Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An Gleichschaltung?

On the day our new local government set-up was announced, which has the DUP, the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party spitting blood and Sinn Féin in a state of near-ecstasy, Francie Molloy, veteran Sinn Féin councillor and a man of indubitable Republican credentials, casually mentioned on BBC Newsline that the shake-up might not be such a good idea.

Now, I'm not qualified to judge whether he's right or not. The point is: he was immediately suspended from his party, subject to a disciplinary tribunal, for airing a view which is at odds with that of his party leadership. I've been avoiding the fashionable trend towards comparisons with 1930's Germany, but this smacks of Gleichschaltung right and proper.

Sinn Féin will argue that disciplinary matters within the party are private matters and the business of no one on the outside, but it's quite fair that a democratic party inviting members of the public to join it should have its internal machinations clearly on view and subject to public scrutiny. And, yes, that goes for all parties, not just Sinn Féin.

On an issue central to an organisation's raison d'être it might possibly be thinkable to call into question a dissenting member's alignment with shared aims and objectives - say when a member of Pro-Life starts encouraging women to abort - but on matters of policy (as opposed to objectives) a democratic party leadership must respect and listen to members' views, allow them to be debated and, if supported by a majority, represent them to the hilt. That's democracy. Looks like Sinn Féin still has to give up some old-style tendencies.

After all, how democratic are you when the leadership tells members what to think?

To be Big, the SF leadership should realise that debate isn't a sign of weakness, as their younger members ably demonstrate. They should allow their members latitude to contribute creatively. If they've really embraced democracy they have to stop intimidating dissenters within their own ranks. This isn't 1930's Chicago either.


At 8:33 p.m., Anonymous levee said...

John: They didn't get where they are today by embracing democracy. Exploiting it, maybe.

The reason that Sinn Fein are so popular is that because of the tight control they exert on their members. Hell, even ordinary people in SF neighbourhoods often can't deviate from the party line without suffering the consequences.

It's disappointing, but there you have it. If one positive thing comes from this, perhaps more Sinn Fein members will begin questioning whether they actually make a difference or are replaceable footsoldiers.


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