The author is a QUB Political Science honours graduate, a political analyst and has written on a variety of related issues
Irish Republican Socialism as a distinct movement embodied by the Irish Republican Socialist Party has been, since its inception in 1974, the most progressive force in Republican politics. Until the splintering of traditional Republicanism following the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and PIRA ceasefires, it was the single principled voice of Republican Socialism in Ireland.
Unlike every single one of the present-day myriad of anti-GFA Irish Republican groups, parties and 'societies' who are all derivatives of the Provisional movement, the IRSP 'tendency' first emerged as the most revolutionary section within the Official Irish Republican Army/Sinn Féin.
The IRSP's key Marxist ideologues, such as Costello, Bunting and Power stood head and shoulders above the one-dimensional, traditionalist Republican leaders of the nascent Provisionals like O'Bradaigh, MacStiofain and McKee. Likewise, the IRSP were an uncomfortable reminder to the reformists and ring-road socialists of the Official Republican Movement. The IRSP's primary premise has always been that the class struggle and the national struggle are inseparable, in keeping with Connolly's "the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour" (Workers Republic, 8 April 1916).
In present-day Ireland, with the Pythonesque fracturing of the Provisionals grassroots into a plethora of personality-led 'super-Provo' entities, which seem to multiply in number almost yearly, it is not surprising that political opportunists have sought to adopt the mantle of Republican Socialism. Thankfully, their concept of Republican Socialism is more often than not a backwards glance towards a vague notion that 'Socialism is a pretty good idea' but as with all one-dimensional Republicans, there is always the proviso that 'labour must wait'.
Nevertheless, the reality is that the political waters of Irish Republicanism are heavily populated with groups offering 'radical' politics masquerading as a generic 'Republican Socialism'. The IRSP has survived intact, retained its distinct identity, prospered and not become a bit-part player in the post-ceasefire alphabet soup of so-called 'dissidents,' it's Republican and Socialist politics, in equal measure, has been its ultimate salvation.
At no time in the past has Republican Socialism sought or felt the need to 'out-Provo' the Provisionals and likewise, it would be folly to ever attempt to 'out-super-Provo' the 'super-Provos.' That's not to say that there are not many issues that the IRSP can ideologically share a platform with fellow Republicans on and it would be equal folly to imitate an 'ourselves alone' attitude, which conversely, is still a key tenet and hangover of many anti-GFA parties/groups. Sadly, in practice, history has proven that many of these traditionalist groups retain their previous movement's 'undermine and absorb' attitude towards the IRSP.
In the present political climate, where the conditions for widespread popular armed struggle are not yet a viable option, Irish revolutionaries will gravitate towards Republican Socialism's politics where the economic liberation of the working-class has equal emphasis to national liberation. One dimensional Republicanism and Irish Nationalism will often gravitate, often briefly, towards the super-Provo group that makes the biggest bang; have the 'greenest' flag and shout the loudest about post-86 or post-97 'Shinner heresy'.
National Liberation and Class Struggle Are Symbiotic
The revolutionary socialism of Marx, Connolly, Costello, Bunting and Power defined the 'Irps' in the past and it is surely their ideological anchor for the future. In simple terms, many groups now carry the Starry Plough flag, invariably as just another 'Republican' symbol amongst many, but the Irish Republican Socialist Party are the only party to give the 'plough', the revolutionary flag of the Irish proletariat, it's prominent and proper place, side-by-side with the Red flag, the symbol of international Socialism.
"If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would 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
Unlike some Republican organizations, the IRSP has not travelled down the road to Eurocentrism. Likewise, they have rejected reformism, denied any support for the armed agents of British imperialism in occupied Ireland and any trajectory towards neoliberalism. As a working-class party, they have opposed the privateer landlordism class that has preyed on the proletariat in some of Ireland's most deprived areas. The party has provided material assistance to refugees who have settled here and strongly opposed the astroturfed fascist groups that lately have been raising their ugly, racist heads. The IRSP can clearly be seen to have upheld the politics of James Connolly, the founder of Irish Republican Socialism, where, in accordance with the quote above, the class struggle and national liberation are inseparable for those who truly want an egalitarian, independent Ireland.
H Block Martyrs
© 2019 Liam A Ryan