The Broad Front

A document drafted by Seamus Costello, and representing his consistent and clear-cut political approach to the problems of national and social liberation, was presented for discussion to the "Broad Front" talks held between various socialist and anti-imperialist groups in 1977. Costello put his document before the ard chomhairle of the IRSP as the party's response to a discussion document circulated at the talks, and, while adopted as official IRSP policy, it was made clear that the seven demands included were in no way regarded as preconditions for the establishment of a broad front. The document is reprinted here.

The IRSP fully endorse the sentiments, expressed in the basic discussion document regarding the seriousness of the present political crisis in Ireland and fully support the call for the maximum degree of anti-imperialist unity. We feel that genuine anti-imperialist unity can be achieved and that the basic discussion document lays the basis for such unity provided those present at this conference can agree that the document needs clarification and amendment on a number of important points.

As a socialist party, our ultimate political objective is the creation of a unified 32 county Democratic Socialist Republic within which the Irish working class will control the wealth and resources of the nation. This objective can only be achieved through the efforts of a unified and politically conscious Irish working class. The fact that a unified and politically conscious Irish working class does not exist is a direct consequence of the creation of two partitioned states in Ireland, and of the continuing imperialist interference in both parts of the country. The problems arising from this lack of working class unity are painfully obvious.

The working class people of the South have been skillfully divided by the allies of British imperialism since the establishment of the 26-county state. For 50 years the Southern working class have been conned into supporting political parties who held out the illusion of radical solutions to both the national question and the class struggle, while in reality they used the working class as a power base for their continued betrayal of both struggles.

In the North the Protestant working class were led to believe that the only way in which they could preserve the marginal supremacy which they held over their Catholic counterparts in jobs and housing was through supporting corrupt Unionist politicians and through them the Union with Britain. Their genuine and well founded fears regarding the preservation of their religious and civil liberties in the context of a united and clerical dominated Ireland were also exploited by the same corrupt politicians. At the same time the Catholic working class were conned into believing that their salvation lay in supporting green tory politicians who, while hypocritically advocating the reunification of Ireland, as a guarantee of their ultimate salvation, completely submerged themselves in corrupt Unionist politics in exchange for favours for the class they really represented, the Northern Catholic middle class. As history has shown, the working class, North and South, Protestant and Catholic, have been victims of the so-called solutions to the 'Irish Question' imposed by Britain and her subservient native parliaments.

It is still Britain's objective to find and impost a political solution which will guarantee the continued protection of Britain's economic and strategic interests in both parts of Ireland. Britain is also acting as the local protector of the interests of other imperial powers in Ireland. Some of the EEC countries as well as America and Canada have powerful vested interest in supporting a British imposed 'solution' in Ireland. Britain also has to consider the possible effects on internal British politics of the emergence of a united and independent state in Ireland. In our view, if an independent Ireland is to be viable in economic terms, and if it is to provide a reasonable standard of living for the majority of our people, it can only be done through a radical change in the ownership of wealth and resources. In these circumstances Britain and the EEC countries would have every reason to worry about the effects on working class opinion in their own countries. Finally of course Britain's strategic interests must also be protected through the imposition of a 'solution' which will ensure that Ireland continues its present policy of pro-imperialist 'neutrality.'

Every British imposed solution including the original partition of the country, the Northern Ireland Assembly...the Convention and direct rule, has been designed to protect these economic and strategic interests. The present policy of the Ulsterisation of the conflict is also clearly designed to perpetuate the division of the country, and the sectarian divisions of the Northern working class. The native capitalist class, acting through the political parties which represent their interests in both parts of Ireland have played a fundamental role in supporting British imperialist interests in Ireland. They have done so because they have now accommodated themselves to the role of overseers for the British and other imperialist economic interests. They have clearly thrown their weight behind the various solutions put forward by British imperialism over the past eight years, and will continue to do so in order to ensure that the one solution which would end their role as the native agents of foreign imperial interests does not emerge.

As a party we therefore recognize the absolute necessity of securing a constitutional solution to the present crisis which will allow the Irish working class the freedom to pursue their interests as a class in the context of the development of normal class politics. In our view the first step in securing a constitutional solution which meets this requirement must be for Britain to concede the right of the Irish people to exercise total sovereignty over their own affairs. This objective can only be achieved through the creation of a unified struggle on the part of all anti-imperialist organizations. We would therefore support the formation of an Irish anti-imperialist Front composed of delegates from affiliated organizations who support the agreed political programme of the Front. The primary objective of the Front would be to mobilize the maximum degree of support for its declared objectives throughout Ireland. The Front should have sufficient support and assistance from its affiliated organizations to enable it to open a head office with a full time staff.

We propose the following political demands as the basis on which an Irish anti-imperialist Front should organise:

  1. That Britain must renounce all claims to sovereignty over any part of Ireland or its coastal waters.

  2. That Britain must immediately disband and disarm the UDR, RUC, and RUC Reserve and withdraw all troops from Ireland.

  3. That the British and 26 County governments must immediately release all political prisoners and grant a general amnesty for all offenses arising from the current conflict.

  4. That Britain must agree to compensate all who have suffered as a result of imperialist violence and exploitation in Ireland.

  5. Recognizing that no country can be free and independent while it permits imperialist domination of its economic life, the Irish anti-imperialist Front will oppose all forms of imperialist control over our wealth and resources.

  6. That the Irish anti-imperialist Front rejects a federal solution and the continued existence of two separate states in the 6 and 26 counties as a denial of the right of the Irish people to sovereignty and recognizes the only alternative as being the creation of a 32 County Democratic Republic with a secular constitution.

  7. That the Irish anti-imperialist Front demands the convening of an all Ireland Constitutional Conference representative of all shades of political opinion in Ireland for the purpose of discussing a democratic and secular Constitution which would become effective immediately following a total British military and political withdrawal from Ireland.

We feel that these demands would secure the active support of all genuine anti-imperialists in Ireland and that they should form the basis for an agreed programme of action by the Irish anti-imperialist Front. We are submitting them to this conference in the hope that we can make a serious contribution towards overcoming some of the problems caused by the divisions existing between the anti-imperialist organizations.