IRCA Easter 2014 Address April 22, 2014Posted by guestposter in Irish Politics, The Left.
Irish Republican Comrades Association – Easter 2014 Address
Speaker Pat John Kelly.
Welcome friends and comrades to the 2014 Official Republican Commemoration organised by the Irish Republican Comrades Association.
We are here to remember friends and comrades and all those who gave their lives in pursuit of an independent Irish Republic based on the needs of the Irish people linked with the beliefs of Tone and Connolly. In other times we would have naively called upon the Irish people to follow us alone in leading them to the promised land of the Socialist Republic. Unfortunately some still cling to that forlorn hope.
Republicanism has always been strong on tradition and has looked back for guidance and has regarded past tactics, with slight modifications, as being the only way forward. Should we be saying today that we hand on the torch to the next generation, therefore dictating without stopping to think what the next generation might want or believe? I don’t believe they would accept that, just as we did not accept it in our youth.
We, as the then Official I.R.A in the early 70’s, did our best to stem the seemingly unstoppable decent into all out sectarian war in this part of the island. Words spoken, and actions taken at the time, attempted to show that there was an anti-sectarian republicanism, founded and championed by the United Irishmen and modernised with the socialist critique of Connolly, still in existence. Thinkers and political activists like Liam McMillen, Cathal Goulding, Joe McCann, and others, recognised the critical nature of the impending disaster our society was spiralling towards and called for talks between all of the armed protagonists and political representatives!
Today, simply acting like old soldiers who held to the one true faith and reminding people as to how right we were all along and that the political compromise we called for over 40 years ago has in some way come to pass is simply not good enough. Some people could do that, and maybe believe that they are entitled to do that, but it would no basis for the forward movement of politics in our society. Friends and comrades it is time for an honest appraisal and critical look at our position and sphere of influence in the reality we live in today.
In recognition of the current reality the majority of our membership formed the Irish Republican Comrades Association because it best describes who and what we are. We conferred no grandiose titles on ourselves as was the case in the past. Irish Republican because we are followers of Tone and the enlightenment Republicanism of the United Irishmen and Comrades to denote our adherence to the socialist beliefs and principles of the Movement we came from. We therefore invite all those who still adhere to the principles of the Official I.R.A as it was termed and its political manifestations to forsake conspiracies and join with in this honest endeavour.
All who claim to be adherents of that tradition and background have to remember that it is the living we have to convince and work with politically, not the dead. Those who are seemingly in ongoing contact with the dead in relation to existing political reality must grasp and accept the fact that it is conversations with the living that have to take place now.
In recent history each Republican and or Socialist grouping has tended to regard their political interpretations with an almost religious fanaticism. Those who differed were classed as “heretics” deserving of more hatred than those who actually rob the people of their entitlements. In Belfast, the modern cockpit of Nationalist/Republican vitriol and rancour, led to school friends from the poorest neighbourhoods labelling each other Trotskyites or Stalinists, Nationalists or Communists. Of course the all-encompassing description “traitor” served, when other labels did not quite fit, leading to the same school mates and friends shooting and killing each other at the behest of malignant gurus.
Was it worth it? Let’s face it we all practised forms and degrees of fanaticism. The time is long overdue for a serious degree of realism in how we treat and engage with one and other and how we will attempt to influence the next generation.
This will be of major importance in creating the necessary tolerance, understating and trust to accommodate and build a meaningful and relevant “popular front” in building a strong alliance in opposition to the current right-wing political and economic orthodoxy accepted across these islands and around the globe. It is no longer of any relevance to the Irish people today which modern day historical group or organisation claims to be the one and only true inheritors of the political beliefs and value systems of Republicanism or Socialism.
In the monumental task ahead the one thing we have that the present and future generation of activists may require is experience. Experience at organising, experience at making mistakes, experience at weathering defeats, experience of not simply taking the populist line that always leads to the corruption of political ideals. That is what we can pass on, along with our political views of course, and help to inspire working people to strive for a new way forward.
Are we any closer after all the years of struggle and sacrifice to achieving the goal of a new way forward? What is the feeling among the broad range of people and groups on the left? Is it hope or despair? I fear it is the latter. We all failed in not having the courage to seriously address this issue. The broad left has failed, though many groups seem to still believe the failure is due to the reason that all the others did not adhere to their particular position.
We have had several generations of excuses for the failure of serious engagement to assist in the building of progressive politics. I am not saying that each group should simply abandon their individual political analysis. Just that we cease to abandon the potential for creating political progress in the interests of group or organisational self-righteousness! Many of the older so called left parties seem to have lost their way entirely. This of course could be blamed on lack of pressure from the grass roots. Are we and many groups like us too contented in our own small comfort zones to rise to the real and necessary challenge of a new left re-alignment?
Politics for the working class North and South have not progressed in our time. Like most countries they have regressed. While class enemies reap their ever-increasing bounty unimpeded at the expense of general humanity a political, economic and social battle-plan is being implemented across the capitalist world. It is aimed at dismantling of all the gains achieved by the struggles of working people in all countries over the last 150 years.
The only two political philosophies that have in the past been truly international are Capitalism and Socialism. Capitalism now enjoys runaway success and now views even the mildest forms of Social Democratic politics, grudgingly tolerated in the years of the modern Cold War, as a dangerous threat to their interests.
If “international communism” was Capitalisms deadliest enemy during that time, it is now the concept of “Social Democracy” itself that capitalism has now openly declared war on. It is fighting that war on all fronts with a ferocity not seen in history since the epoch of Capitalist, Colonial and Imperialist expansion of the 18th & 19th centuries. The current crisis and lack of a serious left political response is an international one.
If Social Democracy, and the parties who have represented it and still claim to represent it, cannot be bought, bullied or bribed into the acceptance of their economic and political hegemony, then they must be smashed and destroyed.
Here on this island and in Britain that process has already taken place with hardly a whimper of organised protest. The political structure in the Republic now lacks even the semblance of a Social Democratic voice, a necessary touchstone for all progressive politics.
This is all taking place while the groups and organisations on this island who should be working in defence of our class are furiously quacking at each other like angry ducks in an ever diminishing pond of political relevance. Continuous and ultimately futile deliberations about the philosophical minutiae of what the ultimate socialist society is and will be, must be left for another and less important day.
What is our response locally? Firstly no group should continue to dictate their analysis as the only way forward in an all or nothing syndrome. The way forward has to come about as the result of intense debate involving all those who strive for a just and humanist society. The main issues effecting working people of fair and decent wages, housing, health, education are the battlegrounds where common purpose should be found and acted upon.
We would advocate that there must be a whole new approach to co-operation and forming a united force to confront the advancement of the modern Capitalist agenda. Had anyone predicted fifty years ago that the banking and financial system would collapse as a result of gambling debts and the majority of working people would foot the entire bill people would have been laughed at!
The building of a “Social Forum” could begin the process to remedy that situation. A Social Forum north and south to re-awaken and re-invigorate the Republicanism and Socialism of James Connolly, Liam Mellows, Peader O Donnell, George Gilmore and Jim Larkin. A Forum that takes cognisance of the modern society and reality we live and exist in today would be a good starting point. Republican Congress was 80 years ago it is maybe long overdue that a similar concept at least be talked about in relation to the idea.
No matter what the pundits may say sectarianism is being challenged daily by a range of working class groups and organisations, ourselves included. If the sectarian language and chants seem louder and shriller today it is because the element of doubt is beginning to register. In saying that we still have a long way to go to rid our society of this ancient plague is an understatement to say the least. Sectarian voting patterns, and the outdated concepts of British and Irish nationalisms that perpetuate it in the North, pollutes Irish politics both North and South.
The present political power holders in the North continually highlight the differences between the two sides of our divided society, inventing new cultural ones as required. This is to perpetuate the “them and us” syndrome that saves them real political campaigning at elections.
A Social Forum in the North could provide a middle ground where working class groups could concentrate and elaborate on the commonalities of both sides. It could act as a venue where activists place one foot in with the other foot firmly in their own camp until the term “traitor” so beloved of Irish politics loses its power over progressive thinking.
This concept is not being proposed as some kind of magic formula or a quick fix solution to entrenched sectarian attitudes. It would be more the beginning of a long drawn out process to introduce the real politics of left versus right to a tribal voting system.
Friends and Comrades this is not a day for smugness of any kind. It time to think and renew open and frank debate and consider with others the proposition of a new departure.