The blogger Ardoyne Republican with an appraisal of the contributions to the Newsletter on the question of Physical Force Republicanism. It intially featured on his own blog, Ardoyne Republican.
As a seasoned political observer and an Ex-Political Prisoner, I have read with interest a series of articles on the internet and in newspapers penned by a number of former Blanketmen. The articles concerned recent armed activity by Óglaigh Na hÉireann (ONH) and the (New) IRA.
It is without doubt that those who authored the articles are Veteran Republicans who still carry some degree of respect for the sacrifices they and their families made in pursuit of Irish freedom. Given their long years of political imprisonment, they also continue to have many friends from various strands of Irish republicanism.
Some arguments against the use of armed activity published are based on the premise that 'it is shameful to prosecute an armed campaign that has no chance of success and will only fill the jails or worse'. 'Not one life was worth losing' alongside terms like 'disastrous, insane & madness' were included in the articles.
In my brief analysis of the articles, I am somewhat bemused that they were given to the Newsletter. A publication which has always been Anti-Republican. The fact that the authors are seasoned Republicans, why they didn't form a delegation and asked to meet the Leaderships of the New IRA & ONH to put their arguments to them in person rather than through the mediums of the net and a Unionist paper. A face to face meeting would have been much more effective and no doubt, the request would have been granted. Unfortunately, I suspect such a request would now be rejected as the publication of views has never been met with open arms by armed republicans.
Another problem I have is that the armed campaign by the Provisional IRA had strong community support between 1969 and 1974, when there was every chance of success of freeing Ireland from imperialism. The IRA never really gained the same level of support after 1974, apart from the 1981 Hunger-Strike. In fact, support for the armed struggles of the INLA and Provisionals were indeed declining throughout the Eighties and Nineties. The effects of Ulsterisation, Criminalisation and Normalisation worked quite well from an imperialist perspective. The facts speak for themselves.
Previous armed campaigns with the exception of the recent Conflict had minimal support whether in the Forties, Fifties or Sixties. Though the articles fail to address these particular campaigns. Likewise, one Ex-Political Prisoner stated that Republican Groups need to formulate 'non-violent alternatives'. With respect to his view, Republican Parties such as the IRSP, RSF and RNU have drafted various critiques of the Belfast Agreement. As well as, presented and published their political alternatives. They may not be to people's liking but they are readily available upon request.
It is easier to sit on the sideline and criticise different strategies as has been done in the Newsletter. It is much more harder to chart a political path based on core Socialist-Republican principles. Those who did have faced harsh criticism from not only advocates of imperialism but also former comrades. Despite this, feasible alternatives to the Status Quo remain on the table but are repeatedly censored by the British, Stormont and Dublin Establishments.
Why don't the Ex-POWs' get together, analyse the situation facing the Irish Working-Class, how best Irish Republicans, Socialists and Democrats address the ongoing occupation and the protracted denial of our National Sovereignty. Then they could pen their own alternative. Maybe then we all could debate the document in a comradely fashion and agree or disagree on it's merits. Whenever a final agreement is reached, it could then be submitted to the groups engaging in armed actions and hopefully help them plan the way forward without armed activity?