Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Robert McCartney: The IRA as Defacto State and Monopoliser of Violence amongst Northern Irish Catholics: A Libertarian Socialist Analysis

The Sinn Fein and the IRA always present progressives with a dilemma,their cause is just but their techniques are not. Recent events with the murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast have thrown this dissonance between ends and means into sharp relief.

First of all a brief history lesson. The Provisional Irish Republican Army splintered from the Official IRA in 1971/72 to defend Irish Catholic neighbourhoods from Unionist Protestant aggression and intimidation. The starting point for this were the marches by Irish Catholics demanding civil rights and equal treatment before the law. The IRA then developed further into an movement concerned with evicting the British from Northern Ireland and reversing partition.

So the IRA has had a dual role from it's very inception: that of defender of the Catholic community and 'freedom' fighters against the British. To a libertarian socialist the development of the IRA in the absence of the British state in Catholic areas should by analysed and looked at carefully. Libertarians of any stripe wish for the disestablishment of the state, in Catholic neighbourhoods this has actually happened to some extent. What happened next is particularly instructive.

The IRA styles itself a resistance army and although making some concessions to modern guerilla warfare with the cell structure is still very much a command and control organisation.
So by seeing itself as an army the IRA takes on the mindset of command and control. Strategy is decided from the top and disseminated down the ranks. Military discipline is to be enforced ruthlessly and those who disobey orders are to be treated accordingly. The military mentality is that of the collective with the individuals needs and wants subordinated to the 'cause'.

How then does the IRA interact with Catholic communities of Northern Ireland? In many ways it has become the de facto state in parts of Belfast for working class Catholics. Businesses both legal and illegal are forced to pay a tithe to the IRA, mixed with bank robberies and other activities. The IRA in this way holds the monopoly of violence in Catholic communities and people tow the line. The IRA's political wing Sinn Fein also co-operates acting much like Stalin's political commissars enforcing ideological purity and submission to the cause.

The IRA promises freedom and liberation yet it's authoritarian techniques deny that to the population it is allegedly defending. The IRA has rolled back the state and replaced it with something worse: a stateless army who keep their position through violence, intimidation and the tacit resignation of working class Catholics. Libertarians should see the IRA as an example of how power can corrupt and warp an organisation and how the state can reassert itself in many different forms.