Republic or Reform?

*the following is an opinion piece sent into the page.

Since the illegal partition of Ireland by a Westminster Act of Parliament the Irish republican movement have had two major tenets. These are i) opposition to the unionist veto and ii) armed struggle against British rule in Ireland. Every decade since partition a section of the Irish people have taken up arms in order to attain national liberation. Every decade have seen a section of the Irish people believing that a military offensive against the British state in Ireland would bring about the reunification of Ireland and the achievement of full national liberation.

The republican tradition in Ireland is the only tradition which has threatened the state both North and South. It provides an alternative point of allegiance for the working class in the Republic of 1916 and the revolutionary Peoples Dail of 1919. For this reason the state has used any means possible to stop the republican current including anti-democratic measures such as juryless courts and paid informers.

After Operation Harvest ended in 1962, when the republican movement were analysing the previous campaign and the future road ahead republicans such as Seamus Costello and others began to look internationally at struggles which were being waged for national liberation and socialism. These included the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese against foreign internationalism and domestic capitalists and the continuing deepening of the Chinese revolution.

Costello and others having studied these struggles believed that what the Irish national struggle for liberation lacked was not sufficient popular support (the republican movement had elected a number of TDs on an abstentionist position) but a lack of popular engagement from the people. The republican movements position existed above the people and not amongst them.

A famous quote from Seamus Costello online which is used often is that he believed ” With a few TDs and a few MPs of the right calibre, pursuing the right policies, we can break the confidence of the people in these institutions and bring them crumbling down in ruins”.. At the time the main forms of activism for revolutionaries and political activists was paper sales and engagement in the armed struggle.

Participation in elections and struggling inside the institutions of state made sense at the time as it provided another string to the bow of the movement and would engage the working class more so than the republican movement had done so before.

Another quote from Costello is that the “We do not belong to the dead. And the dead do not belong to us”. Meaning tactics and strategies can change depending on the material conditions that exist on the ground. In 2019 the arena of struggle and activism has widened.

After this years local and EU elections both North and South it can safely be said that the confidence of the people in the system is broken . More than 50% of those on the electoral register chose to boycott the elections. They chose to stay away from the polls because the parties and electoral fronts which exist either do not represent them or they believe that nothing will change by voting in capitalist elections. This reality necessitates a break from previous norms and a realisation that tactics from the 1970s have become redundant for building a revolutionary movement.

Reformists and Trotsyites have fallen over themselves in condemning the working class for not coming out to vote in favour of their chosen political representatives. Just like the water tax campaign when the people were ahead of the political parties the reformist parties and social democrats want the people to return to and be reigned into the dead end of electoral politics and constitionalism The working class know, from experience that change will only come about on the streets. By the working class taking charge of their own destinies. That the electoral system is rigged and has to be smashed.

The plethora of electoral fronts and reformist parties will in the coming months and years begin to move further to the centre in order to compete for the electoral allegiance of those middle class voters who base their political positions on those bourgeois parties who can maintain their precarious economic position among the middle classes. As Marx stated “When the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historical moment it will be a period of socialist sectarianism.”

For this reason the traditional republican position remains the most revolutionary in Ireland at this point in time. That is a rejection of the institutions of the state and provides an alternative point of allegiance for the working class in the Republic of 1916 and the Peoples Revolutionary Dáil of 1919. It only takes a reading of the Democratic Programme to realise that the 26 county state was a counter revolutionary state, forced on the Irish people at the expense of the Irish working class.

For this reason, Irish revolutionaries and socialist republicans need to rebuild the Peoples Republic of 1916 and 1919. This is our mandate, this is our republic!

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