Reply to Luis Oviedo - Part Five - For a class policy

How to solve the Malvinas question – and how not to solve it. Alan Woods concludes his analysis on the Malvinas posing the question from a class point of view. And in response to the scandalous accusation that we are somehow apologists for British imperialism, he also explains the position of the British Marxists on Ireland, explaining that we were the only ones who opposed the sending in of the troops back in 1969, and have always maintained a consistent class position throughout. This is the last part.

The danger of war

Marxists must not play with war. War is a very serious question and can have very serious consequences. We must therefore be careful never to allow ourselves to get entangled with the kind of military adventures that the bourgeoisie – not only in the advanced imperialist nations but also in the so-called Third World – often uses to confuse and disorient the proletariat and derail the revolution.

The war danger in Latin America is more real than most people imagine. US imperialism is watching events south of the Rio Grande with growing alarm. Washington does not want to get involved militarily in Latin America. They have their hands full in Iraq. On the other hand, Latin America is a vital area for them. In particular, they are worried about developments in Venezuela and Bolivia. If things get "out of hand" in those countries, it is quite possible that Washington will attempt to incite foreign military intervention from neighbouring states. Already there have been menacing noises from Colombia, whose government is in the pocket of Washington, against Venezuela.

Even more dangerous is the position in Bolivia. It is true that Bolivia was robbed of her coastline by Chile. But the noisy campaign being waged by certain political circles in Bolivia can serve as a pretext for armed intervention against the Bolivian revolution. To the question: does Bolivia have a right to an exit to the sea? We answer yes, it has such a right. But we must add a warning: under the present circumstances, a war would be disastrous for Bolivia and the cause of the working class in all Latin America.

To present Galtieri's military adventure as a war of national liberation in any form is just a joke. Who were they supposed to be liberating? The islanders? Of course not, they regarded the invasion as an act of oppression. Maybe it was for the liberation of the people of Argentina? On the contrary, if Galtieri had succeeded, the Junta would have been able to consolidate its hold on power, at least for a temporary period. The day after the victory parades the old repression would have returned, along with Astiz and other military "heroes", receiving from a grateful fatherland the medals for bravery in the face of the enemy.

This reactionary war was not in the interests of the working class either in Argentina or in Britain. This was pointed out by Ted Grant in 1982:

"Neither Argentinean nor British workers had anything to gain from this conflict. A victory for either side would mean the strengthening of their own ruling class, and all the while the Falkland Islanders were mere pawns in the imperialist game. Thatcher's foreign policy, like that at home, was that of the interests of British capitalism. This was not a war as they claimed of democracy versus "fascism", but a war to defend the power and prestige of British imperialism". (The Falklands Crisis - A Socialist Answer, by Ted Grant, May 1982, my emphasis, AW)

The British military victory was no victory for the British working class, who paid a high price for it. The victory of Argentina would have certainly liberated the people of Britain from the rule of Thatcher. She would have been immediately ejected, and we would have been spared two decades of Conservative rule, the crushing of the miners and the printers, the anti-trade union laws and so on. That did not happen, and the results of the Malvinas victory were very negative for the British working class.

But for the Argentine working class the military defeat meant the collapse of the Junta and the opening chapter of a movement in the direction of revolution that has still not been closed. The defeat of the invasion was the start of the Argentine revolution.

The way one poses a question will frequently determine the answer. Frankly, the question is being posed in a demagogic way. Let us now pose it correctly. Is it the duty of Marxists to support weak colonial and semi-colonial nations against attempts of big imperialist powers to crush, invade and enslave them? Of course it is, without the slightest doubt. Is it the duty of Marxists to support each and every military adventure launched by unstable military dictatorships for reactionary purposes? Most emphatically, it is not. It is necessary to distinguish carefully between the two things, or else we will fall into a trap.

From one mistake to another

The Junta prepared a trap for the Argentine Left, which many people fell straight into. Twenty two years later it is time to learn the lessons. He who does not learn from history will be doomed to repeat it. The same people who capitulated to the bourgeoisie before can do so again at a critical moment – and with the same excuses.

Many on the Left in Argentina allowed themselves to be carried away by a wave of temporary patriotic intoxication. They lost their bearings and were blown off course. That should be frankly and honestly admitted. But it appears that the leaders of the PO are not capable of admitting a mistake and profiting from it. As a result they go from one mistake to the next.

In Afghanistan they advocated a "military united front with the Taliban" – whatever that might mean. A united front is a front for action. If a military united front means anything at all, it must mean an actual fighting agreement. How many members of the PO went out to fight in Afghanistan? We do not know. How many rifles, bullets and bombs were sent to Kabul? On this subject also we have no information. But without this, the "military united front" is reduced to a mere phrase with no real content. This kind of terminological radicalism does not get us very far! Without the military element (which has clearly been tacked on for dramatic effect) we are left with a political "united front" with the Taliban – that is, with the forces of reaction in Afghanistan: the forces that have killed Communists and are implacably opposed to everything progressive.

We opposed the invasion of Afghanistan and exposed the imperialists with every means at our disposal. But we never gave any credence to the monstrous Taliban. The PO can afford the luxury of such demagogy because it does not have any forces working in this area. If they did, they would perhaps proceed with more caution. It is well that the PO gives its support to the Taliban from a safe distance, because if they were within shooting distance, they would soon be dead. The whole point is that the Taliban was incapable of waging a serious war against the US imperialists, just as the Junta was incapable of fighting the British imperialists.

A wrong position on the national question inevitably leads to the abandonment of a class position and capitulation to reaction. An extreme case of this is the British SWP, which, under the pretence of "fighting imperialism" has capitulated to the Islamic fundamentalists that is, to the forces of black reaction in the Middle East. This is in direct contradiction to the position of Lenin and Trotsky in relation to the tasks of the revolutionaries in the East.

Even where the revolutionaries support the struggle of weak and oppressed countries against the attempts of the imperialists to invade, occupy and enslave them, it is necessary to maintain an implacable ideological struggle against reactionary tendencies. This is made clear in the theses of the Second Congress Of The Communist International, 5 June 1920. In the Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions, written by Lenin, we read the following: "second, the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries;

third, the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc."

The national liberation struggle in Afghanistan will succeed to the degree that the revolutionary left wing defeats the Taliban and wins the leadership of that struggle. What is required is a consistent struggle against the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan, combined with support to those elements inside Afghanistan who are fighting for democracy and a workers' and peasants' government. They will receive the support of the Pakistan Marxists, who have always combined the struggle against imperialism with an implacable fight against Islamic fundamentalism, which, after imperialism (with which it has frequently been allied), constitutes the principal force of counterrevolution in the region.

How to solve the Malvinas question – and how not to solve it

Those groups in Argentina that inclined towards a social-patriotic stand on the war try to ridicule the position taken by the British Marxists on the war. Naturally! The opportunists always try to ridicule those who remain firm on a class position. They always try to show that it is "unrealistic" and "utopian", or even a kind of "socialist colonialism". But the fact is that the kind of "practical" policy adopted by them – namely, uncritical acceptance of the reactionary military adventure of the Junta, did not solve the Malvinas question, and could never solve it. Twenty two years later the islands remain firmly under the control of British imperialism. This problem can never be solved by the bourgeoisie, despite all the patriotic demagogy and hot air.

Another solution is necessary. It was explained by the Communist International, which, at its Second Congress in 1920, stated: "Under present-day international conditions there is no salvation for dependent and weak nations except in a union of Soviet republics." (Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions) That is the essence of the matter.

The way to solve the Malvinas problem is not through wars (the only method known to the bourgeoisie) but through the socialist revolution and the creation of a Latin American Socialist Federation. The workers of different countries have no interests in stealing land or resources from anyone. In the context of a Federation, all such problems can be discussed and resolved in an amicable way. On the basis of capitalism, however, no solution is possible, and new wars and conflicts inevitable.

The Left in Argentina and other Latin American countries will never succeed until it rids itself of nationalist prejudices and stands firmly on the basis of internationalism. Patriotism is extremely dangerous for the working class because it blurs the class lines and creates confusion that can only benefit the bourgeoisie. It fosters the illusion that the "Nation" stands above all classes, whereas in fact there is no such thing as the Nation – only rich and poor, exploiters and exploited.

The day when nationalism could play a progressive role in Latin America is long past, because the progressive period of the bourgeois democratic revolution is long past. The Argentine bourgeoisie – and all the other bourgeoisies of Latin America – have had almost two centuries to show what they can do. They have been weighed in the balance of history and found wanting. On a capitalist basis there is no future for the peoples of Latin America. Only the working class can lead Latin America out of the morass of poverty, hunger and humiliation into which the bourgeoisie has led it.

The only revolution possible in Latin America is the socialist revolution. Our programme, policies and slogans must reflect this indisputable fact. Above all, the Latin American revolution must stand firmly for internationalism. The proletariat must inscribe on its red flag the slogan of the Socialist Federation of Latin America as the only way out of the present mess.

As a matter of fact, even a Latin American Socialist Federation would not be enough to ensure the final victory of socialism. What is needed is a socialist World Federation. However, the unification of the economies of all Latin America would release a powerful potential. The colossal wealth of the continent could be exploited for the first time in a planned and harmonious manner on the basis of a common socialist plan of production, democratically run by the workers themselves.

Addendum:

Marxism and the Irish Question

[Without waiting for our reply, in the latest issue of Prensa Obrera, Luis Oviedo returns to the attack, this time with a furious diatribe on Ireland. So as not to disappoint him, we add a small footnote on this subject. Those who wish to know more about our position on Ireland can read my book The Revolutionary Dialectic of Irish Republicanism, which is available on www.marxist.com.]

"In North Ireland (the principal colonial position still remaining to the withered empire of Her Gracious Majesty)," writes Luis Oviedo, "they do not demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of British troops. For decades, he has qualified the IRA in the same terms as the British imperialist press, as "terrorists," "criminals," on the same plane as the fascist bands of the pro-British "unionists." Socialist Appeal has distinguished itself, among the currents of the English left, for not participating (actually, for repudiating) the demonstrations and mobilizations held in London in defence of the national struggle of Ireland."

The crimes of British imperialism have caused immense suffering, wars and bloodshed everywhere: in Ireland, India, Cyprus, and Palestine. Their policy was that of "divide and rule", setting one religious or national communities against another in order to dominate both. The partition of Ireland was a terrible crime of British imperialism, as was the even more bloody partition of India. The British Marxists have always been in favour of a united Ireland, but, following in the footsteps of James Connolly, we have also understood that this goal can only be achieved as part of the struggle for a socialist Ireland and a socialist Britain. It can only be achieved by class and revolutionary methods.

The sects internationally constantly harp on about our position on Ireland. If this were not so serious it would be comical. We have nothing to apologise for in relation to our position on Ireland, any more than we have anything to apologise for in relation to the Malvinas question. On the other hand, all the groups who have for years tail-ended the Provisional IRA now have a lot of explaining to do, since the people they so enthusiastically supported have openly betrayed the cause of Irish unification.

Maybe this is why in recent years these ladies and gentlemen have had very little to say about Ireland. The signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent ceasefire of the IRA after 30 years of so-called "armed struggle" has placed them all in an embarrassing position. All this time they had been acting as a fan club for the Provisional IRA, whose actions they uncritically and enthusiastically applauded. Now they have fallen silent.

The Good Friday Agreement – which we, together with the Irish Republican socialists, rejected – was an attempt on the part of the Provisionals to reach a deal with British imperialism that excluded Irish unification. The "friends of the Provisional IRA" have nothing to say about this. They cannot bring themselves to admit what is now clear even to a blind man – that after 30 years, the strategy, methods and tactics of non-socialist Republicanism have ended in complete disaster. The leaders of Sinn Fein who yesterday talked about reuniting Ireland with the bomb and the gun have now exchanged the armed struggle for a minister's portfolio.

This question is being studiously avoided by all the organisations who imagine that they have been supporting a national liberation struggle in Ireland. In reality they have been supporting no such thing. They have been supporting a disastrous policy and tactics that, so far from helping the cause of Irish unification, has undermined it totally. Though the leaders of Sinn Fein try to publicly deny it, the unification of Ireland is off the agenda, and will remain off the agenda for a long time.

This should not surprise us. We predicted it a long time ago. The defeat of the so-called "armed struggle" of the Provisional IRA – which was neither more nor less than individual terrorism – was inevitable from the start. In order to succeed, a guerrilla struggle has to have the support of the masses. But in Northern Ireland the masses are divided into two communities – Protestants and Catholics (Nationalists and Loyalists). The Catholics are in a minority. The Protestants are traditionally hostile to unification, and resist it. The Provisionals thought they could force the Protestants into a united Ireland by bombing and shooting. That was a serious mistake.

The only result of 30 years of individual terrorism, apart from the deaths of thousands of young fighters, has been to split the working class of the Six Counties right down the middle, intensifying the madness of religious sectarianism and the mutual hatreds and mistrust to an unprecedented level. How many people in Argentina know that there is a wall in Belfast that physically divides the Protestant and Catholic people? The recent elections have underlined the extreme sectarian polarisation that now exists. On this basis, no progress towards unification is possible. The perspective of a united Ireland is further away now than any other time in history. The methods of the Provisional IRA have therefore had diametrically opposite results to those intended.

What does this prove? It proves what Leon Trotsky explained long ago: that in the modern epoch, the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution can only be solved by the working class, through the socialist revolution. Just as the Argentine bourgeoisie is incapable of solving the problem of the Malvinas, so the rotten Irish bourgeoisie cannot solve the border issue. Nor can the nationalist petty bourgeoisie solve it. The experience of the past three decades is conclusive proof of that. Only the proletariat can solve this, and will solve it in passing, when it takes power into its hands in a Workers' Republic. There is absolutely no possibility of solving it on a capitalist basis. James Connolly, the great Irish Marxist, pointed this out long ago, and he was right.

The British Marxists and Ireland

For the solution of what remains of the national question in Ireland (the border question), the prior condition is to unite the working class in struggle, and this can only be achieved by a return to the revolutionary traditions and programme of Larkin and Connolly - the programme of the WORKERS' REPUBLIC. So long as capitalism dominates Ireland there will be sectarian division and strife, which will undermine and destroy the movement for Irish unification. We have always maintained a firm revolutionary class position. By contrast, most of the other groups on the Left have vacillated between opportunism and ultraleftism: from supporting the sending of British troops to Northern Ireland in 1969 to capitulating to the disastrous policies and tactics of the Provisional IRA.

Luis Oviedo shows his complete ignorance when he says that we do not support the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland. As a matter of fact, Socialist Appeal (or rather, Militant, as we were then known) "has distinguished itself, among the currents of the English left" by being the only ones who opposed the sending of British troops to Northern Ireland.

In 1969 most of the British Left – including all those who later supported the "Troops Out" Movement – were completely in favour of sending in the British army. That was true of the Labour Left, the Communist Party and the SWP, and also the leaders of the civil rights movement in the North. They argued that the army was being sent to defend the Catholics. An honourable exception was our tendency - the Marxist tendency in the British Labour Party, at that time grouped around the Militant, and today represented by Socialist Appeal, which came down firmly against the sending of British troops to the North. We wrote at the time: "The call made for the entry of British troops will turn to vinegar in the mouths of some of the civil rights leaders. The troops have been sent in to impose a solution in the interests of British and Ulster big business." (Militant, September 1969.)

At the Labour Party conference in the autumn of 1969 our comrades moved Emergency Resolution No. 2, which states:

"This Conference declares its opposition to the sectarian attacks on the Derry and Belfast workers which took place in August of this year.

"It condemns this action on the part of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, sections of the B Specials and Paisleyite thugs.

"It affirms its support for those sections of the Irish Labour Movement, particularly the Derry Labour Party, which have attempted to unite both Protestant and Catholic workers against the common enemy, the capitalist class, whether they be Orange or Green, and calls upon the trade unions of Ireland to contain the sectarian terror by the organization of Joint Defence Committees comprising of both Protestant and Catholic workers.

"Conference believes that British imperialism and its supporters in Ireland have deliberately used and helped to maintain the religious sectarianism in order to ensure its investments in both North and South Ireland on the basis of the policy of 'divide and rule."

The movers of the resolution stated in the debate:

"We have got to back up our comrades in Northern Ireland, we have got to demand, as they do, the withdrawal of British troops. British troops have never acted in the interests of the working class in any country."

Is this clear enough, comrade Oviedo? The position of the Marxist tendency was clear and unambiguous. It is printed in black and white. However, the rest of the British Left would not dare republish what they wrote at the time. They played a lamentable role. Having supported the sending of British troops to Northern Ireland (allegedly to help the Catholics), they then performed a 180-degree somersault and uncritically backed the bombing campaign of the Provisional IRA.

A particularly pernicious role was played for decades by the ultra left sects in Britain and internationally on the question of Ireland. These ladies and gentlemen interpreted "support for the national liberation struggle" to mean uncritical support for the Provisional IRA. From the safety of their middle class flats, they cheered the "armed struggle", although none of them were in any personal danger.

The Provisionals were not a revolutionary but a right wing tendency, completely hostile to socialism. The Provisional IRA was set up in 1969 in order to split the Official IRA whom they regarded as "Communists". They were given big sums of money and guns by the most reactionary right wing elements of the Irish bourgeoisie – the Blaney-Houghey wing of Fianna Fail. The reason was that the counterrevolutionary Irish bourgeoisie was as terrified as the British ruling class of the revolutionary situation in Northern Ireland. The aim of these people was to derail the revolutionary movement in the North by diverting it along nationalist and military lines.

Although they played no role in the movement of the masses in the North in 1968-9, the Provisionals were able to take it over because they possessed the organization and the arms that the aroused youth of the North were looking for. Despite all their "revolutionary" demagogy and talk of "armed struggle", from the standpoint of ideology the Provos were - and remain - a bourgeois right wing trend in Republicanism. In the past they even burned Marxist books. In their enthusiasm to back the Provos, the sects forget these little "details".

In general, they make a lot of noise about the "national question" in Ireland and elsewhere, without even bothering to study it. Isn't it enough to shout "down with imperialism"? No, comrades, it is not enough! If we are serious in our desire to fight imperialism (as we are) then it is necessary to analyse every situation concretely, to see what is progressive and what is reactionary in a given movement, and to propose concrete tactics and slogans that are appropriate to the given situation. They have clearly made no effort to understand what has gone on in Ireland for the past 30 years and therefore they have no idea of the real situation in the Six Counties.

Marxism and terrorism

Luis Oviedo continues his diatribe, unconcerned by the total absence of any quotations or any other proof to back up his wild assertions: "For decades, he (Alan Woods) has qualified the IRA in the same terms as the British imperialist press, as 'terrorists,' 'criminals,' on the same plane as the fascist bands of the pro-British 'unionists.'"

As they say in the media, why let the facts spoil a good story? Is it true that we attacked the IRA "in the same terms as the British imperialist press"? No, it is not true. We always placed the blame for the horrors in Ireland firmly at the door of British imperialism. However, we also made an implacable criticism of the methods and tactics of the IRA, which were indeed disastrous, and which undermined the movement and played right into the hands of British imperialism.

The individual terrorism of the Provisional IRA had the most negative results both for the Irish national liberation struggle and for the working class. Marxism has always opposed individual terrorism. Is it necessary to repeat this ABC proposition? It seems that it is. This is a thousand times more important in Argentina than other countries because of the terrible damage that was caused to the revolutionary movement by the tactics of individual terrorism that were pursued by ultra-left and so-called "Trotskyist" groups like the ERP that were shamefully backed and encouraged by Mandel and the United Secretariat. We denounced this at the time and we repeat this denunciation now.

As a result of this harmful policy thousands of courageous young cadres were destroyed and the revolution was derailed, with the most appalling results. The tactics of the Provisionals had similar consequences. This led to the tragic deaths of many courageous young people but did not advance the cause of Irish reunification one inch. On the contrary, it has set the cause back for decades. What has Luis Oviedo and the leaders of the PO got to say about these methods? Do they think that all this was a good thing, a real revolutionary policy, something to be actively encouraged and imitated? If so, let me tell you that practically nobody in the North of Ireland today will agree with you – including the Provisional IRA. For a Marxist to advocate the method of individual terrorism is an abomination.

Those "Marxists" who eagerly backed the IRA's bombing campaign, which they falsely presented as "the armed struggle" were not helping but harming the cause of the Irish people. The harm done by this campaign is now recognised by everyone – not least by the leaders of Sinn Fein, who have abandoned it in favour of ministerial jobs. We have always opposed such tactics, as did Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. Already in the 19th century, Marx and Engels sharply criticised the Irish Fenians for their use of terrorist tactics. On November 29th, 1867, Engels wrote to Marx:

"As regards the Fenians you are quite right. The beastliness of the English must not make us forget that the leaders of this sect are mostly asses and partly exploiters and we cannot in any way make ourselves responsible for the stupidities which occur in every conspiracy. And they are certain to happen."

Engels was soon proved right. Just two weeks later, on the 13th December 1867, a group of Fenians set off an explosion in London's Clerkenwell Prison in an unsuccessful attempt to free their imprisoned comrades. The explosion destroyed several neighbouring houses and wounded 120 people. Predictably, the incident unleashed a wave of anti-Irish feeling in the population. The following day Marx wrote indignantly to Engels:

"The last exploit of the Fenians in Clerkenwell was a very stupid thing. The London masses, who have shown great sympathy for Ireland, will be made wild by it and driven into the arms of the government party. One cannot expect the London proletariat to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of the Fenian emissaries. There is always a kind of fatality about such a secret, melodramatic sort of conspiracy."

A few days later, on December 19th, Engels replied as follows: "The stupid affair in Clerkenwell was obviously the work of a few specialised fanatics; it is the misfortune of all conspiracies that they lead to such stupidities, because 'after all, something must happen, after all something must be done'. In particular, there has been a lot of bluster in America about this blowing up and arson business, and then a few asses come and instigate such nonsense. Moreover, these cannibals are generally the greatest cowards, like this Allen, who seems to have already turned Queen's evidence, and then the idea of liberating Ireland by setting a London tailor's shop on fire!"

What does comrade Oviedo think about these statements by the founders of scientific socialism? Does he think that Marx and Engels also betrayed the cause of the Irish national liberation struggle because they denounced the counterproductive method of individual terrorism? But all the great teachers of our movement had the same position. During the First World War Lenin wrote: "There must be propaganda against isolated terrorist actions and for linking up the struggle of the revolutionary section of the army with the broad movement of the proletariat and of the exploited population generally." (The Tasks of the Left Zimmerwaldists, Collected Works, vol. 21, p. 144.) In the writings of Lenin and Trotsky we can find numerous passages in the same spirit.

While rejecting the policies, methods and tactics of the Provisional IRA, the British Marxist tendency now represented by Socialist Appeal and the Marxist.com website has held a consistent internationalist position on Ireland. We opposed the sending of British troops to Northern Ireland, we denounced the crimes of British imperialism in the Six Counties. At the time of Bloody Sunday we carried on the front page of Militant in big letters "Derry – this was murder!" We defended the rights of Irish prisoners and opposed the vicious conduct of Thatcher towards the Irish hunger strikers.

What we were not prepared to do – and this is why the opportunist sects try to attack us – is to tail-end the Provisional IRA. History has proved that we were right. Though they swore by Lenin and Trotsky in every other sentence, the Left and "Trotskyist" groups that enthusiastically backed the Provos did considerable damage to the Irish cause in Britain and internationally. They demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of both the national liberation struggle and of the Leninist position towards it. In addition through their words and their deeds they damaged the perception of Marxism in the eyes of activists in Ireland.

Luis Oviedo reproaches us "for not participating (actually, for repudiating) the demonstrations and mobilizations held in London in defence of the national struggle of Ireland."

What demonstrations and mobilizations is comrade Oviedo talking about? Maybe he means the activities called by the so-called Troops Out Movement? I have already explained our position on the question of the troops. We were always in favour of withdrawing the troops, but we linked this to the demand for a workers' defence force, based on the unions, to protect the working class from the sectarian madmen of both sides (yes, comrade Oviedo, of both sides). In other words, we posed the question in class terms.

What comrade Oviedo forgets is that the middle class ladies and gentlemen who paraded around the streets of London shouting "troops out" were the very same people who in 1969 were shouting "troops in!" You do not believe me? Then please read the articles (including editorials) in the SWP's paper of that time. These people never had a principled position on Ireland or anything else. They tail-ended the British imperialists in 1969. Then they tail-ended the Provisional IRA in the so-called Troops Out Movement. Now they are tail-ending the Islamic Fundamentalists. With people of this kind we are not in the habit of collaborating. We maintained an independent position – a class position – which we consistently advocated in the trade union and labour movement, in Britain and in the North and South of Ireland.

In the end our position has been completely vindicated by events, while that of the petty bourgeois sects has, as we predicted, ended in disaster. Having applauded the Provo's reactionary and counterproductive bombing campaigns, which contributed to the sectarian divide and completely alienated British workers, the sects and the left reformists were left with their mouths hanging open when the Provo leadership signed up to the Good Friday Agreement. Socialist Appeal was almost alone on the Left in Britain in opposing the Good Friday Agreement as a deception and a betrayal, unlike our opportunist critics who have nothing to say about it.

Let us make our position clear, so that comrade Oviedo will understand it. We stand for the reunification of Ireland. But this can only be achieved as a 32-County Workers' Republic. This position, we are pleased to say, is defended by the left wing of the Irish Republicans – the Republican socialists, who, like ourselves, stand for the ideas of James Connolly. The genuine ideas of Marxism, which we have consistently defended, are known to the best of the activists in the Republican movement, who have shown a lively interest in them. By contrast, those British sectarians who capitulated to the nationalist demagogy and individual terrorism of the Provisionals are regarded with well-earned contempt.

Postscript:

On Pierre Broué

There seems to be a long list of things that Luis Oviedo does not like. Moreover, it seems to be growing longer all the time. His dislike of Arabs, Turks and Englishmen is already well known. Now, for some reason, he adds grannies to the list. (See "...And grandmother had a baby!"). As far as I know most grannies are very nice, harmless old ladies who knit socks and are not generally inclined to give birth, so this allusion is slightly mystifying. But I suppose my comrade and friend Pierre Broué gets off rather lightly in being described as a "granny." Whatever the feminists may think of this, it may be thought by some to be slightly preferable to a counterrevolutionary imperialist.

Nevertheless, I am not sure that Pierre will be altogether happy with this, and other compliments, with which Luis Oviedo has regaled him. If comrade Oviedo had in mind Pierre's age, then it is true that he is not a young man, being a veteran of the Trotskyist movement, which he served loyally and well ever since he joined in the 1940s, after a period of fighting in the French maquis. His books are the finest that have ever been produced on the history of our movement, and his knowledge of the ideas, policies, methods and traditions of Trotskyism is second to none. Pierre is therefore well able to defend himself against such attacks, and therefore I will leave it to him, in the certainty that for a man of his ability to dispose of this kind of arguments is about as difficult as taking candy from a baby. The PO should realise that bad temper and insults are really no substitute for rational argument.

London, February 19, 2004