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Éire Nua: The Social, Economic and Political Dimensions
Text: Sinn Féin ... Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh
[Published by Sinn Féin - 1979]
The Social, Economic and Political Dimensions
THE SINN FÉIN POLICY
The Social Dimension
OVER THE last decade a war of national liberation has been waged to secure an end to British imperialism in Ireland. In resistance terms the struggle has been successful to a high degree. Britain continues to rule the six counties but at a high price in term; of lives, injuries and heavy financial loss. It remains to be seen how much more resistance is required before Britain is forced to declare a total withdrawal of her presence from Ireland.
Republicans have always recognised that securing a British withdrawal is not an end in itself but merely the beginning of creating a new society throughout the whole of Ireland whereby the conquest of centuries would be totally undone. Hence the need for spelling out the basic principles which would underline the social and economic system republicans envisage for a new Ireland.
It is also necessary to spell out the basic principles which are the foundation stones of our Movement and we suggest that the following nine principles, enunciated by Padraig Mac Piarais, are the rocks upon which our organisation stands:
1. The Irish nation is one.
2. The Irish nation, like all nations, has an indefeasible right to freedom.
3. Freedom denotes separation and sovereignty.
4. The right to national freedom rests upon the right to personal freedom and true national freedom guarantees true personal freedom.
5. The object of freedom is the pursuit of the happiness of the nation and of the individuals that compose the nation.
6. Freedom is necessary to the happiness and prosperity of the nation. In the particular case of Ireland, separation from England is necessary not only to the happiness and prosperity but almost to the continued existence of Ireland, in as much as the interests of Ireland and England are fundamentally at variance, and while the two nations are connected, England must necessarily predominate.
7. The national sovereignty implied in national freedom holds good both externally and internally, i.e. the sovereign rights of the nation are good as against all other nations and good as against all parts of the nation. Hence
8. The nation has jurisdiction over lives and property within the nation.
9. The people are the nation.
Furthermore, with James Connolly we believe that the present system of society is based upon the robbery of the working class and that capitalist property cannot exist without the plundering of labour; we desire to see capitalism abolished and a democratic system of common or public ownership erected in its stead. This democratic system, which is called socialism, will, we believe, come as a result of the continuous increase of power to the working class. Only by this means can we secure the abolition of destitution and all the misery, crime and immorality which flow from that unnecessary evil.
In up-dating the Social and Economic Programme of 1971, it is necessary to take notice of the following facts:
1. Britain rules the North directly from London.
2. Both parts of Ireland are full members of the EEC.
3. While the farming community initially gained from EEC membership, it is now obvious that an agricultural recession is developing.
4. A new militancy is emerging among urban workers particularly on the issue of taxation.
5. Our country has the most youthful population relative to other countries in Europe.
6. A radical change has taken place in world trade following the continuing energy crisis since 1974.
Bearing the above factors in mind and aware of a growing social consciousness in our ranks, the following amendments to the Éire Nua document were adopted by the ard-fheis of 1979.
The constitution of Sinn Féin advocates not merely the complete overthrow of British rule in Ireland but also the setting up of a federal, democratic socialist republic based on the Proclamation of 1916.
Among our objectives are the establishment of a "reign of social justice based on Christian principles by a just distribution and effective control of the nation's wealth and resources," and the institution of "a system of government suited to the particular needs of the people." We have defined this in terms of (a) decentralised socialism and (b) decentralised governmental and political structures.
Sinn Féin has never looked on the ending of British rule in Ireland as an end in itself but rather as a means to restore the "ownership of Ireland to the people of Ireland" (1916 Proclamation).
The philosophy of Irish republicanism since founded by Wolfe Tone in the late eighteenth century has pin-pointed the breaking of the British connection as a major objective; the first step in physically separating the dominated Ireland from the imperialist occupation and from which could then come the unity of the people and economic, cultural and social freedom.
So after British withdrawal political control in the new Ireland without control of wealth, economy and resources of the country is clearly insufficient. Republicans are intent on restoring the ownership of Ireland to the people of Ireland.
For too long the wealth of Ireland, Irish labour and the means of production have been exploited in the interests of foreign capitalists and their allies, native capitalists. The rightful owners of Irish wealth have suffered as a consequence.
The social and economic programme envisaged by Sinn Feb entails the placing of the Irish wealth in the hands of the people, to be exploited and developed by them in the interests of all the people. In the words of the Democratic Programme of Dáil Éireann, 1919, which quoted Padraic Pearse:
"We declare that the nation's sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions; the nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the nation and with Pearse we re-affirm that dl rights to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare."
In summary, Sinn Féin seeks to establish a system in which exploitation of people by people will not feature and which will be truly democratic right down through society.
"We declare that we desire our country to be ruled in accordance with the principles of liberty, equality and justice for all, which alone can secure permanence of government in the waling adhesion of the people." (Democratic Programme of Dáil Éireann, 1919).
To ensure ownership by the people the following basic principles apply:
1. The wealth of Ireland belongs to the people and is thefts to be exploited and developed in theft interests.
2. To ensure justice for all, the means of production, distribution and exchange must be controlled by the people and administered democratically.
3. The state will have complete control over the import and export of capital.
4. Finance, insurance and all key industries must be brought under public control. The principal agent of major development in industry, agriculture and fisheries must be the democratic institutions of the people.
5. All mineral resources belong as of right to the entire people (nation). The extraction and processing of such resources shall be nationalised or taken into community control.
A national exploration programme to monitor continuously in a coordinated and planned way the extent and potential of our natural mineral and energy resources would be established.
6. Land is a natural resource to which there is no absolute title by any individual or group of individuals short of the entire nation. It must be utilised and controlled in the interests of the nation in the form of family or co-operative custodial ownership.
An upper limit will be placed on the amount of land any one individual may own. Limits on ownership should relate to the productive capacity rather than acreage. Large ranches and estates will be taken over and leased to groups of families to run on co-operative lines. Only resident citizens of the republic will be allowed to own, purchase or lease land within Ireland.
Building land will not be the means of enrichment of private individuals. It will instead be the subject of compulsory purchase by the state or the local authority concerned, at a price related to its agricultural value. The land will then be transferred by the state to the individual or body developing it. The owner will be compensated or given an option on an equivalent holding elsewhere. Ground rent will be abolished.
7. No person should have the means economically to exploit his fellow man. Therefore there is the need to differentiate between two types of ownership.
(a) Sinn Féin upholds the basic right of people to ownership and of privacy of the family home or personal living accommodation. It opposes the acquirement and ownership of housing accommodation by private individuals and companies for exploitive renting or property and wealth accumulation.
(b) We are opposed to personal ownership of productive property such as a large farm or a large factory. This type of ownership involves the exploitation of other people’s labour for personal gain and is alien to republican principles. This type of enterprise should be co-operatively owned.
(c) Public ownership or control shall be interpreted as control by the people at the lowest possible unit of government consistent with their requirements.
8. Other sectors will be controlled by workers, farmers and fishermen owning an economic unit of the means of production and by their control of distribution and exchange. These enterprises will be co-operative in nature, based on the principles of industrial democracy and the Comhar na gComharsan philosophy which is founded on the right of worker-ownership and is native Irish as well as being co-operative or distributive in character. Each individual worker will own an economic unit of the means of production in the form of farm, workshop, business or share in a factory or other co-operative. Credit unions will play an important role in this type of development.
9. Private enterprise will have no place in key industries and ate incentives will favour co-operative projects as the most socially desirable. Only resident citizens shall be allowed to have a controlling interest in an Irish industry.
Small local businesses will be permissible provided no exploitation occurs. There would be an upper limit to the size of any private enterprise. Anything above this limit will come under community or co-operative ownership. Where private enterprise is permitted there shall be workers’ participation.
10. Every person shall have free access to all educational facilities according to his or her natural ability. This right extends to free medical and social welfare facilities.
11. Every family has the right to ownership and security of housing.
12. Security against arbitrary arrest or detention will be guaranteed.
13. All citizens irrespective of sex, age or religious convictions shall have equal rights.
14. The Irish language and Irish culture will play a basic role in the national effort and theft strengthening will have special attention. Sinn Féin will strive for a situation where the Irish language will become the everyday language of the people.
15. The independent Irish republic will be neutral in all power bloc conflicts. An independent stand will be taken in foreign policy. Power blocs such as NATO and the EEC on the one hand and COMECON and the Warsaw Pact on the other will be avoided. Trade will be expanded with the smaller and neutral nations of Europe and with the countries of the Third World in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We have more in common with the developing countries of the world (where two-thirds of the world’s population live) than we have with the rich club of former colonial powers in the EEC. Having more in common with Third World countries we would hope to associate ourselves by membership in the non-aligned group of nations.
"It is the duty of the nation to assure that every citizen shall have opportunity to spend his or her strength and facilities in the service of the people."
"In return for waling service we, in the name of the Republic, declare the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the nation’s labour." (Democratic Programme of Dáil Éireann, 1919).
The above proposals are unashamedly democratic and socialist in character. Some people may claim that the proposals are too visionary. If it is visionary to propose means whereby Ireland may support an expanding population in increasing prosperity, cherishing all her children equally, then we are in the tradition of the visionaries of 1916.
We recognise the family as the basic unit of the nation and we guarantee its security in terms of housing, welfare and economic well-being. We openly favour co-operative enterprise as against private enterprise as a more humane, just and efficient form of economic activity. We are uncompromising in smashing the power of the multinationals, landlords and ranchers and in utilising and developing the natural resources of our country for the benefit of the whole people of the island and not for any minority, foreign or domestic.
if the demands of our growing population are to be met, radical changes will be necessary in the existing social and economic system. We cannot wait for a British withdrawal before implementing our ideas of a new social and economic system. The programme of ‘Economic Resistance’ formulated in 1971 is very relevant today with British, EEC and world imperialism having a greater impact on our lives. We attach the relevant sections of that programme as a means of showing that our social and economic principles can be related to the lives of the people of today.
The nature of the British connection goes much deeper than simply the occupation by foreign troops. It is therefore necessary to resist the forces of the connection in whatever form they manifest themselves; to broaden the scope of the national movement to include a conscious, organised economic resistance to the laws of imperialist economics which are keeping our country underdeveloped.
The ideas sketched here will be developed further in the sections which follow. These take the form of a sketch of things as they are now, followed by an indication of the changes that would be likely to be introduced under a thirty-two-county Sinn Féin government.
It remains to indicate the lines along which Sinn Féin may win the support of the majority of the Irish people for the realisation of its objectives. It is clear that resistance to the British forces of occupation in the six counties is alone insufficient. It will be necessary to develop the unity of the people around a programme of economic resistance to the non-military aspects of imperialist interference in Ireland. By this means it will be possible to safeguard the livelihood of the people, to frustrate the plans for a completely export-oriented, dependent, industrial economy of the east coast, and at major seaports, with the rest of the country a depopulated ‘tourists’ paradise’, and to build up an institutional structure which will foreshadow certain state organs of the future republican government.
Thus there are two totally opposed concepts of Ireland in the future.
On the one hand there is the republican concept of a united, independent nation with its own independent financial system, planning the investment of its economic surplus in such a way as to give full employment with an expanding economy, trading in a diversified manner with a large number of different countries to mutual benefit, including Britain, with which relations will at last be regularised, and assuming for the first time its rightful place as the leader of the ex-colonial nations in the struggle against imperialism.
On the other hand there is the Leinster House concept of a divided Ireland dependent on the requirements and directives of the EEC and the EMS, with a depopulated countryside producing agricultural products to feed foreign markets but prevented from developing an efficient and independent Irish industrial base. The existing islands of precarious prosperity in urban areas would contain a few large factories manned by a declining work force producing with an increasing degree of automation specialised consumer goods for export and component parts to be assembled abroad and well-developed ports to handle a substantial import! export trade. The establishment envisages the continuation of a well organised system for syphoning off potential discontent by emigration, political control of the media and of the educational system, welfare handouts and, ultimately, repression by the state. The Leinster House concept, of course, excludes the six counties which would remain an economically depressed area dependent on British subsidies for its survival.
The choice for every Irish man and woman worthy of the name is clear.
ATTAINING THE OBJECTIVE
Ever since Tone, republicans have always recognised that the only ultimate factor influencing the imperialists is force or the threat of force. They have also recognised the necessity for political organisation and agitation in order to harness effectively the forces of opposition to imperialism. It is also both possible and desirable to organise resistance to the imperialist economic forces, which, in the whole country, derive from the military occupation of part of it.
This new departure has the advantage that since the imperial economic forces apply throughout the whole country, every republican, and in-deed every Irish person can fight them on his home ground in his own area.
It also has the advantage that it suggests means whereby the unionist working class, once the beneficiary of patronage, but now condemned to or threatened with the dole both in the Belfast region and in areas west of the Bann, may be won to support national objectives, thus undermining the basis of unionist power in the six counties.
Just as working people organise themselves into trade unions in order to defend themselves against that economic force which tends to depress their wages, so the Irish nation must organise itself in such a way as to defend itself against those economic forces associated with the imperial system which tend towards its depopulation and impoverishment.
Since the task of organising the nation to defend itself against the imperial economic assault is beyond the ability of either partition administration, even should it wish to do so, and since the twenty-six-county administration has abandoned explicitly the half-hearted resistance that it once affected, this task must become the prime responsibility of the Republican Movement.
Failure to undertake this task will allow the completion of the process initiated in the Famine times, the transfer of our rural population to the industrial cities of the oppressor, will allow the smaller of our industries to be closed down, and the larger to be bought up, automated and run in the imperial interest by a declining work force. Ireland would be reduced to be a nation of renters, hoteliers and gillies.
Resistance to this must be organised into an Economic Resistance Movement, the main weapons of which are the co-operative and the trade union.
ELEMENTS OF RESISTANCE
The present unorganised resistance contains the following elements which are, in the main, conscious only of their immediate objectives and do not see their struggle as part of a national movement. The task of the Ecomomic Resistance Movement will be to make the national objectives clear to the people concerned and to raise the level of the present spontaneous activity to that of consciously establishing a resistance economy independent of the imperial economy, except for mutually beneficial trading relations, where these are possible.
The elements are:
1. The landless, unemployed, school-leavers, socially under-privileged.
2. Farmers’ co-operative trading organisations. These engage in bulk purchase of fertilisers, seeds, etc., and contract marketing of produce in such a way as to by-pass middlemen’s profits. As well as increasing farm incomes and making more money available for the purchase of manufactured goods by farmers, this process reduces the role in the rural economy of middlemen’s profits, which tend to find their way ultimately into foreign investment rather than native industrial investment.
3. Farmers’ co-operative production projects. These are mainly cooperative creameries, or tend to arise out of the trading organisations being financed by them, or else tend to arise in response to the possibility of obtaining vegetable contracts with the Irish Sugar Company.
4. Fishermen’s co-operatives. These also have based their recent breakthrough on getting control of a share of theft trade and making it localised rather than Dublin-centred.
5. Industrial producer co-operatives and consumer co-operatives.
6. Co-operative financial ventures such as credit unions.
7. Trade unions, which in some industries, both North and South, are fighting a tenacious rearguard action with regard to redundancies. This action has not yet assumed any national consciousness but is objectively national in content.
8. Local industry, which may or may not be co-operatively owned, but which is kept going by the ‘business offered by local agricultural cooperatives, as for example, a mill kept going by orders for poultry and pig-feed from a local co-operative.
9. Free State and British sponsored industries which are being run down as a result of EEC directives and imperial economic penetration. Small units of industry are in danger of closure as the pattern of production is made to conform with imperial interests. Therefore, workers and management of the state sponsored industries are potentially part of the Economic Resistance Movement.
10. Groups seeking the protection of the environment and rejecting nuclear power.
11. Flat-dwellers, tenants’ associations and residents’ associations.
12. Cultural organisations, groups and individuals who are striving to preserve, develop and restore our cultural heritage, which is under attack mainly from the Anglo-American pop culture and television.
13. Small farmers, small business people and workers.
The objectives of an Economic Resistance Campaign based on the above elements, must therefore be as follows:
1. The organisation of the homeless, socially under-privileged, school leavers and unemployed into action committees and the development of links with such committees already in existence.
2. To develop agricultural co-operatives whose first step will be to gain control over trade and then to-plough back the profits of trade into increased production.
3. To develop a vigilance network so that any threatened closure of local industry will be met by the timely formation of a co-operative to raise the necessary funds both locally and by appealing to other areas and emigrant organizations, so that the local industry may be purchased and kept going as a co-operative enterprise. Refusal to sell out at a fair price can be countered by suitable local and national action of such a nature as to redeem the price the foreigner is willing to pay.
4. The development of links with the Trade Union Movement so that any threatened economic war by imperialist interests in the same industry would be defeated by the organised workers in the industry, by suitably organised actions.
5. The development of the nation-wide ‘Buy Irish’ campaign into a national publicity campaign for support of Irish products in general.
6. To support the development of co-operative financial schemes including insurance, so that the financial resources of self-help and co-op groups may be applied to their own expansion.
The central idea of the ERC is to replace the investor’s greed for private profit, which is of such a character that it is not invested in anything which gives less than the average return on investment available within the imperial system, by the creative energy of the ordinary common people in the rural and urban areas, who will find means of making a viable economy without the need for the investment capital to yield the average imperial rate of profit to outsiders.
7. To support a co-operative trade organization with the objective of facilitating trade between the various sectors of the ERC to handle in an organised manner the trade between the elements of the ERC and those sectors of the imperial economy with which fair trade is possible, to protect the members of the ERC from the need to enter into trading agreements loaded against them, and to explore the possibility of entering into trade agreements with the consumer co-operative movement in Britain and in Irish cities, especially Belfast.
8. Pending Ireland’s withdrawal from the EEC to resist the implementation of any decrees or policies of the Common Market which would be detrimental to the best interests of our people or any section of it.
9. To campaign vigorously for the nationalisation of all energy-giving resources and to work for their development in a manner unharmful to the environment. We are opposed to the development of nuclear power because we believe the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. We shall seek the development of alternative sources of energy.
10. To oppose the exploitation of Irish fishing grounds by foreign fleets and to campaign for an immediate 50-mile exclusive fishing zone off our shores and the extension of that zone to 200 miles eventually as Iceland has done. To foster links with fishing co-ops who support the above objectives.
11. To oppose the exploitation of people by land-speculators, financial institutions and ground landlords and to secure total abolition of ground rents.
The Economic Resistance Campaign must also organise effective opposition to the purchase of land by foreigners. Such purchases may, for example, be countered by the formation of co-operatives, raising capital locally and through emigrants’ organisations for the purchase of farms as units, and their co-operative working as units by local farmers’ sons who wish to return from abroad.
12. To demonstrate that cultural resistance is the natural ally of Economic Resistance and to link the two together in such a way that there is a clear demand for native control of our resources combined with rejection of consumer pop culture which prepares the ground for capitalist and materialist exploitation.
It is also important that the people concerned with this resistance never lose sight of the national objectives and never become complacent on the basis of minor initial successes. The imbuing of the movement with a national consciousness must be the responsibility of Sinn Féin.
This short sketch of the economic resistance idea outlines the extent to which the Sinn Féin social and economic policy can be put into effect here and now even within the context of the existing political system.
A NEW CONSTITUTION
The New Constitution would provide:
(a) A charter of rights which would incorporate the principle of securing to the individual protective control of his or her conditions of living subject to the common good.
(b) A structure of government which would apply this principle by providing for the maximum distribution of authority at provincial and subsidiary level.
DRAFT CHARTER OF RIGHTS
We suggest a charter of rights on the following lines:
"We, the people of Ireland, resolved to establish political sovereignty, social progress, and human justice in this island do hereby pledge that we will practise tolerance and live in peace with one another in order to achieve a better life for all and we declare our adherence to the following principles:
Article 1. All citizens are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Every person is entitled to the rights of citizenship without distinction of any kind, such as distinction of race, sex, religion, philosophical conviction, language or political outlook.
Article 2. Every person has the right to life, liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.
Article 3. Every person has the right to freedom of conscience and religion and the open practice and teaching of ethical and political beliefs. This includes the right of assembly, peaceable association, petition and freedom of expression and communication.
Article 4. Every person has the right to participate in the government of the country and to equal access to public service.
Article 5. The basis of government is the will of the people. This is expressed in a direct participatory democracy and free elections by secret ballot. The right of the citizen as an individual to follow his conscience and express his opinion is valid against any mathematically contrived attempt to repress him.
Article 6. Every person has the right to education according to personal ability, work and a standard of living worthy of a free citizen. This right extends to food, housing, medical care, and security against unemployment, illness and disability.
Article 7. Every person has the right to equal pay for equal work and to join a trade union for protection of his interests. Motherhood and childhood deserve society's special care and attention. Men and women have the equal right to marry and found a family.
Article 8. In the exercise of his rights, every person shall be subject only to such limitations as shall secure recognition and respect for the rights of others and the welfare of the democratic community."
In addition, it is intended that the European Convention on Human Rights should be made part of the internal domestic law of the New Ireland.
FOR A DEMOCRATIC
A NEW IRELAND is in the making. The youth of Ireland are on the march demanding radical change in Irish society. The partition system of government, North and South, has failed and the gross inequalities in our society will no longer be tolerated.
Become part of revolutionary Ireland. Join Sinn Féin and play your part in shaping the new Ireland. Contact a local cumann or write to:
44 Cearnog Pharnell,
Baile Atha Ciath 1.
Teileafon: 01-7 26932
Other Sinn Féin publications:
The Quality of Life in the New Ireland
Mining and Energy
The National Offshore
Women in the New Ireland