the company's Mumbai (Bombay) factory in India, and a scant three weeks after the IUF charged the company with vicious union-busting in the Indian state of Assam > , brutal human rights violations - this time in Pakistan - have again landed Unilever in the dock at the OECD.


Unions Mobilize Internationally Against Global Job Destruction at Unilever

Unions around the world will be organizing a variety of actions on December
4 to highlight their common demand for an end to Unilever's systematic
destruction of jobs.


A new US intelligence report concludes that Iran's nuclear weapons development programme has been halted since the autumn of 2003 because of international pressure — a stark contrast to the conclusions US spy agencies drew just two years ago.


What’s on?


This sun will be the 30th anniversary of the death of Vol. Colm Mc Nutt. There will be a march starting at Creggan shops in Derry and finishing in William st. Assemble at Creggan shops at 2pm.
There will be a do afterwards. Everyone is welcome.



Anti-War Ireland had scheduled a Dublin solidarity gig to occur while
the Ratheon 9 were on trial for their occupation of Derry's Raytheon
offices in 2006 - their action was in protest at the murderous
onslaught that summer by the Israeli military against the Lebanese
people. Raytheon is an arms manufacturer that supplies the US-backed
Israeli armed forces.

The nine Derry anti-war activists have since had their trial
postponed, till January 2008, but AWI intends to go ahead with the
fundraising solidarity gig.

The main act will be Dave Lippman, a well-known US anti-war, anti-Bush
singer/songwriter and satirist. Dave is popping over from a tour of
Britain to show his solidarity. This should be an excellent gig and
very good fun!

For details, check out the following link:

Date & time: 8pm, Friday 7th December

Where: Seomra Spraoi, 4 Mary's Abbey (just off Capel Street by the
Luas line), Dublin 1.

Cost: 7 euros (waged) or 5 euros (unwaged/student/etc.)

Note: Get there on time because it could fill up quite quickly and
people may have to be turned away.

Organised by Anti-War Ireland - Proceeds to Raytheon 9


National Speaking Tour: The Crisis in Lebanon and the situation of Palestinian

Guest Speaker: Caoimhe Butterly (Irish Human rights activist currently based in

Caoimhe Butterly has been working in the Middle East for several years. She
will give an eyewitness account of life in Lebanon in the aftermath of
Israel's war, the current plight of Palestinian refugees, and the situation
in Nahr El-Bared refugee camp.

Lebanon is entering a period of political instability - a dangerous vacuum
with no President and no political solution/compromise in sight. At the same
time, Palestinians living in a variety of refugee camps in Lebanon look
anxiously at Annapolis and Nablus and wonder about their short and long term
future, while those living and exiled recently from Nahr El-Bared return
cautiously to the mayhem left behind by the Lebanese Army and the

This event is part of a 13-part speaking tour of Ireland organised by
Anti-War Ireland, the Irish Anti-War Movement, the IPSC, Galway Alliance
Against the War, the Derry Anti-War Coalition and the Raytheon 9,
Amnesty International and
a number of individuals who are supporting the tour.

Speaking engagements:

Monday Dec 3rd: Sligo: 8.00 pm, Glasshouse Hotel, Hyde Bridge, Sligo

Tuesday Dec 4th : Dublin : 7.30pm, Connolly Books, East Essex St.,
Temple Bar in Dublin

Wednesday Dec 5th
Lunch time : 1pm - 2pm : UCC, room G7 in the Kane building.

Thursday Dec 6th : Limerick : UL [venue to be confirmed]

Friday Dec 7th : Galway [venue to be confirmed]

Saturday Dec 8th : Derry [venue to be confirmed]

Tuesday Dec 11th : Belfast [venue to be confirmed]

Wednesday Dec 12th : Dublin : Amnesty, Freedom Café, Fleet Street Cafe 7pm

Thursday Dec 13th : Cork [venue to be confirmed]

We will send out more information as it comes to hand.

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