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Fire Fighters break with New Labour- Time for a new working class party

category international | worker & community struggles and protests | press release author Monday June 28, 2004 20:53author by f Report this post to the editors

Socialist Party press release

The national conference of the Fire Brigades Union has taken the historic decision to break with Tony Blair’s New Labour party. The motion for disaffiliation was moved by Northern Ireland fire fighter and Socialist Party member Tony Maguire.

The FBU is one of the most important and best known trade unions in Britain. Its decision comes at the end of a series of bad election results and foreign policy disasters for New Labour. The decision by the FBU will compound Tony Blair’s problems and may be the trigger for other unions leaving New Labour.

New Labour receives the bulk of its funding from trade unions including trade unions representing workers in Northern Ireland.

In moving the motion Tony Maguire, from Northern Ireland, said the FBU had been "demonised" by the government during the last pay dispute.

"Our party, the party that we nurtured through the Thatcher years and the party trade unions give millions of pounds to, has stabbed us not in the back, but in the heart," he said.

"Our members have been betrayed and they feel angry and bitter and they want this mirage of a relationship with new Labour severed."

He said it was time to "start fighting like tigers" to win influence the government was denying them.

Commenting on the outcome of the vote to disaffiliate, which was carried by 35,000 votes to 14,000, Socialist Party member Tony Maguire said, "As trade unionists and socialists we are opposed to every aspect of New Labour policy.

Public services and manufacturing industry have been plunged into crisis in Northern Ireland. New Labour is planning to impose water charges of up to £600 per household in Northern Ireland. In these circumstances it is completely illogical to continue to be affiliated to New Labour. The FBU has not rejected the ideas of political trade unionism but we do believe that we should be supporting a political party that represents the interests of unions, communities and young people not a party that has clearly been hijacked by big business.

I believe that the time has come for a new working class party to be formed, one that is really based on solidarity and socialism."

author by Anarchopublication date Mon Jun 28, 2004 21:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I love Marxists, busy proving Marx right when he said history repeats itself, first time as tragedy and second time as farce.

Labour provided the tragedy, the total failure of using elections to further socialism. Modern marxists are proving the farce by asking trade unionists to repeat the same mistakes!

As an anarchist and trade unionist I think the unions should be independent of all parties. Our dues should be used to fund our own campaigns, not given to a bunch of would be "revolutionary" politicians who are busy repeating history rather than making it.

So I think we should learn from history and not repeat it. The division of activity into economic (unions) and political (party) is doomed to failure. Time for the unions to fight their own battles, political and economic, using direct action and solidarity.

Related Link:
author by curiouspublication date Mon Jun 28, 2004 23:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Not quite true Terry old chap is it? Surely as a member of the SP you consider that you are already a member of that party? Bit dishonest really.

Bit rich too this call for a new party from the people who persuaded thousands of working class activsits to join and stay within the rotten corpses of the Brit and Free State Labour Parties until they were thrown out!!

author by Conor - SAucdpublication date Mon Jun 28, 2004 23:41author email conor at ziplip dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its up to the grassroots lads.

RESPECT is beyond a farce - a socialist-religious party. Talk about doublespeak! Only a charlatan like George Galloway could dream it up. Im actually surprised the SWP took it up to. It’s saddening, and a certain shift away from the core policies of secular socialism I thought the SWP stood for.

The SP is about as capable of engaging in any form of discourse as a parrot.

They are right though - there’s nothing new about new labour.

The left is playing into the hands of reactionaries - epically the "former socialist turned social democrat" types who claim to have grown wiser with age.

The left needs a new theoretical approach. A genuine evaluation of the objectives and strategies of left.

The SWP / SP and their new cover groups need to engage in serious discussion and revaluation of the theory that defines their stance. Maybe this happened in the British SWP on an apparantely superficial level, resulting in the RESPECT farce. Too often I find myself drawn toward the anarcist side of this debate because they are the only people on the left that aren’t answering their questions with dogma.

For as long as the organised, (relatively) heavily funded left regards theory as being the same as dogma, and a dilution of objective Ideals - the firefighters will have to keep looking in the the smoky room we call the “far left”.

author by sparkpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 09:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This decision by the delegates to the FBU conference is an important moment in history. The FBU is the first union to fully break with NL, in a British historical context this is a major step. The British unions have been tied to NL for generations and even in the last ten-fifteen yrs when NL have totaly degenerated they have remained linked.

The FBU should be congratulated for this brave step, I hope we see many more unions going in the same direction.

author by curiouspublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 10:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

By same token socialists in Ireland should be campaigning to break the links between the unions and Rabbitte's party and to stop the political contributions that go to support these scum in elections. I resigned from SIPTU on this.

author by pat cpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 11:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Labour Party has accused the Fire Brigades Union of making "a serious
mistake" by breaking its ties with the party. FBU delegates backed a resolution which said Labour's aims and objectives no longer reflected those of the FBU.

Labour Party chairman Ian McCartney said he was confused by the decision, given the UK Government's performance.

Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan said Labour was no longer the
party of the working class.

Relations between the FBU and Labour became increasingly strained during a
recent strike over pay, placing their 86-year link in jeopardy.

Mr McCartney said: "I believe this is a serious mistake at a time when the
Labour Government has delivered economic stability, full employment in many parts of the country, a minimum wage, increased rights for people at work and record levels of investment in the NHS and education which voters are beginning to feel the real benefits of. Against that background it is hard to see why the FBU has chosen to disaffiliate but of course that is its decision." The Labour chairman said firefighters who were also Labour Party members would not be affected by the decision.

'Kicked in the teeth'

"Having worked with the FBU for many years, I am personally sorry that the voice of Britain's firefighters will no longer be heard at Labour's annual conference and National Policy Forum, which will shape Labour's next
manifesto," Mr McCartney added.

Mr Sheridan said the FBU had become disillusioned with Labour. He said: "New
Labour is no longer the party of the working class and does not deserve trade union financial backing. Now that the FBU has followed the path the RMT has taken, it is clear that the industrial trade unions have realised that New Labour is no longer the party of the millions but instead
represents the millionaires. The recent disgraceful treatment of Scotland's
nursery nurses by the Labour Party in Scotland puts pressure on the UK's
largest union, Unison, to stop funding the party that kicked its members in the teeth."

Mr Sheridan said his party would welcome "with open arms" any union which
wanted to protect workers' rights and promote socialism.

In February, the UK's biggest rail union broke its 105-year link with Labour.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) refused to bow to Labour
pressure over its decision to allow branches to affiliate to other political parties.

The union's general secretary Bob Crow said he was very sad about the move and that the RMT never wanted to be expelled by the Labour Party.

He said his Scottish members took "a democratic decision" to support the Scottish Socialists instead.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/06/17 16:12:15 GMT


author by Zimmermanpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 11:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The SP are calling for a new party of the working class. In honour of the call, I felt the need to rewrite an old masterpiece. Here it is: The objective conditions they are a-changing

Come gather round people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you’d better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone

For the objective conditions, they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pens
And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no telling who that it’s naming
For the loser now will be later to win
For the objective conditions, they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the halls
For he that gets hurt will be he that has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it’s raging
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the objective conditions, they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers all over the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand
For the objective conditions, they are a-changin’

The line, it is drawn, the curse, it is cast
The slow one will later be fast
And the present now will soon be the past
The order is rapidly fading
The first one now will later be last
For the objective conditions, they are a-changin’

author by parrottpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 13:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Conor, I think you should grow up. If you had any sense you would see that the SP did not support RESPECT. The SP don't see that kind of formation/covergroup as a way forward for the workers' movement. I would suggest that SA start engaging in real activity in the workers' movement and stop slamming the "trots" from the comfort of the UCD Arts Block

author by f - sp (pc)publication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 13:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have to say I agree with much of what you said. I can fully understand your critisisms of the SWP regarding RESPECT, this development towards pandering to religious conservatives is worrying. You are also right to point out that many on the left have sold out and drifted to the right, we've seen this across Europe in the past couple of decades or so.

However I have to reject your assertion that "The SP is about as capable of engaging in any form of discourse as a parrot". I know from experience that this is not the case whatsoever and I don't think is your experience either. I for one and I know many others in the SP in UCD would, and always have been, willing to engage in discussion on these issues with SA.

author by f - sp (pc)publication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 13:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Conor critisised the SWP for RESPECT, not the SP.

'Parrott's' remarks are unhelpful and he is probably a troll trying to stir shit, my advice to people is to ignore him.

author by Voice of Reasonpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 13:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Didnt the last Fire dispute hinge on a 40% pay rise demand? Maybe they deserved it (does anyone on decent money deserve that big a leap in pay?).
So how does a demand for 40% relate to Marxism and Anarchy?
Understandably the Unions who backed Labour want Labour to back their pay demands. Like any donor to a political party.

author by John Prescottpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 13:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think it is a great move by the FBU to break with New Labour. No-one could argue that the policies of Blair and Brown benefit workers.

However lets be clear about the FBU strike. While New Labour were busy stabbing firefighters in the heart, Andy Gilchrist and officials like Tony McMullan were holding the firefighters arms behind their backs.

The firefighters could have beaten New Labour, it was the strategy that let them down eventually resulting in Tony and others pushing for the acceptance of a deal now known to have been rotten.

Marching workers to the top of the hill and then calling off the strikes is unforgivable. What do the SP think of the role that their leading members in the FBU played in one of the most important disputes in 20years?

author by wankerpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 16:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

God be with the days when Militant (now the SP) wanted us all to join the labour party and lambasted anyone who suggested that unions disaffiliate.

author by sparkpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 19:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Who is Tony McMullan???

author by Conor - SAucdpublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 21:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

First of all, All members of SA have involved themselves in Meaningful Action in UCD, as have SY , LY and SWSS. Anyone who wishes to say otherwise may give concrete examples of such. SAs members have never shied away from any kind of action, political or otherwise, even against the bulk of student consensus.

Im not in the Arts bloc, or studying Arts, and my position is no more comfortable than anyone else on this site.

As was said, I didn’t criticise the SP regarding RESPECT (a reasonably literate 5 year old could have seen that). I think the SWPs involvement in RESPECT is a clear dilution of any socialist principals that particular group ever claimed to stand for.

On the SP, I know many SYucd heads and have always got on well with them. Darren, Paul, Oisin& Fingin and their newer comrades. The point of this thread (started by a SP member) was that its time for a working class party, my point to the SP on this is:

1) The SP has always claimed to be the “party of the working class”. Either it no longer sees itself as such, or is about to undergo a radical rethink of policies, or maybe just a “rebranding” for want of a better word.
2) I don’t think the SP in its present form is capable of becoming, or contributing to that party, unless it radically discusses, and rethinks the THEORY that informs its DOGMA. Instead of questioning the terms of any political question, exploring intellectually, or even applying a dialectic, I see members of the Trotskyite left simply apply a dogma with the principal absolutes and moral zeal of the religious.

On a particular issue, Its easier to listen to what Trotsky said, jig it around, push out a leaflet to the membership pepper it with selective facts, and leave the general understanding with the leadership. Any further analysis else is considered a “dilution” of sorts of the objectives of the left (doubtless my very post here will be treated with the same contempt, regardless of its validity).

Id hate to see the SP go the way of the SWP. Careerist, populist, and inevitably to the right. Unless it opens itself to the new world, new society, new technology, new popular and “highbrow” culture, the new subtlety of the class system, new geopolitics, and formulates them into meaningful theory, it will never progress.

This is not (as it may be seen by the most dogmatic) as a call to embrace the market!

SP theory was formulated when the world was east and west, when the working class wore boiler suits , and exploitation took place down the pit or up the mill instead of in the call centre or round the hospital. While this theory is followed as Dogma, the SP will only ever make marginal gains in membership and in action.

This blind application of dogma

Capitalism has shifted and appropriated to all the changes listed above (cultural, technological, etc) where necessary, without loosing an inch of its abhorrent regressive effects on Humanity, Why cant the left? Its easy for right wingers to selectively nitpick and rubbish the far left (SP, SWP, etc) because of the inflexible nature of the dogma that surrounds it, and its unwillingness to appropriate to the socio-cultural emancipation of many groups in political and economic terms, following a Marxist, or “far left” analysis.

This has allowed capitalists to set the terms of the new world order in cultural/technological terms as well as economic terms.

Many Trotskyites I know seem too keen to dismiss any leftist cultural analysis – and many discussions often descend into how many times can you dismiss situationism as irrelevant over a certain time period?

An analysis of the new working class as Joe Higgins himself quite correctly described “young couples, making 3 hour round trips to work, paying exorbitant mortgages, virtual slaves to property developers ” will show that the Socio- Cultural areas the left has always championed – equal rights for Women – legalisation of contraception – legalisation of homosexuality – non reactionary attitude to drugs - areas never championed by the right, are areas that all people across the country (epically the working class, traditional and “new”) heavily identify with. Not that you, or they would know it. An opportunity missed.

On the other aspects of our Culture- minority or avant garde- the left (epically the Trotskyites) seem at best dismissive, at worst disparaging and authoritarian. Don’t expect the left to tie in the cause of pill popping rave goers harassment with that of the harassment of workers on a picket line by cops on anything more than a superficial level.

With all this in regard, no matter how well funded The SP, or any CWI group is, it will fail to take any power off the right wingers, be that in real terms or in a capitalist parlament.

It is quite correct not to support Labour, under Blair or Rabitte. However a coalition with FiannaFail or FineGael is meant to advance the cause of the Unions is beyond anyone but the ConScanlons of this world.

A model such as the SSP would represent a (partial) clear path forward for the left in Ireland. Better still would be a total rejection of absolutes and dogma, and the building of consistant, broad theory around generally understood terms (a socialist thoery).

The choice is that, or the dogmatic SP, the right wing Labour, or the folly of RESPECT.

author by tompublication date Tue Jun 29, 2004 22:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think it would be fair to say that firefighters in Britain have made a historic decision . But that decision could leave FBU members in northern Ireland with a dilemna :if in the future they affiliate to any national political party should it be a British or an Irish one ?

author by Voice of Reasonpublication date Wed Jun 30, 2004 12:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Correct me if I'm wrong but UK Labour haven't exactly gone to war with the Fire Brigade Unions. They just wouldn't back down on giving a 40% pay rise.

Maybe they deserved the pay rise, but a lot of contributors seem to be coming at this from an ideological position. Unfortunately what a union demands isn't ALWAYS best. They're only human. My experience of industrial relations in peaceful first world democracies is that money is eventually the bottom line.

Some may want to use this dispute to create a new force in British politics, or damage Labour. The firefighters feel they deserve a pay rise.

author by Brianpublication date Wed Jun 30, 2004 13:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

but on two quick points:

1) The Socialist Party has long taken the view that a mass party of the working class is necessary and that such a party will have to be very broad in its composition. The Socialist Party, as a small revolutionary group, will hopefully have an important role to play in helping such a party into existence but a new mass party will not just be (and could not be) simply an expanded version of our own organisation.

The real question is how exactly will a mass party come into being and under what conditions?

2) Your points on culture are interesting if I think a little incoherent. I don't really have the time to go into the issue at the moment, except to say that there is a long tradition of Marxist cultural analyses.

On musical subcultures, well some SP members are fond of a rave on a beach, others are happier listening to Bob Dylan, others yet prefer Slipknot t-shirts and black painted nails. Most of the the time musical taste and political involvement have only the most peripheral of connections. There are exceptions however - and you'll find that English SP members were involved in a whole load of protests around the Criminal Justice Act and its criminalisation of free parties.

author by Raverpublication date Wed Jun 30, 2004 16:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The real story is that the SP/CWI will pander to reaction when the chips are down. Tommy Sheridan was shafted when he tried to organise a counterdemo against a reactionary anti-drugs march.

The CWI said: "It is one thing to have cannabis legalisation as part of your programme on drugs, it is quite another to have it as your main campaigning slogan! "

Read the story at this link -

author by Raypublication date Wed Jun 30, 2004 16:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As I understand it, the old CWI position on cannabis was "How can you fight for a revolution when you can't even put on your socks?" Just you wait, any day now they'll issue a statement letting us know that disco music is not actually bourgeois deviationism.

author by Yossarianpublication date Wed Jun 30, 2004 18:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As far as I recall the FBU dispute was not only about money. Far from it, the British Labour government was trying (and eventually succeeded for the most part) to introduce new working practices and conditions (don't recall the details but I'm sure they'll be up on the FBU website) which were a big departure from their existing contracts. On top of that the FBU felt they had a legitimate claim for a pay increase. The size of their demand was intended to be reflective of the losses that they would incur under new contracts and working conditions as well as a legitimate pay claim.

author by Brianpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 01:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Our anonymous friend above is of course trying to stir shit, but in fact the article he links to is a very good one - making the point that heroin is an issue that has to be approached thoughtfully and sensitively. The SSP thankfully decided against organising a legalise cannabis counter-demonstration in opposition to an anti-heroin demo. The initial proposal was rash to say the least and would likely have been counterproductive.

The action that was finally taken by the SSP after a discussion was to organise a public meeting to try and engage with the concerns of the anti-heroin march participants and put forward in a non-confrontational manner the SSP's drug policy proposals as a possible solution.

Unlike our anonymous friend, I was actually a member of the SSP (and CWI Scotland) around the time mentioned and I took part in building for its annual legalise cannabis march. The march itself was certainly entertaining but I'll go into that some other time.

author by Raverpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 13:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The SP line changes depending on who they are talking to. Oh, yes they will have the legalisation of cannabis in their programme but perish the thought that they would ever mention it to those who have reactionary positions on drugs. The reality is that those who are most vocal against cannabis are mostly alkos. Hypocrisy that the SP is comfortable to live with.

When did Joe Higgins ever raise the legalisation of cannabis? Certainly not in the Dail.

author by Brianpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 13:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

is seldom useful or pleasant. Why don't you come out from behind your mask, Raver, or at least let us all know which organisation you actually belong to? You would find that your views will be taken more seriously. Of course, you might have to defend your own record then.

The Socialist Party did not always have a good policy on cannabis. That changed long before I got involved however, as members discussed the issue and changed the party's view. Now you might think that such a change, even one occurring years ago, would be welcomed by someone like "Raver" who professes great interest in the subject. The problem is that our anonymous sniper is not interested in our actual view, merely in scoring points.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of people on this site, I have actively been involved in a campaign to legalise cannabis - as a member of the SSP and the Committee for a Workers International in Scotland. I took part in the SSP's campaign, but I was critical of the fact that at the time it was the only issue that Scottish Socialist Youth campaigned around. Really, it was the only thing, although I am told that they have since broadened their horizons.

I have no hesitation in saying that while a campaign to legalise or decriminalise cannabis is entirely supportable, it is hardly a pressing priority for small organisations of socialists. We have limited resources and we have to focus our campaigning work where we can have the most useful impact. There are a hundred things I would like the Socialist Party to be able to campaign actively on. Most of the time, we simply don't have the resources to take up more than a few of them. If we had more resources I would be arguing for them to be used campaigning against the housing crisis, around recycling, around... well the list is endless.

So "Raver", why don't you tell us about your campaigning work on the issue of cannabis and that of the organisation you are involved in? Come on, don't you want to put me to shame?

author by Raverpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 14:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Brian is strangely silent about what the SP have done in Ireland to campaign for the legalisation of Cannabis. Perhaps he would enlighten us.

I am under no obligation to reveal myself to Brian . He posted comments here, making claims on behalf of the SP/CWI. I have challenged them . I never made any claims either on behalf of myself or any organisation.

So less of the diversions please Brian. The SP/CWI may have changed in someways but they are still masters at introducing red herrings and chnging the subject. Just deal with the drugs issue and how the SP deal with it.

Why hasnt Joe Higgins called for the legalisation of Cannabis and Ecstacy? I presume, given your approval of raves, that you also support the legalisation of E.

author by Brianpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 14:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You've had your answers. As a member of another political organisation who chooses to launch his attacks from the safety of anonymity you won't be getting any more from me.

You demand "answers" while refusing to give your name, or to answer any questions with regard to your own record on the issue or that of your own organisation. You want, in other words, to have your cake and eat it too.

I've explained the Socialist Party's view on cannabis and also that it is not a campaigning priority for us currently. You have responded with nothing more than anonymous sniping. I have no interest in a discussion on those cowardly terms.

author by Tim Learypublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 14:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Do you seriously imagine that Joe Higgins - a TD for a constituency which has some of the highest levels of drug abuse and drug violence in Europe - is going to waste Dáil time campaigning for the legalisation of hash? Grow up for fucks sake.

PS. I am not an SP member or supporter

author by Raverpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 14:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Brian pretends that the SP are friendly towards Raves. The reality is there isnt a hope in hell of the SP speaking out against the Garda actions against raves. Why the silence on this Brian?

You are not fooling anyone. The SP doesnt relate to Youth Culture in any form.

author by Patpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 15:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

All trade unionists on the Left should now unite to force disaffiliation from the Irish Labour Party. This party have made conscious decisions about where they are going in terms of moving to the centre, chasing the middle-class votes and surrending working class areas to Sinn Fein. Why should they be allowed to benefit from the anomoly of hoovering up trade union dues when they are moste definitely NOT a party of the working-class. Irish politics has changed irreversibly. Disaffiliate from Labour parasites now!

author by jacobpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 16:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"definitely NOT a party of the working-class. Irish politics has changed irreversibly. Disaffiliate from Labour parasites now!"

What would be a party of the working class, and what are working class policies? Does the 19th century definition of working class really make sense any more?

author by Raypublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 16:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What do you think the '19th century definition' of working class is?

author by Mepublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 16:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No dig here at the organised anarchists but this nonsense about there being no working class is bollocks. 19th century, 20th century or 21st century there is a working class.
All those who say socialists only look at the working class from a nineteenth century view are mistaken. Exploitation, alienation etc, are all very much things still alive in this century.

author by jacobpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 16:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

These are a few definitions (not mine):

The proletariat; those who must sell their labor to survive; the antithesis of the bourgeoisie in Marx's class analysis.

a social class comprising those who do manual labor or work for wages

of those who work for wages especially manual or industrial laborers
But what about the original question of what a working class party would be, etc!

author by Mepublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 16:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I live in the 21st century so I didn't understand your quick interjection and need to talk about the 19th century.
I do believe that an organisation (not essentially a party) needs to represent the exploited and the alienated. You doing anything about it other than philosophising about the19th century. After all a man once said.
'The philosophers have interpreted the world, our job however is to change it.'
(Or something like that)

author by Raypublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 17:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The proletariat; those who must sell their labor to survive; the antithesis of the bourgeoisie in Marx's class analysis"

ie, the working clas are those who rely on wages (or the dole), rather than income from interest or rent. Sure, there are plenty of grey areas around the edges, but that definition obviously includes a lot of people and excludes an identifiable minority. So its a workable definition.

As for what a party of the working class would do (bearing in mind that I'm an anarchist), well, it would presumably want to shift the burden of taxation away from the working class we've identified, improve those services, and the access to those services, needed by the working class, tend to favour unions over employers, etc, etc.

You may disagree about whether these are things that should be done, but I don't see why you think they are hard to identify.

author by jacobpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 17:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

exploited and the alienated
Those qualities are not unique to any class within society. I'd accept that the less money you have the more likely you will suffer them.

Working Class as a term appears to be quite exclusive, therefore I think it requires a definition.

As for a working class party, what would this entail?

author by jacobpublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 17:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks Ray, a concise reasonable and informative post!

I just felt a lot of "political" types were using the term working class a bit loosely. Definately could do with reducing tax burden for lower incomes (getting away from fire brigade topics).

author by Mepublication date Thu Jul 01, 2004 17:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I just felt a lot of "political" types were using the term working class a bit loosely."

Now you have a problem with politcal. (inverted commas or not) Your conributions to date, have been very politcal, don't you think?

author by Me Toopublication date Fri Jul 02, 2004 14:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I find most working class people have a reactionary and very materialistic outlook, compared with us lefty UCD types.

author by maxell propublication date Fri Jul 02, 2004 14:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its time for Labour to grab the bull by the horns and fuck the unions out of the labour party. THe unions leadership are far more interested in cosying up to Fianna Fail and ICTU in their partnership arrangements than they are in building up a real alternative to rightwing governments, the unions have votes at labour conferences that guarantee them representation at the highest levels in the party while at the same time playing right into the hands of our political opponents in FF and the PDs. THe unions (particularly SIPTU) are no longer interested in creating the fair and equal society that our founder James Connolly envisaged, We fucked out the Trots and success followed, now lets fuck out the SIPTUs and grow from strength to strength. We don't need their shaggin money anyway.

author by f - sp (pc)publication date Sat Jul 03, 2004 05:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Conor, There's a load of issues mentioned in your last post that I unfortunately don't have the time to go into at the minute. If I get a bit of time in the next week I will try to reply, otherwise we should talk about it next time we see each other.

There is one thing though that I'd like to clarify. The SP is obviously a working class party but we do not claim to be THE working class party. The working class is a diverse class, political conscience is varied, some believe capitalism can be reformed while a smaller number believe in the complete overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with socialism. The SP is a revolutionry party, we believe in the latter. Not all working class people are going to fully agree with a socialist revolution, however we believe there should still be a party that organises working class people in their struggles against capitalism and that is why we stand for the creation of new mass working class parties and why we suppport the dissafiliation of the FBU.

I find it amazing that a thread that started on the FBU can go off in a tangent to discuss the SP's drugs policy, that's indymedia! :)

By the way, 'Raver', I know of SP members that do attend raves and are well aware and obviously opposed the the harrasment by cops.

author by Conor - SAucdpublication date Sat Jul 03, 2004 17:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That’s fine. I too know THE SP member who likes his raves (I think this is a good place to use "the"). I was, but am no longer under the impression that the SP considers itself the party of the working class. Look forward to the chat.

My principal point is that I don’t think the Trotskyite left ever got over the “Intellectuals are the scum of society” remark, and refuse to consider cultural liberation/emancipation in the same way as economic liberation/emancipation. I think that both are inextricably linked, and the left would benefit from exploring the various avant garde (dare I say intellectual?) movements since (and indeed , before) Marx that concerned themselves principally with artistic and cultural analysis. It’s a pity the only people paying due theoretical dues to these movements are the spray can artists and €7 adbusters movement, not the “traditional” left.

Football Big Brother and “Friends” (Id love to know what Debord would have thought of that name) all serve capitalism in the most underhand subliminal way. Even the disorder of counter culture seems to be easily appropriated by Capitalism. Nationalism, Pride, Prejudice and inevitability are fed to us Daily, and so long as popular culture shares its ownership among the multitudes, the vanguard grow more distant. The concept of Revolution readily available in bite-sized pieces – the reality of a revolution (economic, etc) grows ever distant.

“the revolution is over” , now all that left is for the Statesmen to shake hands, in your “living” room.

author by hs - sppublication date Sat Jul 03, 2004 20:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Interesting remarks on culture in general, I suggest you try and get your hands on Gramsci or any histroy books By Paul Ginsbourg who goes into serious detail about this. I believe the cultural side to any movement is very important and a party can play a huge role in that, but I don't think one very small party with a few hundred people is really in that kind of a position. A cultural left has to come naturally rather than a party providing it. Something which comes from a mass movement. For example the social centre movements had nothing to do with the communist party (although many of their members would be involved). But I do think culture is important and it would probably be a good idea if you wrote down your ideas in full and thought out, in a positive way. Rather than "everything is terrible because the sp doesn't do..." why not write "we should do this..." Then you can publish your article here and everyone can discuss it.

author by Conor - SAucdpublication date Sat Jul 03, 2004 20:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I didn’t try and present my opinions as “everything is terrible because the SP didn’t do it”, more “if the SP want to play a part in the emancipation of the working class and be PART of a revolution, its analysis must take a cultural as well as an economic aspect”.

I (like most, and most SP members) don’t see the few hundred members singularly sparking a revolution.

I think your attitude should be more contemplative than evasive. This was a thread about the new alternative to the “labour party” in England (and by extension Ireland , where the parallels are more abundant than Rabittes shit one-liners) .

I have respect for nearly every policy of the SP (main exceptions : workers in uniform and deformed workers states), if it explored, and ultimately embraced , rather than shunned any cultural analysis, it could really have an important part to play in the movement: as Lenin said that’s just like… opinion maaaann

author by hs - sppublication date Sun Jul 04, 2004 03:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don't want to get into an argument about it, all I said was write your ideas on culture and we can discuss them. I think it is important and probably you have some ideas on the matter, i'd be interested to hear them (as in thought out and finished), the only little problem I have is often activists say the SP should do this and that, but why wait for us?
you're obviously interested in the subject so why not write it yourself? you can publish it here. like I said I'm interested and would like to hear your opinion on the matter.

author by Conor - SAucdpublication date Sun Jul 04, 2004 12:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am not interested in an argument either, just a discussion. This discussion was in the context of the SP and the future partyof the working class.

I have "done something" about what I perceive as a cultural invasion of populism. My point to the SP specifically (this is an SP thread) was, "I think you should too". The SP, unlike the SWP-who have sold socialism down the river one too many times with "respect”, deserve critical analysis and a theoretical refining, both externally and internally.

This, I think, could see a genuine movement emerging.

My thoughts are "well thought out", formulated even, and always subject to change. Although this has not been the best articulation of them (300 odd words can’t do anyone’s justice)

On another related and final point to the SP, I think the way its presentation of theory as watertight, and "always in simple language for the proles" is regrettable. I think that most working class people are more intelligent than the SP and other elements of the hard left give them credit for. No movement will come without a vanguard (not necessarily a leadership), or the full involvement of all working people, theoretically as well as practically.

author by Brian Cpublication date Sun Jul 04, 2004 14:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just a couple of quick comments:

1) I'm a little surprised to hear you criticise the Socialist Party for simplifying its language too much. In so far as there is a problem with our use of language, in my view it is that we can sometimes use it in a manner that is too stilted or too laden with jargon.

2) I don't think that the Marxist left has ever had a problem with either cultural criticism or with interacting with elements of the various avant garde artistic movements. Structuralism and other elements of the Soviet avant garde for instance involved a conscious attempt to create "Marxist" art. The fraternisation between elements of the Surrealist movement and Trotskyism are another case in point, as are Trotsky's own rather extensive writings on art theory.

Surrealism, dada, situationism etc are problematic however and can't be uncritically embraced. Real insights exist uncomfortably beside aggressively pointless and sometimes counter-productive ideas.

A problem I have with your line of argument is that it appears to me to be expressed in extremely vague terms, although I quite understand that short Indymedia postings don't give much leeway for elaboration. What is it more precisely that you would like to see the Socialist Party do, in terms of "cultural" analysis or activism? I presume that you are suggesting something more substantial than leaving cryptic slogans stencilled on walls.

(PS - I can think of a good six or seven SP members off the top of my head who like a good rave once in while.)

author by hs - sppublication date Sun Jul 04, 2004 17:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

you've lost me now completely. I thought you wanted to have a discussion on culture, but all you seem to be saying is how we won't discuss this subject. I'm trying to tell you i'd love a discussion on culture and the left. So where is the problem excatly. Write a piece on left culture and we can all read it. I have something I wrote about two years ago on my first impressions of italian left culture (it was for a cwi conference) I'll try to dig it out and I'll post it here later and see what you think. later.

PS Brian
I used to do a fair bit of raving in me day so you can throw me onto your list!!!

author by hspublication date Sun Jul 04, 2004 18:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

if you want to see some of the cwi articles on art and culture go to click on news and anlaysis, and you can scroll down to history and theory, or art and culture. you might find some of it interesting.

author by Conor - SAucdpublication date Mon Jul 05, 2004 21:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Some Points.

First off, its nice to see situationism get the same kind of “critical support” off the CWI as north Korea. Im over the moon to hear that.

SP language is indeed “jargonistic, stifiling” but not necessarily technical, concise, or articulate. Most important of all, SP writings aren’t extensive, or theoretically challenging. Im not going to repeat earlier points in this respect. Providing simple answers and appropriation of theory isn’t the same as engaging people with theory and your (CWI) point of view.

Ive read Gramsci, but not Ginsbourg. Anyhow, that’s irrelevant – and my personal readings are totally unconnected to the theme of this thread. Debating with a narky middle class “psuedo intellectual situationist” (-quote:SP member) like myself online hardly constitutes the sort of lengthy reading, discussion and formulation of theory I am suggesting to the SP.

Im not a member of the SP and don’t intend to tell its membership what to do. I think a wider acceptance of minority culture and avant garde culture and art, an engagement in serious theoretical discussion within the ranks of the CWI, and an increased emphasis on this in policy would be conducive to building a broader party of the working class.

Socially, the left has been, and is still behind many previously unpopular campaigns on social issues – abortion, divorce, contraception, the church, personal freedom, the list goes on. The retrospective popularity of these campaigns is plain for all to see, how many Irish look back to the 50s with pride? Or want to see homosexuality re-criminalized? Practically none. The lefts most popular campaigns and policies have been, and are on social issues, yet any leftist will generally see fit to champion socialist economic plans, and place huge huge emphasis on the negative effects of the free market economically, forgetting the social gains, and forgetting to remind people who supported and opposed them, and why.

Likewise with culture. Doubtless, the CWI has articles on its website about culture, and most leftists support the right to have a rave, get mashed, and have a good time. Three points on this:

1) This support is mostly superficial in my experience. When push comes to popular shove, Joe Higgins, RBB, Tony Benn and other “leftists”, will refuse to seriously support a rave in the public domain.Likewise, Ignorance of contemporary art is not to be challenged in the same way as ignorance of prevailing market economics. The reasons for this are that supporting avant garde culture of any type is always unpopular with “punters”, and the far left, its members and leaders are often entirely ignorant of it themselves, and therefore not willing to facilitate it within a wider socio-economic analysis.
2) The left addresses (not engages) with the public in nearly explicitly reactionary terms,through capitalist mediation, on capitalisms terms. Like it or not, Joe Higgins is “another politician” , Clare Daly “another spokesperson” on another radio phone in/newspaper/tv show/poster. More importantly, the left addresses (not engages) the public, using the language of capitalism, the signs of capitalism, the signifiers of capitalism. The only attempt to address this are the patethic rip offs of DADAism or JamieRied in flyers/ with spray cans. The left (authoritarian and libertarian)is very wary of, for example, visual communications, automatically associating it with advertising and consumer products. This wariness is as a direct result of cultural ignorance. What Ried ,for example did wasn’t “ugly” posters/record covers but a result of a very deep intellectual process. Kids with shit looking pins and ripped trousers, the spray can charlatans are missing the point as much as levis “the revolution will not be televised” tshirts. Policy wise this ignorance is also apparent across the left. An engagement with the membership is essentially what Im suggesting, not just another meeting, another vote, another reactionary campaign. Address capitalism on its terms, in its language, and you cannot subvert it – it will prevail. Im not providing answers, doubtless that’s what any Trotskyite expects. I am asking questions of the terms of questions.
3) Socialist support of Raves seem to centre on the fact that they are economically free (something which is great, and im not challenging) and ignore what actually goes on at them. Flagellant lawlessness, an undermining of state , an exposition of what lies beneath the permissive veneer of the capitalist State, a fantastic appropiation of the means of production. Socialist support of art centres on an expectation that art will be subordinate to the state. Situationism is only “problematic” to those of an authoritarian or anti-intellectual disposition.

There is a new cultural world today, there will be a newer one tomorrow.
There is a new technological world today, there will be a newer one tomorrow.
There is a new language today, there will be a newer one tomorrow.
There is a new set of personal values today, there will be a newer one tomorrow.

Capitalism will set the rules for all these new worlds, and will appropiate others. The left will ignore all these new worlds, be suspicious of some, and refuse to subvert the others – because it engages all these new worlds of new society on the terms of capitalism, and capitalism has already set the rules.

I leave with one of my personal all time favourite quotes:

Interviewer : “do you think of the man on the street when you make your music”
Sid Viscous : “no, cause ive met the man on the street, and hes a c**t”

Just a pity so many SexPistols fans seem to be “punters” too.

author by hspublication date Mon Jul 05, 2004 22:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm sorry conor maybe I'm stupid but I still for the life of me can't figure out what your trying to say. Is it the left dosen't support art? I mean art doesn't need "support". Is it support for raves? I can just imagine Joe Higgins making speeches behind the desks! Do you want us to make art? films? social centres. I'm sorry but thats not the role of a political party, you can have auxillery organisations linked to parties, but god forbid we have some other arsehole telling us what "marxist" art is. Or anarchist for that matter. Culture is a mixture of everything some political some artistic and lots of other things, you are right it does need to be recored and discussed and in some countries like the US for one example we see a cultural war waging. But in Ireland I think the 80% vote tells us where we are beginning from. As for debate, isn't this what we are doing now?

author by Kenpublication date Tue Jul 06, 2004 12:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Since I wasnt invited to the other party i agree there is a need for a new one. Please forward a date and time for the party and I'll try to fit it in.

author by hspublication date Tue Jul 06, 2004 14:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

you see conor thats the problem with intellectual waffle, it makes no sense at all. You just go round in circles and no offence, talk complete shite that means nothing to anybody. Its also the problem with jargon and code. i've re read your comments and I still can't figure out what you're trying to say. tahts why like I said write it down read over it and edit it. cause if the people who know the jargon can't make it out...
you'll alienate people (or bore them to death) otherwise. Anyway we'll have to disagree on your points (I think). Its not about simplifying writing for the "masses" its simply making yourself understandable and not having to have to have studied obscure philosopies to get the in jokes.

author by hspublication date Tue Jul 06, 2004 14:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i just suggested ginsbourg because (imagine!!!) I thought you might be interested!
You seem to take this as some sort of attack on your knowledge. Everyone who suggests a book isn't insulting you intellectualism (is that a word?). I thought you'd like it. I started on this thread because I'm actually interested in the subject, left and culture and thought you were, but you seem to just want a fight or show off? Anyway i still suggest him if you are interested in culture and the left as more than a stick to beat some rival group over.

author by hmvpublication date Tue Jul 06, 2004 14:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Get what you are trying to say into handy bite size slogans. It's been so successful since 1917. Buy a loudhailer and then proceed to piss off anybody with half a brain with the continuous repitition of the slogans. Then we can recruit those not pissed off and build the party.
All the rest are bourgeois deviants.

author by hspublication date Tue Jul 06, 2004 14:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"First off, its nice to see situationism get the same kind of “critical support” off the CWI as north Korea. Im over the moon to hear that"

author by hmvpublication date Tue Jul 06, 2004 16:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I even liked the pun in that sentence.

author by Conor - SAucdpublication date Tue Jul 06, 2004 19:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i left a last post along the lines of "aaaaggghh, i give up", seemingly this is offensive too indymedia.

as i said, i give up. your last few comments HS are , im afraid, to be expected. I shouldnt have bothered

its been written down, by me, and other far far greater than me. but I guess that matters not, cause its already been done by leon. If i was a "show off" (titter titter) i wouldnt be on indymedia. Ill check out ginsbourg if im so inclined, and until then wont have any intellectual hang ups.

author by Chekov - 1 of indymediapublication date Tue Jul 06, 2004 20:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hi conor,

Your last comment consisted of a very long aaagghhh. Due to the length of the word it interfered with the page layout. Please don't use really long words like that with no breaks.

author by hs - sp (pc)publication date Wed Jul 07, 2004 14:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

conor i think you've a persecution complex! Personally I've never read anything on culture by Leon (trotsky) and to be perfectly honest am not really interested in russian culture 100 years ago. All this started with was me saying I was interested in what you have to say please write something and you've been agressive and defensive ever since. So if you ever do get round to writing something on the subject that is more than a rant I would still like to read it, because I think you've got some really good ideas there if you took the time to write it properly, and made it a little more coherent. (and ditch the jargon) I can't be any more polite than this, again THIS IS NOT AN ATTACK, I am interested!
I think alot is to be written about the lack of a cultural left in Ireland, especially after that 80% vote. And everyone in another party?group isn't against you. bye for now.

author by boxer the horsepublication date Wed Jul 07, 2004 15:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How can a new working calls party succeed when you trying to appeal to people who mostly receive their information/entertainment from Rupert Murdoch sources (sky/tabloids, etc).

Re-education (sorry about the bad connotations) will have to come before politicisation.

Incidently, The Sun, always a popular choice, has just published an "apology" for its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.

author by Albie Kinsellapublication date Wed Jul 07, 2004 16:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Too little - too late!!

author by Jimbo Jonespublication date Sat Jul 10, 2004 01:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Read some of Plekhanov's works on art and culture - proves we're not all economists! :)

author by just to tell youpublication date Wed Jul 21, 2004 14:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The working class are more interested in Beckham's new tatoo, than in any new political party.

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