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Easter Commemoration Speech
Sunday April 11, 2004 11:19 by IRSP - Irish Republican Socialist Party irsp at irsm dot org
on behalf of the Republican Socialist Movement
Easter Commemoration Speech on behalf of the Republican Socialist Movement,Milltown Cemetery Belfast 11th April 2004-04-10
Easter Commemoration Speech on behalf of the Republican Socialist Movement,Milltown Cemetery Belfast 11th April 2004-04-10
Once more we gather to pay homage to those who died in the struggle for an Irish Republic. We honour all those who since the emergence of Irish Republicanism at the end of the 18th century fought and died in the struggle for national independence and freedom. We remember also with pride the many thousands, nay hundreds of thousands of people who contributed in many small ways to aid the struggle.
We also remember that this Easter is the 88th since the 1916 Easter uprising, an uprising for national independence against an Imperialist power fighting an imperialist war. The failure of that uprising and the subsequent failure of the war of independence to achieve liberation led to, in the words of James Connolly, republican, socialist, Marxist and a leader of the 1916 uprising ² a carnival of reaction.²
Still today despite a heroic struggle over the past 35 years by Republicans we have still failed to realise the vision of Connolly- the socialist republic. And like in Connolly¹s time we have an imperialist war being waged by the USA/Brits coalition forces in Iraq. Imperialism is still the enemy.
Today as we stand here by the graves of those of our comrades from both the IRSP and the INLA who fell in the struggle we remember them not as heroes or martyrs but as ordinary men and women who lived in extraordinary times and rose to the challenge of those times.
Let us be clear about what the armed struggle was about from the perspective of this movement it was neither to achieve equality nor to achieve civil rights. The INLA took up arms, and all the comrades who died on hunger strike, in action or by assassination, took up arms to achieve a Republic that cherished all the children of the nation equally. We rejected living under British and Unionist rule for that rule was unjust, discriminatory, arbitrary despotic and Imperialistic.
But times change and the strategy and tactics of republicans have to change as well. We in the Republican Socialist movement have accepted the need to modify our tactics to met the changed times we live. We have embarked on a process of politicisation both internally and externally to encourage people to take responsibility for their own community. We see that as part of the process of empowering the working class to begin to take control of the state and begin the task of building a socialist society.
Here is the challenge facing us. As political activists we must rethink strategically, debate strategically and decide what is best for our party, for the cause we represent and most importantly for the people we represent. We recognise that members of our movement have made mistakes and our organisation has made mistakes in the past. No doubt we will make mistakes in the future.
But our analysis of the peace process, or as some prefer to call it the pacification programme, and the Good Friday Agreement has been and continues to be spot on. Every thing that has happened since 1998 has justified our position. . Six years on from the GFA British soldiers are on the streets, the British intelligence services continue to cover up past killings, street clashes continue, loyalists continue to target Catholics and justice is denied. Dessie O¹Hare is still a political prisoner as the Free Staters renege on their own Good Friday Agreement. Republican Prisoners in Maghaberry are denied recognition of their political status. Something, which was won by the deaths of the ten republican hunger strikers, was negotiated away by other republicans for the price of seats in an internal Stormont Executive.
The gap between rich and poor widens. Working class communities disintegrate besieged by poor health, anti-social behaviour, debt and despair. Homelessness has reached crisis point. The education system is failing large sections of our youth. Attacks on minorities are on the increase. Did our comrades buried here today die for this?
Everyday around us we see the inequality, the poverty, the wrecked lives the disintegration of whole working class communities. Where there once was solidarity, collectivism, co-operation and community support now there is individualism, selfishness, greed and a widespread drug dependency culture. Consumerism is the new god and we now have a generation growing up inculcated with the worst values of capitalism.
The one hundred wealthiest Irish people¹s combined fortune is worth 23 billion Euros. The ten richest people in Ireland are each sitting on an average fortune of 800 million Euros. For most of us here it would take us at least 30,000 years to save that if we banked our complete wages every week.
The Flood and Moriarty Tribunals have shown the extent of the corruption of political life in the 26 counties. Not a week passes without some new revelation about the corrupting influence of money in Irish political life. Leinster House is in the words of Karl Marx
³nothing but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.
In Britain New Labour grovels to big business. Blair and Brown no longer make any pretence to be socialist and rarely mention inequality while they socialise with the business classes. Lobbyists and pressure groups push their cases for reduced taxation, regulation or planning restrictions, while multinational firms hardly need to make the point that if they are not granted special terms they can take their money out of Britain and Ireland. Even our little local farce of a Stormont had its lobbyists cajoling influencing and corrupting our Assembly members when they had their little bit of power. The rich may not govern, but they still reign both in Ireland and Britain. The capitalist class owes its allegiance only to its money and self-interest.
Community workers and activists in working class communities north and south, are doing heroic work to try and empower local people, to resist the worst ravages of capitalism. But in order for the working class to be mobilised into struggle in support of its own class interests, class-consciousness must be raised and the shackles imposed by capitalist must be cast off.
It is our primary concern to mobilise the working class towards the revolutionary transformation of society and the sooner every one of us here today takes on responsibility to make a difference to our society the better. No one should stand idly by while racism injustice poverty exploitation and sectarianism predominate.
The Brits have lied, prevaricated and twisted and turned every which way but loose. Does anyone here today seriously believe one word of Blair¹s or indeed of Paul Murphy, his local Governor? Trimble has by his appalling comments on Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson bared naked the racist sectarian hatred of the unionist middle classes for nationalists. Attempts to reform the Northern state that are based on the continuation of British sovereignty are doomed to failure.
It always was and still is a failed political entity and we believe that the smashing of the Northern state will be in the interests of all of the northern people whether they describe themselves as unionist, nationalist or other. The conflict here was not one between two mutually hostile, sectarian communities, as the Brits like the world to think.
Those who would seek to challenge the continuation of sectarianism in the six counties need to challenge those guilty of sectarianism, not those of us, in the republican socialist tradition who recognise the existence of a British working class within Ireland with a distinct history and culture. We welcome with open arms members of any ethnic community who share our perspective that the class struggle and national liberation struggle are inseparable within the Irish context. And can we say to the ethnic minorities in Ireland that we utterly condemn and oppose the proposed referendum in the South of Ireland as a cynical racist ploy by unscrupulous politicians playing the race card.
Sometimes there is confusion of what constitutes ³the national liberation struggle² Our struggle for socialism is part of an international struggle. We support all those struggling against imperialism worldwide. We salute the freedom fighters of Iraq and call for the defeat of the British and American forces.
However unlike some of the so-called socialists gathered around the Eamon McCann European Election Machine, we are consistently anti-imperialists. We believe that there is an Imperialist presence in Ireland and as republicans our comrades, whom we honour here today, fought and died opposing that Imperialism They did not die for a nationalist Ireland. They died for the liberation of all the working class from reactionary ideologies and for the establishment of a Workers Republic.
It is within the context of the nation-state that the socialist revolution will start. To achieve that revolution we must win the support of the mass of the population. We as the Republican Socialist Movement cannot on our own create the Republic. It can only be done by the support participation and enthusiasm of the majority of people on the island. That comrades, is what the national struggle is about.
Last year in a statement the leadership of the INLA said,
³-We have encouraged our membership and supporters to become actively involved in the day-to-day struggles of ordinary people. Such political involvement is following the example of our founder Seamus Costello. A revolutionary army without a clear base of political understanding and activity is no longer a revolutionary Army.
Note that last sentence comrades-
No revolutionary movement can last without clear politics and based on a correct appreciation of the needs of the people. Ta Power used the phrase- the primacy of politics. That must be our watchword today- the primacy of politics. Our function as a movement is to give leadership and to empower the working class to achieve its own liberation. If that is not what we are about then we may as well pack up and support the Good Friday Agreement, join Sinn Fein or the Labour Party or some other party that accepts and works the status quo.
It is easy to be critical of others. But there is a responsibility on us to make ourselves relevant both to the short term and long term needs of the working class in Ireland. It is not enough to turn up once a year at a commemoration, salute dead comrades and think that is enough. It is not, nor is turning up for demonstrations, chant a few slogans shake clenched fists at the police and retire to the pub thinking you have struck a blow for the revolution. That, comrades, is frankly bullshit.
If that is what any of you gathered here today are about then walk away from the struggle now. You do neither yourselves nor the working class any good.
Serious followers of Connolly, Costello, Power and Gallagher are in this struggle for the long haul. They will be there on the picket lines, in the community halls, at trade union meetings, where ever there is a struggle for the rights of the ordinary man and women then that is where the serious followers of our founders will be. They will be at the barricade, they will be behind the word processor, they will like today commemorating but then the next day will be agitating, educating leafleting and liberating. Comrades there is no finer calling in this world than to stand shoulder to shoulder with the victims of oppression, with the marginalised and with the poor.
On to the Republic-on to Socialism!!