An Argument for Socialist-Republicanism

LB, Baile Átha Cliath

In Ireland, one cannot have socialism without republicanism. The socialist-republican cause is both the cause of labour and the cause of country. The liberation of the working people of this Island can only be achieved through anti-imperialism and active class struggle. But first we must analyse what is to be done, understand the flaws in non-republican socialism and pseudo-republicanism. I will then set out the principles of socialist republicanism.

Why can’t you have socialism without republicanism?

On the island of Ireland there exists two states; the southern “Republic” and the northern statelet. The northern six county statelet is one, that has its origins in settler colonialism, with its beginnings in the 17th century during the Ulster plantations. I say this is settler colonialism because it was an active attempt to displace Irish people from their native land. To create a new loyal area in order to exert influence over the whole of the Island. The rest of Ireland was conquered shortly after the successful settlements. From the beginning of colonial rule being established in Ireland, there has always been continued resistance. The War of Independence from 1919-21 was the one that brought the empire to its knees. After an exhausting but somewhat successful guerrilla war, negotiations followed. The Anglo-Irish Treaty that was signed and agreed upon in December of 1921, ultimately would betray the Irish people as a whole. Splitting the Island into two states to continue and solidify Britain’s imperial interests in Ireland, using their loyal settler class. The twenty-six counties became the Irish Free State, a dominion within the empire that was ran by a comprador class, whilst the north remained part of the United Kingdom.

The Proclamation of 1916 envisioned an Irish Republic owned from the plough to the stars by the people of Ireland, in which all citizens could prosper.

Although the Free State has since renamed itself to the Republic of Ireland and officially broke ties with Britain, it is still only nominally independent. The reliance on foreign direct investment (FDI) has caused an economy completely controlled by foreign capital. The southern state is simply a continuation of the original Free State created from the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1921. It is not the republic proclaimed in 1916 by Patrick Pearse. The republic of 1916 advocated for a free, united, and egalitarian Ireland owned by the people of Ireland. An Irish Republic must be for its people, not for foreign capitalists, not for a minority ruling class and not for a tyrannical church. An Irish Republic must be secular, united and socialist. A republic for all regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity and sexuality. The Irish republic needs both economic and political independence. The Proclamation of 1916 stated; “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies”, and “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberties, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”. This goal is unachievable without a thirty-two county socialist republic. The triple lock of imperialism continues to hold this Island in the hands of imperialist powers. One cannot have socialism without the defeat of imperialism. Finance capital interests will always reign supreme over the working people of this country if it continues to be imperialised. Class politics cannot properly develop as long as the primary contradiction being between imperialism and self-determination. The northern state must cease to exist. “Northern Ireland” is a state founded on sectarianism. This is fundamental to the state, it is what justifies its existence. The northern state is used by Britain to exert direct influence on the island of Ireland. Saying that we can have a socialist Free State, whilst the north remains occupied, is just as stupid as saying we can have socialism within the EU. As James Connolly said, “We cannot conceive of a free Ireland with a subject working class, we cannot conceive of a subject Ireland with a free working class”. The class struggles and the national struggles exist intertwined. The national struggle cannot be properly resolved without the class struggle, they must be attained together. Without the national struggle you allow Britain to exert its toxic influence upon the Island. Without class struggle you gain a 32 county Free State, a traitor of Éire and her children.


The proponents of this socialism without republicanism usually call for unity of the Protestant and Catholic working class in the six counties. Yet they fail to realise this is the exact point of socialist-republicanism. The resolution of the primary contradiction i.e. imperialist control of Ireland. To allow for the development of class politics. A socialist republican maintains that republicanism is beneficial for both Protestants and Catholics. . By contrast, the Socialist Party places little emphasis on national liberation, believing that the national struggle will alienate Protestant workers. This is a flawed view as it upholds recognition of the occupied six counties as a legitimate state. This state is one that is upheld by sectarianism, true working class unity can only come about once the sectarian statelet is abolished. Sure, when we must seek the support of Protestants, but mustn’t compromise our anti-imperialism or be dishonest. We mustn’t hide our politics. Instead we approach with principle. “We must try politicize them, simultaneously with conducting a political campaign to get rid of Britain”. Socialist-republicanism is for the unity of the working class, but it will not support a state founded on sectarianism for the benefit of Britain.

The rejection of the republicanism within the politics of the Socialist Party, shows the pure opportunism of this organisations. “The Socialist Party does not support the calling of a border poll because whatever the outcome, such a poll will result in a qualitative increase in sectarianism”. This an excerpt from a Socialist Party article released in 2017.  The struggle against imperialism is part in parcel with the struggle for socialism. This shows the complete flawed understanding of these socialists who reject republicanism. The southern state while capitalist does not rely on sectarian to justify and enforce its policies. The northern state does, but this sectarianism benefits neither Protestants nor Catholics. In fact, sectarianism has does nothing but continually worsen the living standards of all within the state through continued informal segregation. As a statelet the six counties has only seen success in upholding British imperialism. Another historic failure to properly address the national question was seen with Official Sinn Féin. According to the Ta Power Document, the downfall of the Officials was their failure to properly address the national question in an appropriate manner. “On the national question! That it couldn’t be resolved until the Protestant and the Catholic working class “united”.. This position ruled out the national liberation struggle, it ignored the fundamentally sectarian nature of the six county state and how the Brits through this maintained their rule and influence over the entire country”. This failure meant the party lost its revolutionary character. Class politics must coincide with national liberation. A failure to do so leads to the loss of revolutionary character. A status quo that does not change the system and instead misdirects revolutionary energy to the benefit of capitalism.

Pseudo republicanism is a perfect example of an extremely flawed ideology. I say “pseudo” because it does not seek a revolutionary republic as professed in 1916, no it advocates for a thirty-two county Free State. The politics of this can be seen in the self-proclaimed ‘Republican Party’ of Fianna Fáil and in the six counties it manifests as the Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP). The failure to examine systematic inequalities inherent in capitalism will mean Ireland can never be free. James Connolly in Socialism and Nationalism brilliantly highlights this. “If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the socialist republic your efforts would be in vain”. His prediction was incredibly accurate to the society the southern state has developed into. Class and relations to production are important to any analysis of Irish society. Failures to do so has led to the southern Republic, the continuation of the original free state. A country that is a puppet of imperialism through its  reliance on FDI, membership in the neo-liberal EU and support of British imperial interests. The reproduction of oppression, the southern ruling class giving consent for neo-colonialism to be brought upon this Island. A recent example of this, is Fianna Fáil voting in favour to give cuckoo funds a tax break. These funds have nearly bought up entire estates, this is denying Irish people affordable housing. So how can they say they are a party for the Republic whilst actively fighting against any radical change, and ignoring the original vision of what the Irish Republic should be?

Even if imperialism is defeated as long as the comprador class exists so, concessions will be made to imperialism. A society dominated by an elite rich owning class, is one where liberation is impossible for the majority. To abandon the original calls for equality and equity seen within the proclamation of the Irish Republic, is the abandonment of the Irish working class, the Irish majority. A class analysis is required for the national question. An Irish landlord is still a landlord. An Irish capitalist is much more likely to side with the foreign capitalists than the Irish workers, class collaboration is impossible. It will only lead to the continued oppression of Ireland and her people. Break the chains of class and smash the forces of imperialism, this is the only path to liberation.

Socialist-republicanism is the unity of the two struggles. It encapsulates the perfect formula for the resolution of both the question of class and nation. The reunification of the Island must come first. This will defeat the choke hold Britain has around Ireland, allowing the development of class war over the entire Island and eventual socialist revolution. Socialist-republicanism says to us; through a united anti-imperialist front that will defeat British occupation and the development of a strong working-class support base, we can further the desire for a united Ireland and continue the revolutionary spirit towards the aspiration for a proletarian Ireland. Imperialism must not be seen as only direct occupation but rather a form of economic and social domination and that this will not be defeated by the simple opposition to direct occupation. Ireland will still be controlled through landlords and capitalists. Capital will continue to be extracted against the benefit of the Irish people. Once the ruling class is defeated so is imperialism. As Connolly said; “Nationalism without socialism – without a reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin – is only national recreancy.” A thirty two county socialist republic is where our freedom lies. Our socialist republic is for both working class Catholics and Protestants, it is for all the working people of Ireland.

Without republicanism you fall into idealism; a socialist Free State is a fantasy. Without republicanism you isolate yourself from the masses. Ask any Irish person and they will speak positively of reunification, so how can you expect to lead a socialist revolution without that core aspect? Equally, Socialism is necessary for liberation. Without socialism, republicanism can recreate old oppressions. The failure to analyse class politics leads to an ignoring of other key issues in every Irish person’s life. What is a free republic if people aren’t housed? What is a free republic if the people starve? That is not a republic for my compatriots, it is a republic for the rich. Socialism and republicanism together, is the only option. Embrace socialist republicanism, proudly profess yourself as one. Continue to the struggle for a free Ireland. A people’s nation, a people’s democracy, a people’s republic. Tiocfaidh ár lá.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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