IRSP Ard Comhairle member Mícheál Mac Lochlainn gives on the platform in north Belfast last night with independent Left Republican Fra Hughes, Republican Socialist Paul Little and ex-INLA Hunger from Armagh John Nixon talking about the 1916 Rising its relevance today and in the future, and the ever increasing relevance of the Republican Left in Ireland in the run up to the 100th Anniversary and the overall struggle to achieve the Socialist Republic.
The 1916 Rising its relevance today and in the future.
Like most people in this room the first experience I had with the 1916 Rising was a copy of the Proclamation looking down at me from the living room wall as I grew up. Looking back it was always present, throughout the good times and the bad, prominently placed, foresight from the past, willing to speak to anyone who will listen to its vision for the future.
For me the drafting of the 1916 Proclamation was as much a revolutionary act as the military uprising that followed it. The Proclamation recognised that not only do we have to right a historic wrong, to stand up to the bully next door, but to offer the Irish people an alternative worthy of all the sacrifice, a new dawn to enrich all the people on this island. The Proclamation represents that for me.
“The right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies”, “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally,” for me these excerpts from the Proclamation are the spirit and essence of the document it clearly states that in a truly just Republic everything has to change.
Those excerpts acknowledge that Ireland had to, and still has to be transformed. Land, Production, Distribution and Exchange cannot continue to rest in the hands of the few, for the Irish Republican Socialist Party it’s as equal a crime on the soul of the Irish nation for an individual to grow wealthy off the labour of others, as 800 years of imperialist occupation. They are one in the same.
Connollys warnings from 1897 that “If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.” are nearly prophetic, his advice has been conveniently ignored.
Corruption, individualism and greed characterize modern Irish capitalist society, the occupation, our national sovereignty denied, defines our national identity. It will only be by contemporising the ideals of the 1916 Rising, making the message relevant for 2016, can we do the men and women who rose on Easter week any justice.
More and more people are seeking an alternative to what has gone before. The sectarian rogue state in the North and the Free State Plutocracy have been discredited in the eyes of the people, capitalism and neoliberalism are doing a fantastic job in undermining their own institutions.
It’s fair to say that a vast amount of people now see the capitalist model for society as something that will, 100% of the time, work in its own selfish class interests. The myth of “trickle down” economics has been exposed for exactly what it is, a pure myth.
The opportunity for a Left Republican alternative cannot be characterized by electoral pacts to keep the right wing agenda out of power. We must learn the lessons and remain principled. There can be no cordial working relationships or potential coalitions with the likes of the Democratic Unionist Party, Fianna Fail, Labour or Fianna Gael.
The Republican Lefts ambitions are indeed power, power to impose the dictatorship of the proletariat; we have a vision for this island of a sovereign, stable, sustainable and socialist Republic which puts all power in the hands of the people. But the journey to that Republic cannot be paved with concessions to the very establishments we exist to smash.
We must be clear and concise in what we are getting people to buy into, a Left Republican political programme for Ireland in which each citizen has collective ownership of the nation and is entitled to be equally enriched by all its fruits.
Since the creation of Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party in 1896 no Left Republican organisation has ever definitively set out to articulate the mechanics of an Irish Socialist Republic. We have policies and our own respective, very similar, political programmes yet no document exists that we can say this is what we want to create, this is how an Irish workers Republic will function.
As we move towards the centenary of the Rising it’s high time that vision, once and for all, was properly and collectively articulated in a way that speaks to every Irish person.
If we want to really discuss the 1916 Risings relevance today and in the future we need to explore the tactics and strategies that will see our ambitions realised. We must be collectively brave enough to have an honest conversation with each other based on mutual respect. Each individual Left Republican needs to have a soul searching conversation with themselves on the way forward.
It’s a sad indictment on us all that we, as the rebels, the good guys, are letting ourselves and our vision become further marginalised in our communities. The battle for hearts and minds, the propaganda war, is being won hands down by our enemies.
The British and Free State intelligence agencies propaganda war to discredit our respective organisations political programmes and the principled struggle for the republic is solely aimed at turning potential supporters away from our message and it’s sadly working.
They are feeding a constant flow of misinformation to the establishment media who are more than happy to print it, word for word, lie for lie. We are being felon set, all of us in this room; in quite the similar fashion the leaders and volunteers of the 1916 Rising who were called criminals, madmen and drunkards.
We must also accept our own responsibility for our tactical and strategic failings. Wider Republicanism, in general, must ask themselves the same questions the Irish Republican Socialist Party has asked itself its membership and supporters.
Do we continue armed actions in this political climate? Will the current phase of armed actions bring about the creation of a socialist republic? The Irish Republican Socialist Party’s analysis is that to both questions the answer is no, armed actions will not bring about our republic, our republic will come from the streets, it will come openly and with transparency, or not at all.
No one expects the capitalist establishment to go without a fight, they have far too many vested interests in the continuity of their corrupt system, but they can’t fight everyone, they can’t destroy a mass movement or an idea, this is what we must endeavour to create, something which is so powerful they cannot destroy . That is why our entire political programme, tactical and strategic vision must be laid bare at the feet of the Irish working class for them to endorse.
Armed Republican actions in this political climate actually shore up partition. According to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions the Stormont power sharing executive has presided over £3.6 Billion worth of cuts to public services in the North since 2010. Why are people not marching to that bastion of partition, Stormont, and demanding its collapse? It’s because the British have been able to portray the Good Friday Agreement and its Power Sharing Executive, which is a glorified super council with no real power, as the only viable option for the people in the North and us, collectively, the principled Republican Left, as relics of the past.
They wrongly state that a return to violence as the only alternative to their pantomime, which lets them get away with everything. The normalisation of the occupied counties has only continued against the backdrop of the current armed campaigns. MI5s grip has tightened and we have collectively lost the support of a vast section of the republican base.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party are not sitting here tonight saying we have all the answers, we don’t have the Golden Cow, no republican group has, let’s use the centenary of the 1916 Rising as a platform for our Republican politics of the people to finally address our unfinished business.