The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Encouraging Debate

Mick Hall • 8 July 2004

In a recent article, the Belfast Telegraph's political correspondent Noel McAdam wrote about Gerry Adams in the following terms after he had interviewed him on the publication of the paperback edition of Mr Adams latest book: “He is keen to write, and encourage others, in a more critical and analytical way, to assess the course of Republicanism and involve others perhaps in a series of essays to include the harder questions like 'where we went wrong'.”

This news will come as a pleasant surprise to those Left Republicans who whilst supporting the PIRA cease-fire, differ with Mr Adams as to how the Republican movement should move forward now that the road of armed struggle has been closed, at least for the time being by the majority of Ireland's people, who overwhelmingly voted for an alternative route to National Unity in the ballots north and south to approve the GFA, changes to the 'Republics' constitution, etc. *

To date, sadly, Mr Adams' Republican critics have found all SF media outlets closed to them, including somewhat pettily even the letters pages of the local Belfast newspaper the Andersontowns News. If they publish in the mainstream press they are often abused or smeared by SF apparatchiks and their minions as working with the enemy, no matter that leading Sinn Fein politicians, understandably, give interviews to such papers almost daily. Indeed, if these Republican critics of Adams' go as far as to publish on The Blanket e-magazine, I am certain without a shadow of doubt their name is logged down in the PRM security department's black book, for future reference. Still, I suppose one should be thankful Mr Scappiticci is no longer employed within that particular department. Of course it hardly needs to be said that none of this helps lead to any kind of constructive dialogue developing between the two groups of Republicans.

It may be that Mr Adams does not intend to include his Republican critics in his desire for a critical and analytical debate. He does after all have a history of being willing to openly discuss the wherewithal of the situation in the north with Unionists and the British, members of the US administration and Congress, politicians from most shades who operate in the south, along with many others, but he has shown little willingness to debate in a civilised manner these issues with his Republican critics, many of whom not that many years ago were his comrades. It is as if once he has gained a majority for his viewpoint within the Provisional Republican Movement, then those in the minority must passively accept his will, or take their leave of SF and forever hold their tongues, which is of course not how Mr Adams himself behaved in the past, nor is it in the democratic traditions of Irish Republicanism.

To put it bluntly this is more in tune with the Leninist method of party organisation, which goes under the misnomer of Democratic Centralism. Basically what this boils down too is the militarisation of the inner workings of the party. The party leadership operates as a general staff, which send its orders down their chain of command to the party membership, who are expected to obey and implement them in a disciplined manner without argument or farther discussion.

Understandably those Leninists who continue to advocate such a system would publicly argue that the policies that the leadership send down to the party membership to be implement, originally became party policy after intense democratic debate within all party branches and organs. In reality, to put it crudely, this is horseshit. If one analyzes Lenin's Bolsheviks, democratic practice was a complete sham. Lenin's Party, along with all communist party's that affiliated to the Third International, were about as top-down policy and discipline wise as it is possible to be. Indeed, that democratic centralism was at the core of party organisation is demonstrated by the fact that it was one of the main criterias demanded by Lenin’s Third International of those Communist and Socialist Parties applying to affiliate to it.

Thus it is a great shame that Mr Adams chooses to operate in the manner I have described above. If, looking on the optimistic side, Mr Adams were to mean what he says and he does intend this exchange to be all inclusive within the nationalist and republican communities, then this would be an opportunity for all Republicans too, if not find common ground, then at the very least understand that each side is sincere in the ideas they are putting forth, plus their reasons for doing so and that neither is the main 'enemy' of the other.

Much of the credit for the enormous opportunities that have opened up for SF after the ceasefire must go in the first place to Mr Adams and his closest colleagues. However, those left Republicans who at first went along with him have gradually become more and more critical. The reason being is they fear that he is about to squander these opportunities and thus the enormous sacrifices made by the volunteers of Oglaigh na hEireann and the communities from whence they came, by building a Mark II version of Fianna Faíl -- a party for which power is all; what you do with it once it is attained is secondary. Whereas Left Socialist Republicans outside of SF and an ever increasing number still within it feel that if it is to be of any use to the constituency that created the present incarnation of SF, the party must solidly bed itself down as a left of centre Republican Socialist Party, staffed at the highest level by working people from town and country, not base its actual politics in practice, on a mirror image of whoever Mr Adams is currently engaging with. It is almost as if when Mr Adams is in the company of Clinton, he is a free marketer with a liberal bent; with the leaders of Green Corporate America he is all for globalisation and multi-national investment in Irelands economy; with Blair he sees the value of close links with the US administration, no matter who sits in the White House.

Some will undoubtedly see the aforementioned as being harsh on Mr Adams and Sinn Fein's current leadership. If so all I would ask is where is the meat? Whilst SF Ministers sat in the Stormont Government they operated PPF, which party policy opposes, although it is a Clinton and Blair favourite. Whilst raising a glass to the US President in the White House on St Patrick's Day, 2003, the very man who had only shortly before ordered his armed forces to illegally invade Iraq, a sovereign nation, Adams seemed to have seen no contradiction in doing so, despite SF being opposed to the war. Yet he did seem to feel it was important for him to publicly declare that he would not be demonstrating against President Bush's recent visit to Ireland. Why, as to make such a statement could hardly have helped rally the SF troops to participate in the demo against the visit?

If one reads Republican News these days there are reams of articles about the forward march of SF, one victory after another is enthusiastically reported. Nothing wrong with this, however what is missing is what these Councillors and Ministers do once in office? Some of these SF Councillors now share control of local councils. Yet we are rarely told via AP/RN the benefits this power has brought their constituents. Could this be one of the reasons why the actual SF vote in the north is falling? Yes, as I have demonstrated above the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis does pass radical left wing policies and they do become part of the party program. It is just that far too few are implemented if the chance arises. Farther down the SF political chain there seems to be an unspoken policy of not upsetting certain individuals and the interests they represent. Hence SF role in local government of late has a certain impotence about it.

There is little doubt that the ruling classes in both Ireland and England would fear a mass Socialist Republican Party far more than they ever did the armed struggle. Why? Well as recent developments in Ireland have demonstrated, from the point of view of the bourgeoisie, even if it did shed a tear for its property when PIRA destroyed it, it knows that it can soon recover these loses and more to the point, it is far easier to put the comparatively small armed units of the IRA back into the genie's bottle at the end of the armed struggle, than a movement that can both lead and empower the working classes through the ballot box. Once out of the genie's bottle, history has taught us that the masses within their own lifetime can never be the same again and will fight tooth and nail to defend their political gains and honour.

Briefly this is why Mr Adams at this stage of the struggle is so wrong to place individuals such as Mary Lou McDonald, who through no fault of her own comes from a middle class background, into such prominence within the Republican Movement. For working people to see one of their own in such positions, in itself empowers them; i.e., if they can do it so perhaps can me and mine. After all, Mr Adams himself is living proof of this. To simply follow the old reformist route of placing middle class people into leadership positions, so that they can act, as tribunes, for working class people in the nation's political chambers, cannot but demoralise working people for it is saying to them that they are not intelligent enough to conduct political intercourse on their own behalf. (Talk about pulling up the ladder of opportunity once aboard!)

Yes, the skills that middle class people can bring to the struggle are of value, but is Mr Adams really saying that SF has no one from a working class background who could have adequately stood for the European Parliament in the Dublin area? True, a party like SF may, like all parties these days, find it difficult to recruit working class youngsters into its ranks as political activists. But surely it can hardly help by denying these youngsters possible future role models who originated from within their own communities.

To conclude, if Mr Adams is sincere about wanting to open up a debate, perhaps he should start by offering his main Republican socialist critics space in the press his party now controls. One does not expect him to turn over space within AP/RN. But would it hurt to allow one of his foremost Republican critics, say Anthony McIntyre, to have a regular column in the Andersonstown News, which is after all, both men's local newspaper.


*Of course I recognise that some Republicans do not accept this and continue to support the armed struggle as the only viable way to remove the British. Whilst this is a perfectly legitimate position from a Republican point of view, in the main I am not referring to them in the article.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.
- Reuven Brenner

Index: Current Articles

8 July 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

"Fury at Community Newspaper Funding"
Carrie Twomey

Don't Buy A British Lie
Geraldine Adams

Encouraging Debate
Mick Hall

Magpie's Nest
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Scargill in Ireland
Anthony McIntyre

Rev. Ian Harte
Davy Carlin

Family and Community Workers Concerned at False Reporting
Monkstown Community Resource Centre

Food, Trade and US Power Politics in Latin America
Toni Solo

5 July 2004

Can You Hear Ho Chi Minh Laughing?
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia
David Adams

On Whose Side: Stakeknife
Mick Hall

Dogs and Lampposts
Anthony McIntyre

Towards a Republican Agenda for Scotland
Seamus Reader


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