Friday, July 17, 2009

In the Spirit of James Connolly / In the Spirit of Malcolm X

Over the past weeks and months the leadership of Sinn Féin have been launching a campaign to bring the debate on a United Ireland to an international audience. There have been forums in New York, San Francisco, London and Liverpool. More have been planned and it is part of a programme to gain support from all around the world for Sinn Féin's strategy to achieve a United Ireland.

Below is a piece submitted by Tom Shelly who is a socialist supporter of Sinn Féin in the US in which he discusses how Sinn Féin should build support for Irish Unity within America. I would like to thank Tom for his contribution and I would encourage anybody else who wishes to write a piece to just send it to me in a comment and I will post it.
In the Spirit of James Connolly

This will be a summary of an article on my blog which is called "In The Spirit Of Malcolm X." I decided to go with Connolly for this since he spent several years organizing unions in America. Going back to Malcolm X, what prompted me to name the article that way was the following quote:

"I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation... It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of Black against white, or as a purely American problem. Rather we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter."(Malcolm X Speaks, pp. 232-233) January, 1965.
The article is about how SF and its American allies try to generate support for SF’s agenda in America. I feel that they are making a mistake by focusing so much on Irish-America. They should focus more on generating support from people of all ethnic backgrounds who are interested in.

**Anti-imperialism (the situation that nationalists have experienced needs to be frequently and consistently portrayed as part of a global rebellion which in recent decades has included the Palestinians, East Timor, Apartheid S. Africa, Chiapas, Native America, etc.)

**Social justice (it makes sense to explain to people that sectarianism is similar to racism and anti-semitism and kind of similar to homophobia, and people who are against those forms of bigotry should show some interest in helping to combat sectarianism in the North)

**economic justice (explaining where the political centers of the nationalist and unionist communities are (center-left and center-right respectively) and the working-class nature of the nationalist community and explaining that uniting Ireland will strengthen liberal, progressive, left and working-class movements should attract support)

There’s a lot more people of all ethnicities that feel passionately about those issues from a liberal-left perspective than there are Irish-Americans already involved or likely to get involved and SF is going generate almost zero support from non-Irish-Americans to the right of center. SF can probably quadruple the amount of support their cause in America has, and all of that growth will go to SF, although a small percentage of old supporters might start supporting some other group in protest.

For this to happen SF will need to start behaving in America the way they do in Ireland. We should see Adams and other figures in the leadership being invited to speak at more events with a progressive audience- for example, pro-Palestinian events, pro-labor events. Wherever possible, SF should make this happen (they probably have some allies who could get them invited) and then it will just grow from there. They’ll have to make it very clear where their politics actually are, especially at the beginning of this process, and that should involve changing the way they talk about generating support in America, adding the appropriate links to Irish Northern Aid web-sites (that will affect what visitors think of INA and might involve some link exchanges and will encourage INA members to reach out on an individual level to liberal-progressive-left groups), attending the alternative, inclusive St. Patrick’s Day event in Queens, NY, that sort of thing (the Queens parade is a good way for SF to get it’s foot in the door, it will signal that they want a different relationship with America, and LGBT groups will respond positively and members of those groups have connections with other liberal-progressive-left groups).

This will have an effect on present and future generations of a segment of Irish-America and would see that group become more liberal-progressive-left, which will mean fewer people voting for the GOP and more people voting for the Democrats, and SF and their agenda will do better with more Democrats elected to federal office.I think that’s about it for a summary.

Two points about how this is relevant to this blog:

1) When people in Dublin went with Higgins instead of McDonald, that’s because they wanted the solid socialist in these bad economic times. Part of people thinking SF might not be solid socialists is their record in America. The SP, about 10 years ago, said that SF is left-wing in the South, right-wing in America, and in between in the North. The North’s a separate discussion, but SF could respond to that by being left-wing in America.

2) The approach I’m recommending might firm up the left-wing commitment of some people in SF who are a little too flexible, and nudge other members towards the left.

So, in summary of the summary, SF and it’s agenda will benefit greatly by focusing on people in America with the right politics instead of the right genealogy.

The article is at


  1. I think this might be worth a comment. When I estimate what percentages of people are or will work on this issue in America, it might have been better if I had found a way explaining that my proposal will result in something like 4-5 times more support than is currently the case without offering hard numbers. at one point, hopefully before Starry read it and I know before he posted it on his blog here, I lowered the bottom of my estimate to .5% and 2.5% I don't think I've seen any info on what % of americans sign petitions or write letters to the editor, etc. and I can't make up my mind if I'm talking about people who do at least one thing a year or more like at least once every five years. Although it's a little awkward and I might re-do that part of the article at some point, it doesn't really matter. The figure is probably somewhere between the highest and lowest estimates (probably close to the lowest) and I can guarantee you the gap is about five times, based on various factors including the demographics of America and what I know about other international solidarity efforts in America.

    Besides that and the estimates for SF membership, which I explain in the article, I think it's very solid, I just wanted to say something that would hopefully avoid a discussion of whether or not it's 20% or 5% of Irish-Americans. The important figure is 4-5 for how much growth there will be.


  2. although I almost always restrain myself when it's not about editing MY blog, I do have a problem with doing what I'm doing right now (I make frequent tiny-small changes on my blog all the time), but I'll try not to clutter this discussion my comments. This however, is worth another comment. Based on a survey I just looked at, the HIGHER estimates I offered for political activity are probably accurate. Apparently my initial instincts were right, and I shouldn't have worried I was over-estimating. The info if you want it is at


  3. This is an interesting post and an interesting site. You are to be congratulated - whoever you are!

    One of the problems is that that party has not thought through our strategy for reunification. The latest form this takes is the piecemeal advancement of all-island integration through the NSMC. Prior to that I remember the demographics being dressed up as the way forwards.

    This process of integration is meant to undermine the material basis for unionist hegemony but the reality is that this will not work. Unionism is too entrenched to be undermined this way - certainly not in the medium-term.

    Going to the USA will not address this. It is important to internationalise the struggle but it is not decisive. I realise now that Sinn Féin will never be an appropriate vehicle to reach out to unionists and complete the defeat of unionism in Ireland. That dynamic must come from elsewhere. Indeed whatever chance we had of doing that has been effectively nullified by the fact that we now have to share the blame of implementing Westminster-dictated cutbacks in the North. The radical edge has gone.

    The absence of clarity on the mechanism to achieve unity has led to confusion throughout the party around very basic issues. The party sets out unity as the primary strategic objective but offers little by way of explanation save the mystical and crucially vague 'road maps' some self-professed 'strategists' offer - no doubt you will know the types I speak about.

    My own personal belief is that Sinn Fein must move to the right to pursue its agenda of unification. In the absence of a radical socialist agenda, the only way to advance unity is to point towards the unsustainability of the northern state with its bloated public sector and its dependent service oriented private sector 'economy'. Unity from above.

    After all these years struggling to push the party to the left, I concede defeat. I blame myself for not seeing this clearly earlier on and also seeing clearly that we could never win the internal struggle but then again I have always been a naive optimist. Best wishes with the site. Do chara.

  4. Hi SP,

    I saw this link the Socialist Party's page. Its their take on building a mass left party in the south.