For Steven. - How is the WSM soft on nationalism?

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Mike Harman
Joined: 7-02-06
Feb 1 2007 17:51
gurrier wrote:
No it doesn't. It's just the most obvious fact that, all else being equal, a state that loses control of territory becomes less powerful. Even just looking at the simple variable of military strength, it is obvious that it loses potential recruits, strategic military bases, intelligence gathering installations, a potential training ground, and so on, all of which are not exactly minor when it comes to somewhere like northern ireland.

No it's not obvious. The US has bases in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia etc. etc. - but they don't have formal control over those territories. If they tried to, they'd overstretch themselves and get fucked up.

But you seem to be arguing that a state's power is completely independent of the territory and population that it controls; that you can fiddle with those variables without affecting the power. And that's just ludicrous.

No, I'm arguing that there would be all kinds of balancing factors to the loss of Northern Ireland that would completely outweigh the loss of territory.

* The American troops and whatever resistance exists to the occupation can be equated as just two nationalisms fighting it out. Anarchists shouldn't take sides in such disputes.

No we shouldn't take sides between Sadr, or Ex-Baathists, or Al-Qaeda cells, or pro-Iran Shia militias and the Americans. But we should take the side of the Iraqi working class (who might have all kinds of political views) when they act on a class basis.

* That opposing the US / UK invasion on the grounds of being anti-imperialist is equal to supporting saddam's regime.

anti-imperialism almost always involves some kind of "critical support" - i.e. you stating that refusing to take sides between "the resistance" and "the Americans" is ludicrous.

* The Iraqis are better off under the occupation.

Who said this exactly?

* That states have no problem ceding power and authority over parts of themselves and that this in now way effects their power.

Could you say that again please?

But it's probably just that this board is full of armchair generals who have a colouring book approach to politics.

Yeah that's right. Two people got sacked at my work today and you pull this shit out yet again. If you can't argue without making it personal, fuck off.

Joined: 2-10-04
Feb 1 2007 19:17

Fuck it my reply disappeared, back in a few days when there will no doubt be another 70 odd posts to get through...

Joined: 15-10-05
Feb 1 2007 20:34

Interesting article by the worker-communist party of Iraq posted by Felix Frost. It seems to take the position that every bourgeois faction in every country is an ‘occupying force’ as far as the working class is concerned, a position with which (whether or not this particular party actually adheres to it) I agree, in common with most of the revolutionary movement these past 90 years or so. The organisation certainly bears further investigation.

To Gurrier, JoeBlack2 and WSM in general: Your position paper and your comments seem to have provoked a great deal of questioning from many diverse quarters. It seems to me that your response to this is to say
a) either your critics/questioners are idiots, simpletons, sectarians, apologists for ‘big nation’ imperialism, etc;
b) that they have misquoted you/not understood you (despite their many requests for clarification).

At the very least you might begin to question both how you present what you want to get across and, perhaps more importantly, what it is you are actually saying.

On imperialism, Gurrier wrote:

“What I mean by the removal of imperialism amounts to the withdrawal of the british state from northern ireland. I'm not saying anything about supporting any particular settlement that might replace it, but all else being equal, I think it would be a good thing if the British Army, RAF, Royal Navy, Mi5, Mi6 and the industry that supplies them all, were deprived the use of and the control of the area.

“Whether you want to face up to it or not, the British state is an imperial power, albeit a fading one, that wrecks destruction around the world. And such imperial powers aren't exactly friendly towards the indigineous working classes. I think it's generally a good thing when such powers lose a bit of their imperial strength, their lebensraum, whether that's retreating from Ireland, or failing to control Iraq, I think it's a good thing for the global working class.”

Personally, I have no problem in recognising the British state as an imperial power. I also agree that it is a declining one (though, as you state elsewhere, still one with considerable clout).

The problem is this: during the past 100 years in which the imperialist British state has been declining in influence, the devastating effect of imperialism taken at a global level has been increasing - 20 million dead in the first world war (plus 18 million from the epidemics which followed immediately afterwards); 50 million dead in WW2; an estimated further 50million dead in the inter-imperialist clashes (many of them masked as ‘national liberation wars’ in the ‘Cold War’ period between 1945-1990; countless killed in the post-two-bloc period from 1990 to today in the two Gulf wars, the invasion of Afghanistan, the Indian-Pakistan clashes over Kashmir; the wars in the Balkans; the bombing of Belgrade, Darfur, Eritrea, Rwanda, Angola, etc, etc. These are the ‘facts on the ground’, as you like to say. This is the (incomplete) body count, if that’s your criteria.

So what gain is there for the global working class if one particular imperialism declines, while imperialism in general increases?

As others (in particular but not only Devrim) have pointed out, you seem to regard imperialism as the chosen policy of this or that nation state, rather than one imposed, to a greater or lesser degree, on all nation states by the evolution of global capital. Such an attitude leaves your organisation wide open to a tendency to support ‘lesser’ imperialisms’ against ‘greater’ imperialisms (or, as Lenin wrongly posed it ‘oppressor states versus oppressed states’).

Please note: I’m not saying, at this point, that you have actually done this (though others might infer it) or that your position papers argue for this - it’s just that it’s a glaring weakness in your theoretical and practical armoury, a trap through which many others have fallen to, in effect, mobilise the working class behind one faction of capital against another. The Trotskyist clarion call of ‘the lesser evil’ comes to mind.

This really isn’t a question, as you seem to reply in response to other critics, of ‘putting words into your mouths’ or imagining what you say rather than quoting your position papers: it’s trying to draw out the implications of your positions, even if these are contrary to your stated intentions. Every ‘revolutionary’ group has got ‘good intentions’. We know where enough of them lead.


I also have no problem with the fact that communists, or internationalist anarchists, have a duty to analyse the particular history and contemporary situation in which, they find themselves. You are in Ireland. Your concerns, presumably, are the strengthening of the working class there, as part of the strengthening of the working class world-wide.

But why, today, since your origins in fact, this specific emphasis on the ‘withdrawal of the British state’ as a gain for the proletariat in Ireland, north and/or south? And where should the troops go: to repress workers in England, in Iraq, to Afghanistan? Good for ‘your’ working class, ‘tough’ on anyone else?

I have the very strong impression that you look at the world (and the needs of the working class?) from the wrong starting point, from the wrong end of the telescope: that the world is seen through the situation in Ireland (all your articles about struggles elsewhere notwithstanding) and in particular with an obsession with the British state’s role, rather than the historical and present evolution of capital and the situation of the classes in Ireland within that.

Furthermore, in the section of your position paper on The Partition of Ireland, regarding the IRA, under the section “Armed Struggle”, you write:

“16.1 The tactic of armed struggle, as carried out by the Republicans, was never capable of forcing the withdrawal of the British state because it was incapable of delivering a military victory over the British army.”

Why is the first point of contention with this “tactic of armed struggle” the fact that the IRA, in all its guises, “was incapable of delivering a military victory over the British army”? And if it had of been capable of delivering such a ‘victory’ (for whom?), would you support it?

To be sure, and it is commendable, you later condemn the IRA thus:

“We have opposed the republican armed struggle because it was an impediment to working class unity. It was based on wrong politics, it was a wrong strategy and it used wrong tactics.”

But to quote the full passage:

“17. The British state is responsible for the long history of armed conflict in Ireland. As long as the British state remains in Ireland there remains the possibility of armed struggle against it, especially when there is no mass movement to demonstrate an alternative to militarism. We have opposed the republican armed struggle because it was an impediment to working class unity. It was based on wrong politics, it was a wrong strategy and it used wrong tactics. However we refused to blame the republicans for the situation in the six counties. Their campaign was the result of a problem and must not be confused with its cause. In the final analysis, the cause lies with the continuing occupation by the British state.

“18. The IRA was not responsible for the creation of sectarianism. Rather it was re-created in 1969 as a response to the sectarian attacks by the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries on what had been a peaceful civil rights movement. While individual IRA actions in the years since heightened sectarian tensions they were not the underlying reason why it continued to exist. For this reason the end of the IRA campaign did not result in an end to sectarianism.”

So the condemnation of the IRA, or of republicanism is tempered, is ‘critical’: “We refused to blame the republicans for the situation in the six counties. Their campaign was the result of a problem and must not be confused with its cause. In the final analysis, the cause lies with the continuing occupation by the British state.”

Not the victory of capital over the workers’ international attempts to overthrow it between 1917-24; not the global evolution of imperialism since the turn of the 20th century which saw attempted interventions of German imperialism in Irish affairs during both world wars. Not the intervention of American imperialism, fundmaster general of at least the Provos and the Shinners, tools both of the Irish bourgeoisie and of US capital in their struggle to ‘pacify’ their British rival. No: “The cause lies with the continuing occupation by the British state.”

So ‘obviously’ there’s indeed no need to ‘blame’ the republicans, or is that another way of saying we excuse the republicans, for the situation in the six counties from 1969.

Yes, your position paper also denounces the bourgeoisie in (the republic of) Ireland. How could it do otherwise and retain any credibility when:

* Sinn Fein, founded in 1905, had an initial programme involving the retention of the monarch, the retention of the monarchy, import controls to protect Irish capitalism, and opposition to higher wages for, or strikes by workers as they would harm the interests of businesses in Ireland. Its founder, Arthur Griffith, called for strikers involved in the Dublin Lockout of 1913 to be bayoneted.
* In June 1920, the ‘illegal’ Irish parliament Dail Eireann, set up by Sinn Fein, denounced workers’ struggles as "ill chosen for the stirring up of strife among our fellow countrymen," while the secretary of the Dail wrote "the mind of the people was being diverted from the struggle for freedom by class war" (quoted in Ireland's Permanent Revolution, Chris Bambery).
* "Workers in Cork and Limerick took over some factories ... and set up 'Soviets', so-called in imitation of the Russian ones. These were crushed by local units of the IRA ... and ousted owners were handed back their plants at the points of IRA guns" (Revolutionary Perspectives first series, no.15).

Perhaps your denunciation is sincere: I’m going to read more.

But you can hardly blame your fellow anarchists and others who say you have a ‘republican narrative’ and ask whether you are soft on nationalism, when you talk about supporting ‘Troops Out’, divide the world into greater and lesser imperialisms, and when your statements on partition see its possible abolition as a progressive step (though ‘not in itself’). Or when you denounce (rightly) the murderous policy of the British state in Northern Ireland, only to remain silent on the fact that IRA campaigns since the late 60s killed more Catholics than the British armed forces (according to the SDLP leader John Hume in 1988, a statistic yet to be contradicted to my knowledge).

It’s not necessarily a question of convincing them (or me) otherwise: these boards are read far more widely than that.

georgestapleton's picture
Joined: 4-08-05
Feb 1 2007 20:39

Are you in the IBRP Lurch?

Joined: 15-10-05
Feb 1 2007 20:52

No George, I'm not a member of any organisation, tho I'm evidently sympathetic to the communist left.