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From: Irish Political Review: Articles
Date: December, 2021
By: Editorial

ETA And Sinn Fein

ETA And Sinn Fein
"If ETA can say sorry, why can't Sinn Féin?": that is the title of Fintan O'Toole's Irish Times Column on December 7th.
O'Toole, a creation of West British patronage by way of Major McDowell's Irish Times, has lived most of his life in an affluent Anglophile wonderland. Five years ago he was almost shocked out of his fantasy world by Brexit, which showed that England, far from being the pioneer of a post-nationalist world, lived in a strong sense of nationalist destiny that, in the 'Free World', was second only to that of the United States.
Britain did not join Europe to lose itself—as Ireland did. It joined in order to restrict and misdirect European development, and then it left the EU in the hope of regaining the position of an independent nationalist Imperialism which it had lost in its bungled second war on Germany.
And its misdirection of Europe has borne successful fruit, both home and away. The EU has lost its Christian Democratic soul both in internal affairs, and in foreign policy, where it has been reduced to Atlanticist toadyism. A good example of this was its positive policy towards Iran—which it feared to carry through in face of American threats.
O'Toole was disillusioned by Brexit. But, in his disillusionment, England remained invisible to him. His understanding is structured by Anglophilia—an irrational conviction about what England is. That is the ground of his understanding, and the loss of fancy bits of the superstructure does not plough it up.

The English State is a very remarkable contrivance. One might easily get lost in admiration of it—anywhere but in the Six Counties.
Britain was the most effective liberal democracy in Europe in 1921 when it Partitioned Ireland, held the Six Counties in he United Kingdom, excluded them from the actual political life of the state, and set up a system of sectarian communal dominance in them.
Communal tensions within the Northern Ireland structure were restrained for almost half a century by a combination of intimate policing and bribery.

The Protestant community was set up to rule the Catholic community. Ruling meant keeping the Catholics quiet. There was no real business of State to be done within the Northern Ireland structure. All the major services of State, including the Welfare State, were supplied by Whitehall and "the Imperial civil service". The Northern Ireland Parliament was a forum for communal feuding—the Tory, Liberal and Labour Parties of the state being absent from it.

Was the war declared by Rory O'Brady in 1970, and maintained for over half a century, right or wrong?
That is the kindergarten question. The grown-up question is: How was it possible for a war, not only to be declared—we recall that O'Toole himself declared a kind of war or revolution at the gates of Trinity College one day when the fancy took him—but was fought in earnest against the British Army and Intelligence machine for 28 years?

It was the relentless aggravations of local communal government that made the War possible. Partition was by comparison a remote, abstract grievance. It could not have fuelled a war. And, when the War ended to the satisfaction of the community that had fought it, Partition was still in place. What had changed was the structure of government. It was still communal, but it operated under a veto by the minority community, which had governing departments as of right.

What resemblance was there between this and the Spanish situation?
Spain was hammered back together as a nation-state by a Fascist movement—an authoritarian nationalist movement with a social dimension. The Basque country was not excluded from the democratic political life of the state as the Six Counties was—democracy had failed in the state of Spain, and, since, as Edmund Burke said, the basic requirement of a people is to be governed, a mode of government that worked was established.
During the Fascist period we had some contact with ETA. They approached us because, they said, we were the group least likely to be penetrated. We produced some things for them.
Their aim was to establish a Basque state out of territories that overlapped the Spanish and French states. It was not an achievable aim, but that was not something to be quibbled over when Fascism was in question. There are situations in which the force that is being resisted determines the value of resistance, rather than the realism of resistance programmes.

The Fascist regime in Spain was not overthrown by democratic revolution. It arranged things so that, on the death of the Dictator, there was a transition to democracy by way of a restored Monarchy.
Franco, unlike Cromwell, did not try to make his dictatorship hereditary. He was a statesman, and he left a restored nation-state behind him.

We lost contact with ETA as Spain democratised, and it appears that it lost confidence in itself. It did not make terms with the new regime, it just ceased to be active against it. And if a remnant of ETA, in the democratic era, now apologises for it having existed in the Fascist era, that is an expression of a sense of essential futility.

If Sinn Fein/IRA confessed futility, as O'Toole urged it to do, that would be a false confession. It carried through its War, for 28 years, to a negotiated settlement with the State against which it had made war. It then gave permission to the other state to delete its assertion of sovereignty over the North; and it made itself the major party in the democratic life of that other state.

The only futility we can see in all of this is the futility of the brainwork of the Irish Times' prime intellectual. He cannot admit—his patrons would not allow him to say—that the only State there ever was in the North was the liberal-democratic British State, and that this British State insisted on imposing a sectarian system of subordinate communal government on that region of itself. The Protestants did not ask for it; the Catholics did not want it; Westminster decided both of them had to have it.

"ETA and the IRA were… blood brothers". So were Churchill and Stalin. It is said that Churchill suffered nightmares over the oceans of blood that he spilled in the militarily pointless area bombings of Dresden and Hamburg at the end of the Second World War, after Stalin had broken the back of Nazi power. But he never said sorry. And, as John Milton said, England sets the precedent of correct behaviour in such things.

The IRA launched a War in 1970 for an unachievable object—the ending of Partition. If it had held to that aim, it would have been no more successful than ETA. But it brought its aims into correspondence with the actual reasons why the Catholic community was in revolt against the status quo after August 1969, and, instead of being driven into the ground, it brought the war to a negotiated end on terms that were advantageous to its community.
That is how wars should be fought—and it is how they used to be fought before England initiated all-or-nothing, Messianic total war in 1914, which left Europe in a mess.