The deforestation programs led by the colonial British Empire and subsequently by the environmentally disinterested Free State have laid the landscape bare in Ireland. In the rural hinterlands, the mountains and the small forests don’t provide the coverage they once did. Peasants in the classic small farmer concept in Ireland also no longer exist as land has become concentrated in the hands of primarily big farmers with exceptions existing here and there.
The flying columns of old, which were able to operate and sweep throughout the rural lands, would be confronted with a highly rapid, technologically advanced military force that can immediately react. There is no future for such struggle in Ireland, it is impractical and strategically outdated and those with romantic fantasies and notions must put them aside and think of the contemporary conditions when evaluating armed struggle and the Guerrilla.
Of the three fundamental principles that Che Guevera provides in his short pamphlet: ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ only one is subject to re-evaluation. Comrade Guevera wrote this pamphlet in light of his direct experiences among the revolutionary forces in Cuba and how they dealt with day to day mattes, that is to say he wrote this off the basis of his concrete material conditions, many of which do not exist in Ireland today and must be evaluated as such as a result. The three principles go as follows:
- Popular forces can win a war against the army.
- It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them.
- In underdeveloped America the countryside is the basic area for armed fighting.
Latin American countries at this point in time were highly agrarian based societies where peasants on small and large farms alike constituted the majority of the population while large urban centres were far and few. Highly developed capitalist countries such as Ireland have a completely different demographic and constitution of the working class therefore the third point is not applicable and fresh analysis must be utilized. Never the less the first two points remain relevant and we shall touch upon them further in a moment.
Recently a European polling body outlined that from 20,000 participants, 52% stipulated they would join an uprising against the government if one were to occur. This is not obvious nor conclusive evidence that there is a popular will for an armed rising against the capitalist state in Ireland today, but it is an indicator of the dissatisfaction young people feel.
In Ireland, we can tell that dissatisfaction has not only grown opposition to the main establishment parties, but also shrunk their support base. Former voters of the main parties have in many areas turned to on the street action of stopping water meters (as one example) or joined political entities and organisations they would have never even considered before. Dissent has become popularized but it has in many ways also reached a certain limit.
What became popular at first was passive resistance and when the ceiling was reached, activists realized this through an organic development in their struggle. As a result, they developed their actions because that is what their struggle necessitated. Again however, we’ve reached a limit. This limit is a ceiling characterized by the culture enshrined in Western liberal thought.
The limit or this glass ceiling is one that makes us believe that we live in a civil society governed by an impartial state that for the most part observes after our interests. We’re fast approaching where a significant segment of the population, notably that part which is being mutilated by the capitalist murder machine apparatus is recognizing this. In their recognition their demands are growing more radical and the tone of their voice louder.
Resistance has been popularized among certain trade unions, many community groups and a wide range of political parties (though primarily the same political parties who have always held firm anti-capitalist politics in Ireland.) Yet it is not yet a war of resistance but a series of loosely coordinated defensive moves. The time for a popular war has yet to arrive but it is certainly creating itself among the masses of Ireland. The question is whether it will be organized or simply bursts of incomprehensible violence.
As Irish society lumbers from crisis to crisis, uncertainty takes root in the self-organized working class communities, unions and parties. What next and where next? The confluence of forces which represent passive resistance do not yet possess the consciousness or the potential to develop into an armed resistance against capitalism and neither do the conditions yet exist for an armed popular war against capitalism and it’s lackeys. This leads us to the second principle.
‘It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them.’
When writing this, Che referred to the existing conditions of Latin America. He referred in particular to the way Fidel Castro, Raul and others landed from the Granma and simply commenced. Yet they chose a precarious moment in the rule of Batista to launch their rising, some of these conditions (gross unhappiness, poverty, world revolution elsewhere, inequality, lack of justice) contributed heavily to amplifying the call to revolution made by the July 26th Movement but without them actually having made this call, the conditions which later created a nation wide overthrow of Batista would not have come to exist.
This, in practical terms and reality means that when a revolution occurs, it in itself is a moving social force that can develop society into a revolutionary crisis or develop the existing crisis into one that then subsequently or even inevitably becomes revolutionary. Often, most notably in the western world are caught up in reforming the political status. In fielding thousands of candidates and spending disgusting amounts of their party wealth on reformism.
Reformism isn’t just a political strategy though, it’s a thought process. Often, leftists wrap themselves in it, refusing to budge. The reality is many western leftist organisations, included in Ireland are unable to act as revolutionaries. Their slogans, social media posts, campaigns fall further and further away from the overthrow of capitalism and land closer and closer to the reform of it. The relevance to guerrilla war here is simple: the Marxist Leninist movement must make the conscious decision to develop the political struggle of the working class, at the right time into a militant one of armed resistance. But when will the time be right? Is it right even now?
It’s difficult to gauge such matters but the transition to a militant armed struggle is on the horizon of Irish politics. The poverty and death being inflicted on the working class is beginning to reach it’s zenith and as it does, new options will be discovered. Yet it’s worth examining how exactly this will look in a country with a very small population of small farmers and a largely urbanized and proletarianized demographic of workers.
The city is our jungle
The majority of the population now live in large urban centres or the surrounding suburbs. They live, work and die here. The fundamental class antagonism they experience (perhaps unknowingly) is here. Tenant versus landlord, employee versus employer. Therefore the place where this antagonism will resolve itself will be in the environment they are in. What does this mean for the Guerilla? Simple, any militant struggle against capitalism will not happen in the rural and exposed lands, it will happen in the major urban centres, in the streets and winding alleys and in the many housing estates. The role of a strong, organized and disciplined Communist movement becomes ever more important.
The working class is not a homogeneous entity but a fluid and very diverse collection of many different people, religions, colours, genders and therefore the galvanizing of the working class for struggle must come at the fundamental root that applies to them all: their socio-economic standing in society: as workers, tenants and fundamentally as the exploited toiling mass. In order to do this, union power must be rebuilt.
Without a strong union movement, there will be no struggle for national liberation; there can be no guerrilla if the working class is disunited. This makes the primary political task of Communists to be in the Trade Union movement and the self-organized community groups. The most powerful tool that the working class in Ireland have right now is not the gun, but their labour. A withdrawal of their labour will mean a stoppage to the enrichment of the ruling class.
Interwoven into the idea of militant self-organization, the scope of what a tightly organized and disciplined working class expands dramatically as a result. In Ireland’s context, if the self-organised community groups alongside the trade unions resurrected the tradition of the Irish Citizen Army, the scope of militant action against capitalism would dramatically increase.
Private security, acting as the military wing of the capitalist class has in the case of evictions removed families from their homes and occupied territories. They have done this either in the name of private commercial institutions or other big bourgeois. Never the less it poses the question: The capitalist class have their black hundreds and lackeys, surely we should begin to consider defending ourselves as well?
In this context a highly developed Western state such as Ireland creates an interesting dilemma: What will a militarized working class actually look like and how will it correspond with the capitalist class? It’s worth evaluating what it did look like in Ireland, notably in the form of the ICA but also what other self-organized militant working class units looked elsewhere. The Black Panther Party for instance originated and stemmed from the need of the Black community to defend itself against constant and on-going police harassment. Yet this harassment was overwhelmingly aimed at working class black people rather than those in affluent neighbourhoods and as a result the BPP was overwhelmingly a working class organization.
In Ireland, the flourishing left wing movement that is rising against Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour and Green Party corruption. It is flourishing in a variety of spheres of society, be they trade unions, communities or parties and its composition is overwhelmingly working class. Which must make one wonder, what will the guerrilla forces of the left look like in Ireland? It is safe to say that they will no longer be the mountain based flying columns which we’re so known for but represent the formation of social and political resistance that we have in Ireland today.
Urban city based self-organized democratic units that will start likely with resisting evictions and evolve into resisting the forces of the State/commercial institutions on more issues.