Web site http://www.theplough.netfirms.com/
Vol. 4- No 12
Thursday 19th April 2007
E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party
2) The Republican Movement and Socialism 1950–70
3) Cuba Update
4) Labour news
6) What’s On
IRSP National Hunger Strike Commemoration - 26th Anniversary
Sunday 20th May
Rosemount Factory, Derry
March to Republican Socialist Plot, City Cemetery
"We Irish Republicans believe that the Republic exists. At times it does appear intangible but we believe that it is the legitimate government of Ireland and that its authority resides with the Continuity Army Council and Executive. That is why we are often frustrated by others who claim to be republican yet who do not believe this. There are some in Ireland today and indeed within the Republican Movement itself that propose what is known as the “Broad Front”. Their misleading suggestion is that there is strength in unity. This is simply untrue. Any such proposal would obviously be a drain on the resources of the Movement and would only be of assistance to those who have not the same faith as us. By weakening ourselves and rising others up we endanger the All Ireland Republic. Can we risk all for a temporary benefit? Furthermore some of these other groups actually claim that they are the Republican Movement and that they represent its authority. For we true Republicans to suggest such an alliance is heresy and should be avoided at all costs."
(Speech at Republican Sinn Fein 2007 Wexford Easter Commemoration)
“The 1916 Rising against British rule in Ireland meant (a) the re-assertion of the right of the Irish people to national independence; (b) the re-birth of Christian idealism – the idea and (c) the emergence in the 20th century of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movement which was to spread world-wide”
(Speaking at the GPO, Dublin, on Easter Monday, April 9, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, President of Republican Sinn Fein,)
“Republican Sinn Féin represents the sole political alternative capable of providing this, coming from a position of solid and unequivocal Irish Republicanism. Other groups or organisations may attempt to hold this ground but Republican Sinn Féin are the only political organisation to uphold the right of the Irish people, acting as a unit, to national independence, who reject both partitionist states and their respective assemblies and with policies capable of delivering a New Ireland for all of the Irish people.”
(Easter Sunday April 8 Republican Sinn Féin Vice President Des Dalton speaking in Derry)
The above quotations illustrate the narrowness, arrogance and elitism of Republican Sinn Fein. The Republic of Pearse and Connolly does not exist. The IRSP do not recognise any legitimate Government resting in the Continuity Army Council and Executive. No one need be frustrated by this. Our allegiance our cause is not to some intangible make believe but to the Irish working class. That is where our allegiance lies and to no other. Nor do we ever attempt to equate either the 1916 Rising or the republican struggle to the Christian religion. Not for us talk of ‘Christian idealism’, ‘heresy’ nor mumbo jumbo about ‘intangible’ republics. We have seen historically how unquestioning faith can lead young men and women throwing their lives away in the hope of paradise. Too many of our young people have bravely sacrificed their freedom or their lives in the armed struggle without any clear political perspective to achieve that republic. We do not claim to know all the answers but this we do know if the struggle is not based on the bed rock of the working class and guided by a socialism based on an objective analysis of material conditions then it is doomed to repeat the failures of the past. Can Irish Republicans not learn from the past failures?
1922- 1923 Civil War- Defeat
1939-40 S Plan or "Sabotage Campaign" or "England Campaign"- Defeat
1956-61 The Border Campaign or Operation Harvest- Defeat
1970-1997 “The Troubles”-Defeat
Seamus Costello, our founder and former leading member of the Republican Movement before it irrevocably splintered into differing traditions from 1969 onwards, advocated the Broad Front policy, so dismissed contemptuously by RSF. Seamus having participated in the 56-61 armed campaign and watched the so called leftist drift of the movement during the sixties had come to the clear conclusion in the early seventies that the so called swing to the left by what was then the Officials was indeed a sham driven not by revolutionary principles but by reformist aspirations. He recognised the genuine revolutionary aspirations of many rank and file volunteers within the provisional movement but had enough experience of the elitism of former comrades, who took upon themselves the mantle of leadership of a non existing Republic, to know that such was not the way to liberation and socialism. So he advocated the Broad front policy as a way of bring together all anti-imperialist forces. Tragically Seamus was taken from us before he had fully developed the strategy.
Today we operate in very different circumstance from when Seamus lived. We believe that the participation of Sinn Fein (P) in running the northern state far from advancing republicanism shows the extent of the republican defeat. Yes, Northern nationalism based on a sectarian headcount has advanced but don’t let anyone pretend that that is a victory for Republicanism. It is not.
Talks are taking place between various republicans as to the best way forward. The IRSP will happily take part in such talks but we will not be party to recasting a Provo-model Mark Two. We will bring our class politics to any such meetings, maintain a critical eye on proceeds and will work for genuine unity in action with others while continuing to build up the party’s strength.
This edition of the Plough carries an historical article examining the so-called swing to the left of the Republican Movement during the sixties. It exposes that myth. Based on the experiences of our own comrades during the late sixties and early seventies, the RSM never, as such, had illusions in either the Officials or the Provisionals as vehicles for revolutionary change. Both of those organisations swung to the left to soak up working class discontent and replenish their membership. Then as circumstances changed drifted to the right.
The recent history of the Sinn Fein (P) with its rapid accommodation to a British imposed settlement may have surprised some republicans. It did not surprise the IRSP. We have always held firmly to the view that the centrality of the working class in the struggle was the only way that imperialism could be defeated. True there were times when this movement slipped and departed from the revolutionary path. But no movement was ever formed fully mature and knowing all the right moves to make. Experience is hard earned and as our movement learns from its experience we are better placed to plot the way forward for class politics.
During the 1980’s the leadership of Sinn Fein posed as leftists, advocated socialism and persuaded many international based socialists that they were a genuine revolutionary force. At the same time these “socialists” were demonising our own movement. Those who were fooled then, need like us, to learn the lessons of history. One shallow does not a summer make and saying one is socialist does not make one so.
Read the following article by Jim Lane and beware those who would proclaim their socialism only as a means to fool the working class.
The Republican Movement and Socialism
[First published in a supplement to the Starry Plough (organ of the Irish Republican Socialist Party) Dec. 1987. This edition was published in 1989.]
Much mythology attends developments within the Irish Republican Movement in the 1960’s and because it has been purveyed ad nauseam, it has been accepted as fact by many, even by republicans. Basically, the mythology informs us that the Republican Movement moved significantly towards revolutionary Marxism after the failure of the Border Campaign. In a recent book by some latter-day Workers’ Party intellectuals, we are told that a
“radicalisation…followed the defeat of the IRA’s previous military campaign, that of 1956–62”, and that Cathal Goulding saw the engendering of
“social revolution in the Republic”
as his priority during the 1960s1
What follows is an attempt to set the record straight and demolish some of the well-cherished misconceptions about the ‘left-wing drift’ of that decade. Hopefully, it will help place those who later formed the leadership of the Workers’ Party in an historical perspective.
The late 1940s and the 1950s was a period of great hardship in the lives of the working class and small farmers of Ireland. Mass unemployment gave rise to poverty, hunger and emigration. It was also the era of the Cold War when pulpit and press gave forth on the ‘evils’ of communism. Nationalist parliamentary politicians studiously ignored the plight of the people. With all attempts to build an ‘independent’ Irish capitalism behind tariff barriers failing, they now concerned themselves with promoting an Anti-Partition campaign and with declaring the 26 Counties a republic. With the IRA declaring that
“the aim of the army is simply to drive the invader from the soil of Ireland” 2
and Sinn Fein (recently reunited with the IRA) stating that it was not
“and never was a political party”3 workers had no reason to expect help from that quarter.
Indeed, when McCarthyite witch-hunts were being conducted by the Catholic Standard newspaper, the IRA took care to distance itself from the communists who had earlier been interned with its volunteers in the Curragh.
It charged, in fact, that the interning of communists with republicans was part of a Fianna Fail plot to influence the IRA with materialist ideas!
An editorial in the United Irishman in 1949 stated:
“The IRA have as constantly opposed communism as they have opposed British domination and have ever denied to communists and imperialists alike a voice in their councils or a plank on their platforms…even if communists were sincere in their advocacy of Irish independence, we could never accept their Marxian creed. Communism is a foreign ideology just as unsuited to Irish character and temperament as British imperialism” 4
Later in that year the same paper explained the tenacity of Irish republicans in quasi-religious terms.
“Every Irish leader”, it stated, “has asserted that in order to gain the Republic we must maintain our spirituality as it is the very quality that has kept our movement the shrine of our National heritage. Ireland’s cause is essentially one, which appeals to saints and martyrs.5
No room for materialistic communists here, even if they be advocates of Irish self-determination.
By 1957, unemployed workers under the banner ‘Emigrate, Starve or Fight’ had begun to make their presence felt, despite witch-hunts and lack of support from the unions. In Dublin, in an effort to bring their protest in to the Dail chambers, they succeeded in getting one of their leaders, Jack Murphy, elected. In Cork, Sinn Fein reaction was to order any of its members who were involved in the Unemployed Protest Movement (UPM) to leave. It was contended that the UPM was a Free State political organisation, because it had a member in the Dail. The reaction of Sinn Feiners was generally to leave the Republican Movement rather than the unemployed movement. One man who defied the order was given a show-trial, as an example to others, and promptly dismissed.
Even before the UPM became ‘contaminated’ by using Leinster House as a platform to air its grievances, Sinn Fein had taken a hostile attitude to it in many areas. At one stage, a group of about 40 unemployed, locked out of Cork’s Carpenter’s Hall due to a mistake in booking arrangements, had proceeded down the street, expecting to be facilitated in the nearby Sinn Fein hall. They were refused, however, because local Sinn Fein leaders claimed that they were communist inspired.
When a member of Sinn Fein, Norman Letchford, wrote and published a pamphlet, “Lives, Loves and Liberties - The Heresies of a Protestant Republican,” he was dismissed ostensibly for not having sought permission to publish. In fact, he had submitted a manuscript to his local Comhairle Ceanntair. At his unsuccessful appeal hearing, he was condemned for criticising the role of the Catholic clergy during the Great Famine.
To back up his dismissal, members were later informed that he was a communist infiltrator and a former member of the Connolly Association. The trials and tribulations of the Irish working class found little place in the considerations of most Irish republicans in the 1950s; they were too busy being ‘saints and martyrs’.
This then is the Republican Movement in which the future ‘left-wingers’ cut their political teeth. This is the movement that they joined and the movement whose policies they never fundamentally disagreed with until the failure of the border campaign necessitated an internal rethink. Even while they were supposedly undergoing a process of radicalisation in the prisons, the bourgeois politics frequently shone through. Tomas MacGiolla, for example, while in prison in late 1950s, spent some time defending Franco’s Spain against the verbal attacks of his more enlightened comrades.
Following the failure of the 1956–62 armed campaign in the 6 Counties, the leadership of the Republican Movement was deposed and a new leadership installed. Cathal Goulding assumed the leadership of the IRA and Tomas MacGiolla took over as acting president of Sinn Fein. Goulding’s involvement with the IRA reached back to the 1940s and he was held in high esteem by his peers. MacGiolla came to Sinn Fein in the early 1950s from the Anti-Partition League. From a Free State background, he was a nephew of T.P. Gill an Irish parliamentary member at Westminister. He had served on the Ard Comhairle (National Executive) previously in 1956. With the ending of the campaign, Goulding and MacGiolla were released from Mountjoy Jail on 20 April 1962. Sean Garland, also destined to play a major role in the coming years, was released from Belfast Jail in July.
These men, along with some others, have been credited with leading the Republican Movement to socialism. It is held that the failure of the armed struggle to win appreciable support brought about a realisation by republicans of the need to involve themselves in agitational activity associated with the struggle of the exploited. We are told, primarily by the Workers’ Party, that this process, which began within the prisons, led to the adoption of revolutionary socialism by the Republican Movement in the early to mid 1960s.
What is never examined, however, is the reason why republicans decided to involve themselves in agitational activity. It had to do with amassing support that they hoped would rebuild the Republican Movement and hold solid when they again launched an armed campaign. It had nothing to do with an ideological change in their thinking with regard to the working class. It was simply a change in tactics. Offering little or no threat to the capitalist system, it found favour with most republicans.
This tactic of republican involvement in social protest in order to win support for their petit bourgeois anti-partition objectives needs to be understood by all those who strive for socialism and national liberation. The working class is not there to be used, and workers have shown on countless occasions that they resent being used and are pretty astute at identifying and rejecting users. That is precisely why Sinn Fein today has made little inroads in electoral terms in southern Ireland. Despite its recent interest in social issues, its priority, indeed only real objective, remains the ending of partition.
That there was no fundamental change in the Republican Movement’s ideological stand was evidenced later in 1962 when MacGiolla gave his presidential address at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. He declared that:
“In so far as the communist menace is a battle for men’s minds, we should undoubtedly be playing a leading part in the fight against it, as we should be in the fight against materialism of every blend. Our greatest weapon in the fight against all material philosophies is our essential spiritual nature.”6
He then went on to outline a six point programme to
“fight communism or any other social or political ill of our day.”
Sinn Fein presidential addresses represent the view of the entire movement. Obviously, spiritual Ireland was alive and well and entrenched in the Republican Movement. The United Irishman commented:
The president of Sinn Fein has dealt with our place in the struggle against communism in his presidential address. It is the only honourable and reasonable contribution which we as a small Christian nation can make towards the progress of civilisation and the cause of peace.7
The movement’s anti-communism was later given further expression in an article reviewing the position of communism in Europe:
“Poland has recently thrown off Soviet domination, has drawn away from doctrinaire communism and has adopted a more conservative system…The Hungarian revolution has resulted in severe setback for communism in that country…With so much internal trouble and unrest, these countries in Eastern Europe are a danger to nobody except themselves.”8
What should be noted here is that it was not the style of ‘communism’ that existed in these countries that was being attacked, it was communism itself. The Republican Movement clearly wished for the installation of bourgeois democracy in Eastern Europe rather than a real system of socialist democracy. Years later, when asked by a journalist if “the policy adopted in 1962/3 was explicitly a socialist revolutionary policy”, Cathal Goulding replied that it was.9
Despite the movement’s conservatism, a small group of people formerly associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), the Connolly Association and the Irish Workers’ Party, found its way into the Republican Movement or into its front organisations. They were in time to exert a major influence on the thinking of some of the republican leadership. That they could survive in such an anti-communist movement only goes to show the extent of their reformism.10
In pursuance of their policy of agitation, republicans began to involve themselves in the everyday struggles of the workers and small farmers. IRA volunteers were instructed to join trade unions, but by 1965 it was admitted Sinn Fein itself had failed to develop an active organisational structure. There was much dissatisfaction with Sinn Fein and the IRA wished its role to be confined to publicity and election work.
Whatever about the IRA curbing Sinn Fein, its president, Tomas MacGiolla, was still given free rein to deliberate on communism:
“Communism…as it has manifested itself in many countries…is not an ideology which would commend itself to the Irish people”11
The ambiguity of this statement is apparent. Was he issuing a blanket condemnation of communism? Or was he merely condemning the distorted form of communism that manifest itself in the ‘socialist’ countries?
Coupled with the ritual condemnation of capitalism, the Republican Movement, in attacking communism, seemed, like the Catholic Church, to want something suspended between both. In reality, again like the Church, they wanted capitalism with something of a social conscience. They sought economic in-betweenism and frequently used James Connolly as a basis for their utopian concept. The economic policy promoted by Sinn Fein was immeasurably removed from any stand James Connolly ever took. It was nothing more than a bizarre mixture of re-hashed Proudhonism and Social Credit theories.
In 1965, what MacGiolla described as the ‘essential spiritual nature’ of the Republican Movement was greatly in evidence. The movement spearheaded opposition to the use of English in the Roman Catholic Mass. In a front page leading article, entitled ‘Demonstrations in Churches?’ the United Irishman announced:
A chapter is likely to be added to the history of republicanism and Roman Catholic church relations when the change to the vernacular in the Mass comes into force…for the first time since the coming of St. Patrick to Ireland the English language is not only to be given a place an official status in the very heart of Church affairs, the Mass, but also, over most of our country, a position of complete dominance. This, in the eyes of many, is the consummation of the conquest and the end of hopes for spiritual and intellectual independence, the first facet of republicanism. 12
In the event, good sense took over and except for some more articles in subsequent months, we were spared the demonstrations. Strange, however, to find such Catholic-nationalist sentiments in an allegedly socialist revolutionary organisation.
Going into 1966 with MacGiolla defending a free enterprise economy and suggesting the co-operative movement as an alternative “to either, capitalism or communism”,13 it was understandable that Ruairi O’Bradaigh could state emphatically during the Westminster election campaign that the Republican Movement was not socialist.14 At the Easter Commemoration in Cork City that year, MacGiolla launched into an attack on communism emphasising that it was an ‘alien ideology’.
In May 1966, an editorial in the United Irishman, contemplating who republicans should support in the Free State presidential election, said of candidate T.F. O’Higgins, that he had “very little to condemn him personally.” Supporting fascism as a member of the Blueshirts in the 1930s was not to be held against him. Such liberalism!
By 1967, as Goulding revealed in an interview in 1970, the Republican Movement was dormant:
It wasn’t active in any political sense or even in a revolutionary sense. Membership was falling off. People had gone away. Units of the IRA and the cumainn of Sinn Fein had become almost non-existent. We felt that something dynamic was needed or the movement was going to break up and splinter into pieces. We called a meeting of the Republican Army’s local leadership at the end of August 1967...at that conference of 1967 we started on a Friday night and finished on a Sunday evening…they suddenly realised that they had no movement at all. They only thought they had a movement. Out of this conference there came a number of recommendations. The first was that we should openly declare for a Socialist Republic. That was now the objective of the Republican Movement: to establish a Socialist Republic as envisaged by Connolly and in keeping with the sentiments of the Proclamation of 1916.15
A Native Product
With a moribund movement, badly in need of a shot in the arm, the tattered remnants of the leadership had got together for one weekend and come up with the good old Socialist Republic. The Republican Movement clearly thought it worthwhile to cash in on socialism’s new-found popularity in the late 1960s, so it jumped on the bandwagon. By November, Sinn Fein had tailed the IRA and amended the party constitution to read that its objective was a Socialist Republic. The army had decided the matter and the party had followed. Truly indicative of a socialist vanguard party!
However, the Republican Movement now had that ‘something dynamic’.
“Socialism has nothing to do with either atheism or totalitarianism, as is evident from a superficial reading of Connolly”, MacGiolla told the faithful in January 1969. He continued:
Neither is it a philosophy which must be imported. It is part of the Republican tradition since the founding of the United Irishmen, was deeply rooted among the Fenians, and was the driving force behind the 1916 rebellion.16
A few months later, socialism became even more acceptable when he claimed that
“the revolutionary movements of the past all… recognised that socialism was a native growth on Irish soil.”17
This nonsense hardly deserves comment, but it helps to show the reader the level of mumbo-jumbo prevalent in the Republican Movement at the time. Mythology has us believe that it was guided by advanced Marxists. But when the heady days of armed conflict arrived, people like MacGiolla lost their heads altogether. The notorious anti-communist, MacGiolla, in an interview in July 1970, informed us that if things happened as he hoped, he would be the Fidel Castro of Ireland.
“Yes!” he said, “we have the same revolutionary style and objective. Mind you, not that I have any personal ambitions to be an Irish Castro. As a man I regard him as overemotional.”18 I wonder did Castro, like ‘Ice Cool’ MacGiolla, realise that socialism was a native growth of Irish soil?
This then was the Republican Movement of the 1960s. It was a movement that never strayed from reformism. It indulged in revolutionary posturing and phrasemongery when such activities were popular, but it never genuinely attempted to forge a Leninist-type revolutionary Marxist party. This is not to say that there were not some genuine Marxists within the movement, struggling for a way forward.19 What it does mean is that the Workers’ Party is nothing less than the natural, and expected, product of policies formulated by the so-called ‘left-wingers’ of the 1960s. They had always dismissed real revolutionary politics; it was only a matter of time before they openly rejected revolutionary methods.
Today’s Workers’ Party, true to its creators design, does not seek the overthrow of capitalism and the building of a socialist society. Rather, it seeks simply to ‘ameliorate’ the lot of Irish workers by working within the system. It is nothing more than a second Labour Party in Ireland. What is truly needed is not another Labour Party, but a Marxist party that makes the achievement of social revolution its inviolable objective. Only with such a party will an Irish Workers’ Republic be built ( Jim Lane, Cork, 1989.)
Cuba Update 16 April, 2007
1.Barclays asks Cuban outfits to close accounts
2.Austrian bank tells Cuban-born customer to go elsewhere
3.Cuba condemns Posada possible release
4.Cuban music legends to play London
1. Barclays asks Cuban outfits to close accounts
Move follows scandal over Hilton Hotels
16 April 2007
Monday April 16, 2007
Barclays Bank has told the London branches of two Cuban organisations to take their accounts elsewhere in what is seen as the latest example of pressure exerted by the United States on British companies to enforce its embargo of the island. MPs are to discuss the controversial embargo at a special meeting in the House of Commons next month.
The long-standing accounts held by Havana International Bank and Cubanacan, a state-owned travel organisation, are understood to be healthy. But they have been told to take their accounts elsewhere. A spokesman for Barclays said: “We operate in a number of jurisdictions around the world and that requires careful monitoring to ensure compliance with different regulations.”
A spokesman for the Cuban embassy in London said: “We are aware of the intensification of US pressure in various countries in order to make them comply with the regulations of the blockade imposed on Cuba. These pressures include the banking and financial system.”
The Hilton hotel group was at the centre of a row this year when their Oslo hotel cancelled a Cuban trade delegation booking. After the Guardian published details of a similar ban operated by the group in Europe, the company said it could not ask staff to break British law forbidding discrimination on the grounds of nationality.
The Hilton Hotels Corporation in London wrote to the government, stating: “As a US-based company, we face a legal dilemma, with a strict ban on trading with Cuba imposed by the US government”.
Ian Carter, chief executive of Hilton International, is due to attend next month’s meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on Cuba to discuss the embargo.
Colin Burgon MP, a member of the group, said: “This is totally unnecessary. We have on the statute book robust legislation that protects UK citizens and visitors from discrimination.”
2. Austrian bank tells Cuban-born customer to go elsewhere
Blockade is being applied to all Cuba nationals abroad
14 April 2007
VIENNA, Austria - An Austrian bank recently bought by a US-led consortium acknowledged Friday that it told a Cuban-born client to take her business elsewhere and suggested that Washington’s ban on commerce with Havana was behind the decision.
3. Cuba condemns Posada possible release
Main topic of conversation in the island
13 April 2007
Havana, Apr 15 (Prensa Latina) Cubans’ condemnation of Luis Posada Carriles’s release and President Fidel Castro’s denunciations of the US government support for the terrorist were the main topics of conversation in the Caribbean Island this week.
Posada Carriles’s possible release on bail in Texas was condemned by millions of Cubans, who demand that the terrorist be tried in the United States or extradited to Venezuela.
4. Cuban legends to play London
La Linea Festival at the Barbican
Friday 20 April,7.30pm
Israel López ‘Cachao’ + Omar Puente & Robert Mitchell
Sunday 29 April, 7.30pm
Barbican Cente, London
0845 120 7515
More info at:
Cuba Update is the news and information bulletin of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, UK. Reports in this bulletin are from various sources on the web and may contain opinions and phrasing that do not reflect the views of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
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Hands Off the People of Iran
We hope comrades in Ireland will make sure they attend the HOPI launches in May:
Cork Wednesday May 9 19:30 Victoria Hotel, Patrick Street
Dublin Thursday May 10 - 19:30 Teachers Club, 36 Parnell Square
Belfast Friday May 11 - 19:30 Queens University
In the UK, the campaign has ambitious plans for a press launch of a new campaign pack in April, a 'teach-in' towards the end of June, and a full conference later in the year.
"The genuine anti-imperialist struggles in Iran are being waged by workers, teachers and students. The solidarity of the left and anti-war movement should be with these forces, not those of the reactionary regime"
Visit the HOPI website at http://www.hopoi.org/ to read more about our work and how you can get involved.
What’s James Larkin About?
Friday 20th April@8.00PM in the CYMSI CLUB Antrim Road Belfast-Life size sculpture of James Larkin on display.
Guest speaker John Grey (Historian)