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WSM Autumn National Conference 2006

category national | miscellaneous | press release author Wednesday November 15, 2006 14:22author by National Secretary - WSM Report this post to the editors

Public Report

The workers Solidarity Movement held its Autumn 2006 National conference in Seomra Spraoi, a social centre in Dublin. The conference saw around two thirds of the membership attending with greetings sent from our comrades involved in the struggle in Rossport.
National Conference opens with questioning the reports given by various office holders, editorial committees etc. A summary of these reports follows - quite a lot of details and indeed areas involving relationships with other groups have been removed, as these were not written for public consumption.

National secretary’s report.

We have enjoyed 13% growth over 6 months. All new members are male, which we hope to address in our gender balance discussions. Delegate council (dc) has met in Galway and Derry to allow delegates to help with public meetings being held there which had the disadvantage that delegates were often quite tired. In may DC agreed to set up working groups (WG) on Energy, Work and anti-Imperialism, which have mostly failed to function while many members are involved in these issues on a branch level or as delegates to other groups.

Three wsm members attended the IWU conference last april with one being elected chair of the Dublin branch.. Two members have been living the the Rossport Solidarity Camp with other members calling in. In june half of the membership attended a solidarity weekend in the camp and again in August.

In July the May 1st branch organised an anarchist hiphop night with emcee lynx with the proceeds going to Anarchists Against The Wall. The speaking tour had successful meetings in Galway and Waterford. A mini anarchist festival was organised in Derry by a WSM member in September which 11 wsm members travelled up to. Around 20 people from Derry attended the meetings and 100 plus attended the gig that night which was a fund raiser for Just Books. WSMmna organised a successful Revolutionary Women Dayschool in Dublin last June, with women-only session and sessions open to men and women. An anti-police brutality tour was also organised for the group “pig-brother”.

Dublin members played a prominent part in organising a protest at Baldonnel on Easter Sunday with one member being arrested. Members also took part in the protests against the HMS ocean, attended the Pitstop Ploughshares court cases and took part in marches in July and September. In Derry a member was involved in a campaign against Raytheon. Members are attending AWI and AWN meetings with discussion at branch level of the “Boycott Israel” call. As of yet no decision has been made. In cork an anti-war public meeting was held in may with 30 people attending.

The Jack branch took a decision to support the Terrence Wheelock campaign around and have a member on the campaigns organisational committee. The branch welcomed the opening of Seomra Spraoi and two members are involved in the collective that runs it. The May 1st branch held a public meeting with Wayne Price from NEFAC and have been producing a local paper in the liberties. Both branches have enjoyed educationals on Civil Society, the left, & the libertarian movement, Energy, Technology and the division of labour, No Platform to Fascists etc

The Afghan cathedral protests was a period of sudden and intense activity in Dublin with one member playing a very major role in supporting the hunger strikers but with all the other Dublin members turning up for vigils at the Cathedral at different points in time. Disucssions of the events and the limited racist counter protests of some locals led Jack White to produce a poster on the issue and 1st of May to produce and distribute door to door in the area 3000 copies of ‘The Libertarian’ that focused on this.

http://www.wsm.ie/story/1120 - The libertarian
http://www.struggle.ws/pdfs/posters/mcdasylumposter.pdf - Poster

The 1916 Working Group was an intiative of 1st of May and mostly met in the previous period. It failed to deliver on its original ambitious intentions however three articles were published online on the rising, two at the time of the anniversary and a third in RBR12.
A page was also made on wsm.ie linking all the WSM articles and some historical documents.

http://www.wsm.ie/story/702 - 1916 articles

Bookservice report
We have seen a healthy amount of book sales since last spring. The biggest sales were at the Galway WSM public meeting and the Rossport Solidarity Camp. Most others were by post or to members and callers to the office. A NEW CATALOGUE was produced http://www.wsm.ie/book_service

Growth and Gender
A discussion on Growth and Gender balance was held in which two motions were passed which will be added to "Our perspectives" http://www.wsm.ie/story/454

These motions were;
"We will follow up the successful public meetings held in Galway, Limerick and Derry by attempting to establish anarchist discussion groups in each of these cities with a view to ultimately establishing a WSM branch in each of these areas. To do this, each branch will take responsibility for co-ordinating with one of the areas as follows Cork-Limerick; Jack White-Derry; 1st May-Galway"

"We welcome the recent growth in libertarian and anarchist organisations. We believe that the more organised anarchists there are the better and so in particular we see the establishment of Anarchist Youth(AY) and the Revolutionary Anarcha Feminist Group (RAG) as really positive steps. The AY website and the RAG magazine are both fora through which anarchist ideas can be spread and debated. While respecting their autonomy, we will seek to work closely with both groups in the coming period. All branches will discuss how such co-operation can be furthered with a view to bringing back proposals to the January Delegate Council."

Proposals were also made which are to be discussed by the branches.

Neighboorhoods, Workplaces and Campaigns
No motions had been submitted to this session. Conference agreed to put money into buying a mobile phone and credit for the WSM members in Rossport to be sent to the camp so communication could be more reliable. We agreed that the national secretery would send a solidarity statement on behalf of WSM and to send a donation of 500euro to the camp.

National co-ordination
Anti-election motion passed;
"We will initiate an anti-election campaign to focus on next year's general election. All branches are asked to discuss this within the next month with a view to bringing definite proposals to the December delegate council."

Discussion followed on the use of delegate council to work out our positions on struggles and groups we are involved with.

Related Link: http://www.wsm.ie
author by Dub - CWAGpublication date Wed Nov 15, 2006 22:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Will the anti-election campagn also be directed against Joe Higgins, Clare Daly and other working class fighters? How are you supposed to explain that to workers on doorsteps? Your up in the air theorizing, abstracted from reality, will be seen by people as anti-socialist and counter-productive! Why don't you get behind the campaign to protect Joe Higgins' TD seat! Loss of that would set back the workers movement, which you MUST accept. doesn't that show that HAVING it is a step forward for it! A tribune for workers and a platform to agitate from.

Hopefully you will at least concentrate your campaign in areas where there is no genuine class fighter standing.

author by guydebordisdeadpublication date Wed Nov 15, 2006 22:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If this is true "Your up in the air theorizing, abstracted from reality, will be seen by people as anti-socialist and counter-productive!" then surely you have nothing to worry about.

I don't think the WSM's goal is to turn the dail into a "worker's tribune". The fact that people see the election of one trot to the dail as a victory for workers is symptomatic of the wider defeatism within the revolutionary left.

author by Jamespublication date Wed Nov 15, 2006 22:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Will the anti-election campagn also be directed against Joe Higgins, Clare Daly and other working class fighters?

Probably not, we don’t have any presence in those areas. We wouldn’t focus on them personally anyway as it’s the system that we think is the problem rather than individuals. It’s inherently anti-democratic and exclusionary and that’s what we’ll be arguing on the ground. That, and change comes about through people acting for themselves and not through elected representatives. Classic socialist positions in fact.

Loss of that would set back the workers movement, which you MUST accept. doesn't that show that HAVING it is a step forward for it!

I can see what you mean but think that’s too short term a view.

If you think that the aim of the workers’ movement should be to achieve socialism then it would be a major step forward if the movement was clear that it’s not going to focus on, in any way, well known elected representatives, but instead emphasise libertarian, participatory alternatives. After all, without that, there’ll be no socialism.

Electoral politics has nothing to offer in that regard, and all too often serves to lead the workers’ movement away from socialism. So it depends what you mean by workers’ movement and what its goals should be. I suspect that we have pretty different meanings in mind.

author by Rec Wedgepublication date Wed Nov 15, 2006 23:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An anti election campaign is all well and good on a theoretical level. But who is likely to benefit? Encouraging further abstention will make it easier for the many cynical and right wing characters that will be going forward. That’s the reality.

I understand the Anarchist viewpoint. But not voting is not a political act in itself.

What about the various far right candidates? Encouraging people not to vote will simply make it easier for them to get in.

author by Nanoquestpublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 02:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Following on from the last few contributions would I be correct in thinking that the WSM believe that it would be better if Joe Higgins was not a TD? Would it benefit the working class if Joe Higgins lost his seat in the next election? Would the WSM think it was a positive or a negative for the GAMA workers that Joe Higgins was a TD?

author by once an, not always anpublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm living and registered in Dublin West. Although the system of the Dáil isnt exactly direct democracy in action, Joe H has done sterling work with GAMA, and he's one of the higher profile people that has spoken up on issues (that many WSM'ers campaigned on) such as Rossport and the Afghan Hunger Strike.

He's constantly been there to promote an alternative point of view to FF/FG/PD/Lab, and his profile often means that these issues get media time - the anarchist antipathy towards the media means that people who dont read indymedia every hour dont really ever get to hear that point of view; and even then people from that 'scene' are not into appearing on TV/radio anyway. You'll probably counter with all those papers and leaflets you deliver in Dublin 8 - every national newspaper sells more copies in a day than the WSM outputs in two months. (That sounds bitchier than I intended but I'm just making the point about engaging on some level with the media - nobody says you have to dilute your message).

The anti-voting campaign would be credible if there was a continuous growth of extra parliamentary community activity in Ireland, but there isnt.

Higgins is infinitely preferable to Varadkar and his right wing agenda.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Look, I don't know why anyone is bothering to attack the Workers Solidarity Movement for this. It can hardly come as a surprise that (most - there are a few exceptions) anarchists oppose voting.

That doesn't mean that they necessarily think that Joe Higgins is as bad as the other TDs or is even bad at all. In fact I can recall a few years ago at a debate Socialist Youth held with the WSM that a couple of their members described him as the only man other than Guy Fawkes to enter parliament with honest intentions! What it does mean is that they think that the positive of having a good TD or two is outweighed by the negative of having radicalised or left wing people vote to choose who runs the country rather than take action themselves.

I disagree with that stance deeply. I think that the record shows that Joe Higgins and the Socialist Party have used his position in the Dáil to encourage people to take action themselves and to strengthen that action. I think in other words that their abstract argument doesn't hold water in realit that that it would be a big loss to the labour movement and the left if he were to lose his seat. But I don't think it's worth get excited about a small group of anarchists doing something which (a) is entirely consistent with their principles, (b) isn't targeted at Joe in particular and (c) will have zero impact on his campaign.

Many people won't vote in Dublin West in the next election. Few if any won't vote because they see a few WSM posters around the city centre. Those of us who want to see Joe reelected should concentrate on convincing the former rather than denouncing the latter.

author by Joe - WSM - personal capacitypublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 14:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nice to see some sensible comments from Mark P.

Any sensible campaign against electoralism is not going to focus around trying to convince people who are going to vote not to vote. To an extent that would just be an anarchist equivalent of participating in the electoral circus, but that time by trying to maximise the number of abstentions or spoilt votes as a pseudo head count of anarchist popularity.

I'd imagine that as with previous campaigns we will instead be focusing on those workers who for quite correct reasons have decided the elections are meaningless. In pointing out there is an alternative to electoral politics we'd be hoping to mobilise a section of the working class that the left simply ignores at election time - or at best tries to convince that they are wrong and that there is significant meaning in elections.

I get a great laugh out of Higgins having a go at Bertie or McDowell in the Dail. And obviously his income, expenses and access to stamped envelopes and photocopying are useful to both the Socialist Party and struggles the SP are involved in. Against this is the obvious value to the system of having a 'pet Bolsehevik' handy to 'prove' that this is a real democracy and that the system works. Which of the two you see as more imporant is defined by any number of things from prior ideological position onwards. The anarchist side of that argument is very well put in 'Parliament or Democracy' at http://struggle.ws/once/pd_intro.html

To date the SP have handled the corrosive effects of electoralism pretty well, but then the Workers Party also managed it well when it was just MacGiolla. The experience in Ireland and elsewhere suggestst that it is seldom the first TD who is the problem but the later ones when parties accumulate enough seats to be worth doing deals with. As we saw with WP->DL->Labour the party can hold its politics but the TD's can simply walk and because of the nature of electoralism the electorate see the TD"s as the party so the gains of decades can vanish over night.

Anyway for those interested you find details of our campaign during the last election at http://struggle.ws/election.html - it also includes links to stuff other anarchists in Ireland did which included the pieing of both Bertie and Noonan (FG leader at the time)

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/election.html
author by Cian - SPpublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 16:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors


I agree with the originial poster in a sense, but it was over the top. Something i want to highlight though is that at the link the WSM member gave above there leaflet does have an attack on the SP and i must presume Joe Higinns. It includes in its "call this a choice?!" collulm the "socialist leaders party". And it says "for a return to Lenin's dictatorship". It does say that all the parties call for the same stuff: properly funded health care, affordable housing etc etc. This is implying that SP are just the same. Now, come on!

I think this election, where due to constituency changes (Dub West is now the most under represented constituency in the country) a strong election campaign is needed to ensure a victory, shows the cracks in the anarchist argument. I would argue with all lefts - anarchists, reformists, LY members, independant socalists etc to make themselves available to distribute material helping the election campaign. But I don't think it is a key pritity, and Im not shocked by this. But i would hope the WSM would not target Joe, Clare or other constituencies where there are genuine working class fighters stanging for election.


author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 17:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well, I just figure that if you are going to go to the bother of disagreeing with someone you should do them the honour of finding out what it is they are actually saying before putting the boot in. I completely disagree with the WSM about the issue of elections, but what you are saying isn't nuts in the way that some of the posters here seem to have presumed (ie that you think Joe Higgins is a sellout or something).

As far as your other points go, I agree with you that there has been a long history of elected representatives selling out. There will at many points be significant pressure on them to do so and it can certainly happen. But I don't think it's inevitable. I've heard many anarchist criticisms of the Bolsheviks for instance (and I hate using them as an example in an unrelated discussion - it's such a left cliche whether you love or loathe them), but it can hardly be argued that having seats in the Duma turned them into a parliamentary reformist group! The same could be said for the Left Social Revolutionaries.

On that other bit of ancient history, the split in the Workers Party, I think that the central issue there wasn't that most of the parliamentarians wanted to jump ship but that the whole Stalinist project had hit the skids with the collapse of the Stalinist regimes. The parliamentary group served as a focus for the turn towards social democracy and then simple liberalism here in Ireland, but pretty much exactly the same thing happened to the Communist Party in Britain, which had no elected representatives at all.

The key thing as far as I am concerned is to be aware that having a parliamentary presence carries dangers as well as benefits. This implies a need to place elected representatives strictly under the democratic control of the party as a whole. Socialist Party elected representatives, amongst other measures, are required to argue in public for the agreed positions of the organisations rather than for their own personal views and to live on the average industrial wage. Are measures like this enough? Well so far they have been, but there's little room for complacency.

author by Cian - SPpublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 17:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I just thought, i just did a project on the Militant (Socialist Party's predecssor)-led Liverpool City Council 1983 to 1987, where having control over thelocal council meant that socialists were able to use t as a tribune for the people and a platform to raise socialist ideas from and organise workers action from. They were able to provide real gains for the workers of liverpool, building thousands of houses, implementing a 35 hour week without loss of pay for council workers proviing 10 to 20 thousand jobs etc etc. Crucially the council also asisted strikers and lead to a heightening of the campaign against thatcher and a raising of class struggle ideas. The SP didnt sell out then, its about a strength of ideas and a clarity of perspectives. CNT, an anarchist group, sold out and due to weak ideas and unclear perspectives - they are the key things. (Im not blaming WSM for this, just pointing out that these are the 2 key things).

see: www. Liverpool47.org



author by Joepublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 17:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Cian most of our distribution in Dublin is done in Dublin 7 and Dublin 8 where many of our members live. We are unlikely to head out to Dublin West or North just to wind people up.

Your comparison of the Spanish revolution (I think this is what CNT sellout means?) with Liverpool is very overblown - Liverpool may have been very significant in SP history but it really wasn't in the same ball game. And the role of Militant in Liverpool is still had to really evaluate, I have certainly read some interesting critiques of it but that is another thread. And if you are going to see yourself as the legimtate inheritors of Lenin well then you have to expect to be critiqued for this.

Mark I don't think what happened in the WP is simply down to the collapse of stalinism. Once they hit electoral success they found the checks and balances within the party were overcome by the elected TD's simply creating a new organisation (Democratic Left) that had a tiny minority of members but 6 of the 7 TD's. This could happen in any organisation were a difference between elected figures and the rest of the party arise and I would contend the nature of the electoral system makes such differences inevitable in the longer term.

It is not impossible to see a situation where ten years down the road the SP have 5 TD's, a sharp difference arises with the TD's in the minority and 4 of the 5 depart. Indeed if your one TD had been Joan Collins rather than Joe Higgins this could have already happened. The problem is success in electoral politics requires the sort of star system that leads to the party being identified as the TD's. AFAIK a lot of the GAMA work was done by other party members including those seeking election but despite this GAMA has become Joes thing. (not denying the role he played, just pointing out the consequences of the star system in crediting him alone). If Joe had some unlikley 'road to Damascus' conversion tomorrow then the internal party checks on him would be meaningless and much of the gain of the last few years for the SP would be lost overnight.

Anyway this is why it may not turn out well for the SP. The initial comments on this thread demonstrate why electoralism is a problem for working class self organisation. It causes people to identify the struggle with particular individuals and to see electoral steps forward or backwards for those individuals as key struggles in front of which all critical thought must be silenced. I'd argue this stands the reality on the head - it is not a victory for Joe Higgins that results in vibrant workers movement but rather a vibrant workers movement (in this case the anti-water tax campaign) that resulted in a victory for Higgins. Seeing it the other way around is actually a barrier to creating such a movement and not an aid to doing so.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 18:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Actually I think what happened to the Workers Party was exactly about the collapse of Stalinism. Similar things happened to a range of roughly equivalent organisations in Europe at the same time as a direct result of the same events (the collapse of the Stalinist regimes along with the accompanying capitalist ideological offensive against the idea that any alternative to business as usual was possible). This happened to the Italian Communist Party, which was a major electoral force, and to the British Communist Party, which hadn't had an MP for 40 years. The precise way in which the crisis expressed itself in the Workers Party was heavily influenced by the existence of a group of career politicians but the crisis was much deeper than that. Their TDs made a break for freedom because they felt there was no future in Stalinism, but if there had been no TDs the same feeling would still have pervaded the party. There might have been a more controlled switch to social democracy (and then liberalism) as happened in Britain, or there might just have been slow irreversable decline. The WP was at that stage a crisis waiting to happen.

I actually agree with you that there are dangers in having parliamentary representation but I think that these dangers can be overcome - as in our own small way the Socialist Party has managed to this point. That's not to say that things couldn't go drastically wrong, but they could go drastically wrong any way. Left wing organisations enter into crises for all kinds of reasons, and ones with electoral representation haven't been any more or less prone to it than others.

It's interesting by the way that you bring up the GAMA strike as an example of the problems of having electoral representation. As far as I'm concerned it's better seen as an example of the benefits. It was through the work of a Socialist Party councillor that the issue was discovered. And then the Socialist Party was able to use Joe Higgins' Dáil position to make it into a national issue. Some rank and file left wing activist claiming that migrant workers are being grossly exploited would not have been news in the way that Joe Higgins claiming it was. The Dáil platform was incredibly important in allowing the SP to put the government on the spot and keep the pressure on GAMA. Remember that this went on for some time before the workers, who were in an extremely difficult situation, developed the confidence to strike. Joe's position was also important in pushing the government to arrange visas and documentation for the workers who travelled to Holland.

If the Socialist Party didn't have a council position in Tallaght the scandal might never have been uncovered. If Joe didn't have a Dáil position, the pressure might never have been kept on the government and the company until the strike occurred. If the workers hadn't gone to Holland the Bank accounts might not have been found. And if none of the above had happened there may very well have been no strike at all. And before anyone misinterprets me, the single key defining event was the strike of the workers themselves.

This to me is an almost textbook example of the way that elected positions can be used to support and encourage struggles. Anarchists choose to see only one side of the issue - the correct point that people like Joe are elected to parliament as the result of wider struggles. But in fact this flows both ways. A socialist parliamentarian can be a vital asset for a movement, and can in fact make it more likely that people will take action for themselves.

author by Joepublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 18:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'll agree to differ for now over the WP

But on GAMA I don't think there was anything magic in a councillor or a TD that might not have been there in say an investigative journalist or any other public figure with an organisation behind them. The only difference between an imaginery Joe the journalist and Joe the TD I think think of is Dail privilege.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 20:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just to make it clear, I'm not saying that the GAMA events couldn't have happened any other way. I am saying that Joe's position (and at an earlier stage Mick Murphy's position in Tallaght) made things a great deal easier than they might otherwise have been. Joe's position allowed the Socialist Party to raise the issue in a way that ensured constant media coverage and pressure for an extended period of time before the strike happened. That's something that, unfortunately, is extremely difficult to achieve without such high profile figures. What's more, Joe's position made it much easier to push the key political point home - an emphasis on the exploitation of migrant workers and the need for the trade unions to take action against it. It was extremely useful.

That, of course, doesn't by itself invalidate the principled anarchist argument against taking or seeking elected positions although I don't agree with that argument either. I do think that it is a strong point against the lazy attitude that there is no real, significant, genuine benefit to having elected representatives. There are real benefits, and that's one of the many reasons why most unaffiiliated people in major campaigns often support the idea of those campaigns standing candidates. (There are of course many other reasons, not all of them as positive, including for example the widespread idea that elections are the main point of politics).

To take a more controversial example, anarchists often point out quite correctly that the water tax was beaten by non-payment and not by Joe Higgins' vote in the 1996 Dublin West by-election. That's something the Socialist Party agrees with you on wholeheartedly. And in fact later on in the bin tax struggle the Socialist Party vigorously criticised some in the campaign for placing a completely unjustified emphasis on elections, which the SP argued was encouraging a conservative attitude towards taking necessary actions which might endanger electoral campaigns. But, rightly placing an emphasis on non-payment isn't the same thing as insisting that Joe Higgins' vote played no role at all. Nothing concentrates the mind of our political elite like impending unemployment. In April 1996 a revolutionary socialist came from nowhere to within a whisker of winning a safe Fianna Fail seat at a by-election. That was a drastic electoral shift, and one which, rightly, led the establishment to realise that the water tax was electoral dynamite.

The charges were abolished in December 1996. It is important to emphasis that the key element of the struggle, the key thing which beat the tax was non-payment. But did Joe Higgins' electoral stand help? I think you'd have to be dogmatic in the extreme to conclude that it did not.

author by Gregor Kerr - 1st May Branch WSM(pers cap)publication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 00:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

First of all, thanks to Mark P. for the manner in which this debate is happening. It's very seldom that people on this newswire get past the personal invective and actually acknowledge that where differences exist the opposite point of view can have validity.
And for those that are worried - the WSM has no intention of running off out to Dublin West and campaigning against Joe Higgins. And I would of course acknowledge - who couldn't?? - that Joe's membership of the Dail has provided the workers' movement with a strident voice, it's fuckin' great to hear the way in which he can hit the nail on the head and make telling points. And his membership of the Dail club has benefitted huge numbers of working class people both in his constituency of Dublin West and wider - GAMA being a fairly obvious example.
In fact, Joe's existence makes the anarchist argument harder to make - it's easy to point at him and say "if only we could have a dozen or two Joes wouldn't the political climate be so different?" And of course it would!! But there's a problem about building a new society around the concept of electing a couple of dozen Joes. And that's that for every Joe there's a Tommy Sheridan out there... or a Pat Rabbitte.... or someone else who thinks he/she is bigger or more important than the mandate he/she has been given.
Let me paint a completely unlikely scenario... but it's one I'd like to have answered. June 2007, after the SP's most successful election ever they've got 4 TDs - Joe, Mick Barry, Clare Daly and Mick Murphy. September 2007 - Mick Murphy (sorry Mick - just picking on you as an example) decides that he has a major disagreement with the SP on some issue and resigns from the party. Mick remains an independent TD (Maybe he even decides to join the Labour party), Mick then decides that it's in his interest to vote in favour of a new water charge and the SP can do nothing about it... It's why I actually always say I wouldn't even vote for myself .. who knows what effect power or even the illusion of power will have on any individual?? What would the SP propose doing in this situation?
I deliberately haven't developed the principal argument that i would have against electoralism - I see it as an act of disempowerment - because I would like Mark P. - or anyone else that cares to answer - to give me a comment on the above scenario

author by Topperpublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 18:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just picking up on a point Joe made, that the work Joe Higgins did on GAMA might equally have been done by an investigative journalist. Maybe, maybe not – impossible to be sure. For one thing, there’s not that many investigative journalists willing and able to do that kind of work - in this country we’ve got Frank Connolly, and look what happened to him. Journalists like Seymour Hersh or Paul Foot are about as rare as politicians like Joe Higgins.

But anyway, that raises another point. Joe and Gregor have both been arguing that once party members get elected, they’re in a dominant position and they can abuse that position, as the WP TDs did, as Mick Murphy might in the hypothetical case outlined by Gregor. This is all perfectly true so far as it goes.

But let’s say a member of your organisation is a prominent journalist – then the same problem arises. Take Paul Foot for example – for years, he was far and away the best known member of the British SWP. I’d say there were thousands of people in Britain who’d heard of Tony Cliff, maybe tens of thousands at a stretch. There were millions who’d heard of Foot, maybe tens of millions.

He had a column in the Mirror, which sold two or three million copies, and he was regularly on the TV. Far more people would have heard of Foot, than would have heard of the SWP. If there had ever been a WP/DL type split in the SWP, it would have mattered a great deal what faction Paul Foot aligned himself with. So even though the SWP had no elected reps, and didn’t even run in elections for many years, it could have had a similar problem.

An anarchist organisation that didn’t run in elections could also experience the same problem. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Noam Chomsky has a higher profile than all the other anarchists in the world put together. As far as I know he’s not involved in any formal anarchist group in the States, but if he was, his prominence could be a problem (his comrades might have totally disagreed, for example, with his call for people to hold their nose and vote Kerry in the 2004 election – but no newspaper would have reported their arguments).

To cut a long story short, the only way you can avoid this problem is to have no members who are prominent in politics, the media, academic life or whatever. But that would make things a lot harder, because you’d be totally reliant on your own efforts - word of mouth, leafleting, distributing publications door to door, and so on - to get your message across.

author by Joepublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 19:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The difference between a journalist (or Chomsky) and a TD is that organisation don't spend huge amounts of time and resources plugging one of their members who happens to be a jounalist or whatever Chomsky is. Getting and keeping a TD in power does require quite considerable effort.

If Chomsky decided to become a neo con tomorrow it might be a bit annoying but it wouldn't undo years of effort.

It is not the SP's fault but rather the whole design and purpose of the electoral system that requires putting a lot of your political eggs into the hand of an individual. Again I recommend reading "Parliament or democracy" http://struggle.ws/once/pd_intro.html to understand the the flaws in the system from that perspective are there by design.

author by Topperpublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 20:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That's true, you don't have to work to get a journalist elected, but it could still be a lot more than annoying if your most prominent member moved to the right. In the end it would depend how much of the activist base they took with them, but ultimately it would be the same with elected reps defecting. I agree that electoral politics has its own special problems - just pointing out that the hypothetical problem with Mick Murphy that Gregor talked about could also happen with an organisation that had no elected reps at all.

I don't think the issue of individuals defecting to the other side is the biggest problem with electoralism anyway. The Communists in France and Italy had hundreds of MPs for decades and they never had much trouble with defections so far as I know. But they did end up forming alliances with groups to their right and watering down their programme, for the sake of electoral gains. That's a bigger issue if you ask me - the way the parliamentary system encourages political compromise is more of a worry than the risk of personal corruption and sell out. I discovered a magic formula for avoiding this danger a while ago but I left it behind on a bus and I can't remember how it went :)

author by Topperpublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 20:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just downloaded that pamphlet to have a read of it anyway. Don't have time to write my own tract explaining what I think, but briefly I think all the risks the WSM point out with electoralism are very real, but there can be ways around them and in the end it's a necessary risk to take. No objection to the WSM's anti-election campaign though, I assume the main focus won't be on radical left candidates and if you undermine people's faith in the Irish political system, that's no bad thing. The Gardai seem to be doing a good job of it in Rossport these days

author by Dub - not the earlier person!publication date Mon Feb 12, 2007 18:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I want to make two points.

Firstly, why did the women's meeting have a women-only session. I think this implies that 1. women's issues are not for men 2. men are somehow a negative influence on the women's movement 3. men are somehow to blame for women's oppression not the capitalist system. Of course the WSM don't actually believe this, but I think that the segregation of the meeting is not a positive thing. It leave a hidden message that implies women's oppression is caused by biology and not capitalism

Secondly, I find the debate on elections very interesting. The SP use the elections to get talking politics with thousandds of working class people. The WSM are doing the same! They are going around their areas and discussing politics using the election as an opportunity to drop leaflets, posters, canvass, etc. Not much of a difference except the SP have their name on the ballot and are very good at getting support. I have to say I'm on the side of SP. If the SP were interested in just getting Cllrs and TDs they would not have had disagreements with Joan Collins. They stuck to their principles on public reps during that dispute. If they didn't they could have had a Councillor on Dublin City Council! I'm confident that the SP would expell and call for a resignation of a TD that voted for water tax. I blame the Irish political establishment for not having instant re-call of TDs that change party/views not the SP!

author by Terrypublication date Mon Feb 12, 2007 20:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"It leave a hidden message that implies women's oppression is caused by biology and not capitalism"

It does nothing of the sort, even advocates of completly seperate organisation for women do not argue that 'women's oppression' is caused by biology.
Also I would point out that 'women's oppression' predates capitalism, and that your use of the term suggests that you recognise that such a thing exists, that is 'women's oppression', something specific to females. The people best placed to address it are the people who suffer it.

author by Dubpublication date Tue Feb 13, 2007 16:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, oppression of women predates capitalism. But today capitalism is to blame. You say that women are best at seeing an end to women's oppression. I disagree. It's in the interests of all to stop discrimination. What next... meetings for only ethnic minorities that suffer discrimination? or meetings only for people with physical disabilities? or meetings with only gay people? the list is endless. While WSM would not say men are to blame there is a hidden message by separating the meetings up. It's implied not explicit.

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