|Organisation:||Sinn Féin The Workers' Party|
|Series:||Studies in Political Economy|
|Contributor:||Eoghan Harris [uncredited], Eamonn Smullen|
|Discuss:||Comments on this document|
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This document, arguably one of the most significant released by any left wing party in Ireland during the 1970s, is an important addition to the Archive.
It is an interesting blend of hard information supported by rigorous and comprehensive research and a quite informal, occasionally sarcastic, tone. To this one could add that it is surprisingly readable and accessible. It has a useful appendix on the state sector.
The overall thesis is well known, although in its printed form it is arguably more nuanced than often acknowledged. And it is certainly somewhat different to a simple formula of international capital developing an Irish urban working class, with the document arguing that the 1960s had already seen the development of such a class and that the necessity was for the state to take the lead role in forwarding the interests of that class.
In the following weeks contributors to the CLR will be dealing with aspects of this analysis in greater detail. But there are some interesting points worth commenting on briefly.
In its Foreword, written by Eamon Smullen, then Director of Economic Affairs, it notes that:
This book is a study of the political economy of Southern Ireland, written from the standpoint of scientific socialism. The period dealt with in the first part of this study stretches from the Penal Laws down to the present day. In the backgronud therefore looms the two great revolutions that shaped the modern world and gave birth to the twin concepts of democracy and socialism.
It notes a self-perception of SFWP…
…as the vanguard of the Irish working class, [which] has a clear duty to explain its historic role to that class without sentiment or arrogance. This involves giving a clear outline of where the party has come from, where it now stands, and what its future course will be. This party also has a duty to acknowledge any mistakes and errors made in its long and difficult struggle to understand the history it inherited and to transcend that history.
But it positions the document…
The party which has produced this book, Sinn Fein - The Workers’ Party, is the historical product of the French Revolution. In turn, the product of the our party in history must be the creation of an Irish Industrial Revolution. The second part of this book therefore, is a systematic plan for the making of an industrial Ireland. This plan in turn means the emancipation of the Irish working class so that it can carry out its historic mission - the construction of socialism in Ireland.
Interestingly this mission is one which is focused entirely on an urban working class which is set against ‘the populist demands of a peasant society’.
As long as Ireland remained a largely rural society Republicanism could not transcend the populist democratic legacy of the French Revolution and make contact with the larger world of socialism which had been ushered in by the Industrial Revolution. Similarly, the struggle between Republicanism and Hibernian nationalism could not assume the clear form of a struggle between democratic socialism and degenerate right wing nationalism until such time as an Irish working class arrived on the stage of history in such massive numbers as to decide the outcome once and for all.
However, the Foreword argues that ‘…the 1960s saw a dramatic and historic change in the nature of class forces in Ireland. These changes left the Irish urban and industrial working class the dominant class in Ireland. This party further believes that this change took place largely under the stimulus of American monopoly capital, which, in that period, replaced British imperialism as the major economic tendency in the Irish economy.’
It proposes that…
The national question for this party has nothing to do with the setting up of ‘Independent’ Ulsters and neither is it confined simply to the removal of British troops. These are symbols not substance. For us the national question can only be formulated as peace among the divided working class in the two states in Ireland so as to allow a united industrial revolution in all Ireland and the overthrow of Anglo-American Imperialism and ultimately the construction of an Irish Workers’ Republic.
Perhaps inevitably there is mention of ‘middle class degenerate right wing nationalism’, ‘Socialist Republicans’ (with SFWP implicitly making the point that many groups that used the title were not Socialist Republicans from their point of view) and ‘Trotskyist reflections’ in a discussion on the use of terror and violence, all of which appear somewhat esoteric in a discussion on political economy.
In conclusion the Foreword positions the document…
…as a guide to Irish history, a remedy for our economic misery and an earnest of good faith.
In terms of the second part of the document, the Introduction argues that…
…because we are scientific socialists that short term plan is embedded in a larger and more detailed framework of a plan for the transformation of Irish political economy. The industrial revolution which we plan is the basis for the construction of socialism in Ireland. It is not a plan like others on offer which involves the state in subsidising the dying Irish bourgeoisie. It is not a populist plan for a return to a Tir na nOg village society, peopled by casual handymen and weatherproof farm labourers. It is not a plan for any kind of Eire Nua with its seedy echoes of an old and unlamented Ireland.
And it continues:
This book sets forth a plan for the construction of a modern urban society, resting on a powerful industrial base. That foundation is to be built by the application of the hand and brain of the Irish working class, aided by modern technology and working through the form of State companies, to the processing of our great natural resources, our land, forests, mines, gas and oil. From this industrialisation of nature will flow the endless abundance of commodities that will enable our people to move from the present realm of scarcity to the realm of freedom.
The influence of the document is difficult to tell, particularly at this remove, but it might be interesting to attempt to make some assessment.
The following links to other WP documents of this period - in the Left Archive and Dublin Opinion - are included because they are referred to in the text of the IIR: