IRSP Political Secretary John Martin's presentation on republican socialism to the IRSP's ideological conference
29-30 May 99

Comrades, Let me give you my tentative definition of Republican Socialism.

A belief in Republican Socialism is to believe that the only true freedom worth fighting for in Ireland is the freedom for all from economic, political, social and cultural exploitation. It therefore places the liberation of the Irish Working Class (ie that class of people, regardless of how they define themselves -- as British or Irish -- who do not own the means of production) as the primary task of our movement.

The working class are the majority of people in our society. But that belief is strongly influenced by the republican belief that, until the British claim of sovereignty over Ireland is withdrawn. then the achievement of any form of independence on the island will always result in capitalist and imperialist advances. Only when the working class takes power, as a class, will the Socialist Republic be established.

Let me be clear about the Socialist/Workers' Republic. It is an advance from the bourgeois Republic that now exists, but it will not be the final step to Socialism. It will be a transitional stage, in which we, the working class, begin to lay the foundations for a truly liberated society.

Republican Socialist ideology draws its inspiration first and foremost from the struggles and ideas of the working class in Ireland and world wide. It is a belief tempered in struggle and strife that only in the exercise of the power of the class can liberation be achieved.

It is internationalist. It is socialist. It is Marxist. It is republican. It is the most progressive thought of its day, the most radical and the most forward thinking and therefore, comrades, the most open to debate, dialogue, change, and progression. Just as the Republicanism of Wolfe Tone was the most advanced of its day and relevant to the needs of the time, and just as Connolly's Socialism was advanced and relevant to the needs of the time so also must todays Republican Socialism be the lynch pin of progressive thought and action.

Comrades, note this last word, action. Comrades you have heard often that "Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary action." Well, comrades, in the best tradition of Marxist dialectics the reverse is also true. Without action there can be no theory. A movement must analyse, think, learn, grow, and develop.

It must do as well.

Too often in the past revolutionary movements have allowed themselves to be side-tracked by obscure and trivial disagreements that end in disaster. Splits and feuds may be part of the price of establishing a revolutionary movement but surely one learns, one theorises from that experience. Speaking for myself (and I suspect for many here today) I have learned the futility of the politics of bitterness, of name calling and of reducing one's opponents to the level of caricature.

In terms of ideas the RSM has learned that the best way to develop to grow is to let ideas flourish. Be open to new influences, provided the end result is to strengthen the working class. Let us not fear the truth, the cold light of reality on our vision of socialism. Listen not only to our own comrades but also to the voices, no matter how disconnected, discordant, and discontented, of the working class. That is the way forward for the movement and it must also be one of our core beliefs.

Also we must never allow ourselves to be seduced by the many different voices of Marxism that at any one time may seem attractive. They come they go. Maoism once swept the world. Where is it now?

Stalinism ruled huge tracts of the earth. Now the stalinists (or "Tankies" as they are called for their habit of sending in the tanks to quell discontent) appear an irrelevance.

Trotskyism once was the cutting edge of world revolutionary politics, now it is the voice of small sects speaking only to each other and with no ability to impinge on the consciousness of the class.

There must be no ultra leftist lunges of this movement to the wilder shores of revolutionary (or as some have called it infantile ) politics. Nor can we allow our revolutionary core beliefs to be seduced by the soft alluring voices of the establishments as they offer us the fruits of compromise, of shared power, of involvement, and of engagement. No comrades, no swings to the left or right. Just the steady slow consistent march forward to win the allegiance of our class.

The death of Seamus Costello robbed us of a truly revolutionary voice who epitomised the best of our generation. We, as a movement, have survived against all the odds because no matter how much parts of this movement swung between ultra leftism, right militarism, or the cult of personality, none, I repeat, none of those aberrations could extinguish the core beliefs that Seamus and later Ta and Gino gave their lives for.

Let us understand well the traditions culture and politics we come from. To wilfully break from who we are would be to destroy this movement. Comrades while we are in a sense prisoners of history and have to respect and understand our own and our country's history we can also influence history. Knowing who we are and where we come from helps determine where we are going. I urge you comrades study our history with a critical eye and learn that to deviate from our core values is to court disaster.

As part of the collective leadership of this movement for the past number of years I have tried with other comrades, to instill confidence, self respect, loyalty to the movement and a fundamental belief in the primacy of politics. No matter what role you play in this movement from now on if you do not have these attributes, comrade, then you are not an Irp. For these attribute go to the very heart of our ideology. Confidence in the class, self respect, respect for our values of socialism, loyalty to our own movement but not uncritical loyalty, and, of course, the primacy of politics.

Now let me set out my 10 core beliefs for Republican Socialism:

1/ Only the liberation of the working class can defeat Imperialism and capitalism in Ireland.

2/ National Independence is a prerequisite for the establishment of socialism in Ireland.

3/ So long as the British claim exists then republicans have the right to resist that claim.

4/ The working class are the only class that will not betray the struggle for independence.

5/ The liberation of the class is for the class itself to undertake.

6/ Where possible, we urge a broad front of organisations and peoples in unity against the forces of oppression.

7/ Our constituency is the poor, the unemployed, the marginalised, and the exploited.

8/ The workers of the world are our comrades; the capitalists of Ireland (and elsewhere) are our enemies.

9/ The tactics of struggle are determined by the circumstances of the time and we are flexible in approach to all questions of how to best struggle against imperialism, but at all times the primacy of politics is paramount.

10/ We owe our allegiance, not to Princes nor prelates, but only to the Irish Working class and the workers of the world.