Why #Brexit?

The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre

24 Crawford Avenue
Dublin 9
Tel.: 01-8305792
Thursday 21 April 2016
 
Dear Sinn Fein Friends
                                    Lost Opportunities?
For Sinn Fein to embrace the European Union at its Ard Fheis on the very centenary weekend of the Easter Rising, behind a rhetoric of working to turn the EU into a ‘Social Europe’ – with Ireland’s 1% EU Council vote? –  and to commit itself to ‘campaigning vigorously against Brexit’ in the UK’s June referendum on the EU, is assuredly deeply ironical.
It would be so partly because Sinn Fein has opposed handing over Irish sovereignty to the EU in every EU referendum from that on the original EEC Accession Treaty in 1972, through those on the Single European Act 1987, the Maastricht Treaty 1992, the Amsterdam Treaty 1998, the Nice Treaty 2001 and 2002, the Lisbon Treaty 2008 and 2009, up to the Fiscal Stability Treaty of 2012 … And partly because the EU is in such a mess these days – and getting messier, with the euro-currency crisis, the migration crisis and the ‘Brexit’ crisis.

I make these points in this ‘open letter’ to you and your Sinn Fein colleagues as a lifelong Left Republican who was involved in setting up the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1967 and who took part in the 1968/9 Northern civil rights marches before ever Provisional Sinn Fein was established, and as someone who has had no party political involvement since my student days and who has supported the ‘peace process’ over the years.

By taking such a course, with seemingly minimal discussion among the party’s members, the Sinn Fein leadership, behind a screen of leftist rhetoric, would be moving decisively down the same road as the erstwhile ‘Stickies’, using similar slogans and demands as they did in their time, and abandoning the possibility of offering a genuinely alternative course for the Irish people on the principal issue of the day in our part of the world – the issue of national independence and democracy vis-a-vis the EU.
Sinn Fein would be throwing away two political opportunities by this development.
The only way to bring about a United Ireland over time is to win over a section of current Unionist opininion to that position, however long that may take, so as to bring about eventually a majority in the North for ending Partition.  For if the Unionists are Irish – as they are – that should in principle be possible.
If Sinn Fein supported ‘Brexit’ it would enable Republicans to side with such Unionists as the DUP against the mainstream policy of the British Government and Prime Minister David Cameron. The latter is being supported by the most reactionary forces in Europe and the USA, from Goldman Sachs* and Wall Street to the German and other EU Governments, the American Government, the Brussels Commission, and EU-based High Finance and Transnational Capital against those people on the Left, Right and Centre of British politics who want to get back the right to decide their own laws and international policies.
If Sinn Fein had adopted such a course it would open other opportunities for influencing hard-line Unionist opinion in a more progressive direction over time.
Instead Sinn Fein seems set on siding with the Goldman Sachses and Prime Minister Camerons of this world – something which Bobby Sands and his H-Block comrades would surely never have credited could happen!
I am well aware that for Sinn Fein to advocate ‘Brexit’ would be politically tricky in presentational terms, but it could be done.   Of course it would not be so tricky if the Sinn Fein leadership had carried out a sustained campaign of education in the party’s own ranks and amongst the wider Irish public on the reactionary and anti-democratic character of the EU over the years: building on its record of referendum opposition to the successive EU Treaties.  But the Sinn Fein leadership has not been telling people that.
For anyone who looks objectively at the facts, Irish membership of the EU/Eurozone is the very opposite of ‘the unfettered control of Irish destinies’, the genuinely independent Irish Republic, which the men and women of 1916 set out to establish a hundred years ago.
The second opportunity being thrown away by this policy volte-face on the part of the Sinn Fein leadership is the maintenance of a significant policy distinction between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.  For once Sinn Fein embraces the EU there is no objective basis for Irish voters to prefer Fianna Fail ‘Lite’ as against Fianna Fail ‘Heavy’.  By removing the one significant distinction between real political Republicanism on the one hand and  bogus Fianna Fail Republicanism on the other, Sinn Fein is copper-fastening objectively the revival of Fianna Fail.
That great Socialist Republican Peadar O’Donnell used often say that Republicanism was the most ‘left-wing’ thing in Ireland until the country had attained real national independence and unity.  By that he meant that any ‘leftist’ or radical-sounding talk that does not give priority to establishing real national independence is just so much codology, meant to deceive the gullible.
At the present time the EU’s euro-currency and migration crises are making the ‘national question’,  the issue of national independence and democracy, the big issue of politics right across the EU – including for former imperial countries like Britain, Germany and France which for generations caused national problems for others.
This is happening as these different nations discover the drawbacks of having their laws made for them by people they do not elect, and as citizens everywhere begin to react against how their mainstream politicians have allowed their Nation States to be hollowed out by means of successive EU Treaties – all of which Sinn Fein opposed over the years.
This is not a time when Sinn Fein should effectively abandon Republicanism behind a rhetoric of advocating a so-called ‘Social Europe’ and ‘leading the Left’.  It is not a time when sensible Republicans should abandon the one significant feature that had hitherto differentiated them from Fianna Fail and all the other parties in the Dail – namely criticism of and opposition to the EU/Eurozone – that being the one policy feature which objectively justifies Sinn Fein’s claim to be offering the Irish people a genuinely alternative course of national policy.
Of course one can pretend that talk about ‘leading the Left’, standing for ‘a Republic of Equals’ and advocacy of more radically redistributive tax and spend policies, provide a real policy alternative to the Irish people; but they do not.  Labour in opposition, Fianna Fail in opposition, the Social Democrats, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and the rest will all be doing the same thing in the coming period, with minor variations between them, while at the same time they support Irish membership of the EU/Eurozone and all that necessarily goes with that.
I send you three items below in support of the points made in this letter. The document ‘Tackling the EU Empire’, which gives the basic facts about the EU/Eurozone and what it is all about, has already been sent to you by letter post.
The first item below is ten points on why Irish people in Britain and the North should vote ‘Leave’ in June.The second is an article, originally published in Village Magazine, which shows how the EU, by  eroding national independence and democracy, is the very opposite of the independent Republic that the men and women of 1916 whom we commemorate on this centenary weekend set out to achieve.  And the third  is an article on what the EU/Eurozone policy of a genuine political Left rather than a bogus one should be.
That would be a Left in the James Connolly tradition which gives political primacy to achieving real national independence and unity as against the national sell-out policy of the Social Democrat and neo-Trotskyite parties of one kind or another, all of which embrace the EU and submit to its laws and rules while using Left-sounding slogans and rhetoric to cover their accommodation to it.
Syriza’s former Finance Minister Janis Varoufakis is currently a prime example of this as he campaigns alongside David Cameron, Goldman Sachs, the City of London and the most reactionary economic and political forces in the Western world against those British democrats on the political Left and Right who who seek to regain their national democracy and independence by supporting ‘Brexit’.
And is Sinn Fein now set to join the anti-democratic side?
Yours faithfully
Anthony Coughlan
Director
 
* On 22 January the Financial Times reported that Goldman Sachs on Wall Street was donating £500,000 towards the anti-Brexit campaign in Britain. This is the same Goldman Sachs as is behind the threatened Tyrrelstown evictions in Dublin.

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