Much has happened since the last edition of The Plough: a young Catholic beaten to death in Ballymena, a unionist leader who finally admits that political unionism nurtured loyalist paramilitaries, DUP politicians who gloss over or deny sectarianism, the raging debate over the Richard O'Rawe allegations about the 1981 hunger strike, workers sacked for holding a union meeting, and of course the farcical goings on in Stormont. Meanwhile in the South of Ireland the ongoing rush towards privatisation continues under the banner of outsourcing and the last remaining vestiges of Irish neutrality are whittled away by defence minister Willie O'Dea. On the international stage the ongoing occupation of Iraq has intensified sectarian divisions and is increasingly unpopular in both the USA and Britain. The attempt by the USA to make political capital out of the tragic suicides of three prisoners of war in Guantanamo shows the utter callowness of the USA administration.
The forces of the revolutionary left in Ireland are weak and small. There is not much that we can do about the so-called big issues other than encourage people to turn out on demos and pickets. But as the recent public meeting in Dublin on republicanism showed there is a desire for a realignment of revolutionary forces out there.
The IRSP has always worked towards a broad front with other forces. But a major difference we have with the pan-nationalist front that Sinn Fein, the Irish government, and the SDLP built is that we advocate in any alliance, the leading role of the working class. That is central to our approach, our policies, and our philosophy.
The failure of the armed struggle waged to achieve a united Ireland has to be looked at objectively, analysed, and lessons learned from that struggle. The failure to put the needs of the working class to the front of that struggle is we believe the fundamental reason that the struggle failed. Why should the vast majority of working people put their faith, trust, and belief in republicans if those same republicans only deliver slightly sexier policies than the previous generation of politicians?
Be assured that what Sinn Fein is now advocating is in essence no different from what both unionists and nationalists advocated in the past. The end result of their policies has been to carve up the North of Ireland into various sectarian homelands where unscrupulous property developers, smarmy business people, and profiteers make hay while the sun shines. The Northern Ireland Office (NIO), the arm of the British ruling class in Ireland, assidulously prepares the ground for the further erosion of public assets and their sale to private interests. In the meantime many of the former foot soldiers who fought the war are discarded onto the scrap heap and kill the pain of defeat by dependency on one drug or another.
But simply because the armed struggle did not achieve its objectives does not mean that one simply gives up and retires to private life as many former ex-combatants have done. Rather we must turn to the working class to form the bedrock of the struggle. The forging of an alliance between republicanism and the labour movement would create a mighty weapon for struggle. We urge all republicans to turn towards the working class movements, get active in the unions, and raise issues that while relevant to the immediate interests of working also form a bridge towards more radical and revolutionary demands.
(Original published at: http://www.morrigan.net/irsm/plough126.htm)