Thursday, 19 February 2009

'Sinn Féin and the Politics of Left Republicanism'

From An Phoblacht:

NEW BOOK, Sinn Féin and the Politics of Left Republicanism, by An Phoblacht columnist and Sinn Féin activist Eoin Ó Broin, is set for release next week in Dublin and in Belfast.

Published by Pluto Press of London, the book is a critical analysis of the past, present and future of Sinn Féin and ‘left republican’ politics.

The premise of the book is that, despite the growth of the party in recent years, Sinn Féin is much misunderstood and often misrepresented.

Speaking to An Phoblacht this week, Ó Broin said:

“I wanted to write a book which, on the one hand, told the history of Sinn Féin and left republicanism from its origins in the 18th century to the present while, at the same time, offering a critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the left republican project.”


The book is divided into four chapters.

Left Republican Origins explores the history of the United Irishmen, Young Ireland and late 19th century socialists.
The Arrival of Left Republicanism takes a critical look at Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party and asks why this project was such a political failure.

Left Republican Interventions looks at various left republican forces during the 20th century, including Liam Mellows, the Republican Congress, Clan na Poblachta and the Workers’ Party/Democratic Left. Again, the author explores why each of these projects failed to develop into significant long-term political projects.

The book’s final chapter, A Century of Struggle, charts the history of the Sinn Féin party from Arthur Griffith to the present.

Ó Broin again asks why left republicanism failed to become dominant within the broader nationalist movement or indeed in the country as a whole. He also explores the relationship of Sinn Féin’s nationalism to its socialism, and issues of class, gender and the party’s attitude to unionists.


The book’s conclusion, The History Lesson, looks to the future and asks how Sinn Féin can become the dominant political force in Ireland.

“The vast majority of books on republicanism,” Ó Broin says, “are written by non-republicans. This does not diminish the value of books by such authors but it is time that we started to engage in the debate about our own past, present and future in a more analytical, critical and reflective way. To do so can only strengthen our ability to advance the struggle for a 32-county democratic socialist Ireland.”

The Dublin launch of Sinn Féin and the Politics of Left Republicanism will take place on Monday 16 February at 6pm in the Pearse Street Public Library, 138-144 Pearse Street. Councillor Daithí Doolan will chair the event and Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald will speak. The Belfast launch will take place the following Wednesday, 18 February, at 7pm in Lecture Theatre 2, St Mary’s College on the Falls Road. Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast Tom Hartley will chair and former Hunger Striker Dr Laurence McKeown and Queen’s University Belfast Professor Richard English will speak.

The publishing of this new book has already stimulated some interesting discussion over at Mick Hall's
Organized Rage, where Mick writes:

Irish Republicanism is currently passing through a traumatic period of reassessment and regroupment. It is not an exaggeration to say that many Republicans have been shaken to the core by Sinn Fein’s (SF) willingness to not only enter the Stormont Assembly, which many support, but to also help administer British rule in the north of Ireland and by so doing sending out a signal that it accepts the Police Service of Northern Ireland as a legitimate vehicle of law and order.

Whilst the more traditionally minded Republicans have found a home in Ruairí Ó Brádaigh’s Republican Sinn Fein,(RSF) which was founded after Ó Brádaigh’s supporters broke from the Provos back in 1986, over Republicans taking their seats in the southern parliament. Although firmly established RSF has failed to gain a mass support base in either of the Irish political jurisdictions.

Those who defected from the Provisional’s over the last decade, after the terms of the ‘Peace Process’ became to onerous to accept, have also struggled to build an alternative to SF. The largest group to emerge has been éirígí, whilst it has managed to recruit some of the more experienced activists from the SF, along with young people who are new to Republicanism, it has yet to decide whether it will stand candidates for local and parliamentary office. Which demonstrates that this is still a contentious issue amongst its membership. It has carried out some audacious act of agitprop, but as one experienced left republican said to me, “Fine, it gets éirígí name into the public consciousness but it does not put bread on the table.

What he meant was that for Republicans to be effective there must be a combination of political activity on the street and within local councils and other elected bodies. One of the major failures of Left Irish republicanism has been its inability to gain a foothold within and thus have a left republican voice within Stormont and the Dáil, the lower house of the ROI parliament. This leaves the way clear for SF’s brand of Republicanism, which some critics believe comes close to being a form of collaborationist politics, which has resulted in SF making major concessions in both jurisdictions to the political right.

Thus a new book by Sinn Fein member and left republican Eoin Ó Broin is to be welcomed, Eoin was part of a left republican grouping within Dublin SF. Whilst many of these comrades went on to found éirígí, Eoin has remained within SF and regularly argues his corner in the Party’s paper An Phoblacht.

Click here to read the full post & comments at Organized Rage.

1 comment:

Organized Rage. said...

I just came across your blog, good stuff and a great title, will link it to mine immediately if that is OK.