From the January 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard
A feud between the factions of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) has ended in death for many and will undoubtedly see the same end for many more. To the bystander, the whole episode seems a bit confusing as it is difficult to understand why those with apparently the same political objectives devote their time to murdering each other. The fact is that this feud has nothing to do with politics. This is not a disagreement over differing political principles or tactics; this is a gangland feud about control over the spoils of protection rackets and other gangland activities.
There has never been any doubt that paramilitary organisations have been up to their necks in racketeering since they became powerful and intimidating forces in their communities. They act as a self-appointed police force, dishing out punishments like kneecapping to young people considered by them to be involved in anti-social behaviour. The IRA and UVF are not strangers to the back entry courtroom where the "soldiers of liberation" become jury, judge and executioner over some young fellow who broke into a shop without their permission. In contrast, they ensure that where racketeering does take place, it is done under their control and with the organisation creaming off the benefits.
The INLA had simply brought this to its natural conclusion and had become much more a Mafiosa than a so-called political army. Of course they are content in the notion that their robbing and protection racketeering is for the needs of the movement, an illusion which the leadership is happy to perpetuate. It was only when the division of the spoils became a problem, that they started to blow each other's heads off, each in an attempt to intimidate the other faction. Their style of execution is similar to that of a wild west film where the gunfighter walks into a bar, shoots the victim in the head and cooly walks out again. Men who shared cells together in person are now on opposing sides, both with loaded guns and both intent on killing the other.
To add insult to injury these sad people have the gall to call themselves socialists. There is no need to waste space in this journal explaining to our readers that these anti-working class "heroes" are simply Irish nationalists, bent on "convincing" any opposition through the barrel of a gun. They have nothing to do with the principles of democratic socialism.
One important observation must be made about this feud. It's easy enough to dismiss it as a crowd of self-interested gangsters going around murdering each other, but what is the difference in what they are doing and what the forces of the State do? When governments "fall out" over trade routes or areas of strategic interest they are simply arguing over who is going to administer the robbery of the working class in a particular area — through the swindling economics of capitalism. The fact that the conflicting sides in these feuds wear nicely tailored uniforms and fly expensive war planes does not make it any less a feud. Dropping a bomb on a city, killing thousands of innocent people only differs from the INLA feud in that it is done on a bigger scale.
The INLA are only amateur copycats of the lessons taught by Big Brother — the State. When the factions of the INLA disagree as to who is going to put the screws on a couple of shop-keepers, they shoot each other until one side wins. When the government of one country falls into irreconcilable dispute with the government of another country over who is going to put the "screws" on the workers, then they send in their armies, gullible workers, trained and paid to kill, to slaughter each other until one side wins.
(Reprinted from Socialist View — World Socialist Party of Ireland)