Wither the IRSCNA? Wither the IRSP?
In April 2005 the Ard Comhairle of the Irish Republican Socialist Party issued instructions to the members of the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America. They were told to immediately send their votes for a five person collective leadership for the organization to Liam O Ruairc, who would tally these votes on behalf of the Ard Comhairle and announce the new collective leadership of the IRSCNA. In addition, two individuals--one who's IRSCNA membership had been suspended for uncomradely behavior and that individuals domestic partner, who had resigned in the midst of the incident leading to the other's suspension--were to be allowed to resume their membership in the IRSCNA.Based on their experience, especially at the November 2004 IRSP Ard Fheis, and their analysis of events within the IRSP since 1998, a group of individuals who had formed the core of the IRSCNA since its inception in 1984, and whose work with the IRSP began years prior to that, saw these orders from the IRSP's Ard Comhairle as actually representing efforts by a faction within the party's leadership to remove remaining pockets of resistance against their efforts to move the party towards reformism and closer association with the international grouping around British Trotskyist Ted Grant. Believing that this faction had previously been able to consolidate its control over the movement in similar conflicts during the past five years by hiding its actions in the shadows and relying on the discipline and desire for unity among the party cadre, the IRSCNA core group concluded that they were compelled to make a public resignation, in order to force a great many issues into the light.The dominant faction within the IRSP's leadership moved rapidly to thwart communication between IRSP members and the individuals who had resigned in protest and then issued propaganda which sought to mask the changes in the North American organization as a drive for greater internal democracy, rather than the attack on internal party democracy that it actually was. The tactics were effective and the efforts to raise concerns about both the excessive power wielded by the IRSP's Political Secretary and the direction in which he and his co-thinkers were leading the IRSP greatly undermined.However, as we approach six-months since these events took place, those of us now reconstituted as the International Republican Socialist Committees would like to draw attention to a couple of points that no doubt went unnoticed by most concerned and all those outside the IRSM. What we would like to draw attention to is the fact that despite having been given clear instructions, which were clearly not open to debate, to cast ballots for a five-person collective leadership of the IRSCNA, no such election ever took place. Instead, three individuals who initially self-defined themselves as the coordinators of the IRSCNA remain in those positions, un-augmented by the election of two additional members of the leadership and unelected themselves by the IRSCNA's membership. We do not mean to suggest that such an arrangement is fundamentally flawed--in fact we are well aware that such arrangements can simply reflect pragmatic means of addressing the coordinating needs of an organization such as the IRSCNA. All that we wish to draw attention to is that the decision to hold an immediate election of a five-person collective leadership, with ballots tallied by an Ard Comhairle representative, which prompted the resignations of the most senior members of the IRSCNA and was perceived by them as nothing more to displace the individuals who had led the IRSCNA through twenty years of its existence, did not take place once those individuals were gone. Accordingly, we feel compelled to ask, if that directive to elect a five-person leadership was not specifically directed against the individuals who resigned and was motivated instead by the Ard Comhairle's vision of how to best direct the IRSCNA, why did it not take place?Likewise, the Ard Comhairle gave orders to re-admit the two individuals from Chicago--which was perceived by those who resigned as chiefly intended to provide active members who would more readily support movement away from the traditional republican socialist program of the IRSP--yet those two individuals have never resumed membership in the IRSCNA, despite one of them having petitioned the Ard Comhairle of the IRSP to gain re-admission. If the Ard Comhairle's decision to force the re-admission of these two members upon the IRSCNA, despite the majority of its members opposing such action was not chiefly a tactic to displace the senior members of the IRSCNA and thereby remove their defense of the IRSM's traditional republican socialist program, why have these individuals never re-emerged within the ranks of the IRSCNA?These questions will most likely be brushed aside with a show of disdain by the IRSP's Political Secretary and his allies within the IRSP's leadership--after all, that has proved an extremely effective means of masking their machinations within the movement's leadership over the past seven years--and that is fine. The new International Republican Socialist Committees, we believe, will prove to be an effective vehicle for ensuring what is most important to us--that the genuine, revolutionary republican socialism that defined the first 25 years of the IRSM continue to be available for those confronting the joint struggle for class and national liberation to be able to draw upon its lessons and analysis, while also allowing the organization to expand its focus to more centrally include the experience of republican socialism in Wales and Scotland, as well as to address struggles providing fertile soil for the theory and tactics of the republican socialist tradition, such as Puerto Rico, Breizh, Euzkadi, Quebec, Greenland, and Southwestern Sahara.We do not raise these questions seeking vindication, we raise them to prompt the cadre of the IRSM to examine the actions of members of the party's leadership and determine if they support the course on which those actions are leading the movement. The movement belongs to its members and they are entitled to take it any direction they choose--we are only concerned that they are participants in choosing that course.
Towards the same end, we ask why one of the party's members with the least time spent as a prisoner, who has income from a teaching pension, was selected as one of two paid coordinators for the Teach na Failte office opened in North Belfast over other members of the party's leadership, with more experience as prisoners, more history as INLA volunteers, and more compelling financial need? How appropriate a choice was that individual to head the office of an ex-prisoner's organization?
Moreover, it might be asked, what was the compulsion to open a North Belfast office for Teach na Failte, when Teach na Failte already had an entire floor of office space on the Falls Road, yet Derry and Dublin had no Teach na Failte office at all--or at the time, any form of office by a section of the IRSM in their cities?
The membership might also ask why there hasn't been a financial report at an Ard Fheis since the one given in 1984 and they might ask what benefit exactly did the movement, and the ex-prisoners of the INLA specifically, obtain with the half a million pounds sterling Teach na Failte received in grant funds several years ago and why was no accounting ever given on its expenditure? They might even ask whether or not Brid Ruddy profited from Teach na Failte funds expended on training she provided, and, if so, whether the Political Secretary could also be said to have profited from this income having been obtained by his spouse. And, before the fur flies with regard to those questions, let me state plainly that I do not know the answer to these questions and am not suggesting one answer or another to them in reply. What is being suggested, however, is that the members of the IRSM have the right to know the answers and most likely do not.Those of us who resigned in protest in April 2005, and those who have subsequently chosen to align themselves with our position, may simply be the victims of paranoid delusion. We lay no claim to secret knowledge about the direction of the party since 1998. But, whether paranoid or insightful, we believe there is cause for the cadre of the IRSM to consider what might have been the cause of many events over the last several years. Whether welcome or not, we feel compelled to raise these issues with them out of a sense of comradeship developed over the many years we struggled together. Though no longer members of the IRSP, we remain revolutionary republican socialist activists and continue to draw inspiration from Connolly and Larkin, Costello, Power, and Gino Gallagher. We take pride in the history of the IRSP and maintain our respect for the heroic struggle waged by the INLA, and we would like you to continue to be able to do so as well.
Peter Urban, International Republican Socialist Network
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