The New Strategy of the IRA (1970)
The following is the transcript of an interview given in June 1970 by Cathal Goulding, then Chief of Staff of the [Official] IRA to the Irish magazine This Week, and subsequently published in Issue 64 of New Left Review, November-December 1970.
In this interview, Goulding describes the development of IRA policy following the failed Six Counties campaign of the early 1960s, the turn towards a more overtly political stance, the activities of the OIRA in the early phase of the 'Troubles' during 1968-69 and the developing schism within the movement which led to the formal decision to separate from what became the Provisional IRA in December 1969.
All emphasis is in in the original.
The New Strategy of the IRA
After your Northern campaign of 1956–62, the Republican Movement adopted a new course. Could you give a brief account of this new course and why it was adopted?
When the campaign in the Six Counties ended in 1962, the leadership of the movement was faced with the question: what form will our next campaign take? We had to ask this question of ourselves, because we knew that if we were to retain the leadership of the movement, and maintain the movement itself as a revolutionary organization, we would need to have a policy for the next phase of the fight against British Imperialism in Ireland.
Also, we had on our hands trained physical force revolutionaries who were, to some extent, still armed. They would decide for themselves what would happen next, if we didn’t decide for them. With that idea in mind, we called a conference. It lasted roughly eighteen months—almost two years. We held its sessions regularly, almost once a fortnight. At these meetings we called representatives of local leadership.
We included in this Conference a number of the younger people who were active militarily—in the 25 year age-group or even younger. It was essential to stop any premature action by these people. We weren’t just sitting down and waiting for something to happen. We were determined to plan for something that we could develop.
Was this really a post-mortem on the Northern Campaign failure?
Yes, but it was also a post-mortem in a larger sense. The terms of reference that the Army Council gave this Conference, were, briefly, to examine the whole position of the Republican movement from the beginning of this century, to try to supply answers to a number of different questions—such as why was the Republican movement unable to succeed in spite of the fact that the people who were engaged in its revolutionary activities were willing to make any sacrifice for it. Although supporters made sacrifices in the sense that they gave us their property, their money, we still never came within a real hope of success.
We found that we couldn’t stay within the historical terms of reference we’d been given. We had to go back further. The whole history of the resistance to British Imperialism in Ireland, even from 1798, was relevant. The conclusions that we came to were that, although we had the potential for revolution (we had the manpower, and in some cases we even had the material), we were separated from the people of Ireland, in the sense that we were a secret organization.
The people had no real knowledge of our objectives, they didn’t understand our tactics or our motives. It they didn’t understand us, they couldn’t be with us. Without the support of the majority of the people, we just couldn’t succeed.
The question was: how could we get the people to support us? The evidence was that the Republican movement had no real policies. Without objectives, we couldn’t develop a proper strategy. Tactics were all that we had employed. The actual fight for freedom had become an end in itself to us. Instead of a means, it became an end. We hadn’t planned to achieve the freedom of Ireland. We simply planned to fight for the freedom of Ireland. We could never hope to succeed because we never planned to succeed.
What did you conclude?
The answer was plain: we would have to establish our objectives; to explain these to our own movement; to persuade our movement to accept them; to bring them to the people and explain them—and then to show the people, by our initial political and agitationary activities, that we were sincere. We would have to declare what kind of Government, what kindof State we wanted in Ireland. We would then have to show the people by propaganda, education and action, why this type of system would be beneficial to them—that it would mean more bread and butter, better wages, better housing conditions, more education and a profounder cultural life for everyone.
How did you propose to bring these things about?
Our first objective then was to involve ourselves in the everyday problems of people; to organize them to demand better houses, better working conditions, better jobs, better pay, better education—to develop agitationary activities along these lines. By doing this we felt that we could involve the people, not so much in supporting the Republican movement for our political ends, but in supporting agitation so that they themselves would be part of a revolutionary force demanding what the present system just couldn’t produce.
So, we believed that political power must be our objective, whether we got it through physical force or through the ballot box or by agitation. The means are immaterial. Of course, we believed, as a revolutionary organization, that the people can’t get real political power by simply having representatives elected. There were too many examples in the world—Greece, Spain, Portugal, where the people elected the Government in a democratic manner and were ‘democratically’ oppressed by the forces of the Establishment who ‘democratically’ control the police, the Army and the Church.
In that sense, then, the policy adopted in 1962–63 was explicitly a socialist revolutionary policy?
It was. In fact, these discussions went on almost into 1965, and in 1965, we produced a nine-point document dealing with social agitation, the means by which we could finance the movement, what our attitudes would be to the courts and a change in our policies towards the institutions of the Establishment.
We felt that by sitting down and doing nothing about the Special Powers Act in the North, by doing nothing about the Offences against the State Act in the South, by continuing to refuse to recognize the courts, by refusing to answer police questions, by refusing to account for our movements, we left ourselves on a clean plate for the police forces of the Establishment to take us and put us in gaol whenever it suited them. A man in gaol was simply a casualty.
Logically this new policy would involve abandonment of your tradition of parliamentary abstention?
The last of these nine points was related to parliamentary participation. This last point was accepted by the 1963-65 Conference by a small majority—I think it was by about two votes—and these recommendations were passed on to the Army Council and the Sinn Fein Executive. The Army Council called a Special Convention of the ira and recommended acceptance of the first eight points and that the ninth point be rejected.
Your policy, then, is still one of abstention from parliamentary participation North and South?
Yes, but at a later stage we felt that if we could develop our campaign in three phases: economic resistance, political action and military action, by the time the economic phase would be finished and we would be in what we termed ‘the political demonstration’ action phase. The people would have been educated by activity and demonstration more than by propaganda or lectures, for we felt that we would never be able to develop political awareness by simply talking about parliamentary participation.
How, then, could you hope to achieve anything by political participation?
In our plan, a public representative should be a man who would have an assignment: to help our ‘outside’ political, economic and military activity in destroying the Establishment, North and South. He would have a revolutionary objective within each Parliament. If we got a number of people elected we could, at different stages, refuse to attend Parliament on a critical issue in which the Government would have a bare majority, or in other cases where our one or two or three deputies would swing the vote against them, we could send our men to speak on the issue, to vote and to beat them on it. We would be extending our guerilla activities and tactics into the very Parliament itself. This, we felt, would be the most effective way in which we could operate.
What would you hope to do?
It was essential that we should be elected by people for revolutionary reasons—that it would be a revolutionary programme that we would be elected on. We didn’t really want people to be elected as Sinn Fein candidates merely as such. If our people were elected from an area where agitation had developed to such an extent that the majority (or a large number) of people in the area were disgusted and disillusioned with the establishment, we could put up a candidate, representing that agitation.
That is a revolutionary use of political action. Now, to carry forward the story, by 1967 the Movement had become dormant. It wasn’t active in any political sense or even in any revolutionary sense. Membership was falling off. People had gone away. Units of the ira and the Cumainn of Sinn Fein had become almost non-existent. We felt that something dynamic was needed or the Movement was going to break up and splinter into pieces.
We called a meeting of the Republican Army’s local leadership at the end of August 1967. We compiled reports from all the different sections of the Movement—and the departments of the Army. These reports related to the strength of the Movement: the physical strength, the financial strength, its strength in arms, its political strength. We had reports on the other sections of the Movement: Sinn Fein, the Fianna, the Cumann na mBan, the Cumann Cabhrach, and other subcommittees, to show the backbone of the Republican Movement exactly what the position was.
Every local O/C had to report on the state of organisation in his area and its prospects as he saw it. At that Conference of 1967, we started on a Friday night and finished on Sunday evening. This gave a fairly complete picture—not so much to the leadership (we had a fairly good idea) but to the local leadership, not so much of his own area and HQ but of the state of other areas—of the whole Movement. They suddenly realized that they had no Movement at all. They only thought they had a Movement. We were able to make the point out to them that the circulation of ‘United Irishman’, for example, which in 1957–58 and ’59 had been in the hundred thousand bracket, by 1967 had fallen to fourteen thousand.
In a lot of cases, these papers weren’t being paid for by the local organization—the money was being used for other purposes—to finance their own local activities. As a result, the ‘United Irishman’ was in debt to the tune of three or four thousand pounds.
Out of this Conference came recommendations. The first was that we should openly declare for a Socialist Republic. That was now the objective of the Republican Movement: to establish a Socialist Republic ‘as envisaged by Connolly and in keeping with the sentiments of the Proclamation of 1916.’ We felt that with this resolution passed, we had got away from the claptrap and the clichés that we had allowed ourselves to be caught in over the years—like the old line that when we had got the British Army out of Ireland, the people of Ireland could make up their own minds, and simply take what was rightly theirs.
We pointed out that our people had decided that they would simply fight to drive out the British Imperial forces in 1921 but that Imperialism in economics, finance and everything else had remained behind. The people remained as much the slaves of British Imperialism as they had been when the British Army was here.
The Treaty, the way the new Irish Establishment had hounded out the real revolutionary elements of the national liberation struggle, was symptomatic of what the system forced Governments to do; De Valera did it; Lemass and now Lynch were doing it; it was being done in the Six Counties. It was essential for those who were fighting for freedom to know exactly what freedom meant, and learn for themselves in action what it was—not to have to wait for a priest or a landlord to tell them when to begin or when to stop fighting.
How then did your plans relate to Northern Ireland and how did they materialize there?
When we decided on the agitation campaign, we first of all decided that we would become engaged in the things I’ve referred to: housing, land, fisheries, Trade Union agitations and so on. We realized that in the Six Counties, however, before launching these activities, we would first have to work for the establishment of basic Civil Rights in order to establish democracy and abolish discrimination. This would also give us the political manoeuvrability to establish the Republican Movement openly.
This was necessary if we were to engage in the same policies North and South. We decided to support a Civil Rights campaign in the North, took part in marches and demonstrations. We acted as stewards on these occasions. We had never been a sectarian organization.
We wanted to do away equally with economic and social discrimination against the Catholic and Protestant working classes. As far back as 1963–65 we believed that we couldn’t win freedom in Ireland, disestablish the Stormont régime, without making common cause with Protestants and winning their support. However, at the beginning of the Civil Rights campaign, we felt that as a result of the Unionist ‘super-race’ complex and its attendant bigotries, the Catholics had a kind of sub-race spirit—that they hadn’t got the spirit or the will to revolt effectively.
They would, at different times, attempt a revolt, but their rebellion was never cohesive, never really organized. This, we felt, was due to something within their own minds : they were a beaten people before they started. As I said before, the Republican Movement was never sectarian—in fact it is declared in the Constitution of the IRA that we are non-sectarian and non-political (although for a Movement like ours to be non-political always seemed to me to be a contradiction. In revolutionary terms, the fight for freedom is always political—has to be political). However, Republicans always did accept the idea that we were non-sectarian and that we should fight for the freedom of Ireland whether people were ‘Catholic, Protestant or Dissenter’.
In too many cases, unfortunately, nothing was done in the past to attract the Protestant people to our standard. We had to establish in the minds of these people that we were dedicated to the emancipation of all the people whether Protestant or Catholic. In this sense, the middleclasses in Ireland, whether Protestant or Catholic, whether supporters of the Republican Movement or supporters of a Stormont, or of a Free State régime, were already emancipated! They were free; they were well off financially—whether they had good jobs or good businesses. They had comfortable homes to live in. They were secure and could send their children to good schools. In short, they were emancipated and had no need of our services. The people who needed our services were the working classes, the small farmers, the dispossessed people, the exploited people. Our objective being a socialist objective, we would be able to appeal to a far broader range of the Irish people.
We were only beginning to learn the technique of political agitation and how to conduct a campaign for Civil Rights. We realized what Wolfe Tone had meant two hundred years before when he made his appeal to the men of no property in Ireland. These were the only people who would fight imperialism because these were the people who were being exploited by imperialism, politically, economically and culturally.
Part II follows ...
There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune
Army paper says IRA Not defeated
BBC News July 6, 2007
An Internal British Army document examining 37 years of deployment in Northern Ireland contains the claim by one expert that it Failed to defeat the IRA.
It describes the IRA as "a Professional, Dedicated, highly skilled and resilient force", While loyalist paramilitaries are described as "Little more than a collection of gangsters".
It concedes for the first time that it did Not win the battle against the IRA."
No change in Strategy was needed, as the IRA Freedom Fighters killed 9x the number of Brit Occupiers ie the Queens henchmen.
The story of Ireland is a sad one...
Irish Catholics were Forbidden to Receive Education, Enter a Profession, Hold Public office, Engage in a Trade,Own land,Lease land,Accept a mortgage on land, Vote, Keep Arms, Practice Law,Forbidden to buy land from a Protestant, inherit land from a Prot.
He could not attend Catholic Mass,Or educate his child.
300,000 Catholics sold as SLAVES-Proclamation 1625.
Millions Genocided-Potato Famine, Food taken @Gunnpoint by Thug Soldiers working for Englands Zionists Govt.
A good reference is : Irish Holocaust dog ORG
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