The Invisible Occupation

 

The invisible occupation

When Republicans speak today of the occupation in Ireland it is invariably referring to the ongoing British occupation of the six counties. However in the 26 counties there exists another occupation, one which holds an all pervasive influence over society, which directs government and which is dictating events as directly as the British do in the North. This is not an occupation as we traditionally imagine it. There are no armoured cars full of aggressive soldiers to announce its presence. It didn’t emerge following an invasion or conflict. It tries to hide its influence rather than announcing it.

The powers behind this force control every facet of life in the 26 counties. They dictate what type of school your children will be able to attend, the hospital ward you will find yourself treated in, the type of employment you will or wont be able to find. It is a force which destroys communities and changes the face of every society in which it finds itself.

The force I’m referring to is the influence of international capital. In the 26 counties this has adopted the form of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. These two entities between them now control the society of the 26 counties. They do so in a quiet manner. They did not send shock troops to capture government buildings or drive tanks down O’ Connell street. Their foot soldiers come with briefcases in bespoke suits and smile for the cameras.

Since the so called “bailout” the Free State government has been a puppet regime. An economic Vichy state, its policies dictated by others. They are now in debt to organisations which have an established ideological agenda. The ultimate end goal is to destroy any existing government influence in the economy and to pursue total privatisation. This is the legacy of Thatcher and Reagan. Conceived from the Chicago school of economics, the brainchild of Milton Freidman. It is a radical departure from the concept of the relationship between the citizen and state which has been accepted in Western Europe following World War Two.

Under the guise of bringing individual liberty the Neo Liberal program slashes taxes for the wealthy, tears apart social protection and encourages the selling off of state assets. We can already see the initial stages of its program at work in the 26 counties. Those unfortunate enough to find themselves unemployed and there are over 500,000 of us now are being blamed for our situation. We are labelled “spongers” by the Labour party, the party of Connolly we’re told! The forces of occupation are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. State companies will be sold off to the highest bidder, employees made redundant. Programs to assist the most vulnerable will be finished. Universities will return to being the preserve of the wealthy. Our hospitals will become business opportunities rather than places to help those in need.

Republicans have always paid attention to the social aspect of the liberation struggle, albeit with varying degrees of interest. What is needed now is a complete rethink of the relationship between the economic and political struggle. For in truth the presence of the IMF proves that a state can be controlled with four men with economic degrees and briefcases as easily as it can with 30,000 troops. We must re-address our own perspectives on what sort of Ireland we see emerging post liberation, but also how we envisage any liberation of Ireland occurring.

James Connolly understood that driving the British out of Ireland was merely a step in a longer process for if the British left they would still dictate affairs economically. Handing over power to a Fine Gael administration in a United Ireland is not merely objectionable it is impossible. The Free State is run by more powerful interests than the British government. These forces of International finance will not tolerate any sort of shake up in affairs in Ireland. They are not going to sit idly by and allow revolutionary activity to upset the social order. To this end the media, the police and all the other available apparatus of the state will be deployed to demonise and ostracize all who promote this agenda.

Republicans must now engage in a process of debate and dialogue with other progressive elements. We must formulate a strategy which allows us to participate in and encourage a program of social struggle across the 32 counties. A strategy based solely on conflict with the state institutions and forces in the six counties is a ideological dead end. It will not further practical efforts to move towards our goals. In short it is time for Republicans to decide whether they want to be struggling for a socialist Republic or whether they are simply content to exist as glorified commemoration societies, safe and content in being right and going nowhere.

It is never easy to move outside a comfort zone but it is increasingly necessary for us to do so. The promotion of radical politics does not equate to an abandonment of the armed campaign. The IRA is an absolutely vital component of any campaign of liberation. For those who deride the militant groups they must ask themselves how they foresee the overthrowing of state institutions. For too long the left has been complacent about how exactly they do intend to uproot capitalist control in Ireland. Let Republicans take the first move and lay out a political program of truly revolutionary appeal. We do not need a national liberation front which is giving thought to the social question, we need a social liberation movement which defends our national and economic sovereignty. Republicans must form a key part of any such movement.

Until this occurs then Republicanism will be politically redundant. Tired slogans will not mask the serious question which have to be asked about our political direction. If we stand for the defence of national sovereignty how can we ignore the reality that the IMF is as real a threat to our sovereignty as the British government. It cannot be a minor side issue it must be addressed in direct a fashion as are the forces of the British government.

In 1916 James Connolly stood beside men with whom he had a profound political difference. He was wary of the nationalists, he felt that unlike his ICA volunteers there were many amongst the ranks of the volunteers who were content to tear down a flag rather than a social order. He was proved right and the reactionary Free State stands as a legacy to bourgeoisie nationalist aspirations. In the six counties the Provisionals strut in Armani having ditched armalites. We do not need to debate what happens when base nationalist instinct dictates a struggle. Frantz Fanon knew when he wrote The Wretched of the earth and forewarned of a middle class which would hijack the liberation struggle.

We can look at the ANC in South Africa, PLO in Palestine and Sinn Fein in our own communities. Lets stop the cycle and make Republicanism a force for revolution not reform.

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