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International Socialism, May 1975


Notes of the Month

The Six County Deadlock and the Army


From International Socialism, No.78, May 1975, pp.4-5.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


TWELVE MONTHS ago the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike shattered the ‘power sharing’ executive and, along with it, the only coherent policy that successive Labour and Tory governments had for the six counties. The elections on 1 May will confirm the deadlock.

The ‘Loyalist’ coalition has already made it clear that power sharing is out and that it will settle for nothing short of a new Orange regime. Though this conflicts with the long run interests of British capitalism – the economic domination of all 32 counties – the British government has few policy options left. Short of an actual withdrawal, its most likely course is the resumption of mindless repression. Mindless, because the repression is no longer an instrument of policy, it is the policy.

The development of big scale support in the labour movement for the Troops Out campaign is more urgent than ever. And it is also more possible than before. The Troops Out Movement now has a good chance of winning very much broader support than any previous movement of its type and must be supported to the hilt. The bankruptcy of British policy, the reactionary role of the British army and the necessity for British withdrawal can and must be brought home to workers on a massive scale.

As the Provisional IRA’s truce crumbles under the pressure of Protestant murder gangs and army harassment, the demands for ‘tough’ policies will mount. It is

particularly useful that the reality of such measures should have been exposed by the publication, in a new Scottish magazine Calgacus, of extracts from an official army manual Land Operations Vol.III.

Here are some extracts:

Why was this pamphlet prepared for Army use?

‘The aim of this pamphlet is to give general guidance on the conduct of counter-revolutionary operations whether they are concerned with civil disturbances, terrorism or insurgency in the pattern of revolutionary war. It examines the methods most likely to be used by the instigators of disorders, revolts and insurgency, be they nationalist or communist inspired, or based within or outside the territory concerned, and sets out the general principles on which the security forces, working in close concert with the appropriate civil power, should base their operations.’

What role does the army have in peacetime? What sort of activities does it see itself as having a legitimate right to be involved in?

‘(1) dealing with civil disturbances resulting from labour disputes, racial and religious antagonism and tension or social unrest; (2) dealing with riots and civil disobedience, with or without the political undertones which savour of revolt or even rebellion; (3) countering terrorism by individuals and small groups in the form of sabotage and assassinations particularly in urban areas.’

Should the Army only come in as a last resort aid to the civil powers or does the Army have a deeper concept of its involvement in the government?

‘(The) fundamental concept (is) the working of the triumvirate, civil, military and police as a joint and integrated organisation from the highest to the lowest level of policy making, planning and administration ... It is of paramount importance that the command of military forces remains in a military channel.’

The manual advocates the drawing up of a ‘National plan’ and the appointment of a military ‘Director of Operations’. The latter is the title of GOC N. Ireland Sir Frank King. Does that mean a ‘National plan’, is already, being applied in Northern Ireland? ‘

By what features could a ‘National plan’ be identified?

‘(a) the passing of emergency regulations to facilitate the conduct of a national campaign; (b) various political, social and economic measures designed to gain popular support and counter or surpass anything offered by the insurgents; (c) the setting up of an effective organisation for joint civil and military control at all levels; (d) the forming of effective, integrated and nationwide intelligence organisation without which military operations can never be successful; (e) the strengthening of indigenous police and armed forces so that their loyalty is beyond question and their work effective. This is often easier said than done; (f) control measures designed to isolate the insurgents from popular control.’

Finally, how would the Army propose a picket or demonstration could be dealt with?

‘Photographing the ringleaders, agitators and others so that they can be identified later as disturbers of the peace ... This must be done with discretion however as the appearance of a photographer often infuriates the crowd. Every effort is made to identify the individuals of the opposition and especially the ringleaders ... At night lights will be essential. The arrest of ringleaders could be a major factor in dispersing large crowds.’

What if the demonstration involved women and children, say a protest on, rents or food prices?

‘Because women and children are exploited for their propaganda value the less made of the incident the better ... It is often possible to play on the emotional and physical lack of endurance and dislike of discomfort of women and children. Thus marches and "sit downs" have sometimes been permitted under control until boredom has brought the demonstration to an end ... Once action becomes necessary the less violence used the less propaganda value to the opposition.’

The section entitled Use of Surprise is interesting. If there was a large political meeting, or demonstration wh ich the Army felt should be prevented in the interests of ‘internal security’, how Would this be done?

‘Assault from an unexpected direction ie flanks and from the rear of the crowd. Movement above ground i.e. over roofs; Surprise assault from the front without warning; use of vehicles to drive into the crowd gathering in open places from front flanks or rear can carry the arresting parties onto the opposition before they can move away; use of decoy methods i.e. withdrawing the base line past specially organised arrest squads hidden inside alleys and buildings; ise of special methods such as baton rounds, water cannon or riot control agents [CS, CR gas, rubber bullets, etc. – Ed.]. These give only temporary advantage which must be exploited immediately by tactical moves to achieve arrest.’

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