McCann's essential argument is that "To attack
the current Sinn Fein leadership for reneging on principles
is to miss the main point: they are not deviating
from but are following closely along the path trodden
by every previous Sinn Fein leadership because of
their nationalist ideology."
suggests the logic of republicanism has always been
to sell out.
is wrong on a number of accounts.
it lets the SF leadership off the hook. In fact, the
republican goal has always been an independent Ireland
with fundamental socio-economic change in the interests
of the people of no property. Even in periods when
this was poorly articulated, this was still the underlying
recent years that has been abandoned in exchange for
the chance of assisting the British imperialists in
running the six counties. And this would logically
be complemented by a future coalition arrangement
with Fianna Fail in helping administer neo-colonial
capitalism in the other twenty-six counties.
who see no good reason why the sacrifices of the past
several decades should be thrown away like this have
every good reason to view this as a betrayal.
there is an inspiring tradition of republicans who
did not sell out, beginning with Wolfe Tone and continuing
through Robert Emmet, Fintan Lalor, the Fenians and
IRB section led by Tom Clarke and Padraic Pearse.
since McCann declares himself to be a socialist, there
is the fact that the founder and greatest figure of
Irish Marxism, James Connolly, was a republican. He
was a republican because he was a Marxist and understood
that you cannot be a Marxist in Ireland without being
a republican. Connolly understood the difference between
the nationalism of the imperialist oppressor and that
of the national liberation struggle.
understood that rejection of republicanism per se
by some "socialists" had no progressive
or redeeming elements. It simply meant capitulation
to imperialism and, thus, to the existing state of
affairs in Ireland.
fact that McCann's own organisation managed to sit
out the struggle in the north, not able to summon
up so much as the energy to throw a stone against
thousands of occupation troops, indicates the sorry
state of his "socialist" alternative to
the Provos. One can't help but be amused by the idea
of an Irish SWP-type group in Iraq today. Presumably
they would be counselling the Iraqis against anything
so outrageous as armed actions against the occupying
forces, although I assume Iraq is safely far enough
away that they can support the slogan of self-determination
there which they find so hard to identify with in
in the local body elections the SWP-CP front, the
Socialist Environmental Alliance, managed in its tame
manifesto to evade mention of the thousands of imperialist
troops in the six counties. Their highest horizon
in relation to the local sectarian police force, meanwhile,
was to suggest that if any SEA candidates got elected
they would monitor its activities. Very revolutionary
indeed. I'm sure the British ruling class and their
fellow bourgeois in the six counties are losing sleep
over the daunting revolutionary aims of the SEA!
of course, also does not mention the political trajectory
of all those "socialists" who have evaded
the national question or failed to take a lead in
the struggle for national liberation.
happened to those whom Connolly labelled "gas
and water socialists" for failing to take up
the national question in the early 1900s? What happened
to the Irish Labour Party after Connolly, as it forsook
the national question? What happened to the Officials
when they abandoned the national question?
would tend to suggest that there is a logic, a clear
opportunist and rightist logic, to the politics of
those "socialists" who take fright at the
revolutionary - and therefore difficult - implications
of the national question and prefer their "socialism"
to be less arduous and more of the gas and water variety.
They all moved right and accommodated themselves to
the existing state of affairs.
group, with their desire to merely monitor the RUC,
while "fighting" within the confines of
social democratic trade unionism for a bit of butter
on the workers' bread, are hardly an inspiring alternative
to the political bourgeoisification of the Provisonals.
They merely represent the other side of the same coin.
there is to be any serious challenge to the status
quo in Ireland it has to retrieve Connolly and develop
a Connolly-type perspective for today. That means
uniting the national and class questions and building
an all-Ireland revolutionary movement against imperialist
domination and its local allies and underlings, partition,
sectarianism and the exploitation of the working class
and small farmers.
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