Call for a Republican Congress & Socialist Democracy reply
The following letter was published in the Irish News
No More Lies
1st June 2004
Throughout the month of May, a group of republicans met in Belfast. The purpose of the meetings was to facilitate all republican ideas, defend the right of people to pursue them free from fear and ensure that the freedom to think is safeguarded. The republicans surveyed the options available to those intent on promoting republicanism. As a result the following points were agreed.
Within the Republican family there should be room for the open airing of our disagreements; we cannot move forward until we are able to do so. We believe the criminalisation of Republicanism in the vacuum of the current process is shameful and contrary to the principles of Republicanism. It is our duty to stand up against it and speak out.
It is time for Republicans to reclaim the honour and integrity of the cause which sustained our beliefs; to stand together against the tyranny of abuse and intimidation employed against anyone who has the courage and fortitude to speak out against the wrongs and injustices they see, or suffer themselves.
Republicans should stand with each other
in repossessing the ownership of their struggle. It does not belong to
a clique, it is owned by all the people who believe and participate in
We have all stood together in times of hardship and crisis. Increasingly we find ourselves standing apart from one another, and our destinies loosened from our grip and out of our control. We once believed we would deliver the Republic to each other where we are equal – Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.
Today the ideals we fought for are never
spoken of, and those who do remember them silenced. Our beliefs were traded
for the realities of the current process, a process that suits the interests
of political parties and not the common people. These realities include
a criminalisation of the people’s armies; corruption that fills the coffers
of the elite and expands their empires, rather than advances the Republic;
children beaten, shot, tortured; comrades isolated, spat upon, silenced,
We stand against the tyranny in our midst.
It is time to come together, to convene a congress of Republicans, to determine
where we are going, to support each other no matter our differences, to
reclaim our heritage, integrity and honour, to speak out against injustice,
corruption and criminality, and to stand up for the Republic.
Martin Cunningham, South Down
Socialist Democracy reply
The letter to your paper on 1 June from over twenty republicans calling for freedom of speech within the broader republican constituency must obviously be a reaction to a climate of censorship that pervades that constituency. It may also reflect an awareness that the Provisional republicans are nearing the end of their political striptease in which they have shed all their previous political principles and parade their nakedness behind the ballot papers they have won.
The call for an open exchange of views is, of course, to be welcomed, but the call for freedom of speech can only be a call to be allowed to express some specific views. There is no point in calling for freedom of speech if one has nothing to say. In this respect it is not at all clear that this group – as a group – have anything in particular to say. It is not clear that they have any alternative to the British peace process which the Provisionals have claimed as their own. Already a supporter of this process has pointed this out in a letter to your paper.
For example, from knowledge of the political views of various authors of the letter, there would appear to be no agreement on the use of armed struggle as an alternative to the Provisionals seeking coalition government with the DUP in the North and a corrupt Fianna Fail party in the South.
What the letter does appear to express is a view that all republicans are still part of one big family and that the authors believe they should be treated by the Provisionals as members of this family. However to call for a congress of republicans ‘whatever our differences’ on the basis of some common ‘heritage, integrity and honour’ is to fail to register the enormity of what has happened through the Provisionals acceptance of the rules of British imperialism.
The task is not in some way to turn the clock back to a time when all the authors could consider themselves part of a movement which includes the Provos. The task for the authors is to understand and explain to others the cause of the political collapse of the Provisional movement and create a political alternative. In this task explaining the differences is exactly what has to be done. Without such an agenda a republican congress would largely be a waste of time.
The failure to create a coherent republican alternative to the Provisionals’ endorsement of imperialism - despite its nature being clear to critical observers for some time - is not a reflection of the courage and commitment of the authors. It is the result of their refusal to accept that the collapse of the old Provisional strategy was not (simply) the result of bad faith by treacherous leaders but an inevitable result of the republican programme. This is why the prospect of turning the clock back to a time before the peace process is so unpopular.
There is no need for despondency for those opposed to the process of capitulation. The Sinn Fein strategy of the Good Friday Agreement is dead in the water. It can now only offer the prospect of Ian Paisley or Peter Robinson as First Minister of the Northern State. No amount of increased votes can cover the Provos’ strategic failure and they will soon need their own alternative to a bankrupt project.