Sinn Féin spent thirty years honing the art of misinformation, becoming world-class experts in double speak in the process. Now they have turned their fire onto the radical left. At this year’s SF Ard Fheis, Gerry Adams used a prime slot on RTE’s The Week in Politics to claim that People Before Profit were a two nations party.
Adams knew his claim was totally false. PBP has always been clear that it wants a 32 country socialist Ireland. But Adam’s slur was designed to cause maximum damage in the run up the Northern Assembly elections.
Over the same weekend PBP put more than 50 activists on the streets of West Belfast, the spiritual home of the current Sinn Fein leadership. Gerry Carroll went on to top the poll for PBP taking an incredible 8,299 votes. Eamonn McCann was also elected in the Foyle constituency, despite the return of Martin McGuinness to his Derry homeland.
These events have shaken Sinn Fein. They have seen a consistent anti-sectarian, anti-austerity message eat into their base in parts of the north and they are worried that it will now expose their hypocrisy in the south.
Despite their goal of a united Ireland it is SF that most ruthlessly exploits the border. In the north they have pursed a neoliberal agenda of cutting corporation taxes and slashing public services. In the south they have presented themselves as part of the genuine left, opposing austerity and calling for taxes on the wealthiest in society. This hypocrisy is now under threat and to discredit those of us who object to Sinn Fein’s double dealing, they have once again gone on the attack.
In an online article in An Poblacht Mark Moloney used the fall-out from Brexit to suggest that “AAA/PBP row in behind Tories, DUP, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to oppose Irish unity referendum”. Mary Lou McDonald then took to twitter amplifying the message that AAA-PBP were against a border poll. Once again this is totally false.
Whatever about the AAA, People Before Profit are for the right of the people of the North, and Ireland as a whole, to hold referenda on whether the border should remain. Similarly, we are for the right of the Scottish people to determine whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom. This is not only a matter of democracy. Standing in the tradition of James Connolly, PBP believes that the border has led to a carnival of reaction, allowing right-wing politicians to divide the working class along sectarian lines.
However, we are also clear that SF’s call for a border poll is a bluff, designed to shore up their own support base through nationalist rhetoric. Contrary to SF’s claims, then, PBP is not opposed to a border poll. But we do believe that real unity in this country will only come from below, through people power and working class struggle. Breaking the border and uniting workers on a class basis is the key to advancing in Ireland.
Discussions on partition and Irish Unity can never be dismissed as ‘divisive’ – no more than discussion on abortion or racism can be dismissed as divisive.
Where we differ profoundly with SF, however is on the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and the European Union. Rather than working to bring the people of the North together, the GFA has embedded sectarianism throughout the institutions of the Northern state. Instead of fostering cross-community class based struggles, the GFA works to reinforce the sectarianism that leads away from the goal of a socialist Ireland.
PBP therefore believes that the institutions at Stormont are fundamentally sectarian and anti-workers’ rights.
We also oppose the European Union for similar reasons. Over the last two years the treatment of the Greek people and the Syrian refugees should have been enough to convince anyone on the genuine left of the need to oppose the European project.
Their behaviour in the Ukraine also exposed the Imperialism of the European elites. PBP has been consistent in our view that socialism will only be possible outside the prison house of the European Union. We were therefore proud to argue for a left wing exit in the British Referendum.
Yet, despite having voted against every EU treaty for thirty years, SF argued for remain. This would have bolstered the power of the British ruling class and the European elites, thereby pushing back the goal of a socialist Ireland. When Syriza’s reformist politics came up against the logic of the EU, PBP came to the conclusion that it is necessary to challenge the EU in its fundamentals. Sinn Fein drew entirely the opposite conclusion, arguing that Syriza had pushed things too far in their opposition to the European Central Bank.
This speaks volumes about the nature of our respective projects. Unlike the socialists in PBP, Sinn Fein want to manage capitalism on both sides of the border. They also want to remain within an EU hardwired to attack workers’ rights and refugees In the north they have already thrown their weight behind a full blown neoliberal strategy.
Instead of using the state to protect employment, they have joined with the DUP in supporting a reduction of taxes on big corporations while at the same time pressing for the removal of 20,000 jobs in the public services.
In the south they have also made a turn to the right as the prospect of managing the Irish state fades into the distance. Despite their left rhetoric, SF never ruled out governing with Fianna Fail. Until the last general election, they aimed to head up a grand coalition with either the left or the right as their minority partners. But now that FF have surged in the polls this strategy looks increasingly unlikely. Instead SF would have to accept the junior role in a government dominated by the establishment right. To prepare the ground for such an eventuality they themselves have turned to the right. This helps to explain their attack on People Before Profit.
Over the last 12 months SF have also shown their willingness to attack workers in a right-wing government in the north. Telling lies about our policies will not help their cause.