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Arab Countries and Yugoslavia

Liam O Ruairc

Another model for Sinn Fein during the 1970s was the different varieties of Arab Socialism. The two regimes being referred to most favourably were Colonel Gaddafi's regime in Libya and Houari Boumedienne's dictatorship in Algeria. It should be noted that there is no evidence that Irish Republicans did express interest in baathite regimes like Syria or Irak; and the Marxist regime in South Yemen was never praised for its achievements. Colonel Gaddafi's support for the IRA has been well documented. Lesser known is the fact that Sinn Fein once looked at Gaddafi's Libya as an example to emulate. The non-aligned socialist regime appealed to Republicans. For a while, Republicans expressed a keen interest in Gaddafi's Green Book . A "special correspondent" in Libya praised the virtues of Gaddafi's regime. "Gaddafi's attempt to put into concrete terms the dreams of man since the very beginning -to live in freedom, to have his destiny in his own hands, to be his own master and never again experience humiliation and servitude at the hands of fellow men will have a familiar ring to Irish Republicans. Like all great political thought, Gaddafi's message relates to a much wider canvas than the desert societies of North Africa and Arabia from which so much great political and religious thought has sprung from in the past." ("A Government by the People: Gaddafi's Vision of Direct Democracy", An Phoblacht (vol.7 n.7), 20 February 1976, p.5).

On another occasion Gaddafi's wisdom was quoted. ("Colonel Gaddafi Speaks", Republican News (vol.7 n.21), 21 May 1977, p.11) But in the 1980s and 1990s, Gaddafi's regime is no longer praised and presented as a model, but just defended against the American attacks, and later from UN sanctions. (see for example "Solidarity with Libya", An Phoblacht-Republican News (vol.8 n.17), 24 April 1986, p.14)

In the 1970s, another regime praised was Houari Boumedienne's dictatorship in Algeria. Boumedienne's Algeria was broadly sympathetic to the Irish struggle. The IRA - like almost every liberation organisation - had for a while a house in Algiers, and TV documentaries sympathetic to the Irish Republicanism (such as The Patriot Game by Arthur MacCaig) were broadcast. When Boumedienne died, Sinn Fein sent a representative to the Algerian embassy to sign the condolences book. ('Eldrida', "An Outstanding Figure of the Arab World", An Phoblacht (vol.10 n.3), 20 January 1979, p.6)

The Algerian case is perhaps easier to understand (and makes far more sense than references to Tanzania for example), as the Irish Republican Movement could draw legitimate parallels between its struggle and that of the FLN against French colonialism. There are of course many differences between the Algerian and Irish situation, but there are also many crucial similarities. (During the 1970s, the main Republican newspapers ran two long series on the Algerian struggle. See in particular those of Thomas Fitzpatrick, "The Algerian War", Republican News (vol. 8 n.28), 22 July 1978 p.9; "Algeria", Republican News (vol 8. N.29), 29 July 1978, p.7; "The Battle of Algiers", Republican News (vol.8 n.30), 5 August 1978, pp.10-11; "Final Victory", Republican News (vol.8 n.31), 12 August 1978, p.11) Also is the fact that Irish Republicans learned a lot from the writings of Frantz Fanon, who based most of his thought on the Algerian situation. (see 'Freeman', "Read Memmi, Read Fanon", An Phoblacht (vol. 7 n.6) 13 February 1976, p.6; and especially R.G. McAuley, "Fanon on Algeria: Lessons for Irish Republicans Today", An Phoblacht-Republican News (vol. 2 n.36) 13 September 1980, p.10) The Algerian struggle raised many hopes, but most of them vanished once the liberation struggle gave way to Boumedienne's corrupt regime. Given the similarities between the Irish and Algerian situations, what guarantees were there that the post-British withdrawal Ireland would not become a Celtic version of Boumedienne's regime? This question was asked to Ruairi O'Bradaigh by a French journalist in 1972, and O'Bradaigh's answer was more than evasive (Yves Hardy, "L'IRA", Les Temps Modernes, (vol.29 n.311), Juin 1972, pp.1989-1990) But beyond the 1970s, like Tanzania, Algeria disappeared from official Republican discourse. In the 1980s and later during the 1990s, there were no longer any Arab Socialist regimes to be praised. Republicans may have defended Iraq against US aggression, but haven't presented Saddam Hussein's regime as an example to emulate.

Although not part of the Arab world, Tito's Yugoslavia - a regime with some similarities with Algeria - was also being looked favourably at. Tito's federalism was thought to have solved the problems that existed between different nationalities in the Yugoslav federation, and Sinn Fein's federalism was going to solve the problems between Ulster and the rest of Ireland (see 'Freeman', "Encouragement from Yugoslavia", An Phoblacht (vol.6 n.29), 18 July 1975, p.6). When Tito died, Ruairi O'Bradaigh, President of Sinn Fein declared: "The death of President Tito deprives the world of a dedicated socialist and staunch internationalist. Sinn Fein especially mourns his passing. Tito instituted a federal democratic and socialist regime based on shared sovereignty and pioneered an economic and political system founded on workers' control and the principles of decentralised self-management. That policy closely echoes the 'Eire Nua' policies of Sinn Fein and his enlightened and progressive internationalist policy of non-alignment and defiance of both major power blocs corresponds closely to our programme also." ("Death of President Tito", An Phoblacht-Republican News (vol.2 n.19) 10 May 1980, p.9) The crisis of Yugoslav "self-management" socialism and wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo will put an end to hopes of Yugoslavia providing an example.

This is article is the third in a series examining Sinn Fein's international links.
See also: Eire Nua Tanzanian Style
From Havana to Pyongyang



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