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Whither Irish Republicanism


Mick Hall • 24 October 2006

Whenever Irish Republican Socialists raise questions or critically point out (what they regard as) flaws in the GFA strategy of Gerry Adams, they quickly come under either a hail of abuse from supporters of the SF President, or it is demanded of them that they offer up an alternative strategy and a fully formed Political Party to put it into practice. When nothing to their liking is immediately conjured up, the Shinners brand these critics as dissidents, who they claim carp from the political margins—seemingly oblivious to the facts that Irish Republicans have always raged from the margins of so called 'mainstream' politics, and whilst doing so, dissidence is the flag they have labored under. (Dissidence: disagreement with authority or with prevailing opinion, Encarta(r) World English Dictionary.) Far from it being a term of abuse, in reality it is a badge of honor.

It is also not uncommon these days to hear members of SF justifying their membership of that party by retorting there is no viable political alternative that can effectively represent the nationalist northern working classes. However, to put forth such a self-evident argument hardly helps move the process forward, nor helps us understand how Republicanism has reached the stage where its largest faction is likely to recognize the legality of the British police within Ireland. What these members of SF are doing is demanding of the dissidents something they themselves are either unwilling or unable to do. It is as if whilst silently differing with the way the Adams leadership have handled strategy over the GFA etc, instead of getting to grips with this and attempting to do something about it, they are willing yet another top down leadership to emerge, with a ready-made SF Party Mark2 to boot, which they can give their allegiance and who will take the burden of free thought and all responsibility for the future of Republicanism from their shoulders. It seems to me this is yet another indictment of the Adams leadership style and the atmosphere within SF. For if true, it appears even the best of SF activists are unable to think beyond the ridged confines of top down democratic centralist politics.

History has surely taught us that if a political party's internal structure lacks true democratic accountability, whether this is due to flaws within its constitution, or its malicious interpretation and misuse by the leadership, it is a train wreck waiting to occur, as it is doomed to evolve into a very conservative party, if not become a willing tool of the Neo-Conservative political and economic establishment.

One only has to look across the Irish Sea at the political decline of the British Labour Party to understand this. Its membership, due to their mad desire for political power, in a Faustian pact allowed Tony Blair and his New Labour coterie to fillet that party of its core beliefs and its democratic mechanisms. Much of what the LP had stood for throughout the 20th Century was removed from its constitution, and its internal structures where gradually filleted of all democratic accountability. Whereas once the Party Conference, along with the National Executive, was the party's main authority and Parliamentary candidates where selected by the rank and file at local party branches, without any direct outside interference, all of this was swept away in the name of modernization and the pursuit of power, to be replaced by the will of the Party Leader and those he chose to represent him on Earth.

The end result has been the wasted and shameful years of the New Labour Administration led by Tony Blair. Public Office is all New Labour craves, to be attained at all costs: their disgusting military adventures abroad in support of the Neo-Conservative U.S. President G. W. Bush; its cringing before Rupert Murdoch and the reactionary Rothermere Press; handing out peerages and knighthoods to anyone who can give them a lift up or an open cheque; introducing legislation like that which cut Welfare Benefits for the sick and disabled, and cannot but further impoverish many of those who live in the Party's heartlands and have been its core support base in good and bad times.

As to the British Labour Party, whilst the New Labour apparatchiks have prospered it has become a shadow of its former self, having lost well over a third of its membership. A majority of these have gone home demoralized and shut their door, lost to political activity, having been replaced by spivs from the City and flim-flam men and women from the professions. This should be a warning for SF as this is what many of those working class members who leave the party have also been doing.

Those members and supporters of SF who criticize the majority of today's Republican dissidents for failing to offer up an alternative strategy and ready-built organization are totally overlooking a number of important factors. Not least that the overwhelming majority of dissidents come from the generation that fought the war in the north east, and in most cases gave their heart and soul to that struggle. Thus they have all faced an enormous conflict of emotions over the political direction in which Gerry Adams has taken the PRM. For these comrades there was no Damascus road revelation, which instantly exposed before their very eyes the futility of the Adamsite strategy. Nor did it occur at a mass rally that was struck by divine intervention, which revealed the truth to all those present. All of these comrades gradually went through their very own Calvary, and finally broke with SF after much soul searching. It is hardly surprising they do not yet form a homogeneous group, let alone a political party.

The one thing they have all concluded is, to quote the Countess, "you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." No one is trying to deny SF the right to enter, for example, the 'governing' committees of the PSNI. But if it does, SF can no longer masquerade as an Irish Republican political party whilst the British State, by force of arms still controls the north east of Ireland — for the simple reason that this act goes against the most basic tenant of Irish Republicanism.

Nevertheless, most, although not all, (as some belong to RSF, 32CSM or IRSM) of the main Republican dissidents, give credit to Gerry Adams for being amongst the first within the Movement to understand that the war had run its course and must be brought to an end, not least because the revolutionary period which started in 1969 is well past its sell by date. A new strategy was needed for the 21st century.

However, there main differences with Mr. Adams and his leadership coterie (originally) centered around the fact that, although Mr Adams managed to achieve his aim of bringing the Provisionals military conflict to a close with his 'Republican Family' all but intact, which undoubtedly took considerable skill and acumen, tragically he chose to do this by incorporating a strategy that was based on lies, deceit and sleight of hand politics. Something which was not only repugnant to many members of the PRM, both past and present, but went against all Republican values.

'Dissidents' believed that in the long run such behavior would prove to be a fatal flaw and disastrous for Irish Republicanism. Whilst it may well have achieved Mr Adams aim of holding the PRM together as a unified entity, in the process it not only lost the PRM some of its best militants, but in reality it stripped it of its democratic accountability, radical politics, and its effectiveness as an Irish Republican Organization, which was formed by and to represent the urban working classes and the less economically well-off in the countryside.

It is perfectly true SF activists play an important role in the campaigns that centre on the big political issues of the day, the anti war movement, the international struggle against Neo-Con economic and military imperialism, the struggle for better wages and working conditions via the Trade Unions, campaigns for better schools and hospitals, etc. But they do so whilst Mr Adams and the leadership clique is publicly seen to hobnob with the very people who represent the multi-nationals politically, or have allowed themselves to become totally immersed in the British governments machinations over the GFA, which in the eyes of many negates the good work Sinn Fein rank and file activists carry out.

Perhaps it is time Irish Republicans, whether they belong to a political party or not, seriously question what role a left of centre radical Republican political party should play in a post-conflict Ireland, and even give some thought to whether or not an Irish Republican Party is far too blunt an instrument to bring about lasting change which will benefit the working people of Ireland in the 21st Century. Whatever is debated, what is undoubtedly needed is a bit of 'Whither Irish Republicanism?'.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

25 October 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

From Up the Ra to Up the Rozzers
Anthony McIntyre

Just Say No
Martin Galvin

Whither Irish Republicanism
Mick Hall

The Three Stooges
John Kennedy

Jockeying For Position
Dr John Coulter

An Irish Agreement
Liam O Comain

Up the Garden Path
John Kennedy

A Gaelic Experiement
Nathan Dowds

Preventing Prejudice
Anthony McIntyre

16 October 2006

Friday the 13th — The Most Terrifying Deal Ever Done!
Tom Luby

Black Friday
Anthony McIntyre

When No Means Yes
Dr John Coulter

Blowin' In The Wind
John Kennedy

Time to Conclude NI Process
David Adams

Once Bitten
Anthony McIntyre

Dysfunctional Family Values
Mick Hall

Racism: The Social Uniter?
Dr John Coulter

Nobody Home
John Kennedy

'The Revolution is the People'
Jane Horgan-Jones



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