Earlier today I was reading a lengthy book review by the late John Tyndall, of John Bean's nationalist memoir, Many Shades of Black, in an old copy of Spearhead which Richard Edmonds very kindly sent me.
It was very informative of the various schisms and secessions which have troubled the nationalist movement over the last half century and more.
It occurred to me that a part of the problem, if one accepts that the disunity of the nationalist movement is a problem, has been the will to power of nationalism's leading actors themselves. Their strong sense of mission and equally powerful self-belief, has sometimes blinded them to the rightful claims of others to consideration and to respect for their particular point of view.
It almost seems as though being acknowledged as 'the leader' has been more important to certain individuals than the size and nature of what it was that they led. If they could not receive this acknowledgement, which they regarded as their due, within one nationalist organization, well then, they would try another, or even start their own, with themselves as its first member.
Of course, it is one thing to lead a breakaway from a genuinely democratic party, because one cannot get one's own way and quite another to lead a breakaway from a pseudo-democratic party, because the will of the majority of its members has been thwarted by a corrupt and oppressive leadership. The first suggests a monumental self-importance, while the second indicates an understanding of the value of democracy.
Then there is the tendency of some leaders to wish to stay long past the time in which their leadership has been of value to the party they have led. All sorts of mental gymnastics may be engaged in to justify what is, when it comes down to it, pure selfishness and immaturity on their part.
There is the feeling of entitlement: "I've given my whole life to nationalism and I deserve everything it can give me", etc. This often manifests itself as a childish jealousy towards newcomers to the movement, particularly should they happen to be talented. Yet surely it should be the concern of any leader worthy of the name to welcome and to encourage new blood and fresh talent, particularly from other parties. For a leader to do otherwise than to bring on new talent is to consign the party they lead to stagnation and ultimately to extinction.
One of the brickbats, which nationalists often hurl at one another during nationalism's periodic splits, is that of being a 'state plant' or agent. Such an accusation is almost invariably impossible to prove, other than by a confession of guilt on the part of the person accused. Such confessions have sometimes been made, usually some time after the event and often as a means of promoting a book which they have written about their activities. How much of any such book is fiction may not be easy to ascertain.
The mutual distrust which is engendered by the knowledge that such agents exist is, of course, harmful to party solidarity and morale, as is no doubt intended. The damage is increased when innuendoes are made which cannot be substantiated. Those who make such innuendoes, wittingly or unwittingly, do the enemy's job for him. If nothing can be proved it is far better not to show suspicion, than to alienate a colleague by letting him see that he is not trusted.
Reasonable security measures are certainly always necessary. Paradoxically though, without a sea of paranoia in which to swim, the work of any state agent would become much more difficult.
Most despicable of all, of course, is the leader who attributes any dissent or opposition to the work of state agents. Such an obvious and self-seeking ploy should not deceive a child, let alone grown men.