New Peadar O’Donnell Society: a few comments

Nora

How about some recognition for Nora Connolly who was actually right in the dispute in Republican Congress?

Below is a statement announcing the establishment of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum; underneath it are some initial comments of mine; there is an article on the blog, here, about the first meeting referred to in the opening paragraph of the statement

Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum

This month a group of socialist and republican activists from a variety of backgrounds throughout Ireland came together in Dublin to establish the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum. The concept of the forum arose from a series of seminars that in turn had their origin in a symposium on “Republicanism in the Twenty-First Century” hosted by the Communist Party in September last year.

The aim of the forum is to promote the ideas of socialist republicanism, as best expressed by James Connolly, Liam Mellows, and Peadar O’Donnell. The forum is named after Peadar O’Donnell in recognition of his outstanding role as a union organiser, republican soldier, author, enemy of fascism, friend of the worker and small farmer, committed socialist, and lifelong activist for peace and against imperialism.

At a time when our people are being ground down daily by the brutalities of the bankrupt capitalist system and the inability of the two failed states in Ireland to provide any solution to their problems, the Peadar O’Donnell Forum believes that the time has come for a decisive break with the present system—or, as Connolly so memorably put it, to set about the reconquest of Ireland.

All Ireland is under the domination of global capitalism and imperialism, which exercises its control through the machinery of the European Union and IMF, the direct intervention of the British state, and overt and covert US influence. This control is exercised at every level and in every area of life—economically, socially, politically, ideologically, culturally, and environmentally—and is welcomed, endorsed and facilitated by the domestic capitalist class, north and south, who have long ago given up any thought of creating a society that would “cherish all the children of the nation equally.”

Our children emigrate in their tens of thousands, while their parents labour ever-longer hours for lower wages—not to maintain jobs, health, education and essential social services for the people but to sacrifice those to further bolster the obscene wealth and protect the super-profits of global finance capital, the source and cause of the crisis.

The Peadar O’Donnell Forum believes that ways and means must be found to challenge this reality, to devise and develop campaigns and policies that take account of all these factors and that mobilise the people to take control of their own destiny and bypass corrupt politicians and the failed systems that they represent and to set about building a 32-county socialist republic.

Towards this end, the forum has set itself the initial task of organising a number of seminars around the country, which can provide an opportunity for those who subscribe to the principles of the forum to come together and discuss the application of socialist republican ideas to the problems that confront us. It is also intended to publish the papers from the original seminars.

Support for these ventures is sought from all those who subscribe to the principles underpinning the forum and those that reflect the debates and discussion that have taken place:

• active opposition to the rule of imperialism in Ireland, whether exercised through the diktats of the European Union and IMF over Dáil Éireann and through the British state and its client assembly in Belfast;

• support for the maintenance and protection of Irish neutrality, and solidarity with all those struggling against imperialism for peace, independence, and social progress;

• recognition of the essentially anti capitalist nature of our struggle: capitalism cannot and will not solve our problems;

• understanding that change can be brought about only by people themselves, in the first place by actively defending their immediate interests but more importantly by confronting and defeating this system and the forces and structures that defend it;

• accepting that, in the conditions existing in Ireland today, there is no place for militarism or the use of armed force and that the continued recourse to violence is harmful to the development and furthering of mass politics, playing into the hands of those who are opposed to Irish independence and unity;

• believing that our vision of a united socialist Ireland can be brought about only by the unity in action of the people, north and south, Catholic, Protestant, and Dissenter; this necessitates active opposition to all forms of sectarianism and racism and the promotion of equality at all levels of society;

• recognition of the centrally important role of the trade union movement, uniting as it does within its ranks half a million workers of all religions and none, north and south, in public and in private sector employment; it must be won for active resistance to the current austerity and a return to the radical policies of Connolly and Larkin.

Finally, we strongly affirm our belief that the unity we seek is fundamentally a unity of the people and not merely the territorial integrity of the island.

 

My comments

I admire O’Donnell, but I think his role in Republican Congress is, shall we say, problematic.  In brief, I think he was wrong and Nora Connolly was right.  Her view was that RC needed to convert into a socialist-republican party.  But you don’t find her ever getting any recognition.  What’s up with that?  Quite strange, especially considering who her da was.

O’Donnell was aligned with the CP, which was intensely Stalinist at the time, and had no desire at all to see a rival on the left.  O’Donnell’s position was a stagist one, which is why the CP supported it.  First the bourgeois-democratic stage, so we’ll just be a “united front”, then the socialist stage, led by the supposedly real socialists, the CP.  Just what a disastrous perspective this is can be seen, most recently, in the case of the South Africa.

Indeed, in every single case of such a ‘two-stage’ theory being implemented, the exploited and oppressed masses end up with capitalism; in the case of South Africa, with the full support of the Communist Party there, which not only plays a reactionary role in the ANC and unions but is actually a central component of the implementation of vicious anti-working class policies followed by the ANC in power since 1994.  (See here for its relevance to Ireland and here for an outline of what happened in South Africa.)

The O’Donnell/Gilmore/CP position was to keep Republican Congress as a “united front” with an orientation towards Fianna Fail.  I think that was a disastrous perspective.

However, if Congress had’ve become a socialist-republican party, as Nora Connolly argued, there was some serious potential.

To my mind, O’Donnell has always received plenty of recognition for the good stuff he did.  But Nora Connolly is like a missing person.  She’s never received much credit for her role, and not much recognition that her position in Republican Congress was better – and far more relevant today – than O’Donnell’s.

The introductory statement of this new initiative says that “Support for these ventures is sought from all those who subscribe to the principles underpinning the forum and those that reflect the debates and discussion that have taken place” and that one of these principles is “accepting that, in the conditions existing in Ireland today, there is no place for militarism or the use of armed force and that the continued recourse to violence is harmful to the development and furthering of mass politics, playing into the hands of those who are opposed to Irish independence and unity”.  Well, the problem with that is that it automatically excludes members of organisations that support armed actions, for instance the Republican Network for Unity and the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, both of which are – and explicitly identify as – socialist-republican currents.

Yet whether these principles would exclude the Shinners in unclear.  A Sinn Fein speaker was, after all, on the platform at that first public meeting.  While the first principle – “active opposition to the rule of imperialism in Ireland, whether exercised through the diktats of the European Union and IMF over Dáil Éireann and through the British state and its client assembly in Belfast” – looks as if it would automatically exclude Shinners, the Shinners would claim that they are not following British diktats in helping run Stormont.  So who would decide whether they were and should therefore be welcome (or not) in the PODF?

Another issue that arises is in relation to the trade unions and the working class.  The second-to-last principle says, “recognition of the centrally important role of the trade union movement, uniting as it does within its ranks half a million workers of all religions and none, north and south, in public and in private sector employment; it must be won for active resistance to the current austerity and a return to the radical policies of Connolly and Larkin.”

Presumably, the term “the trade union movement” refers to the actually existing trade union movement, primarily the unions grouped in the ICTU.  The principle does talk about returning these unions to “the radical policies of Connolly and Larkin”.  But, perhaps, it should be recalled that when Larkin returned to Ireland he split the Transport Union and set up a new union, the Workers Union.  What about today?  Are the ICTU unions reformable or is a whole new workers’ movement necessary?  I think the question is rather open as to whether any of these unions are salvageable or whether a whole new union movement needs to be built – something that would look more like the Independent Workers Union, for which Tommy McKearney is an organiser, than the ICTU.  (And, of course, the IWU is not affiliated to ICTU.)  This, too, raises the question of the CPI.  While the CPI contains some working class militants, it has also long been linked with union officials who talk left but, in practice, act as obstacles to militant resistance by workers.  Fetishising the actually existing trade union movement, rather like they fetishised “actually existing socialism”, has, to put it kindly, not been helpful to the cause of the working class.

In any case, at least one “principle” would seem to exclude at least two socialist-republican currents, the 32CSM and the RNU, which are well to the left of both the Sinners and much of the CPI as it “actually existed” for decades.

Perhaps there should be a Nora Connolly Socialist Republican Forum which tries to bring together the socialist-republican currents and independents who are supportive of one or more of these – éirígí, the IRSP, the RNU and the 32CSM – and whose aim is to explore co-operation and solidarity among socialist-republicans, including currently non-aligned ones like Bernadette McAliskey, with the eventual aim of picking up where Republican Congress left off and forming a single socialist-republican party.  A party large and experienced enough to go on the political offensive for national liberation and socialism.

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Posted on March 14, 2013, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, Democratic rights - general, Economy and workers' resistance, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Independent Workers Union, Irish politics today, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Nora Connolly, Partition, Political education and theory, Provos - then and now, Public events - Ireland, Repression and resistance in the six counties today, Republican Network for Unity, Revolutionary figures, Trade unions, Women in republican history. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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