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Harry Peters

Provos bomb marines in Deal

(October 1989)

From Militant, October 1989.
Transcribed by Ciaran Crossey.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The bombing of the Royal Marine band barracks at Deal, Kent has only served to highlight the futility of the Provos’ campaign. The Provos have called the killing of 10 bandsmen as a military success and a blow against the British government. In truth the bombing has played into the hands of Thatcher.

It has come at a time when the Tory government is under siege on all fronts. Its economic policies of high interest rates have alienated many of the government’s own supporters. Privatisation of water and electricity threatens to become a debacle. One in three people in Glasgow have refused to pay the poll tax. An industrial offensive on pay is taking place.


The Deal bombing has allowed the Tories to deflect attention from these problems. Thatcher has used the opportunity to be photographed at the scene and to denounce the perpetrators. It has provided her with a possible platform for the speech at the Tory Party conference. Above all the bombing has provided the Tories with a welcome diversion from mounting revelations about collusion between sections of the state forces and the 1oyalist paramilitaries.

Far from being an expression of military strength, the bombing demonstrates the military ineffectiveness of the Provos and their complete incapacity to achieve their objectives of a British withdrawal and reunification. It was directed against a “soft” target – a barracks protected by a private security company and against non-combat soldiers. In military terms it is the army which at present has the upper hand in its policy of containment of the Provos in the North. Individual terrorism can never succeed. It is the substitution of the act of a few armed individuals for mass action by the working class.

Only mass action

In Northern Ireland it is only mass action by protestant and catholic workers which can lead to a socialist solution of the conflict. The Provos campaign weakens the working class by increasing the sectarian polarisation. It also strengthens the state by providing the excuse for increased repression. Deal will be followed by a clampdown in the North. This has already been seen in increased harassment by the Marines in West Belfast.

It also allows the state and the gutter press to whip up anti-Irish hysteria in Britain. Already the government are threatening to run security checks on all Irish workers employed on the Channel Tunnel.

End Campaign

The labour movement must combat this repression and combat the sectarian repercussions of actions such as Deal. The best contribution the Provos can make to the class struggle against sectarianism and repression is to end their military campaign.

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