The struggle for national liberation in the occupied six counties has undoubtedly led to a widespread radical politicisation of not just revolutionary activists but the oppressed people who realise that the fruits of our victory must be social and economic as well as the political freedom of national separation.
The term republicanism is something of a dirty word politically among some left-wing groups on the continent where it has right-wing connotations. But our republicanism is anti-imperialist and radical and we realise that if the connection is not made with the struggle of labour then there will be no realisation of socialism in Ireland, just as the labour movement if it ignores the national question is also scuttling the full potential of the working class.
To Connolly, the basic condition of socialist advance was the assertion and acceptance of Ireland’s right to self-government. His opponent in the debate was William Walker, a Belfast member of the Labour movement, whose conception of socialism was reformist, Walker pointed out with pride to the progress of ‘municipal socialism’ in Belfast. Did they not collectively own and control gasworks, waterworks, harbour works, markets, tramways, electricity, museums and art galleries? He even boasted that they had an RIC band! Connolly described Walker’s position as ‘’ gas and water ‘’ socialism and insisted that the Irish question was not merely an economic question, it was also a revolutionary question, a question of national independence.
The debate is also contemporary. The Northern Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions historically traded recognition by the old Stormont government in return that the constitution and politics of the occupied six counties, as other reformists have since done, would not be discussed by the trade union movement. By agreeing to the partition of Ireland the trade union movement and others who adopted this position have helped the British and Free-State governments to divide, weaken and conquer the Irish working class. This siding with the British colonialism continues to this very day. The reformist weakened labour movement is therefore in no position to effectively oppose the poverty, repression and inequality.
We have to reach this pessimistic conclusion. On neither its chosen ground of jobs and bread and butter issues, nor on the ground of increasingly repressive legalisation and practice do the trade unions convince the mass of Irish workers and unemployment that it will or can take on bourgeois government. By its abdication and failures, they leave the worker and the unemployed divided and frustrated, seeking elsewhere the organisations, campaigns and beliefs which promise an end to or a cure for the endemic poverty, inequality and repression.
And so it is increasingly that workers, the low-paid and the unemployed in the ghettos are turning to Saoradh for a lead not only in the fight against British colonialism but also in the struggle for social and economic justice. Saoradh is responding to this challenge. It has established party offices and advice centres in Belfast, Derry and Dungannon, with staff competent to handle routine problems and backed up by experts experienced personnel.
Only a British withdrawal can create the conditions for Irish workers and unemployed, urban and rural, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, women, men and all gender orientations, young and old to come together and construct the socialist republic in their own interests.
The twin demands of the right to self-determination and the right to work signposts the Irish road to socialism. The answer to the injustice, poverty and national dispossession in Ireland lies in the willingness of the people to struggle and make sacrifices.
That makes revolutionary republicans the greatest threat to the ruling class, both in the occupied six counties and the neo-colonial Free-State, and that’s what makes us the vanguard of the Irish revolution.
Davy Jordan is Saoradh National Chairperson and a former political prisoner based in East Tyrone