A view of the éirígí ard fheis

I attended the afternoon session of the éirígí ard fheis in Dublin on Saturday, November 26.  The morning had been an internal-only session and discussed organisational reports and the issue of what position the organisation should take on abortion, along with motions from party ciorcail (circles, as local branches are known).  The motions are available on the éirígí site.

In the afternoon, John McCusker gave a short presentation about the launching of a fund drive for the purchase of a national headquarters in Dublin.  Given that the organisation is very new and started with basically half a dozen people, it’s very impressive that it has reached the stage of needing a national headquarters.

The first of three external speakers was Aodh O Corcain from the Belfast workers’ co-op Na Croisbhealaí.  Aodh spoke about the uses of workers’ co-ops in the struggle for socialism – not as a replacement to workers organising in existing workplaces and struggling for power, but as an aid to that process.  Na Croisbhealaí consists of a cafe and political space which is made readily available to progressive political groups in Belfast.  Later, when I was in Belfast, I visited the co-op and talked with Aodh for some time.  Since I hope to interview him for this blog some time soon, I won’t go into details about the conversation but I was impressed with what the co-op is trying to achieve and that the group of young activists who set it up see themselves as communists and take it very seriously as a useful political project.

Another external speaker was Irish language activist Tomás Ó Conghaile who spoke about the importance of the language to the overall struggle for human emancipation in Ireland.

The party’s membership officer, Daithí Mac An Mháistir, spoke on the subject of the launch of Clann éirígí, a supporters group for the party.  Hopefully, this will also provide, within Ireland, a further way into the party for current and future activists.  I see that one of the initial members of Clann éirígí is Sean Doyle, a comrade of Seamus Costello and a founding member (and member of the original leadership) of the IRSP.

I had the privilege of being asked to speak to the ard fheis about my political background and involvement in Sinn Fein and give a view of things today and, if I felt so inclined, to indicate support for the organisation.  I was very happy to do this.

When I left Ireland in 1994, it was largely because the struggle seemed to be being brought to an end by the leadership of the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein and, usually when this happens, it would be a generation before the struggle emerged again.  So for an explicitly socialist-republican current to emerge a mere seven or eight years after the Good Friday Agreement and the political collapse of the Provisionals (in the sense of their abandonment of everything they purported to stand for) is incredibly encouraging.

I have followed the development of éirígí since its emergence and have been much impressed.  The ard fheis reinforced this.  That the party has attracted not only militant young people but also a layer of republican veterans from the last phase of the struggle stands them in good stead too.

Afterwards in a local pub, I got to also talk to some of the Dublin members.  What struck me was what a working class organisation this was and to hear young working class Dubs full of enthusiasm for Connolly and socialism was heart-warming.  This is not a nationalist organisation, like so much of the Provisional movement was at its core; this is a hard socialist-republican current, which is a very different thing altogether.  Indeed, the ordinary members I spoke to – and, admittedly, it was only a very small number – seemed to generally see themselves as revolutionary socialists who are republicans, in the Irish sense of that word, because they are revolutionary socialists.   I’d urge any Irish readers of this blog to check out the party; I’d also urge people from anywhere who are interested in solidarity with the cause of Irish national liberation to read their blog and think of ways of giving them support.

Below is the address to the ard fheis by éirígí party chairperson Brian Leeson.  There’s also an interview with him from a couple of years ago, here.

Posted on December 15, 2011, in éirígí, James Connolly, Political education and theory, Public events - Ireland. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Philip,

    As someone from outside éirígí but clearly broadly supportive – do you perceive them as trying to create a broad front of socialist republicanism and revolutionary struggle or are they in danger of using broader struggles as a recruiting tool to narrow party ends?

    We know the dangers of the revolutionary left throughout the world seeing progressive struggles as a vehicle to be manipulated rather than a broader currents to be encouraged.

    éirígí have often been accused of elitism with republicanism and more open to cooperation with anarchists, environmentalists and the broader radical left than they are open to cooperation with traditional republicanism – admitedly this accusation seems less valid as some local strands become increasingly involved in supporting the prison struggle.

    I would dearly love to see éirígí succeed in building a revolutionary struggle that rejects all the nationalistic, catholic elements that served the provisionals so poorly in the end but also fear them repeating the failures of the sectarian left in subverting progressive, community initiiatives to party ends.

    Interested to hear you views on this.

    (For clarity: I managed about 9 months in éirígí before I found their revolutionary code and the start of a disciplinary process for not being complaint so difficult that I decided to leave before an inevitable push – though, I can’t think of anyone in the party I don’t respect)

  2. Hi Mark,

    thanks for your comments. I think there’s always a bit of a fine line between revolutionary organisations being part of wider struggles and the dangers of manipulation. But, on the other hand, I am against revolutionary groups doing a load of the legwork in various political campaigns while not being able to put forward their own views. I have a lot of experience in NZ of the latter problem being more prevalent – here, a lot of liberal left types seem to expect to control the politics while expecting revolutionaries to do the hard grind. So I am in favour of revolutionaries putting forward their views within wider campaigns, so long as they don’t attempt tp manipulate such campaigns by methods such as stacking meetings, rigid discipl;ine and caucusing of members. Groups that operate like that tend to only capture themselves anyway.

    I can’t say I have seen any evidence of éirígí operating in that kind of way. I have heard other people say that éirígí sometimes operates in politically sectarian ways by calling actions of its own when they could co-operate with other groups. However, I don’t see anything wrong with a revolutionary group calling actions of its own – providing these aren’t simply a substitute for joint work with others. For instance, I was disappointed that éirígí and the IRSP didn’t co-operate in some way in the local elections in the six-counties. It seemed a bit daft to me to have a candidate from each in the same ward in Belfast. (On the other hand, it wasn’t an FPP election, so people could actually give transfers between the two.) However, I thought it should have been possible to come to some agreement where socialist-republicans supported each other’s candidates. Hopefully this will happen in future. One encouragig sign was co-operate between the two organisations at the Independent Hunger Strike Commemoration in Belfast ealrier this year and that they shared a platform at the Independent Seamus Costello Commemoration in Newtownmountkennedy a few months ago.

    I would hope that all republicans could co-operate around issues like the Marian Price case and political repression. However, while I have a great deal of admiration for people like Ruairi O Bradaigh and Marian Price and others associated with RSF and 32CSM, I do tend to think both those groups are dead-ends in terms of the kind of struggle that needs to be waged in the twenty-first century. So I see it as very positive that éirígí is, and very much identifies as, a socialist-republican current. I think that’s where the future is, not with ‘traditional republicanism’ if by that we mean abstentionism and armed struggle regardless of concrete conditions.


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