Republicanism And The Politics Of Prefiguration

Cormac Caulfield continues to discuss modes of political organisation.

This piece has been written as a follow up on the Authoritarianism And Liberatory Movements article and was prompted by conversations with Socialist-Republicans following that piece.

Political prefiguration is the practice and belief that the way we organise today, the methods we use have a direct effect on the outcome of socially transformative politics. If we use hierarchical methods or organise with them, then the end results will be hierarchical. It's a materialist concept that is rooted in the assertion that actions and ideas interplay with each other in a process. The degree to which is dependant on circumstances, and that these actions are fundamentally not unconnected from one another. Therefore if we use the organising methods/practices/ethics of capitalist society, the very things we seek to destroy, we are reproducing the forms of oppression and exploitation that have been socialised into us by ourselves and by capitalist society.

Anarchists argue that a very conscious break must be made with the methods of capitalism in order to create a new society and destroy the old. We do not believe in the economic mechanistic determinism of the state, or solely, the forces of production. This is a radical proposal in the most literal sense of the meaning. It demands a commitment for root and tip transformation, from the individual level to the structural, organisational level. It is fundamentally belief that we, and our societal structures, are all formed by capitalist norms and in order to break from the reproduction of capitalist relations, individual and societal transformation must take place, through class struggle.

All strands of radical, revolutionary or transformative politics are Pre-figurative. In the sense that, whether the grouping or individuals within a grouping explicitly accept a pre-figurative analysis and practice they are essentially creating relational forms which will take over the running of society, from the microcosm of their respective movements-if they win that is. All new societies will be stamped with the old society on it to some degree, meaning we can only strive today, as an ongoing process, to create an organisation or movement of equals. If we build hierarchical, unequal organisations those forms will be the forms used, the ready materials, for the next struggle and therefore the methods which will dominate the political landscape after a victory.

Imagine now that a movement which is almost exclusively a highly secret, centralised, unaccountable army, with little to no directly democratic spirit or forms, is in a position to reap the revolutionary gains of a British withdrawal from the North from Ireland. It becomes the shaper of societal norms and structures, only mitigated by the other organisational forces at play. What happens? At best a complete reproduction of the institutions of capitalism and the authoritarian state, probably only much worse in order to keep at bay the loyalist terrorist threat and other counter-revolutionary forces.

This is the best outcome. Listening to many a former POW, they ask the question, quietly and among trusted circles, "what was it all for?" After the destruction of the orange state, a major victory in itself, the answer is not a whole pile at the end of the day. The question they often fail to ask is "would it have being worth it even if we had have forced a British withdrawal?"Another gombeen republic like down south? Well that's up to the individual to decide.

Some have attempted to marry Republicanism with authoritarian Socialism. Natural enough companions, both are believers in anti-imperialism and for revolutionary action. The issue is not the label but the substance. Socialist-Republicanism is largely subsumed to the overall, broad church Republican movement, meaning the efforts of individuals within those movements amounts to little from a socialist perspective. Without an over-arching, specific socialist program, orientated towards action that will lead to the building up working class consciousness and organs of counter-power their efforts simple feed into Capitalist Republicanism.

Just akin to the idealism of the socialists in relation to the withering away for the state, many socialist-republicans believe in practice that without specific socialist organisation, policy and action there will be a working class revolution.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

1 comment to ''Republicanism And The Politics Of Prefiguration"

  1. Given the expansion of the middle classes, is the north still truly an 'Orange State'?

    How is this so when Republicans are administering policies that effect all citizens, along with Unionists?

    How can you have a 'United Ireland' if the people are divided?

    How can you sell anarchism, if that is what you are angling for, to the majority who appear to be relatively comfortable?

    Don't get me wrong, this is an interesting piece but like 'The Republic' of 1916 it suffers from being something intangible to the people. Societal pressures that caused the divisions at the turn of the century are gone to a large extent.

    Most people want to live and let live. It's hard to motivate people who have food on the table and a roof over their head to risk it all.


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