The opening salvo of the assertion in the title is that this article is a series of ‘fundamental principles for democratic socialism’. The author, throughout the article interchanges the term ‘socialism’ with ‘democratic socialism’. The author does not go on to explain what democratic socialism is, but uses the principles below to explain the policies of Sinn Féin. The understanding one can draw is that what is understood to be socialism by members of Sinn Féin is encapsulated in this article.
What is democratic socialism and how does it distinguish itself from socialism?
The usage of the term is more important than what a claimant states it to be. Democratic socialism is the subscribed set of views espoused by individuals such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the Labour Party of Ireland, Syriza and effectively a significant portion of center left organisations that left leaning, center left, and so on. The substance of their policies, rather than their commitments is what we should examine, much like we examine the article. Their policies, arguments and strategies all focus on a parliamentary route to social, economic and political egalitarianism. One of the immediate contradictions for the term therefore emerges. Socialism is not built through the parliamentary route. The revolutions and revolutionaries that young Ógra members lionise did not struggle through the parliamentary route either, from Cuba to the Basque country, armed insurrection and the necessity to overthrow the capitalist institutions and instruments of the state was placed front and center of the political movements. What we see in the ‘fundamental principles’ is all about which way Sinn Féin has voted, what its policies are and what it has done, what its bills are and so on. This is in line with the language used by other social democratic entities around the world, emphasis on winning through the ballot box.
The subsection titled ‘economic equality’ is simply a very wordy critique of current on-going issues and the repeated use of the word capitalist. In reality, it does not suggest the ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, control of the means of production and exchange, it simply suggests that because Sinn Féin is of the working class, it will therefore represent them.
Commentary on social rights, human rights, universal rights all mirror the language used by other social democratic parties. These rights can only be ‘improved’ by the voting of Sinn Féin and only Sinn Féin has struggled for these rights. Of course how the Party has struggled for them has all been exclusively through the parliamentary and bourgeoisie structures which is where the argument of this paper leads you to conclude. Rights will be strenghtened, in a capitalist state, should we elect a Sinn Féin government. Let us take this argument to it’s most logical conclusion.
How will rights of the working class and the people be improved when coming into contradiction with the interests of the capitalist class, serviced by the civil service, by the European Union and by the United States? What will the Party determine to do, when confronted with the many obstacles of European legislation for example that it could not overcome without breaking with the European Union? We reason that the Party would simply backtrack on these questions, much like Syriza did, with whom Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party broke bread immediately, to capitalize on the populism of Syriza. Minor incremental changes in the Free State are possible, but significant overhauling of the service orientated economic structure, power relations within Irish society require the breaking of European competition laws and tendering procedures. None of this is mentioned in the Sinn Féin document.
Once more and akin to their counterparts who profess for ‘democratic socialism’ the section on environmentalism follows similar language. Taxes will be introduced and corporations will be held to account. In practice, Sinn Féin promotes Foreign Direct Investment as a means of securing further employment and encourages it in the North. This is once more an immediate and glaring contradiction and as per the trajectory taken by fellow social democratic parties, taxation might be introduced, but taxation is not socialism, merely a hallmark of a social democratic welfare state where private capital is regulated.
This is ultimately the issue with those who profess for democratic socialism. The central thesis is that capitalism can be made ‘nicer’, it can be ‘regulated’ and ‘managed’. Imperialism, as we see it manifested in Ireland via the European Union, the United States and the British State has a firm triple lock on Ireland. It is the highest stage of capitalism, manifesting itself in the monopolies of the financial institutions, either in the US Chamber of Commerce or the Troika in Europe. In other words, Ireland is at the very heart of exploitation by the most advanced sections of the ruling class of the Western Empires. In order therefore to build a Socialist Workers Republic, all of these questions have to be addressed.
You will observe that the subsections of: Peace, International Relations, Democracy and Freedom and the Principle for Self-Determination mention the US, but avoid mentioning the EU. The political repositioning of Sinn Féin and the absence of any serious political education on the role of the EU has led to a slow but steady transformation of the Party into one that is Europhilic and unwilling to take on the question of imperialism. How can Sinn Féin comment on peace international relations, democracy and self-determination when Ireland is under explicit domination by financial institutions related into the political structures of the European Union?
The question of Justice is a rather interesting one and does not receive the attention it deserves. Our constitution is regressive and written to enshrine the political interests of the ruling class. It is written with a view to place individual freedom and the individual above the interests of the collective while allowing for the individual the freedom to be hungry, unemployed and poor. In constitutional Law, it is taught to be mirrored on the constitution of the United States, a classic free market constitution. How can therefore be justice served, if the constitution is unfit for purpose?
All criticisms of the Labour Party are fine, there is no disagreement to be made, but the author notes that the language the Labour Party has adopted is not entirely different from the political and practical policies of Sinn Féin. This should tell you something in regard to ‘democratic socialism’ and what it means, or doesn’t mean.
Ultimately the conclusion leads us in the same direction, all orientated around ‘radical’ changes that can be enacted are done so by voting for Sinn Féin which lead us to the critical junctures.
1) We do not believe socialism can be achieved by simply a change of government.
2) An election of a progressive leader or government does not automatically lead to the change of social relations or social ownership of the means of production.
The way to change society and develop class power is by organising in mass organisations that are representative of the needs and issues of the working class. The programme, must be the central basis of any sort of change and we feel that the ‘fundamental principles of democratic socialism’ are totally unfit for the ushering in of socialism and urge comrades of a Socialist persuasion in Ógra Sinn Féin to refer to our programme: https://cym.ie/programme/
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