Volume 2, Number 41
25 June 2005
E-Mail Newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
1) Annual IRSM Wolfe Tone Commemoration
2) What is Irish Republicanism?
3) Aspects of Racism in Ireland
4) What's On
ANNUAL IRSM WOLFE TONE COMMEMORATION
Annual IRSM Wolfe Tone Commemoration will take place at 2pm on Sunday
26th of June in Bodenstown, Sallins, Co. Kildare. Republican Socialist
bands will be in attendance. All welcome. Contact
DublinIRSP@hotmail.com for further details.
WHAT IS IRISH REPUBLICANISM?
Liam O'Ruairc argues that the republican socialist tradition provides
the basis for the working class struggle in Ireland.
In a recent edition of the Weekly Worker, Philip Ferguson wrote:
"In Ireland, the revolutionary tradition, like it or not, is
republicanism - Marxists ignore that fact at their peril.
Republicanism is a product of the concrete political and economic
subjection of that country. This means that building a Marxist
movement in Ireland requires a positive engagement with that
tradition. A genuine Marxist movement in Ireland is inherently
republican, but not merely republican." (Letters, May 26)
This point is often misunderstood by the left, because they do not
understand republicanism, the nature of its relations with socialism,
and have problems understanding a concept like 'republican socialism'.
Republican or nationalist?
In the previous articles it was pointed out that what distinguished
Irish republicanism from Irish nationalism or constitutional
nationalism was its rejection of the unionist veto, whereas for
nationalism unity is subject to that veto. If this is what
differentiates them on the national question today, there are deeper
qualitative differences between the two. What fundamentally
distinguishes Irish republicanism from Irish nationalism is that it is
not simply about desiring independence from Britain, but that it is
intrinsically connected to establishing democracy in Ireland.
The national question is part of what Marx and Engels later called the
process of "winning the battle for democracy". The question of
national independence is part of the more general question of national
democracy. It is the democratic element within Irish republicanism
that distinguishes it from nationalism.
The founders of Irish republicanism were Wolfe Tone and the United
Irishmen. It is to them that present day republicans trace their roots
- every June republicans organise an annual pilgrimage to Tone's grave
in Bodenstown. Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen were inspired by the
ideals of the enlightenment and the French Revolution. In that sense,
republicanism is not even Irish. Their separatist project of breaking
the connection with Britain and establishing an independent Irish
republic, ruled by the people for the people, was motivated not by
Anglophobia, but by the necessity of breaking with the monarchy and
aristocracy in order to establish democracy and the rights of man in
Far from being 'nationalist', their outlook was in fact profoundly
internationalist. It was more about 1789 Paris than the Brehon laws.
Its language was not that of national particularism but universal
rights. 'Breaking the connection' separatism is about breaking with
colonialism and imperialism. It is thus not surprising that from the
United Irishmen onwards, republicans have always expressed solidarity
with other colonised nations.
Their republicanism is also profoundly inclusive, substituting the
common name of Irish man and woman to the Catholic, Protestant and
Dissenter denominations. The republican concept of Irish nationality
is inclusive of all the people on the island, irrespective of their
race, gender, language, class or creed. Irish nationality is not
restricted to those blood descendents of the old Gaelic clans.
This aspect of republicanism is very relevant today, when one thinks
about the recent nationality referendum in the south and the upsurge
of racism. Irish republicanism is secular and non-sectarian. It
advocates the full separation of state and church, religion and
politics. Far from being identified with Catholicism, there was a
certain amount of anti-clericalism within Irish republicanism. No
wonder that the Catholic Church was hostile to the United Irishmen and
the French Revolution.
Irish republicanism is egalitarian. It always had an interest in
social and economic justice and equality. That aspect was
substantially developed by subsequent generations of republicans.
Finally it is popular rather than elitist in nature. Its base has
always been "the men of no property", as Tone called them. It has been
a movement of the people, of the lower orders, and has reflected their
aspirations and interests. These are the core values and most dynamic
elements of Irish republicanism.
Republican or socialist?
Some will object by saying that maybe during the period of bourgeois
revolution all the above was relevant; but that in the age of death
agony of capitalism and proletarian social revolution republicanism is
fundamentally outdated: what is needed is 'pure' socialism. Others
will object that republicanism is not a safe vehicle for social
revolution, as it has given rise to some conservative tendencies.
Additionally, critics could point that apart from the ambivalent and
negative features that republicanism has historically given rise to,
the people in the south of Ireland already have a republic, so the
relevancy of republicanism is more than questionable. So why be a
'republican' or a 'republican socialist' and not just a socialist' or
a democrat'? Why is republicanism still relevant?
The first reason is that Irish republicanism is not yet a dead dog
that can be ignored or passed over. Criticisms of Irish republicanism
must be weighted against its historical role and emancipatory core. It
played a significant historical role, and is still a major element in
Irish political life today - a lot to do with the unresolved national
question. It is impossible to build a left current that either ignores
or remains outside republicanism. To ignore it would be ignoring the
experience of history and a major political force today.
The second reason is there is a democratic content within
republicanism that has not yet exhausted itself. The fact that there
exists within Irish republicanism a conservative as well as a radical
element, and that there is a militarist and elitist tendency as well
as a democratic and popular one, should of course not be passed over.
What is essential is that there is within republicanism a potential
for radical development. The task ahead is to develop that radical
potential. The point is not to break with, or to abstractly negate,
Irish republicanism because of its defects, but to redirect, to
improve Irish republicanism.
So what is that democratic and radical content? Since Wolfe Tone and
the United Irishmen, the qualitative developments within Irish
republicanism that have been of lasting value have been those that
emphasised and developed its egalitarian and popular aspects, those
who stressed not just the democratic but also the social content of
republicanism. This has sometimes been called 'left republicanism', or
'social republicanism'. For this current, the national question and
the social question are inseparable, and national liberation is
meaningless unless it also means the liberation of the 'men of no
James Fintan Lalor was the first to connect the national to a social
revolution, and base the struggle for independence on the land
question. What Ireland needed was complete independence and the
ownership of the soil by the entire people and not just a small class
of landlords. Independence alone is not sufficient unless it is
followed by radical social changes - the abolition of landlordism.
In Pearse's final pamphlet "The Sovereign People" he discussed his
feelings about the role the "sovereign people" play in determining
matters involving private property. At one point he plainly said: "I
do not disallow the right to private property; but I insist that all
property is held subject to the national sanction."
Often social republicanism expressed itself in a confused populism.
However, its most fully developed expression is to be found in the
theoretical contribution of James Connolly (though his work falls more
into the category of scientific socialism). Connolly's fundamental
teaching is that the struggle for national liberation is not opposed
to the struggle for socialism, but an integral and necessary part of
it. This is why "The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland; the
cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered."
On the basis of a concrete analysis of social forces in Ireland,
Connolly concluded that "only the Irish working class remain as the
incorruptible inheritors of the fight for freedom in Ireland". The
genuine motor of the national liberation struggle is the working
class. All the other social classes will capitulate and sell out at
some stage because they are not prepared to risk their wealth and
power: "Ireland cannot rise to freedom except upon the shoulders of
the working class knowing its rights and daring to take them."
The roots of republican socialism, the current of thought which
follows the teachings of James Connolly, are in 'social
republicanism', which sought to radicalise its democratic, egalitarian
and popular aspects. But it is more than that. It is part of the
socialist tradition. How does it differ from republicanism in general?
The first specificity is the class orientation. Although, as we have
seen, republicanism has a 'popular' orientation, it does not
explicitly and specifically represents the interests of the working
class. While republicanism is progressive and democratic, it only
speaks of 'the people' or 'the Irish people', not the Irish working
class. Illustrative of this is Padraig Pearse's statement that "the
nation is more important than any part of the nation".
Republican socialism differs from this in so far as it is a movement
of the working class for the re-organisation of society in the
interests of the working class. Republican socialism is based on
Connolly's teaching that "Only the Irish working class remain as the
incorruptible inheritors of the fight for freedom in Ireland."
The second difference is that of ultimate goal. Republican socialism
aims to establish the workers' republic, not simply the republic.
Republicanism at best stands for a socially egalitarian republic,
while republican socialism aims to establish the socialist republic as
a transitional stage, in which the working class begins to lay the
foundations for a truly liberated society and abolish classes. Only
when the working class takes power, as a class, will the socialist
republic be established.
The aim of republicanism is not for the working class to take power as
a class. For example, on January 21 1919, Dail Eireann, the parliament
of the provisional Irish republic, met for the first time and
discussed three documents. The first was a declaration of
independence, and the second, a request to the nations of the world to
recognise the Irish republic and allow it to be represented at the
peace conference. The third declaration was the Democratic Programme
of Dail Eireann, written by Johnson and O'Brien as a reward for
Labour candidates standing down in the election.
The original draft had contained sentences such as "The republic will
aim at the elimination of the class in society which lives upon the
wealth produced by the workers of the nation but gives no useful
service in return."
IRB leaders opposed this original draft, and Michael Collins declared
that he would suppress the Democratic Programme. However, despite
Collins's objections, the document could not be completely discarded
as the members of the Dáil refused to go on without a democratic
As a result the draft was handed over to O'Kelly who expurgated much
of the socialist rhetoric and produced what was finally put before the
Dáil. His draft removed a line from Pearse that read: "No private
right to property is good against the public right of the nation",
as well as Johnson's sentence: "It shall be the purpose of the
government to encourage the organisation of the people into trade
unions and cooperative societies, with a view to the control and
administration of the industries by the workers engaged in the
Thirdly, republican socialist ideology draws its inspiration first and
foremost from the struggles and ideas of the working class in Ireland
and worldwide rather than simply the republican tradition. More
importantly, it is based on class struggle, its core part.
Republicanism is not part of the global working class movement. It may
be in sympathy with it, but it is not organically part of it. It does
not see itself as part of the class struggle. Illustrative of this is
the attitudes of republicans during the 1913 lockout. Most
republicans, like Pearse or Thomas Clarke, were broadly sympathetic to
the strikers. However, the IRB as a body refused to back the strikers.
Class struggle would have been a divisive issue. It was left to
individual members whether or not they would support the strikers.
Republican socialism is not simply socialism. To call ourselves simply
'socialists' would imply that republican socialism has no organic
roots in republicanism. Its roots are in left republicanism, as
opposed to say Maoism, Trotskyism, social democracy or international
communism. This is not simply a genealogical or historical question.
It means that no serious revolutionary movement or process can be
built in Ireland outside or apart from the republican tradition. We
could characterise Irish republicanism in the same way Jurgen Habermas
characterised modernity: "an incomplete project". Irish republicanism
should not be abandoned - it can still be a vehicle for the
revolutionary transformation of society today.
Given the continued structural and social exclusion and alienation of
the nationalist working class and rural poor in the north, Kevin Bean
has argued that republicanism will continue to function as a
lightening conductor of both social and national-democratic
discontent. Likewise, the growing economic inequalities and social
exclusion of sections of both the urban and rural populations in the
south will be expressed by growing popular challenges to the
precarious success and inherently unstable hegemony of the Celtic
tiger. The point is to preserve and radicalise what is best in
republicanism; to complete - not abandon - the project.
The task of republican socialists is to provide political leadership
to the economic, political and ideological struggle of the people, not
tail-end them. In Ireland today, the Irish Republican Socialist
Movement seeks not simply to participate in various struggle, but to
lead them actively. The creation of a strong political leadership is
essential for success. The IRSM is currently working to develop the
correct programme, strategy and tactics that will lead the working
class to power. It is also actively engaged in the economic, political
and military organisation of the class.
The Irish Republican Socialist Movement has a lot of credibility as a
revolutionary organisation. Its membership and support is almost
entirely based within the working class. Many of its members have been
killed or served long sentences in prison for their part in the
struggle. The fact that they have been ready to pay the ultimate price
shows that they are genuine professional revolutionaries. How many
organisations left of the political spectrum could claim that? Some
left groups may well dismiss the movement; but the state has
recognised it as a significant threat. This is why it has been engaged
in the deliberate murder of republican socialist militants; not least
because the organisation had put the question of armed confrontation
with the state on the agenda.
The Irish Republican Socialist Movement is thus well placed and has
the necessary credibility to renew the republican and socialist
projects in Ireland, and ensure that the cause of Ireland and the
cause of Labour remain organically tied.
[The arguments developed here owe a lot to discussions with (in no
particular order): Tommy McKearney, Anthony McIntyre, Gerry Ruddy,
Marian Price, Kevin Bean, Eddie McGarrigle, James Daly and Brendan
Holland. I wish to thank them all.]
ASPECTS OF RACISM IN IRELAND
Every permanent halting site I for travellers in the north is full.
It is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to
provide temporary halting sites so that travellers are not forced to
camp "illegally" and children have access to schools, GPs, running
water, electricity, sanitation etc.
When they were given this role in 1999 the NIHE said "As Northern
Ireland's comprehensive housing authority the Executive looks forward
with enthusiasm and confidence to taking on this new responsibility.
This is in line with the Executive's response to the consultation
document. The need for a co-ordinated approach is clear and the
recommendations will ensure that the housing needs of the travelling
community are effectively and sensitively met"
IN THE SIX YEARS SINCE THAT STATEMENT THEY HAVE PROVIDED THE GRAND
TOTAL OF 0 HALTING SITES.
Instead they have forced travellers to camp illegally in squalid
conditions without proper sanitation and then helped obtain orders
barring them from camping illegally and urinating in public places.
ANTI TRAVELLER RACISM IS DESTROYING LIVES
Poor health status:
The mortality rate for Traveller children up to the age of 10 has been
found to be 10 times that for the population as a whole. Overall the
life expectancy of Travellers is around 20% lower than the general
population. Only 10% of the Traveller population are over 40 years of
age and only 1% are aged over 65.
Poor living conditions
Travellers are eight times more likely to live in overcrowded
conditions in comparison with the general population in Northern
Ireland. Many still have extremely limited access to basic amenities
such as running water, electricity and sanitation, including some of
those living on serviced sites.
Only 11% are in paid employment of one form or another, whilst 70% of
those who are economically active have had no paid work in the last
Poor levels of educational attainment
The vast majority of Travellers have no formal qualifications (92%
have no GSCEs or their equivalent or higher). There are high levels of
non-attendance at secondary school, nonexistentattendance at tertiary
level and high levels of illiteracy.
Every Wednesday 1pm to 2 pm
Lunchtime political discussion on the issues of the day in 392 Falls
Road, Belfast. Telephone 028-9032-1024. Wednesday June 29th - Loyal
Order Parades - What Should be the Republican Socialist Response?
Comrades and friends welcome
Sunday, June 26th
Salthill Airshow, Sunday June 26th
Peace activists from Galway are organising a protest against the
inclusion of war machines in the Salthill Airshow.
The protest will start at 3PM this Sunday 26th, at the front of the
Seapoint building in Salthill.
Protest against the inclusion of war machines in the Salthill Airshow.
We welcome other anti-war activists to join us in this protest. Come
along and swell our ranks!
Please bring along any banners, anti-war handouts etc you may have.
For further info. contact Tommy Donnellon on 091587354 or email
Camp Havana Glencolmcille
From Friday 16th to Sunday 18th September 2005 over 100 men, women and
children from every corner of this island - and indeed from much
further away - will gather in Glencolmcille / Donegal. They will
come in busses, by car, bicycle or on foot.
They will erect CAMP HAVANA and walk to the top of Slieve League.
Some will take the challenging hike across the whole ridge,
accompanied by a trained mountain guide. Some will use a more relaxed
walking route and some will only go as far as the bus can take them.
All of them will enjoy Europe's highest sea - cliffs which are
surrounded by scenery incomparable to anywhere else on this earth.
Of course we are not just gathering to admire spectacular scenery. We
will get together in what is going to be the biggest show of
friendship with people from another island, Cuba, ever to happen on
We are making this effort mainly because five young men are serving
lengthy prison sentences in the USA, guilty of nothing but the attempt
to stop terrorism; murderous and destructive acts which have killed
over 3,500 civilians in Cuba - more than the troubles in Northern
These men went to Miami to try and stop the people who orchestrate
this terrorism and ended up in US prisons. They have spent months in
isolation cells; their wives, kids and relations have been denied
The Miami 5 are victims of one of the most brutal human rights
violations in recent history, victims of breaches of both
international and US law.
We want freedom for these innocent men!
With our sponsored mountain walk and the large meeting / concert on
the evening of Saturday September 17th we will achieve;
- Massive publicity and increased awareness about the case.
- Pressure on political representatives (TDs, MPs, MEPs) to act
as opposed to talk.
- Raising of much needed financial support for the campaign and for
another urgent aid project in Cuba
- Pushing forward the world-wide campaign to free the Miami 5
and strengthen the links between campaigners from various countries
(At this very early stage we already know that there will be people
from England, the USA, Austria, Germany and Denmark coming to show
We can and we will free the Miami 5!
Nobody in this world is going to do it for us!
Lend us your support!
Join Camp Havana Glencolmcille 2005!
Get in touch with us now!
On behalf of the organisers of Camp Havana
Phone us at: 028 77742655 (from Republic of Ireland: 04877742655)
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