What is National Liberation?

The original date of publication and author of this historical IRSP document is unknown, but the ideas herein are consistent with the IRSP's past and present views on national liberation.

Firstly, national liberation must not be confused with pure nationalism and we must understand what nationalism is. The nationalism of an oppressed country differs vastly from the nationalism of a country whose role is oppressive, i.e., a developed country which oppresses other nations.

For instance, the Nationalism of the National Front and Tories in Britain is oppressive and anti-working class, as was the nationalism of the Fascists in Germany and Italy in the 30's and 40's. On the other hand the nationalism expressed in Ireland today like that in African and Latin American countries is progressive because it seeks to dismantle a system of government that is based on explsitation and corruption. In other words the forces engaged in the struggle for national liberation in those countries are attempting to end their countries' position as a colony or neo-colony. In stating that these struggles are progressive it must be understood that the anti-imperialist movement is composed of different political strands that are united around the issue of driving the foreign exploiter from their land. In the case of the Palestinian struggle against Israel the PLO is an umbrella organisation composed of different political movements who are all united in the struggle to win back the country stolen from them by Israel. The Palestinian organisation differ on what type of state that will exist when and if they succeed in their struggle. In Zimbawee today the various national liberation forces agree on an ending to White minority rule but differ vastly on the type of government to take over from Ian Smith. In Angola the three main liberation forces - MPLA, FNLA UNITA - all fought together to rid the country of Portugese ruIe, but then fought a civil war over the type of government they wanted. The Western powers backed UNITA and the FNLA as they wanted to maintain their interest in Angola's mineral resources. The Russians backed the MPLA who emerged as victors. The reason for touching on the above is to ensure that we understand that the solving of the National Question in the country will have international repercussions.

Ireland today, as we all know, is Britain's oldest colony, and we must ask ourselves why after engaging in an uninterupted struggle for 800 years we have not yet succeeded. Why is it that other weaker far-off British colonies have achieved national independence after engaging in less sustained and shorter struggles? Why is it that other, poorer third world countries have heen able to equip themselves much better than we Irish in the armed struggle? Why is it that third world colonies can gain the support and sympathy of other socialist countries and we cannot?

The answers to the above are found when one examines Ireland's relationship both geographically and politically to Britain and Western Europe. Ireland is part of Western Europe, yet unlike all other European countries our development in industrial terms is akin to most of the Third World countries. Like the Palestinians, Africans, South Americans, the form that our struggle takes differs vastly from the methods of struggle of socialists in countries such as the USA, Britain, Holland France etc. In those developed countries the working class engage in conflict with the ruling class mainly on economic issues. In countries such as Ireland struggling for national independence the nature of the struggle is different in that armed struggle must go hand in hand with straight agitationary struggle. With an occupation army in the 6 Counties and a policy of military repression against the nationalist population, the organisation of street meeting, printing of leaflets, etc. are a vital part of the struggle, but on their own without armed struggle it will never effect a British withdrawal.

As Lenin once said, "War is the continuation of politics by other means." Because Irish Republicans and Socialists engaged in armed struggle which is a necessary part of our national liberation struggle, phoney "pure" socialists at home and genuine socialists in Europe mistakenly see us as "elitist". Militarists supporting and engaging in solely armed activity to the exclusion of economic and political issues, neglect the class struggle.

The oppressed sections of the people in a country such as Ireland are not politically motivated solely on their economic plight. Their 9.00 -5.00 working lives do not alone shape their political thought. The living Irish culture which is anti-imperialist, their knowledge of Irish History, all these combined add to the latent nationalism of the workers and small farmers. It is interesting to note that since the last World War those countries that have established socialist states, Vietnam, Cuba, China, Algeria etc. have all done so through national liberation struggles. The Russian experience has not been repeated. It is important to bear in mind that in these countries the economic questions underlined the actual liberation struggle, and did not come to the fore until liberation was achieved. The same applies to Ireland today. We have to engage in economic struggle but real economic independence is related to the type of political system adapted after the foreign invader is driven out. For this reason I disagree with Eire Nua which does not challenge property rights. As I have said earlier, in a country struggling for national independence, the forces that make up the anti-imperialist movement have the common aim of establishing independence of a territory, but differ politically on the type of state to be set up. At the moment the Provisionals are in the leadership position in the anti-imperialist struggle. Our movement agrees with the "Brits out" call and the related issues (Prisoner of War status etc.) but we differ from all other anti-imperialist groupings in that we aim to have the Irish working class in control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. This policy is distinctly socialist and opposes a federal solution, or independent 6 County or 9 County State. In pointing out this difference we are pointing out the fact that the term "national liberation" means the liberation of our national territory and the liberation of our exploited working class. It is most important that we understand this and a pointer to the way forward is to study other countries and their liberation struggles. Vietnam comes quickly to mind. The struggle there led by Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Communist Party were vastly out-numbered, yet by sheer patience and perseverance they won the day because they clearly understood the real meaning of national liberation. They were able to call a cease-fire, and unlike Ireland in 1922, they used this as a means to strenghten their forces for the continuation of the war.

When we say that forces engaged in national struggles are progressive, this does not mean that they will always remain so. When the hour of British withdrawal comes it is then that the various political tendencies express themselves. Situations never remain the same. New forces will mushroom, new alignments will be made, perhaps conflict will break out. We must remember Connolly's message to the Citizen Army upon marching out in 1916. He told them to hold on to their weapons as some will not go the full road to free the working class from exploitation. We must bear this in mind, and look back to the civil war period in the 1920's. The majority of the IRA opposed the Treaty and the Free State crushed them militarily. It was the politics of the Republicans which brought them defeat. Just as the civil war was not a left/right conflict, there were no left/right faction on the Republican side. They were each led politically by the petty bourgois policies of De Valera and on the military side by leaders who were not socialists - in other words none of the IRA leaders were followers of James Connolly.

The reason why we must scrutinize our past is to develop correct policies for the future. Although small at present, our Movement, if we have the correct policies, can offer the Irish working class a programme that will lead to a successful conclusion of the struggle for democracy, national liberation and socialism. What we as a movement must now do is to develop a programme to be put into effect in the event of a British withdrawal. Already we have a policy which calls for a Conference of all Irish political parties to draw up a 32 County secular constitution. This is a real Republican demand. What comes after that, should the armed struggle cease, do we solely engage in political activity? These questions must be debated, and policies arrived at. If not, at best we will flounder along after a British withdrawal, at worse we will be seen as Mark 2 Provisionals, with nothing to distinguish us from them.

In conclusion, if Irish history has taught us anything we should realise that if we have a well worked out programme we can give the lead to realise James Connolly's and Seamus Costello's dream - a free Ireland with a free working class - in other words, the Socialist Independent Republic.