The Irish Republican Socialist Party – Connolly’s Ideological Heirs by Alex McGuigan
Irish Republican Socialism as a distinct movement embodied by the Irish Republican Socialist Movement has been, since it’s inception in 1974, the most progressive force in Republican politics. Until the splintering of traditional Republicanism post-Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and post-PIRA ceasefires, it was the single principled voice of Republican Socialism in Ireland.
Unlike every single one of the present day myriad of anti-GFA Irish Republican groups, parties and ‘societies’ who are all derivatives of the Provisional movement, the IRSP ‘tendency’ first emerged as the most revolutionary section within the Officials.
The IRSP’s key ideologues, such as Costello, Bunting and Power stood head and shoulders above the one dimensional Nationalist/Defenderist leaders of the nascent Provisionals like O’Bradaigh, MacStiofain and McKee. Likewise, the IRSP were an uncomfortable reminder to the stageists, reformists and ‘ring-road’ socialists of the Official Republican Movement.
The IRSP’s primary premise has always been that the class struggle and the national struggle are inseparable, in keeping with Connolly’s maxim:
“the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour” (Workers Republic,8 April, 1916).
In present day Ireland, with the near Pythonesque fracturing of the Provisonals grassroots into a plethora of often personality-led ‘super-provo’ entities, which seem to multiply in number almost weekly, it is not surprising that political opportunists have sought to adapt the mantle of ‘Republican Socialism.’ Thankfully, their concept of ‘Republican Socialism’ is more often than not a backwards glance towards a vague notion that ‘Socialism is a good idea’ but as with all one-dimensional Republicans, there is always the proviso that ‘labour must wait!’
Nevertheless, the reality is that the political waters of Irish Republicanism are heavily populated with groups offering ‘radical’ politics masquerading as a generic ‘Republican Socialism’ . For the IRSP to survive intact, retain it’s distinct identity, prosper and not become a bit-part player in the post-ceasefire alphabet soup of so-called ‘dissidents’ it’s Republican and Socialist politics, in equal magnitude, is it’s ultimate salvation. At no time in the past has Republican Socialism sought or felt the need to ‘out-Provo’ the Provisionals and likewise it would be folly to ever attempt to ‘out-super-Provo’ the ‘super-Provos!’ Thats not to say that there are not many issues that the IRSP can share a platform with fellow Republicans on and it would be equal folly to imitate an ‘ourselves alone’ attitude, which conversely, is still a key tenet and hangover of many anti-GFA parties/groups. Sadly, in practice, history has proven that many of these traditionalist groups retain their previous movement’s ‘undermine and absorb’ attitude towards the IRSP while conversely devoting considerable time and resources to attacking their former, now fully ‘respectable’ comrades in the Provisional movement who are making constitutional hay while the sun shines administering British rule in the north east of Ireland.
In the present political climate, where the cyclic use of armed struggle is not at present a viable option, socialist revolutionaries who view national liberation and the establishment of an Irish Workers’ Republic as symbiotic, will gravitate towards Irish Republican Socialism’s politics . One dimensional ‘Republicans/Nationalists’ will gravitate towards the super-Provo group that makes the biggest bang; have supposedly the strongest smell of cordite about them; have the ‘greenest’ flag and shout the loudest about post-86 or post-97 ‘Shinner heresy’.
The revolutionary socialism of Marx, Connolly, Costello, Bunting and Power defined the ‘Irps’ in the past and it is surely their ideological anchor for the future. As a simple analogy, many groups now carry the Starry Plough flag, invariably as just another ‘Republican’ symbol amongst many, but the Irish Republican Socialist Party are the only party to give the ‘plough’, the revolutionary flag of the Irish proletariat, it’s prominent and proper place, side-by-side with the Red flag, the symbol of international Socialism. The following prophetic words of Connolly’s nascent Republican Socialism have always been the IRSM’s de facto mission statement:
.If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.
England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs” (James Connolly)
Adherence to this principle will never change.