Thursday, July 13, 2006

Why the Left should disown Irish Republicanism

I was checking through several of the links to the right of this page and discovered one linking to Starry Plough, an Irish Republican website claiming to advocate the establishment of an independent Irish socialist republic. I thought it fitting that I should dedicate an article to having this link removed from our site and to dedicate an article to the education of any who still have romantic notions about the realities of Irish Republicanism.

First, with regard specifically to this website, the owner is a terrorist. I refer to his own words, "the last person to say for life to me was Seebag-Shaw. And that was for blowing up bits of England." I imagine this is a flippant comment, nevertheless it clearly denotes a departure from the mass ideologies of the left and the endorsement of individual terrorism, so calumniated by VI Lenin and those other historical figures who have sought revolution. We on the left should not be associated with anyone remotely involved with the campaign of Irish Republicanism for a 'United Ireland.'

On more general matters, there is abundant material to warrant the disavowal of Irish Republicanism as a left movement. I should of course explain that I was born and bred in Northern Ireland, the son of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. I was brought up Catholic amidst a Catholic nationalist family from Andersonstown in Belfast. I am, in case anyone has missed this, an atheist Marxist and it is from this point of view that I proceed.

Allow me to begin with Sínn Féin, the primary party of Irish Republicanism and the second largest voting bloc in the Northern Irish Assembly, after the Unionist DUP. This party claims the same mantle as 'Starry Plough,' i.e., the legacies of Padraig Pearse and James Connolly, the self-serving socialist rhetoric of Bobby Sands and the leadership of the fight for a United Irish Socialist Republic. As if there was ever anything socialist about Sínn Féin. Never has this been more clear than when SF delivered into the hands of capitalist land development barons the green belt land in the Fingal Council region (Dublin North). After campaigning alongside Socialist Party, Green Party and the Labour Party for council seats based on an environmental platform, SF went back on their election pledges to vote with the mainstream parties.

This is nothing compared to the radical rewrite of economic policy in which SF has been indulging for the past twenty years. In 1979 an Eire Nua document declared that Sínn Féin wanted the Irish economy to be controlled by collectives of farmers, fishermen and factory workers. Today, SF have reneged on all of that and have even sunk below the level of the (virtually anti-socialist) Fine Gael-Labour coalition of 1994-7 in declaring that capital gains tax should not be restored to 40%. These people were never socialist but have now gone as far as to reject protectionist capitalism in favour of the free market - the very thing their youth division, Ógra hSínn Féin, are constantly attacking in order to get members.

In the Americas, no one should read this with any surprise given the banquets that American corporations such as Coca-Cola have thrown for SF representatives. The effect on Sínn Féin has been noticeable; in the Students Union at Queen's University, SF representatives blocked moves to condemn Coca-Cola for their anti-trade unionist activities in Colombia. In the Northern Irish Assembly, SF, in alliance with the SDLP, the UUP and the DUP, approved the Water Tax in a white paper submitted by the British government.

This double taxation (since water is already paid for through rates) on top of an increase in rates is unbelievable from any party claiming to represent the left, particularly since it would hit working class families hardest. All of these parties have since opportunistically changed their tune after fighting coalitions based in the major estates of Belfast threatened to turn into a mass movement, led by the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (much as the last bunch are also opportunistic buggers).

Of course I am not so simplistic as to suggest that all Irish Republicans are like SF; saying that would be like saying all Labour supporters are fans of Tony Blair. It's patently not true. Nevertheless, the most difficult question of all finds all Irish Republicans firmly on the wrong side of workers' interests - in fact that question shows just how sectarian Irish Republicanism is. The national question clearly demonstrates that Republicanism is an ideology of the ruling class, perpetuated by well-educated members of the ruling class to divide workers. Repeated calls for a United Ireland merely serve to alienate Protestant and Catholic workers and to strengthen the hand of the reactionary political parties with their tribalism and some of them with their fundamentalist Christianity. So far that has been the only contribution of Irish Republicanism to Northern Irish politics.

The only way forward for politics in Northern Ireland is based on co-operation between workers of all religions. This is a self-evident truth shown by the effect that proletarian unity has had on the ruling class during the history of this divided little state. In the 1920's, the Catholic Church and the 'official' Unionist Party and Orange Order fell over themselves to divide a burgeoning labour movement. These moves were repeated in much more violent fashion in the 1960's, with the result being thirty odd years of bloodshed. Campaigns on behalf of workers, such as the anti-water charges campaign, make religion irrelevant to the political questions - but the pro-establishment political elites cannot advocate such an approach as it is anathema to them. They are the representatives of capital, charged with representing the interests of business over the interests of workers, and reconciling that to the people they are employed by; the average tax payer.

The deaths of the Troubles notwithstanding, we should reclaim the title socialist from these people. Ultimately they are what keep a strong left wing movement from emerging in one of the most economically depressed parts of the United Kingdom.

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