Irish republican socialism

An attempt to define and explain Irish Republican Socialism and its ideology to the masses!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Socialism and Irish Nationalism

James Connolly

Socialism and Irish Nationalism

From L’Irlande Libre, Paris 1897.Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.

The public life of Ireland has been generally so much identified with the struggle for political emancipation, that, naturally, the economic side of the situation has only received from our historians and public men a very small amount of attention.

Scientific Socialism is based upon the truth incorporated in this proposition of Karl Marx, that, “the economic dependence of the workers on the monopolists of the means of production is the foundation of slavery in all its forms, the cause of nearly all social misery, modern crime, mental degradation and political dependence”. Thus this false exaggeration of purely political forms which has clothed in Ireland the struggle for liberty, must appear to the Socialist an inexplicable error on the part of a people so strongly crushed down as the Irish.

But the error is more in appearance than in reality.
The reactionary attitude of our political leaders notwithstanding, the great mass of the Irish people know full well that if they had once conquered that political liberty which they struggle for with so much ardour, it would have to be used as a means of social redemption before their well-being would be assured.

In spite of occasional exaggeration of its immediate results one must remember that by striving determinedly, as they have done, towards this definite political end, the Irish are working on the lines of conduct laid down by modern Socialism as the indispensable condition of success.
Since the abandonment of the unfortunate insurrectionism of the early Socialists whose hopes were exclusively concentrated on the eventual triumph of an uprising and barricade struggle, modern Socialism, relying on the slower, but surer method of the ballot-box, has directed the attention of its partisans toward the peaceful conquest of the forces of government in the interests of the revolutionary ideal.

The advent of Socialism can only take place when the revolutionary proletariat, in possession of the organized forces of the nation (the political power of government) will be able to build up a social organization in conformity with the natural march of industrial development.
On the other hand, non-political co operative effort must infallibly succumb in face of the opposition of the privileged classes, entrenched behind the ramparts of law and monopoly. This is why, even when he is from the economic point of view intensely conservative, the Irish Nationalist, even with his false reasoning, is an active agent in social regeneration, in so far as he seeks to invest with full power over its own destinies a people actually governed in the interests of a feudal aristocracy.

The section of the Socialist army to which I belong, the Irish Socialist Republican Party, never seeks to hide its hostility to those purely bourgeois parties which at present direct Irish politics.
But, in inscribing on our banners an ideal to which they also give lip-homage, we have no intention of joining in a movement which could debase the banner of revolutionary Socialism.
The Socialist parties of France oppose the mere Republicans without ceasing to love the Republic. In the same way the Irish Socialist Republican Party seeks the independence of the nation, while refusing to conform to the methods or to employ the arguments of the chauvinist Nationalist.

As Socialists we are not imbued with national or racial hatred by the remembrance that the political and social order under which we live was imposed on our fathers at the point of the sword; that during 700 years Ireland has resisted this unjust foreign domination; that famine, pestilence and bad government have made this western isle almost a desert and scattered our exiled fellow-countrymen over the whole face of the globe.

The enunciation of facts such as I have just stated is not able today to inspire or to direct the political energies of the militant working class of Ireland; such is not the foundation of our resolve to free Ireland from the yoke of the British Empire. We recognize rather that during all these centuries the great mass of the British people had no political existence whatever; that England was, politically and socially, terrorized by a numerically small governing class; that the atrocities which have been perpetrated against Ireland are only imputable to the unscrupulous ambition of this class, greedy to enrich itself at the expense of defenceless men; that up to the present generation the great majority of the English people were denied a deliberate voice in the government of their own country; that it is, therefore, manifestly unjust to charge the English people with the past crimes of their Government; and that at the worst we can but charge them with a criminal apathy in submitting to slavery and allowing themselves to be made an instrument of coercion for the enslavement of others. An accusation as applicable to the present as to the past.

But whilst refusing to base our political action on hereditary national antipathy, and wishing rather comradeship with the English workers than to regard them with hatred, we desire with our precursors the United Irishmen of 1798 that our animosities be buried with the bones of our ancestors – there is not a party in Ireland which accentuates more as a vital principle of its political faith the need of separating Ireland from England and of making it absolutely independent. In the eyes of the ignorant and of the unreflecting this appears an inconsistency, but I am persuaded that our Socialist brothers in France will immediately recognize the justice of the reasoning upon which such a policy is based.

1. We hold “the economic emancipation of the worker requires the conversion of the means of production into the common property of Society”. Translated into the current language and practice of actual politics this teaches that the necessary road to be travelled towards the establishment of Socialism requires the transference of the means of production from the hands of private owners to those of public bodies directly responsible to the entire community.

2. Socialism seeks then in the interest of the democracy to strengthen popular action on all public bodies.

3. Representative bodies in Ireland would express more directly the will of the Irish people than when those bodies reside in England.

An Irish Republic would then be the natural depository of popular power; the weapon of popular emancipation, the only power which would show in the full light of day all these class antagonisms and lines of economic demarcation now obscured by the mists of bourgeois patriotism.

In that there is not a trace of chauvinism. We desire to preserve with the English people the same political relations as with the people of France, or Germany, or of any other country; the greatest possible friendship, but also the strictest independence. Brothers, but not bedfellows. Thus, inspired by another ideal, conducted by reason not by tradition, following a different course, the Socialist Republican Party of Ireland arrives at the same conclusion as the most irreconcilable Nationalist. The governmental power of England over us must be destroyed; the bonds which bind us to her must be broken. Having learned from history that all bourgeois movements end in compromise, that the bourgeois revolutionists of today become the conservatives of tomorrow, the Irish Socialists refuse to deny or to lose their identity with those who only half understand the problem of liberty. They seek only the alliance and the friendship of those hearts who, loving liberty for its own sake, are not afraid to follow its banner when it is uplifted by the hands of the working class who have most need of it. Their friends are those who would not hesitate to follow that standard of liberty, to consecrate their lives in its service even should it lead to the terrible arbitration of the sword.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The road to revolution in Ireland

The original date of publication and author of this historical IRSP document is unknown, but the ideas herein are a basis for the revolutionary theories of the IRSP.
"Without a Revolutionary Theory there cannot be a Revolutionary Movement" -- Lenin

There are many in Ireland who flippantly disregard the great need for a theoretical knowledge of revolution, by saying that it is ACTION and not THEORY that is required. This sort of error is one which cannot avoid producing dire consequences.
A thorough understanding of revolutionary theory is indispensable to the successful pursuance of revolutionary action. A revolutionary activist can no more cope with the many and diverse problems of revolution without revolutionary theory, than can an electrical engineer master his problems without a knowledge of electricity. The question is as simple and straight forward as that.
In terms of present conditions in Ireland: Revolution stands for the total overthrow of that social, political and economic system which functions in the country as a whole; and its replacement with an entirely new order of things, more compatible to the needs of the people, more beneficial to their progress and general welfare, and designed to ensure the unqualified Independence of our Nation State.
From this it is obvious that the Irish Revolution must be a two-phased effort. The first must be aimed primarily at the overthrow of the Partitionist regime, and the seizure of State power by the revolutionary movement. The second must represent a co-ordinated national effort during which the national community, under the leadership of the revolutionary movement, will undertake the reconstruction of the nation on completely new lines.
The most important thing to understand, and understand fully, is that revolution not alone entails that period of national struggle to free the country, but also encompasses an after period, to implement the social, political and economic changes necessary to give the newly acquired independency a durable substance. Consequently, the revolutionary political organization which mobilizes a popular support for the struggle against the present regimes in Ireland, must, of necessity, retain the directorship of national affairs after that struggle has been won, so as to ensure that what the people fought for shall he realised.
To propose that the matter of national leadership could be arranged in any other fashion is ridiculous. It is stupid, for example, to say that when Ireland is liberated from its colonial yoke, and re-united politically, a parliamentary election should be held to elect a 32 County Parliament. What political interests are going to compete with the party of the Revolution in such an election? Are the old parties to be permitted to continue, even under different names? Obviously, such a set-up, wherein the political opposition to the revolution is allowed to retain its cohesiveness after the revolution has won, cannot be entertained by any reasonable person. Furthermore, it is highly absurd to suggest that new political parties would come into being in the aftermath of victory. Where are they going to come from? What interests are they going to represent? It should be plain enough that all progressive groups in the country are going to identify themselves with the revolution during the colonial struggle, and as a consequence, they are going to become part of the revolutionary political organisation. Anyone, any social or economic interest which does not establish such an identity must be opposed to the revolution. You cannot have neutrals in a revolutionary struggle, and if it should happen that a segment of the population did adopt a neutral position during the struggle, then they have automatically forfeited the right to participate as an independent political force in the State founded by the Revolution.
The facts of the matter are: a modern revolutionary movement must have a popular basis if it is to succeed. During the anti-colonial struggle its organizational structure must facilitate a mass mobilization of the community within the framework of the movement. The desires of the people will therefore be expressed through the revolutionary movement during the struggle. This is quite logical and it is equally logical to say that the will of the national community can be as beneficially expressed through the same medium during the period of reconstruction that follows the anti-colonial struggle.
In effect, a revolutionary government under these conditions would be drawn from one political party. The State would function under a system of Socialist Democracy wherein the various contradictions, or legitimate conflicts of interests of the community, would be represented in the Party, and would be resolved by the democratic machinery of that party. The only interests which would not be represented in, or recognized by the State, would be those antagonistic to the interests of the community. This is the revolutionary way. There is no other.
When a revolutionary movement calls upon the people to rise in active opposition to the status quo, it must base its case on positive proposals of its own, as well as on the negative aspects of the ruling regime. The people must be given a tangible reason why they should overthrow the existing order in that they must be presented with the prospects of an alternative system emerging from their struggle which will incorporate benefits not forthcoming under the prevailing ruling clique.
Generally, it is the practice of revolutionary movements to issue a social, political and economic programme, so as to enlighten the community on its ultimate aims and ideals. This programme, with its contents exemplifying the ideological motivation of the revolution, represents the CORE of the struggle for freedom. By assessing its contents against corresponding elements of the status quo, it is possible to determine whether or not that CORE is sound or hallow; whether or not the fight, even if successful, is going to be worth the sacrifice and trouble it will inevitably incur. Does the programme propose modifications to the existing system, or does it involve the creation of a completely new and progressive order? That is the main question. And an analysis of any programme will answer this question, and by so doing, will make clear at once if its contents are in fact revolutionary or not.
A truly revolutionary programme for Ireland must, of necessity, be diametrically opposed to the existing order of things, this is only logical, and since Ireland now functions according to the dictates of capitalism, then, it is but common sense to suggest that an Irish revolutionary movement must found its programme on the principles of Revolutionary Socialism. There exists no other known alternative.
However, the realization of a revolutionary programme requires planning, to take into account the resources of the revolution and of the opposition to it, to select the means by which the revolution advances, and to dictate the employment of revolutionary forces and resources. Such diversified planning falls under the general heading of policy.
A revolutionary policy represents an assessment of any given situation, and the strategic and tactical plans adopted for the employment of revolutionary forces and resources in that situation. From this it can be seen that a fundamental difference exists between the basis of a revolutionary programme, and the various policies conceived to realise it. And it is precisely this difference, by no means obscure or undefinable, that causes much confusion in the appreciations of many Irish Revolutionaries.
A programme expresses the principles on which the revolution is founded. To modify such a programme, or to pursue a course of action antagonistic to its fulfilment, represents a positive violation of PRINCIPLE. On the other hand, policies are dictated by prevailing conditions - of necessity, they must change as conditions alter, or when new opportunities emerge. The only principle governing policy, is the principle of compatability with the ultimate realization of the revolutionary programme it is designed to serve.
This somewhat brief outline should at least serve to illustrate a great weakness among contemporary Irish Revolutionaries - that is, the tendency to confuse policies for a programme, and therefore to confuse principles with strategic and tactical expediencies. An Irish revolutionary programme must be based on the destruction of the neo-colonial system, and the construction of a new socialist order. The employment of force to achieve this end is purely a matter of policy, and for that matter, so is the participation, or nonparticipation, in the arena of parliamentary politics. However, experience, coupled with a pragmatic assessment of current conditions in Ireland, points to the use of force as the only realistic policy. And in this sense only is force complementary to our principles. On the other hand, should the unprecedented occur, wherein our objectives could be gained without the use of force, and where the use of force could indeed complicate, rather than complement, the realization of a programme, then, under those particular circumstances a policy of physical force would in fact be in direct violation of our principles, since it would be antagonistic to the realization of our programme.
Having established the role of policy in the overall framework of revolution, it is necessary to proceed and sub-divide policy itself.
It has already been said that revolution in Ireland involves the two phased process of destruction and reconstruction, with both dovetailed together to complement the ultimate realization of a revolutionary programme. Now, since the revolution must be divided into two distinct, though complementary, phases, the over-riding trend in policy must be likewise influenced for maximum efficiency and results. Consequently, to expedite explanations, the dominating policy during the initial period can be classed as Power Policies and those of the second period, Reconstruction Policies.
It is pointless to talk on what should be done to save the country, unless you are in the position to implement your proposals. Therefore, having formulated its programme, an Irish revolutionary movement must assess the situation, formulate plans for the mobilization of support, and then commit its forces against the status quo in a struggle for state power.
Power is the key to revolutionary success - unless a movement succeeds in its struggle for state power its hopes, its aims, its aspirations for a better and more equatable life for the nation's people amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking. It is for this reason that the quest for power looms so large in revolutionary appreciations during the initial stage of the revolution. However, it is of equal importance that a revolutionary leadership retain this quest for power in its proper perspective. State power is itself but a means in the service of the revolution, and is not an end in itself. For this reason, although all means can in theory be justifiably employed by the revolution in its struggle for power, in practice, limits are imposed by the necessity to strenuously guard at all times against any venture or commitment that would tend to compromise the status or functioning of the body which is to symbolize state power once victory has been achieved.
It is natural then that although Power Policies must be dictated by the need of doing what is necessary and what is possible to realize power, at the same time, they must also be governed by the paramount demand of avoiding any compromising action, even though such action may hold the possibility of a quicker victory on the surface. In other words, when Power Policy is being formulated at any given point, its makers cannot isolate the range of their evaluations to within the scope and demands of the particular revolutionary phase they are engaged in. They must at all times look beyond that juncture where State power is naturally required by the forces of the revolution, and take into consideration the possibility of any long sought participation in a course of action they contemplate initiating, may have, or could possibly have, on the ultimate revolutionary reconstruction of the nation.
A factor which should perhaps be re-emphasized is that bearing on the employment of physical force. Force is an element which can be used in a variety of ways other than in its obvious form of military action. However, we are not concerned here with any particular policy governing its employment; more specifically, we are interested in basic attitudes towards its employment.
Of necessity, a revolutionary movement must from the outset regulate its policies on the premise that force will have to be used in the struggle for power. Both precedent and ordinary common sense points to the realism of this stand. On the other hand, while a revolutionary movement must organize and prepare for the employment of physical force, should it so happen that a unique opportunity presents itself to facilitate the ascendancy of revolutionary forces without its use, naturally the leadership will not turn it down. On such an eventuality policies can easily be realigned to avail of the opportunity.
The important thing to bear in mind is that although it is relatively simple for a revolutionary movement that has from the beginning determined its progress on policies which rely on the employment of force, to re-adjust rapidly to exploit any opportunity to acquire power by peaceful means. It is practically impossible for a movement whose progress means to change its course with equal success and speed, when it has been demonstrated that force offers the only solution. The truth of this statement is substantiated over and over in the pages of history - it is an uncontestable fact.
Consequently, the mood of a revolutionary movement must always be: We are going to prepare for - and use - force to acquire our objectives. However, should the enemy be so kind as to vacate the field and allow the revolution to march forward without hindrance, then we will naturally avail of the situation.
Basically, these policies are those formulated for the regulation of the revolution's advance once state power is in the hands of the revolutionaries.
Policies governing the country's reconstruction, along lines compatible to the principles of Socialism, are of tremendous importance. Indeed, there are many cases where the revolutionary forces experienced success on the battlefield, only to lose their way when it came to the implementation of the social, political and economic changes that justified their existence in the first place. So when revolutionaries do acquire power, they must be constantly on the alert against the emergence of any attitudes tending to foster the reactionary notion that the job is now completed for all practical purposes, or ideas that the revolution can afford to give a little here and there without undue adverse effects. The job is far from being done, and the revolution can no more afford to compromise during the course of national reconstruction than it could during the period of struggle against enemy forces.
In many respects it could be said that the period of national reconstruction is one during which errors of policy more easily occur than during the period of struggle against the forces of the reactionary regime. In reality it is more correct to say that erroneous policies can remain undetected for a greater time during the reconstruction period than during the period of armed struggle where they develop first, through a relaxation in revolutionary vigilance arising from the mistaken though frequent notion that the revolution is a reality once the struggle for power is won. Secondly, due to the growth of arrogance in leadership circles which can express itself in the shape of pursuing policies that the people in general are not yet ready to accept, on the premise that the leadership knows what is best for the people. This latter contention may well be true. Nevertheless, the role of revolutionaries is not to undertake the construction of a socialist state as their exclusive responsibility, but, to guide the people in their rebuilding of their own country.
The fundamental difference between a Socialist and a bourgeois revolution is that while the latter represents a struggle for state power in the interests of a particular minority class, the former represents one for mass emancipation. As a result, although bourgeois revolutionaries rely mainly on popular support for the winning of their revolution, once they have that power in their hands they invariably proceed to arrange things in the interests of their class; disregarding the interests of the masses when such interests conflict with their own. The great bourgeois cry of "LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY" takes into account only the bourgeoisie - it has never yet been known to include the "Lower Orders", as they style the working classes. To the bourgeois revolutionary, "the people" is a very abstract phrase indeed, but to the Revolutionary Socialist it is an entirely different matter. The Socialist revolutionary is of the people and for the people in the fullest sense of the term, and should he ever forget this, and put himself on the path of a bureaucrat, ordering the people around, you can be sure that there is one revolution on the road to ruin.
State power, in the hands of a revolutionary leadership, must only be used to forward the revolution, by doing what is necessary in a tempo regulated by what is possible at any given time. A revolutionary leadership cannot, through the employment of the revolutionary movement backed by the might of state power, proceed to construct the new society by decree, completely disregarding the attitudes and voice of the mass of the people, and at the same time expect to realise in the end that concept of society envisioned by the philosophy of Revolutionary Socialism. For success in reconstruction, a strict equilibrium must at all times be maintained between the revolutionary leadership, the revolutionary movement and the mass of the people. In a word, socialist reconstruction represents a co-operative endeavor between the leadership, the movement and the mass of the people, and in this undertaking state power is merely a tool to be used just like any other, and not a whip with which to drive the people towards their salvation.
The socialist reconstruction of a country represents the labours of its people to build a society which is to the advantage of all. However, the structure that ultimately emerges in any given country can only reflect the amount of labour which has been devoted to its building. No people can expect such a blessing as a gift, no revolutionary movement and its leadership can say to the people "give us your support in our struggle for state power, and we will give you a socialist state in which all will enjoy benefits hitherto undreamed of." No! If such a state is to be created, then the people themselves must build it, the revolutionary leadership and the movement can only instruct, direct and co-ordinate its creation. It is of the utmost importance that revolutionaries grasp this fact from the beginning, and that they keep it in mind when they are formulating policy at any given time. And it is for this reason also that the danger of isolating considerations for any given policy, to within the limits of immediate demands, has been stressed throughout. It may, for example, appear smart politics to make all sorts of promises when you are appealing for support to wage a struggle for power. But what happens when power is actually yours, and you find yourself in the inevitable position of not being able to pay up? You can, of course, use your newly acquired power to keep the people in line - you can also use state power to coerce the people into the building of that order of things you promised would be realized so readily and so painlessly. But what the end result of this course would be is difficult to say.
It is obvious that at this stage it is impractical to extend our discussion on the basis of proposing specific policies to meet the needs of our own particular situation in Ireland. We must, of necessity, limit the discourse: (l) to illustrating the role of policy in the revolutionary process as a whole, so as to clearly define its proper function; (2) to establishing some basic tenets which govern the formulating of policy, especially some points that may easily be overlooked by students in their study of revolutionary techniques. The great need is to demonstrate, over and over, that this business of revolution cannot be reduced to such relatively simple terms, a learning how to use a gun, and then taking off to take a shot at a target e.g., U.D.R. or the likes - Revolution represents political action under the most demanding of conditions, it is a haven neither for fools, rogues or adventurers.
Again, let it be remembered that the profession of a revolutionary is not merely related to the correct leadership of a people in their struggle for freedom, but also to correct leadership during that period when the people must work, and work hard, to give a durable substance to their new-found status.
So far an attempt has been made to identify the significance of a Revolutionary Programme. This was followed by an examination of Revolutionary Policy, wherein it was demonstrated that policy is essentially an instrument by which a given programme is realised. The next link in the chain is Revolutionary Action, which, in turn, can be viewed as the instrument of policy.
It is not our desire to examine the various categories of revolutionary action, but rather to place such action as a whole in proper perspective to the other elements of revolution which influence and dictate its direction and content.
In essence, Revolutionary Action constitutes any act or combination of acts designed to complement the realisation of a given revolutionary policy. From this it can be seen clearly that action undertaken by an organisation is not revolutionary by virtue of its own content, but through its relationship to policy.
It is necessary to grasp clearly the underlying significance of this interrelationship between Action, Policy and Programme if one is to appreciate fully what revolution really entails. All too frequently the idea is held in Ireland that military action against the occupational regime is revolutionary policy, on the strength of its manifest aggressiveness towards the enemy. This is a mistaken and highly dangerous notion, because regardless of how warlike an anti-occupational campaign may be, it is not its military content as such which determines it's revolutionary status, but the policies it is designed to complement.
A few illustrations may assist in presenting more clearly what we are trying to establish. Take our own situation. It will be conceded that a revolution in Ireland must entail not alone the political reunification of the nation, but also the social and economic reconstruction of the country as a whole. As a result, to be revolutionary, any organisation which presently professes hostility to the partitionist regimes must, first, present a programme based on these aims; second, formulate policies which correlate the realisation of this programme both to prevailing conditions and the organisations capabilities; and finally, engage in a sequence of activity designed to implement the policies. In such a context, any activity engaged in is revolutionary action, regardless of whether or not it is military in form.
On the other hand, as an example of military action which is not necessarily revolutionary, we can take the I.R.A. campaign started in 1956. In this instance there existed no programme that we know of. And for that matter neither did the Republican Movement of the day regulate its aims according to a series of co-ordinated policies. Consequently, it is difficult to determine what the I.R.A. was actually fighting to establish as an alternative to what it was trying to destroy. It is utterly stupid to claim the I.R.A. was fighting for Irish freedom and let it go at that. Of itself, the term "freedom" is far too vague to mean anything - it must be qualified by social, political and economic commitment in order to have a positive form. Lacking such commitment the campaign in the Six Counties was, in every sense, negative, and the military activity which ensued was therefore nonrevolutionary.
As a matter of historical accuracy it should perhaps be mentioned that the I.R.A. leadership of 1933 issued one of the very few revolutionary programmes that has ever emanated from an Irish revolutionary movement. That the men of that time failed to achieve their goals does not detract from their position - at least they presented a coherent programme, and conceived policies to realise it. Their failure lay, in part at least, in the realm of their policies.
Another example which differs in form but whose end result is similar is to be found among some organisations of the "left''. Here we have organisations, some of which present programmes that are essentially revolutionary. However, the policies conceived to realise them bear no relationship whatever to revolutionary demands, and, as a consequence, all action these organisations undertake is unavoidably reactionary.
The foregoing examples should at least show that revolutionary action is a constituent part of a binary formula, whose elements of programme, policy and action must at all times complement each other. When any conflict develops between these elements, then the entity loses its revolutionary standing to a degree determined by the extent of the contradiction.
Irish republicans have a tendency to ignore the theory of revolution, and instead view revolution solely in terms of action against the enemy. Unfortunately, this has the unavoidable result of endowing their activities with a certain negative quality - that is to say, their actions are determined more by what they oppose than by what they propose to create in its place. The result of this negative position is at least partly obscured by the fact that any armed action against the colonial regime is bound to produce some good, in as much that at least it serves as a counter-force to the oppressive force of the enemy.
However, the fact to be grasped is that we can no longer restrict our interpretation of revolution to mere military action against the British in the North-East, and at the same time expect a wide response from the people. If we are ever to gain a mass basis for our efforts, then we can only hope to do so when we place such military action in proper perspective. That is, when we can demonstrate to the people that such action is necessary and vital to the implementation of policies which, in turn, relate to a social, political and economic programme that offers the people at large positive prospect of a better way of life.
This pertinent fact must surely be apparent to all by now. And the primary lesson to be learned from it is that the old approach to revolution, wherein Republicans could rally a mass support for their efforts without the necessity of committing themselves to a social and economic programme of revolutionary proportions, no longer applies. The call for action to free the country no longer receives the response of old. The question is now asked, either consciously or subconsciously, "What do you propose to free us from?" And the only way that query can be answered is by the presentation of a programme.
The factors touched on are elementary, and yet, unless they are understood, unless the fundamentals of the simple formula that has been demonstrated is thoroughly grasped, it is difficult to appreciate how the more complex problems created by a revolution in motion could ever be mastered.
Irishmen have never shown a reluctance to fight against their enemies. But with all our fighting over the past two centuries, the results to date are meagre by any standards. Surely, therefore, this should tend to demonstrate that revolution entails more than a willingness for combat. This does not mean, of course, that physical force is an unimportant factor in revolution. Far from it. However, to have revolutionary potential, to possess the capability to deliver an adequate return for the demands it makes, physical force must be subordinate to the directives of policies, which, in their turn, must be subservient to social, political and economic objects conceived to better the people's welfare.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Back to Connolly-Forward to socialism

Statement from the leadership of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement Easter 2005(Delivered by Andy Gallagher Easter Sunday 2005)(Press embargo Sunday 27th March 12 Noon)


Comrades of the IRSP, Volunteers of the INLA, our republican socialist prisoners in Portlaoise and Castlrea, relatives of our dead comrades, our ex-prisoners and friends and supporters, the republican socialist movement sends you fraternal greetings and solidarity on this Easter afternoon as we honour not only our own dead comrades but also all republicans who fell in the struggle against British Imperialism.
Republicanism is in crisis, is floundering and seems to be coming more and more detached from reality. The generic term Republicanism has been sullied not just in the past few months but in the past number of years by spin doctoring, by blatant and persistent lying, by cover-ups and clean ups worth of the mafia.
But we in the Republican Socialist movement cannot afford a holier than thou attitude. The Republican socialist movement has not been immune itself from errors mistakes and actions which sullied the name of republicans. Only a year ago we faced the wrath of many for incidents in Ardoyne. But we did not run and hide from those difficulties. We faced up to them dealt with it both internally and externally. The result has been a rise in our support and an increase in our membership
In the long history of republicanism there has always been people who joined for the so-called protection of the army. There are people who play at revolution and strut around like the bullyboys they are. There is a time for flexing muscles and a time for flexing brains. This is a time comrades and friends for flexing our brains. We do not need bar room republicans full of brawn and testosterone. The INLA has made clear to us that it supports the disciplined and politically controlled use of physical force in the context of armed anti imperialist struggle. It is not a private militia used to intimidate people in the context of personal disputes, bar brawls, personal grudges and the like. And it will do all in its power to ensure that it never becomes that.
I could mention many of our volunteers and activists but Let me mention just three of our fallen comrades and committed INLA volunteers -- Seamus Costello, Ta Power and Gino Gallagher. All three were also political activists and no task was too small for them to do. Whether it was sitting at boring meetings, making tea for comrades, driving around the country, planning military attacks moving guns, making bombs, and in Seamus's case sitting in local councils, or selling the Starry Plough no task I repeat was too small for them.
There is no place in this movement for those who stand apart from the every day tasks of building the movement and part of that means selling the Party Newspaper. All three of those brave men believed passionately in the politicisation of republicans. If that was good enough for Costello, for Power, for Gallagher then it should be good enough for you.
By following their example we will play our part in re-establishing the credentials of republicanism as a valid revolutionary doctrine relevant to the needs and aspirations of the Irish working class. For there can be no doubt that the broad republican tradition has since the beginning of the so called peace process lost the high moral ground that had been obtained by virtue of being genuine anti-imperialists. But comrades we will not join with the friends and allies of the British, the USA and the Free State in the demonisation and victimisation of other republicans. Yes we have been, are and will be, critical of policies that other republicans and socialists follow. We vehemently disagree with the Good Friday Agreement and all that has flowed from it. But comrades we recognise other republicans as republicans and acknowledge and admire the brave struggle that they have carried out. But politically we believe they have taken the wrong road.
Instead of recognising that the armed struggle had run into the ground other Republicans elevated the so-called peace process as another step on the road to the Republic. They were and are wrong and mistaken. All that has happened since 1998 has strengthened partition. Sectarianism has raged like a virus throughout many working class areas and instead of unity we have even more divisions than ever.
Doing deals with the Free State establishment and entering alliances with the ruling classes of the Britain and the USA has weakened republicanism not strengthened it. Those who challenge us "where's your mandate?" and "what's the alternative to the Good Friday Agreement" have fallen for the illusions of power that a few election gains bring. Muttering the mantra of mandates does not blind us to the stark realities on the ground. The republican struggle has suffered a defeat.
Our dead comrades did not fight for an Ireland of equals. They fought for a socialist republic not a revamped Stormont- for the destruction of capitalism - not for seats in a capitalist coalition - for unity not for more division. For us as a movement despite our mistakes and errors it was always about the liberation of our class - the working class - from the chains of capitalism. Real Politics is not about implementing the Good Friday Agreement. Our politics is about challenging the status quo. Not making capitalism work.
Ten years ago the great and good scoffed at our so-called outdated views on capitalism. They thought the collapse of the Soviet Union was the death knell of socialist and revolutionary ideas and actions. Well comrades look at the present state of the world and tell me that capitalism is working. Africa is in dire poverty with millions dying of aids- and starvation. Asia is in turmoil as the reactionary rich seek to maintain almost feudal power over the masses. South America is increasing turning towards the ideas of Socialism as witnessed by the revolutionary process underway in Venezuela and the increasing contact by many states with Socialist Cuba. Meanwhile the USA is becoming increasingly belligerent in its Imperialism despite its failures to end the Iraqi resistance.
But we are not enemies of the USA or of Britain. As internationalists we recognise the working classes in those countries as our brothers and sisters.
We recognise that the real enemy is the system of capitalism that spawns the reactionary policies of the World Trade organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It is these organisations that are dictating the policies of privatisation that is inflicting so much suffering on people around the world and that unfortunately other republicans bought into when Ministers in Stormont.
The consequences of the neo-liberal agenda of these World Bodies can be seen on the ground here in Ireland. 8,000 job losses in the North West as a direct result of Globalisation. These losses are not just figures; they are the real lives of Irish people destroyed by capitalism.
The poor of Eastern Europe flock to Ireland to be exploited by every crook, gangster and thug that calls himself an employer. It is no wonder that increasingly independents get elected to the Dail, as there is growing disillusionment with the established political parties. Low wages, anti trade union practices, racism homophobia, educational services cut to pieces, increasing gaps between the rich and the poor and tax free breaks for the super rich.
Meanwhile many working class areas in the cities and towns of Ireland are breeding grounds now for thugs, knife wielding morons and young people with no social conscience. Social cohesion of working class communities has collapsed. Individualism and the "me -me -me" generation has almost destroyed working class solidarity. The health services north and south are in almost terminal decline and many now dread going into hospitals for fear they come out dead due to the appalling state of the hospitals themselves. Everyday in many ways the working classes on this island suffer humiliation and exploitation from the capitalist classes.
Those parties who in the face of these defeats whip up nationalism and or sectarian hatred are the enemies of the working class. Comrades, flags don't put food on the table. We refuse to allow ourselves to be boxed into the role of defenders of this or that community. Our only community is the working class-Catholic Protestant Dissenter Sikh Muslim or Jew.
It is clear that there are three options facing the broad republican movement.
Route one is to follow the Provisional movement in its headlong rush into constitutional nationalism and accept the status quo of capitalism. Be in no doubt that PSF want to manage capitalism in Ireland and believe they can do it better than the existing rulers. The IRSP reject that route.
Route Two is to unify those republicans who reject the Good Friday Agreement in a joint political and military onslaught on British rule. Some belief that the "Republican Movement" can be rebuilt around the re-commencing of the armed struggle. The IRSP reject that route.
Route Three is to return to the republicanism of James Connolly and to raise the class questions in every arena, in every struggle and in every battlefield.
For it is only by the working classes in Ireland taking up the issues that affect them, that the link can be made between the class and the national question. There is no short cut available. We face only a long hard slog of persuasion and of hard work. Republican Socialists must reach out to the youth, to the trade union activists to the community activists trying to improve their communities. We need to reach out to other republicans and socialists and together find a way to implement the visions of Connolly and Costello. For partition and British Imperialism will never be defeated until the class question comes to the fore. The IRSP accept that route.
Republicans need to return to basics. A return to the democratic principles inherent in republicanism is a first step followed by the taking up of the class issues that press down on the Irish working class. All republicans should henceforth put their trust not in parliamentary leaders or army councils but in the revolutionary instincts of the advanced sections of the working people on the island of Ireland. What this means in practice is the building of a revolutionary republican Party that links the struggle against privatisation north and south, that opposes Imperialism at home and abroad, that stands up for the rights of all workers, and that is firmly committed to the creation of a Socialist Republic. That's where the energies of real republicans should be geared.
That is no mean task. We must overcome our own divisions and suspicions our own inertia our own self-righteousness and elitism. For our part we are prepared to sit down with any party or group to discuss issues frankly and in a comradely spirit, and to consider working together on issues we can agree on. We call on all those with a radical or republican or a socialist view to engage in constructive dialogue with us.
There is real truth in the old slogan that you cannot have a free Ireland without a free working class. Let us return to the ideals of James Connolly. His ideas were relevant in 1916. They are still relevant today.
Stand by the ideals of Connolly and we cannot go wrong. On this Easter 2005 let us renew our faith in the republicanism and the socialism of James Connolly the founding father of our republican socialism. Back to Connolly-forward to Socialism.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Socialism and the long struggle for Irish freedom

Socialism and the long struggle for Irish freedom

By Phil Mitchinson
Tuesday, 30 August 2005
We are publishing here a speech given by Phil Mitchinson at the recent international Marxist school in Barcelona. Dealing with the history of the centuries old struggle for freedom in Ireland, and the part played in that history by republicanism and socialism, as well as the political developments that have led to the current impasse, this should serve as an introduction to a major article analysing the recent declaration of the end of the armed struggle by the Provisional IRA which we will be publishing later this week.

“An Irish Republic, the only purely political change in Ireland worth crossing the street for will never be realised except by a revolutionary party that proceeds upon the premise that the capitalist and the landlord classes in town and country in Ireland are criminal accomplices with the British government, in the enslavement and subjection of the nation. Such a revolutionary party must be socialist, and from socialism alone can the salvation of Ireland come.”
These words written by James Connolly almost one hundred years ago contain the basis of the perspectives and tasks of the struggle in Ireland. The idea that the national liberation of Ireland, its freedom from British imperialism - and consequently today Ireland’s reunification, can only be achieved by the revolutionary struggle of the working class for socialism - is repeated a thousand times in the writings of James Connolly – the greatest Marxist born in the islands of Ireland and Britain – who, just seven years after these lines were written gave his life in the cause of that struggle. Wounded in the Easter rising of 1916 and so unable to stand he was strapped to a chair by the army of British imperialism and shot dead.
I could easily fill the next hour or more reading extracts from Connolly’s writings –
only the working class remain as the incorruptible inheritors of the struggle for freedom in Ireland”, “The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, and the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour, the two cannot be dissevered” – and it would be worthwhile. All comrades should read Connolly. Here we find the most modern ideas, ideas that are more relevant today than ever. It is our duty to rescue those ideas from the clutches of the nationalists who have twisted and distorted the memory of Connolly and buried him beneath Dublin statues and street names.
In the same way in his own day Connolly struggled to rescue the ideas of that great revolutionary democrat Wolfe Tone, leader of the United Irishmen, who, one hundred years before Connolly, drew the following conclusion:
“Our freedom must be had at all hazards. If the men of property will not help us they must fall; we will free ourselves by the aid of that large and respectable class of the community – the men of no property.”
Writing about Wolfe Tone, and unwittingly about himself, Connolly said “apostles of freedom are ever idolised when dead yet crucified when living.”
Four years ago I had the privilege of speaking at an international school on the life and ideas of James Connolly. At that meeting there was no-one present from Ireland. Today we are delighted to welcome two comrades here as visitors from the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Johnny from Strabane and Neil from Cork.
Of course our International does not yet have a section in Ireland. For my part, I am with Connolly when he wrote,
“a real socialist movement can only be born of struggle, of uncompromising affirmation of the faith that is in us. Such a movement infallibly gathers to it every element of rebellion and progress, and in the midst of the storm and stress of struggle solidifies into a real revolutionary force.”
I believe that there is now an historic opportunity to construct out of the crisis of Irish republicanism, out of the impasse of Irish capitalism and out of the Irish workers’movement just such a revolutionary party as Connolly demanded.
That is a struggle “worth crossing the street for.”
There is no alternative. Just read what passes for analysis in the bourgeois press – the Manchester Guardian or the Belfast Telegraph attempt to explain the latest failed attempt at devolution (The Good Friday Agreement and Strormont) in terms of psychology and personality, of Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley. Or worse they blame the ‘stubbornness’ and ‘moodiness’ of the Irish as a national characteristic!
The inability of capitalism – of the Irish and British ruling classes – to solve the problems of Ireland cannot be explained away by national insults, nor the whims of sectarian politicians.
In these terms either the problems of Ireland can never be solved – ‘it’s in their nature’, the self-justification of those with no answer. Or, all that is needed is to change the leaders of the sectarian parties – the fantasy and illusion of those utopians who believe the GFA and Stormont can be revived once the ageing Ian Paisley dies.
It is not Paisley, nor Adams, nor any individual sectarian politician, but sectarianism, that poison which British imperialism injected into the veins of Ireland; that Frankenstein’s monster to which they gave life, and are now powerless to stop, which prevents capitalism from solving the Irish question. The inability of that system to provide jobs, houses, healthcare and education for all, continues to spread that poison – which in turn is the lifeblood of the sectarian politicians – even into the ranks of the one class in Irish society able to solve both the national and social questions – the working class.
Now, it is impossible to understand the situation in Ireland outside of the context of its whole historical development, and the entire world situation.
Fifteen years ago amidst imperialism’s euphoria at the fall of Stalinism, they deluded themselves into believing they could solve the national question in Palestine, for example, and in Ireland. Instead, the changing balance of forces internationally served to violently shake up international relations and world politics. Rather than being solved the national question reasserted itself – their efforts in Palestine and Ireland ending in tragedy and farce.
In the case of the former Yugoslavia imperialism reopened wounds and caused wars on the continent of Europe for the first time in half a century.
It is against this new international background of war and profound instability that we must see the so-called peace process in Ireland and the perspectives for the Irish working class.
Above all when dealing with the national question we have to be concrete – which working class, with what history and tradition, in what concrete circumstances? As Connolly explained in his pamphlet Erin’s Hope, “The interests of labour all over the world are identical, it is true, but it is also true that each country had better work out its own salvation on the lines most congenial to its own people.”
In other words it is not enough simply to call for workers’ unity – of course, Protestant and Catholic workers have more in common with each other than with Irish bankers, or British industrialists, or with Adams and Paisley. As true as this is on its own it is no more use than standing on a street corner in Barcelona or London or Paris and declaring the need for the working class to overthrow capitalism. If this was all that was required to make a revolution it would have succeeded long ago.
As Marxists we have to get to grips with the outlook of the Irish working class as it is and not as we might like it to be, in the real, concrete situation. To grasp the direction in which events are moving, in order to intervene and build our movement.
The 31st August 1994 marked a turning point in Irish politics with the declaration of an unconditional ceasefire by the Provisional IRA. For 25 years the Provisional IRA fought an armed struggle with the declared aim of driving out British imperialism and reuniting the island of Ireland. With more than 3000 dead on all sides not one single step has been taken in that direction – on the contrary quite a few strides have been taken further away.
This represents a crushing defeat for the policy that Marxism has always called individual terrorism, a campaign of bombings and assassinations, which could not defeat British imperialism in centuries.
The Provisional IRA have been forced to follow up their cease-fire with a statement confirming “the complete cessation of violence” and that their arms are “beyond use” and they will go still further in the coming months, desperate to rescue the Good Friday Agreement.
But it will never be enough for Paisley. Paisley and co. have one policy – fear. ‘You see’ they say ‘If the Provisional IRA are willing to do this the British government must have promised them something.’
Two thirds of Unionists in a Belfast Telegraph poll now oppose the Good Friday Agreement. In the annual violence around Orange Order marches, or in the results of the recent elections, we see a clear indication of the opposition of a Protestant majority even to the shadow of concessions. They would not accept one step in the direction of becoming an oppressed minority in a united capitalist Ireland, which could not provide them with jobs, decent houses, hospitals and schools.
Of course, British imperialism has no such plan – much though they might like to disentangle themselves from the whole costly, destabilising mess that they have created. They have given a few concessions, released a few prisoners; changed the name of the RUC to the PSNI. In turn Sinn Fein sell these meagre concessions and the hysterical reaction of Paisley and co. to gain support. But in reality Adams and McGuiness have swapped their lofty ideals for ministerial portfolios in a parliament that never meets.
It is ironic that for decades before the Good Friday Agreement the so-called centre ground of Unionism and Nationalism, the UUP and the SDLP, held a majority. The degree to which Stormont has entrenched sectarianism is in part demonstrated by the fact that the DUP and Sinn Fein now have the majority ensuring that Stormont cannot meet and the Good Friday Agreement cannot work.
After nearly 30 years of armed struggle the Provisional IRA and their strategy has been defeated and the goal of a united Ireland is further away than ever.
Instead of peace there are peace walls; segregation in housing and jobs has increased; and Stormont has constitutionalised Partition and the leaders of Sinn Fein have accepted it. The Nationalist bourgeoisie in the south long ago abandoned any claim on the north.
The Loyalist paramilitaries bear a heavy responsibility for widening the sectarian divide, the tactics of the Provisional IRA also mean they share a heavy burden of responsibility. But in the first place it is necessary to place the ultimate responsibility where it rightfully belongs – at the feet of British imperialism.
Ireland was England’s first colony and experienced the vicious cruelty of the Anglo-Saxon ruling class long before the peoples of Africa and Asia. From the twelfth century onwards the Irish nation was devastated by a series of wars of conquest – the economy was wrecked, the people reduced to starvation, and their language and culture destroyed.
Centuries of brutal oppression under English rule bred a fierce spirit of revolt and repeated uprisings. The whole history of these struggles is dominated by the courage of the people’s struggles on the one hand, and by the betrayal of those struggles at every turn by the bourgeois nationalist leaders on the other.
It is no accident, therefore, that without ever referring to Trotsky’s phrase the Permanent Revolution, nevertheless, we find exactly the same conclusion running through all the writings of James Connolly. Namely, that the bourgeoisie in the modern epoch is incapable of solving the tasks of the national democratic revolution. That the leadership of that revolution has passed to “the men (and women) of no property”, to the “incorruptible inheritors of the fight for freedom”, the working class, who will not stop at its boundaries but must carry on to the tasks of the socialist revolution.
In 1899, for example, Connolly wrote:
“ The nationalism of men who desire to retain the present social system is not the fruit of a natural growth but is an ugly abortion, the abortive product of an attempt to create a rebellious movement in favour of political freedom among men contented to remain industrial slaves. It is an attempt to create a revolutionary movement towards freedom and to entrust the conduct of the movement to a class desirous of enforcing the social subjection of the men they are professing to lead… It professes to believe that the class grinding us down to industrial slavery can at the same moment be leading us forward to national liberty”
(Apologies to the translators)
When Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government was forced to accept the idea of Home Rule for Ireland, on the eve of the First World War, Lord Carson mobilised a mass Protestant force to oppose it. British army officers refused to carry out the Liberal government’s orders, and the Tories and Unionists joined together to force the government to abandon the plan. They feared that Home Rule would mean the end of their power and privileges.
During the First World War the Irish bourgeois Nationalist leaders supported their British masters and sent their Irish Volunteers to die at the front on behalf of British imperialism. As an aside, Connolly wrote a scathing piece of propaganda attacking Nationalist leader John Redmond:
“Full stem ahead,
John Redmond said
That everything was well chum
Home Rule will come
When you are dead, and buried out in Belgium!”
The abandonment of Home Rule and then the First World War prepared the way for the Easter Rising of 1916. Now that would require an entire discussion in itself. In brief Connolly joined forces with nationalist elements to stage an uprising against British imperialism – that rising was betrayed by the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalists and then put down with great savagery by the British army. They tied the wounded Connolly to a chair and shot him.
The mass revulsion that followed led inexorably to the war of independence from 1919-21.
At every stage of the Irish liberation struggle, the national question has been inextricably linked to social problems. The Irish bourgeois nationalists have consistently betrayed the movement to further their narrow, class interests.
At bottom the national question is a class question. The emancipation of the Irish people can only be won through the emancipation of the working class, which has no class interest in national or religious oppression. As Connolly insisted, the national and social liberation of Ireland are bound together – only the working class can achieve both, the capitalist class are capable of neither.
In 1921, threatened by social revolution the British ruling class cynically carved up the living body of Ireland, proposing a treaty – accepted by the majority of the Irish Nationalist leaders – to separate the north, and a bloody civil war followed in the south.
Connolly had warned before his death that any attempt at such a Partition would lead to “a carnival of reaction” undermining the growing unity of the working class.
Four northern counties with Protestant majorities (Armagh, Down, Derry and Antrim) were lumped together with two with Catholic majorities (Fermanagh and Tyrone) to create an unstable, artificial statelet.
The south of Ireland at this time was predominantly agricultural – the bulk of industry was in the north where the Protestant working class had shown its revolutionary colours in the period following the First World War. In truth the southern bourgeoisie was just as terrified of the northern working class as the Protestant bourgeoisie was. They saw the creation of this northern statelet as an opportunity to rid themselves of the ‘godless Protestants and communists.’
The southern bourgeoisie has consistently demonstrated its lack of interest in reuniting Ireland – they supported its division in the first place.
British imperialism feared social revolution in Ireland. They had economic interests in the north; the Protestant landlords were linked to the British Tories; and imperialism had strategic naval and military interests there.
Partition led to the creation of a reactionary state based on Protestant superiority. For more than 50 years Catholics were systematically discriminated against in housing and employment. There was formal democracy, but the autonomous parliament – Stormont – with its guaranteed, in-built Protestant majority was effectively ‘a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People.’
The so-called police, the RUC and the hated ‘B’ Specials were Protestant forces. This fostered bitterness and anger in the Catholic population – it was meant to. The deliberate sowing of national and religious hatred between Catholic and Protestant in Ireland is yet another crime of British imperialism.
In order to defeat revolutionary struggle in Ireland the British ruling class perfected the tactic of divide and rule they would later use in India and Palestine.
Yet there is nothing natural or insurmountable in this. The unity of workers in struggle runs like a red thread through all of Irish history. The first great movement for Irish independence, the revolutionary movement of the United Irishmen was led by Wolfe Tone, who came from a Protestant background.
Before world war one, the great workers’ leader James Larkin led the united movement of Catholic and Protestant workers in the great Belfast Strike of 1907.
The heroic Dublin workers locked out in 1913 received support from Protestant workers in Ireland and in Britain. In 1919 the predominantly Protestant Belfast workers organised wave after wave of strikes.
The 1930s saw united struggles against unemployment.
There was the 1977 firefighters strike… there are many other examples.
In 2002 we saw the magnificent one-day general strike, with over 100,000 workers on the streets, against sectarianism, following the murder of postal worker Daniel McColgan by loyalist paramilitaries.
Despite the crushing pressure of sectarianism the trade unions remain the only mass organisations not divided on sectarian lines, and moreover are linked to the unions in the south and in Britain.
But we must not have an idealised view. The trade unions do not exist in a vacuum, they too have been affected, particularly by the segregation of workplaces which has accelerated in the last ten years (and I’ll come back to this if there’s time)
Nevertheless with almost a quarter of a million members the trade unions are by far the most powerful force in Irish society. They represent the basic workers’ organisations for overcoming sectarian division and promoting working class unity in common struggles for jobs, wages, pensions, against discrimination and oppression.
At each stage as workers have moved towards unity, the sectarians of all shades have intervened to prevent it. The Orange Order for example was established to oppose the revolutionary United Irishmen, in 1795, and their struggle for independence which was inspired by the French Revolution. There’s no time to go into it but it was supposed to be to celebrate the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne on July 12th 1690 (hence the name and the date of the Orange marches)…
There’s not enough time either to go into the Civil Rights movement of 1968-69 (which again was influenced by the events in France in May 1968). The attacks by Loyalist bigots on civil rights marchers initially created a wave of sympathy for the marchers amongst Protestant workers.
But the Loyalists were able to play on those fears of swapping places with an oppressed Catholic minority, not least because the civil rights leaders, whilst advancing progressive, democratic demands, did so within the restrictive boundaries of capitalism. As one of the leaders, Bernadette Devlin, commented drawing the same conclusion, “More jobs for Catholics meant less jobs for Protestants.”
There is a stark lesson here. Once one abandons the class position of Connolly, one enters onto a slippery slope to disaster.
The petit-bourgeois leaders of Sinn Fein paid lip service to the idea of socialism, but only in the dim and distant future, after the question of the border is settled. First a capitalist united Ireland, and then, sometime in the sweet by and by, socialism. The sects all followed suit acting as cheerleaders for the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein for decades. The SWP, remember called for British troops to be sent in in the first place, to protect the Catholic population! (Thanks to these types the image of republicanism internationally is equated with the Provisional IRA, no reference was made to the socialist wing of republicanism, the IRSP.)
They wrote off the Protestant working class as one reactionary mass – comparisons were made with whites in South Africa. Of course Catholics were discriminated against, but the Protestant working class are hardly a pampered elite living a life on luxury.
Only a class programme could reach them, can build unity, the unity of the working class needed to unite Ireland under the rule of the working class. Trying to bomb them into minority status in an Ireland of poverty and unemployment, a capitalist Ireland could not. On the contrary that only served to drive a section of the Protestant population into the arms of reactionary loyalism.
So, a capitalist united Ireland was never going to be possible on this basis. It could only lead to a civil war that British imperialism could not permit (not least because it would spill over into Glasgow, Liverpool and elsewhere.)
The idea that the Irish working class should put aside the struggle for socialism until the border was removed was only a variant of the Stalinist “two-stage theory”, which has such terrible results in Spain in the 1930s, in Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere. (This stages theory was opposed by the Republican Socialists from the beginning, by the way.)
Well, on a capitalist basis they have demonstrably failed, not just in theory, but in practice, to solve the border question. On the contrary the results of the last thirty years has been to ratify partition in the Good Friday Agreement and to entrench sectarianism.
It should now be clear, as it was to Connolly, that only the united action of the working class mobilised to overthrow the bankrupt capitalism of the south, the north and Britain can begin to solve the national question in Ireland.
Everywhere, and not least in Ireland, we must oppose the failed ‘stages’ theory with Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution. In Ireland, in particular, we must oppose it with Connolly’s ideas (I was going to read another quote here but there is no time, the comrades will have to read Connolly themselves)
Connolly’s idea that the struggle for national liberation and the struggle for socialism are inseparable and only the working class can achieve them.
The Irish bourgeoisie in the south and their shadows in the Nationalist leaders in the north are no more able to solve the problems of Ireland than British imperialism precisely because all of them remain within the confines of capitalism.
British imperialism would like to be able to get themselves out of the mess they have created in Ireland, yet in unleashing sectarianism they have ensured they cannot. They have been trying for decades. Following the Second World War Britain dominated the south economically – just as Connolly had predicted – without direct control, and, at the same time, the ports and industry of the north diminished in importance to them.
(We could have a whole discussion on the evolution of the south - from De Valera’s attempts at isolation to the opening up of the market; the role of foreign direct investment, EU funding and, above all, the increasing exploitation of the working class to explain the so-called Celtic Tiger; and why new class battles are being prepared there too.)
From the 1950s onwards the existence of the border had become a costly barrier to the more thorough exploitation of Ireland by capitalism. For the first time in the mid-1960s talks began between Irish Prime Minister Sean Lemass and Ulster Unionist leader Terence O’Neill to try to find a capitalist solution. Now four decades later those talks are no further forward.
The Good Friday Agreement finds it roots here in the 50s and 60s and British imperialism’s first attempts to secure a deal between sectarian politicians, which continued through the Sunningdale agreement of 1973-4; the Anglo-Irish agreement under Thatcher in the 80s; up to the present episode of a Stormont devolution suspended in limbo.
Meanwhile, the IRA’s ‘border campaign’ of the 1950s was a complete failure, and in the 1960s the leadership decided to abandon the armed struggle. At that time the IRA leadership was in the hands of a Stalinist tendency. The decision to abandon armed struggle was a step forward or could have been, but the Stalinist leaders were moving in a reformist direction.
Now, Marxists oppose acts of individual terrorism not from a reformist or a pacifist standpoint. The task of the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class themselves. In the words Connolly repeated a thousand times “peacefully if possible, by force if necessary”
Connolly organised an armed force, the Irish Citizens Army, the first Red Army in Europe. This was the armed wing of the mass movement, organised in the first place to defend workers against the attacks of scabs, and the bosses’ mobs who attacked strikers. The ICA was led by Connolly, and by Captain Jack White, a Protestant Ulsterman.
A prior condition for the victory of the socialist revolution is that the working class becomes conscious of its own power – not a wheel turns nor a lightbulb shines without their permission. To a large degree the ability to carry that revolution through peacefully depends on the unity of the working class. Therefore we base ourselves on Trotsky’s idea, that what is progressive is what raises the consciousness and self-consciousness of the working class – and whatever promotes unity – what is reactionary is what lowers the confidence of the workers in themselves, and what undermines their unity.
At the same time as the leaders of the IRA moved towards reformism, a hard-line, militarist faction, many on the right wing – backed and funded by a right wing faction of the southern Tory Party Fianna Fail – split away and formed the Provisional IRA.
They had no base in the north until money and arms from the south helped them to gain one. In the ebb of the civil rights movement, and especially after the massacre of 14 innocents on Bloody Sunday, radicalised groups of Catholic youth wanted arms to defend themselves. But the cupboard was bare, the Official IRA had none, mistakenly they had dumped them, and many of these youth flocked to the banner of the Provisional IRA instead. The Official IRA was outmanoeuvred.
Around this time there was a split to the left. It is almost a law, I know Alan has mentioned it before, that mass nationalist (and there is a comparison here with Republican) movements always tend to split along class lines at a certain stage.
Long standing IRA leader Seamus Costello formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party, they declared for Connolly, that the struggle for socialism and national liberation are inextricably bound together.
From the very beginning the new socialist wing of republicanism (in reality there had always been a socialist wing within republicanism) was beset by crises. Their leaders beginning with Costello himself, Miriam Daly, Ta Power, Gino Gallagher were assassinated either by the Officials, the state, or the Provisionals, or by criminal gangs. There was something here to frighten each of them.
This inevitably poisoned and distorted the development of the IRSM. They made many mistakes, as I think they are the first to admit, and they have also learned a great deal from them (the only way one can be sure of avoiding mistakes is by doing nothing). They played a heroic role in the 1980-81 hunger strikes. Three of their number gave their lives, Michael Devine. Patsy O’Hara and Kevin Lynch.
Many revolutionary youth have given their lives heroically in this struggle – and that includes those in the Provisionals as well as those from a socialist background.
Some of the more political youth, like the IRSP’s Ta Power studied Marx and Lenin in prison (his prison notebooks would be a valuable publication if that were possible). He also wrote what has come to be known as the ‘Ta Power Document’ which some of the comrades will have read on our website, calling for the supremacy of political struggle over military action, a turn from armed struggle to class struggle and socialist revolution and so on, the comrades should read it.
This brings us up to the present. Through the 1980s and 1990s Republican prisoners like the population as a whole were becoming war-weary. The Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire. This was the start of the so-called peace process – an attempt to share out responsibility for the implementation of a capitalist policy between the bloc of four sectarian parties, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the UUP and the DUP, who between them poll 93% of the votes cast in elections.
The purpose from the point of view of British imperialism was to provide some stability to more effectively exploit the Irish working class in the name of profit, and to cut their expenditure on troops etc.
From every point of view this has been a dismal failure. It has solved nothing for the working class of the six counties. The Stormont Assembly only met long enough for its members to vote themselves a pay rise and more expenses. When it discussed policy there were no real differences between the four main parties, on privatisation, for example.
Now suspended for the fourth time, in reality it is dead. Oh, it can be resuscitated periodically perhaps (like any coma victim there is the danger of brain death, and ending in a persistent vegetative state, looking at them I fear it’s already too late for most) but as the promised solution it is dead.
This has created a new crisis in Republicanism. What now? Many, youth in particular will be asking themselves this question.
The descent into gangsterism by one section only exacerbates that crisis. The impact of the Northern Bank robbery and above all the murder of Robert McCartney has been to expose this criminal side. Paramilitary groups on both sides have been involved at one time or another in drug dealing, money laundering and protection rackets. This has gone on for years. The Loyalist gangs are currently engaged in a pernicious turf war along these lines.
Now the cover of political action has been removed to expose more of these criminal gangs.
Isolated from the mass movement there is an inevitable tendency towards lumpenism and banditry in terrorist style organisation. The Mafia, as I understand it, originated as a guerrilla struggle against the Bourbons in Sicily. The Triads were originally part of a Chinese Nationalist force. Now we have the ‘Ra-fia’.
Following the murder of Robert McCartney graffiti appeared in the staunchly Republican Short Strand Area saying “PIRA Scum Out”
This is an indication of the crisis confronting Republicanism, it is reminiscent of the period when the old Official IRA moved to reformism when graffiti on the walls read IRA – I Ran Away. There will be new splits and divisions in the next period. In the current environment there is not really the conditions for a new ‘militarist’ split. Some will be demoralised and lost. Others will be looking for a new way forward. As for a split to the left – that already happened with the socialist wing, which can grow in the next period.
Now Stormont can’t meet it’s back to direct rule from Westminster. This can only exacerbate the crisis facing the Provisionals and Sinn Fein; they have no way forward and are desperate to rescue the Assembly.
Amongst the youth in particular there will be huge possibilities for a revolutionary wing of republicanism – putting forward a revolutionary, class position, an internationalist position.
I have to come to a conclusion now. British imperialism has failed to solve the problem it created even with the best conditions, the best opportunity, it could hope for – an economic boom in the south and in Britain; the collapse of Stalinism; the failure and defeat of the tactics of the Provisional IRA – and the best they could manage was another failed episode of Stormont and a deepening of the sectarian divide which prevents unification on a capitalist basis.
None of the sectarian parties have any progressive role to play since their existence feeds on the continuation of the sectarian divide.
The Provisional Republican movement has been defeated. The petit-bourgeois Nationalist leaders of Sinn Fein demanded an All-Ireland Referendum, what they got instead was the abandonment of the south’s claim for 32 counties, the abandonment by the southern ruling class of the goal of a united Ireland, written into the constitution.
The south, the so-called Celtic Tiger has a big role to play but not the southern bourgeois. The movement of the working class in the south can play a vital part, as can movements of the workers in Britain, and indeed revolutionary movements internationally which have so inspired the movement in Ireland in the past. The revolution in Venezuela can play a big part.
To get back to the point: British imperialism has no answer; the sectarian parties have no answer; the Irish bourgeoisie has no answer; the petit bourgeois nationalist leaders have no answer… you see a pattern emerging here. As Sherlock Holmes used to say once you have eliminated all other possibilities whatever you are left with, no matter how improbable, must be the answer.
Only the working class can free Ireland from British imperialism and free themselves from capitalist exploitation at the same time.
The task of revolutionaries in Ireland today is – Back to Connolly!
The task is to promote workers’ unity, with a class programme in the trade unions.
Oh, the usual suspects will criticise us that our answer is always “the only answer is socialism” – that we aren’t practical, that we are utopians.
The impact of the poison of sectarianism and the enfeeblement of capitalism makes this solution far from simple. Let’s just look at a couple of facts. According to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in 1994 3000 people moved into areas overwhelmingly made up of the other religious background – buoyed no doubt by the prospect of peace. By 1996 this trend had already reversed with 6000 moving into areas predominantly of ‘their own’ background.
The 2001 census shows 66 percent living in areas either 90 percent plus Protestant or 90 percent plus Catholic.
Just 5 percent of the workforce located in Protestant areas are Catholic, and just 8 percent are Protestant in workplaces located in ‘Catholic areas’.
Catholics remain twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants and the figure rises to three and a half times if you are a woman. That’s according to the government’s Labour Force Survey.
These are just a few examples, together with the “peace lines” that divide working class streets and estates, which demonstrate that workers’ unity is far from simple, it is not the easy option, but it is the only option.
It’s not simple but it is not utopian either. On January 18th, 2002, the one-day general strike of Protestant and Catholic workers against the sectarian killing of postal worker Daniel McColgan, with 100,000 on the streets shows the clear potential for workers’ unity.
There are many class issues, economic issues, and political issues – the anti-war movement for example – around which unity can be built. Defending the Venezuelan revolution can play an important role, our campaign on this question has gained support from Republican Socialists, and has begun to gain a wider echo.
Against the background of impasse in Ireland, movements of the working class in the south, in the north, in Britain, and revolutionary movements internationally, there will be a tremendous and historic opportunity to build the revolutionary party that Connolly referred to in my opening remarks, and I want to finish with Connolly too. He answered all the cynics who would denounce us as utopian and not ‘practical’ in advance when he wrote:
"Revolution is never practical - until the hour of revolution strikes. Then it alone is practical, and all the efforts of the conservatives and compromisers become the most visionary and futile of human imaginings. For that hour let us work, think and hope. For that hour let us pawn our present ease in hopes of a glorious redemption: For that hour let us prepare the hosts of labour with intelligence sufficient to laugh at the nostrums dubbed practical by our slave-lords - practical for the perpetuation of our slavery: For the supreme crisis of human history let us watch like sentinels with weapons ever at the ready."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

What is Irish Republican Socialism?

What Is Irish Republican Socialism?
A war for national liberation continues in Ireland today, which traces its roots to the original conquest of the island by Britain in 1167. In its most current phase, this war has centered on bringing to an end the continued occupation by Britain of six counties in Northeast Ireland. The political representatives of the revolutionary interests of the Irish working class in this struggle are constituted collectively as the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, which includes the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the Irish National Liberation Army, the Irish Republican Socialist Prisoners of War from both the IRSP and the INLA, and the organizations established throughout the world to support these forces in Ireland.
The IRSP and INLA were founded on December 10, 1974. Most original members were drawn from Official Sinn Féin and the Official IRA (the same organizations from which the Provisional Irish Republican Movement had split five years earlier). These members were joined by independent socialists from throughout Ireland to form the new Irish Republican Socialist Movement. James Connolly, Ireland's leading Marxist, who was executed for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916, originally formulated the analysis upon which the movement was founded: that the struggle for national liberation and the fight for socialism in Ireland are inseparable.
The object of the IRSM remains a 32-county socialist republic, wherein the Irish working class will control the means of production, distribution and exchange, administered by the proletariat through workers' democracy.
The central political thesis of the IRSP is that only a socialist revolution is capable of providing a means to address the needs of the Irish working class. The IRSP rejects a 'stagist' concept of the struggle - that first we must win national liberation and then we can press forward towards socialist objectives - understanding the national liberation struggle is but an aspect of the struggle for socialism. The Party also rejects the position that socialism can be achieved in one or both parts of Ireland without reunification, understanding that it is the very fact of partition that has served to divide the Irish working class and mask their actual collective interests as a class. While acknowledging that national liberation and socialism cannot be achieved through a military victory by guerrilla forces in the national liberation campaign, the IRSP defends the right of the revolutionary forces to employ this tactic whenever useful to achieve its aims. The Party also understands that no parliamentary road to socialism exists, and feels no compulsion to participate in all electoral campaigns, but is prepared to use parliamentary politics and hold elective office as a means of carrying out propaganda, and where possible to aid the self-organization of the working class towards winning immediate objectives.
The IRSP is proud to be Ireland's largest party fully supporting women's control over their reproductive rights, including access to abortion on demand. In addition to consistent efforts for women's liberation, the IRSP is committed to the liberation of lesbians and gays and of ethnic minorities; defense of the rights and cultural integrity of Irish speakers and of Irish neutrality; ending multinational corporations' continued expropriation of the surplus value produced by Irish workers; opposition to the European Union, and to continued environmental degradation; separating the Church from civil affairs and education; and supports efforts to free the Irish people from restrictions of their personal liberties through reactionary, clerically-inspired legal restrictions.
Because of its revolutionary program and principled stand on issues, the IRSM has always faced violent opposition disproportionate to its size. Immediately after its founding it came under military attack from the Official IRA, which in 1977 killed Seamus Costello, the first IRSP chairperson. The SAS, using the guise of a Loyalist death squad, in 1980 murdered his successor, Miriam Daly, as well as IRSM activists Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle. Again disproportionately, the INLA has seen its volunteers murdered in British Army and Irish Gardaí shoot-to-kill operations (including the 1997 assassination of a Volunteer in Dublin). In 1987, some former members previously purged for criminal activity and calling themselves the Irish People's Liberation Organization, launched an attack on the movement, killing the INLA Chief of Staff, as well as INLA Staff Officer (and IRSM theorist) Thomas 'Ta' Power. Though seriously crippled, the IRSM survived, thoughby 1992 the IPLO had collapsed. In January 1996, IRSP Ard Comhairle member Gino Gallagher was killed in cold blood by another criminal band acting on behalf of British Intelligence, followed by a number of attempts on the lives of IRSM members.
During the 1980s, the INLA continued to engage the occupation forces in the Six Counties while also carrying out military actions that underlined the unique character of the IRSM's political line, such as assassinations of reactionary Loyalist paramilitarists like John McKeage of the Red Hand Commandos and the bombing of the Mount Gabriel radar station near Cork, Ireland, exposing the violation of Irish neutrality through the station having been used to supply information to NATO. As a measure of their successes against imperialism, INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey was such a threat that he was named the most wanted man in both the 26-county Irish Republic and in the six counties, and became the first republican to be extradited from the Republic into British custody.
Imprisoned comrades of the IRSM joined in all prison struggles of the late 1970s and the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981. Three of the ten men who died during the 1981 hunger strike, Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Devine, were INLA Volunteers. In 1985 INLA prisoners in Portlaoise Gaol won parity with other republican prisoners through a brief, but successful, hunger strike, and in 1986 all Republican Socialist prisoners in England won repatriation to Ireland through a renewed blanket/dirty protest.
Since August 1994 the INLA has held to a 'No First Strike' policy, that is, not initiating any offensive military action, in order to allow the Nationalist people to see for themselves the failure of the so-called 'peace process' and IRA ceasefire. The INLA maintains their legitimate right to act in defense of the membership of the IRSM and the Irish working class. This policy twice resulted in actions against the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) when they joined with Loyalist mobs in attacking Nationalist workers.

Friday, March 03, 2006

This is Republican Socialism!

This is Republican Socialism!

The Irish Republican Socialist Party is an organisation created by and for working class people, to aid working class liberation in Ireland and internationally with others who share that common goal. The IRSP stands in the tradition of James Connolly, seeking an end to all forms of exploitation and the creation of a 32 county socialist republic, with the working class collectively owning the means of production, distribution, and exchange, as well as democratically administering society.
The socialism we embrace is the kind that liberates, not enslaves. We strive towards a society that functions to meet human needs, not the need for profit. Our socialism is a means of liberating our class from all forms of oppression, whether economic, political, religious, cultural or social. It is a socialism that envisions our class controlling their own destinies and that of the nation as a whole.
National Liberation
The struggle for national liberation cannot be separated from the class struggle. Any attempt to isolate one from the other will result in failure. It is meaningless to speak of a free nation, if the overwhelming majority remain oppressed, and national sovereignty is lost through multinational corporate control of the economy just as much as by partition. At the same time, someone who refuses to challenge British imperialism in Ireland cannot claim to be fighting for socialism and the continuation of partition props up the divisions in the working class of Ireland that hold us back from our own liberation. We have no choice in whether or not we wish to consider the interconnection of the national and class questions, reality forces us to do so.
We define the national liberation struggle as that struggle which seeks to force a British military withdrawal from the occupied six counties. The destruction of the pro-British loyalist armed forces. The withdrawal of British political influence from all parts of Ireland. The ending the partition of the island of Ireland and the overturning of both the partionist governments presently administering political affairs of Ireland. The gaining of collective economic control of the nation's resources by the nation as a whole and the eradication of any control or influence exercised by foreign capitalists over any aspect of the Irish economy. The recognition of a separate Irish cultural identity and the establishment of revolutionary 32- county socialist republic.
We aim to build a strong alliance in Irish society of our class in towns and cities, agricultural workers in the country-side, unemployed workers, working class refugees, linked as a movement internationally with other like-minded liberation struggles.
We firmly stand-by the struggle for a republic. On that we are inflexible, but our struggle for the republic is a means to an end. For us, the national liberation struggle is but an aspect of the struggle for socialism.
Loyalism & Nationalism
We distinguish between loyalism and Protestantism. We recognise the right of everyone to their own religious beliefs, provided they do not use these beliefs to oppress others. We have no quarrel with Protestant workers and welcome them to join us in struggle. However, we stand totally opposed to the political ideology of loyalism. Loyalism is a reactionary, sectarian and proimperialist ideology, with which we can make no compromise. We recognise that nationalism in the context of the Irish struggle is progressive, but we also recognise that nationalism can play a reactionary role. The national chauvinism of the Tories, National Front, etc. is counterrevolutionary and anathema to socialists. The nationalism of an oppressed country is vastly different from such reactionary jingoism. We support all struggles against imperialism throughout the world.
Class mobilisation Only by mobilising our class north and south - Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter - can the goal of national liberation and socialism be achieved. Workers have distinct interests as a class, ultimately opposed to any other class, we must join together as a class to win control of society.
For a fighting union
As republican socialists, we take lesson from battles that have gone before us, in the community and in the workplace. We must reclaim our unions and organise the unorganised. We remain committed to the revolutionary industrial unionism of Larkin and Connolly. As republican socialists we see the creation of a fighting 'rank and file' trade union movement as something that still holds potential and we support the building of a revolutionary shop stewards' movement.
Our class faces daily, relentless assaults inflicted on us from many quarters and a constant onslaught of attempts to divide us. The IRSP oppose and fight against all forms of inequality and oppression, including that of women, travellers, lesbians, gays, or other sexual minorities, refugees, Africans, Asians, and any other oppressed sector of the working class. We oppose racism, Zionism, sexism, homophobia, national chauvinism, and anything else which divides our class. We support reproductive rights and unhindered access to contraception, including a woman's right to choose abortion. We are opposed to religious sectarianism and seek the complete separation of church and state and a secular society.
Our Earth
The increasing destruction of our environment is due to mismanagement of industrialisation and the inevitable product of a system, which puts profit before all else, that is, capitalism. The IRSP is committed to sustainable and renewable energy sources, preservation of the ecology and biodiversity of our planet, with protection of all species and the promotion of a healthy environment for all people and animal life.
Revolution not Reform
The IRSP believe that the present class system cannot be reformed out of existence. There exists no parliamentary road to socialism and the liberation of our class. We need to build an organised working class movement with the politics capable of leading the fight against capitalism. Our class are entitled to control over all the wealth of society and to obtain it through any means necessary.
If you agree with us, then we urge you to join the Irish Republican Socialist Party and help build a movement that can accomplish these aims and objectives. Be part of the Irish revolution!