Article on Irish Republican Strategy.
donaloc at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 8 07:29:16 MDT 2003
This appeared in response to the recent article which appeared in the An
Phoblacht which John O'Neill posted to the list. I am very much in agreement
with the article carried below.
I would beg forgiveness for posting in its entirety, but it is a very good
article and I think clearly formulates the current strategy in terms which
fit so well into the theory of a 'War of Position' which has been made
possible within the current 'Peace Strategy'. The writer has been described
as a Senior Republican strategist.
Strategic momentum and popular support
BY DECLAN KEARNEY
Justin Moran's recent article, Left turn needed, is a useful consideration
of ideas. However, his assertion that Sinn Féin needs to reverse a drift to
the centre, to clearly state our socialism and recommit ourselves to
establish a socialist republic, obscures the real debate for Sinn Féin
activists - that is, whether we are properly focused and applied to our key
I don't believe we've lost our way ideologically. At times, the intensity
and complexity of struggle can cause difficulty in seeing the ideological
wood for the political trees; and there is more work to be done internally
to ensure the party is properly ideologically centred in the midst of having
to apply ourselves to our diverse sites of struggle. But this is a
by-product of an expanding struggle and should not be confused with assuming
that our end game is compromised. Put simply, our primary aim is Irish
national self-determination, sovereignty, and independence; and our ultimate
aim in shorthand, a socialist republic!
So our vision is intact. Sinn Féin's ideological genealogy goes back to Tone
and McCracken and has evolved a republican revolutionary tradition
personified by Lalor, Connolly, Mellowes, and of which we are the present
day descendants. The historical responsibility carried by this generation of
activists is to complete the unfinished Irish revolution. Hence the
challenge, how we successfully effect a political revolution in modern
society against a backdrop of continuing partition, a formidable
conservative establishment North and South, and an international context
dominated by forces wedded to the ideology of globalisation.
Language of Struggle
The republican language of struggle may evolve and we may even choose to
nuance its delivery, but our core vision and ideology remain consistent. The
work of activists is to bring forward policies and political programmes that
build the struggle's political strength, in the context of strategy. This
means ensuring our essential ideological and political concepts are popular,
live and accessible to Irish citizens. In my view, an Ireland of Equals
speaks far more simply and clearly to the average punter than Socialist
Republic, when the vision of an equal Ireland is juxtaposed with the
gombeenism of the system.
The simplicity and clarity of this vision is why more and more Irish people
are voting for Sinn Féin, not just in urban working class areas of Dublin,
but also in West Donegal, South Connemara and the Glens of Antrim; as well
as other socially and economically diverse communities across Ireland. We
shouldn't underestimate the extent to which Sinn Féin evokes the prospect of
real change and a radical political alternative.
However, we cannot afford to be complacent nor allow the mood favouring the
republican message to become fickle or worse, cause activists to creep under
a comfort blanket of populism. The fundamental strategic question facing the
party is how we politically mobilise the greater number Irish people, North
and South, in support of Sinn Féin and in sustained pursuit of the Republic.
The key to doing so is to define our vision and message in accessible simple
terms that strike at the popular instinct and allow Sinn Féin not only to
build support and grow in political strength, but also to shape and
radicalise Irish popular opinion with the ideas of republican struggle.
A Republican Hegemony
Our strategic tasks boil down to popularising republican ideas in the minds
and mouths of Irish people.
It has been our relative success to date at republicanising more hearts and
minds that in large part has resulted in the current establishment offensive
against Sinn Féin, North and South. This was writ large in the two
governments' decision to baulk at the implementation of the Hillsborough
negotiations, and the British decision to cancel the two elections in May.
We need to build on our achievements by replacing the hegemony of gombeenism
and unionism with a new popular, radical political culture, which celebrates
the vision of a new social and economic order. If specific slogans help in
this process, well and good, but if not, then let's use other language that
excites, inspires, persuades and converts.
Our language and message need to animate our work. In turn, policy
development, effective campaigning, quality political representation,
electoral preparations, negotiations and party building, to name but a few,
all need to simultaneously operate as sites of struggle that create a
strategic context for externalising that message within society.
So, whilst ensuring our membership and structures are ideologically centred
is immensely important work, the prosecution of our struggle dictates that
we maintain the political ability to roll out a strategy that ensures gains
are not surrendered, the struggle is consolidated, and we effect radical
To this end, every activist needs to get a sense of his or her role in the
strategic development of the struggle. If we accept that strategy provides
the framework for our Road Map, then this becomes a benchmark to evaluate
and measure the utility or purpose of our activity. If forms of political
activity stop resulting in political strength, then we need to identify and
take on board those that do so. Defined strategic objectives need to shape
and direct all aspects of our political programme and sites of struggle.
Realpolitik, Policy and Polemic
The realpolitik of conditions in struggle rarely results in instantaneous
change. Our revolutionary litmus test for assessing change is whether change
has a strategic impact on the overall context within which republicans are
active. For example, Sinn Féin is unambiguously and ideologically opposed to
Public Private Partnerships, but we didn't have the political strength to
bring it to an instantaneous end. The cold reality is how, within the limits
of current political strength, we effectively challenge such a policy from a
revolutionary, strategic perspective.
Policy development needs to act as a strategic tool for animating and
articulating our view of the world. But let's get it right! Marx once opined
that philosophers only interpreted the world and that others had to change
it. We should take note. Unless republican policy is in sync with the
context of our existing strength - our ability to deliver and effect change
in the prevailing political conditions - and also measurably generate
increased political strength, it becomes nothing more than polemic.
During the early to mid 1980s, Gerry Adams introduced the metaphor of the
Bus to Cork to make sense of the need for strategic alliances in pursuit of
the Republic. The ensuing discussions also reflected on previous republican
efforts towards the same objective, such as those undertaken by George
Gilmore and Peadar O'Donnell in the 1930s. Just as past republican debate
perceived then, it is right today to highlight the importance of developing
new alliances with the trade union movement. We have for too long failed to
be proactive in our outreach to that constituency. However, Sinn Féin
requires a strategic engagement and negotiation right throughout Irish
society. Our party needs in a sustained way to build relations, initiate
negotiations and forge common strategies with, for example, unionist people,
ethnic minorities, muintir na ngaeltachtaí, women, and young people.
Our objective needs to be to develop a whole raft of progressive alliances.
This work is key to galvanising the critical electoral dynamic that renders
constitutional change possible and the popular mass support to make the
Republic achievable. Such practical interaction will give definition to the
substance of our vision of the Republic and influence the programme for
government of a future Sinn Féin administration.
Justin's article is a contribution to discussion on what republicans need to
be doing. We need more such discussion throughout the party, but let us
establish the precise focus of the debate. Sinn Féin doesn't need a left
turn, but we do need to politically identify the means to sustain our
capacity for taking constant revolutionary leaps forward in the context of
our Road Map to the Republic. To do this we require increased strategic
momentum and popular support.
Our priority now should be on the strategic tasks to be undertaken by our
activists to manage this political phase, popularise republicanism, build
the party, and grow the overall struggle. Sinn Féin's ideological vision is
clear and we possess a strategic trajectory for bringing it to reality. The
pressing debate for Sinn Féin activists needs to be on practical strategy
and how we pull all this together on a national basis. Over to ye, comrades!
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