The Red Plough
Vol. 2-No 2
2/United front anybody?
3/Responses to “The Elections- a Democratic Revolution?”
Between rebellion as a private study and the public
Defiance is simple action only which will flicker
Catlike, for Spring. Whether at nerve roots is secret
Iron, there’s no diviner can tell, only the moment can show
Simple and unclear moment, on a morning utterly different
And under circumstances different from what you’d expect.
From Poem by Charlie Donnelly
(Irish volunteer killed in the Spanish Civil War)
Consolidation of the Elites.
The elections were no surprise. There was much of a muchness about the results.
Both the DUP and Provisional Sinn Fein consolidated their positions as the main representatives of the nationalist and unionist populations and can now administer the North safe in the knowledge that there is little opposition to fear. Both the Unionist Party and the SDLP suffered losses and are in no position to do much about the DUP/Sinn Fein alliance. Instead they sheepishly took their allocated seats in the Executive, glad even for the few crumbs from the top table.
What constituted the left was as usual all over the place; no agreed candidates, standing against each other in local elections and unable to inspire the electorate. Apart from West Belfast and Derry the various candidates from left parties did poorly. Eamon McCann received a very creditable vote in Derry, partly due to his back history and the support of a cross section of activists that included feminists, republicans, environmentalists and socialists of all hues. He at least might have made a difference if elected in the Assembly.
In West Belfast the PBP candidate received over 1600 votes while the independent candidate with a background in Socialist Democracy receive a derisory 122 votes. Two other left candidates between them polled another 900 odd votes. This in a constituency with the worst social conditions, the worst unemployment and the highest crime rate and with the highest proportion of working class people than any other constituency and despite over 20 years of having a G. Adams as its MP! Indeed those republicans opposed to the Adams strategy could not even agree a united candidate in this same constituency.
The British Queen’sVisit was a huge success!!!-That is for the ruling elites in both Britain and Ireland. At a time of huge burdens imposed on working people to pay for the mistakes of the bankers and property developers it was sickening to see how the British Queen’s visit was used to distract people from economic realities, bind the ruling classes of Britain and Ireland together. It must have been a real eye opener for those republicans who imagined there was huge opposition to the visit. The opposite was the case not only did so called “rebel” Cork welcomed the British monarch but the visit produced the largest mail bag ever to Buckingham Palace welcoming the visit from many Irish people.
For Republicans who are solely focussed on the “national question’ perhaps it is time they asked themselves serious questions rather than live in an illusionary world. It is clear the vast majority of people south of the border welcomed enthusiastically the visit of the British monarchy. The reunification of the country is the last thing on their mind. The Pale now covers 26 counties. Only northern nationalists were indifferent or opposed to the visit.
The Monty Pythonesque protests from the various republican groups did little to advance their cause. Three separate protests by four separate groups!Oh how the Special branch must have laughed.
When the then united Republican Movement in the sixties took a left turn it was envisaged that there would be coming together of the labour and republican movements in a unified body. How realistic that was is a moot point but certainly today we have a multitude of small republican and left organisations that can barely pass the time of day with each other.
It is no wonder that nationalist and unionist workers stuck with their usual parties. They could see no viable alternative.
Finally the visit of the USA President set the seal on the consolidation of the political process that has seen not only the integration of former armed guerrillas into the ruling elites on the islands but the almost total dis-integration of the neutrality of the Irish Free State. All sections of the ruling classes on these islands now are fully signed up not only to neo-liberal economic policies that bear heaviest on the working class but fully backs USA foreign policies world wide. Key sections of the ruling elites across party lines also regularly brief the USA on every day events in Ireland. The recent wikileaks only confirm what we have believed for decades.
To sum up the elections and the Queen and Obama’s visit set the seal on the Northern settlement and consolidated the integration of the Southern ruling class into the international elites of capitalism.
These are serious setbacks for all progressive forces on these islands.
The United Front
The German word for ‘united front’ is Einheitsfront.‘Das Einheitsfrontlied’ was an anthem that took a simple, direct and powerful approach to build the class consciousness of German workers
As man is only human, He must eat before he can think.
Fine words are only empty air And not his meat and drink.
Then, Left! Two Three Then, Left! Two Three There‘s a place, Comrade for you,_
March with us in the workers‘ united front; For you are a worker too.
As man is only human, He‘d rather not have boots in his face.
He wants no slaves at his beck and call, Nor life by a masters‘s grace.
And since a worker‘s a worker, No class can free him but his own;
‘The emancipation of the working-class Is the task of_ the workers alone.’
(Copied from Marxism Digest, Vol. 90, Issue 40)
Recently a leading member of a left group admitted he had never talked with the leadership of another left group in the past fifteen years. This writer indeed along with other staunch comrades was given the cold shoulder many times when attending so called unity of the left meetings or conferences despite the fact that we had a Marxist analysis of the situation in Ireland and of the armed conflict.
Our crime (or misdemeanor) was we were not prepared to adopt a holier than thou attitude to those who still clung to the discredited strategy of armed struggle carried out by the Provos. Indeed we did argue that there was a time and place for limited armed resistance whilst accepting from the mid 1990’s that that was no longer feasible. Indeed it could be plausibly argued that we did as much if not more than the “left” to win people away from armed struggle. To do that we collectively talked to anyone who would listen to our analysis regardless of their part in conflict.
That involved taking both political and personal risks, something not unique as a lot of other people also did so in order to try to end an armed conflict that was going nowhere. Few of those trying to stop armed conflict, outside of our own group claimed to be Marxists or the “left”. Why? Because the “left” was too busy searching for the Holy Grail of left unity (under of course their own groups hegemony, i.e. unity but on their terms) to do anything about real actual existing conditions.
Which bring us to the” Das Einheitsfrontlied!” Written at a time when the German working class was about to be devastated as it leadership swung from ultra-leftism to capitulation to bourgeois forces the anthem still speaks to us today.
‘The emancipation of the working-class Is the task of_ the workers alone.’
“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement… role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory.”
It is one of the main tasks of such a party to provide leadership to the working class whilst a the same time recognising that it is the workers themselves who can achieve their own emancipation. A revolutionary party takes account of the moods expectations and hopes of the workers. It does not operate apart from and disdainful of the class.
Unfortunately armed republicans do. They use for example the uprising of 1916 citing it as evidence that a gallant few could take it upon themselves to raise the standard of revolt. But they tend to downplay the fact that the leaders of the uprising surrendered after 6 days to spare lives.
Furthermore the subsequent guerrilla warfare waged by republicans up until 1921 had the support of a substantial number of people.
That is not the case today. There is widespread opposition within northern nationalists to the continuation of armed struggle, not to mention almost total hostility to armed struggle within the vast majority of the population of the Southern state.
Those who think that killing a PSNI member regardless of his religion will somehow create the conditions to lead to the ending of British Imperialism influence in Ireland are sadly mistaken.
The immediate strategic aims of active armed Republicans probably include,
-discouraging nationalists from joining the PSNI,
-embarrass Sinn Fein leaders into condemning acts they themselves had approved in the past,
-provoke a backlash from loyalists so that they, the armed republicans, can be seen as defenders of the nationalist population,
-cause so much daily disruption that more aggressive tactics are used by pro-British security forces evoking sympathy and support among sections of northern nationalists.
However conditions today are very different from the early part of the 20th century and indeed from the early 1970’s
After all workers and their families North and South are currently enduring the harshest recession from the 1930’s when these words were written
As man is only human, He must eat before he can think.
Fine words are only empty air And not his meat and drink”
Flag waving is a common tactic of those who wish to appeal to the lowest common denominator, whether it is the Orange order tramping through nationalist districts or Sinn Fein wanting equal status for the Tricolour with the Union Jack. (Who can forget the absurdity of Ogra Sinn Fein painting red post boxes green)
At the counts in the 26 counties elections Provisional Sinn Fein made a fetish of flying the Tricolour trying to identify themselves as the foremost patriots of the nation. That goes with their politics a combination of populism, leftist rhetoric while denying in practice there are real class differences within the “people.”
Appeals to tribalism or sectarianism is not a tactic that any self respecting Republican can condone. That is why so many former Republican combatants can not support the PSF strategy in the north that reinforces sectarian divisions. The Good Friday Agreement and the St.Andrews Agreement were not the settlement of the Northern problem but a settlement of the past and the undoing some of the effects of partition.
What we have now is a truce between the tribes-peace in the feud.
Not a solution! That was not what many Republicans initially took up arms for. Many are now asking was it worth it?
Recently Mike Hall’s Island Pamphlets published its 96th publication entitled “Republicanism in transition” which posed a series of questions to representatives of the IRSP, Republican Sinn Fein, Official Republican Movement, eirigi, and a group of independent Republicans. Other republicans of various hues were also invited but did not take part.
What is clear from the pamphlet is the clear recognition by most involved of the serious defeat that republicanism has suffered, a recognition of the sectarianism inherent in the armed struggle an acceptance of the “Britishness”of the unionists and the denial of the tactic of armed struggle in the current circumstances. While there is not unanimity about these it is clear that increasingly sections of irish republicanism are moving from a 19th century view of the world to an acceptance of the 21st century with all its difficulties. All but one of the groups emphasised the class nature of the struggle.
Some of the participants seem to envisage a series of discussions and pamphlets as a precursor of an intellectual or organisational renewal of republicanism. Unless such a development is class base, and moves forward on both political and theoretical levels and avoids nationalism it will be doomed to failure. But neverthe less initiatives that try to bring some semblance of leadership to the working class wheter among the left, among republicans or a ccombination of both deserves support.
Responses to “The Elections- a Democratic Revolution?”
In the last edition of The Red Plough Vol. 2-1 an article The Elections- a Democratic Revolution? provoked the following responses.
On the IRSP discussion site a comrade in the IRSCNA support organisation of the IRSP in the United States wrote,
CraobhRua Global Moderator
“The massive flaw with this attempt at criticism is the fact that IRSP members weren't just name calling, some were out campaigning for comrades on the ULA list. Working for left candidates who are outside of the IRSP while also criticising the limitations of the Alliance is pretty much what Gerry seems to be doing and advocating, so...yeah, next time maybe ask the IRSP what they were up to on the ground. “
Then on the “The Irish Republican Forum” was this response from an obvious supporter of Stalin
Location "apologist scum"
“The massive flaw with this attempt at criticism is the fact that IRSP members were out campaigning for some on the ULA list. Working for left candidates who are outside of the IRSP while also criticising the limitations of the Alliance is pretty much what Gerry seems to be doing and advocating, so...yeah, next time maybe ask the IRSP what they were up to on the ground.”
Could KillinSnakes really be CraobhRua?
Now there is a mystery!!
But to be serious I welcome the fact that the comrade accepts that that my designation of name calling was correct-
“-IRSP members weren't just name calling-”
His/her petty comment of “attempt at criticism” is unworthy of a socialist. It was and is a valid criticism that is accepted by some of the IRSP comrades I speak to on a regular basis.
Another comment was the following,
Good to see the IRSP statement on ULA criticized. I felt that was complete crap at the time.
That was a worthwhile contrast of Arab mass protests with the republican militarist strategy. Critically I'll say that the analysis of the dissidents is a bit too close to the SF (or even SDLP) line. They represent an undemocratic militarist minority, isolated in terms of the political priorities of republican communities, and that their tactics are totally futile.
All of the above is true but it's also simplistic to a certain extent, and it doesn't preclude their gaining support due to this utter political vacuum - SF with little real credibility due to a stalled GFA which can only promise further economic hardship, and an absence of any serious left-republican tendency - which exists amongst nationalist communities in the north (especially in the most deprived areas mentioned in the post, Lurgan, West/North Belfast, etc). not to mention the concurrent breakdown of "law & order" and its populist exploitation by ONH et al via punishment attacks.
The same mixture of accurate and semi-moralistic criticisms were made of the Provos in their day yet despite the (at times obvious) futility of their tactics they still harnessed mass support...it's not a perfect analogy but worth bearing in mind.
Maybe I'm just skeptical as to the extent of the political ambitions of most working-class nationalists when they're besieged by anti-social elements, a hostile and at times nakedly sectarian state, and where the left generally (not just the republican left) is a negligible political force. At least regarding the last point the organisation of éirígí in the west and seemingly the re-organisation of the IRSP in the Lower Falls are positive steps.
Even the electoral support for SF in the Saorstát puts them in an awkward position where they have to explain away the lack of congruence between their radical rhetoric in the south and their implementation of austerity in the north.
If only a ULA had been sorted in the north it would have solved a lot of electoral headaches (for example 3 or 4 varieties of trots and left republicans running in the west, and none in north belfast) come May and offered an opportunity to display a degree of "revolutionary leadership" as the blog suggests.
Just some thoughts, not very organised
From Tiarnán Ó Muilleoir.
In response to above I replied
Comrade I attended Marxist Weekend School (SWP) in Belfast and saw slight thaw in the "sectarianism" of the far left. There are definite possibilities of extending the ULA in the North but will require diplomacy, comittment and genuine desire to try to provide working class leadership and should be open to multi-tendencies including left republicans and open to all other left groupings. Very difficult but not impossible.
Did you see the silly response in ISRP Forum to, in my mind, a very mild criticism of the IRSP position?
My! some people are very sensitive and precious! Don’t they know that uncritical acceptance of positions and lack of constructive criticism leads to the worse excess of totalitarianism .
I definitely agree re the decrease in overt left sectarianism. The internet is playing a big role in that and how it's opened things ...up in terms of discussion (i.e. reducing the influence of the party line dictated from on high as well as the 'us vs them' mentality).
On a more base level the electoral achievements down south are a major motivation for intra-trot unity right now (although ironically enough the SWP in belfast split recently). You're right if it's to come to anything it has to be genuine open discussion and principled united campaigns rather than the opportunism and front-group stuff we usually see...which implies allowing left-republicans a voice and a seat at the table.
I can't see the thread or discussion in the IRSP forum but i can't say I'm surprised, much as I respect the members that I know personally. The IRSP attitude towards original theorising or polemics of any kind still seems pretty defensive.
From Tiarnán Ó Muilleoir.
James Connolly Archive http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly
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