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Independent Left: Socialism and Sinn Féin July 16, 2020

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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From Independent Left – a post on aspects of Sinn Féin.

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1. roddy - July 16, 2020

Theres some bollocks talked there about the North.Firstly the North is an artificially contrived statelet where there are three options for governance.1 – Direct Tory rule from London and all that goes with it.2- Orange rule like we had for 50 yrs.3- a power sharing government with SF in it to combat the worst aspects of Tory rule.SF being there ensured no water charges,no bedroom tax and a 500 million package to offset welfare reform for example.SF’s welfare mitigation package was expiring in January past and SF going back into govt immediately renewed it. People in the welfare rights sector were saying “we are on a cliff edge with catostrophic consequences” and that is one of the main reasons SF went back in. Leftists who snipe from the sidelines know full well that unbridled Tory rule would follow a SF walkout.Unless they are going to launch an armed campaign the likes of which has never been before,the only show in town is the GFA and all it’s contradictions including sharing power with right wing unionists and doing your best to blunt their worst excesses.If you want a genuine socialist society in the North,you must firstly end the Northern state and that should be the aim of all socialists.

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2. Alibaba - July 17, 2020

This article speaks to me on a very real level.

In 2018 the Eighth Amendment was repealed – more than three decades years after the X case – and the long and determined fight by people for abortion rights. In that very same year Sinn Féin refused to attend or support the one and only national pro-choice demonstration in Dublin because “it goes further than our programme” and this despite the fact that people from a very broad spectrum of opinions joined in. Later on Mary Lou flip-flopped. This is not to disown the right to have a change of mind or policy. It is to tell us that SF usually only does it when the ground moves under their feet.

Then there was SF’s political squirming on too many issues to mention here. For instance, water charges. Gerry Adams declined to say that he would not pay the charges himself. In fact a number of Sinn Féin TDs said they would stay within the law and pay the charges while campaigning for their abolition. Never did SF call for supporters to break the law and refuse to pay the charges. But then Adams said he would not go into government after the next election unless the water charges were reversed. There is no logic here, it’s propaganda.
 
Now go back to austerity measures. It is true, as roddy says, that SF does its ‘best to blunt the worst excesses’, but by its own admission SF stands over austerity in the North because “Westminster holds the purse strings”. In other words, it euphemises the hell out of it.

As mentioned by the article author, Eoin Ó’Broin put it frankly when he said of SF’s republican and socialist tradition, the latter is “relegated to a future point in the struggle, would always be underdeveloped, as the more immediate needs of the national struggle took precedence.” 

Matters can change with breath-taking rapidity. SF is a big, ambitious and 32-county based party with its well-oiled constituency clinics and impressive TD performances, Insofar as it challenges the system, who would not want to respect that? But so long as it schemes to enter coalition to the fore, even with right-wing forces if required and puts its grab for power, blessed by the promise of Irish unity of course , socialists must go their separate ways.

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roddy - July 17, 2020

Firstly SF needed to change their policy at an ardfheis and did so prior to the referendum .Party policy cannot be changed any other way.SF policy on abortion evolved like every other party.In fact the ULA fought an election without even mentioning abortion.Secondly what exactly would you have SF do in the north- hand over to full TORY rule or full Orange rule.Let them run amok whilst mouthing slogans like Carroll? Incidently mouthpiece Carroll knows he can only go so far in hiis anti SF bullshitting.He wisely decided not to join in the anti Bobby Storey bandwagon.

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Alibaba - July 17, 2020

To the best of my knowledge, SF had a pro-choice policy as evidenced by a previous Ard Fheis. There was nothing to prevent them supporting the demo I referred to. Yes, they waited much later to endorse the referendum call to Repeal the 8th. SF stuck its finger in the air, saw which way the wind was blowing and only at the very last minute did it support repeal.

SF had a courageous commitment to the anti-imperialist struggle and fight for civil rights in the past. We get it. It has since been fatally weakened by collaboration with others in the councils North and South by failing to mobilise against cuts, attacks and measures aimed at workers and the poor. Records of abstentions and rejections of left-leaning motions don’t cut it with me.

You ask what I would have SF do in the North? Why not participate in mass struggle and campaigns to break up the reactionary bloc along class lines and show support for self-organisation in communities? SF’s strategy was and remains to make unprincipled concessions as a condition to the realisation of Irish self-determination. To my mind it started when Adams explicitly accepted the principle of Unionist consent in the late 1980s. 

Why not build for a radical left government down South and don’t get contaminated by coalition with right-wingers? If you don’t do this, SF has dropped its former claim to be a party of republican socialists fighting for the social emancipation of working people as well as national freedom.

ULA political representatives were not shy of fighting for abortion rights. Come on, and rightly articulated it as fighting for free, safe and legal abortion too. 

Finally, I can’t comment on your criticism of Carroll as I am not familiar enough with PBP’s politics.

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Joe - July 17, 2020

“Why not participate in mass struggle and campaigns to break up the reactionary bloc along class lines and show support for self-organisation in communities?”

Sounds like a good idea. Now who tried something similar before … and where are they now?

“To my mind it started when Adams explicitly accepted the principle of Unionist consent in the late 1980s.”

Did he really? And if he did, good for him.

In the here and now, I’m with Roddy on this one. Everyone is better served by SF being in a partnership/power-sharing government in the North. The GFA and the NI government arrangements that flowed from it are a million times better than what went before.

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3. roddy - July 17, 2020

SF did not have a pro choice policy from a previous ard fheis.It had an abortion in certain limited circumstances policy which was the norm for many other parties over the years.And SF’s participation in “mass struggle” to break up the reactionary block would be so successful in a short time that people would not mind Tory ultra austerity in the meantime?Would people say “thanks for the water charges,bedroom tax and no welfare mitigation fund- we know it will work out for the better at some unspecified date in the future .You could have saved us from this but shouting slogans was better for us in the long run”

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Alibaba - July 18, 2020

I see you are giving us the Sinn Féin line when it comes to power-sharing. Fair enough. But it is easier to make over-the-top assertions than to deal adequately with complex matters in short blog posts. That said, I believe more radical approaches could have brought an upsurge in the politicisation of working class communities and then we could be in a different position than we currently are.
 
For the record, the first person in the Dail to call for limited access to abortion was ULA TD Clare Daly in 2012. This could have been political suicide for her but she showed her mettle in doing so. In 2015 Clare Daly’s Bill to allow for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality was defeated in the Dail. Sadly, SF abstained in the face of this opportunity to dissent.

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4. james mcbarron - July 18, 2020

If anything demonstrates the importance of extra parliamentary campaigning it’s the fight for abortion rights in Ireland. No party of the left fighting for electoral advantage north or south covered itself in glory and most were late to the battle. The fight for abortion rights was driven by a very committed movement and campaigners often few in number who pressed the issue inspite of rather than because of political backing, for almost 40 years. There were always party affiliated people in the campaign groups but even they would admit it was not a political priority for their respective parties. Both PBP and ULA did not have position on abortion in their policy platforms when founded, SF followed the people moving to a pro choice position, certainly did not show leadership until Mary Lou asserted herself and the newer leadership pushed it through and the Labour party despite it’s pro choice credentials couldn’t even make serious matter of it whilst holding power.

To me it shows the absolute necessity of campaigns and organisations built around issues that exercise power seperate from the party system. Not dependent of holding office but supplying both the pressure and ultimately support for their agendas implementation. Who would argue FG delivered abortion rights, marriage equality and the end of water charges?

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sonofstan - July 18, 2020

” The fight for abortion rights was driven by a very committed movement and campaigners”

A lot of whom came from left organisations so ‘marginal’ to mainstream politics that the likes of Pat Leahy probably wouldn’t be able to tell you who they are. And yet they managed a seismic shift in Irish political and social life – probably more than anyone in FF can say regarding the past decade.
The same could be said, from another time and place, about the fight against fascism and racism in England of the ’80s. The SNP led at a time when plenty in Labour would dog-whistle a racist tune if it would get them elected.

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