Bob Gould, 2008

A call to order on cop baiting of Sinn Fein

Source: Marxmail, February 10, 2008
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

In several biographies of Michael Collins it’s related that when the 500 or so republicans in Free State prisons during the civil war, some of whom were under sentence of death, heard that Collins had been killed by fellow republicans in an ambush, many wept, and they all knelt and said the rosary for his immortal soul. These were hardened republican fighters who were locked in what was to become, for a number of them, a battle to the death with the Free Staters.

Despite the sharpness of the conflict between them and the Free State, they still respected Collins for his contribution and the military leadership he had given them. Politics in Ireland doesn’t go in a straight line.

I don’t profess to be an expert on current politics in Ireland, the way the universal ultraleft knowall Philip Ferguson does, but I follow Irish politics closely. I have a number of disagreements with the leadership of Sinn Fein in northern Ireland, particularly over their dry economic policies in government coalition with Paisley, but it’s still necessary to recognise the Sinn Fein supporters as nationalist revolutionaries with whom socialists have differences, and with whom other nationalist revolutionaries have differences.

Further to that, after the last election results in the six counties it is clear that Sinn Fein is the mass party of the working class and most oppressed section of the nationalist population. Sinn Fein got a massive vote in the working class nationalist areas while the republicans critical of the peace process, so-called, got a relatively small vote.

Those underlying realities of the political situation in northern Ireland ought to give any socialist pause before rushing to judgment on the situation in that province. That doesn’t stop Ferguson, though, from his niche in the south island of New Zealand, launching vituperative broadside after vituperative broadside at the whole of Sinn Fein in northern Ireland, particularly its leaders.

It’s usually difficult to separate the politics of these broadsides from the personal abuse. They’re a bit reminiscent of the left talk about Ireland that used to come from the misnamed Revolutionary Communist Party in Britain before it became a fully fledged instrument of the British ruling class. I’m told that Ferguson knows a fair bit about the RCP.

Now there was a real sect! Perhaps Ferguson might give us the benefit of some of his knowledge about how the RCP degenerated, rather than boring us all rigid with his weekly diatribes about Jack Barnes and company, which have been going on for some years.

This latest piece from Ferguson about police agents in Provisional Sinn Fein seems to have moved over from Ferguson’s usual nasty eccentricity into a field entirely unacceptable to serious socialists.

I ask of Louis Proyect, is it now to become the norm to slander the major political leader of the main organisation of the nationalist oppressed in the following way (in Ferguson’s words):

“The more the peace process continues and emphasis is put on ‘reconciliation’ one of the ironies is that the more likely agents are to be outed. This is a nightmare for the Adams cabal because not only were the Provos in general riddled with agents, most particularly in the north, but some of them were pretty highly placed and part of Adams’ own cabal. In fact, Adams himself kinds of reeks — not necessarily of being a paid Brit agent but of certainly covering up for people who were and engaging in all kinds of secret diplomacy with the Brits behind the backs of the entire movement.”

When Ferguson says, “Adams himself kind of reeks — not necessarily of being a paid Brit agent himself, but …” he’s implying there’s a strong possibility Adams is a British agent. Who gave this pissant minor academic and one-time political tourist his security clearance to make that kind of assertion against Gerry Adams and the other leaders of Sinn Fein?

The articles Ferguson quotes about the spy business are based, in part, on unknown sources who say two people from the truth and reconciliation commission have been given files identifying the British agents in the Provos. I don’t believe any of that for a second. I’ve had some experience in these matters. I have 6000 pages of my own ASIO and special branch police files, squeezed out the coppers essentially by political agitation, and anything in those files that can provide any hint of the police sources is carefully blacked out.

In Australia the coppers, federal and state, go to great lengths to protect and cover their sources, and I doubt that it’s any different in Ireland. The bourgeois journalists and Ferguson say secret sources have revealed the identities of the agents.

That smells of disinformation from secret agencies of the state, but Ferguson uses that kind of tainted “information” to imply that Adams, who has done a lot of time in British jails for his political activity, may be a British agent.

Louis Proyect, as moderator of Marxmail, should call Ferguson to order, pronto.

Shameless cop baiting

Marxmail, February 12, 2008

Philip Ferguson, the shameless cop-baiter of the leadership of the nationalist working class in northern Ireland, has blasted off four or five of his nasty, eccentric posts abusing me for various political crimes, but he avoids a direct answer to the questions I asked. As well, I’ve not had an answer to the question I asked of Louis Proyect.

Ferguson shelters behind a string of articles from the bourgeois press about cops in Sinn Fein and the IRA in northern Ireland, and behind reckless statements similar to his own about cops in Sinn Fein by some dissident republicans in the north. He even has the gall to attack Adams by saying he didn’t really spend much time in jail. There must be big gutters at the University of Otago, from where Ferguson makes these sweeping judgments.

A while ago, on Marxmail Ferguson made a great deal of the fact that about 300 former republican prisoners had repudiated Sinn Fein, and it was pointed out to him that more than 3000, 10 times as many, former republican prisoners supported Sinn Fein. Ferguson refers to the journalist Moloney’s book about Sinn Fein, which I’ve read several times.

That book is essentially an attack on the Sinn Fein leadership from the right, from the point of view of so-called stable bourgeois politics.

Ferguson has nothing to say about the evolution of the Furedi RCP into a straight-out political tool of the ruling class. The reason that is relevant to this debate is that, in its time, the RCP specialised in Ferguson-style, scattergun ultraleft attacks on the republican leadership, and I’m led to believe that Ferguson knows a fair bit about the RCP.

An analysis of the degeneration of the RCP would be much more relevant to real politics than Ferguson’s obsessive diatribes about Jack Barnes. If Ferguson is worried about coppers in a serious way, as socialists should be, he should study Victor Serge’s little book about the massive penetration of the Bolsheviks by the Okhrana, based on Serge’s examination of files captured by the Bolsheviks.

Serge makes the general point that despite all this penetration the Okhrana was incapable of stopping the Russian Revolution. The other aspect of Serge’s book on the Okhrana is the mine of information about the real operational practices of the first and most effective modern secret police of the bourgeoisie.

One of the operational techniques of the Okhrana was to stir up indiscriminate cop-baiting among the Russian revolutionaries. Concerning Ferguson’s vile insinuation that Gerry Adams may be some kind of British agent, one test is the attitude of the oppressed working class republican constituency in northern Ireland to this question, as expressed in election results.

For example, it’s a well-known fact that despite the exhaustion and blood-letting of the civil war after the treaty, in the first major electoral test in the Free State, the intransigent anti-Free-State republicans led by De Valera, despite proclaiming that they wouldn’t take their seats in the partitioned Dail, got nearly 40 per cent of the vote and more than 30 per cent of the seats. That indicated Irish opinion was more or less split down the middle by the treaty.

In the most recent elections in northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, led by McGuinness and Adams, increased its vote, particularly in the most oppressed working class nationalist areas, such as Belfast, beating the more moderate nationalists, the SDLP, about 60:40 in the nationalist electorate. The rejectionist republicans, some but not all of whom made the same nasty accusations as Ferguson against Sinn Fein, got a very small vote, and Patsy O’Hare’s mother, the most well-known rejectionist republican, a person widely respected in her constituency, only got a very modest vote.

Clearly the nationalist masses in the north, who have experienced the brutality of the British state for many years, don’t believe that the main leaders of Sinn Fein may be British agents, as Ferguson implies. I’m disgusted, and it takes a lot to disgust me, at the personal slanders against Adams and McGuinness, and I’m even more angered by Ferguson’s implied contempt for the nationalist masses in northern Ireland, and for their political judgment.

I repeat my question to Louis: how long is this crank to be allowed to go on with his veiled slander that the clearly popular leaders of the most oppressed nationalist masses in northern Ireland may be British agents? This is not a matter of opinion about the political process in northern Ireland, from a Marxist point of view it’s a question of political hygiene.

Ferguson’s tactical shift

February 12, 2008

In the congenitally mealy-mouthed way that characterises all his scattergun abuse, Ferguson has now moved away from implying that Gerry Adams and the Sinn Fein leadership are direct agents of the British state, ie cops, to a more generalised quasi-political argument that they are agents of imperialism.

Will Ferguson now withdraw his implication that Gerry Adams and the Sinn Fein leadership are possibly police agents?

Further to this point, I repeat my original question to Ferguson: would he give us some kind of political analysis of the degeneration of the Furedi group, of which I understand he has a good knowledge, from ultraleft rhetoric about Ireland, among other things, to direct and public agents of the ruling class?