Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist League of Britain (M-L)

Ireland: Firm Support for the Republican Movement

First Published: in “Report of the Second Congress of the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain”, Class Struggle, Special Supplement 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The 2nd Congress adopted the policy of giving unconditional support to the armed struggle of the Irish people and to its Republican leadership. This marked the successful culmination of a two-line struggle in the League, in the course of which its old line was sharply criticised and overturned. This had already begun by the time of the Unity Conference of the RCL and Communist Workers Movement last year. The 2nd Congress completed the overthrow of the old line and replaced it with a clear and principled line of solidarity with the Irish people.

The former line of the League held that British Marxist-Leninists had to build a section of the revolutionary party in the north of Ireland, attacked the Republican movement as a terrorist force isolated from the people, and even went so far as to state that it objectively served British imperialism! Our organisation now considers that this line, though “justified” by “socialist” arguments, was actually thoroughly reactionary – it was social-chauvinist. Before and since the Congress, we have not only made self-criticism for our previous stand but have also tried to show by our practice that we have broken with it.

The old line dogmatically insisted on the principle of “a single party for a single state”. This ignored the realities of Ireland, where the revolutionary Republican movement is organised on a 32-county basis, has an unbroken tradition of hundreds of years of resistance and deep roots among the oppressed people. It ignored the national demands of the lrish people, who have never accepted the incorporation of their land or any part of it within the British state and who have never given their support to any British political party.

By stating that the situation isn’t ripe for armed struggle in Ireland the old line swept aside the fact that an armed struggle exists whether revolutionaries in Britain like it or not; it can only be supported or opposed, but not wished out of existence. Slandering the Republican movement as terrorists isolated from the people ignored the fact that it could not have sustained its struggle without the mass support of the nationalist people; even a secret British Army report estimated the popular support for the Republicans more accurately than our old line did and it certainly didn’t betray any suspicion that the Republicans might be serving British imperialism! To the extent that the previous position of the League was known, it tarnished the image of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought amongst the people of Ireland and the world.

On the basis of the Marxist-Leninist standpoint on the national liberation movements, and of what we can see for ourselves, the League now regards the Republican movement as a revolutionary movement against British imperialism. The election this year of Bobby Sands and Owen Carron to Westminster and of Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew to the Free State Dail serves to underline the fact that the Republican movement is one which enjoys great popular support from the nationalist people.

Communists do not make their support for a national liberation movement dependent on it being under communist leadership. The movement is revolutionary in character if it weakens and undermines imperialism. That, the Republican movement clearly does, and it is our job to give it anti-imperialist support and solidarity.

But we believe that the Republican movement has many positive features beyond its basic anti-imperialist character. It has mobilised the masses to take up and support the struggle. It has linked the cause of national liberation with that of the emancipation of the working class; it is developing its work in the trade unions and on social and economic questions. It is based solidly in the proletariat and small farming community. It is waging a protracted war against our main enemy, British imperialism. It supports other just national liberation struggles around the world. It is opposed to the two superpowers and supports the non-aligned movement. On the question of political prisoners, it has developed a style of work of uniting all who can be united. Of course, like any other movement in the real world, the Republican movement has its shortcomings and mistakes, but these are very much a secondary aspect.

Our solidarity with the Republican movement is not based on it adopting policies which we feel would be correct, but is extended to the movement purely and simply as one fighting imperialism.

We also uphold the Republican movement because its struggle can teach the working and oppressed people of Britain a lot about what they need to do to carry through a successful revolution. Some of the national minority youth who rose up this summer, as well as elements of the working class youth in Wales and Scotland, have clearly begun to draw lessons from Ireland. This is a further direct contribution to our revolutionary work in Britain from the Irish freedom fighters.

In the coming period, our organisation hopes to make a modest but useful contribution to building the Ireland solidarity movement in Britain.