Mar 27 2015

SINN FEIN UNDER PRESSURE FROM IRISH WORKERS

On Friday, March 13th six unions representing public sector workers in the north of Ireland took joint strike action to resist the austerity programme being pushed through by the Sinn Fein / Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) coalition government. John Mc Anulty, a member of Socialist Democracy in Belfast explains the background.

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The more optimistic socialist commentators hope to see new Left parties in Europe push back the ongoing austerity offensive. The most daring wave expansively … Greece … Spain …Ireland???

The inclusion of Sinn Fein is partly an echo of their past struggle against imperialism and a legacy of support among socialists, partly because they expend considerable energy in presenting themselves as left -wing.

There is support for their claims inside Ireland. The Communist party, left trade union bureaucrats and the SWP imagine that a left government is within reach if we add Sinn Fein to a broad range of anti austerity candidates and independents. Sinn Fein was not slow to take up this idea in the run-up to Irish elections, declaring at their recent Ard Fheis that they with never sit in a government of the right.

The problem is that they are in a government of the right – the Stormont coalition in the North of Ireland. Everyone is very understanding about this as some aspect of the peace process, but why should they be? Sinn Fein was not forced to be junior partners to the British and Unionists. In government they have capitulated time after time to sectarian pressure moving the assembly to the right. Their programme includes demands for a halving of corporation tax. Their concessions to Orange sectarianism are even more heinous.

The rightward evolution climaxed in the recent Stormont House Agreement. Alongside further concessions to the sectarian demands of the Unionists came support for a harsh austerity programme. However the claim was made that a hardship fund would protect benefit claimants. On the basis of this concession Gerry Adams proclaimed that Sinn Fein were a party against austerity both North and South of the border.

Sinn Fein have been speaking out of both sides of their mouth since the beginning of the peace process, assuring their supporters that they were moving towards a united Ireland and the British and Irish capitalists that they would administer the continued partition of Ireland. That was perfectly possible in the demoralization that followed their capitulation. It is not the case now. There is a mobilisation in the 26 counties around the imposition of water charges and the beginnings of an anti-austerity movement in the North.

The result was some very terse discussions with their own members at the ard-fheis, followed by a sudden U-turn on the Stormont House Agreement, with Sinn Fein arguing unconvincingly that they had believed that all claimants would be protected indefinitely. The outcome is a major crisis in the colonial administration.

That does not mean that Sinn Fein is now an anti-austerity party. Its disagreement with the DUP and the British is on the very narrow grounds of top-ups to welfare payments which were to be assessed through a complex set of what would essentially be poor law boards. They claim not to have known that the line of credit set aside to protect the vulnerable was not enough to protect everyone and also not to have known that it was a transitional arrangement that would last for a few years.

20 000 job losses

Yet benefit cuts are just a tiny fraction of the misery that Stormont house would inflict on workers and within benefit cuts, top-ups to cuts are only a tiny part of the story. For example, the agreement has a long section on sanctions designed to force you off benefits unless you accept zero hour and more or less zero wage contracts offered by employers. People offered help to offset the bedroom tax will be asked to sign an agreement that they will accept alternative residence anywhere in the North. At the moment private firms are being used to hound the unemployed and leave them without the means to survive.

An important element in driving down wages and living standards is 20,000 public sector redundancies. Nonsensically Sinn Fein claimed that redundancies are not loss of jobs, but loss of posts. All the parties have signed up to the Thatcherite ideology that private industry will take up the slack. This is very unlikely to happen on the scale needed and is in any case depends on benefits cuts and the loss of public sector jobs to push wage rates through the floor.

Little is said about privatisation. Sinn Fein is comfortable with the process. They are enthusiastic supporters of Public Private Investment schemes, of a “transform you care” scheme that will aid the privatisation of health and social care, and the effective privatisation of housing stock. The privatisation process will be a bonanza for the well-off, another mechanism to increase redundancies and wage cuts and, in the local context, increase political and sectarian patronage when public employment standards no longer apply.

On a proposed halving of corporation tax, Sinn Fein speaks in tongues. They have frequently indicated support but, as it becomes obvious that the money will come straight from the welfare budget, they talk about further consultation and guarantees.

The Sinn Fein programme in the South should not be ignored. Each year they produce an alternate budget that is carefully costed to match, euro for euro, the budget dictated by the Troika and containing all the bailout payments. Essentially they are claiming that they will walk on water – protecting the poor while paying the bankers – exactly the three-card trick they are trying with the Stormont House Agreement. When popular protests arise they abstain from the protests and claim that the solution to austerity is to put them in government.

They came a cropper in the mass mobilisation around water charges. Their position was that they opposed water charges but would obey the law and pay charges. The solution was to put them in government where they would abolish the payments.   The result was that they lost a by-election in Dublin to the Socialist Party’s Paul Murphy, who stood as a member of the Anti-Austerity Alliance and on a non-payment ticket. Sinn Fein leaders now claim that they personally will not pay the charge, but the party as a whole does not support non-payment as a strategy. The organisation is a member of the Right2water coalition, but there is no substantial mobilisation of their members on demonstrations.

For those outside Ireland it is difficult to explain the sheer chutzpah of Sinn Fein. The organisation uses Divis Mountains above Belfast to display political slogans in large white lettering. In December the slogan was “Stop British cuts.” When Stormont House was signed the slogan vanished. On March 13th, as unions marched against the deal, the slogan reappeared.

Sinn Fein is an extreme case of the difficulties that face socialist organisations when they seek to construct electoral alliances. Should we take declarations of opposition to austerity at face value? The story of Sinn Fein suggests not. The real guarantor of unbridled opposition to the capitalist offensive comes from the workers themselves. When they begin to mobilise the degree of freedom for electoral parties narrows quickly. Obfuscation, smoke and mirrors, fall by the wayside. In Ireland we see a substantial mobilisation against water privatisation and the beginnings of mobilisation against austerity in the North. It is this mobilisation that has blown apart the pretensions of the former republicans and it is this mobilisation that offers the possibility of further working class challenges to austerity – which will of course, require an intervention into elections.

 

This article was first posted at http://socialistresistance.org/7252/sinn-fein-under-pressure-from-irish-workers

also see:- republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/03/19/sinn-fein-hypocrisy/

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Mar 25 2015

DEFINING REPUBLICANISM

John Tummon (Republican Socialist Alliance) responds to Murdo Ritchie’s (RCN) Promoting Republicanism (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/02/24/promoting-republicanism/)

Murdo Ritchie’s ‘Promoting Republicanism’ is a very important contribution to something we Republican Socialists need to keep working on until we have a theoretically rigorous and internally-tested critique of the poverty of any socialist analysis that fails to incorporate a full understanding of democracy and republicanism; only when this is in place can we think about breaking through to a position of genuine influence on the Left, let alone wider society outside of Scotland.

I see Murdo’s ‘Promoting Republicanism’ as a key stage in that development – and a very welcome one at that – and my comments, including my attempted development of aspects of what Murdo has written, are put forward in that spirit. What I increasingly find is that the most interesting left thinking in Britain comes from Republican Socialists, which was born out by the impressive quality of discussion at the recent RSA AGM in London; much of what passes as debate within the rest of the British (certainly the English) Left is stale repetition and, within Left Unity, the recycling of stale certainties from past eras in the name of ‘doing politics differently’. Unless we think politics differently, a failed practice will recur.

Continue reading “DEFINING REPUBLICANISM”

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Mar 23 2015

THE SCOTTISH LEFT PROJECT

Allan Armstrong (RCN and RIC activist) provides the following initial assessment of the proposed Scottish Left Project. This is the final part of three articles, the first of which examines the role of the UK state and SNP in attempting to derail Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’ (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/02/24/british-unionists-and-scottish-nationalists-attempt-to-derail-scotlands-democratic-revolution/) and the second which looks at the inadequate response of the Left across these islands (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/03/16/the-left-in-the-uk-the-2015-general-election-campaign-and-the-wider-impact-of-scotlands-democratic-revolution/).

 

The Scottish Left Project (SLP) has been mooted in the context of the impact of Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’, and the success of RIC as a movement within this. There is now a concerted effort by the unionist and nationalist parties to roll back this ‘democratic revolution” [1]. Therefore, the success of the SLP will depend upon whether it takes up the baton bequeathed by these momentous events, or lets itself become a bit-player in others’ political projects.

 

a) the role of the International Socialist Group (ISG)

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As with RIC, the ISG has been the SLP’s prime mover. It is therefore useful to examine the way the ISG operated within RIC, to come to some better understanding of how it could see its role in the SLP.

Continue reading “THE SCOTTISH LEFT PROJECT”

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Mar 19 2015

SINN FEIN HYPOCRISY

 

 

We are posting the following letter from Gerry Fitzpatrick sent to Socialist Democracy (Ireland),which comments on media appearances by Gerry Adams

SINN FEIN HYPOCRISY

I think I can see government office from here

I think I can see government office from here

 

Dear Editor,

I note that the current Sinn Fein president {Gerry Adams} has made appearances today both on British and Irish media to inform the public in this election year that he and his party stood and voted for austerity in the North and voted against the fundamental right of a Women’s Right to Choose in the north and will be doing so again in the south.

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Mar 17 2015

APPEALS TO RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN AND TO REPUBLICAN SOCIALISTS IN ENGLAND

Steve Freeman, who is standing as a republican socialist candidate in the Bermondsey & Old Southwark constituency  in the Westminster General Election on May 8th has issued the following two appeals. Could RIC members supporting Steve’s candidature please e-mail him:- steve@republicansocialists.org.uk

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1. AN APPEAL TO THE RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN

Another England Is Possible 

 

Steve Freeman at the Scottish Friends of the People Martyrs Monument in Nunhead Cemetery, south London.

Steve Freeman at the Scottish Friends of the People Martyrs Monument in Nunhead Cemetery, south London.

Dear comrades,

I will be standing in the general election in London as an anti-Unionist republican socialist. I am appealing for your endorsement and support.

Continue reading “APPEALS TO RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN AND TO REPUBLICAN SOCIALISTS IN ENGLAND”

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Mar 16 2015

THE LEFT IN THE UK, THE 2015 GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN AND THE WIDER IMPACT OF SCOTLAND’S ‘DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION’

After analysing the role of the constitutional nationalists of the SNP, the liberal and conservative unionists amongst  the Conservatives, Labour and Lib-Dems and the reactionary unionists led by UKIP, and their attempt to roll back Scotland’s ‘Democratic Revolution’ (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/02/24/british-unionists-and-scottish-nationalists-attempt-to-derail-scotlands-democratic-revolution/), Allan Armstrong (RCN) examines the problematic role of the Left in the UK in challenging this.

 

 1. The UK constitutional issue will be central to the General Election campaign

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The continuing political impact of Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’ [1] can be seen in the run-up to the May Westminster General Election. The Conservative Party has produced a Westminster General Election poster, which highlights the importance they give to the issue of the future of the UK. It conjures up a diabolic alliance between Ed Miliband, Alex Salmond and Gerry Adams (the latter two apparently pulling the strings behind-the-scenes, since Salmond now holds no post within the SNP leadership, and Adams sits in the Irish Dail [2]).

Continue reading “THE LEFT IN THE UK, THE 2015 GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN AND THE WIDER IMPACT OF SCOTLAND’S ‘DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION’”

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Mar 06 2015

INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY – MARCH 8th

In recognition of International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th, we are posting two contributions. The first is the introductory talk on IWD given by Linda Rogers and Cat Grant to the Edinburgh Radical Independence Campaign meeting on March 2nd.

The second is a major contribution to the history of women’s suffrage, entitled Finland 1906: the revolutionary roots of women’ suffrage by Eric Blanc, a socialist activist based in Oakland, California. This was first posted at:- https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/finland-1906-the-revolutionary-roots-of-womens-suffrage-an-international-womens-day-tribute/

 

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 1. INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY

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Mar 01 2015

WATER CHARGES: INDEPENDENT MOBILISATION, NEW STATE REPRESSION

The following article from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website addresses the political situation in Ireland after the mass demonstrations against water charges held on January 31st. 

 

Anti-Water Charges demonstration in Dublin on January 31st

Anti-Water Charges demonstration in Dublin on January 31st

 

The mass demonstrations across Ireland on the 31st January show the emergence of a new force in Irish politics.

The spontaneous movement on water charges has stood on its own two feet and proved its independence from existing leaderships. It no longer needs the permission of left trade union leaders, the blessing of Sinn Fein or the approval of the left groups.

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Feb 24 2015

PROMOTING REPUBLICANISM

Murdo Ritchie (RCN) wrote the following article for  supporters of the Republican Socialist alliance. It was first also posted on Murdo’s blog  at  http://murdoritchie.blog.co.uk/2015/02/13/promoting-republicanism-20090169/.

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PROMOTING REPUBLICANISM

Thomas Paine - republican internationalist in England, USA and France

Thomas Paine – republican internationalist in England, USA and France

The advocacy of socialist republicanism has very few precedents in the United Kingdom. While many organisations can make claims to republicanism, in most cases this has been rarely developed and has often seemed like it was added on as an extra to more immediately pressing concerns. It should be no real surprise that an anti-political, economic reductionism (economism), or a separatism that sought an end to London rule, and many other perspectives have used the term emptying it of any real understanding or meaning.

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Feb 24 2015

ROLLING BACK SCOTLAND’S ‘DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION’

Allan Armstrong (RCN) updates his socialist republican analyses of constitutional developments in the UK and Ireland, in the led up to the May 2015 Westminster election.

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ROLLING BACK SCOTLAND’S ‘DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION’

1. British unionists and Scottish nationalists attempt to derail Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’

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There are several important features to the political landscape we can currently see in Scotland and the wider UK. One key feature is the shock that the ‘Yes’ campaign gave to the British ruling class and, in particular, to their representatives in the mainstream unionist parties.

The referendum campaign had conjured up a ‘democratic revolution’, beyond either the control of Westminster or Holyrood. Voter registration was 97% and voter participation was 85%. Scotland experienced a wave of public meetings, canvassing, street stalls and cultural events, along with a huge volume of electronic correspondence and face-to-face conversations throughout the campaigning period.

Continue reading “ROLLING BACK SCOTLAND’S ‘DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION’”

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