Sectarianism and the Irish revolutionary left.
This article deals with how much left sectarianism has damaged the workers struggle in Ireland.
Plenty of blame to go around. - The role of the revolutionary Left in Ireland today.
I have been out of Ireland now for over thirty years. But I have tried to keep up with events. For the thirteen years previous to leaving I was a member of the CWI now SP. I was the first member in the South and the first full timer overall. From this background and from the background of later being expelled from the CWI I would like to share a few thoughts about the present situation in Ireland. Mainly events in the South. There may be some inaccuracies in what I write due to not being back for some time. I apologize in advance.
We would I assume all agree that the role of the trade union leaders and Labor party leaders in Southern and Northern Ireland is an absolute betrayal and disgrace. They have gone along with the so-called austerity program which is bail out and filling the pockets of the Banks and the rich and austerity emptying the pockets of the working class and the poor. I do not need to spend any more time in condemning these forces. I also see that SF has joined the austerity program in the North, this is a harbinger of things to come in the South. No surprise there from the people who court the British royalty and Tory governments and the representitives of US imperialism and Wall Street.
Having squarely put the blame for the betrayal and sell out where it belongs, on the shoulders of the trades union leaders and the labor Party I would like now to turn my gaze in another direction. There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the failure so far to defeat the so-called austerity program. I am referring to the policies and activities of the left groups and individuals which see themselves as revolutionary socialist. I will be as blunt with them as I have been concerning the trade union and Labor party leaders.
The role of these left groups is an absolute disgrace. It is utterly sectarian. It is a dog fight. The role of the left individuals is little better. I do not know all the details about the individuals so I will be more careful here and if I am unfairly criticizing anybody please correct me and I will most willingly correct any mistake I have made. But let us look at these left groups and individuals.
As far as I can see there is the AAA and the PBP. Then there is the UL. Then there is the Dail Comrades Clare D and Joan C. Then there is Mike Wallace whom I understand does not consider himself a socialist but who is a fighter on some issues. In the North there is Eamon McCann. The AAA and the PBP are dominated respectively by the SP and the SWP. The SP and the SWP are so sectarian they cannot even have one united front. They each have to have their own united front!!! I also understand the self styled Workers party is appearing again. There is also the IWU. I do not know the role they are playing.
The LP is at its lowest ever in the polls. The opportunity for building a fighting alternative has never been greater. Surely it is as obvious as the eyes on your face that all these revolutionary left forces should come together to build an electoral alliance and work together. I shake my head here at the sectarianism and immaturity of these groups, at the counter revolutionary role their sectarianism plays. At how these groups put what they consider their own petty interest above that of the working class. At how the damage this does to the working class movement.
When the ULA was built I did not agree with its objective being to build a new left party. I thought the sectarianism of the various group’s was too great and that it would be better to work together as a united front against the attacks of the austerity program and out of this run candidates as part of an electoral alliance. On this I was proved right. The Tipperary Unemployed group was the first to bolt,, They were going to build national movement. I have heard nothing of this. The SP led by Joe Higgins used the cover of this to bolt next, The SWP kept one foot in as far as I could see and one foot out. The whole thing fell apart. Now as far as I know there is the UL.
The AAA and the PBP are now running together to try and win 7 seats. Last I heard the SWP was running a candidate to try and take Joan Collin’s in Dublin. This is so horrific in its sectarianism I can hardly believe it. I hope it is not true. I hope if it is true that leading members of the SWP such as Eamon McCann and Boyd Barrett will speak out strongly against it. Not only speak out against it but wage an internal campaign within the SWP to get it stopped.
There are all the members of these various groupings. There are the thousands of ex members of left groupings. There are thousands and tens of thousands who have moved into struggle recently for the first time, on issues such as the water charges, gay marriage etc. A whole new layer of the population have moved into struggle. And what does the left groups offer them? A fractured sectarian back stabbing dog fight. It is an utter disgrace. Everybody in these groups should be ashamed of themselves. I am ashamed of myself that I was a sectarian and acted in a sectarian manner when I was in the CWI and what was the Militant back then in Ireland and what is now the SP. I have totally rejected that way of working now just as I have totally rejected other sacred totems such as so-called democratic centralism.
I am not against any group. I am against sectarianism. In all these groups and outside all of these groups there are very good people. What is necessary is for a left formation to be developed which has as its priority, yes fighting the so-called austerity, but also fighting the sectarianism of the left. The first cannot be achieved without the second.
I would suggest this. And it will not be easy. All those members in the left groups and former members of the left groups come together openly, state their identity openly and campaign against sectarianism. And in doing so state where they themselves have been sectarian, their organization has been sectarian and that from now on they are going to wage an open struggle in their own organizations against sectarianism. And make this public. For this to work the leading members of these groups would have to come out against their own sectarianism, and take up an open struggle against the sectarianism in their own groups and as practiced by their own groups. Over to you Joe Higgins, Boyd Barrett, Eamon McCann, Mike Barry, Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Dermot Connolly.
And please do not come up with any crap about the need for the internal lives of revolutionary organizations to be secret. It is mad to imagine that the internal life of revolutionary group in this Internet age can be kept secret. The bourgeois can listen to just about anything while the left groups are calling for a secretive internal life. These groups are insane. The first step back to sanity is an open struggle against sectarianism our own and all of the left.
I am part of a small revolutionary group here in the US which is trying to break from the sectarian ways. It is called Project for a Working Peoples World. We organize on revolutionary socialist principles, no hard and fast line, general revolutionary principles. No 100% agreement on every dot and comma. We organize on democratic organizational principles. These latter include that, and this is essential for us, is that members of PWPW can also be members of other groups. But there is one condition and it is non negotiable. That members share the internal life including differences that exist in any other group with the members of the PWPW. No more secretive B……T.