Irish Republican News · April 16, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Is There A Republican Alternative?
On its sixth anniversary, we present a series of article in debate of the Good Friday Agreement. The following argument for an alternative is by Gerry Ruddy, Ard Chomhairle member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party.

In asking this question I am conscious that the probable response to the same question by Sinn Féin (P) would be that the GFA was the Republican response to the continuing military stalemate. The leadership of the Provisional Republican Movement had waged a guerrilla war and forged the most effective guerrilla army certainly in Western Europe for 25 years with no discernable advancement. Their leadership calculated that there was more to be gained by taking the political road rather than the military road. There are probably many complex reasons why they came to this conclusion and this could include some or all of the following: the collapse of Soviet style communism leaving the USA as the only superpower, the peace processes in South Africa and the Middle East, war wariness, the steady loss of volunteers, particularly in Tyrone, the recognition of the futility of violence, a better understanding of the position of the unionist population, the higher body count of the loyalists coming into the nineties, personal ambition, disquiet at the increase in sectarianism, and the increasing effectiveness of British intelligence operations.

It does little good to question the sincerity or genuineness of the PRM. That leadership decided to enter into negotiations to see if they could advance their cause by purely political means. Once having decided that there was a cold remorseless political logic that led to the major acts of decommissioning.

The GFA was all about creating the conditions for the shared Government of NI between Unionists and Nationalists, which with increasingly stronger cross border links would satisfy nationalist aspirations while not encouraging unionist fears. It was also a way by which Britain could begin a process of political disengagement.

For the PRM the advantages of their fundamentally new departure from their previously held almost sacred positions are obvious. They may hold the balance of power in the South which means they could be in Government both North and South within the next three years. That is what drives them; the pursuit of power because it is actually within their reach. Is that not something worthwhile from their perspective?

There is no doubt that the war is over, that the PRM have settled for a democratic settlement within the six county state with a view to continuing their struggle by constitutional means.

When the Good Friday Agreement was signed the IRSP predicted it would fail. We also said that given the decision of the vast majority of the Irish people who voted for the agreement we would do nothing to hinder the implementation of the GFA. Following the suspension four times of the Assembly, the postponement of elections on the whim of the British Prime Minister and the failure of the Unionists to be satisfied with three major acts of decommissioning by the Provisional IRA we are now coming to the end of that phase of the GFA.

There are always alternatives to agreements. The negotiations that took place leading to the GFA involved a series of compromises by all parties. The issue for many republicans was were the concessions by the Sinn Féin negotiators a bridge too far? Many of us have said yes it was but we have yet not come up with alternatives. Indeed the failure of socialists and republicans to negotiate some sort of principled platform to oppose the sectarian policies and reactionary economic polices of the main parties for the November 26th elections meant that there was no clear opposition to the prevailing political consensus. This is a major blow for progressiverepublicans.

People in the past put their lives on the line in the struggle for either the Republic or National Liberation and Socialism. Many were shot tortured or jailed. Many of those Republican fighters are now disillusioned and questioning their past. Is our answer to their dilemma to do nothing? Is that what we tell all those who endure the struggle only to see it end in failure?

It is not enough for Anti Good Friday Agreement Republicans (AGFAR) and Socialists to curse the dark. People need a positive message, something tangible and relevant to their lives. We need to develop a culture of positive forward thinking as to what we can and should do. There is not enough effort to develop policies that have some relevance to the lives of working class people. A leading member of the INLA, Ta Power said before his assassination that the people were not fools and could tell who were the chancers and timewasters. Before the mass of the people one has always to be open and honest.

And so let me be open and honest. Unless those of us critical of the PSF strategy enter the election field and put our positions before the people and argue cogent, coherent polices that resonate with the lives of the people we are doomed to curse the dark. Why should the Irish people listen to us? What relevance do we have to their lives? We could not even develop a unified front for the prisoners in Maghaberry so how could we even aspire to alternatives to the Good Friday Agreement. The failure of AGFARs to even sit in the same room and hammer out a common approach to the political prisoner issue aped the parallel talks that took place at Stormont and Hillsborough Castle.

The IRSP called for the establishment of a Republican Forum to bring together those critical of the peace process as far back as 1996. We repeat that call now. Our position is that there could be the basis for some Broad Front work around three main areas:

1. Opposition to an internal Stormont settlement that blocks the road to the Republic

2. Opposition to sectarianism and for working class unity.

3. Opposition to the neo-liberal economic agenda that the two states, north and south implement

The IRSP will be encouraging debate and dialogue amongst all those who can agree with any of the above three points. If we can get agreement with others or even if we can't we believe that there is the basis over a period of time of developing the alternatives not simply to the GFA but to Imperialism and Capitalism itself.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News