The following is a 1970 statement issued by the Caretaker Executive of Sinn Féin, clarifying the ideological nuances and reasoning behind the republican movement’s recent schism as well as outlining the Provisional’s syncretic brand of national liberation and socialism and where it stands within the left-right spectrum. The full unabridged document is available courtesy of the work done at the Irish Left Archive.
There is no doubt an extreme form of Socialism was being pushed on the Movement by the ‘policy makers’ referred to and their aides. This was a further reason for the ‘walk out’.
While we who went to Parnell Square believe in a Democratic Socialist Republic for all Ireland, it seems that the ultimate objective of the leadership which remained in the Intercontinental Hotel is nothing but a totalitarian dictatorship of the Left.
It was admitted that the ‘National Liberation Front’ would eventually involve a merger and amalgamation with the ‘radical groups’ mentioned since all would be working for ‘the same ultimate objective’. Meanwhile it was stated joint education classes involving members of the Communist Party of Northern Ireland and the Irish Workers Party could be held.
‘While we were strong on the practice and weak in theory, the reverse was true of them and they could educate us on the theory’ was how this was put. Furthermore, in the opinion of the ‘masterminds’ there was no need for establishing a Republican Youth Organisation when the Connolly Youth Movement existed nor was there any need for Republican Clann na hÉireann in Britain since the Connolly Association was there.
It is of interest to note that the entire Cumann na mBan organisation was expelled from the Movement because it objected to these ‘radical groups’ with their banners taking part in the Bodenstown parade of 1968.
The Sligo town Cumann of Sinn Féin, which included the Mayor the late Councillor Norbert Ferguson was disbanded in 1969 because they objected to the local Connolly Youth Movement marching as a body in uniform in the annual Easter Commemoration parade.
After the Republicans were thrown out without their side of the case being heard a new Cumann was formed consisting almost entirely of the Connolly Youth members. We leave it to the people of Ireland to draw their own conclusions in regards to this point.
We know that in other organisations similar to these ‘radical groups’ totalitarian dictatorship has been the outcome. We have no reason to believe that the result would be any different in Ireland.
At this stage it is necessary to give an indication of our views on social and economic questions because ‘extreme socialism’ has been listed as one of the main points of difference.
Our socialism envisages the nationalisation of the monetary system, commercial banks and insurance companies, key industries ,mines, building land and fishing rights, the division of large ranches , an upper limit on the amount of land to be owned by any one individual, the setting up of worker-owned cooperatives on a wide scale in industry agriculture,fishing and distribution but still leaving ample room for private initiative under state supervision. The extension and development of Credit Unions is also included.
What the junta which remained in control in the Intercontinental Hotel would seek would lead to a dictatorship and in this they travel the same road as the Communist Party of Northern Ireland ,the Irish Workers party and the Connolly Youth Movement.
As an example they tried to knock RTÉ cameras during the walk out and assaulted several of the delegates who were leaving showing that they would deny free speech to anybody who disagrees with them.
Ours is a socialism based on the native Irish tradition of Comhar na gComharsan, which is founded on the right of worker ownership and on our Irish and Christian values. It is hoped to expand and explain this in the near future.
Many of those who left the Intercontinental Hotel and went to Parnell Square have worked hard in Housing Action Committees, the National Waters Restoration League Land League and such like and will continue to do so.
We believe in the need for an Economic Resistance Movement to arrest the decline and takeover of our country and we will continue on constitutional lines to organise the people to achieve our objective of Irish freedom, political , economic, social and cultural.
Accepting that a movement doesn’t become socialist by the mere repetition of socialist slogans it must also be conceded that this doesn’t read like Green Fascism.
The contradictions nevertheless remain. The Provisional’s annual conference last month passed resolutions calling for militant trade union activity (including what were described as UCS style takeovers of contracting industries but went straight on to proscribe members of the Communist Party or any radical group.
Again, separation of Church and State is accepted policy but Provisional leaders tell you they would not legalise contraceptives.
Who are the Provisionals? Terrorists, thugs and assasins of course. Also the greatest propagandists since Colma Prentis and Varley, men of such persuasive charm that they must be banned from British television screens lest their case contradicts Mr Maudling’s. But what are their politics? Is there a social philosophy behind their M1 carbines?
Are they leftists or rightists? Revolutionaries or counter-revolutionaries? Conor Cruise O’Brien says they are Green Fascists.
Garrett Fitzgerald the most articulate opposition spokesman in the Dáil compares them with the Nazis and the OAS (but in Dr. Fitzgerald’s looking glass world the conservative Fine Gael party to which he himself belongs is ‘social democratic’ so where does that leave us?)
The ‘Official’ wing of the IRA which calls itself Marxist lines up with O’Brien and Fitzgerald in denouncing the Provisions as ultra-rightists. Only the Provisionals seem dissent. They say they are ‘democratic socialists’
It has been widely assumed that the 1970 split at long last separated the Right from the Left. It did nothing of the kind. Many left wingers who might have been expected to support the ‘Officials’ in fact joined the Provisionals believing both that the new departure would alienate mass (Catholic) support and that recognition of ‘partition parliaments’ involved in unacceptable compromise with the institutions of British and Irish capitalism. This was, if anything an ultra left rather than a right wing posture.
Certainly the Provisionals have gone to some pains to underline their claim to be a movement of the Left. Their new ‘Social and Economic Programme’ begins with the statement that they advocate ‘not merely the complete overthrow of English rule in Ireland but also the setting up of a Democratic Socialist Republic’. The expulsion of British rule from the North is described as ‘not an end in itself but a means to restore the ownership of Ireland to the people of Ireland’. Patrick Pearse is approvingly quoted in his assertion that ‘all rights to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare’
The ‘Official’ IRA, the Irish Communist Party, People’s Democracy all tried to switch emphasis from the seemingly moribund national question to what seemed the more relevant social question.
The Provisionals said they were wrong. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh their President speaks with the authentic voice of Connolly when he asserts the ‘foreign body must be removed before the nation’s wounds can be bound up’
National liberation struggles and revolutions are not made by theoreticians isolated from the people nor by New Left Trecies however many Che posters they have on their walls, nor by Hampsted or Great Turnstile or Ebbw Vall socialists. Nor are they made by pure idealistists. They are the work of desperate men who have perforce closed their hearts and minds to liberal values.
Such are the Provisionals: terrorist thugs and like all soldiers assassins certainly. But Ireland’s only real revolutionaries.