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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Bush, Coke-a-Cola, and the Nazis

Eamon McCann • Socialist Worker, 7 September 2003

Just because Kevin Myers (Irish Times), Eilis O'Hanlon (Sunday Indo) and Henry McDonald (Observer) attack something doesn't mean sensible people have to defend it.

Take Sinn Fein's annual commemoration of ex-IRA chief of staff Sean Russell at Fairview Park in Dublin on August 17th. The usual media suspects---rabid supporters of political violence when it suits them, including the killing of innocent civilians---wound themselves up to the peak of high dudgeon to pour down vilification on all concerned. Russell was a Nazi collaborator who travelled to Berlin during World War Two to try to persuade Hitler to help the IRA, they pointed out. He was on his way back to Ireland with plans link up with Nazi agents and forment revolt in the North when he died from natural causes and was buried at sea. How could people who advertise themselves as progressive gather reverently to mark the death of such a man?

Even though it's reactionary wretches who are doing the asking, this is a good question. Why, indeed, did Brian Keenan, Marylou McDonald and Ciaran Mac Anraoi step forward in turn to deliver eulogies to a Nazi collaborator?

An Phoblacht described Brian Keenan's speech as "the main oration" and quoted him: "I don't know what was in the depth of Sean Russell's thinking down the years, but I am sure he was never far from Pearse's own position, who said, 'as a patriot, preferring death to slavery, I know no other way'... There are things worse than bloodshed, and slavery is one of them. We are not and will not be slaves."

A moment's thought about the millions enslaved by Nazism puts the repulsiveness and stupidity of this remark into perspective. So what aspect of Irish Republicanism prompted Keenan to make it?

We can take it that Keenan is in no way soft on Nazism. But we can take it, too, that, generally speaking, he holds to the old Republican adage, "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity"--the exact sentiment which sent Russell on his mission to Berlin: before setting out, in October 1939, he'd spelt it out plainly: "'England's difficulty, Ireland's opportunity' has ever been the watchword of the Gael."

For Russell, driving the Brits out of Ireland took precedence over everything else. No consideration of class differences within Ireland, nor of solidarity with persecuted peoples elsewhere, no thought of the implications for the 4,500 Jewish people living in Ireland, nothing could be allowed to cloud the shining vision of an Ireland freed of British rule. In this perspective, the question of what force it would be proper to ally with was secondary.

Russell's willingness to collaborate with Nazis, then, did not stem from a fondness for Nazi ideas but from the intensity and exclusiveness of his Nationalism. The Nazis were at war with Britain---and so was the IRA. Ideological affinity didn't come into it. If Hitler would help get the Brits out of Ireland, it would make no sense not to avail of that help...

Myers etc. suggest that the Russell commemoration exposed Sinn Feiners today as, if not sympathetic to Nazism, at least well-disposed to Russell's collaboration with Nazism. But what the Fairview Park event actually revealed is simply that Sinn Fein hasn't broken with the notion that the "national cause" takes precedence over everything else. The most important practical application of this notion in 2003 came not at Fairview Park but in Hillsborough Castle in early April when the SF leadership glad-handed the leader of US imperialism even as his bombers revved up for the Iraq runs: the interests of Irish freedom, now deemed to be enclosed within the Belfast Agreement, took precedence over all else. If staying close to George Bush would advance the Nationalist cause, opposition to Bush's imperialism had to be put in abeyance.

Herein lies the link between the perspective of the Repubican Movement in Russell's time and the politics of Sinn Fein today.









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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

7 September 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Bush, Coke-a-Cola and the Nazis
Eamonn McCann


A Regime of Silence
Anthony McIntyre


Lower Falls Memories
Kathleen O'Halloran


My Axis of Evil
Pedram Moallemian


In Memory of Israfil Shiri 1973-2003
Debbie Grue


IRPWA Calls on Paul Murphy to Reveal Recommendations
Martin Mulholland


A Letter to Mr Foley
Matthew Kavanagh


4 September 2003


US Denies It Gave Safe Harbor to Brian Nelson
Fr Sean Mc Manus


Between Theory and Reality
Eamon Sweeney


In the Name of Security
Jim J Kane


Caught at it Again
Anthony McIntyre


The History of the Troubles According to the Provos
John Nixon


Moving Forward Past the Past
Davy Carlin


More Questions than Answers
Mick Hall


In Memory of Robert Emmet

Charles Murnick


Attempted Suicide by Iranian Asylum Seeker
Debbie Grue


Dublin: Maghberry Briefing Meeting
Mags Glennon


Belfast Anti-War Movement
Public Meeting




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