On Reformist “Socialist” Parties

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party of Joan Burton in the 26 Counties, and Sinn Féin all have one thing in common: they are fundamentally middle class reformist parties. The Labour Party of Ireland and Sinn Féin have longed since liquidated any revolutionary tendency within their ranks, while the Labour Party of the UK never possessed any revolutionary tendency since their beginning (I am reminded of Labour MPs spontaneously applauding upon hearing of James Connolly’s murder in 1916). However, people still doggedly criticize revolutionary socialists for not supporting these parties in elections. Most recently, there has been a number of criticisms against revolutionaries for not supporting Jeremy Corbyn in the snap election called for June in the UK. Reformists and their allies chastise people such as the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) for boycotting the election, saying that they are leaving the UK to the Conservatives. This despite the fact that Labour leaders in Scotland actually advised people to vote for the Conservatives in the Scottish council elections a few weeks ago in order to keep out the Scottish National Party (SNP). This despite the fact that Labour has been just as happy to cut benefits and social services as the Conservatives have been. This despite the fact that Labour has a history of supporting imperialism around the world and loyalism in Ireland.

James Connolly already articulated in 1899 what we argue today: that “middle-class parties of reform have outlived their usefulness” and that when workers try to actually take power for themselves, these middle class parties are “the first to denounce them and call upon the State to oppose them.” This was true in 1899. How much more true is it today, when the Labour Party of Ireland attempts to destroy the fundamental right to protest in the 26 Counties through prosecuting the Jobstown protesters, when Sinn Féin happily shares power with unionists, and when the Labour Party in the UK has been nothing but a party for austerity and imperialism? As working class people, we cannot turn to these middle class reformist parties, but must instead work to build a revolutionary socialist republican movement.

Sources:

James Connolly, “Socialism and Political Reformers,” https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1901/evangel/socpolref.htm

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Remembering Zachary Gevelinger

Rest in peace Zack, former editor of redfenian, who recently died at the age of 28. Zack was a deeply kind and caring person and a dear friend to me. We met about a month or two ago but quickly hit it off and became very close. We talked every day about everything together, but especially the Irish struggle for liberation, which he was so passionate about. Zack was an incredibly courageous person who proudly stood up for Ireland’s liberation. In 2013 he was imprisoned and tortured by the PSNI for visiting a political prisoner in Belfast. The experience left him with anorexia and PTSD, but he bravely pushed on for four years afterwards, and joined the Madison chapter of the Workers World Party back home. He wrote about his experiences in Ireland for the Workers World Party’s paper. Zack was very proud of being working class and had a lot of love and solidarity for other working class people. He was really a great communist. Zack was also courageous in his private life, coming out as bisexual a few weeks before his death. He was very passionate about LGBT+ struggles, and we were working on a piece together on Irish LGBT+ people’s contributions to the liberation struggle before his death. He is survived by his wife and his five dogs, who he all loved very much. Rest in power, Zack! Tiocfaidh ár lá, go ndéana Dia a mhaith air. “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” – Bobby Sands

The Orange Order in Canada, Settler Colonialism, and Irish-Indigenous Solidarity – Gráinne Donn

The Orange Order, well known in Ireland and in the UK for terrorizing and committing acts of violence against Irish Catholics to this day, existed not only in Europe but also in Canada. Protestant immigration from Ulster began to come to Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and Ontario in the early nineteenth century, and with these settlers came the Orange Order. The first Orange Order lodge we have evidence of opened in Montreal in 1800. Most of the first generation of Orangemen in Canada came from the ruling class in Ireland, Protestant landed gentry who often had “esquire” after their names. However, once in Canada for a generation or so, the Orange Order, while staying true to its founding tenets of loyalty to British imperialism and violence against Catholics, developed into a mass organization with members from many different groups of white Protestant Canadian settlers.

The Orange Order became important in the colonial expansion of Canada, particularly in and from Ontario, where Orangemen were most numerous. The Orange Order was so numerous in Toronto that Toronto became known as the “Belfast of Canada”. As Canadian settlement expanded through Ontario, so did Orange Order lodges, and as settlement spread west into Manitoba and Saskatchewan, so too did new ranks of Orangemen. By 1886, there were 250,000 Orangemen all across Canada, and one-third of Canada’s adult male Protestants joined its ranks for some amount of time. Everywhere they went they spread white supremacist, imperialist values from the ruling class. Their slogan was “Keep Canada British”; this applied not only to Irish and French Catholics and to immigrants of colour but also to Canada’s Indigenous population. The Orange Order supported missionary efforts in the prairies, which attempted to exterminate Indigenous languages and cultures and keep Indigenous peoples subservient to the white supremacist Canadian government. They also committed acts of violence, including murder and rape, against Indigenous peoples of the prairies. When Cree (Nēhiyaw), Anishinaabeg, Nakota, and Métis people in the prairies organized against Canadian rule in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, not only did the Orange Order respond with violence but increased its recruitment numbers from racist white settlers in order to redouble its efforts.

The Orange Order has long since declined from its immense power in the late nineteenth century, but it still offers important lessons for Irish settlers on Turtle Island (so-called North America) today. All too often Irish settlers take up racist attitudes against people of colour. Bernadette McAlisky, when she came to America in the 70s, criticized what she saw as Irish-Americans perpetuating the same racist attitudes towards Black people in Boston that Unionists used against Republicans and Catholics at home in Ireland. The same is true with the Orange Order. The same people who terrorize Irish people in the Six Counties and the United Kingdom today played a big role in the subjugation of Indigenous peoples here in Canada, yet too often Irish settlers have turned a blind eye to Indigenous struggles for self-determination or even opposed them. We need to realize that the struggle for a socialist, independent Ireland is intimately linked with the struggle for Indigenous national liberation. Both are fighting against the same white supremacist imperialist forces like the Orangemen, and the victory for one is a victory for both. Tiocfaidh ár lá agus tiocfaidh an lá na Muintireacha Dúchasacha an Oileáin Turtair!

Bibliography:

Cecil Houston and William Smyth – The Sash Canada Wore: A Historical Geography of the Orange Order in Canada

David Wilson, ed. – The Orange Order in Canada

Howard Adams – Prison of Grass: Canada from a Native Point of View

R. S. Pennefather, ed. – The Orange and the Black

 

On #JobstownNotGuilty and the Labour Party – Gráinne Donn

The trial of the Jobstown water protesters tomorrow for false imprisonment clearly demonstrates the class nature of the 26 County government. The water tax implemented by the Fine-Gael/Labour coalition was part of collection of austerity measures ultimately imposed on Ireland for the good of European imperialism. Despite the supposedly socialist nature of the Labour Party, the Labour Party is no different from any other “socialist” party within a bourgeois state. It works consistently in the interests of British and European imperialism against the interests of the Irish working class, and the trumped up charges against the water protesters are no different. Attempting to jail water protesters for up to life in prison, jeopardizing the fundamental right to protest, for daring to resist the bourgeois austerity regime should come as no surprise. As Lenin wrote in 1902, “If Social-Democracy, in essence, is merely a party of reform […], then not only has a socialist the right to join a bourgeois cabinet, but he must always strive to do so. […] Why should he not remain in the cabinet even after the shooting-down of workers by gendarmes has exposed, for the hundredth and thousandth time, the real nature of the democratic collaboration of classes?” The trial for the Jobstown water protesters exposes the need for the Irish working class to abandon reformist parties like Labour and Sinn Féin and fight for real revolutionary change against imperialism and capitalism. #JobstownNotGuilty #JobstownNeamhchiontach

Defend The Right To Protest – Gareth Ó Muireadhaigh

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As a crowd of over two thousand gathered outside Ireland’s Central Bank in Dublin City centre, an activist from Socialist-Republican party “éirígí” climbs the platform, his name is Scott Masterson and he is charged with false imprisonment a crime in Ireland that carries a maximum penalty of ‘life’ in prison. He and 18 other people from Jobstown, a working class district of South Dublin are charged with the same offence, some are also charged with violent disorder, an offence which can result in an unlimited fine and up to 10 years in prison. Are these people part of some organised crime syndicate ? No !. Did these people inconvenience a government minister for 2 and a half hours by staging a sit down protest behind her car ? Yes !.

Joan Burton was that government minister, Burton was “Tanaiste” at the time meaning (Vice Prime Minister in the Irish language). She is a member of Ireland’s Labour Party, a party founded by Marxist and Syndicalist thinkers James Connolly, James Larkin and William O’Brien. The party has taken a significant swing to the right in recent decades similar to the Labour Party in Britain under Tony Blair. From 2011 to 2016 is was part of a coalition between themselves and the right wing, Conservative Christian party “Fine Gael”, a party which has its origins in the fascist movement in Ireland that blossomed during the 1930’s. The reason for the protest in the first place was the efforts of the ruling government in trying to introduce water charges with a view to commodifying Ireland’s water supply and eventually privatising it in the future. Ireland already pays for water through a progressive general taxation system, this new tax was basically another vicious austerity cut, another tax working class communities would have to fork up for in order to pay off Ireland’s massive bank debt created by corrupt bank officials, dodgy traders and spineless politicians.

Although the movement for the abolition of the water tax is on the road to victory, activists prosecuted for peaceful actions taken during its attempted introduction are being ruthlessly pursued through the courts. The defendants in this case and dozens of others faced heavy fines and/or jail for using their democratic right of protest. The protest in Jobstown began on 15 November 2014, word spread around the community the night before that Joan Burton was likely to attend a graduation ceremony at a local college, those graduating were disgusted and informed local activists of her possible presence. 50 people initially attended the protest which included a sit down protest behind Burtons car. The graduation wasn’t interrupted, many of the students did not want Joan Burton to present them with their award and actually joined the protest. As word of her presence spread the protest swelled to more than 500, a clear majority were women from the community.

The numbers of Gardai (police force) also swelled to over 100, with around twenty Garda vehicles. The Gardai surrounded the car and the community slow marched it out of Jobstown. The protest was spontaneous and initially unorganised, however chanting and marching was organised and negotiations took place between the police and protesters. There are videos that evidence there were democratic and open discussions by those present as to the conduct of the protest. There was a lot of anger in the community, justified given the devastating austerity cuts imposed on them. The protesters appealed to some young people who had gathered in the area not to be goaded or provoked by the police actions. The protesters actually deserve credit for making sure there was never any violence which the authorities would have used to their own benefit. Then for two weeks in February 2015 there were dawn raids with 6,8 or even 10 Garda used to arrest each individual protester including a child who was 15 years of age at the time of the protest. The adults cases were moved to the circuit criminal court with the teenagers’ case moved to the children’s courts.

In the time after the protest but before the charges were pressed the right wing media in Ireland went in to overdrive with television personalities and politicians making outrageous statements on the matter. One member of parliament from the Fine Gael party told a popular night time talk show “These were acts of violence and terrorism”, another talk show host told one of the convicted “You falsely imprisoned the Tanaiste”. It is a case of guilty until proven innocent, then on 21 October 2016 the teenager accused of false imprisonment was convicted and given a one year suspended jail sentence (his appeal is underway). After that judgement the legal team for the teen said “This verdict is a recipe for totalitarianism”. If the State is allowed to convict those who exercise their legal right to protest then pretty soon workers on strike who picket their workplace, students protesting against rising education fees, the elderly protesting against cuts in their pension, pretty soon all those who partake in such activities can and most likely will be convicted on these spurious and farcical charges.

Workers, college students, pensioners, councillors, a member of parliament, those involved local sports clubs, homeless activists, community activists, those are the people being labelled as ‘thugs’ and ‘criminals’. Anyone involved in an organisation who’s tactics to highlight their case might resort to peaceful protest are in danger of being heavily fined and incarcerated for life. #JobstownNotGuilty need your help to get the truth out about Jobstown and this miscarriage of justice. We need thousands of people to protest against it and demand all charges be dropped. If we can create broad awareness about this injustice it can positively impact the appeal of the teenager and make it more likely that a jury will acquit those accused the up coming political trials. Support #JobstownNotGuilty on Facebook, if in Ireland support us by taking part in direct action in the form of leafleting, holding stalls, putting up posters etc. Highlight this issue wherever you can whether you live in Ireland or not, remember “first they came for the Socialists”.

Gareth Ó Muireadhaigh is an activist with Socialist-Republican party éirígí. His involvement with Éirígí includes highlighting the British occupation of Ireland, protecting Ireland’s water supply against privatisation, preserving Irish cultural heritage and fighting for a fair and equal system of housing allocation. He is also an activist with Jobstown Not Guilty – a group which seek to highlight the injustice currently being meted out to Irish people who dare to protest against ruling government corruption.

On Kim Il-Sung’s Birthday – Gráinne Donn

April 15th was the birthday of Korean leader Kim Il-sung (1912-1994). Kim first emerged as a courageous fighter against Japanese imperialism in the north of the Korean peninsula, leading guerrilla movements against the Japanese in the north of Korea along the Chinese and Russian borders. The Japanese had ruled Korea since 1910 and subjected it to terrible exploitation on all levels. Kim’s leadership and courage quickly caused him to be one of the foremost leaders of the Korean people throughout the peninsula, and after World War II elected representatives from throughout Korea elected him as leader. Kim proclaimed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). However, just as Japanese imperialism was defeated, American imperialism came to the Korean peninsula. Unwilling to allow Korea to become communist, the Americans partitioned Korea and installed a bourgeois dictator in the southern portion of Korea, leading to the Korean War. One-third of the DPRK’s population was killed in the Korean War, and nearly all of its buildings were levelled. Despite the devastation caused by Japanese and American imperialism, the DPRK thrived, building socialism while also developing its economy at a fast rate. By the 1960s, the DPRK not only had higher living standards than the south but also was far more equal; the richest person in the DPRK made only 4 times the income of the poorest person in the DPRK. Free medical care and housing was provided to all, and life expectancy and education greatly grew. At the end of Kim Il-sung’s life, the Soviet Union collapsed, unfortunately ending one of the DPRK’s most important alliances and trading relationships, and the economy began to suffer greatly. Kim Il-Sung died at age 82 in 1994.
The example of Kim Il-Sung provides a number of lessons for the Irish struggle. Firstly, Kim Il-Sung and the Korean masses as a whole serve as a powerful reminder of what the masses of the people can do when organized. Japan and the United States are two of the biggest imperial powers the world has ever seen, yet the masses of the DPRK under Kim’s leadership fought off them both. Kim’s anti-colonial struggle served as inspiration to Black Panthers such as Assata Shakur and Huey Newton, and Kim serves as inspiration to Irish workers fighting British imperialism as well today. The DPRK’s construction of socialism despite its devastation in the Korean War also provides hope to the working classes all around the world, again showing the power of the organized masses of workers. We can only hope that one day Ireland will be freed from imperialism as the DPRK was, and will be able to construct socialism for the betterment of all Irish people’s lives just as the DPRK did. Tiocfaidh ár lá! Breithlá sona do Kim Il-Sung!

On Martin McGuinness – Gráinne Donn

Martin McGuinness (1950-2017)

Martin McGuinness’s death last month at the age of 66 sparked widespread mourning in Ireland. McGuinness joined the IRA in his 20s and fought bravely in the armed struggle, spending time in jail in 1973 for paramilitary activities. In the 80s he became heavily involved in Sinn Féin, acting many times as Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator. McGuinness should be commended for his work in the armed struggle in the 70s, but in many ways his involvement with Sinn Féin demonstrates the problems with Sinn Féin in the past thirty years or so. McGuinness is chiefly remembered for his role in the Good Friday Agreement. While the Good Friday Agreement brought about some positive changes for the population of the Six Counties, it also signalled that Sinn Féin was no longer a truly republican party, and was willing to compromise with British and Unionist imperialism. The Good Friday Agreement essentially ended the armed struggle for the liberation of the Six Counties, and led to power-sharing agreements between the republicans and the unionists. This led to McGuinness serving as co-First Minister with the fascist Ian Paisley. McGuinness reported that the two had a friendly relationship and worked together frequently. A power-sharing agreement with the unionist fascists should be cause for outrage, not celebration. Martin McGuinness’s role collaborating with British imperialism in the Six Counties demonstrates the fundamental class character of Sinn Féin today. Sinn Féin does not represent the proletariat of Ireland, but represents the interests of the Irish petit-bourgeoisie. For the Irish petit-bourgeoisie, collaboration with British imperialism is not just possible but desirable, as it increases the petit-bourgeoisie’s potential for exploitation. But for the Irish proletariat, collaboration with British imperialism only leads to increasing exploitation. Thus, for the Irish proletariat, Sinn Féin is not the answer.

Gráinne Donn is a member of the Irish diaspora living in Montreal, occupied Kanien’kehá:ka. She has been involved with the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) and the Revolutionary Communist Party (PRC-RCP) but is currently a member of neither.