Republican News · Thursday 28 January 1999

[An Phoblacht]

The limits of pacificism

Pacifism as Pathology
By Ward Churchill
Published by Arbeiter Ring (e mail:

I would recommend to republicans a new book entitled ``Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America.'' It is a re-introduction of an essay written by Ward Churchill in 1984. This version includes a supplementary essay by Canadian anti-imperialist Mike Ryan, and an introduction by recently-released American anti-imperialist POW Ed Mead. I think it could be a valuable resource for republicans and their allies.

Ward Churchill, who is of American Indian descent, served for a short time as an Army Ranger in Vietnam. After a short time he realised that he was doing to the Vietnamese what had been done to his people by the US government. He refused to go out anymore, and was soon sent back home.

Immediately after his plane landed in Chicago, he called Students for a Democratic Society, and became an organiser with them. He lived in Peoria, Illinois and had a room-mate who was a Black Panther, named Mark Clark.

In December 1969, when Chicago Police killed Black Panther Fred Hampton in a shoot-to-kill operation, they also killed Clark.

Churchill also became a member of the American Indian Movement at the time that it was engaged in armed conflict with the Federal government in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He spent some time as a national spokesperson for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. Despite not having a PhD, Ward's incredible intellect and writing ability has earned him a top place in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I can hardly think of an issue he hasn't written about, but along with his work in American Indian Studies, he has also co-authored the standard works on the FBI's ``internal security'' campaigns (such as against the Black Panthers, labour, etc).

The book's main thrust is to analyze and tear apart the ideology of pacifism, explaining how it is, in many ways (as it is usually but not always practiced), a counter-revolutionary ideology. How in many cases pacifism allows people to pose as revolutionaries while ensuring that they are not in harm's way. Churchill argues that pacifism leads to liberalism and limits the ability of popular movements to create real change.

It is also argued that European-American pacifists, intentionally or not, ensure that the burden of violence is on non-European-American and Third World communities who are the most vulnerable to state violence and often have no real choice other than to use physical force in defence and in altering their situation.

Ward concentrates extensively on the Jewish Holocaust, pointing out that the overwhelming response of Jews was non-violence, but that when they did use violence they succeeded in destroying one entire camp, and one of the furnaces at Auschwitz.

Churchill does not advocate a shift from pacifism (especially if practiced in the purest form) to some kind of ``culture of violence.'' He is merely suggesting that left-wing and/or anti-imperialist movements should feel free to keep all options open, from rallies and petitions to armed self-defence to armed struggle and that this should be accepted by those who are not directly involved but who support the oppressed.

Mike Ryan quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. as saying: ``Whether they read Ghandi or Frantz Fanon, all radicals understand the need for action - direct, self-transforming and structure-transforming action.'' The point is that opposing repression and poverty and dismantling the structures which perpetuate them is more important than keeping ourselves out of harm's way.

As Ed Mead puts it, ``the question is not whether to use violence in the global class struggle to end the rule of international imperialism, but only when to use it.''

By Tom Shelley

Some real decency and fair play

Dis/Agreeing Ireland: Contexts, Obstacles, Hopes

Edited by James Anderson and James Goodman

Published by Pluto Press

In all the self-conscious analysis of `Britishness' which is taking place in Britain at the moment, the quality on which the British nation seems to take greatest pride in itself is a historical sense of `decency' and `fair play' and a willingness to support the `underdog'.

Over the Irish Sea, many people must view this rosy picture with a mixture of incredulity, anger and amusement since (a) Britain's relationship with its colony has been characterised by the catastrophic absence of these things; (b) Britain built the world's biggest and most exploitative empire which thrived precisely because it was more than happy to beat the you-know-what out of every `underdog' it happened to encounter; and (c) the British imply with, some would say typical, arrogance that these qualities are somehow uniquely British.

Here Anderson and Goodman have made a reasonable attempt to expose this disparity in the way the British see themselves and their role in Ireland (decent, fair), how they present it to the wider political community (neutral, altruistic), and the objective reality of the remnants of colonial rule in Ireland (self-interested, undemocratic, oppressive).

There is at present a glut of books earnestly analysing the political situation of the six counties post-Good Friday Agreement and this effort looks at first sight to be another worthy-but-dull collection of well-rehearsed arguments to add to those languishing on the political science shelves of university libraries.

But the editors' own chapter on `Nationalisms and Transnationalism' provides a pretty good analysis of how British nationalism is constructed, how much it is overlooked as a factor in the conflict when it has actually dictated policy in Ireland, and the differences between it and Irish nationalism: ``Whereas British nationalism has state-sponsored, imperialist and sectarian origins, Irish nationalism, by contrast, developed as an anti-colonialist movement and is anti-sectarian in principle as well as origin, although in practice it has often been imbued with Catholicism''.

Robbie McVeigh's excellent essay on `The British/Irish Peace Process' is probably worth the price of the book on its own. He analyses the conflict in terms of its colonial origins, clinically exposing the `neo-colonialism' of present British state policy and the dishonesty of its claim to be a neutral arbiter in a tribal war - one manifestation of the `decency/fair play' myth: ``Attention to the colonial legacy makes it clear that the British state is not a disinterested observer. Britain has a selfish, strategic and economic interest in Northern Ireland - that is why it claims sovereignty. Moreover, a party that has had a multitude of selfish strategic and economic interests in Ireland for the past 800 years is singularly ill-qualified to play the part of `honest-broker' or `neutral peacekeeper'.''

Also worth a read are essays on the historical role of the British Labour Party in Ireland and the `Human Rights Deficit' by Jerry Fitzpatrick and Conor Foley respectively.

Where the book differs significantly from many others of a similar type, however, is that most of the contributors make a serious effort to offer solutions, within the framework of the Good Friday Agreement, to the problems they identify. What they broadly opt for is inclusive and accountable government, the creation of powerful cross-border bodies, massive human and civil rights reforms, the disbandment of the RUC and the shelving of the D-word. Sound familiar?

By Fern Lane

On the Tiger trail

Inside The Celtic Tiger

By Denis O'Hearn

Published by Pluto Press

Priced 12.99

The idea of genres of economic books might sound implausible to most readers but yes, they do exist and now An Phoblacht believes it has discovered another in Denis O'Hearn's Inside the Celtic Tiger.

The easiest economics genre to read is the righteous polemic established by Marx and taken up by Connolly. The dire prophetic ideology of the New Right can make interesting reading but takes some effort. Then there are the spoofers who hang a text on some populist theory like the end of economics or the butterfly-flapping-its-wings-in-the-jungle nonsense.

One particular text which I was forced to purchase in college and which has since gone into multiple editions reflected the crushing monotone smugness of the lecturer who wrote it. Unfortunately this particular style is recreated across the world. Then there are the smug `we know so much we cannot possibly explain in it simple terms to the plebs' sect who need not be named. Rest assured though we know who you are. Garret FitzGerald ploughs his own furrow weekly in the Irish Times serving up a mix of `baffle them with statistics' or sometimes just baffle them.

Now enter Denis O'Hearn. His Inside the Celtic Tiger is an excellent book. Why? Because it is an honest, accessible and insightful analysis of the 26-County economy packed with an awesome amount of references and sources. O'Hearn must have covered some ground in his work for this book.

So what genre of economic writer is Denis? He produces a curious mix of the clever detective with just a hint of the lonesome cowboy on the trail. O'Hearn's writing smacks of an informed though slightly caustic frontiersman. He crossed the desert to bring us this analysis. He ain't bragging but when you read some of the more personalised pieces you cannot help but thinking that there is a simple truth in his writing. A truth that is absent in much of the media and academic comment on the 26-County economy today.

O'Hearn shows by simple examples, such as the real cost of providing a job in Intel (up to 140,000), the true nature of the Irish economy. He presents, as he says himself, the real character of the economic successes of recent years as being produced by a range of contradictory factors. They include ``high growth of transnational production and exports without correspondingly high investments or job creation: Concentration of employment growth in services without a correspondingly rapid growth of service provision; and rapid overall economic growth with stagnant investment, sluggish or spotty consumption growth and rising inequality''.

Most importantly, O'Hearn's work exposes `the look-no-hands' fake magic of Dublin Government economic policy. By not understanding or admitting the inconsistencies in economic performances over the past ten years they have clearly shown themselves unable to deal with the consequences of what happens next. Read this book. It tells a good story.


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