Saturday, July 3, 2010

Community Politics, Popular Fronts and the first thing on the agenda

The Belfast Telegraph today carries a short piece on the creation of cross community politics in the north of Ireland.

It lays out a strategy of developing a Popular Front in order to unify sectional interests in both communities who would you think have much in common i.e getting ordinary working class people in both communities to recognise they have plenty in common.

The specific strategy is to establish an:
electorally focused 'popular front', consisting both of political parties and individuals. The organisation would raise funds, provide organisational support for elections, support other campaigns, and, most importantly, promote debate around developing a progressive agenda. Activists would come from all traditions and would seek support from all.
Okay but easier said than done and based on the premise that there is no party already working on building cross community politics. Even though its a short piece it does not mention Sinn Fein once.

Its very easy to write a plan on building a cross community vote but very hard to do that in practice. One of the issues that makes this so difficult obviously is the political divide. Even if working class people in both communities have common interests they also have different political aspirations that cant be ignored, though they can be persuaded to change. The Workers Party tried to build cross community politics in the north previously, and for this article its good to park the many differences with that party, but its efforts to expand into loyalist communities were unsuccessful while its reading of the political reality of the north resulted in it losing support in the nationalist communities.

The proposed "Popular Front" strategy in the Bel Tel argues that "certainly, on a local level, there's no advantage in class terms to either remaining part of the UK or becoming part of a united Ireland." Is that true though? Does that set the value people place on having a sense of national identity at zero? And in a place like the six counties where two communities have aspirations to different national identities does it mean that looking at the challenges of the north purely in "class terms" is to miss out on the realities of political life there. Is an analysis purely in "class terms" a viable option today, or for the next few years? That doesn't mean progress cant be made towards it but first ground work has to be done before its an option. Any thoughts on that?

Look at the work of Sinn Fein in East Belfast or the recent meeting of Gerry Adams and Jackie McDonald as they paid the respects at a funeral.
Cross community relations are being built and thats going to lead to cross community political relationships. Look at the warm congratulations of John Stevenson to Michelle Gildernew, the independent, left wing candidate from a presbyterian background in Fermanagh South Tyrone. Small things but thats how cross-community politics is being built.

Critics of Sinn Fein can ignore the party's work in building new political relationships with loyalist communities but ignore it or no its making a difference and will allow class poltics to develop in the north. Thats more done than any putative popular front.

Regretably in the south a different left wing group, People Before Profit, choose also to ignore the work Sinn Fein does in towns, cities and rural areas and instead launched a fairly strong attack via The Village magazine. Robbie Smith in An Phoblacht has more on the The Village article and the Rathangan Sinn Fein blog notes that while others on the left might wish to engage in such squabbles well we in Sinn Fein shouldnt care. The only thing we do care for is the welfare of the Irish people.

We have more ambition to create real change than these groups, and have more support to do just that. We can just rise above this type of stuff and keep on working.

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