5 April 2001 Edition

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Developing a revolutionary perspective

Declan Kearney gave an exciting talk to a recent Tar Isteach meeting in Dublin about the present phase of our struggle and its development.

The talk was one in a series of meetings in which ex-prisoners, but also many young people, have gathered to hear POWs tell of their extraordinary experiences of arrest, jail, and engagement in conflict and to share and discuss their reflections on the present stage of the struggle.

Tar Isteach is a part of the network of ex-prisoner groups, Coiste na n-Iarchimí, set up following the Good Friday Agreement to address the needs of those who had been involved in the conflict.

The series which led off with Flash McVeigh, who talked of the amazing political developments which led from the death of the H-Block hunger strikers to the Escape and control in the jail. Gay Cleary gave a brilliant account of the arrest of the Eksund, when French TV described them, as they were taken off the boat, as ``the IRA in their navy uniforms''. Ella O'Dwyer told the story of arrest in England, interrogation, and that essential knowledge for activists, that, one day at a time, you know you will come through.

Sean Kinsella described his many years in English jails, his words still ringing in peoples'ears: ``Take a look at that, Kinsella, All ye who enter here, abandon hope for ever'', etched out for his attention over the tunnel that led down, always, to his isolation in the punishment block cell.

Declan Kearney talked about this phase of the struggle:

Grounding our perspective in history

``We need an historical perspective to assess our gains. I believe we are the generation who will finish the unfinished revolution. It is people now in their 20s and 30s who will be at the delivery end of a successful struggle.

Our job is revolution, and we need to see ourselves as agents of change. Republicans need a clear idea, anchored within our political history, of where this struggle is going. It needs debate. The shadows of this next phase of the struggle are on the wall facing us now.

Do we retire when the Brits leave Ireland, and become the serfs of gombeenism, or do we become activists in bringing about social change in Ireland? Are we looking for bigger gains than a Britless Ireland? These are massive challenges regarding the future. We are on the cusp of all sorts of change within the party. No one should be afraid of saying they are excited by all of this.

What is a republican victory?

We need a collective approach. There are two questions: What would be a definition of a republican victory (after all, this is not Nicaragua, or the Tet offensive), and secondly: how do we organise for that victory. This is the period in which this debate needs to be held, so that we begin to develop common answers to these two questions.

We need to develop a revolutionary perspective - not some blueprint found out in the wilderness, but organising for change with the weight of history behind us.

Some people who like to snipe say `You don't talk about national liberation or socialism anymore'. We nuanced the language but this doesn't mean we need to blunt where we are taking the struggle. We need to integrate the whole struggle around a revolutionary perspective. Stormont is a lab for testing skills for developing craft to be used as a launch pad for the overall objective of taking state power in Ireland.

How we differ

``We elect four TDs, then four more, and another four. It's not so much a question of how many we put there but we need to know why we are putting them in there - it's to assume power for the betterment, or common good, of the country.

We need to develop sites of struggle to build political strength to take state power. TDs are a staging post. We need to sharpen ideological differences between us and others.

We need to remodel our way of thinking about electoralism, parliamentary, campaigns for social or economic change, policing, campaigns around those who are marginalised. We need to look at the party's role in the overall activity of empowering the community.

It all needs to be based on clear targets, strategy, and management issues. These issues have to be addressed. We need more horizontal structures, rather than vertical ones. We need to be wary of creating a bureaucracy, with all its dangers of elitism, the pips on shoulders, to deal with the changes that are always present in any revolutionary struggle.

Changes in the struggle have brought many new members who are not experienced in the struggle. We need to combine their creativity, their enthusiasm with the long-headedness of older combatants, so that the type of growth does not negate our strengths. We are not going to be the new Fianna Fáil.

Building for state power

``The whole struggle, new and old, needs to begin thinking, to look at definitions of revolutionary politics. The whole party needs collectively to get its head round delivery for change so we make clear advances. Revolutionary politics in the modern sense is not synonymous with adventurism. Our vision after all is a complete revolution North and South.

``Above all, we need to make sure we remain in touch with the people. We need an understanding of what makes us different from constitutionalists and how to project that forward into the future.''

An Phoblacht
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