The Red Plough
Vol. 1-No 13
2) Re-establishing Costello Commemorations
3) Seamus Costello 25th Anniversary speech
4) 2004 Commemoration
5) Seamus Costello Commemoration Speech 2006
6) Key Ideas of Seamus Costello
SEAMUS COSTELLO REMEMBERED.
The Red Plough is re-publishing the following documents and speeches first published in the Plough. Although there is some repetition we consider it worth while as contained within these documents are the key elements that define republican socialism and also shows the correct analysis of the so called peace processes that have ultimately stabilised British rule in Ireland. The first speech was delivered before a very small group of IRSP members from Dublin at the graveside of Seamus Costello as the Republican Socialist movement sought in the mid 1990’s to re-establish the Costello commemoration as an important part of the political calendar. That aim has been well achieved as the ideas of Costello are once again seen as relevant to republicans. The analysis contained in these documents are the result of the collective efforts of the leaderships of the Republican Socialist Movement. They are as relevant today as they were then.
The 1997 speech
We gather here to play homage to Seamus Costello, radical revolutionary republican socialist. In the modern Ireland we live in there will be many who do not know the story of Seamus Costello, many not aware of the role Seamus played in modernizing republicanism in his time.
Seamus was the main driving force behind the politics of Republican Socialism from the early sixties until his murder twenty years ago in October 1977. He showed the way forward for the republican movement; no movement that deserts the people, ignores the current realities and refuses to acknowledge the economic needs of the working class deserves to exist. Seamus played a major part in convincing many in the mainstream republican movement that the time for clichés, flags and faded memories of old men was long past.
If Irish republicanism has played a progressive role in Irish society it is because of its ability to renew itself in each generation and become relevant to the lives of the people from which it had sprung. Seamus Costello was a catalyst in renewing the republican tradition in the later part of the 20th century. He pointed the way by standing for elections taking his seat, playing a full part in the community he came from while never forgetting the crime of partition. A full blooded socialist Seamus saw a role for an army of the people prepared to both defend the interests of the working class whilst also prepared to challenge imperialism and its hold over the whole of Irish society.
It was for this latter reason that the Official Republican Movement, which Seamus had stayed with after the emergence of the Provos because of its more formal commitment to socialism, expelled him after first suspending him in 1973 and trying to isolate him. His dismissal formalized the differences between the reformists and the revolutionaries.
The sad pathetic decline of the reformists in what became the Workers Party is just reward for their betrayal of their own principles. In pursuit of an illusionary unite between unionist workers and nationalist workers the 'Sticks' "took the Queens shilling" and stood all they believed in on its head.
A recent breakaway from the Workers Party might persuade some that there is some socialist hope still there. Be not fooled. How can the new sticks have any credibility when they performed a counter revolutionary role for years? They are an historical irrelevance.
Seamus took the revolutionaries with him. He went on to found the Irish Republican Socialist Party and to protect it went on to build the INLA.
Around the slogan relevant to that time, "For National Liberation and Socialism" the Republican Socialist Movement was launched. Many of the best revolutionaries of the day flocked to the banner of the IRPS.
They were attracted by the words of Seamus,
"We must make no secret of the fact that we’re a Revolutionary Socialist Party, prepared to give leadership on the streets and in the elected chambers. We stand for the unity of the anti-imperialist struggle and the class struggle. We must involve the masses in issues that effect them".
In words that perhaps some here in the light of subsequent Republican history might find surprising, he wrote, when advocating a broad front policy,
"We recognize the absolute necessity of securing a constitutional solution to the present crisis which will allow the Irish working class the freedom to pursue their interests as a class in the context of the development of normal class politics. In our view the first step in securing a constitutional solution which meets this requirement must be for Britain to concede the right of the Irish people to exercise total sovereignty over their own affairs"
Seamus went on to work passionately for what he believed in. He led the defence of the party against the activities of the heavy Gang in the Garda who did all they could to smash the movement. He co-coordinated the defence of the movement against the armed assault of the Officials. He organized a major anti-imperialist conference at the Spa Hotel Lucan. And he worked day and night to build the Republican Socialist Movement
His assassination on the direct orders of the political leadership of the Workers Party was a body blow to the movement and to the cause then of anti-imperialist unity.
It was said of Seamus
"They will have to shoot him or jail him or get out of his way but they certainly wont` stop him. Costello the revolutionary Marxist socialist whose ambition is a secular, pluralist united Socialist Republic won’t go away until he gets it"
Unfortunately for us comrades, they shot him. So died a former Adj. General, Chief of Staff, Director of Operations I.R.A. Vice President of Sinn Fein, and Director of Operations and Chief of Staff, in the INLA. He died a member of Wicklow County Council, County Wicklow Committee of Agriculture, Eastern Regional Development Committee, Bray Urban District Council, Bray branch of the I.T.G.W.U. Bray and District Trades Union Council, the Cualann Historical Society and Chairman of the IRSP.
This was a man! He lived life to the full and his allegiance was always and only to the working class. Would that we had 10 people like him today.
Subsequently our movement without the guiding leadership of Seamus was riven by disputes informers and infiltrated by anti-socialists. A long hard struggle, costing the lives of some of our best comrades, including Ta Power and Gino Gallagher, has won back the movement to its original goals, socialism and the liberation of the working class.
But while we are aware of what we want to achieve do we know how to go about achieving it? No party or movement can rest on its laurels, or past record, sing the old songs, call itself socialist or revolutionary and expect the working class to flock to its banner. Comrades throw away the old certainties. This is not the sixties or seventies, the state socialist projects have collapsed, capitalism unfettered is rampant and the road ahead is long hard and arduous if a belief in socialism is to be reborn in the working class.
Our movement to be relevant it must update its republican socialism. Too close a concentration on the national question and an unquestioning approach to the nature of Imperialism in Ireland has distorted and held back the struggle for socialism in Ireland and also incidentally is the antithesis of the approach that Seamus would have taken.
From this platform today, may I appeal to all those who define themselves as Republican Socialists or as Connolly Socialists do as Seamus did, get involved in the day to day activities of the class.
Don’t sit and bemoan lost opportunities, and past tragic days, and comrades long gone jailed or dead.
Don’t be the old -dreaming dreams of lost opportunities. Seize the time now and become active again, not for the glory but for the class. Everyone has something to contribute no matter how small. Participate in your union branch, join or set up a community group in your area to organize people, protest, agitate organize.
You don’t need a party card to be angry nor to contribute to the building of discontent with the system. But to beat the system you do need comrades. From this platform we appeal to all genuine republican socialists, participate in the fight back. You do have something to offer.
Look around at the society we actually live in and I defy you not to be angry at the injustice and inequality and not have the wish to change things. Rezoning scandals, passports for sale scandals politicians with links with drug barons are all but symptoms of a rotten system.
The jails are full and 56% of prisoners in Mountjoy come from 6 pockets of deprived areas of Dublin. While the banks and other financial institutions ride the Celtic tiger, a 150 babies are born to drug abusers in Dublin. The medical services and the back up social services for them are totally inadequate as it is for most working class people. Landlords bully and intimidate tenants and only a few are called to account. In the building trade employers refuse to enforce the existing inadequate safety standards and already nine workers have died this year on building sites.
Meanwhile back in the Dail it now emerges that the lily-white Labour party is up to their neck in justifying selling passports for £1 million. So much for ethics high standards in public life. Has Dick Spring ever thought about trying socialist measures for establishing jobs and keeping people in employment?
The sideshow of the presidential election should not fool anyone into thinking that all is well in the Irish Republic. It is not. It is true that the rich do well, as do many sections of the middle classes but inequality is growing and more and more people particularly single parents and old people find themselves on the margins of society, forgotten, voiceless, powerless.
Who shall speak for them if not us? No movement in Ireland understands better than us the feeling of isolation. We have been deliberately excluded from many forums, from fighting elections, and maligned consistently in the media with lies falsehood and slander.
Since the emergence of the peace process in the past five years attempts have been made by both British intelligence and mainstream republicans to denigrate, marginalise or destroy the Republican Socialist Movement.
These attempts were not made because this was a warmongering mad dog organization, (which it is not, nor ever was, no matter what the O`Reilly or Murdock media print). No, attempts were made to destroy us because we as socialist republicans were able to identify the flaws of the peace process and articulate a clear political position of opposition to that process.
Let me repeat here today what we have said consistently, the peace process is fatally flawed, and will not produce a final settlement.
We believe that there is not the political will to tackle the fundamental wrongs of the northern state.
Will the British government tackle the thorny questions of the northern judiciary and the R.U.C.?
The chair of a Sub committee on International Human Rights of the U.S.A.`s House of Representatives, Chris Smith, is quoted as saying about the heads of the judiciary, Robert Carswell and the Head of the R.U.C.
"Both men remain in a state of denial, refusing to admit that human rights abuses take place in their agencies."
Will the Brits tackle this? We think not. Will the nationalists next summer be freed from intimidation, fear, house burning from loyalist mobs while the RUC stand and watch? We think not. Will in five years time the level of employment for nationalist and unionists be the same? We think not? Constitutional tinkering with the northern state will not eradicate its fundamentally sectarian nature. It has to go.
Our party is calling for the establishment of a Republican Forum where republicans and socialists of all hues can dialogue together to map out a way forward for the future, in the tradition of Seamus Costello’s call for a broad front and building anti-imperialist unity. We believe from the socialist perspective this is the only way to go. The talks at Stormont are not the way to remove the burdens of sectarianism, discrimination and oppression from the northern nationalists.
However this movement will not do or encourage anyone else to do any actions designed to throw us all back into full-scale armed conflict. As socialists we understand only to well how working class communities suffer during armed conflict. We commend the decision by the INLA to move to a position of defence and retaliation and endorse its no first strike policy.
Such a movement was always in line with the founder of the army’s vision of an army of the people for with and of the people, not separate above and fighting for the people as militarist elites would have.
Agencies of many kinds have approached the leadership of the IRSP requesting them to encourage the INLA to call a full ceasefire. The leadership has listened patiently to these requests and is not immune to argument, reason and good judgment.
We have encouraged not only the leadership of the INLA to consider all requests but also the rank and file. It was made clear to the leadership of the I.R.SP any change in the current position by that organization will be solely on the basis of the interests of the Northern nationalist working class. No offer of a place at the table, nor respectability, nor trips to Washington, nor the Dail, will influence that decision.
Comrades, Seamus Costello was a modernizer in the sixties and seventies. He made a difference. Today he would be the same, modernizing, up to date, radical republican and socialist.
Let us follow that example of Seamus Costello. Stand with the marginalized, the downtrodden the victims, the poor, all who are voiceless in the modern Ireland. Strive for equality, solidarity, working class unity, human rights and justice for all. Let us rebuild the socialist vision so that we renew in the Irish working class a vision of socialism as
" The heart of a heartless world"
Seamus Costello 25th Anniversary speech
Comrades, friends socialists, republicans. I have been given the honour to speak on behalf of the organisations that Seamus Costello founded. That is, for me, a great honour and one that I hope I can adequately fill.
I know that others will speak of Seamus the man and of their memories of him. My own memories include a fierce argument with Seamus in 1969, 33 years ago, in downtown Belfast on the merits of radicalising the civil rights struggle. Needless to say history proved Seamus right.
Seamus’s experience, his farsightedness, his political acumen his leadership skills were all lost not only to the republican socialist movement when he was assassinated but lost to the people of Ireland. The loss of such an outstanding leader damaged our movement but it also removed from the scene a workers leader who I believe would never have allowed the class question to be isolated and then removed from the struggle for national independence.
The Good Friday Agreement has benefited the middle classes not the working classes As we predicted when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, sectarianism has not only been institutionalised it has spread like wildfire.
This movement took the extremely difficult decision to recognise that the will of the Irish people was for the implementation of the GFA and for peace. We acted accordingly and the INLA cease-fire has been as solid as any. We have respected the wishes of the Irish people. We now call on the Irish Government to respect their own Good Friday Agreement and immediately release the last remaining prisoners to qualify for release under the Good Friday Agreement, Dessie O¹Hare.
Today there is a neo-liberal economic agenda at work and it has been accepted almost totally by all the mainstream parties both north and south. Republicans in Government in the Stormont Assembly introduced public private partnerships that by all the available evidence are bad for the public sector.
The privatisation of public utilities is an utter disgrace, an attack on social ownership and a worship of the worst excesses of capitalism. The Fianna Fail/ Progressive Democrats are doing the same while the left sits and fumes impotently.
However it ills becomes a member of the Republican Socialist Movement to engage on verbal criticisms of other socialists and republicans if we have not removed the mote from our own eyes. There is no better time, nor no better place than within sight of the grave of our founder, Seamus Costello to acknowledge our errors and faults.
This movement lost sight of the goals of our founders. We swayed from mindless militancy to irrelevant political posturing. We failed to learn the lessons of history and repeated them. In place of socialist theory and strategy we elevated action to the fore and in the process lost the idealism and politics that had originally motivated the movement. We for a time lost sight of the importance of the class issue in the national struggle. Consequently without a firm ideological base we floundered, betrayed our ideals and lost many good comrades. It’s no wonder that in the past comrades walked away, disillusioned and demoralised with the movement. We gave the media and our political enemies the opportunity to portray our movement as a feuding failing and futile organisation.
Our failure was in essence a failure of leadership. At the grave of the greatest leader of the republican left since James Connolly that is a hard, harsh but necessary thing to say.
But if collectively we failed individually we had many fine comrades and volunteers who kept the flame of Republican Socialism alive. I need only mention a few names Miriam Daly, Ronnie Bunting, Noel Little, Ta Power and Gino Gallagher to make the point. Other names can’t be mentioned here but I particularly want to here mention and praise the staff and Volunteers of the INLA, whose discipline and defence of nationalist areas in particular over the past summer was in the best traditions of republican socialism. Daily in those areas violence continues unabated as the poison of sectarianism enflames working class areas.
The INLA has been active in defence of those working class areas. That poses no threat to any ceasefire or threatens anyone except sectarian and racist bigots. When the police and the forces of the state turn a blind eye to sectarian attacks is it any wonder that republicans have to take to the streets to defend areas from sectarian attacks. Seamus Costello’s vision of an army of the people is as relevant today as it was the early seventies and is implemented on the streets of Belfast. Those republicans in front line working class communities neither by word or deed will heighten or enflame sectarian tensions. That was not the way of Connolly Mellows or any other Republican Socialist. It is not our way.
Time and circumstances change. The rank and file of this movement under Gino Gallagher’s leadership took back control of the movement and reasserted the primacy of politics. The leadership of this movement is committed to collective leadership and full consultation with the membership and to developing and expanding republican socialist ideas in the working class movement.
However no movement deserves to continue to exist if it is only concerned with its own history it’s own problems and its own dreams. It is now time for Republican Socialists to turn towards the mass organisations of the working class if we are to influence the future. It is what Seamus did and it is what we now need to do. If this movement cannot attract the most class-conscious members of the working class to its banner then, it will be judged by its own standards, a failure.
Today as we come to the slow ending of the armed conflict that has engulfed us all over the last three generations it is time to re-affirm our first principles. Why did they who died for a Republic think they were doing?
Was it for an abstract freedom? for glory? for the freedom to exploit others? for the copper fastening of partition? for the restoration of Stormont? For a capitalist Ireland?
It was for the right of you and me and all citizens born on or living on this island to have political economic and social freedom in a Republic that really did cherish all the children of the nation equally. That is the Socialist Republic.
Our Movement is made up of ordinary men and women, who live ordinary lives but who want, what is considered extraordinary today, the right to live in a Republic that is democratic inclusive and based on socialist principles. Our political life in Ireland has become so dumb-downed that a Photo opportunity means more than a political Manifesto, idealism or beliefs.
Who today stands by the Republic of Connolly? It is those ordinary men and women, who are, whether in the INLA, the IRSP, fighting in the prison camps for political status, standing on picket line, taking strike action, involved in mass action and in day to day trade union activity, in community and tenant associations fighting the drug barons and the armed criminals and trying every day to alleviate the hardships of working class life- they are the real defenders of the Republic. Not for them the easy allure of the Yankee dollar. Just the ongoing republican struggle for a socialist Ireland
Friends and Comrades, we know what side of the barricades we stand on. It is on the side of the oppressed, the exploited, the marginalized and the derided. Where ever in the world there is resistance to Imperialism we are in solidarity with the resisters. We make no apology for our anti-imperialism.
Last week in Belfast a fitting memorial was erected to the memories of Ronnie Bunting and Noel Little and like today it was good to see old friends and old comrades who have been to the forefront of radical political struggle in Ireland for more than thirty years.
I am reminded of one critic of Marx who said that he had-
'Founded no lasting political party, had led no successful or unsuccessful revolution had produced no major finished work that amounted to a systematic exposition of the critique of capitalist civilisation to which he intended to devote his life and a six volume work. Yet his thought was to shake the world."
“Yet his thought was to shake the world.” Think of that. Three weeks ago I had a conversation with a working class member of the PUP, who when he heard I was an ERP made a point of coming up to me and telling me that he had been greatly influenced into politics by reading the early ideas of the Official IRA and the writings of Seamus Costello!!
Seamus was man both of his time and ahead of it. Seamus Costello was a republican, a socialist, an Internationalist and a leader. He was and is an inspiration. He left a political party, the IRSP, and an army the INLA and he left a political set of ideas that still have a relevance to the people today. The movement is still in existence, a survivor of three decades of conflict in spite of all that was thrown at us.
We stand here today a to affirm that republican socialism is still moving forward in struggle today. We have restored the ideas of Connolly, Mellows, and Costello to the forefront of our thinking. As we look around us today we represent hundreds of years of collective experience of radical, principled struggle. It was from the likes of Seamus Costello in particular we learned the principles of Republican Socialism.
Surely it is not beyond us to delve deep into our collective experience and emerge re-invigorated, re-energised and recommitted to advancing the cause of republican socialism in Ireland.
Let us today no matter who we are when we walk away from this graveside, re-commit ourselves to the liberation of the working class, to the establishment of the republic and to the raising of the class struggle in every area of struggle we can.
Friends and Comrades
Once more we gather to pay homage to Seamus Costello, republican, socialist, revolutionary. Seamus in life was a giant of a man politically. He stood out among his contemporaries for his belief, energy ideas and charisma. In death he stands out for us as an icon, a hero to emulate and a leader to mourn.
As founder member of the IRSP and the INLA he played his part in ensuring that the authentic ideas of republican socialism would endure. The ideas of Connolly and Mellows, the radical tradition of the Republican Congress, the more progressive ideas of the republican movement were all encapsulated in the person of Seamus Costello.
But in paying tribute to Seamus we do not make the mistake of mindless hero-worshipping. Irish republicanism has played a progressive role in Irish society because of its ability to renew itself in each generation and become relevant to the lives of the people from which it had sprung. Seamus Costello was a catalyst in renewing the republican tradition in the later part of the 20th century. Seamus played a major part in convincing many in the mainstream republican movement that the time for clichés, flags and faded memories of old men was long past. He pointed the way by standing for elections taking his seat, playing a full part in the community he came from while never forgetting the national question and the crime of partition. Seamus saw a role for an army of the people prepared to both defend the interests of the working class whilst also prepared to challenge imperialism and its hold over the whole of Irish society.
That is what we must learn from the leadership of Seamus: the ability to adapt to renew and to avoid becoming stuck in the old ways. After all the world he lived has all but disappeared. The Soviet bloc no longer exists, there is only one super-power, the officials have become irrelevant while the Provos of the seventies are but a distant memory and dreams of the year of victory have become replaced with that radical revolutionary cry- implement the Good Friday agreement!! Those who claimed to have smashed the old Stormont now want to rebuild it and look forward to working in a coaliation with the party of Paisley. So much for the strategy of fragmenting unionism. I wonder what Seamus would have made of it all?
Internally he would have been disappointed at the way his movement lost its way in the aftermath of his death particularly in the eighties and earlier nineties. Since 1995 we have painfully examined our past failures held our hands up to past mistakes and have taken this movement back to the ideals, ideas and beliefs that first motivated Seamus and his fellow comrades to set up this movement. We have tried to instil confidence, self-respect, loyalty to the movement and a fundamental belief in the primacy of politics. These attribute go to the very heart of our ideology. Confidence in the class, self respect for our values of socialism, loyalty to our own movement but not uncritical loyalty, and of course the primacy of politics.
But Seamus would not have been satisfied with just that. There is so much more to be done. A huge emphasis must be placed by the incoming leadership of this movement on political education on activity, on discipline, on democracy and on being revolutionary agitators. The days of the loud mouth in the pub are gone. The days of using this movement as a flag of convenience for personal gain are gone. The days of bullying working class youth are gone. The days of policing working class communities are gone.
Those things were never on the agenda of the Republican Socialist movement but unfortunately some scum floated towards the top of this movement in the past aided by the British. Their day is done. Republican socialists must be servants not masters of the working class. That’s what we are about; taking the message of liberation, of class struggle of republicanism to the vast majority of people on this island. Externally I have no doubt that Seamus would have continued to be anti-imperialist and socialist and republican. Seamus had beliefs. Not interests.
Seamus’s advocacy of the Broad Front was premised on the belief that the coming together of radical and progressive forces was in the interests of the Irish working class. Not for him or any republican that adhered to Connolly Socialism a reactionary alliance with the most conservative forces in Irish Society.
For how else can you categorise the pan Nationalist Front of Sinn Fein (Provisional) the SDLP and the coaliation of Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats; an alliance with the every people who demonised republicans, who split with gold the republican movement, who supported the most repressive laws against republicans, who framed our comrades over the Sallins affair and persistently and consistently demonise this movement?
What republican in the tradition of Tone can accept an agreement that reduces the anti-imperialist conflict of over two centuries to a sordid little sectarian war between two “communities” for by signing the GFA the signatories accepted the internal conflict argument that British Imperialism had been promoting for years; that the conflict in Ireland was religious. Good Friday Agreement has led to increased sectarianism as the working classes are pressured into identifying with the two sectarian blocs. Partition has been solidified.
We reject the notion that there are two separate divided communities. Republican socialists reject the two-community approach. There is one community and a divided working class and while elements of that self same working class clash those who benefit from the divisions of the working class pocket their profits and come July jet of to quieter and sunnier climates.
Was that what the conflict was about? That is no victory, nor indeed an honourable draw. That was a crushing defeat for the progressive forces in Ireland. Was it for this that men and women sacrificed the best years of their lives in struggle in prison in exile and in death?
Is it not time to call a halt to the endless round of talks about talks about talks especially when the two main groups cannot even meet in the same room?
What kind of Government can work when the leading partners don’t even talk to each other? And in relation to parliamentarianism Seamus had it right when he said,
“Before the Republican Movement can achieve power, we must succeed in breaking the confidence of the people in the existing Parliamentary institutions, and I would suggest that this should be one of the main functions of our T.D.s. They should also be full time Revolutionary Organisers in their own areas, thereby demonstrating to the people who elected them the fundamental difference between ourselves and the other parties.”
Don’t misunderstand what we are saying. The IRSP with the full support of the INLA are in favour of dialogue. We emphatically re-state that armed struggle is not the way forward today. That road may lead somewhere but most assuredly not to the Republic. Yes dialogue is possible. But not with those who think we are lesser human beings. Why should republicans seek to be talked to by right wing bigots of the DUP? They don’t represent the real interests of any section of the working class. Lets reach out to the working class on the basis of principled political positions not for temporary expediency.
Seamus Costello a man before his time pointed the way forward, and I quote,
"We maintain that any co-operation with the Protestant working class must be on the basis of a principled political position. It must be on the basis of explaining fully to the Protestant working class what all our policies are. We must try and politicize them, simultaneously with conducting a political campaign to get rid of Britain”
There is no permanent solution possible that envisages the continued existence of the sectarian six county state. Those who pretend otherwise fool not only others but themselves.
Unless and until the six county state is either totally abolished or totally transformed, sectarianism will dominate politics here and the Imperialist can continue to present our conflict as a religious struggle. Well my friends it is not. It is a political conflict against the imperialist imposition of foreign rule on any part of this island.
Similarly the conflict in Iraq is not about fundamentalist Muslim terrorism but about the Imperialist exploitation of the resources of Iraq. Those who are against that war should have a simple clearly understood slogan for the British and USA invaders=Out of Iraq-out of Ireland. Any other position ignores the reality of the naked brutal power of Imperialism and lets them of the hook.
To those on the left who merely raise the slogan Stop the War catch yourselves on. It is only by a consistent and principled opposition to all forms of Imperialism that wars can be ended. The bounden duty of the left is not to patronise liberal opinion with platitudes but to stand by the anti-imperialist fighters and extend critical support to progressive anti-imperialist fighters. And it that offends the liberal classes well, tough.
No body, especially not an administration of Brits, whose hands are covered with the blood of thousands of innocent Iraqis, has the right to call republicans, who oppose their claim to rule this island, criminals. We are not and we never have been terrorists.
Seamus Costello was a freedom fighter, patriot anti-imperialist and socialist. So it is only right to express our full solidarity with current Republican political prisoners in Maghaberry and re-iterate our call for the immediate release of Desi O’Hare and the other qualifying Republican prisoners arising from the Belfast agreement. We make no distinction between different republican groupings when it comes to solidarity with republican prisoners.
Do not forget there would be no republican prisoners in gaols if there was a final settlement to the national question. And so long as the national question is unsettled then so will there be republicans who will wage a struggle to establish a republic on the island for all the people of the island. But Comrades while we right emphasise the-so called bigger picture of the political dispensation we must never forget the day to day struggles of working people. We need to take the ideals of socialism out of the realms of discussion and manifestos and elections and make it directly relevant to our underprivileged communities. Poor health low wages substandard housing class based education services, crime and anti social behaviour are neither republican nor loyalist, catholic or protestant, North or South, six or 26 county issues. They are class issues and affect us all W e need to arouse in our class the spirit of fraternity. That’s the way to take on the symptoms of neo-liberal capitalism, sectarianism, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-social behaviour, alienation, poverty, drug abuse and self-destruction.
A real movement built on the values of fraternity solidarity co-operation and democracy will crumble away these barriers to freedom in Ireland. Our movement to be relevant it must update its republican socialism. Too close a concentration on the national question and an unquestioning approach to the nature of Imperialism in Ireland has distorted and held back the struggle for socialism in Ireland and also incidentally is the antithesis of the approach that Seamus would have taken.
From this platform today, may I appeal to all those progressive republicans, Republican Socialists or Connolly Socialists to do as Seamus did, get involved in the day-to-day activities of the class.
It’s fine and useful to reminisce about the past-to write the histories to tell the tales of past heroic deeds but comrades it does not challenge the future.
These are glorious days to be alive and see the stirrings of class struggle in the world. There is a growing anti imperialism worldwide, Iraq, Nepal, the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Venezuela, Bolivia and the former Stalinist states the working class is moving into battle. Now ask how you can aid this struggle. Everyone has something to contribute no matter how small. Participate in your union branch, join or set up a community group in your area to organize people, protest, agitate organize. Remember to beat the system you do need comrades. From this platform we appeal to all genuine republican socialists
Look around at the world we actually live in and I defy you not to be angry at the injustice and inequality and not have the wish to change things. There are enough resources in our world to feed and clothe everyone. Yet every day thousands die from disease famine and hunger. Why because of capitalism.
W e have called in the past for the convening of a Republican Forum where republicans and socialists of all hues can dialogue together to map out a way forward for the future. That’s in the tradition of Seamus Costello’s call for a broad front and building anti-imperialist unity. But we recognise that many on the left think they can go it alone and don’t need to relate to any section of the Republican left.
It will be part of our task to persuade not only the left but also the working class, by the things we do, by the actions we take, by the examples we set, by the calibre of the comrades we attract to our banner of the Starry Plough that there is merit in working together.
For comrades many people still harbour illusions that Sinn Fein in Government North and South can make a difference to the social and economic conditions in this country. They cannot. They will not. At best they may put a more human face on capitalism but it will still be capitalism and that ‘s a system that exploits, brutalises and also is destroying the world. It itself needs to be destroyed –not reformed.
Let us follow that example of Seamus Costello. Stand with the marginalized, the downtrodden the victims, the poor, all who are voiceless in the modern Ireland. Strive for equality, solidarity, working class unity, human rights and justice for all. Let us daily work towards the socialist republic. In the end that’s the only fitting memorial to all our dead comrades, Seamus included.
Comrades there is much work to be done. Lets do it.
G.R. Ard Comhairle Member
Seamus Costello Commemoration Speech 2006
At the largest Costello Commemoration in many years the following speech was delivered by former POW and member of the Ard Comhairle of the IRSP Martin McMonagle.
Friends and comrades,
We once more gather to pay homage to the founder of our movement, Seamus Costello. Seamus did not suffer fools gladly, No leader can afford to be weak and weak is not a word to associate with Seamus Costello. He was strong in his beliefs, strong in his convictions, strong in his commitment to the revolutionary road to the Socialist Republic. He was a 24 hour a day man, working openly politically to advance the interests of the working class while secretly organising recruiting and arming a revolutionary army that he saw as the only way to wrestle control of this country from the parasites and vultures of imperialism. He was also a thinker and a doer, a combination that everyone who aspires to be called a Republican Socialist should aim for
Of course in the intervening years from Seamus’s cruel assassination by the enemies of the working class, Ireland north and south has changed. The once mighty USSR has collapsed and the policies associated with its state socialism have been discredited. By the start of the 1990’s socialism seemed doomed as the gains of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution all but disappeared.
Many walked away from struggle believing the propaganda that Capitalism had triumphed. Just as in Seamus’s day, some republicans began to want to do a deal with Imperialism and now just as in the seventies ended up sucked into doing the work of the Imperialists.
Our own movement, which had been in slow, decline following the removal of our charismatic founder and leader was all but finished in the early nineties. We had then an apolitical leadership that had only contempt for the politics of Costello and the movement. Fortunately we had rank and file members still committed to the ideals of republican socialism and leaders like Gino Gallagher who began the mammoth task of turning the movement around. Central to that task was the merging of theory and action, the putting into practice of Collective Leadership and the Primacy of Politics as outlined by Ta Power.
The task begun in 1994 is far from complete. We lost Gino murdered by British elements. We made mistakes sometimes elevating individuals who were only interested in their own egos into positions of authority. But we have learned from those mistakes and of course in building up revolutionary organisations one needs to remember that it is inevitable mistakes will be made. There is no such thing as a pure revolution. There is no guidebook to advise how to change the world- only the experiences that the working class movement worldwide has accumulated in trying to wrestle power from capitalism.
We have tried to learn from those experiences especially the experiences of the working class in Ireland. In the interests of that class the INLA declared its ceasefire. Despite provocations, despite British agents, despite the rise in sectarian attacks our leadership has maintained that ceasefire because we are convinced that is the correct revolutionary position at this moment in time. Comrades and to all republicans out there we say as clearly as we can, “ the war is over”
Revolution is a serious business. It can only occur when the mass of people see the need for change. Individual actions divorced from the interests of the class are at best futile and at worst sheer adventurism. At this juncture in time what is needed is maturity, commitment, and hard, hard political work. There are no short cuts and are task is to convince people of the relevancy of our views and our actions to their lives. That is what the whole of Seamus Costello ‘ political life was about. He tried to show that his brand of republicanism, republican socialism was relevant to the lives of the people. That’s why he picketed councils led deputations, fought elections and took his seat. He set out to arouse the people to the indignities they suffered. And that is today our task. Comrades Seamus Costello was a man who was not just a republican in the north and a socialist in the south. He recognised the two could not be separated. The class question and the national question are so intertwine they cannot be separated.
That’s why we reject the partition of the isle. That’s why we oppose the Good Friday Agreement and that’s why we must build up in the working class areas of the South a class based revolutionary party that articulates the deepest desires of the working class people.
Deep within the body politic in the 26 counties a malaise, a malignant growth of corruption, greed, individualism and naked self-interest exists. At the very top An Taoiseach, Bertie is in debt to businessmen. In football it is called a bung, I call it a bribe. Fianna Fail, formerly “the republican party” is now the party of big business Tribunals are investigating planning corruption. Garda are accused of corrupt practices and come down heavy on working class criminals while ignoring the stench of corruption at the top. Young people leaving university now have to wait years before they can get on the housing ladder as the property boom lines the pockets of the investors and builders while landing thousands of ordinary decent folk in debt for the rest of their lives.
Be under no illusions, the so called “Celtic Tiger’ was good for business but bad for people. It will inevitably grind to a halt. Already the forces of the right wipe up racist hatred against the migrants, attracted here by the Celtic Tiger’. At the same time religious fundamentalist financed from the USA try to poison the minds of the people with religious bigotry intolerance and superstition. And the state basically writes off huge working class estates around Ireland and tolerates the drug gangs as they poison the bodies of our young people. It is time for a fight back and we will do what we can to help organise our class against these “scumbags and low lives”, whether in the pulpit, the boardroom or in housing ghettoes.
At the same time we must not only observe events internationally which affect Ireland, but we must act. Seamus Costello would have been down in Shannon supporting and leading protests against the death dealing USA planes refuelling there. He would never have met George Bush but would have picketed him. Shame on the Provisional Republican leadership for its capitulation and bending of the knee the USA imperialists.
There is nothing wrong with pragmatism but pragmatism with out principle is betrayal.
Seamus would also have been shoulder to shoulder with the Ross port Five. In fact wherever there would be injustice oppression exploitation. Seamus Costello would have been leading the resistance.
If we really want to honour Seamus Costello rededicate yourselves comrades to the struggle of the Irish working class. The weapons of struggle may have changed from the days when many of us first became involved, but that does not mean the struggle does not go on. It is just on a different playing field.
Take up these weapons of struggle today, the weapons of protest, of the placard, of the radical newspapers of the internet of the community halls, the trade union rooms, the letters pages of the papers, the strike committees, the groups against racism, poverty, homophobia, low wages, communities against drugs, families against death drivers and so on and so on.
In other words comrades if there something that affects our class that is where we need to be. Because that is the battleground of the struggle today. That is where we, you, me, need to be-leading our class in struggle.
Recently there has much talk of so-called” dissident” republicans coming together renewing or revitalising republicanism.
We too are dissidents. We dissent from the way Ireland is today. We dissent from the new partitionist mentality. We dissent from the acceptance of Imperialism. We dissent from the acceptance of Capitalism values of greed individualism and profit making. We dissent from the Aherne business government. We are proud to be dissenters in the republican tradition.
But we are very much aware that Irish Republicanism’s renaissance will not be by re- fighting the battles of the sixties seventies or eighties. Nor will it be renewed by repeating old mantras, old slogans, or old policies.
Comrades live in the here and now, take up today’s battles, march away from this graveyard, sacred to republican socialism with fire in your belly, steel in your soul and integrity in your eyes to liberate our class and country. That’s how to honour Seamus Costello that’s how to renew republicanism. Victory to the Irish Working Class.
(Martin Mc Monagle IRSP)
Key Ideas of Seamus Costello
October 2007 is the 30th anniversary of the death of Seamus Costello at the hands of former Comrades in the Official IRA which was then transforming itself into the Workers Party. The Republican Socialist movement has always honoured the memory of Seamus Costello, not only for his leadership qualities but also because of his ideas. It is true you can kill a man but you can not kill an idea.
There were a number of key ideas that Seamus Costello advocated and that are still relevant today.
1/The link between the class and the national question.
When the IRSP was formed the Officials were moving away from opposition to the British Imperialist presence in Ireland. Indeed they moved rapidly to a position that embraced that same imperialism in opposition to a caricature of a reactionary Irish nationalism. The Provos themselves were very much anti-communists and distrustful of so called “alien ideologies” They were right wing nationalists (with guns). Only later under pressure from northern volunteers and prisoners did they make a shift to the left and cal themselves socialists. That description can no longer be applied to Sinn Fein (Provisional). They are now, a right wing nationalist organisation, (without too many guns) having shed their newly acquired radicalism, on the long march to Stormont. The IRSP argued and still do that the only struggle worthwhile is the struggle for a socialist Ireland. The only class capable of banishing Imperialism uniting the country and its people and creating a just and equitable society is the working class taking power and building a socialist society.
2/ The Broad Front.
Seamus argued that it was important to build a broad front of organisations that identified the continuing presence of Imperialism as the major contradiction in Irish society. Therefore it was important for unity in action while not compromising principles. Today the issue of a broad front is not on the agenda because of the set backs suffered by republicanism and the left. But there certainly is more scope for joint action among a wide diversity of organisations provided they can put aside their petty sectarian attitudes towards those with whom they disagree.
3/ The Protestant working class
Seamus Costello took a similar attitude towards the protestant working class as James Connolly. He was critical of those he called ring-road socialists who hide their republicanism in an attempt to curry influence with the protestant working class. He argued that republicans had to convince the protestant working class that their own interests lay in unity with catholic workers and that their long-term interests lay in the creation of a socialist Ireland. At the same time he was sensitive to their sense of identity. Within the RSM he argued strongly against any actions that could be construed as sectarian attacks against Protestants.
Seamus strongly supported the struggle inside the republican movement against the long-standing policy of abstentionism. He argued that abstentionism was a tactic not a principle and that republicanism itself had to move away from being an almost semi mystical set of beliefs towards becoming a vibrant activist political movement that was relevant to the needs of the working class today. He himself saw electoral politics as a means to activate the working class into political action and saw the debating chamber as just another area of revolutionary politics. Not for him a trust in elected politicians who only took account of working class interests when election time came around.
Seamus as Chief of Staff of the INLA supported armed struggle but armed struggle that was directed against British imperialist forces. He saw it as another weapon in the armour of revolutionary struggle. Within the INLA itself he was an advocate along with others for acessation, before he was assassinated. He certainly saw a role for armed struggle but always within a political context and not just as a reflex action against the state. He would almost certainly have endorsed the Ta Power doctrine of politics in command had he been given the time to fully develop his ideas with the RSM.
With the passage of time one would imagine that the wounds of old battles would heal or at least be lessened in intensity. Not so when it comes to the personality and ideas of Seamus Costello. The Workers Party in their own partial history of their Party say;
-“that a minority opposition led by Seamus Costello over a two year period sought to reverse the May decision (official IRA ceasefire and at the same time frustrate the development of a disciplined socialist party. In this he was supported by Trotskyist and other ultra-left elements on the fringes of the Party and by sectarian adventurers, largely in Belfast. In 1975 they launched murderous attacks on key Party personnel, killing both rank and file members and leading figures in Belfast and severely wounding the future General Secretary Sean Garland.”
Of course the reality is that it was the Workers Party- to -be that launched a vicious armed assault on the IRSP in a failed effort to wipe it out at birth. That they failed must be still a major source of bitterness within the WP. Only as recently as last year Sean Garland gave a lecture on the 90 anniversary of James Connolly’s death. He could not resist the opportunity to once again launch a vicious attack on the memory of Seamus Costello. He accused Seamus of being responsible for the bitterness caused when the provisional alliance was being formed. He accused him of being in favour of a “sectarian terrorist campaign” of being “totally ruthless” and of “twisted aims”.
He does not mention that in the early seventies he himself was in alliance with Seamus in relation to armed struggle and that together they had been the two people most responsible for moving the republican movement to the left. No one doubts that Seamus Costello was a hard taskmaster. He did not suffer fools gladly. But he was not sectarian nor a mindless militant.
Clearly the reason for Garland’s attacks on the memory of Seamus Costello have more to do with both the failure of the Workers Party project and the increasing growth in the genuine revolutionary ideas of republican socialism. One has to wonder why those who call themselves, Republicans, Socialists, Marxists and Communists reserve their greatest hatred, venom and spleen for other Republicans, Socialists, Marxists and Communists? What agenda do they work to?
History will in the long run judge all but we are confident that the revolutionary ideas that Seamus Costello and the Republican Socialist movement espouse will long outlast the sterile, sectarian, Stalinism of the reformist Workers Party. We salute the memory of Seamus Costello.
James Connolly Archive http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly
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