The far-right has taken the initiative in trying to claim our republican history for their own, but the history couldn’t be further from the truth. To look at the reality, there is no better example than to look at Seán Mac Stíofáin, the English-born Irishman who fought not only for the liberation of Ireland, but of all peoples.
The far-right claim to Mac Stíofáin lies on the basis that he was an “anti-communist” and Catholic. This is a statement which, with further investigation of his position, does not hold up. Mac Stíofain himself had said:
“Certainly as revolutionaries we were automatically anti-capitalist. But we refused to have anything to do with any communist organisation in Ireland, on the basis of their ineffectiveness, their reactionary foot-dragging on the national question, and their opposition to armed struggle”.
As we can see his opposition to communist organisations was not one based on the dislike of communism but due to the very reformist attitude to the national question of the so-called communist organisations at the time.
Upon further examination we can see that Mac Stíofáin was a very progressive figure overall and was representative of the provisional movement at the time. During his time in England he was involved in trade union work.
His internationalist and progressive stance can also be seen in an interview with the Hands Off Ireland! Magazine in which he says:
“We were in sympathy with the Algerian struggle, with the revolutionary struggle in Cuba. We were in complete solidarity with the anti-colonial struggles in Angola and Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Aden. Anywhere in the world. One revolutionary, if he is a genuine revolutionary, must support the struggle in any part of the world. And if the opportunity arises, give them any assistance, advice, moral support that he or she is capable of giving”.
This is a position that the far-right cannot stand by as they have shown their support for vile oppressive regimes such as Israel as well as having a vitriolic hatred towards those which are not white.
As well as being a progressive figure he was known as principled, committed and uncompromising in his republican position. As the late Ruarí Ó Brádaigh described him in his obituary for Mac Stíofáin, he was “a giant of a man in the Republican Movement”.
Not only has the far-right aimed to claim him as a figure, the Free State establishment and British media aimed to besmirch his name in recent years by claiming he was an informer. This claim has been rubbished by Limerick-born veteran republican Des Long.
Their aim is only to undermine revolutionary republicanism and propose a bourgeois electoral path as the only way towards a United Ireland, something the Brits will never allow to happen. It is important to also note that Mac Stíofáin was arrested under a Fianna Fáil administration led by Jack Lynch. A party which proposes such a path today.
As such on the 92nd anniversary of his birth, let’s remember the important lessons. The far-right and Free State establishment can come out with whatever they want but the fact remains: Seán Mac Stíofáin, and the movement he led, was out for a socialist republic. His commitment to the republican cause, and his consistent anti-imperialist internationalism remains an inspiration to all true republicans.