Monthly Archives: December 2015

Right2Change Trinity – Political, Trade Union, Community – Vital for Victory

It is not fanciful, I think, to offer my grandfather’s contribution to the golden period of the Irish revolution up to 1922 as an exemplar of the need to maintain the structure of the current Right2Change movement with its three pillars – the political pillar, the trade union pillar and the community pillar. Let me explain.

When John Stokes turned up for duty at Ringsend Bridge with ‘D’ company, 3rd Battalion of the Irish Volunteers on Sunday 23rd of April 1916, he was part of the political pillar, albeit giving expression to republican politics through armed intervention against the opposing forces of British imperialism. The Volunteers were stood down that day as a result of MacNeill’s countermanding order, but John was back on the bridge with his comrades the following day to do his duty, and went into action with them in the Boland’s Mills garrison area. That was as much a political action as it was a military one.

When he joined the Volunteers in 1913, that was a political action. When he went to Howth on 26th July 1914 to collect his Mauser rifle from the Asgard, that was a political action. When he and his comrades of the 3rd Battallion drilled on the streets between then and the start of the revolution, that was a political action.

John, a true republican, was part of the political pillar.

John Stokes - D Company 3rd Battalion - Boland's Mills Garrison

John Stokes – D Company 3rd Battalion – Boland’s Mills Garrison

But three years previously, John was part of the trade union pillar. A tram driver (motorman), working for the Dublin United Tramways Company owned by William Martin Murphy, John and his comrades walked off the job on the 26th August 1913, striking for recognition of their right to belong to the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. That trade union action precipitated the 1913 Lockout, but it also provided the spark that would become the flame of revolution, and Liberty Hall would be the key to that, not least in the creation there of the Irish Citizen Army.

John, a committed union man, was part of the trade union pillar.

After 1916, after a spell in Frongoch internment camp, John returned to my grandmother Catherine and their children He was not on active service in the War of Independence or the Civil War, but he and Catherine provided ‘services’ to the republican active service units by way of a safe house for men and weapons, and moving weapons to where they were needed. He said that he had no problem using a weapon on British forces but would not personally use one on his fellow-Irish.

John, together with Catherine, was now part of the community pillar.

Those three interconnected pillars – political, trade union and community – were essential to the success of the revolution between 1916 and its suppression by the Cumann na nGaedheal-Fine Gael counter-revolutionaries in 1923 which continued with the accession to power of de Valera’s Fianna Fáil.

The community pillar was as important in 1913 and in 1916 as the political or trade union pillars. The 1919-21 War of Independence could not have been prosecuted on the republican side without the involvement of a community pillar. And the heroic last stand of enlightenment republicanism between 1922 and 1923 in the Civil War could not have occurred even for that duration without the involvement of a community pillar on its side.

And here we find ourselves again, one hundred years after 1916, ninety-four years after the counter-revolution, attempting to begin the reclamation of that enlightened republic of equality and justice, and relying on those three pillars again as is always the case for any successful revolution – revolution being a fundamental change in political power brought about by the people for their benefit. That, and nothing less, is what we are attempting to bring to pass.

But there are flaws today in each of those pillars, just as there were in 1916. Just as then, those flaws must be overcome.

Today, the political pillar is incomplete. There are those in Leftist parties and groups, and some independents, who have refused to commit fully to the battle to defeat the continuous 94-year-long counter-revolution.

Today, the trade union pillar is incomplete. Some trade unions, bewitched by that odious 1930s corporatist-fascist device of ‘social partnership’ with its origins in Mussolini’s Italy, or led by centre-Right Labour Party ideologues, remain in practical terms supportive of the counter-revolution and in essence opposed to change.

Today, the community pillar includes those who say they eschew politics, or who are overly-protective of their own group’s ethos, or who identify and target spurious bogeymen and bogeywomen within the Right2Change movement for reasons best known to themselves.

Yet in each of those pillars we have enough truly committed groups and individuals to press on towards revolution. There is no other option, other than capitulation, open to us.

James Connolly knew what was required to create a revolution. In his call-to-action in ‘Erin’s Hope’, written in 1897, he pointed out that in order to create a successful revolution it is necessary to gather together all of the voices of discontent, even those with whom you do not find full agreement.

Connolly was correct. And the Right2Change movement is attempting to do what he called for. We are trying to gather all of the voices of discontent to our side so as to achieve through force of argument and not force of arms a transformational change in politics, society and the economy for the benefit of the mass of people.

Whatever the outcome of the 2016 General Election, when we go to the Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration of 1916 at the GPO on Republic Day 2016 we need to be able to stand tall, to look the ghosts of 1916 in the eye and say to them and to ourselves that we did our best, and if not good enough to win power for the people this time, we will do better the next.

And let those who try to drag at our heels, who refuse to play their part, who spread calumnies against good people, who try to divide and not unite, hang their heads in shame.

Three pillars – political, trade union, community – working together to create something good and destroy something bad.

As it was in 1916, so let it be in 2016. Revolution!


Clarity, Trust and Cooperation required for Left victory

It would have been helpful if today’s explanation by the Socialist Party of its position on supporting a Left government had been issued much earlier, and in this detail.

Writing in the Irish Times today, Socialist Party TDs Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger say – “The Anti-Austerity Alliance wants to be part of a left government that can mark a fundamental and radical shift away from a society dominated by the profits of the 1 per cent to one where the needs of the 99 per cent and the environment come first. Such a left government will have to exclude Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour as they would clearly act in a coalition to block any significant change taking place.”

They go on to say – “If it is possible after the next general election to form a government without the traditional establishment parties, the Anti-Austerity Alliance will discuss with others to see if a left programme for government can be agreed.”

Further, regarding Sinn Féin, they say – “Unfortunately, we have major doubts as to whether Sinn Féin would agree to such a programme. As one of the architects of the “Fresh Start” agreement in the North, it has demonstrated that it is willing to implement austerity, agreeing to welfare cuts and 20,000 job losses, while also cutting corporation tax. In the North, they are based on one community and the party’s actions deepen sectarian division.”

And this – “In the case that no left programme for government can be agreed, but a government could be formed without the establishment parties, our TDs will vote in the Dáil to allow the formation of that alternative government.”

It should go without saying that any group within the broad Left can have reservations about any other group. However, to stand aside from the first real opportunity to be part of bringing down a 92-year corporatist-fascist regime, in any combination of the three parties of permanent misgovernment – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour, on the basis of a mistrust of another Left party or group, represents for me a failure of imagination, a failure of ambition, and a failure to grasp the dynamic of a broad Left campaign and the dynamic that would become apparent should that campaign be successful to the point of entering into government.

Sinn Féin has committed to the Right2Change policy principles, repeatedly. Prominent spokespersons for that party have constantly said that Sinn Féin’s preference is to be able to form a progressive government with other Left parties and groups and independents. The best way to avoid any other scenario is to work hard, together, to make possible the election of enough Left TDs to form such a government. If that is achieved, Sinn Féin will be as tied to the rest of the Left as they will be to Sinn Féin, and the formation of a government and the prioritising of policies will of necessity be a joint decision.

It is very unlikely that anyone on the Left would want to collapse such an arrangement if it showed itself to be a genuine advance towards a far better society and state. That includes Sinn Féin.

Murphy and Coppinger worry that “Its recent talk about coalition with Fianna Fáil and Labour will cause concern among those who look to Sinn Féin to bring about change. If Sinn Féin truly wanted to see an end of the rule of the establishment parties in this country, it would rule out coalition with them and instead declare for an anti-austerity government based on non-establishment forces.”

As I see it, Sinn Féin is engaged with trying to win over loose Fianna Fáil votes to bridge a vote-transfer gap that has been a problem in the past, and my view is that that, and an effort to show how useless Fianna Fáil with its stand-alone stance would be to potential FF voters, is the reason for letting the notion hang out there that maybe, if, possibly, Sinn Féin would coalesce with Fianna Fáil so long as Sinn Féin was the senior party.

Sinn Féin strategists are renowned for knowing their power-base, and planning for the medium term and long term. They will be very well aware that many Sinn Féin supporters from outside the party would walk away from the party at any sign of an alliance with Fianna Fáil, and that that break would in many cases be permanent.

The best way for the broad Left to make certain that any alliance with Fianna Fáil doesn’t happen (Fine Gael being several bridges too far and Labour being probably of no consequence post-election) is to create the far better option by winning enough Left seats, thereby creating the ideal scenario for Sinn Féin – a decisive break with the past 93 years of counter-revolutionary government and a fresh start for the people of this country, and to do that in the centenary year of the 1916 Revolution. It is only within a progressive government that Sinn Féin can achieve that.

Using Sinn Féin’s position in the Six Counties as a marker of its stance in the Twenty Six, is specious. The comparison doesn’t stand up given the carefully fostered, deeply sectarian history of the past 200 years and the control that London exerts over all aspects of life in the Six Counties. To pretend that the Stormont Assembly and Executive represents government in the real sense of democratic control is wrong and disingenuous. The forces that operate on Sinn Féin, or the DUP from its side, some internal to the Six Counties and some from London and to a lesser extent Dublin, and that render compromise compulsory and not voluntary, are not replicated south of the border. Here, our democratic deficit and our social and economic problems are of a different nature.

Opposition to Sinn Féin comes from a very diverse set of actors – Loyalists, Unionists, anti-Sinn Féin republicans, British Tories, the southern political class and counter-revolutionary parties and the mainstream media across Britain and Ireland – north and south.

That opposition or suspicion may be based on valid or imagined reasons – imagined reasons can be just as potent as real reasons in fueling opposition. Some of it is ideological, or party-political, or about control, or protecting a political patch, or about differences in strategy around the Peace Process and the ending of armed confrontation, or about the armed confrontation that lasted for three decades and/or about the social or personal fall-out from that, or about that most potent force – identity.

And then there is that body of citizens south of the border alienated, perhaps forever, from Sinn Féin, for a variety of reasons. These include Fine Gael and Renua supporters, and some Labour supporters.

Add to that the suspicions of the Socialist Party, the Workers Party and various independent socialists and republicans.

But here is one indisputable fact – without the presence of Sinn Féin as part of a progressive movement we are consigned to suffer yet another corporatist-fascist regime, and the ones who will suffer that most are the ones who simply cannot afford having to endure any further punishment.

It is for that reason that many on the Left have put aside their differences with others so as to advance the prospects of real political change and progress in the Twenty Six counties.

This latest statement from the Socialist Party, expanding on previous ones, and offering more clarity and some modification in stance, is welcome. It would be good if Sinn Féin responded to allay fears, and even better if direct discussions took place between the two parties to clear the air. Unnecessary misunderstandings weaken the Left and strengthen the Right.

It would be advantageous to the Left campaign if the Socialist Party could go further and play its full part in a concerted effort to end the tyranny of the Right and to put in place a government that would rule for the benefit of the masses and not for the beneficiaries of our never-ending kleptocracy, the political class.

Imagine the progressive republic. Imagine the boon that would be to a majority of the people of this failed state. We have one golden opportunity to put it in place.

Go the extra mile.

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