No Orange Feet on O’Connell Street – we reply to Brian Hughes
3 April 2006
The main difference between my article on the Dublin riot and your own seems to be that you feel I have downplayed the disgraceful role played by Sinn Fein in their condemnation of the riot.
It is true that Sinn Fein’s statements are disgraceful. They contradict all their earlier positions and it is difficult to see on what basis they would now oppose an Orange march on the Garvaghy Road and the sectarian intimidation of the nationalist workers who live there. However to focus on Sinn Fein is to miss the main dynamic of the incident. That is the support of the Irish state and of Irish capital for the Orange march as a general policy of appeasement of Orange bigotry. In this framework Sinn Fein’s role is a disgraceful one, but it is also a subordinate one.
A hidden element of the past decades of struggle has been the desperate struggle of Irish capital to be free of the token genuflection towards Irish independence that formed the historic base of nationalist populism. It succeeded because its opponents collapsed. The traditionally weak labour movement, always anxious to avoid the national question, has conceded to such an extent through social partnership that it serves as handmaiden to capitalist interests. Republicanism failed utterly to adopt a socialist programme that would have given it the political basis of an alternative to Irish capital and ended up adopting the nationalist programme. With the Good Friday Agreement Irish capital finally had the freedom to abandon articles 2 and 3, to announce through Bertie Ahern at the Somme centre that the national question has been resolved through the stabilisation of partition, to collaborate with the Orange death squads, and to use Garda batons in an attempt to push Orange boots down O’Connell Street.
From this perspective there is no difficulty in explaining Sinn Fein’s betrayal. Their subordinate role behind Irish capital explains all. There is no need to puzzle over the absence of Trade unions and civil liberties groups. Again the hegemony of capital explains their absence.
We can accept the chaotic and violent nature of the response by a section of Dublin youth. This is to be expected in the absence of any political opposition, but it also tells us that an opposition will not spontaneously emerge from that quarter.
We need to offer a direct political opposition to the revision of Irish history that both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are offering – the suggestion that the symbolism of the tricolour represents the need to appease Orangeism. Historically the tricolour represented the Irish democratic revolution, with the task of supplanting Orangeism and imperialism and uniting all traditions and religions. That tradition failed, both as nationalism and as republicanism, and its corrupt and decayed rump will fail today. The collapse of the Good Friday Agreement indicates that we are not advancing towards fantasy land, with British rule and a Northern sectarian hellhole a stable part of the Irish landscape.
That collapse will cause grave difficulties
for Irish capital and it will open opportunities for a socialist opposition.
Sinn Fein is certainly a barrier on the road to that movement, but it is
not the major or most significant barrier.