|Author:||Proinsias De Rossa|
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So, here is a document that sums up the approach of the Workers’ Party at a pivotal point in its development. The victories of the 1989 General Election were months away, the remarkable changes in the USSR were working their own political magic and the party seemed, almost uniquely amongst parties of the further left during this period, well positioned to grow.
It’s a more discursive piece than I remember from the speech proper. The introductory quotes on the inside front pages give some hint of its scope…
“This year I want to challenge some ‘sacred cows’… Raise some questions and offer some answers.”
The De Rossa on the cover visibly younger than the politico we’ve come to know.
But inside the message is one that, even now, is still associated with him, two political parties later…
“We need public debates on modern socialism, on Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution and on who or what is blocking peace in Northern Ireland.”
Still, it’s intriguing to read the section on the European Community and see within it the seeds of later developments by Democratic Left in shifting to a much less euro-sceptic view than much of the Irish further left.
The section on the Economy is oddly shallow, and almost impossibly archaic due to the intervening boom.
A quote from Lenin - ‘What is to be done?”, naturally - and later one from Marx can’t quite disguise the reality that the party was shifting gradually away from sterner lines. But that said the identification with the USSR is strong, and in particular the changes then taking place there.
Perhaps not so strangely the critique of Irish politics and the response of the elites is one that has some resonance today. But the analysis of the North is little better than wishful thinking… ‘The Provisionals are facing the beginning of the end… Because an overall majority in the North wants talks. Talks towards a devolved Government in Northern Ireland are not an option to be turned down by the SDLP. They are the democratic right of the people of the whole island.’.
Somehow the present dispensation isn’t one that would fit into that particular schema. And the veiled hints that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was meaningless in retrospect demonstrates their ineffectuality on all-island issues. This too is demonstrated by their call on Protestants (sic) to elect ‘new leaders’.
And what of the following?
We stand for enterprise, energy and experimentation in the South. For devolution and democracy in the North. We want a society that goes out to work and that brings home the bacon. But we do think that making money is immoral when it damages people. Or when the surplus is not shared. Socialism as we see it, is not anti-market, anti-enterprise and anti-individual. Socialism will stimulate effort, enthusiasm and enterprise in all levels of our society. Work will be well rewarded and the lazy penalised - and that means dole spongers as well as tax-dodgers, short-day shirkers as well as bosses.
In its own way, very much of its time.