Are We Witnessing a Leftward Shift Within Irish Republicanism?

On the surface there are are least 5 Provisional movement splinter groups claiming to be ideologically and very publicly adopting the mantle of ‘Republican Socialism’. No bad thing, the less cynical of us would say but how much is this a tactical oppositional stance, is it a similar stance used by the Provisonal movement when it was politically expedient to do so?

The proof of the pudding will very much be in the eating, further down the line.  The RNU’s recent position paper made interesting reading and on face value, it is a genuine attempt at adopting a concrete Republican Socialist programme.  While it must be mentioned that experienced members of the irish Republican Socialist Party allegedly detect the authorship and ‘consultancy’ of an embittered ex-member of the latter party.  Personalities aside,  ‘Revolutionary Republicanism’ was a refreshing change, offering an alternative as opposed to the negative Shinner-bashing much beloved by the plethora of the Provisional movement’s former comrades.

However, it is the experience of every genuine Republican Socialist party, since Connolly’s ISRP to the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the present day inheritors of that Connollyite Marxist tradition, that one-dimensional Republican parties, irrespective of Leftward swerves, will always settle for much less than National Liberation and Socialism, in other words , readily adhering to De Valera’s dictum that “labour must wait.”

James Connolly

Connolly faced similar difficulties amongst a sea of one-dimensional Nationalists, unlike the author he could articulate the position of real Republican Socialism in an infinitely more articulate and decisive manner.  In Socialism and Nationalism (1897) there is a sense of de ja vu when he states:

“In Ireland at the present time there are at work a variety of agencies seeking to preserve the national sentiment in the hearts of the people.These agencies, whether Irish Language movements, Literary Societies or Commemoration Committees, are undoubtedly doing a work of lasting benefit to this country in helping to save from extinction the precious racial and national history, language and characteristics of our people.

Nevertheless, there is a danger that by too strict an adherence to their present methods of propaganda, and consequent neglect of vital living issues, they may only succeed in stereotyping our historical studies into a worship of the past, or crystallising nationalism into a tradition – glorious and heroic indeed, but still only a tradition.  Now traditions may, and frequently do, provide materials for a glorious martyrdom, but can never be strong enough to ride the storm of a successful revolution.

Connolly obviously saw the limitations of the wrap the Green flag around me adherents and ‘national revolutionaries’.  Only the symbiotic nature of national liberation and economic freedom ie Socialism was, and is the real threat to the status quo in Ireland and beyond:

“The Socialist who would destroy, root and branch, the whole brutally materialistic system of civilisation, which like the English language we have adopted as our own, is, I hold, a far more deadly foe to English rule and tutelage, than the superficial thinker who imagines it possible to reconcile Irish freedom with those insidious but disastrous forms of economic subjection – landlord tyranny, capitalist fraud and unclean usury”

All Socialist, Marxist and revolutionary socialist uptake by the Provisonal movements’ myriad of splinter groups has to be welcomed at face value .  The Irish Republican Socialist Movement unlike it’s nouveau fellow ideologues originated from the most radical elements of the Official Republican Movement and it’s sacrifices to retain it’s integrity and  raison d’etre are well documented.  The Red Flag of international socialism has rightly played the most prominent symbolic role in IRSM commemorations and events for many years.

Lets hope others ‘keep the red flag flying’ in years to come?

Alex McGuigan
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