From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.4, April 1939, pp.3-4.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The attitude of the Marxist to acts of terrorism is tolerably well known, for Marxists have been at pains to carefully distinguish between terrorism as a weapon in the hands of a few conspirators, and terrorism, wielded as a weapon of coercion by a revolutionary class against the sabotage and counter-revolution of the dispossessed capitalist remnants. This opposition to individual terrorism is not of course, based upon any “moral” distaste but rather upon the effectiveness of terrorism as a political weapon. In other words the Marxist weapon of criticism is directed against terrorism as a criticism of weapons.
Thus, the recent campaign of bombings which the Irish Republican Army has directed against the English ruling class must be examined as to their effectiveness in obtaining the ends desired, and viewed in this light the whole campaign can only be sharply condemned as an adventurous and futile escapade which will – like all similar terrorism – ultimately defeat its own ends. Nevertheless, the struggle which the Irish people has waged for over two hundred years against the tyranny of English dominion must be supported with the utmost vigour by every class conscious worker in this country. Because of this we must address ourselves to the IRA as sympathisers and protagonists in the struggle for Irish liberation.
To the IRA we say:
Your terrorist methods are a reflection of the middle class methods of dealing with fundamental problems. Ireland is reduced to a state of impoverishment that is without parallel in the history of Western Europe. Preyed upon by English capitalists and their Irish lackeys, sucked dry by absentee English landlords, cruelly dominated by the mailed fist of English imperialism, divided and partitioned by English diplomacy – and Irish treachery – with a far greater number of Irishmen scattered abroad than in Ireland itself, poverty stricken, degraded, exploited, divided and repressed, the ruination of Ireland can only be attributed to the avarice and greed of the capitalist class of England and Ireland.
Against the armed might of imperialist Britain you now pit your gallant band of gunmen, the awesome power of the British Government you propose to demolish with your jam-jar bombs and dynamite explosions. Your whole campaign is redolent of childishness and futility, revealing a complete lack of understanding of the true issues.
A few weeks back, you proclaimed yourselves the Government of Ireland. You blissfully ignored the presence of De Valera, of the entire State apparatus of the Irish capitalist class which, backed up by the English landlords, has decreed the death penalty upon your members. Declaring a state of “armed neutrality” to De Valera – who, by the way, is not neutral – you transfer the war to English territory and proceed to blast the English bourgeoisie into recognition of your aims.
You then succeed in blowing up certain pre-selected property of the English capitalists, meanwhile carefully and with middle class discretion, pointing out that you do not direct your bombs against human life but only against capitalist property. As this property is invariably insured against all possible damage, as the bourgeois gentlemen who own it are invariably tucked up in bed miles away, as the sanctity of human life does not extend to some poor devil of an English worker who is, as usual, the only one who gets blown up, as the terrorist is, if caught, imprisoned for a lengthy term, as finally all this is immediately condemned by the British worker – who has after all a perfectly natural antipathy to being blown sky high – you will see that all your efforts have resulted in a series of minor inconveniences for your enemies, the English bosses, and in alienating the otherwise sympathetic sentiments of your friends, the British workers. Thus terrorism which set out to unite Ireland, succeeds in uniting England – against Ireland. The boss class can now play on the anti-terrorist sentiments of the workers in this country and use them as a pretext for encouraging further the repressions of the De Valera Government in Ireland against the IRA
You seem to imagine that the British Government will be scared into granting your demands. Do not deceive yourselves. The British Government is itself the most expert terrorist the world has seen. There is hardly a subject race on the face of the earth which has not at some time or other felt the lash of British imperialism, and Ireland has suffered with the rest. The cause of Irish liberation is inextricably bound up with the revolutionary movements of ALL colonial peoples, is truly defended only by the revolutionary MASS movements of the working class in this and other countries.
Is it not obvious to all but the most purblind of patriots, that the present state of Ireland is due in its entirety to the capitalist system?
Do you then, endeavour to rid the world of this iniquity by a bomb explosion?
Ireland occupies the position of being a “back door” to Britain. In the event of a war the rulers of Ireland are in a valuable strategic position; as the last war showed, the Easter rising of 1916 was the utilisation of that position. It was more than that however, it was the prologue to the mighty Russian Revolution.
The British imperialists learn very rapidly; the Irish Republicans would do well to imitate them in this. Realising the importance of Ireland, the British are determined to retain their hold on the country, and accordingly with their accustomed craftiness have partitioned the country into two separate States, they deliberately foster the bitter religious feud which paralyzes the workers in Ulster, they alone of all the countries in the world, permit the sale of the infamous alcohol, “Red Biddy,” among the working population of Northern Ireland, thereby hoping to dope the minds of the working class with religion and befuddle their brains with booze.
You of the IR,are plentifully supplied with money. You have an organisation which must cost hundreds of pounds per week to maintain, you have a large staff of professional officers and gunmen.
Let us assume that you get your way. For a moment let us assume that you actually take over the Government of Ireland.
Could you solve any of the problems which now inflict the working class of Ireland, could you alleviate a tithe of the appalling distress which eats at the Irish nation, could you produce some plan which will energise agrarian productivity, some bold scheme to reorganise Irish industry, can you tell us how, even if you can do all this, you propose to compete on the world market with the great, long-established imperialisms of Britain and France or the financial oligarchy of the USA?
In a word can you separate the question of Irish independence from the life and death struggle of the working class against capitalism? If you are honest and sincere in your desire for Irish freedom – and such qualities are beyond doubt to be found in the rank and file of the IRA – how can you avoid these questions? And how can you answer them? Can you hope to solve them by killing English workers and endangering the safety of English households? Can the Irish workers be won away from the established Government by a mere paper proclamation, the very signatories of which are outlawed by that same Government?
The answers to these questions will be obvious to all Irish workers: terrorist activity can never replace the mass action of the workers and peasants.
Accordingly it is the duty of all the rank and filers of the IRA to fight a political battle against the rulers of their country and to this end the money which their organisation possesses must be used in the establishment of a powerful printing press. The misery of the Irish toiler calls for instant redress, the curse of religious strife must be denounced, and against the repressions of the Government the workers and small farmers must be mobilised under the banner of the Irish Revolution.
This way lies the path of the Irish people, for capitalism can offer no future to the struggling masses. Only Socialism, only the conquest of power by the revolutionary masses can smash down the walls of hated Partition, can unite the Irish nation.
Ireland must be represented within the Fourth International by a virile and energetic section of revolutionary fighters. Ireland can achieve her emancipation only by means of the Revolution and it is to this end that the workers in the IRA can and must devote their energy.
The battle for the Irish Republic can only be fought on Irish soil for it is there that the crimes of capitalism are perpetrated; the fight of the Irish` workers can only be linked with the similar struggles of the oppressed peoples of the world through the Fourth International, the masses of the Irish workers and farmers can only be allied on a common programme which provides for their common liberation from the shackles of English – and Irish – capitalism.
Last updated on 12.10.2005