The decision of the recent Sinn Fein Ard Fheis to recognise and urge support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland removed the last fundamental distinction between the Adams-McGuinness movement and the other constitutional nationalists, the Social Democratic and Labour Party.
It was the culmination of more than a decade of political evolution. It will surprise no one acquainted with the history of Irish nationalism. Adams, McGuinness and their comrades are on a well-worn path down which once walked Michael Collins and his section of the Second Sinn Fein Party (1917- 1922), DeValera's Fianna Fail Party, Sean McBride's Clann na Poblachta, Tom Gill's and Cathal Goulding's Workers Party. They too transformed themselves from physical force Republicans into straightforward bourgeois politicians.
There is even a fair chance that Adams' party will join a Fianna Fail led Dublin Coalition government after the next 26 County general election. Certainly, Adams and McGuinness want that.
The completion of Sinn Fein's development towards straightforward bourgeois constitutionalism, has evoked only a discreet, and yet very eloquent, silence from those on the international"revolutionary left" who have spent decades weaving "socialist" fantasies around the communal war which the provisional IRA-SF was waging in the Six Counties.
The Provo war, they used to insist - that was the "Permanent Revolution" unfolding in Ireland! It would surely end in an all-Ireland socialist revolution. Gerry Adams would be Ireland's Fidel Castro; a Provo-ruled Ireland would be Europe's Cuba. For decades, the Alliance for Workers' Liberty and its predecessors came in for much denunciation and more abuse because we refused to buy into these fantasies, and because we insisted on describing and defining things as they are in Northern Ireland.
We have waited in vain for their account of what has happened to the Provos - the Provos of their political opium-dreams! - and to their old "revolutionary perspectives" for Ireland.
In the past as now, it was always extremely difficult and usually impossible to get them to engage in rational discussion about Ireland. A rare exception to this political "shyness" was the discussion that took place in Socialist Organiser, over a period of months in 1983. Triggered by an article I (as John O'Mahony) wrote (see the appendix), it called forth not only - much! - abuse, but also political contributions that represented all the different viewpoints on the "revolutionary left". These discussion-pieces were collected together in Workers' Liberty No 5, in 1986.
Alongside them in that issue of Workers' Liberty was published the attempt at a Platonic dialogue that follows this note.In this 'discussion', all the issues of politics and Marxist theory raised by the Provo War are discussed, in some detail.
The dialogue that follows sums up the state of the "Irish Question" on the "revolutionary left" in the 1980s. The arguments in favour of spinning "anti-Imperialist" and "socialist" fantasies around the provo war, and the socialist fantasies which were spun, which are used by one side in this dialogue were, in the 1970s, '80s and early 1990s, common to the "Trotskyist" and Trotskisant left throughout the world.
It would be good if the republication of the Dialogue here were to generate a belated discussion of the Provo war as seen, while it was raging, by most of the international revolutionary left, on how they see things now that, so to speak, the "returns" are in.