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Sunday 5 February 2006

Flynn gives a dual lesson in class warfare

AS IF we needed reminding that old socialists tend to die capitalists, pillar of the establishment Phil Flynn has been revealed to have staged a metamorphosis almost as dramatic as Kafka's Gregor when he became a cockroach.

The South Armagh Burns and Moley Sinn Fein Cumann (honouring Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley, blown up in 1988 by their own bomb) posted a 1982 speech of Flynn's on their website - www.burnsmoley.com - and what a grand revolutionary socialist speech it was.

For some mysterious reason, it's no longer on the site, but I prudently printed it out before it was pulled.

Overall, it's a concentrated assault on capitalism. The Sinn Fein of 1918-1921 (so enthusiastically celebrated these days by Flynn's friends in modern Sinn Fein), was, Flynn explained eloquently, no more than a bourgeois party, whose non-class appearance was "a piece of camouflage behind which a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie was established".

"Tragically . . . [the Civil War] did not develop into a clear-cut class war between exploiter and exploited" rather than "a squabble between two property-owning factions".

Michael Collins was a reactionary representative of Irish capitalism, the Anglo-Irish and the bigger bourgeoisie, while de Valera opted for subjection to Britain and capitalism, becoming the spokesman for the wannabe bourgeoisie.

Liam Mellows was the person who most clearly realised that "the success of the fight for the Republic depended on its being transformed into a war of Irish workers against their class enemy, the Free State, and its imperialist master". But sadly, when "the time came for the Irish workers to fight a war against Irish capitalists, class-conscious workers with rifles were few and far between".

Now admittedly Phil Flynn was a trades unionist at the time, but, being 43, not in the first flush of idealistic youth.

When, I wonder, did he decide that if he couldn't beat 'em, he'd join 'em and become the Free State's top fixer? What persuaded this flexible fellow to become chairman of the Irish arm of a British bank? What honeyed words enticed this principled class warrior onto the board of a money-lending firm which preyed on the hard-up?

Maybe on mature reflection Flynn is glad that "class-conscious workers with rifles" are "few and far between".

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards