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1 April 2015

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Shouting in the service of the system

Another View

Eamonn McCann suffers from that Trotskyite pathology of always having to attack your more moderate rival on the Left, irrespective of whether the facts support your case

EAMONN McCANN’S Irish Times articles are an odd thing. His casual disregard for the facts is matched only by his willingness to join the Establishment chorus against Sinn Féin.

 Writing in the Irish Times on 12 March, Eamonn made a number of claims which are just plain wrong.

  • He claimed that Sinn Féin had pulled out of the Stormont House Agreement – NOT TRUE.
  • He claimed that trade union pressure forced such a move – NOT TRUE.
  • He claimed (albeit under cover of quotes from the DUP and the Green Party) that Sinn Féin’s stance on welfare cuts was inexplicable and reckless – NOT TRUE on either count.
  • And he implied that Sinn Féin was only ‘now’ opposing welfare cuts – yet again, NOT TRUE.

He also misrepresented ICTU President John Douglas’s address to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis (although, to be fair, he probably didn’t even bother to read the speech).

Such flagrant disregard for the facts, particularly when the subject is Sinn Féin, is commonplace in the right-wing media.

But for a left-wing activist to trade in such sloppy journalism is surprising . . . or is it?

Unfortunately, Eamonn suffers from that Trotskyite pathology of always having to attack your more moderate rival on the Left, irrespective of whether the facts support your case.

Exposing ‘reformism’ and highlighting ‘class betrayal’ is the strategic imperative for revolutionary socialists such as Eamonn.

The reason is very simple. According to his analysis, Sinn Féin is not a potential ally on the Left but the main obstacle to the growth of the Socialist Workers’ Party and its electoral alliance, People Before Profit.

As long as working-class voters in Derry and Dublin support ‘reformist’ parties such as Sinn Féin then the revolutionary left will remain marginal and the prospects of the overthrow of the capitalist state will remain slim, is how the thinking goes.

So, at every opportunity, ‘real’ socialists must focus their critical attention on the ‘reformist’ Left so as to detach the working classes from their ‘misguided’ support for ‘reformist’ parties.

Commentary on all political events must be squeezed into this narrative. If that requires bending and breaking the facts to suit the preordained script, then so be it – it’s all in the service of ‘the revolution’.

So what are the facts surrounding the latest crisis in Stormont?

Sinn Féin supports the Stormont House Agreement and we want it implemented in full.

As part of our long-standing opposition to Tory welfare cuts, we ensured that there would be real protections for those dependent on social welfare.

The DUP, as they so often do, are trying to renege on that deal. 

Sinn Féin’s last-minute opposition to the Welfare Bill was to ensure that they keep to the commitments to protect existing and future claimants.

The trade union mobilisation on 13 March was in opposition to two aspects of the Stormont House Agreement – the voluntary redundancy scheme and the possibility of a reduction of the rate of Corporation Tax.


Eamonn is right when he says that thousands of public sector jobs will go under this scheme. But what he conveniently fails to mention is that that the British Government in Westminster has unilaterally cut the block grant to the Assembly by £1.5billion and has imposed additional financial fines on the Assembly because of our refusal to implement welfare cuts.

The origin of austerity in the North is not the Assembly but the British Government in Westminster. They are taking the decision to cut spending. The Executive is then left to pick up the pieces.

Eamonn also fails to mention that if the Executive parties had not reached an agreement at Stormont House the Assembly would have collapsed, direct rule from Westminster would have returned, and the scale and depth of Tory cuts would have been even worse.

Sinn Féin has consistently opposed the Tory cuts agenda being imposed by Westminster. We have also outlined a better way to manage our affairs. 

Full transfer of fiscal powers to the Assembly and lifting the restrictions on borrowing from bodies such as the European Investment Bank would provide the Assembly with the tools to chart a more progressive policy path.

In the meantime, Sinn Féin are trying to mitigate, as best we can, the worst impacts of the Tory cuts agenda.

You would have thought that a left-wing activist such as Eamonn would know all of this and at least offer tactical support to Sinn Féin’s efforts while remaining critical of the Stormont House Agreement.

But then he wouldn’t be able to cry class betrayal and his paymasters in The Irish Times wouldn’t have another anti-Sinn Féin voice to publish in their newspaper. 

So the interests of Trotsky’s permanent revolution and the Southern Establishment’s defence of its political and economic privilege coincide in their mutual opposition to Sinn Féin.

Enter stage left Eamon McCann, shouting in the service of the system. How ironic.

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