Created on Wednesday, 07 April 2010 19:36 Written by Christopher DonnellyThis year the International Marxist Tendency was present at two of the commemorations in the north, and this report gives an assessment of the state of the republican movement at this juncture. It also gives some indications of the differences between the various strands of the Republican movement.
Easter for Irish Republicans is a time of both mourning and optimism. During the height of the troubles, the Easter commemorations of the 1916 rising were not so much a celebration of the revolutionary spirit in Irish history, rather a dark period for families of those who gave their lives, knowing full well that personal sacrifice alone could not bring about the Irish revolution.
Socialist Republicanism has a long and distinct tradition as witnessed by those who marched behind the red flag and the Starry Plough up the Falls Road in Belfast on Easter Sunday. Over 300 committed socialists, ex-volunteers and youth made their way to Milltown cemetery to honour those who died in the troubles.
Wreaths were laid by ex-volunteers, families of the bereaved and comrades from around the country. After the singing of the Irish national anthem there were various speeches from Irish republican socialists from America, the ‘Republican Socialist Youth Movement’ and the current leadership of the IRSP.
The message of the day was clear: that the Irish republican socialist movement is committed to peaceful political struggle in this current phase of Irish history to further the cause of socialist revolution. There was a firm commitment also to the pursuit of class politics and an urge for republican socialists to become involved in the labour movement, to allow the movement to grow and develop and to recruit workers and youth to the struggle for socialist revolution in Ireland and worldwide. After the rejection of the military struggle, now the movement is seeking to build on the revolutionary tradition of republican socialists such as Connolly, Larkin, Costello and Ta Power.
From the point of view of Marxism, this is a very positive step. There is a long revolutionary tradition in Ireland that has become confused and derailed by petit bourgeois militarism and the dead end of individual terrorism. A class based political programme and a reaffirmation of the central role of the working class would have the potential to politically arm the trade unions and the youth and lay the basis for a mass socialist alternative. There is after all only one majority in the North ‑ the working class. It is no surprise that the onset of the economic crisis, particularly in the South has coincided with the steady trickle of defections from the Sinn Féin. “Socialist window dressing” or socialism of the far distant future won’t solve the immediate problems workers face, neither will it feed the children.
In comparison the Sinn Féin gathering was very different in content and in mood. Gerry Adams, who was the main orator, used this opportunity to throw around some empty left rhetoric and also to warn off any challengers to his leadership of Sinn Féin, in light of the recent media accusations surrounding him. It was almost an apolitical affair. There were reports also of a mere 300 people turning out to the Sinn Féin commemoration in Carrickmore in Tyrone. This is traditionally one of the largest events on the Tyrone republican calendar and the low turnout suggests disillusionment amongst the mass of people with the direction of the republican movement under Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin have also attempted to brand any independent republican celebrations as mainly dissident infiltrated affairs, and especially in Tyrone, this has gone down very badly with many of the volunteers’ families.
On Easter Monday, there was also a significant gathering at Milltown cemetery in Belfast for the eirigi commemoration.
Throughout the weekend, there have been many analyses of the 1916 events, but importantly at times stress has been placed on the importance of learning from history and on the view that the working class must be the force that carry the torch of revolution into the next phase of struggle in Ireland. We are the only class who have neither property nor nation, nor any of the corrupt desires of the bourgeoisie or the ruling class.
The fact that Socialist Republicanism acknowledges the central role of the working class is an important step forward. It is a point of departure from the narrow petit bourgeois nationalism of Sinn Féin and the futile militarism of the dissident republicans. But the Socialist Republicans still have important issues to face. Key to this is to overcome their isolation and to connect with the workers movement in a systematic way. In practical terms this means an orientation to the trade union movement and the youth in the North. But, more importantly in the long run it means a clarification of the political programme and methods of the movement. There are many pitfalls along the way to building a mass socialist alternative. The question is posed; how can the IRSP develop into an effective Marxist tendency among the trade unions and the youth?
Meanwhile the dissident republicans planted a few devices in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast and a liquid bomb in Crossmaglen on Sunday. On Monday they planted one on the main motorway, one in Portadown and another on the Lurgan-Dublin railway line. Their Easter message was that they are committed to being a threat to the “rule of law” and also a liability to working people. These contributions to the proceedings are counterproductive and futile. Irish history shows us that petty bourgeois terrorism is a blind alley and that only the mass workers’ movement led a by a conscious revolutionary leadership represents any significant prospect for change or a major threat to imperialism. James Connolly’s writings and the whole of his political activity bear witness to this.
Fightback maintained a presence throughout the weekend, at both republican socialist events selling our journal and also engaging in political discussion with many youth and workers interested in the ideas and methods of the International Marxist Tendency.
The mood amongst the best republican socialists now is one of hunger to build, desire for revolution but also the patience to organise. Fightback has made important steps in engaging with the best of the Republican youth and some of the more experienced members and we are looking to the future with confidence.”
One thing which is for sure however, it is impossible to ignore the history of Ireland or to pretend that everything can be reduced to simple economic demands or that a Marxist Tendency can be built without taking up the arguments and the ideas of other tendencies. However, one thing remains irremovable. Marxists must maintain an intransigent class position; as Connolly understood, there is no solution to the national question on the basis of capitalism; the socialist revolution must be the primary goal of the movement.