A remarkable document written by a Republican Socialist, Ta Power, while in gaol in Ireland in the mid-Eighties. The significance of the conclusions drawn by this young thinker and fighter, who made a careful study of Marxism whilst imprisoned, will not be lost on our readers. Above all the demand that politics and ideology must play the central role in the struggle for national liberation and socialism, in the building of a revolutionary party of the working class, will come as a surprise to many, especially knowing the period and the circumstances in which this document was written. With an introduction by Gerry Ruddy.
We are publishing here a remarkable document written by a republican socialist while in gaol in Ireland in the mid-Eighties, but unknown to us until quite recently. A few minor alterations to punctuation have been made and one or two incomplete sentences removed and replaced with [...], purely for the sake of clarity.
The significance of the political and organisational conclusions drawn by a young thinker and fighter, a Republican Socialist who made a careful study of Marxism whilst imprisoned, will not be lost on our readers. Such a blunt and frank analysis is rare. Above all the demand that politics and ideology must play the central role in the struggle for national liberation and socialism, in the building of a revolutionary party of the working class, will come as a surprise to many, especially knowing the period and the circumstances in which this document was written. At the time this was not a widely held view in republican circles. Though we might disagree with some comments (the remarks about Mozambique, for example, were written many years ago and the writer never had the opportunity to see how events proceeded in that country), the conclusion that the most important task facing his comrades in Ireland was the building of a revolutionary party of the working class, based on a sound ideology and internal democracy, is immensely important.
The author, Ta Power, like many predecessors who struggled to build a revolutionary republican and socialist movement in Ireland, was assassinated. The document is prefaced by an introduction written by Gerry Ruddy, a leading member of the IRSP to which Power belonged, and outlines the role that this document has played in the struggle for the primacy of politics in the Republican Socialist movement. (Editor’s note December 2004)
Gerry Ruddy on the ideas of Ta Power
An introduction to The Ta Power Document:
An Essay on the History of The Irish Republican Socialist Movement
Ta Power was aged 33 when he was assassinated on the 20 th January 1987 by the IPLO  with John O'Reilly at the Rossnaree Hotel outside Drogheda. He and O'Reilly had gone to the hotel to reach an agreement with the IPLO. From Friendly Street in the Markets area of south Belfast, Ta had been in the OIRA  but joined the newly formed Irish National Liberation Army in 1975 while a prisoner in Long Kesh. Noted for having spent the longest time on remand (4 years and 4 months) on the word of super- grass  Harry Kirkpatrick, he was also held on the evidence of five different super-grasses, and had just been released from Crumlin Road gaol a short time before he was killed. Respected in republican circles, he was widely regarded as a soldier, a thinker and a theorist.
The ideas contained in the Ta Power Document have had an enormous influence on the Republican Left and was drawn up during his time in gaol. Ta was a self-educated republican socialist. During his time incarcerated he read the Marxist classics. He read avidly anything about Socialist Cuba and one of his dreams in gaol was to visit Cuba with his brother Jim. Neither made it. He was a true internationalist with a particular interest in the struggle of the Palestinian people
I had the honour and privilege of speaking both at the graveside when Ta was being buried and also 16 years later at the unveiling of a monument to four dead INLA volunteers in the Markets area of Belfast in 2003. Two of those honoured were the brothers Power, Jim killed in action, 7 th May 1981, and Ta.
I began by quoting the words of Ta Power
“Revolutionaries are dead men on leave -- this saying sums up the type of life ahead for all who dare to oppose British rule in Ireland and indeed oppression and imperialism anywhere in the world. Life as a revolutionary offers no material rewards, no medals, only the joy of participating in the struggle for freedom. As individuals we only have a limited time to achieve this task”.
“Those words, written by one of those volunteers, epitomises best the spirit of republicanism. It is a revolutionary doctrine, it is a radical doctrine, and it is a progressive doctrine. Those of us here today who call ourselves republicans should wear the mantle of republicanism with pride.
For there is pride in participating in the struggle for freedom. Those who we honour today knew some of that for they played their very active part in the struggle against Imperialism. Dedicated soldiers of the Republican tradition they grew up amidst repression, violence, discrimination and injustice. These things they observed but they did not ignore. They, like thousands of others, had enough of the daily humiliations from the Unionist state, enough of the casual brutality of the RUC, enough of the Imperialist swagger of the racists in the British army, enough of the “croppy lie down” mentality.
They had had enough of the cant and hypocrisy of the ruling elites who preached passivity in the face of violence, preached acceptance in the face of injustice, preached resignation in the face of inequality. Like thousands others, Jim, Ta, John and Emanuel had had enough. They did what any right thinking individual would do in the face of British and Unionist tyranny. They took up arms and fought in the streets of Belfast and elsewhere for the liberation of their people. In so doing they were following in a proud tradition stretching back to the United Irishmen, and including the Fenian Brotherhood, and the volunteers of the 1916-22 period.
Tomorrow, May 12 th marks the 87 th anniversary of the execution of James Connolly, socialist republican, founder of the Irish Citizen Army, murdered by the British establishment who tied a badly wounded man to a chair and shot him. Like our comrades we honour today, James Connolly walked the streets of Belfast organising the Mill Workers, the Dockers, the low paid. He organised the Irish working class in both political and military resistance. Connolly recognised that different situations require different responses. During the First World War he recognised that the time was ripe to take up arms against Imperialism. He saw that the struggle for the dignity and rights of the working class was part of the same struggle for national independence and that the social and economic parts of struggle could not be separated from the national struggle.
James Connolly was an inspiration, a guide, for all radicals and republicans. He inspired the volunteers we honour today. He was an example that each of those volunteers would have followed in their own ways if death had not intervened. They each had but a limited time to contribute to the struggle before death stole them away from us.
Jim Power was one of only two Republicans to die in action during the 1981 Hunger strike. He was killed defusing a bomb. Ta and John O’ Reilly died together when they were gunned down outside Drogheda where they had gone to peacefully resolve differences with others. Others killed Emanuel Gargan two months later in a pub on the Ormeau Road.
The latter three deaths at the hands of former comrades was a disgrace. Never again should any of us allow ourselves to view other Republicans either with hatred or as the enemy. A few weeks before his death I spoke with Ta in his home in the Markets here and he handed me a document, which included the following phrase,
“We must be vigilant that we don't sink into the morass of sectarianism, mixing, pettiness etc. We must not get involved in unprincipled slanging matches etc, into positions that are sectarian, anti-revolutionary, morally damaging, that give succour to the enemy and that confuse and divide the working class.”
Those wise words should be engraved in the minds of anyone who calls themselves a Republican. Friends and comrades the main enemy we all have is British Imperialism. Never, ever forget that.
It has been clear for some time that the vast majority of the Irish people favour Republicans using peaceful methods of struggle. That has to be respected for we all realise that different situations require different methods of struggle. There are huge social economic and political problems facing us all. If these are to be tackled then we need Republicans and Republican Socialists to throw their full wait into the political struggle for our full emancipation.
The unveiling of this plaque has been part of a process by which the Republican Socialist Movement pays homage to our dead volunteers and comrades. But friends and comrades they died trying to change this society. As indeed did many other republicans in other organisations who were good decent honest men and women who lost their lives fighting against injustices. Like so many others they never knew any life other than that of violent state repression firstly under the Stormont regime and then under the direct rule of the British government.
Life here should never have been such that young volunteers gave their lives to battle injustice. From whatever organisations volunteers came their sacrifices should be honoured by us all. To conclude, of each of them it may be said, to paraphrase the words of Ta, writing about his own brother Jim,
“He was born under a regime of repression and died fighting for liberty. In the words of George Jackson, on the death of his own brother: “I want people to wonder at the forces which created him, terrible, calm man-child, courage in one hand, the machine gun in the other, scourge of the unrighteous, an ox for the people to ride !"
Martyred Volunteers of the Irish National Liberation Army we salute you. (END SPEECH)
Ta’s death occurred as a consequence of the very things he had been warning the movement about in his writings, contempt for revolutionary politics. The IPLO contained most of the negative elements Ta criticised in his document. They, and who ever was manipulating them, could not abide the existence of the only revolutionary socialist tendency to emerge within the broad republican tradition. The attacks on the republican socialist movement were designed to wipe out any potential opposition to republicans doing a deal with the British.
The Irish Peoples Liberation Organisation’s spokesman said at the time,
"Republicanism in Ireland is adequately served by Sinn Fein and the IRA. If your talking about revolutionary socialism or communism, you`re talking about a further development. A new organisation at this point is premature."
In the same interview the spokesperson sneered at the decision taken relating to Marxism by the 1983 Ard Feis. Despite this decision taken at a democratically convened ArdFeis, followers of those who tried to liquidate the IRSP/INLA claimed that the INLA,
"was forcing an obscure and dogmatic form of Marxism-Leninism philosophy on the elected political leadership".
Such a claim was of course nonsense. In essence the liquidators hated the possibility of the primacy of politics emerging within the republican socialist movement . To forestall that they were prepared to make unprincipled alliances and butcher revolutionaries. Their ideological confusion came from their mish-mash of half baked and badly digested socialist and republican ideas peppered with militarism and clique politics.
What lessons do we learn from the events that lead to the death of Ta? It is important to stress that the lessons we have learned in Ireland are, we believe, relevant to other struggles and other armed revolutionary organisations.
Involvement in a secret army can lead to an attitude of mind that sees conspiracies everywhere. Small differences can become magnified out of all proportion. Ta Power was well aware of this in gaol where the enclosed environment had led to a rapid deterioration in the relationships between former comrades. But Ta did not put this down to bad faith nor warped personalities. He analysed it in Marxist terms and saw clearly how the contradictions between Party and Army develop. When he was released from gaol he arranged to see me. I had been attempting over at least the previous two years - with little success - to stabilise the Party and forge a relationship with the INLA that was not the traditional republican model.
At that meeting in the Markets home of Ta Power a long conversation took place between us. I gave my interpretation of the then current political situation of the Party and what was possible and what was not.
The trouble from my point of view, and for any socialist who tries to win armed movements towards revolutionary political action, was that I did not have the mystique that goes with membership of the army. Being an “operator”  always gives one more credibility than being a 'politico'.  However when Ta Power handed over his handwritten copy of his history of the party to me and I later read it, I was immediately aware that here was someone qualitatively different, not only from the militarists, but also most of the politicised soldiers inside armed organisations.
For a start it was clear he was a communist. “The ideal which the working class alone possesses being the ideal of a communist way of life." and he called for the building of a revolutionary party. He had no contempt for the “politicos” On the contrary he argued every soldier should be a” politico” as well. Ta Power was a communist, an active member of the INLA and a member of the I.R.S.P. For Ta there was no contradiction at that time in having these positions. Like many a prisoner before him he had analysed, criticised and was now determined to implement a revolutionary path for the movement.
The death of Power robbed us of a powerful political figure but it gave us a tremendous role model. He was determined to ensure above all the primacy of politics and to unlock the power of the masses.
"We must be able to inject into the struggle or rather to call forth from the people the values and ideals of solidarity, self sacrifice, non sectarianism, unity, internationalism. Values that transcend our own individual existence, that lead to greater awareness, greater participation and greater aliveness in Oneself. We must somehow be able to grip the mass of the people if we are to change the world." (Power)
But in the situation that the Republican Socialist Movement was in when he came out of gaol the priority was internal. As Ta himself wrote, the leadership of the I.N.L.A. had no analysis nor strategy outside armed struggle itself. Armed struggle had become an end in itself. This had led to attitudes of elitism and superiority and to regarding the Party and its members with contempt. There was a lowering of standards where criminal elements and unsavoury characters are allowed entrance and rise to prominence in the army. Intelligent, sincere individuals had attempted to rectify the situation. They had failed. Why? Ta asserted they failed because of the basic contradiction between the Army and the Party. Both the INLA and the IPLO had members who claimed to be socialists and Marxists. But the bloodletting between them was the antithesis of what they claimed to stand for. It demoralised the catholic ghettoes, almost destroyed the fragile hold that Marxists had in a republican organisation and left the Provos  unchallenged leaders of the armed struggle.
Many individually committed Marxists had joined and participated in the activities of the various republican armies over the last thirty years. They learned that if one’s primary activity is military then one enters a world where there is little contact with different opinions. Those who supply safe houses are unlikely to be too critical. As a member of a close knit group in a close community where being in the 'Ra'  or in “B”  confers an almost mystical status, it is hard to be objective about the direction in which one’s movement is going. If one begins to harbour serious differences then military discipline can be used to sideline dissidents.
If there is dual membership then the Army will always pull rank, if it has to, and win if conflict arises. Ta Power, gave a very accurate picture of the pressures even committed socialists faced because,
"the struggle goes on; we get no analysis, we get no strategy outside the basic confrontation - it eventually becomes an end in itself due simply to the fact that they don’t know of any other strategy; other trends manifest themselves due to this for eg. psychological traits: there arises the condition of elitism, superiority etc. that 'we’re the lads, that this is the real macho way to do things, that those in A (the Party) are wankers, bluffers etc who always harp on about meaningless things'."
Party work is "beneath their style" and there is a contempt for politics. Then power building starts and there is "-a lowering of standards" which attracts criminal type elements, unsavoury characters and inept individuals. Marxists/Socialists in armed groups in Ireland became declassed, cut off from the mass of the class and forced to rely on one tiny section of one community. Her/his ideas could never gain hegemony within the movement.
Power quoted Lenin to point out that, "Their terrorism is not connected in any way with work among the masses, for the Masses, or together with the masses. It distracts our very scanty organisational forces from their difficult and by no means completed task of organising a Revolutionary Party,"and that the absolute complete subordination of the army to the party was essential.
His was then a lone voice. It is not anymore. More and more political activists not only in Ireland but around the world are coming to the same conclusions that Ta Power came to in the 1980’s. While it is not comfortable reading for the Republican Socialist Movement the Ta Power Document is essential reading for those serious about building a revolutionary Party to transform society. Ta dissects our past mistakes, points out the negative consequences of militarism and articulates the values that the collective leadership of the Party should espouse.
It was not until eight years after his death that the Republican Socialist Movement began to implement the ideas of Ta Power. As a result we now have had the longest sustained period of stable collective leadership the movement ever has had. But more important than that Irish revolutionaries recognise that armed struggle is simply a means of struggle to achieve revolutionary aims. It is a tactical decision whether or not to engage in armed struggle. Likewise it is a tactical decision to engage in peaceful methods of struggle. No genuine revolutionary movement can hope to survive by divorcing itself from the working class. Individual terroristic actions do exactly that. Our perspective is that armed action by any revolutionary movement should be in support of the working class, not in spite of it or in substitution for it. In the context of today’s Ireland and the enormous changes taking place in the composition of the working class revolutionaries need to be in support of, and responding to, the needs of the working class. We must not be a substitution for the class for once Revolutionaries go down the road of thinking that they know better than the class then elitism, terrorism and arrogance grow.
The Ta Power Document spells out clearly the road we must travel if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past. And therein lies lessons for militants of the national liberation and socialist struggles worldwide.
Ard-Comhairle Member the Irish Republican Socialist Party,
The Ta Power Document:
An Essay on the History of The Irish Republican Socialist Movement
This essay is just a broad and general view of the emergence of the IRSP, what it arose from; what historical needs and conditions gave birth to it; what role it has played, and what role it still has to play. Another essay aimed at analysing its faults; criticising the root cause of these and proposing the necessary remedies will be forthcoming.
The 4th December 1974 is the date when the IRSP publicly and formally announced its formation, but it didn't spring up fully formed out of the blue; it, like everything else, had its roots in history, going back to the 1960's and the leftward direction which the Republican Movement was embarking on.
The Republican Movement at that time, as indeed throughout its history, was a monolithic movement, ideologically united and disciplined in its strategy and tactics. It contains an element which [is] disciplined in its strategy and tactics. It contains an element which embraced the old traditional militarist approach to resolving the national question, whilst its biggest element was the now avowedly socialist element and their approach involving Republican involvement in all social and political views and issues of the day throughout the entire country.
A trend was already developing "within" this element, a very influential and leading sector, which while sprouting the socialist approach and a need for armed wing to confront imperialism and its allies in Ireland, was steadily working towards a fully reformist position on the national question with an abandonment altogether of an armed confrontation with imperialism.
Yet there was a smaller element which maintained that both the national question and the social question were inextricably bound up, that both must go forward together i.e. the national liberation struggle in the six counties alongside the class struggle in all of Ireland. This element was personified primarily in Seamus Costello.
The events of 1969 in the six counties and the dropping of the abstentions policy of the Republican Movement resulted in a crisis emerging among the above elements, leading to the mainly traditionalists splitting to form the Provisional Republican Movement.
It is one of these events in history that while those who split were right as regards having to confront imperialism in the six counties, at the same time they lacked the ideological outlook and ability to expand the struggle, to mobilise the mass of Irish people in active support of the struggle.
Whilst on the other hand, those who probably possessed the ability to do so were leading towards a reformist position and the denial of the struggle for national liberation. This was the Official Republican Movement.
The position of part of those who stayed with the Officials - Costello etc - was one in which they saw the best possible conditions existing for the developing of a revolutionary movement.
The events of 1969 resulted in an influx of new members into both the Officials and the Provisionals to fight British rule, and whilst the Provisionals engaged in a far greater role in this fight, the Officials were also very active. Basically the rank and file wanted to expand the struggle while coming up against a leadership resolved in stopping the struggle.
The introduction of internment in 1971 was a blessing in disguise for the leadership, as it allowed them to gradually wind down their involvement in the struggle, as many militants were interned, arms supplies began to dry up etc, but this did not go by without some opposition.
Earlier moves concerning Joe McCann and others, who were aware of the leadership's intentions to call a cease-fire, and to which they were totally opposed, may have led to a split in 1972. However, this ended as McCann was shot dead by the Brits in April 1972, the Officials declared a cease-fire in May 1972. Costello in later years declared he should have split there and then instead of continuing to work inside the Officials to try to change it. He hated splits as they led to demoralisation, acrimony and possible feuds.
The Official Leadership refused to accept that a struggle against imperialism was in progress. Their line was that the struggle in the six counties divided the working class Protestants and Catholics and that they must first unite them before they could challenge imperialism. This was the false strategy which ignored the fundamental fact that partition, and all that it implied, divided the working class and that this must be removed to achieve the unity of the working class.
Throughout 1972-73 more militant policies were promoted in the Officials in relation to the national question, but the Leadership frustrated and refused to implement these. Instead, they launched a concerted campaign to isolate the main protagonists of this more revolutionary line, which resulted in Seamus Costello being suspended in 1973. Here onwards the differences between Costello and the now openly reformist Leadership were out in the open.
Much discussion took place all over the country and inside the jails as well, on their respective positions, with the Leadership of the Officials trying to stifle debate, tainting people, issuing threats and finally expulsions, especially Costello at the 1974 Ard Fheis. The dismissal of Costello formalised what was already a fact -- "the parting of the ways" of a revolutionary and reformist strategy on the national question.
Costello was in the process of forming a new party when he was formally dismissed. Events now proceeded at a quickened pace over the remaining months of 1974. With revolutionaries, republicans, socialists and trade unionists coming together, the IRSP was formed.
The same process took place at the Officials cage in Long Kesh as well, when it was announced in December 1974 that this new political party had been formed under the slogan, "FOR NATIONAL LIBERATION AND A SOCIALIST REPUBLIC". Its announcement resulted in widespread defections from the Officials all over the country, i.e. those who had been the most active and politically conscious members.
The Leadership, in order to halt this and wipe out the IRSP, loosed armed attacks on IRSP members in Belfast in early 1975. After several months of feuding three members of the IRSP were dead and many others wounded.
The arms the Officials had starved and denied their own membership to confront imperialism had been delivered in plenty, in a counter revolutionary manner, to be used against those who had formed a new movement in order to confront imperialism.
This onslaught brought a halt to resignations from the Officials, it also frightened off many of those who would have joined the IRSP from outside the republican movement and overall it badly affected the growth of the party. At this point we must examine what made the IRSP different from both the Officials and the Provisionals.
On the national question! That it couldn't be resolved until the Protestant and the Catholic working class "united", that the six counties could be democratised, that a bill of rights was needed etc.
This position ruled out the national liberation struggle, it ignored the fundamentally sectarian nature of the six county state and how the Brits through this maintained their rule and influence over the entire country.
At this time they still had a one-sided concentration on the national question, they were still controlled by the old traditional leadership which advocated a "federal solution" - which Adams was later to refer to as "a sop to Loyalists". They concentrated on the military effort to the exclusion of revolutionary politics throughout Ireland. They maintained their abstention position. Costello criticised the Provisionals for their "elitist and conspiratorial approach" which was no substitute for the development of a peoples struggle.
Most of the following are the direct words of Seamus Costello, upon outlining the programme for the IRSP.
We must make no secret of the fact that we are a revolutionary socialist party, prepared to give leadership on the streets as well as in the elected chambers, and that we are out for a socialist republic (or a revolutionary socialist state) part of that struggle for a socialist republic entails resolving the national liberation struggle and ending British imperialist intervention.
We stand for the unity of the anti-imperialist struggle and class struggle.
What are the vital social issues of the day? Along with the national question there exist many strands to the anti-imperialist struggle. To hold the national question above all others is to isolate oneself from the people and result in inevitable defeat.
We must involve ourselves and the masses in issues which affect them: political agitation, propaganda etc should not be confined to the six counties.
There is no parliamentary road to socialism, but elected members should use such chambers as a platform for the pursuit of our policies and for achieving publicity for them, but members elected to parliament etc would have to be active in politics outside parliament, i.e. extra parliamentary and agitationary politics on the streets.
We see both parliamentary institutions in Ireland as institutions that have to be abolished if we are to make progress towards establishing a socialist republic.
When we say we are not an abstention party, we mean we are not a Party, in principle, committed to abstention. But there are circumstances and conditions under which it might be desirable at any particular point in time to abstain from parliament, and if we felt it was tactically desirable then we would do so.
Ultimate Goal: To end imperialist rule in Ireland and establish a 32 County Democratic Socialist Republic with the working class in control of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
Broad Front: This advocates the maximum degree of Anti-imperialist unity. We recognise the absolute necessity of securing a constitutional solution to the present crisis, which will allow the Irish working class the freedom to pursue there interests as a class in the context of the development of normal class polities.
In our view, the first step in securing a constitutional solution, which meets this requirement, must be for Britain to concede the right of the Irish people to exercise total sovereignty over their own affairs.
This objective can only be achieved through the creation of a united struggle on the part of all Anti-imperialist Organisations. We would therefore support the formation of an Irish anti-imperialist front composed of delegates from affiliated organisations who support the agreed political programme of the front.
The primary objective of the front would be to mobilise the maximum degree of support for its declared objectives throughout Ireland. The front should clearly be seen as the LEADERSHIP OF A MASS MOVEMENT against all forms of imperialist control and interference in Ireland.
The front should have sufficient support and assistance from its affiliated organisations to enable it to open a head office with a full time staff. We propose the following political demands as the basis on which an Irish anti-imperialist front should organise:
1/ That Britain must renounce all claims to sovereignty over any part of Ireland or its coastal waters.
2/ That Britain must immediately disband and disarm the UDR, RUC and RUC Reserve and withdraw all troops from Ireland.
3/ That the British and 26 County Governments must immediately release all political prisoners and grant a general amnesty for all offences arising from the current conflict.
4/ That Britain must agree to compensate all that have suffered as a result of imperialist violence and exploitation in Ireland.
5/ Recognising that no country can be free and independent while it permits imperialist domination of its economic life, the anti-imperialist front, will oppose all forms of imperialist control over wealth and resources.
6/ The front rejects a federal solution and the continued existence of two separate [states] in the 6 and 26 counties as a denial of the right of the Irish people to sovereignty and recognises that the only alternative as being the creation of a 32 democratic republic with a secular constitution.
7/ That the front demands the convening of an all Ireland constitutional conference representative of all shades of political opinion in Ireland for the purpose of discussing a democratic and secular constitution [that] would become effective immediately following a total British military and political withdrawal from Ireland.
These were the primary differences between the IRSP, Officials, and the Provisionals when Seamus Costello launched the party in December 1974.
After the onslaught by the Officials ended in mid 1975, the movement strove to structure and stabilise its organisation. By late 1975, the party was organised on an all-Ireland basis with approximately 800 members. It produced a quarterly internal bulletin, which promoted debate in matters of policy, strategy, and tactics within the party, and it also produced a monthly newspaper, "The Starry Plough".
Its main activity was to promote the concept of the broad front in support of the national liberation struggle while also campaigning on trade union issues, women's issues, unemployment etc.
On March the 12th 1977 it convened the first anti-imperialist conference at the Spa Hotel Lucan, though these talks at the conference broke down. We will examine the reasons later on.
FREE STATE ATTACK
April 1976 saw a concerted attack by the " FREE STATE " to smash the IRSP after a train robbery in Co Kildare, and over 40 members were arrested.
The so-called "HEAVY GANG" marked down 14 of these for in-depth interrogation. Nine were severely tortured and 6 were framed for the robbery. The IRSP offices were ransacked and files burnt and stolen.
The IRSP launched a campaign to highlight the torture, frame ups, denials of legal rights and also initiated civil proceedings against the state for damages. This resulted in civil liberty groups, trade unions in Ireland and abroad calling for an impartial public enquiry. It also resulted in bringing to Ireland for the first time “Amnesty International”, whose findings reported evidence of Garda brutality, the HEAVY GANG by this time being internationally notorious.
It also found that the trial of those framed failed to scrutinise such allegations according to the principles of law, and called for an impartial enquiry.
The government and state, highly embarrassed by the whole episode, white washed the whole involvement of the Garda; it sentenced two members to 12 years imprisonment while another fled abroad.
The campaign to free those convicted again attracted national and international dimensions and both were freed on appeal in 1980. The appeal court gives no reason for freeing them.
Nicky Kelly came back to clear his name and likewise was imprisoned for 12 years. After another campaign and a hunger strike and widespread protest he was released also.
In the six counties and also other parts of these islands the movement actively confronted imperialism, many members being killed or wounded, with many more imprisoned.
At every stage of the struggle the movement was involved, from participating in the Relatives Action Committee (RAC) in support of the restoration of political status for political prisoners in the six counties, to the formation of the National H-Block committee, and the formation of the Relatives for Justice campaign against the paid perjurer system.
Its members in jail, while escaping on two occasions in 1975 and 1976, also embarked on the blanket protest, and were involved in both major hunger strikes in 1980 and 1981 in which three of its members died.
All members of the movement who have been killed while confronting imperialism, who have been assassinated and who have died on hunger strike are all worthy equals, their loss equally regretted and mourned by us all.
All, not trying to draw a distinction between; it must be said that the assassination of Seamus Costello was a severe blow not only to the IRSP but also to the whole anti-imperialist struggle and the struggle for a socialist republic in Ireland.
The sheer stature of the revolutionary Seamus Costello is far too great for what can be expressed in feeble words, yet words are the only [means] to express and convey this stature albeit in a feeble way.
In finishing this section we quote the following:
"Seamus was the greatest follower of my father’s teachings in this generation and I hope that his example shall be followed and that his vision for Ireland will be realised in this generation" -- Nora Connolly O'Brien.
"Seamus was the most sincere man I ever had the pleasure to know" -- Father Piaras O Duill.
"Without a doubt he was the greatest threat to the capitalist establishment since James Connolly" -- Sean Doyle.
"Seamus spoke for the IRSP and gave a scintillating display of good humour, history, politics and hard facts. No one who listened to his three hours in the afternoon, and by unanimous demand, two hours repeat in the evening, now doubts that they will either have to shoot him or jail him or get out of his way, but they certainly won't stop him! Costello, the revolutionary, Marxist socialist whose ambition is a secular, pluralist united socialist republic won't go away until he gets it" -- Dr Noel Browne.
From 1964 - 1974 he held the positions of Adjutant General, Chief of staff and director of operations in the Official IRA and the positions of vice president of Official Sinn Fein.
From 1974 to his death on the 5th of October 1977 he held the position of Chief of staff and director of operations in INLA.
At the time of his assassination he was a member of the following bodies: Wicklow County Council, Co Wicklow Committee of Agriculture, General Council of Committees of Agriculture, Eastern Regional Development Committee, Bray Urban District Council, Bray branch of ITGWU, Bray and District Trade Union Council, of which he was president between 1976-1977, the Historical Society, and chairman of the IRSP.
As can be seen, he personified with himself what he ardently expounded and pursued throughout his life: the unity of the national liberation struggle and the class struggle and how they must go forward together.
Founder of the IRSP and the INLA Costello left no doubt, even when launching the broad front policy, where his allegiance, priority, and aims lay when he stated: "I OWE MY ALLEGIANCE ONLY TO THE WORKING CLASS" [ … ]. This is the example he set for us to emulate.
So far we have seen the roots from which the IRSP arose, i.e. the leftward direction taken by the republican movement in the 1960's.
We have seen the historical conditions and needs that give birth to it, i.e. on the one hand the concentration on the national question, and the abandonment of the national question on the other; and the need arising to force both the national struggle and the class struggle together.
We have seen the role it played, i.e. in promoting the broad front policy, confronting imperialism, participating in all stages of the struggle in jail as well as on the streets, and finally we have seen the outstanding role that Seamus Costello played.
We come to the final section, WHAT ROLE HAS IT STILL TO PLAY?
Firstly "WE MUST MAKE NO SECRET OF THE FACT THAT WE ARE A REVOLUTIONARY PARTY, PREPARED TO GIVE LEADERSHIP ON THE STREETS AS WELL AS IN THE ELECTED CHAMBERS, AND THAT WE ARE OUT FOR A REVOLUTIONARY STATE ".
What we must do is examine the above statement by Seamus Costello and draw all the necessary implications from it. A revolutionary party must have a revolutionary ideology, an ideology that enables us to analyse the world, the motive force at work in the world, and plan a campaign based on the analysis.
A campaign that is consistent, principled, and bold in its implementation, maxims as a guide to action an ideology; it represents the historical interests of the working class, which through the medium of a revolutionary party, aims to overthrow the capitalist order and begin the construction of communism.
"We must make no secret of the fact that we are such a party, make no secret of what we stand for and aim for. We cannot try to fool the Irish people and we must recognise that it is fatal to confuse and deceive them.
We must define our socialist republic, explain exactly what it entails; innuendoes, vagueness and good intentions are not enough: The road to hell is paved with good intentions! We must define all this with the utmost clarity so that the Irish people are under no illusion of what we are fighting for.
A revolutionary socialist party means that we must engage in revolutionary politics throughout all of Ireland, both on the streets and in the elected chambers.
It means that we must first identify the major contradictions in Ireland today, which is the continued occupation by the British of the six counties, and the resulting denial of our right to self-determination and sovereignty. The resolution of the national question, partition and all the evils and divisions that spring from it, entails a struggle against imperialism, it entails the mobilisation of the mass of Irish people in the struggle for national liberation, but it doesn't mean confining ourselves solely to the national question.
As we said before, there are many strands to the anti-imperialist struggle; it means involvement in campaigns against unemployment, emigration, repression, involvement in trade unions, action groups and EVERYTHING!
We must agitate, propagandise and organise around these issues (but not [in] a reformist manner). There is no easy road to a socialist republic, no short cuts; we must strive towards uniting and politicising the working class no matter what obstacles confront us in our task, for we cannot win our struggle without the working class.
We cannot make the revolution without them, without their active participation in a united and politically conscious manner. We need to be able to bring to the fore their expression, their deeply felt aspirations and social needs. To bring to the fore their underlying anti-imperialist sentiment, showing up the class nature of the Irish state, establishment parties, etc, in acting to repress, jail and crush their people in order to protect British rule in Ireland.
We must be able to inject into the struggle, or rather, call forth from the people the values and ideals of solidarity, self-sacrifice, non-sectarianism, unity and internationalism etc, values that transcend our own individual existence, that lead to greater awareness, greater participation, and greater aliveness in oneself. We must be somehow able to grip the mass of people if we are to change the world.
But, let's get matters exactly right: we cannot get this across to the working class unless we are now living and acting upon those values and ideals. The working class 'know' who are phoneys, hypocrites, self-seekers, self-promoters, careerists etc. None of these have a place in any revolutionary party.
We must show by our actions that we are true to these values, it doesn't matter in the least if the people or organisation etc of whatever persuasion don't, or cannot, reciprocate the same behaviour and attitudes - so be it! We must maintain our position regardless.
We must be vigilant that we don't sink into the morass of sectarianism, mixing, pettiness etc. We must not get involved in unprincipled slanging matches etc, into positions that are sectarian, anti-revolutionary, morally damaging, that give succour to the enemy and that confuse and divide the working class.
We must maintain our criticism of any organisation on principled grounds, and likewise must have the courage of our convictions not to bow to public opinion, with all its prejudices, carefully manufactured and promoted by those prisoners of peoples’ minds -- the press, priests, apologists etc.
We must also present our vision of what a revolutionary socialist state means. When we say in our programme that we want to establish a 32 county socialist state with the working class in control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, we must be able to decipher it for the working class to understand what it means.
They must be able to relate directly to it. We must be able to get it across that a new independent Ireland is only possible through a revolutionary change in the ownership of the wealth and resources, that it must be rebuilt on a totally new basis: that it means expropriating the capitalists, allied to imperialism of their control and ownership of the means of production, etc, of organising our economy to produce not for the profit of the capitalist class but for the needs of the Irish people, of promoting values by which we can build a new life on a truly human basis.
We need to explain everything else that springs from this, in simple language and not in academic jargonized phrases, about planning democracy, the all round development of every individual etc.
There also exists at this stage of the struggle, the need to ask the questions. What forces can bring the national question to a successful conclusion? Only the working class can do so. The leading capitalist parties in the 6 and 26 counties have no interest in solving the national question, but rather in crushing those trying to resolve it.
Both maintain their rule through partition and in turn permit imperialism to dominate all aspects of our life. Connolly maintained that only the working class could bring about a victorious conclusion to an age-old struggle for national independence and sovereignty, for besides predicting that the capitalist in Ireland would always compromise with imperialism, he also expanded on the concept that the working class were the "ONLY" class who possessed an "IDEAL" involving the complete overthrow and reversal of the political, economic, and social consequences of the conquest of Ireland thereby meaning the overthrow of the capitalist system, the ideal which the working class alone possesses being the ideal of a communist way of life.
To quote Seamus again: "British policy must be viewed in the light of their attitude towards Ireland as a whole, not just the 6 counties; what Britain wants is to maintain her influence over the whole island. Her military and political intervention in the North is simply a means of maintaining this influence and control.
" Britain knows that if she is compelled to withdraw from the North, she loses all control over the economy, the wealth and resources of this country. She knows that there is a good chance of the creation of a socialist state.
" Britain and the EEC countries also would be conscious of the effect of a socialist state in Ireland on the western European working class. A socialist revolution in Ireland would be an inspiration to people all over Western Europe. The EEC countries have a vested interest as well as Britain, in ensuring that there is no change in the status quo in Ireland ".
And again: "It is still Britain 's objective to find and impose a political solution which will guarantee the continued protection of Britain 's economic and strategic interest in both parts of Ireland.
" Britain also acts as local protector of other imperial interests in Ireland, i.e. the EEC countries, the USA and Canada. All of which have a vested interest in supporting a British imposed solution in Ireland.
"Finally of course Britain 's strategic interests must also be protected through the imposition of a 'solution', which will also ensure that Ireland continues its present policy of pro-imperialist 'Neutrality'".
Both these quotes where written in 1975 and 1976 respectively, when we see the basic unity of the imperialist powers with their capitalist allies in Ireland. When we view, in the light of the Anglo Irish agreement (Deal) and the enthusiastic support which these imperialist countries give to it, when we see how just today 15th August 1986 [ …] The chief of staff of the Irish Army publicly condemning the whole struggle, it doesn't take much foresight to know that a concerted attack on the whole struggle is on the cards, thus again we must repeat the question "What forces can bring the national question to a successful conclusion?"
This leads us to the Broad Front Policy.
At the moment we have a pro-imperialist unity of forces. The basis of the broad front policy is to maximise the support for the anti-imperialist struggle, its aim is to constantly strengthen and enlarge the ranks of the people, of those all opposed to imperialist rule, [whilst] constantly weakening, dividing and isolating the ranks of the imperialists and their allies in Ireland.
The working class, being the only class which will not sell out and compromise with imperialists, must therefore play the leading role in the struggle. The petty bourgeoisie, the small farmers and whatever other groups are potentially hostile to imperialism cannot play the leading role in the struggle. We must try and unite them under the one banner of the broad front.
When outlining earlier in the programme of the front for a constitutional conference etc we don't see this as the so-called "stages" process in which, for example, once we have got rid of the British we will go through a period of capitalist rule, democratisation etc. If we see the working class as the only class capable of resolving the national question; if we see the working class as playing the leading role in a broad front, through the medium of a revolutionary party, and if we see the broad front encompassing the mass of the Irish people, then the scenario [is] of the question of power being the order of the day, for the working class to seize power.
The whole question of a constitutional conference will be to debate the question of power. Anyhow, this will depend on the correlation of forces. Within and outside the country it will open up a period of intense struggle between two fundamental camps:
Ireland continuing as a dependent capitalist country controlled and dominated by imperialism; [or] of firmly establishing our sovereignty and building a revolutionary socialist state.
There is no middle ground between the two; there cannot be any middle road. The battle may be delayed or postponed but it must be fought eventually! We must be under no illusions about the utmost clarity if we are to confront it and be successful.
In Connolly's words "WE CANNOT CONCEIVE OF A FREE IRELAND WITH A SUBJECT WORKING CLASS, WE CANNOT CONCEIVE OF A SUBJECT IRELAND WITH A FREE WORKING CLASS.
We come once more to the role of the revolutionary party, which is absolutely essential if we are to be successful. Without that clear guide role, without a revolutionary ideology, without an analysis of the forces arranged against us, without the application of the correct tactics and strategy the struggle will then fail.
It will be side tracked into compromise if not defeated by failing to appraise the overall situation correctly and becoming isolated from the mass of the people. We must build a revolutionary party.
All of the above is what must be done. It is the basis of what we still fight for. For the role we must still have to play. This is what a revolutionary party must be, what it must engage in, what it must do to help make the revolution.
The tasks that confront us will not be easy. It entails a long struggle, set backs, disappointments and at times maybe probable death! We should again be under no illusions what lie ahead.
It is only by strengthening ourselves ideologically, inculcating in ourselves the values and ideals of the struggle and building up the ranks of the revolutionary party that we will make it.
Finally we must constantly review, criticise and self criticise all aspects of our actions, policies, tactics etc., keep appraising the whole situation, and keep striving to raise the class consciousness, spirit, and capacity to fight and win, of the working class.
Marxism tells us that before we can properly solve a problem, before we can work out a plan of action, etc., that we must first analyse the given process, i.e., that we must identify the basic contradiction which is inherent in it and which gives rise to its development, and from which everything else springs.
It is this basic contradiction which determines the whole process, other, secondary contradictions, arise out of this - these in turn give expression to particular trends, characteristics, interests, etc., but everything is ultimately determined and conditioned by the basic contradictions.
These secondary contradictions can be tackled, reformed, changed, but again they will effect no fundamental change in the given process. The only way fundamental change can be achieved is by changing the basic contradiction, which immediately sets in motion a change in all the secondary contradictions, which are dependent upon it.
We'll take for one example the premise whereby A and B have entered into a dialectical relationship. A is by its nature: democratic, open structures, working openly, has its own priorities, tasks etc. B is by its nature: undemocratic, closed structures, working secretly, has its own priorities, tasks, etc.
In their unity, the question obviously arises of who directs whom? Of who predominates over whom? Different results flow from whether A or B is the predominate aspect of the relationship. This is the starting point from which we now briefly analyse this process.
E.G., the predominance of B over A. Firstly: a definite strategy arises from this - i.e., the need to confront imperialism - but with the added proviso that everything else is subordinated to this end. Therefore secondly: definite needs arise from this, i.e., to make the fullest use of the human and material resources at their disposal.
When it's asked: what are the imperialists and their Irish allies’ policy and how do we aim to thwart this? - We get the same old answer, i.e., that it's necessary to confront them, that the struggle goes on, etc. - we get no analysis, we get no strategy outside this basic confrontation - it eventually becomes an end in itself due simply to the fact that they don't know of any other strategy, other trends manifest themselves due to this, e.g., psychological traits: there arises the condition of elitism, superiority, etc., that those in A are wankers, bluffers, etc., who always harp on about meaningless things.
Therefore there arises a definite trend of spurning A-type work as being beneath their style, standing, etc.; there arises contempt for those involved in A-type work, etc.
Another trend arises of prestige building, of wanting to be seen and known as being the lad, etc. - that in turn begins to consolidate his position, to build a power base, etc. - these being manifested in 1979-81 and from 1982-87.
A lowering of standards eventually comes into being - where criminal type elements, unsavoury characters, inept individuals are allowed entrance and rise to prominence - the result is constant crises, factionalism, instability, discredit.
It must be asked: why the fatal failure? What you sow, you reap! What you plant, you harvest! If you predominantly plant seeds of B, you harvest a Militarist crop.
If you sow a few seeds of A amongst this - then due to their inferior position, they'll lose out in the struggle for life, for space to grow, breathe, develop and reproduce. Every single attempt to change this in the past has failed, yet highly intelligent individuals were involved during this period. Why did they fail?
Simply because they failed to confront the basic contradiction - which as we've pointed out above is that between A and B they would tackle only the secondary contradictions, e.g., by changing individuals, by launching a political initiative here and there, making some resources a bit more available, etc.
All these did was to give a brief further lease of life before the basic contradiction reasserted itself. It is like revolution. The basic contradiction in society is between the relations of production, i.e., socialised production by the working class and private appropriation by the capitalist class.
Everything springs from this, for e.g. poverty, unemployment, alienation, etc. To try and change poverty by more welfare benefits, unemployment by more state investment, etc., will likewise, as above, give a brief lease of life to ease this crisis - but these are only changes in the secondary contradiction - NO fundamental change is achieved as the basic contradiction has not been tackled.
It is impossible to bring about "fundamental change" unless the basic contradiction is tackled. Unemployment, poverty, etc., will immediately be changed once this is tackled and changed.
Therefore we have to ask now: why, if we're Marxists, do we neglect this? This is fundamental of Marxism! Why do we fail to act accordingly? Marx, Lenin, etc. confronted all fundamentals in a courageous, merciless, ruthless manner. Why do we fail to do so? Is it inherent in us? Are we up to this task? Do we lack the courage and maturity to do this? Are we amateurs and not professionals? We know the lessons of history, we know the mistakes, and we either act accordingly or collapse. Salvation lies in clarity and the courage to implement change!
We come now to our now starting point, which is the predominance of A over B. Again, a definite strategy arises from this, plus the need to make the fullest use of the human and material resources at our disposal. The need to confront imperialism is again reasserted, but this time subordinated to the need to build A - to build structures which for once will ensure stability, to inculcate in everyone a revolutionary ideology, etc. Recognising past errors, etc., we must consciously strive to avoid factionalism, power bases, etc.
Out of the predominance of A over B - definite psychological traits will emerge: of discipline, unity, work, theoretical strength, comradeship, solidarity, confidence - these entail the sharing of experience, the raising of political consciousness, the formation of political agitators, organisers, propagandists, until a solid base is created with continuity at all levels.
It is absolutely obvious that this cannot be done on the odds basis, with all the old traits, problems, etc. - it entails completely subordinating B to A - of salvaging the most promising elements in B, etc. This is what changing the basic contradiction means; everything flows from this. It ensures that in the future that all will have gone through the training school of building A; they will all have this background; with revolutionary politics uppermost; with allegiance to A; with being familiar with all the trends in A; with all its problems, policies - and never divorced from these.
A common bond must be forged around these - a bond, which will create the qualities of awareness, capability, resilience, consistency, etc., in everyone.
If we recognise that the starting point of anything is the most important thing - for this is what we sow, what we plant - this point of departure is the ground from which we must launch ourselves.
Those who would cling to the past, to the outworn, put forth the line that we will change, but that it doesn't have to be so drastic, etc. This is sheer pretence! They are usually agreed upon what must be done - yet not doing it! That it can be done in stages - yet not following the logic of going to the heart of it and acting resolutely! They end up maintaining, supporting that which is the very problem.
Their so-called good intentions are not enough - the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The burning question - the priority for us - is to build a revolutionary party. As Lenin said about the Social Revolu