Aug 11 2020

A TRIUMPH OF IDEOLOGY: JOHN HUME AND THE DEFEAT OF IRISH REPUBLICANISM

The following article form Socialist Democracy (Ireland) explains the political reasons behind the adulation for John Hume since his death on August 3rd. 

 

 

A TRIUMPH OF IDEOLOGY: JOHN HUME AND THE DEFEAT OF IRISH REPUBLICANISM

 

 

The flurry of commemoration by the great and the good following the death of John Hume can be summarised as follows: Hume was the leader of the Irish Civil Rights Movement, he advocated non violence and peace through negotiation and argued for a shared Ireland that included all political currents. Decades of work saw eventual recognition of his arguments, movement towards peace, the peace process and Good Friday Agreement and eventually the Nobel prize, a celebration choreographed by Bono, and recognition as a world statesman.

There is much distortion here. Hume was not a leader of the Civil Rights Association. Rather he was a conservative nationalist who marched within the loose federation that was the Civil Rights Movement. His response to the iconic October 5th march in 1968 attacked by the RUC, was to appear on the 6th of October with a newly formed Derry Citizens Action committee, formed in alliance with the Church and the Derry Traders Association to act as a restraining force on the radical mobilisation.

He was already active on social issues, but this was a gradualist movement with close links with the Catholic Church – a housing association, a Credit Union and a campaign for a University campus in Derry.

A new political movement was being born. The old Nationalist Party had fallen into decay and opposed any protest. The slogan of its leader, Eddie McAteer, was,

“Half a loaf is better than no bread”

Hume and the nascent Social Democatic and Labour Party had more of an ‘Oliver Twist’ approach that can be summed up as;

“Please sir, can we have some more?”

As with the Nationalist Party, they were willing to operate within the confines set by the Orange state. Where the Nationalist party were content to receive favours for the middle class and the Church, the new nationalists wanted a place at the table and a share of political power.

So the voice of John Hume was the voice of conservative nationalism, of the Catholic Church and of the Catholic business class. Later this voice was sponsored by Irish capitalism as a whole and, following US supported academic studies in America, it was the local voice of the Irish-American lobby inside the Democatic Party.

The ideology that emerged was intoned ad infinitum in what became known satirically as ‘the single transferable speech’.

Imperialism, sectarianism and class oppression were restated as cultural misunderstanding. Border watchtowers, troops, guns, tanks, all the material aspects of oppression counted for nothing – it was the divisions in people’s hearts that had to be addressed. We should ignore the physical reality of
British occupation and partition and focus on unionist perceptions. Moderation was the key. John Hume credited Gandhi with the saying;

“An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind”.

He never dealt with the inverse; passive acceptance leaves the oppressed blind and the oppressors in full possession of their faculties.

Hume was no great speaker, tending towards monotone in interview. It is argued that he managed to win the day by constant repetition until he eventually won over his opponents.

That’s not the case. There was a bloody struggle in which thousands died. The British employed military repression and used loyalist killers to wage a war of terror. This combined with a resistance that focused in on militarism rather than linking to class politics led to defeat.

Throughout this period Hume and the SDLP consistently supported British institutions. Formal opposition to British violence ran alongside bitter condemnation of Republican violence. In a long nationalist tradition of acting as recruiting sergeants they supported the formation of an Ulster Defence Regiment to replace the notorious “B” Specials, earning the nickname of stoops – the Stoop Down Low Party.

It was not Hume’s speech that changed, but the environment in which it was delivered. The defeat of the Republican hunger strikers and the collapse of Republican strategy led to a sharp shift to the right and to the Provisionals adopting the constitutionalist nationalist ideology of Hume. This is his singular triumph: the conversion of a defeated Republicanism.

Hume’s ideology serves to explain events rather than to have driven them. His arguments did not lead to the current settlement but merely served to explain it. Much of the show was simply window dressing. The Nobel Peace Prize with unionist leader Trimble, the dance on the stage choreographed by the obnoxious Bono, all took centre stage when the real deal in the background was between London and Dublin, supported by the USA. The bit actors were retired, with Adams taking over from Hume and Sinn Fein taking over from the SDLP as the voice of a chastened nationalism.

John Hume’s later years were sad and dogged by serious illness. In his final moments he was not well served by his friends. The torrent of adulation from people like Blair and Clinton leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, as does the sugary praise of Sinn Fein. Comparisons with Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King are particularly obnoxious. These people suffered serious violence and oppression at the hands of the state and advanced the cause of the oppressed. John Hume was early on recognised as the voice of ‘reason’ and treated with deference by the British. Protests and threats came from his own constituents, unhappy with his representation of their struggle.

Perhaps the most honest assessment was from former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:

“Today, we mourn the passing of one of Ireland’s greatest ever sons. He ranks alongside O’Connell and Parnell in the pantheon of Ireland’s great leaders”.

This is the pantheon that John Hume can be associated with – representatives of constitutional Irish capitalism in contradiction to its long revolutionary history.

John Hume’s victory is echoed in the fervent praise of former opponents won over to his ideology. He would, I believe, be content to be given credit for today’s Ireland – a “shared” Ireland where an Irish democracy is indefinitely postponed. Little has changed in the life chances of the working class in Belfast and Derry, but the middle classes reek of self satisfaction at their place in the sun.

The permanence of Hume’s legacy depends heavily on the permanence of the peace settlement – a structure that after decades has yet to demonstrate any stability.

5.8.20

This article was first posted at:- http://socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentATriumphOfIdeologyJohnHume.html

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Feb 19 2019

BREXIT AND WHAT IT MEANS IN IRELAND

The E&L blog  has been reporting the situation in Ireland since we started up. However, during  current Brexit negotiations , the  ‘backstop’ has pushed the issue of Northern Ireland to the fore. We are publishing two articles which share a lot in common in their analysis of Ireland, but which offer differing perspectives on the role of the EU. The first is written by David Jamieson and first appeared on the Commonspace blog. The second is written by Allan Armstrong and forms the seventh chapter of his new pamphlet From Blatcherism to Maybynism.

 

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  1. ANALYSIS – MICRO-POLITICS ISN’T ENOUGH – WE MUST ADDRESS

THE  PARTITION OF IRELAND

 

Debates around the UK border in Ireland and the so called ‘backstop’ bring the crisis elements of the British state into sharper focus. Continue reading “BREXIT AND WHAT IT MEANS IN IRELAND”

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Aug 11 2017

A BRIEF HISTORY AND THE CONTEXT FOR RECOVERY IN MENTAL HEALTH

Bob Goupillot writes about organising against discrimination, oppression and exploitation, and how this affected the Movement for Recovery in Mental Health.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY AND THE CONTEXT FOR RECOVERY IN MENTAL HEALTH

 

 

The Recovery movement has several roots these include

  • The various historical movements for greater Civil rights.
  • The evidence from experts by experience those who have survived mental illness.
  • Evidence from non-western cultures.

1)      Movements for increased Civil Rights

One of the lessons from history appears to be that it is only when people who are discriminated against, oppressed or exploited organise themselves and raise their own demands that real material improvements in their situation are brought about. Continue reading “A BRIEF HISTORY AND THE CONTEXT FOR RECOVERY IN MENTAL HEALTH”

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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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Jun 24 2014

LABOUR AND SOCIALIST LEFT UNIONISM IN THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE DEBATE

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Allan Armstrong (RCN) prepared a talk for the Conference of Socialist Economists Day School held in the Out of the Blue Centre in Edinburgh on June 21st. The article below  incorporates some of the discussion points that were raised. It provides a socialist republican analysis of the British Left and the case for an ‘internationalism from below’ alternative in the Scottish independence referendum campaign.  This talk is also a chapter in the extended article, Making Plans For Nigel, which can be viewed at:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/06/26/making-plans-for-nigel/ A shortened version of this talk was also given as a contribution to the debate in the Left Unity Party – Glasgow South branch,  on December 13th.

 

On the British Left, continued support for maintaining the UK state and for upholding the internationalist nature of all-British party and trade union organisation stems from their understanding of the British ruling class and the United Kingdom. They view these as having played a key historical role in replacing the older feudal order in these islands, and other pre-capitalist societies in many parts of the world.

Continue reading “LABOUR AND SOCIALIST LEFT UNIONISM IN THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE DEBATE”

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May 07 2013

REPUBLIC DAY SPEECH

Allan Armstrong (RCN) was invited by the James Connolly Society to speak on behalf of the Edinburgh branch of the Radical Independence Campaign at the Republic Day commemoration on April 24th at the Connolly plaque in the Cowgate, Edinburgh. 

Jim Slaven (JCS) comperes Republic Day commemoration at the James Connolly plaque in the Cowgate, Edinburgh

Jim Slaven (JCS) comperes Republic Day commemoration at the James Connolly plaque in the Cowgate, Edinburgh

I would like to thank the James Connolly Society and the 1916 Societies for inviting the Radical Independence Campaign to provide a speaker today at this commemoration of Republic Day.

It is fully 20 years since the first James Connolly Society march in Edinburgh. The JCS raised the banner of republicanism in this city. It is a banner, which not only has relevance in Ireland, but in Scotland, Wales, and yes, even England too.

Continue reading “REPUBLIC DAY SPEECH”

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Dec 13 2012

BELFAST FLAG RIOTS

John McAnulty of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) writes about the Loyalist rioting in Belfast over the council’s decision to restrict the number of days  the Union Jack flies over the City Hall.

UNIONISTS UNITE TO REJECT CONCILIATION FOR SECTARIAN DOMINANCE 

Loyalists attack PSNI/RUC for not upholding Unionist supremacy

“They are taking everything” proclaimed a Belfast loyalist, marching back from the trashing of the city hall, with a minor detour to attack a Catholic church: “Our marches, our murals, our bonfires – even the flag!”

The audience would have had difficulty in avoiding a tear or two if not for the fact that local councillors had voted on an amendment by the moderate unionist Alliance party, not to ban the Union Jack, but simply to stop flying it every day. Their sympathy might also have been constrained by the fact that the speaker was draped in the butcher’s apron and if thousands of symbols of British imperialism were not decorating the street behind him and public spaces across the North.

Continue reading “BELFAST FLAG RIOTS”

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Dec 11 2012

A DEBATE ON THE WAY FORWARD FOR THE RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CONFERENCE

On 24th November over 800 people attended the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow. Gregor Gall has written an article looking at this major event for the Word Power Bookshop Platform, entitled Scottish Independence & Letting a Thousand Flowers Bloom. It can be found at:-

 http://www.word-power.co.uk/viewPlatform.php?id=607

Continue reading “A DEBATE ON THE WAY FORWARD FOR THE RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CONFERENCE”

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Nov 15 2012

GENUINE SELF-DETERMINATION MEANS ACTING AS REPUBLICANS NOW

Allan Armstrong will be introducing the workshop on Republicanism at the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow on November 24th, along with Neil Davidson of the SWP, Graham McIver of Solidarity, and a speaker from Republic Scotland. He has been asked by the conference organisers to prepare an outline of his talk, so that those attending are better prepared for the workshop discussions. Here is Allan’s contribution. The full list of workshops and other conference arrangements can be found at:- http://radicalindependence.org/

The Left’s usual approach to the monarchy

Most people understand a republic to be a state without a monarch. When socialists are asked why they oppose the British monarchy, they usually concentrate their criticism on the antiquated class structure this upholds; and the high cost of maintaining such a parasitic institution, especially now the rest of us face austerity.

However, the UK is a constitutional monarchy [1]. This means the queen exerts little power in her own rightThe fragility of royal political influence was shown over the Windsors’ inept handling of the ‘Princess Di Affair’ in 1997. Yes, the royal family enjoys obscene privileges in terms of property, income and status, but these are rewards given for its role in supporting and promoting the interests of a wider British ruling class.

Far more important than the royal family itself, is the political system it fronts.  Despite the existence of a parliamentary democracy centred on Westminster, with its devolved offspring at Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont, we still face very real political constraints.  These lie in the state’s profoundly anti-democratic Crown Powers.

Continue reading “GENUINE SELF-DETERMINATION MEANS ACTING AS REPUBLICANS NOW”

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