November 2016        

Towards a new Republican Congress

In this centennial year of the 1916 Rising, when we are reflecting on the tasks and duties facing political activists engaged in the struggle for a 32-county workers’ republic, the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum has been quietly going about the necessary and long-overdue task of drawing together the disparate threads of left-wing and progressive republican opinion with a series of political workshops, discussions, and residential seminars.
     The Peadar O’Donnell Forum was established in 2013 by a number of communist, socialist and republican activists following a series of meetings and seminars facilitated by the CPI over the preceding twelve months. Emerging from these engagements was a strong feeling that a number of important areas of analysis and co-operation needed to be further explored and developed, particularly those relating to the nature of the state, the role of class in society, and the complex nature of imperialism’s political influence in Ireland, north and south.
     Following the adoption of a clear set of guiding principles, the Forum has now set about the vital task of discussing and debating with socialist and republican activists at the grass-roots level. A series of residential schools is being organised around the country during 2016 and 2017. The residential seminars have already begun to attract representatives from a significant number of strands of socialist and republican opinion.
     Reflecting both the Peadar O’Donnell Forum’s evidently growing appeal to political forces seeking a genuine collaborative project and the urgency of the task of providing a coherent alternative to the neo-liberal hegemony of the Irish ruling class, the most recent weekend seminar, held at Knockatallan, Co. Monaghan, brought together representatives and contributions from the CPI, the 1916 Societies, Éirígí, the Trade Union Left Forum, Misneach, People Before Profit, the Independent Workers’ Union, Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland, Réalta Civic and Social Space, and the People’s Movement, in addition to independent elected representatives and non-aligned activists.
     The triple thematic programme of the recent October residential weekend examined aspects of political education, communications technology, and organisational strategy. The weekend opened with a reiteration and elucidation of the political principles governing the work of the Forum. Delegates then watched and discussed Dónal Higgins’s excellent film The Republican Congress. The critical exploration of the Congress’s ideals and shortcomings set the tone for the remainder of a highly productive weekend.
     Saturday’s workshops dealt with the need for a thorough and principled programme of education for political groups, trade unions and community organisations as well as the need for training in communications technology. Workshops were based on the Freirean model of political education—an approach to education that links the identifying of issues to positive action for change and development.
     The final session on Saturday looked at organisational structure and capacity and resulted in the formation of sub-committees to report to the national executive on finance, education, publicity, and organisational development.
     The final day of the seminar examined the Forum’s relationship with and attitude to the trade union movement. A speaker from the Trade Union Left Forum stressed the need for left-wing political activists to play an active part within the trade union movement and for revolutionary socialists to fight for representation on union structures on the local, national and indeed international levels.
     Before the closure of the weekend in Co. Monaghan, Forum members agreed on a number of areas of co-ordinated political actions and campaigns, including the co-ordination of a socialist-republican commemoration at Bodenstown, under the theme “Break the connection with capitalism,” and building a “People’s Assembly” to convene on the centennial of the inaugural meeting of Dáil Éireann. Commitments to building links to internationalist networks and to ensure that the Forum fully respects the rights of the Irish-speaking community were also adopted by delegates.
     These vital and important early steps towards the formation of a broad, united front of socialist, trade union and left-republican activists are a promising development. They come at a time when the plethora of non-establishment 1916 commemorative events organised during the past year has been accompanied by, and is reflective of, a shifting balance in the political allegiance of a significant swathe of the working-class electorate as well as a burgeoning resentment at the political caste’s failure to deliver on the noble aspirations contained in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
     The CPI will continue to assist the essential development of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum. Only a principled, class-based broad movement of the working class has the potential to deliver on the aspirations of the 1916 revolutionaries and on the principles contained in the Democratic Programme of the first Dáil.
     Building unity towards the developmental programme for a workers’ republic is the essential task confronting all socialist and progressive forces in Ireland today. This task can no longer be the subject of procrastination and prevarication. Division and sectarianism on the left are continuing to create a space for the destructive agenda of neo-liberalism to permeate the political establishments of Stormont and Leinster House.
■ The Forum’s next residential seminar will be held in Co. Wicklow on the weekend of 13–15 January 2017. For further information contact cpoi@eircom.net.

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