Although they would furiously deny any affinity with "Godless communism", Sinn Fein local councillors have developed a remarkable fondness for portraying themselves as latter day Peoples' Commissars, well versed in the theory and practice of revolutionary socialism. If, however, we ignore this self-delusion and examine the real views of the organisation (recently set down by its President. Gerry Adams, in Signposts to Independence and Socialism), it becomes clear that the Party is hopelessly and dangerously confused about the subject.
The main entry is the text of a speech delivered by him to an internal conference of Sinn Fein in 1986. This afforded Adams all the time and opportunity he needed to explain fully what his party means when it uses the term socialism, and for him to give us some idea what its implications would be. Instead, he contented himself with making only passing reference to what is supposed to underpin, in economic and social terms, the IRA's superficial "Brits Out" campaign.
This reticence of Adams to "come clean" isn't surprising. He himself admits that his party's "socialism" should be kept firmly under its hat, lest it offend the delicate dispositions of those “genuine republicans" who, while being able to stomach the wholesale slaughter of British and Irish workers in the name of Holy Ireland, are likely to develop political apoplexy should they detect that a victorious Sinn Fein might just interfere with the property rights of Irish capitalists.
Thus Adams warns:
. . . if the Republican Movement as a whole decides to style itself "Socialist Republican" this implies that there is no place in it for non-socialist republicans, or that non-socialist republicans are in some way second-rate, inferior or less genuine republicans.
. . . if "socialism" is what is offered as the alternative, it cannot have the same popular appeal.
Elsewhere in the pamphlet Adams says of nationalism and socialism: "One without the other is useless — one without the other is impossible". Which renders all the above merely a euphemistic way of saying that Sinn Fein (being an open, principled and democratic party) should hide part of its views just in case those engaged in what it sees as useless and impossible work within the nationalist and republican movement should take umbrage. In short, Sinn Fein's much lauded "socialist principles" should be concealed and glossed over in favour of nationalist tactics.
In fact, Sinn Fein concealing their “socialism" is all to the good for it doesn't amount to anything and can only serve to confuse workers further on the subject. Behind the welter of nationalist claptrap, it is clear that they have merely fallen for the old sop of welfare state capitalism:
You must have your own government with the power to institute the political and economic policies which constitute socialism. Socialism is a definite system of society in which the main means of production, distribution and exchange are socially owned.
The only evidence Adams presents to support this baseless assertion is that this is the “classical sense of the term". In reply, we need only say there was once a "classical" proposition that the earth was flat.
In common with the rest of capitalism's half-baked Left-wing. Sinn Fein are utterly blind to the real problem. They see all evils only in the shape of private capitalism — the source of working class poverty is not to be found in the fact that we, as wage workers, are exploited by capital, but in the identity of capital's owners. Sinn Fein is concerned with the shadow of exploitation not its substance. Despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary, collected over the past century and more in every country in the world, they maintain that capital in the hands of the state performs the miraculous feat of transforming itself from the exploiter of wage labour into its servant!
At the present time large sections of industry in both the north and south of Ireland are nationalised. The Northern Ireland Electricity Service is in fact an excellent example of how Sinn Fein’s policies would work in their ideal state. Here is an industry that, unlike most state controlled concerns, actually pays its way (at the time of writing it is due to be privatised) and is highly profitable. Do the workers employed by the NIES really own any part of it? When their electric bills arrive in the post, do-they throw them in the bin safe in the knowledge that they don't have to pay for something which already belongs to them? What about those who don't work for the NIES? Is the fact that it is state owned beneficial to them?
Socialism in fact has nothing whatever to do with nationalisation, which is properly called state capitalism. Socialism is the complete negation of all forms of capitalism. It involves taking the means of production and distribution into common ownership and has no need for any means of exchange. As Marx put it as far back as 1875 in his Critique of the Gotha Programme:
Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers DO NOT EXCHANGE their products (our emphasis).
In a society based on state property, production can only take place with a view to supplying a market. The dictates of the market are the goods and services must be competitive and profitable. Competitiveness and profitability, however, are the very things which stand in the way of meeting people's needs.
It is not surprising to learn that Sinn Fein knows nothing about capitalism either. According to Adams, the Party is opposed to "big business", “multi-national investment" and "foreign interference". They see an end to these things as a necessary step towards their utopia in which the resources of Ireland
. . . are under Irish control and organised to bring maximum benefit to the people of a 32 county state in which Irish culture and the national identity are strong and confident.
The protestants of Northern Ireland are often derided, an rightly so, for their "wee Ulster" mentality. The ramblings of Gerry Adams in this pamphlet betray Sinn Fein for the "Little Irelan- ders" that they are.
Let's fantasise a moment and envisage Sinn Fein taking power in their united Irish state. What would they do about Ireland's foreign debt? Would they repudiate it on the grounds that Irish workers should not be expected to work in the interests of foreign money-lenders like the workers in "socialist Poland" currently do for western bankers? More to the point, could the self- proclaimed peoples' representatives in a Sinn Fein government repudiate the debt?
The idea is absurd! Ireland is not self-sufficient, nor will it ever be. Only a fool would suggest that a Sinn Fein government could simply repudiate all foreign debts and opt out of the world market. Unless Sinn Fein has an economic genius who has worked out a foolproof method of bartering in the world market, some of the produce of Ireland would have to be sold for capital with which to buy the produce of other countries
But there would be no markets in which to sell their goods. If Sinn Fein really thinks they are going to repudiate Ireland's debts to Germany, America, Japan, Britain, Holland and the rest, that they are going to nationalise foreign property in the shape of multi-national companies and then expect foreign governments to allow Irish goods in their markets, we repeat our assertion — Sinn Fein knows nothing about capitalism!
Sinn Fein's Socialist Republic of Ireland would be ostracised and ignored by international capitalism. So. where would the capital come from to buy the things Ireland couldn't produce itself? "We'll print it ourselves”, think the Little Irelanders, but as any economist knows, this is the sure road to real ruin. If a government resorts to the printing presses in order to buy itself out of trouble, the consequence can only be raging inflation. If a Sinn Fein government, in an effort to bolster its Mickey Mouse economy, were to circulate excess paper currency the effect would be as catastrophic as its ban on foreign investment.
As bad as things are now for workers in both the north and south of Ireland, the reality is that Sinn Fein's cure would be worse than the disease. Capitalism offers us little or nothing in the way of a decent life, but in Gerry Adams' Socialist Republic, we'd be lucky if we got our hands on a pair of matching socks — and only then, in exchange for a wheelbarrow full of Punts!
And to think, the IRA is blowing up children for this!