A cultural exchange with the Connolly Youth Movement

Aiden O’Rourke, is a member of the YCL Glasgow Branch

Aiden O’Rourke recounts the experiences and insights of a fraternal delegation to the 2020 Ard Fheis (Congress) of the Connolly Youth Movement (CYM).

I had the pleasure to attend the recent Ard Fheis of the CYM in Belfast. Before James McLelland and I gave our fraternal addresses, we listened to the introductions and opening address, then moved into motions.

I delivered the fraternal address from YCL Scotland and spoke on independence before going into detail on our community work in Scotland, and the general political situation. I did this off the top of my head before reading out the rest of the speech I prepared as follows:

“Long term, it’s clear we need to engage with independence, and challenge its proponents and opponents to deliver for our class, and push the issue back to the class issues that made 2014 so hopeful for many working class people.

Brexit is an opportunity, but we need to be fighting tooth and nail to ensure it is in our class interest rather than the ruling class; it is clear the EU is the biggest obstacle to socialism in Europe.

It’s clear we are living in challenging and changing times; as Marxists, we have to assess the conditions as they are, and not like them to be; we have to avoid dogmatism, and seek to apply Marxism-Leninism to our times, taking into account the balance of class forces, and the history of our nation.

Scotland is a nation, but to be independent in the current climate, and under the vision of the SNPs Growth Commission, is to be ruled by Brussels and Westminster; to be independent in name, and flag alone.

We are clear however, as Lenin said, that we uphold the right of nations to self-determination, should the people of Scotland choose to have a referendum we must support that as democrats – as Marx says, as communists we have to see beyond the situation as it is in this moment, we have to see where it will develop into, and do our best to lead the class; we are not content with the direction of travel proposed as it is not necessarily in the interest of the working class; however, we will utterly support the struggle to build up the power of our class, whether in Britain, or going it alone; always remembering internationalism and class solidarity.

For us, the enemy is not Westminster, the enemy is not Brussels, the enemy is not the people of England and Wales, nor the people’s of Europe – the enemy is Capital.

The YCL in Scotland offers its fraternal greetings to the Comrades of the CYM and CPI, and is honoured to restate our full commitment to struggle together with our comrades in Ireland to achieve a socialist Britain, and a 32 county socialist Irish republic.”

We then broke to go on a cultural activity which saw us take a tour of the murals along the Falls Road, with short speeches given at each point, before we got to walk along the International Peace Wall. Motions then continued when we reconvened. James and I left the meeting to allow NEC elections to take place, before rejoining to sing the Internationale with the comrades, and bring the Ard Fheis to a close.

After this we then went out for dinner at the party premises, and then a social, before we descended into organised chaos in the Kremlin nightclub.

On Sunday, we visited Trademark Belfast – a communist run anti sectarian organisation on the loyalist side of the peace wall, running parallel to the Falls Road. After struggling to get around the closed sections of the wall, we were given a lecture and engaged in a discussion with a leading communist from the CPI who works with Trademark, which saw us look at the history of Ireland, and the historical reasons for the rise of sectarianism and its implications today.  We committed ourselves to the legacy of Connolly in aiming to overcome the sectarian divisions imposed upon both working class sides of the communities. 

With this done, we left our comrades in the CYM to return home, having made what I hope will be deep felt connections, and found new respect for the work they’re doing in Ireland – my particular credit goes to the work of the Belfast, and for the first time in their history, Derry, branches.

The cause of Labour is the cause of Ireland, it’s in good hands from my experience with the CYM.

Aiden O’Rourke

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