The People United, The Commentariat Flummoxed: Crush The Zombies.
In Belfast, the streets around City Hall were brought to a standstill as thousands of people gathered for a rally organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). There were rallies and vigils in Derry, Lisburn, Newry, Downpatrick, Craigavon, and several other places around the Six Counties and the Republic.
The outpouring of grief and solidarity was sparked by a number of savage outrages carried out by nihilistic fanatics in the name of Irish republicanism. The murders have also generated the usual kinds of punditry and windbaggery in matters related to Ireland, and the commentary routinely elides the necessary distinctions between armed struggle, the violence of the dispossessed, and raw terror. It's typical of the incoherence in Canada in the matter of Afghanistan and its troubles - an incoherence which is also a defining feature of confused, leftish polemics on the question of Palestinian freedom and Israel.
I'm pleased to see that in Spiked Online, Brendan O'Neill (and yes, I am well aware of his associations with 'Living Marxism' and its Revolutionary Communist Party roots) makes these necessary distinctions, in a most useful way. If you feel you must reach for analogies, please leave off this business about the recent murders being an outgrowth of traditional "physical force" republicanism, O'Neill advises.
It is especially necessary to face, as O'Neill does, that for good or ill, nationalist support for the armed campaign waged by the Irish Republican Army between 1969 and 1994 was grounded in the demand for British withdrawal from Ulster, and for Irish self-determination. It arose from outrageous discrimination and structural unemployment, from ghettos that were routinely subjected to pogroms, and where the people saw little choice but to take up arms as part of a political struggle for civil rights. The struggle was set in the context of internment without trial, the Bloody Sunday massacre, and an occupation force of 30,000 British soldiers. "Today there is no political struggle, no national movement, just splinter groups that shoot soldiers and pizza delivery boys," O'Neill writes. "It is purposeless terrorism."
In this way, the preposterous volume of analogy-making between the IRA and Hamas (and between Ulster and Palestine) that was generated by the recent bloodshed in Gaza can be seen very clearly for the malarky that it really was. For a while there, you couldn't pick up a newspaper without finding some pseud wringing his hands about Israel's intransigence in accommodating Hamas, along the lines of, 'just look at Northern Ireland, we negotiated with the terrorists there, and everything's just lovely now,' and then proceeding to counsel tea with the Taliban and Hezbollah too.
But as Henry McDonald observes in his excellent Z-Word essay, The Limits of the Northern Ireland Analogy: "On the surface this thesis appears seductive: if the most sophisticated terrorist organisation in the western world can be brought in from the cold then surely the same can be done with the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. However, the formula is in fact entirely bogus and anti-historical."
Aye and aye, and on a related subject, Afghan Envoy Assails Western Allies As Half-Hearted, Defeatist.
No Surrender. The People Will Win.