Republicanism More Split Than The Left

In a productive exchange about the current state of Irish republicanism Sean Matthews responds to a piece by Terrier.

Rather than be ‘misleading’ I think Saoradh and the politics of Unfinished Revolution was suitable for the points I was trying to make in the article, especially whenever Saoradh is the lastest republican group to emerge in a contested left republican space and has received considerable media coverage.

To be fair though, I only made two references to ‘Saoradh’ in the article and because it is a fairly new group, I felt it was unfair to go to into great detail regarding the organization, other than the tradition it has emerged from.

The article itself is more broad than just a critique of republicanism post GFA as you have referred to. Growing up in the North, I think it is much easier to embrace what you know and grew up with rather that challenging the prevailing orthodoxy. It is based on my own experiences and involvement in republicanism, which led to me looking for answers elsewhere after the defeat of provisional project and its complete recuperation by the status-quo, i.e. the need to look beyond an analysis looking at organizational praxis, ideology and the Irish context rather that has just rested on ‘sell-outs’ and ‘traitors’ to describe the transition from poachers to gamekeepers. Therefore, it would be misleading to just focus on references to Saoradh.

I also don’t think you are wasting anyone time by asking what anarchists are doing in Ireland. While we are aware of our limitations and Irish anarchism has no historical tradition, as a movement it is only coming into existence since the late 1970s. We do not yet enjoy the popular understanding of and respect for anarchist ideas that can be found among thousands of militants in countries like Sweden, Spain, France, Italy or Korea but this is changing. The other fact that the political landscape has been dominated by the reactionary forces of nationalism and unionism for last 30 years and therefore everything else was put to the side. The election of Gerry Carroll maybe an indicator of the political terrain changing.

Anarchists have and continue to be involved in a range of struggles from the workplace, to women’s right to choose, environmental opposing state repression, and prisoner support. In recent times, anarchists have been particularly involved in the struggle for women's right to choose and access abortion services that has mobilized thousands on the streets. In the South, they were very active in the campaign against water charges at a community level in terms of building a mass movement based on self-organisation and direct action. In the North, anarchists have re-established Just Books that provides a meeting space for workers in struggle and other campaigns, bookshop and library.  I am not a member but the WSM website gives a snapshot of the struggles they are involved in to date .

I have read Saoradh’s constitution and it is positive to see their have been strives made in terms of reflecting a ‘bottom up’ approach but whether this is just lip service like other organisations such as Eirigi and other Leninist organizations remains to be seen.

Secondly, how does this ‘bottom up’ approach square with more recent statements in relation to the death of Fidel Castro that ‘Cuba remains a benchmark for our goals and aspirations.’

While Cuba has made enormous achievements in education and healthcare, it has anything but a ‘bottom up’ approach which is down to the authoritarian Leninist ideology underpinning the regime rather than any blockade or other circumstances. Where is the attempt to understand both the positives and negatives? Indeed, Castro equally persecuted those of the left and the right who questioned party rule especially the once strong anarchist movement on the island.

Moreover, ironically, I found it interesting that republicans are quick to campaign against internment on remand and an end to non-jury Diplock courts here and rightly so, but forget to mention a similar set up in Fidel's Cuba. But sure as long as under 'anti-imperialism' and your enemies enemy is your friend everything is logical and justified.

Lastly, given now there are probably more splits and divisions within republicanism than the left, what are the differences between Saoradh and Eirigi and other groups such as RNU?


  1. "I have read Saoradh’s constitution and it is positive to see their have been strives made in terms of reflecting a ‘bottom up’ approach but whether this is just lip service like other organisations such as Eirigi and other Leninist organizations remains to be seen."

    Same old, same old....Adams' children voicing dissension against the father but primarily issuing the same rhetoric. Just about sums it for me Sean...well said.

  2. Things are in a terrible state Niall. Where to is a question no-one seems to have an answer to but republicanism, already heavily marginalised, seems incapable of engaging the necessary conversation in order to do so - repeating instead, as you rightly point out, the same old same old that has gone before and failed time and again. I envisage a need for total democratic struggle from below that empowers the movement of itself and not a leadership. Whether this ever materialses is obviously another story and a job of work but we can only but try.

  3. Sean Bress,
    I think it was Bernadette McAlister who said that there is no point in moaning about SF if you haven't got an alternative....Sean Matthews seems to have such.

  4. Indeed Niall and it is exactly that sort of model the 1916 Societies have been trying to encourage.

    We are organised as a collective of autonomous and independent republican cumainn who affiliate to each other under the umbrella of the constitution and code of conduct of the wider 1916 Societies.

    It is the job of each individual cumann, and not the centre, to determine how republican ideals and objectives can best be promoted in their own particular area - and indeed what the immediate objectives, with a programme of work to match, should be in relation to that same area, its particular needs and nuances accounted for.

    No Officer, whether at local or national level, can hold a position for longer than three years and the approach is generally to worry about developing abilities rather than searching out the finished article and parachuting whoever into a particular position.

    Beyond that, we do not seek to impose ourselves on the campaigns of others, with an intent to 'take over', but instead foresee the need to simply play our role within the broader organic movement that is currently developing free from such malignant efforts.

    Our meetings and decision-making system is also based on the consensus model - it is extremely rare that a vote takes place on anything.

    The idea instead is to allow for all opinions and thrash it out until an agreeable position can be found, with at all times the best interests of the struggle the main consideration.

    It's a challenging environment but I think this is the way forward.

    To that extent myself and the like of Sean are not competing for the one space - we ARE the one space and that's how we should seek to build going forward.

    A long road a chara...

  5. Sean Bres,
    A long road indeed Sean...have you thought about how to bring on board Brexit to your advantage? It could shorten the journey quite considerably especially with Foster coming under a sustained attack from within her own party.....Britain's weakness is.....God starting to sound like a Shinner there.....apologies!

  6. I think an update (fresh article) is needed on soaradh after the recent split don't you mackers?
    get the pen out tell us quill junkies your thoughts.