Sinn Fein’s Crisis of Conscience

Where has the Marxism gone?

Where has the Marxism gone?

Remember when Sinn Fein used to be a Marxist party? As this article in Marxist Today attests, Sinn Fein has shuffled away from its Marxist roots in order to buy some popular support – especially in Northern Ireland.

But Sinn Fein’s ideological attachment to Marxism only occasionally shows itself. Sinn Fein prefers easier doctrinal posturing – ideally involving emblems or flags or commemorations. Arguments around economics throw the party spokespeople into a tizzy. They never seem really sure of their ground. The contradictions are manifest.

This morning Conor Murphy appeared on the Nolan Show to ‘discuss’ the latest gauntlet to be thrown down by the Conservatives – this time by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn statement. Osborne wants the NI parties to get their budget act together before he’ll agree to the devolution of Corporation Tax. That will require the local parties to agree on the (partial) extension of welfare reform to NI.

Murphy’s objection to this is as follows: 1) He won’t be told how to behave by the Tories; 2) He won’t accept the ideological basis of the welfare reforms. But here’s the thing…he doesn’t need to do either. The Shinners can maintain their pseudo-ideological commitment to Marxism by saying 1) they haven’t agreed to anything imposed by the Tories; and 2) they don’t accept the Tory ideology. The alternative is the politics of Canute.

Denial of the facts by Sinn Fein does not amount to ideological strength. The fact is that only the UK Treasury has (borrowed) money. Sinn Fein has none without the UK Treasury. The UK Treasury funds Sinn Fein’s fake research departments. The UK Treasury pays Sinn Fein MLAs ‘living wages’. The UK Treasury provides the £10Bn of subvention that this place needs, annually, to stay fiscally afloat.

Ironically, the impending departmental cuts are not Tory cuts but Sinn Fein cuts – because it’s precisely because of Sinn Fein intransigence on welfare reforms that the cuts are being implemented – they’d be much less draconian if Sinn Fein simply accepted the imposition of nasty Tory policy. There is no ideology at work here apart from Tory ideology. That does not make Sinn Fein responsible for it.

Sinn Fein can distance itself from every Tory policy to which it does not agree. But intransigence on welfare reform is having the reverse effect to the one intended. It’s resulting in immediate departmental cuts and a failure to extend devolved taxation powers to the Executive. By definition Sinn Fein is working against itself and its aspirations for greater self-determination.

The extension of devolution power over corporation tax does not, of course, make a rate reduction inevitable. The local parties are already making noises that they won’t countenance the price of a rate cut in terms of block grant reduction. And, ideologically, the idea of a ‘rebalancing’ of the Northern Ireland economy away from public sector dependency may not sit well with any real Marxists that still exist in Sinn Fein ranks.  Indeed, perhaps Sinn Fein may be approaching its first real collective crisis of conscience. Can it really argue in favour of a reduction in Corporation Tax when the only doctrinal position that could support that stance is a reduction in dependency on UK Treasury hand-outs and a greater involvement of foreign owned big businesses seeking low-tax HQ locations? Is this position compatible with any real Marxist/Socialist principles?

If not, then Sinn Fein needs to start thinking about what it does, indeed stand for. Because if it doesn’t stand for those things it may find itself arguing the case for continued dependence on UK money when there is no money left.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Did you just imply that the only alternative to Tory versions austerity are the politics of King Canute?

    Canute virtually created England, Churchill nearly bankrupted it trying to turn back the tide on fiat currency.

  • Nordie Northsider

    I’m not so sure SF ever claimed to be a Marxist party, unless you’re talking about the Official variety.

  • Superfluous

    Yes, maybe I need to brush up on my history – but I thought the whole split with the Stickies was over the Provos not having time for Marxism?

  • Stuart

    By way of correction, as far as I am aware there is no publication entitled “Marxist Today”. “Marxism Today” was a magazine connected to the Communist Party of Great Britain, which folded in 1991. The organisation who published the article linked to above is the “International Marxist Tendency”, one of the remnants of Militant, formerly a group within the British Labour Party.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Thanks for the correction.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Fair point but then I’m just not sure what SF’s ideological position is in that case. Conor Murphy today indicated he could not countenance accepting Tory ideology – but what, then, is his counter ideology? Is he a mixed-market centre-socialist? Is he a Neo-Con? What is he? I suspect that Sinn Fein is still mostly ideologically lefty but that it has pegged itself to a Nationalist/Republican badge for so long it has no real idea what it stands for on real-world issues. But the positioning is going to become more important as its ability to argue for more public spending from the Brits rings very hollow when every region of the UK is demanding the same things in a time of extreme fiscal realignment – regardless of the party of government in Westminster.

  • Morpheus

    I find topics like this a little on the pretentious side to be honest.

    Take a walk down any street in Northern Ireland and ask an average Joe what he thinks of Marxist tendencies and to a man you will either get blank expressions or asked if he played for United back in the 90s. The average voter knows little or nothing about Marxism and cares even less about Marxism so if you ask them if the Shinners shuffling away from their Marxist roots will effect their decision making process you will get the answer you deserve for being so pretentious

  • Bryan Magee

    Generally left wing. Not clear what Marxist actually means.

  • Sliothar

    So, Jeff, after two your admissions of error re the very basis of your assertion of SF claiming to be a Marxist party (to Nordie N above – he is correct, the Marxists were SF-The Workers’ Party or Official SF) and (to Stuart below) to the source of your info (‘In Defence of Marxism’ from International Marxist Tendency aka Militant Tendency or ‘Trots’, the bug-eyed sector of the Socialist umbrella) how much more of your post can we actually believe, given the latter’s impeccable credentials in fantasy politics?

  • eiregain

    Interesting point which for the politically informed of us, actually does matter. however you present your piece in a non objective fashion, which marrs your overall point. Im not sure what your attempting to get at when you imply Sinn Fein voters are all Marxists and Ideologues and they are Indoctrinated economically?(most couldn’t spell Marxism) and if Public Sector jobs were lost and corporation tax went down how would they feel as “Marxists”? the whole piece just wreaks of condescension. I would imaging electorate vote first on tribe then social policy. Not many in NI lend there first preference vote to the party or candidate with a clear economic vision, as NONE of the parties have one.

  • barnshee

    We have principles -you don`t like them? well here are some more -Repeat until enough people are fooled

  • Barneyt

    Indeed. Certainly in the north, Marxism and what became Provisional SF were not easy bed fellows. The split in effect defined the provisionals as non-marxist. The officials represented the very left of the organisation. It was their perhaps naive (but admirable) quest to unite the workers from both nationalist and loyalist communities within the NI jurisdiction that contributed to the split. The provisionals were nonplussed by Marxism, focused on defending Catholics from attacks (remember the I Ran Away jibes), and ensuring that republicanism did not give credence to NI as a state. At the time of the split, it would take another 15 years or so before the provisionals recognised the Dail. I would class SF as left of centre in the north, and perhaps more readily seen as pro-socialist in the republic.

  • Superfluous

    I don’t mind a party changing their politics as such and I’m not sure you need to pick a creed and stick to it religiously – I’ve certainly moved far from my leftist origins as I’ve matured. I wouldn’t vote Sinn Fein because I don’t think their economics are sound – I’m currently weighing up the offer of a job in a tech company in Dublin and the income tax is a big deterrent for me – if Sinn Fein had their way and the top levels of tax were higher I simply wouldn’t work there. Ireland is an open country, people can come and go as they please, but some people are still stuck in a 1900s mindset where they think the State owns the citizen.

    In saying that Sinn Fein seem to have conceded that a lower corporation tax is better for Northern Ireland – so they appear to be somewhat ideologically flexible. It would be very interesting to see how they deal with getting in office down south – practical politics will be much more difficult than populist finger pointing – and maybe a bit of economic maturity will come along as they have actual competent economists whispering in their ears.

  • NRx tides are turning

    You would have thought that Gerry’s “trojan horse” slip-up would have woken up the naive by now, but I guess you would have to have severe mental issues to still be so naive in the first place after experiencing local reality over the years.

    You are making the wrong assumption that anyone at the hard-core of the far-left anywhere in the world has ever cared about the nonsense ideas of Marxism and impossible non-existent but falsely altruistic-sounding utopian notion of “equality”. The truth is that such ideology has only ever been a demagogic Machiavellian subversion strategy for destabilising an existing society and grabbing power for their more-equal selves. Communists specifically demonised the middle (rather than upper) class precisely to destroy any who may aspire and threaten them as the new ruling class. The truth is that there has never been any original thought or ideology behind Sinn Fein/IRA, as their tactics might have well (and probably did) have come verbatim straight out of a KGB training manual. Let this KGB defector explain it to you:
    Yuri Bezmenov: Psychological Warfare Subversion &…:

    Now, do what most biased historians of the dominant liberal and green hues have not done, and re-think/state the truth on “The Troubles” (sic) — it is no coincidence that Northern Ireland was most severely destabilised along the same time as Marxist street revolutions were springing up across the globe; where locally Useful Idiot “liberals” gained power, neutered our defences, and gave sympathy to IRA-founded Marxist organisations like the NICRA. That was the whole idea.

    Just as it does not surprise me that liberals like Jeff Peel do not understand this at all — like all the Useful Idiots associated with the modern Tory Party there is nothing culturally conservative about them — they, as well as all others on the “left”, are all Cultural Marxists now, albeit Cultural Marxists who care only about money. The tactics of merely focusing on economic classes to subvert did not work in the West, so Marxists instead moved on to the Frankfurt School tactics of using cultural factors such as sex, sexuality, race, religion etc. to exploit identity politics to cause society to in-fight and weaken itself as every one if these “victim” classes (as deemed by the new left) rage against the mainstream. Thankfully, people across the West are waking up.