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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Sinn Fein Set To Win … The Neanderthal Derby


Anthony McIntyre • 16 February 2006

Sinn Fein, it is said, stands poised to ditch what passes for its socialist economic philosophy, and embrace a style of capitalism similar to what currently exists within the Nordic countries. As in 'discovering' that the pope wants to pray there is nothing newsworthy in learning that Sinn Fein wants to ditch something once held dear, once worth killing for, once sacred enough to die for. When the snake sheds its skin seemingly the lot goes.

On economics, the Adams controlled party has never waxed persuasive and the opposition has found it profitable to probe this Achilles heel. Although it is far from certain that the same opponents comprehend Sinn Fein's fiscal understanding. Bertie Ahern characterised it as 35 years of Marxism. But then Bertie happens to think of himself as a socialist. While it emulates the Stalinist mode of control beloved by vanguard parties Sinn Fein has never pretended to be a Marxist party. Those Marxists who ever belonged to the Adams outfit quickly went native or departed. Either way, Free Presbyterianism would emerge as a more suitable ally for the party than any Marxist tendency.

Whatever the Big Lad's talents, economics is simply not his metier. When confronted with mere schoolboy level knowledge his inclination is to respond like the inattentive student bluffing his way through a particularly difficult exam question. His weakest media performance in years came via an RTE interview about Sinn Fein designs for the economy. The fallback position of blaming the securocrats for devising stinkers about the laws of supply and demand is not readily available. Hard to hang that on Joe Pilling or the IMC. The vacuous sound bites are there for all to see - plenty of sound, little bite.

Adams is hardly alone in respect of tenuous economic grasp. If in possession of it most party leaders do a good job in concealing their firm grounding in academia's dismal discipline. They prefer the guff and bluff strokes easily administered with the macro brush, knowing instinctively that microeconomics is a minefield laden with tripwires and booby traps for those not on top of their game. They get away with it largely because their economic discourse is hardly challenging to the existing order, fitting all too easily into the societal consensus. Even when wrong, they are never that wrong. A little shoehorning and they are in. For Sinn Fein, which adopts the posture of the anti-consensus radical without the substance to back it up, some erudite probing quickly exposes a black hole. Northern Assembly member Barry McElduff may dismiss the economic arguments of Garret Fitzgerald as 'the outdated partitionist thinking of many Southern politicians', but the jury seems unanimous that the verdict goes against Sinn Fein on this matter. The shrewd money is on it rather than Fitzgerald to win the Neanderthal derby. In a one horse race that should prove simple enough.

Not that this per se makes Sinn Fein wrong. Two central tenets of left wing thinking, both admirable and durable, are the eradication of poverty and the provision of first class public services, which nominally at least the party is committed to. Increasing taxation is a standard if hardly original means to achieve these twin objectives. When the party president calls for social spending to be doubled - by 2005 standards an increase of 13 billion euro - what initially sounded sweet for the most economically deprived, soon turned sour when he offered no practical means of achieving it. Even those normally beguiled by the party have dismissed Sinn Fein designs as a botched-up economic policy. Taxation, while ethical on the grounds of a more egalitarian redistribution, is hardly plausible in a society where even Sinn Fein fellow travellers concede there is already an existing tax surplus but little strategic imagination when it comes to utilising it.

Selling higher taxation in a society where 80 % of homes are owned will be as welcome as a six day working week in return for lower wages. Sinn Fein, valuing power over integrity, will view any vote alienating measure as the plague. Despite the media pastime of scrutinising Sinn Fein fiscal policy the existing social system and economic order has nothing to fear from Adams style economics. His promise to increase taxation is as likely to be honoured as his commitment never to call for IRA decommissioning. Che Guevara for the grassroots and George Soros for the international community, Sinn Fein will deliver socialism in the manner it delivered British withdrawal. Its high taxation rhetoric is a populist measure aimed at winning over the disadvantaged as a means to enhance party power, prior to that constituency too being shafted.

As Vincent Browne has argued:

It is because the Sinn Féin long-term agenda is to respectabilise itself. To ingratiate itself with the respectable elements of society, North and South. To join government with one of the respectable parties and, when in government, show how respectable and responsible it is on every front: on fiscal rectitude, on the prudent management of public expenditure, and, wait for it, law and order.

Browne could have added that the party will shout louder than most for tight immigration control - Ireland for the Irish and all of that.

For those inclined to view this as an overly cynical take, they need only look at the litany of things the party once hated but learned to love. Power is the greatest aphrodisiac for divesting revolutionaries of their radical clothing. Orwell would understand that. In Sinn Fein he will find validation of his thesis that nine times out of ten revolutionaries are social climbers with bombs.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

20 February 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Try separate the wood from the trees:
MI5, Sinn Fein/IRA and the intelligence war

Paul Maguire

Sinn Fein Set To Win … The Neanderthal Derby
Anthony McIntyre

21st Century Vision?
Mick Hall

The Real Betrayal?
Dr John Coulter

Cowardice on Cartoon Controversary
David Adams

Meeting Marielos
Anthony McIntyre

14 February 2006

2006 Ballymurphy Pogroms
Anthony McIntyre

Mick Hall

Why Ireland is Unfree
Chris Fogarty

Time to Grow Up
Dr John Coulter

The Letters page has been updated:

Time for the End of an Era


Ballymurphy Being Attacked Within


Ballymurphy Slaying


More GEM


UCC Address


Shannon Airport


An Open Letter To Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri (Wherever You Are)

The Irish "Peace Process" Reality and Fiction
Fourthwrite announcement

25 Years On -Commemoration Says "We Must Be United!"
Chicago Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee

Café Vaudeville
Anthony McIntyre



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