Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tiocfaidh Ar La

Courtesy of the London Underground Celtic Supporters' Club, I recently had a good read of Tiocfaidh Ar La Fanzine - "for Celtic and Ireland".

The first thing I'd say is that the people running it have done something quite impressive and which should be of interest to those of us concerned about building a genuine base for left-wing politics in working-class communities. They produce a popular publication with a big audience by combining their political agenda with an important part of people's social and cultural life: football.

But the second thing I want to say is to knock that political agenda. The lead article in the latest issue - which I unfortunately can not find on their website - is an interview with an ANC member. The choice of interviewee itself says a lot - not a South African trade unionist, or community activist, but a government supporter.

There is very little discussion of common politics between TAL/Irish Republicanism and the ANC: perhaps that is taken for granted. But there is plenty of discussion - in fact, it dominates the interview - of the details of the bomb that the ANC member planted, the number of casualties, and his subsequent arrest and imprisonment. It comes across as though the fanzine's empathy with the ANC is about their common method of struggle rather than any common politics.

TAL does ask the ANC man about current problems in South Africa, but accepts his reply uncritically. He denounces the recent anti-immigrant riots - rightly perhaps, but with no acknowledgement that the policies of the ANC government might be responsible for some working-class people turning to reactionary xenophobic violence. The ANC has, after all, pursued policies of privatisation, cuts and union-bashing that keep many black people in poverty.

This is particularly interesting because TAL is proud of its anti-racist and anti-fascist stance, and many of its supporters would readily accept that New Labour's abandonment of the working class has fertilised the ground for anti-immigrant prejudice in Britain. If the answer in Britain is to assert working-class politics and to challenge the government, then that should be the answer in South Africa too.

It seems to me that the ANC should be a warning, rather than an example, to Irish republicans - or at least to socialists who support Irish republicanism. The anti-working-class ANC government shows where you end up if you cheerlead a national liberation struggle but allow it to be devoid of working-class, socialist politics, and do not insist on working-class political independence.

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