By Jim Graham
FOR Marxists, Irish liberation and Irish Freedom have always been a burning issue, since the period of the industrial revolution when the UK was propelled into becoming a great imperialist power in the 19th and 20th centuries.
On December 10th, 1869 Marx wrote the following in a letter to his comrade in arms Frederick Engels:
‘As to the Irish question … The way I shall put forward the matter next Tuesday is this: that quite apart from all phrases about “international” and “humane” justice for Ireland – which are to be taken for granted in the International Council – it is in the direct and absolute interest of the English working class to get rid of their present connection with Ireland.
‘And this is my most complete conviction … For a long time I believed that it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime by English working class ascendancy …
‘Deeper study has now convinced me of the opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.’
Lenin and Trotsky gave their complete support to the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, against the war and for the end of the rule of British imperialism in Ireland.
Trotsky went on to say that those who were saying that the 1916 rising was a putsch ‘deserved a bullet’.
The 1916 rising, in fact, prepared the way for the Russian February revolution in 1917, that overthrew the Tsar of All The Russias, and the 1917 October Revolution that overthrew the provisional government and established rule through workers’ and peasants’ soviets.
However this revolutionary essence is missed out completely in Fra Hughes article: ‘Is the Irish Political Duopoly like Partition coming to an end? in last Saturday’s News Line.
He writes that ‘Ireland has been partitioned North from South for nearly 100 years. 2021 will mark the centenary of the formation of the Northern Ireland State.
‘While Unionists and Loyalists may be celebrating another 100 years of British colonial occupation of Ireland the Irish will be monitoring the continued changes in demographics and voting patterns that will soon lead to a reunited Ireland.’ (News Line emphasis)
He adds: ‘For many, it is simply a matter of time and a matter of timing.’
Perfidious Albion is about to unite Ireland for the Irish people is the message!
In fact, crisis-ridden UK capitalism is facing bankruptcy and millions of unemployed, and is being cut to pieces by the worldwide economic crisis. Its ruling class is desperate to survive.
It will not be handing over voluntarily the north to the Irish republic! Revolution is required.
Fra Hughes continues about post 1916 Ireland: ‘As the embers of the civil war continued to smoulder two political parties eventually grew out of the ashes – Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. One pro-treaty and pro-partition and one anti-treaty and anti-partition. While they may have disagreed on many things and alternately shared power, they were to many observers two parties hewn from the one rock.’
This is the ‘duopoly’ at work.
He continued: ‘Through years of austerity and neo-liberal privatisations, while the people suffered the parties gorged themselves on the public purse. Then the Irish like many European voters began to look for change.
‘In Greece, they found Syriza, in Spain Podemos and a few brave souls here began to look for an Irish alternative.
‘In Ireland, Sinn Fein had been a small exclusively Nationalist Republican party whose main aim was the reunification of Ireland.
‘In the North, through the campaign of civil disobedience, civil rights and finally armed insurrection, Sinn Fein found itself at the negotiating table with Unionism and the British establishment as they embraced constitutional politics as their preferred vehicle for Irish unification. (News Line emphasis)
‘In the North, they joined a power-sharing assembly encompassing both the Irish and British identities and began to administer power through the government. In the South, they built a platform on the Republican base and then began to reach out to wider society.
‘Finally this year it appeared they had broken the Duopoly of Irish politics held for nearly a century by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
‘Perhaps it is most fitting in the centennial year of 2021 that we might yet see Sinn Fein in government in the Republic of Ireland. A fitting tribute to those who died to free Ireland from British colonial rule.
‘We must ask, what might be their legacy? There has not been a sudden resurgence of Nationalist-Republican ideology nor a popular uprising demanding reunification.
‘We are witnessing a shift politically from those who have failed to deliver to those who have not yet been given the opportunity, to fail to deliver?
‘This is what traditionally happens when voters become disillusioned with those in power.
‘They seek an alternative.
‘That alternative in the Republic of Ireland at this time is centre and centre-left politics, the ground upon which Sinn Fein now stands.’
Fra Hughes then goes on to ask ‘Is Sinn Fein a left-wing political party?
‘I would say no.
‘Are they being populist to get elected?
‘I would say yes.
‘Will they be elected to government?
‘The fracturing of the vote in Ireland in the February election of 2020 has led to a new coalition of the old parties of Fine Fail and Fine Gael supported by the Greens. It will undoubtedly fall. The duopoly will be broken. Many claim it has been broken.’
Again: The duopoly will be broken and give way to a Sinn Fein monopoly!
Fra Hughes adds: ‘The great hope for progressive socialist change by Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece was strangled by the International Monetary fund and The European Central Bank.
‘Will Ireland witness a socialist revolution with Sinn Fein being swept to power? I think not.
‘We will have national reunification. We will have ended possibly forever the stranglehold of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in power.
‘Will we notice any real difference?
‘I fear not.
‘As James Connolly Commandant of the Irish Citizens Army, a socialist and a soldier proclaimed:
‘If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you.
‘She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.
‘James Connolly was murdered by a British firing squad while strapped to a chair on 12 May 1916 in Kilmainham Jail, Dublin. He sustained a leg wound as Commander of the Irish Citizens Army defending his position at the General Post Office Dublin, during the 1916 Easter Rising. Did he die in vain?
‘If we have Irish reunification with a Sinn Fein government but a continuance of neo-liberal austerity, corporate finance and bank deregulation. Then yes he did.
‘We will have a new unified Ireland but I fear that a new shared island will continue with its old failures. Time will tell?’
In fact the capitalist world is going into its greatest economic and political crisis ever.
There are tens of millions of unemployed already in the UK, US and EU, and the US, UK and EU banks are getting ready austerity programmes that will make the 2008 crisis look like child’s play.
There is only one way forward.
Mass movements like Syriza collapsed because they refused to carry out a break with the EU bankers and bosses and mobilise to take the power.
What is required are revolutionary parties of the Fourth International to lead the struggle to smash the US-UK and EU ruling classes with socialist revolutions.
In the coming period as the crisis deepens and millions face super-austerity and mass poverty there will be many workers in the north and southern Ireland, throughout the UK and Europe and the US who will be ready to take the revolutionary road.
Workers in the north of Ireland will break with the UK and establish an Irish Socialist Republic.
In fact, faced with banking and industrial collapses millions of workers in the US and the EU will opt for socialist revolutions, for a Socialist United States of Europe and a socialist USA.
This is the only way forward. Now is the time to build sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International, in every country to lead the working class to take the power.