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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Tús Nua - Céim chun tosaigh
A new beginning - a step forward

W. Harbinson • 19 April 2007

James Connolly, writing in the Irish Nation, January 23, 1909, said:

"When a Sinn Féiner waxes eloquent about restoring the Constitution of '82, (dare I add the Good Friday Agreement) but remains silent about the increasing industrial despotism of the capitalist; when the Sinn Féiner speaks to men who are fighting against low wages and tells them that the Sinn Féin body has promised lots of Irish labour at low wages to any foreign capitalist who wishes to establish in Ireland, what wonder if they come to believe that a change from Toryism to Sinn Féinism would simply be a change from the devil they do know to the devil they do not know!..........

"Now the problem is to find a basis of union on which all these sections who owe allegiance to one or other conception of Socialism may unite. My position is that this union, or rapprochement, cannot be arrived at by discussing our differences. Let us rather find out and unite upon the things upon which we agree. Once we get together, we will find that our differences are not so insuperable as they appear whilst we are separated. What is necessary first is a simple platform around which to gather, with the understanding that as much as possible shall be left to future conditions to dictate and as little as possible settled now by rules or theories.

"As each section has complete confidence in their own doctrines, let them show their confidence by entering an organisation with those who differ from them in methods, and depend upon the development of events to prove the correctness of their position. Each person to have complete freedom of speech in conformity with the common object; the lecture platform to be common to all, and every lecture to be followed by questions and discussion."

Perhaps, in the above passages lies the way forward for those who oppose the ongoing Sinn Féin strategy - a political strategy and direction which, through SF's demands, in favour of lower corporation taxes; a failure to state exactly explicitly where the party stands on water charges and increased domestic rates; along with a willingness to increase the privatisation of the health and education sectors through initiating private finance initiatives, has already shown itself to be willing to pay nothing but lip service to the Socialist Republicanism of Connolly. And I am not even getting to the 'policing' issue.

Indeed, I have no doubt that SF will be forced into making even more extremely unpopular, anti-working class decisions if/when the Executive gets going.

But where is the alternative? Let's be honest, many Republicans who disagree with Sinn Féin come from a very disparate set of views. So the first step must be to find out and unite upon the things upon which we agree, and not just solely come at it from an anti-policing stance. Lessons can be learned from the Republican Congress of the Thirties; lessons can be learned, too, from the failure of the Republican Congress.

There is a myth that SF has a very effective political organisation - but those who know that organisation also know it is a myth.

Beyond taking a very scientific approach to elections and electoral organisation (which was missing from the campaigns of opponents to SF in the recent Assemby elections), the much vaunted Sinn Féin machine is weak in terms of capable, thinking and politically astute personnel in many areas of the North when its comes down to local levels. The SF organisation has become an election-driven machine, continuously organising around maintenance of the electoral register. One Comhairle Ceantair area can be taken as example - with a membership of over eighty people and over half a dozen elected reps, there are less than four people upon whom the entire organisation depends for dealing with anything else other than elections.

Adams' recent interviews on both Spotlight (BBC) and the Week in Politics (RTÉ) exposed his own lack of grasp of the wider social, economic and political issues which affect the lives of ordinary people across the country. The same is true of many other SF figures at national and middle-leadership levels.

Therein lies the SF weakness - absence of a true knowledge of the needs of, and issues affecting, ordinary men, women and kids. But there is also the fact that it is the absence of any logical alternatives coming from other Republicans to SF which has allowed SF to seize the ground it has gained.

For example, can any Republican (including SF members) truly say that SF or other Republicans are willing to challenge and confront the property speculators and private landlords who are exploiting our communities in every part of the North and across the island as a whole? No. Without a doubt, you will not see SF picketing their homes or offices. But is there really any difference between today's property speculators, private landlords and their 'management agencies' and those landlords and land agents which the Land League and IRB fought against towards the end of the 19th century. Again, the answer is 'No', but making profit from people's lives is the common denominator which unites such profiteers across time, even though well over 100 years separates them.

It is widely acknowledged that the present SF strategy did not emerge overnight - so let us also not expect an alternative to emerge to SF overnight either. But do let us start to build that alternative. A Socialist Republican alternative.

I believe, that by being honest and truthful, to and with ourselves; and to and with the ordinary people; by reliance upon the "people of no property"; by no attempt at self-gain; and by putting inidividual ego's aside - that Socialist Republican alternative can be built.

My only regret is that I did not fully recognise this fact several years ago - but, like others, I mistakenly believed that it was better to have a voice heard from within rather than from without.

The only question I have is this - who will or can take the lead to commence the process of building an alternative. I don't believe that either RSF or IRSP can lead this new departure (just to avoid the accusation from SF of another 'anti-SF' "front" - but there is room for their inclusion).

Éirigí in Dublin, perhaps, or individuals like John Kelly, or Geraldine Dougan starting by calling meetings in each of the Six Counties and elsewhere across Ireland? I leave this question for others among you to answer.

What is urgently needed now is Connolly's "simple platform around which to gather".

Let's try to identify that simple platform and then commence to gather and organise around it.













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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

24 April 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Tús Nua - Céim chun tosaigh
A new beginning - a step forward

W. Harbinson

Which Way We Are Facing
Mick Hall

Whither Traditional Republicanism?
Michael Gillespie

The Drumcree Conspiracy
John Kennedy

We Must Deal Openly With The Past
David Adams

What Was It All For?
Antaine Uas O'Labhradha

The New Wolfe Tone?
Dr John Coulter

Felon Setting
Martin Galvin

UVF Threats Further Proof of Political Policing
Press Release: 32 County Sovereignty Movement

Widgery II
John Kennedy

Easter Statement
Republican Socialist Youth Movement

Commemoration Report
Cathleen O'Brien

The Road Ahead for the UUP
Dr John Coulter

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander!
Patrick Hurley

David Ervine
Anthony McIntyre

9 April 2007

Alternative Ulster
Gerard Gallagher

Back to the Old RUC Ways
Martin Galvin

Cross Border Co-Operation
John Kennedy

Statement from the Morley Family
The Morley Family

Time for Truth is Now
Mick Hall

Revising the Uprising?
Paul Maguire

Easter 2007 Oration
Francis Mackey

Stormont an Obstacle to Realising Ideals of 1916
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

Destined for the Dustbin of History
Dr John Coulter

A Beginning Must Be Made
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

Vision for Northern Ireland
Ian Eggleston

House Trained At Last
Brian Mór

Bullies Top the List
Dr John Coulter

Niall Griffiths' antidote to the 'Vomit Novel'
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Two Looks Back in Time
Dr John Coulter

Blame It On The Shinners, Bono & That Freak Sir Bob
Brian Mór

Levi's Law
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Facing Up to Reality of Holocaust
David Adams

The Big Bribe
John Kennedy

Everywhere The Past
Anthony McIntyre



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