Adams feels pressure

?War on terrorism? puts heat on Sinn F?in

George W Bush?s ?war against terrorism? is making its presence felt in all sorts of ways, as the United States, aided and abetted by New Labour, seeks to use the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington to ram home its ?new world order? and cement its near total global hegemony.

One area where imperialism certainly feels more confident in imposing its will is Northern Ireland, where the unionists and Tory right are now in full cry, redoubling their condemnations of Sinn F?in/IRA and demanding that Tony Blair brings them to heel as part of Bush?s worldwide ?crusade?.

The Daily Telegraph, always the most scathing in its contempt for the peace process for having ?rewarded the terrorists? with their place within the ?democratic process?, is now crowing that ?the world has changed utterly? since the suicide bombings (September 19). Writing in the same paper, Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble was playing the US card for all it was worth: ?? the republican movement has gone directly against American national security interests,? he intoned. ?Even the Taliban have been more respectful towards the administration in the past week? (September 24).

The reason Trimble was able to accuse Sinn F?in/IRA of those heinous crimes - ?disrespect? towards the US and going against its ?national security interests?- was the fact that three Sinn F?in men had been arrested in Colombia, where they had allegedly been exchanging information on weaponry with rebels of the Armed Forces of the Revolution (Farc). Whereas the activity of the three had previously appeared to invoke little interest in Washington, now it was a different story. Richard Haass, Bush?s special Irish envoy, warned the IRA of ?potentially serious consequences for the role of the United States in the peace process?. No connection between the IRA and Farc would be tolerated, he said.

Similarly the visit of Sinn F?in?s Alex Maskey to Turkey was said to have caused the US administration displeasure. Maskey was visiting the families and supporters of political prisoners belonging to the Revolutionary People?s Liberation Front (DHKC), who have been on a protracted hunger strike. Like his comrades in Colombia he was arrested, but this repressive action by the Turkish authorities failed to elicit even the mildest words of reprobation by the US state department. Rather it was Maskey?s act of solidarity that earned its condemnation.

This was because the DHKC had hailed the attacks on the World Trade Center as ?a call for rebellion against injustice, lawlessness and hunger?. What is forgotten is that, like the left elsewhere - almost without exception - the comrades in Turkey have declared that terrorism is a futile tactic which, in the form of bin Laden has its roots in the CIA and its war in Afghanistan - he was ?born and bred by the CIA?.

Even Gerry Adams?s forthcoming visit to Cuba, one of the countries on Bush?s list of ?rogue states? - now, it seems, considered fair game unless they agree to toe the line - has been used by the unionists and their British backers as a stick with which to beat Sinn F?in. All in all, according to Trimble, Sinn F?in/IRA face the direst of consequences if they fail to ?renounce terrorism?: ?The White House says that it regards the IRA as part of the international terrorist network,? he warned.

While it is unlikely that Adams or Martin McGuinness will be on the receiving end of a US cruise missile, there is no denying the pressure that the US can and will bring to bear on all groups with even the most tenuous connections with ?the terrorists?. And the fact that the IRA is still refusing to disarm should put it in the firing line - at least as far as Trimble, Paisley et al are concerned.

Speaking on Radio Four?s Today programme a week after the US attacks, Sinn F?in?s Danny Morrisson expanded on his organisation?s statement - that the September 11 atrocities were ?utterly reprehensible and must be condemned? (An Phoblacht September 12). But he was challenged by Sue MacGregor, who claimed that the actions of the IRA were of a similar nature to the WTC suicide bombs.

Morrisson replied: ?I don?t think there?s a comparison to be made between the attacks and the IRA ? by and large the IRA made attempts to issue warnings before bomb attacks.? He added: ?The British government has recognised the political status and legitimacy of republicans through releasing all of the prisoners and through entering into peace negotiations with Sinn F?in.?

It is true that Blair has recognised Sinn F?in?s ?legitimacy? in this way, but in the present climate this status could at least be called into question. For us, though, the ?legitimacy? or otherwise for those who use violence does not depend on the blessing of the UK or US state, but on the justice - ie, democratic content - of the struggle undertaken and its connection to a progressive mass movement. That is why we backed the IRA?s war against the British occupation of the Six Counties statelet, but unreservedly condemn the actions of reactionary islamicists. And of course any action must be compatible with the aim it is intended to promote. The fact that the September 11 bombers were aiming for the maximum carnage while the IRA in general tried to minimise civilian casualties is certainly relevant here.

But the IRA?s past and its continued refusal to hand over its weapons are not the only pretexts given for the attempts to sideline Sinn F?in. SF is also accused of making ?viciously anti-American remarks? for daring to criticise US global policies (The Daily Telegraph September 19).

In fact the same An Phoblacht editorial that condemned the assault on the World Trade Center was relatively restrained in its criticisms of American administrations: ?We know only too well how in the Middle East and in Central America the pursuit of a militaristic and aggressive policy by US governments, and by those governments it sponsored, led to the deaths of many thousands of innocent people. It will compound the tragedy of September 11 2001 if that is repeated? (September 12).

The comments of the left, including the Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party, have been much more forthright in their condemnations of US imperialism, but we have not - yet - been subjected to the wrath of rightwing commentators.

It is in this atmosphere that Northern Ireland secretary John Reid imposed a  second 24-hour suspension on the power-sharing administration. This time, he said, he hoped the six-week breathing space would allow the question of IRA arms to be dealt with ?once and for all?. Reid?s confidence is based both on the new world situation and the IRA?s decision to resume contact with general John de Chastelain?s decommissioning body.

But Trimble has made any IRA move to put its weapons ?beyond use? less likely by his bid to exclude Sinn F?in from the Northern Ireland executive. Adams retorted: ?I am making it clear that Sinn F?in will not and cannot be excluded from this process.? He is right. True, the USA now feels more able to attempt to bend other forces to its will and undoubtedly the position of some, including Sinn F?in, has been weakened. But a peace process without SF remains, for the time being at least, impossible.

Nevertheless, all this gives added impetus to the organisation?s attempts to increase its representation in the d?il in the forthcoming elections. Adams is still set on establishing his party as a major player in all-Ireland constitutional politics. That is why he wants nothing to do with the new Police Service of Northern Ireland, which now has the reluctant backing of the UUP and Ian Paisley?s Democratic Unionist Party, as well as of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Despite its new name and its commitment to recruit 50% of its officers from among catholics, the Royal Ulster Constabulary remains an instrument of repression of the British state.

However, Sinn F?in?s policy of wait and see - it has, after all, no reason to want the peace process to arrive at a settlement which leaves Northern Ireland intact - now seems more risky. The US will in all likelihood be forming a new strategy for the world, as it attempts to ensure that all threats to the established order, from whatever source, are ruthlessly eliminated.

Peter Manson