Correspondence : Any role for Sinn Fein?
13 October 2006
My name is Matt. I just had a few questions/opinions about some of your articles that were posted. They talk a lot about Sinn Fein and its policies and I wanted to know how you stand on them?
I am assuming that you want a united Ireland under a socialist banner and socialist rule. If so I agree that is the best and only option there is to make a united Ireland that would not be continuously at war with itself. However, where my personal concern lies is that if you want to unite the working class against imperialism then you should distance yourself away from all parties involved in the "troubles" in the North. Any co-operation with Sinn Fein would alienate the Protestant North and vice versa. For socialism to take root in Ireland especially the North you would need to form an independent party that is indifferent to the bigotry of both the Protestants and Catholics. I lived in East Belfast for 14 years, and I was young when I left for Canada but I still know that there is a lot of mistrust between the two sides and with the DUP and Sinn Fein. I know this may seem like the ramblings of a political misfit and I apologise if I seem uneducated, but I am curious to hear what your party is about.
To understand our position you have to understand how artificial the sectarian divisions in the North of Ireland are. Sectarianism requires a lot of energy in that, unlike racism, you have to invest a lot of time in finding the religion of the other before you can discriminate. Many people would simply ignore the sectarians but for the fact that the Loyalist groups are sponsored by the British and are largely immune from the law, able to intimidate working class Protestants as much as Catholics.
In addition, in a society with high levels of poverty, sectarianism has a strong material base. Local statistics indicate that, even after 30 years of the troubles, Catholic workers still face high levels of discrimination and disadvantage.
For these reasons sectarianism doesn’t simply fade away. In fact its incorporation into the foundation and the structures of the state are such that any longterm local unity of the working class is overwhelmingly difficult.
That leaves us with the still very difficult task of uniting the workers on the whole island around their common identity as workers and around the programme of socialism.
As long as Sinn Fein were totally opposed to the British presence and to partition there was a possibility that their supporters, especially the working-class supporters in the South, could be won to socialism and thus mark a step towards an all-Ireland workers movement.
Today, where Sinn Fein have totally reversed that policy, we look to a decline in their influence within the working class as removing a roadblock on the way to a working-class party.
I hope this clarifies our position.