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This is from Borderline, April 1986


The letter below is from Jimmy Brown, ex-Chairman of the Irish Republican Socialist Party. Jimmy is one of the 27 comrades incarnated in Crumlin Rd. Jail on the evidence of supergrass Harry Kirkpatrick.





The political climate in the wake of the “unionist” by-elections precipitated by the Anglo-Irish Agreement again poses the case for a broad anti-imperialist front to rally progressive forces to oppose and defeat the growing alliances between the ruling classes of Britain and Ireland.



John Hume and the SDLP, like their allies in Dublin, London and elsewhere, are delighted with their “successes” gained during the Unionist initiated “referendum”. The election of Seamus Mallon, the de Valera of the SDLP, and the signs that Unionist politicians – under pressure from their paramilitary flank – are willing to consider some kind of “Tri-partite” agreement between Dublin, London and Belfast, have combined to encourage Hume to believe that Constitutional Nationalism can see off the cyclic wave of protest support for Sinn Fein by mitigating the worst excesses of British rule in Ireland. By regularly citing the previous electoral peak of Sinn Fein in May 1955 of 152,301 votes followed by a slump to 73,415 in October 1959 Hume hopes to validate his theory of “cyclic” protest and therefore seeks to have any concessions “delivered” through the SDLP in an attempt to isolate Sinn Fein. For this reason the SDLP now represent the best “bet” to the ruling classes in their attempt to stabilisise Ireland as an economic and political entity under capitalism.



The SDLP, now seeking an early electoral re-match with Sinn Fein, appear to believe they can out-flank S.F. in the arena of hierarchical representative politics. The traditional republican understanding that winning elections in this period does not – cannot – bring power but only a SELECTIVE patronage demands a re-articulation in any consideration of our electoral strategy in the coming period.

Premature though their euphoria might be, this self perceived scenario of constitutional nationalism is sufficiently close to their intentions to warrant the closest scrutiny from republican and anti-imperialist forces throughout the country. For us the class content and consequences of every action must be identified in struggle, propaganda and practice; the formation of an broad anti-imperialist front would maximize all resources to this end. The reason why this front fails to exist are to be found within each “left” grouping in Ireland.



When a time when the ruling elite in these islands are increasingly united in defense of their own class interests the Irish Left – including its radical Republican component – are barely on speaking terms, preferring instead to pursue subjective antagonism and allegedly pure but increasingly isolated lines of struggle. When one considers the number of political organizations – and instinctive mass of workers – who (might) share the ultimate of a 32 county democratic socialist republic, the divisions and divergences beg some serious questions: Is it the intension to put the “party” or the “people” in power; and if is the former what is to become of all other left forces? If however, the intention is to put the people in power then the party assumes the role and characteristics of a “vehicle” for revolutionary change in the country.



Despite almost 200 years of continuous Republican struggle the political, social, cultural and economic life of Ireland is still dominated by the unresolved National question. Yet in a period where this struggle has transcended two generations during the last 17 years the Irish Left has collectively failed to meet the consequences of its own shortcomings. It has failed to confront the lessons and conclusions evident in our struggle to date.



Where, for example, is the theory, practice and strategy visibly countering the SDLP’s scenario pained above? Where is the analysis or consequent strategy of the two states in Ireland as the “committees” – one of them overtly armed – of the ruling class serving their interests, that one might expect from classical Marxists? How have the various Trotskyist organizations translated their theory into practical agitations and propaganda nationally around the class and national issues? What has been the tangible and practical contribution of the IRSP to anti-imperialist unity since 1981? Where are the alternative, non-elitist structures and policies within Sinn Fein – in practice, nationally – that will revolutionise their struggle and fully integrate the mass of the working class with their core support?



Where is the will within the Trade Union movement to challenge and change, by means of rank and file organization, them manner in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are held as private property by a few? And how often are such questions seriously addressed by each of the organizations involved? The present situation is either satisfactory or is it not, either way the consequences must be met.



In considering such questions we can examine Frank Ryan’s comment during 1936; “The future lies in the working class. In my opinion, not in the Communism advocated today, but certainly in that direction. That explains, at once, why I share a platform with the C.P. and at the same time why I would not join the C.P. Eventually the gap between the C.P. policy on the one hand and Fianna Fail and IRA policies on the other hand will be filled my an new movement. We will just to slog along to that”. Some might consider Ryan’s proposed re-alignment as wholly sacrilegious yet it represents an historical plea to the left. How far any of the existing organizations in isolation, as revolutionary vehicles, go towards establishing Connolly’s concept of “the public ownership by the Irish people of the land and instruments of production, distribution and exchange”, as a living reality.



All around us International Capital and its local allies seek to re-assert and safeguard their interests in Ireland. It is no accident that their standard bearers in the six counties, the SDLP, attempt to appropriate the Republican tradition to their cause by referring to Tone and the United Irishmen . Significant, in this respect, is the following analysis of the United Irishmen by Bob Purdie (Ireland: Divided Nation/Divided Class) in which he asserts “The social content of their (U.I.) nationalism was circumscribed by the assumption that the abolition of aristocratic (Unionist) privilege and equal political rights for all would be sufficient to abolish oppression and reconcile all social classes”. Such a class position, whether held by Constitutional Nationalism or Republicanism is to the detriment of Irish people. Connolly’s maxim that, “The private ownership by a class of the land and instruments of production, distribution and exchange is opposed to the vital principle of justice and is the fundamental basis of all oppression; national, political and social”, is central to any meaningful understanding of liberation and must be embraced by all in the present period.



The re-alignment argued for here, is only currently possible under the aegis of a broad anti-imperialist front. Such a proposal, as we saw during the Dublin Broad Front conference in 1977, is often greeted with fear, cynicism or sectarianism This fear, born of a jack of confidence or political immaturity, is common amongst Republicans who worry that “their” struggle will be “hijacked” or diluted by “political opportunists”, while the cynicism is prevalent amongst those on the left who doubt the sincerity of the Republican commitment to class politics and who may have directly experienced the chauvinism and elitism of the Republican tradition. The resulting distrust and sectarianism meanwhile only serves to benefit our mutual enemy: the ruling class supported by (British) imperialism.



A Broad Front, far from seeking to “hijack” or divide struggles, seek to mobilize and organize the broadest possible mass of workers for National Liberation and Socialism. Such a VEHICLE is essential in advance of any future upheaval, which Lenin argued, “draws unprecedently large numbers of people into the movement… (those) people who stand midway between the capitalists and wage-workers”. Our own experience of the 1981 Hunger Strike and our limitations and failures in that period provide lessons which, while proving Lenin correct, could be best applied inside a Broad Front.



The struggle for the people “midway between” has been intensified by the Anglo-Irish Agreement, led at this point by the SDLP who feel increasingly confident about their short-term prospects because they are dictating the form of “nationalism” currently debated on ground effectively ceded to them by a fragmented anti-imperialist movement. It is now, in the light of current developments, morally and politically incumbent upon each constituent element of the Anti-Imperialist movement to redefine their individual strategies against the Collective needs of our class in struggle. To fail to do so is to abandon a compelling historical task and perpetuate our slavery by default.



Jimmy Brown

June 9, 2010 at 8:29 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Posts: 110

great posting again XStockholm. A very detailed analysis of the situation at that time. It will take me a while to digest it all...! Thanks again, keep them coming

June 10, 2010 at 4:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 17

when u do iplofallen could u help me as well , i used to get letters of him like that and never got to bottom of them.:)

June 23, 2010 at 3:55 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 59

yes...jimmy wasn't one to use laymans terms...or use a paragraph when a chapter would!..a great piece..

June 26, 2010 at 6:29 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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