The presence at our Conference of a leading member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) was an event of historic significance. Although this was not the first time a Republican Socialist had attended an international gathering of the tendency, this was the first time the IRSP decided to send an observer in an official capacity.
We attach enormous importance to the contacts between the international Marxist tendency and the Left Wing of Irish Republicanism, with whom we share many common views. This was not at all a casual meeting, but the result of years of patient work, discussions and interchange of material, culminating in the publication last year of the document The Revolutionary Dialectic of Irish Republicanism by Alan Woods, which is soon to appear in book form.
The tremendous enthusiasm of the assembled delegates for this link with our Irish brothers and sisters was shown by the warm applause that greeted Comrade Gerry even before he spoke:
“Thank you comrades, my name is Gerry Ruddy, General Secretary of the Irish Republican Socialist Party. I am a citizen of Ireland, not Northern Ireland. [applause] Our movement is anti-imperialist, socialist, and opposed to British imperialism in Ireland – and some of us are Marxists.
We have fought this struggle against British imperialism over the past thirty years. During the course of that struggle, which involved mass struggle, armed struggle, and mobilisations in the streets, our comrades have been gassed, burned, arrested, tortured and murdered.
The signing of the Good Friday Agreement was a defeat for Irish republicanism and for anti-imperialism. The so-called peace process is not a peace process, but a pacification process. The blame for that pacification – for that defeat – rests squarely on the shoulders of us Republicans who failed to take a class orientation.
The North of Ireland now is like a political laboratory where tests on how to suppress and defeat struggles are tested, as in South Africa. We have had every conflict resolution expert coming to test us… to probe us… to touch us… to feel us to see “how to get these people to stop”. And they have used the model of South Africa whereby former communists who led an armed struggle are now part of the millionaire elite lording it over the African masses.
That the strategy has worked is clear when former armed combatants in the North of Ireland think that because they shake the hands of the president of the United States, the butcher George Bush, that somehow that is a victory. It is an appalling act of Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, to touch the hand of that bastard, Bush.
There are many things that I would like to say but because time is short I will try to confine myself very briefly to this point: There are lessons to be drawn from both our experiences in the North of Ireland and in South Africa.
When I look at the situation in Iraq I see that there are dangers for the Left of not learning the lessons of the North of Ireland or of South Africa. The lesson that we have learned from our own experience is this: Where there is an anti-imperialist struggle it is the bounden duty of Marxists and revolutionaries to give that struggle its support by giving credible analysis as well.
As an internationalist and as a revolutionary movement, our movement sees itself as part of an international struggle and where comrades are involved in a life or death struggle it is our bounden duty to assist in whatever way we can, while at the same time retaining our critical faculty.
Too often in the past not only did we receive conflict resolution researchers but also academic Marxists who came to tell us how to wage our struggle. The reality of revolution is that you deal with human material and none of us are perfect and get it right all the time. So we made mistakes and no doubt we will make future mistakes but because we have a clear class position in Ireland which is this: the liberation of Ireland is a duty and a responsibility which can only be carried out by the Irish working class who, as comrade James Connolly said, are the incorruptible inheritors of the fight for Irish freedom.
Because our comrades were involved in the struggle for national liberation do not confuse that with thinking that we are nationalists. Our republicanism was and is internationalist. And our Socialism is Internationalist as well and I am honoured to be invited to an international conference like this.
I think that by the opening out of Marxist tendencies throughout the world to connect with groups like ourselves who have been involved in the armed struggle against British Imperialism, right around the world, to open up to the forces that are there, to the anti-imperialist forces, we can turn them from anti-imperialist fighters into class fighters. There can be no freedom without the freedom of the working class. Thank you. (applause)