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Sinn Féin Philosophy: Revolutionary Or Reformist?
The recent Ard Fheis allowing S.F. delegates if elected to enter and take their seats in Leinster House has left many Republicans and Socialists within the movement and the class as a whole reappraising their role within that movement. The walkout and formation of Republican Sinn Fein is well enough documented elsewhere not to warrant further debate or discussion here. What is worth much more discussion and debate is, in what light should the revolutionary Socialist element view the decision to end abstentionism in particular and Sinn Fein's philosophy as expounded by Sinn Fein in general. It would be a great mistake to try and separate the two, as only when we examine Sinn Fein's philosophy from a materialistic analysis can we truly see the decision to end abstentionism in its true light.
The taking of seats in bourgeois parliaments is generally seen by revolutionaries as a tactical option and is the line most often quoted by those who support the decision to enter Leinster House. The taking of seats in bourgeois parliaments is indeed a tactical option for revolutionaries. However, at this stage it is necessary to point out that sometimes those who call themselves revolutionaries are in fact opportunists and reformists hiding behind revolutionary rhetoric. Irish history affords us the opportunity to analyse those who in the past called themselves revolutionaries and socialists and who took the same path to Leinster House as Sinn Fein are preparing to do at present.
Fianna Fail in the 20's, Clan Na Poblachta in the 40's and The Workers Party (nee Official Sinn Fein) in '69, all these parties have one thing in common, they all claimed that they were only going into Leinster House for tactical reasons and would never never allow themselves to sink into the mire of what passes for politics in the Free-State. History is the final judge and as we all know each of the above mentioned parties not alone sank into the mire but they remerged as staunch upholders and guardians of the status quo as dictated from Leinster House. On hindsight it is easy for us to see that the above mentioned parties were merely opportunists and reformists hiding behind their own particular forms of rhetoric. Tragically the fact remains that at the time many people put their faith and trust in these parties only to have that faith and trust betrayed at a later date.
For those of us who believe that only socialism, only communism can end the ruthless economic exploitation, political oppression and foreign occupation of our country we have a direct obligation to ensure that no such betrayals ever again, by any political party, shall hinder us in our forward march towards a socialist republic.
The marriage between republicanism and socialism has never been a happy one, and could be at best described as a marriage of convenience. The whole question takes on a new sense of urgency in the light of the abstentionist issue and recent remarks made by the President of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams in an interview which appeared in the Irish Times 10/12/86. Mr. Adams stated that “Socialism was not on the agenda” also in his recently published book ‘Politics of Irish Freedom' in which he said "Republican struggle should not at this stage of it's development style itself Socialist Republican as this would imply that there is no place in it for non socialists”. The historical precedent which immediately springs to mind is the now infamous caution of DeValera when he stated that "labour must wait", Not a very encouraging precedent.
In no sense of the word can such an ideology be regarded as revolutionary and clearly must be delegated to the marshy ground of opportunism and reformism. For those of us who believe that if there is to be a revolution there must first be a revolutionary party and that without a revolutionary party built on the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses to victory, the weakness and flaws in the ideology of Sinn Fein are obvious for those with the courage and clarity to see them.
The question now arises, what is to be done? Firstly we learn from history. The old cry don't embarrass Fianna Fail must never be allowed to be converted into the don't embarrass Sinn Fein. It is clear that we as revolutionary socialists must vigorously struggle against all attempts to entrench non socialist ideology in the working class. As revolutionaries it is our duty to expose all flaws and weakness that are inherent. The time comes in the life of any socialist when there remains only two choices, submit or resist.
That time has come for Irish socialists, we shall not submit and we have no choice but to resist. The time has come when the unhappy marriage between republican and revolutionary socialists must be terminated. We must put our faith in the most creative class, the working class and the broad masses. We must set about the task of building a revolutionary party, a party built on the
Marxist/Leninist theory. Then and only then shall we be equipped and capable of leading the working class and masses to victory. Socialists everywhere must get together, expose, plan organise and build the very defence of our people, our future and our freedom depends on our ability o tackle the tasks ahead.
Comrades let us not be found wanting in the months and years of struggle ahead…
"Sinn Féin Philosophy: Revolutionary Or Reformist?"
An article from the first issue of Congress '86, magazine of the League of Communist Republicans (LCR).
The LCR formed among IRA prisoners who resigned following the ending of Sinn Féin's policy of abstention in 1986.
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