17 July 2003 Edition
Let's put policies where our rhetoric is
Judging from the responses in the Phoblacht and to me in person, my article (or communist diatribe, as one comrade put it) did at least stir up a little debate on Sinn Féin's socio-economic policies and get people expressing their opinions but I think some of the points in my initial piece might have been missed in the debate.
I admit to perhaps an over dogmatic use of Marxist language such as 'working class' and I find the argument that the 'brandname' of socialism might drive people away to have some merit. I would suggest, though, that 20 years ago, even 10, the brandnames of Sinn Féin and 'armed struggle' were equally difficult ideas to sell. Just like we have made Sinn Féin electable, we can radicalise people to an alternative to capitalism, if we develop one. The simple truth, and it is long beyond time we faced up to it, is that on a number of issues we are neither radical, nor alternative.
If our ideology is clear, if our politics are clear, then why are our policies not? If we are socialists, why have we failed to take a stand against social partnership? Why did our 2002 General Election manifesto not call for higher taxes, something that is not exactly akin to setting up Workers' Soviets to run Intel? Why do we continue to export, in the most shameful and hypocritical fashion, women who are pregnant, and choose to exercise control over their own bodies to England? Why have we failed, for decades now, to take Trade Union involvement seriously?
We are doing some things very well, we have some fantastic, radical, well thought out proposals, but we need to anchor it with an alternative economic and social philosophy.
Being a socialist is not about empty rhetoric. It is not about endless debates about what Trotsky said to Lenin about the Mensheviks 80 years ago. It is simply about developing and presenting to the people a radical alternative to capitalism, which puts people before profit. As a revolutionary movement, it is our responsibility to do so.
SSP and Ireland
I would like to respond to Chris Guthrie's description of the Scottish Socialist Party being set up by 'socialists from various traditions ( and none) - including supporters of Irish republicans'. This is at least dishonest and at worst patronising to Irish republicans. It comes from a party which in reality is a de facto upgrade of the old British Labour Party Militant Tendency, with a few Scottish republican and British Left Socialist Workers' Party elements vying for support around its very traditional British edges - in the case of Scottish republicans, in order to transform it into a 'real' republican party, and for the SWP, to parade it as another British ultra left 'Marxist' party with a 'British solution' to the conflict in Ireland.
I welcome the debate and dissemination of socialism in the pages of An Phoblacht, but as republicans and socialists, we must be wary of those on the British Left who, by all intents and purposes, will deny Ireland the right of self-determination by making no political distinction between Sinn Féin and reactionary groups like the UVF/PUP (not surprisingly, the PUP is seen as socialist in some way).
We in the Irish community and genuine republican socialists in Scotland are conscious that it is not the 'tradition of the SSP' which in any way supports the right of the Irish people to be free of British rule and occupation, but that of John McLean, who was an avid and enthusiastic supporter of a democratic, socialist and united Ireland.
SDLP seeks cover for policing error
For several weeks we have been treated to lectures about the amazing achievements made to policing arrangements by the SDLP during negotiations at Weston Park. It is obvious that this spokesperson has indulged himself in wishful thinking and appears to believe that they were the only political party involved in seeking a new policing service.
Surely the real test for any policing service is how effective they are on the ground. Two weeks ago, SDLP councillor Michael Carr stated that burglars operate with ease and impunity in the Crotlieve area. The situation is so bad that he has called for the setting up of a neighbourhood watch scheme. We must question why the PSNI are so ineffective. The SDLP cannot continue to blame Sinn Féin for the failure of this police force to deal with crime in general.
It is very obvious that a police service needs the support and cooperation of the community it serves. Sinn Féin has argued that the full implementation of the Patten proposals would have created a threshold to establish acceptable and accountable policing. The SDLP has settled for far less than this. They have given their support to a police force that retains and uses plastic bullets. We have been denied the full disclosure of the Stevens' Report, which clearly established that collusion existed between unionist paramilitaries and the Special Branch. Yet they remain a 'force within a force' in the PSNI. All serving members of the RUC have transferred en bloc without being required to take a Human Rights oath. A change of uniform has not altered the mindset of this predominately unionist force.
People are entitled to a proper accountable policing service but they will not be fooled by exaggerated claims that do not stand up to scrutiny. We were told that SDLP representatives would knock on doors locally to recruit for this force. Unfortunately, this area has been more accustomed to boots kicking in doors and family members dragged off to be beaten in the barracks.
The SDLP would like people to believe that it is only a matter of time before Sinn Féin follows their lead. They are merely seeking cover for the mistake they have made by accepting far less than the new beginning required by the Good Friday Agreement.
Cllr Davy Hyland
It helps to lick the hand that feeds you
Browsing through political party websites on the internet I was somewhat taken aback to discover the SDLP promoting not only the British Labour Party but also the British Conservative Party in the links sectioní of its party website.
But then my surprise turned to understanding when I considered that all these parties share a lot in common including: slavishly sharing an oath of allegiance at Westminster to a well kept woman called Lizzy Windsor and supporting a police force in the Six Counties that is controlled by faceless securocrats.
My understanding turned to enlightened understanding when I remembered that the SDLP receive a Policy Development slush fund to the tune of £100,000 from the British government and that it helps to lick the hand that feeds you.
Gael Uí Néill