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A Reply to the Socialist Party's views on 'Left Unity'

category national | anti-capitalism | feature author Tuesday August 25, 2009 11:48author by James - Socialist Workers Party Report this post to the editors

Do we still have to wait? are the SP right in saying it's 'premature'?

featured image
What's Left? Unity?

The SWP hasn't really engaged in Public debate on the subject of Left Unity but have decided to state our position in relation to recent statements by the Socialist Party.
There are a lot of new people entering into struggle, and radical politics, for the first time and we feel it's appropriate now to make our views known.

Left Unity: Time to move on

The need for a radical left formation in Ireland could hardly be more urgent. We are in the midst of the deepest global capitalist crisis since the 1930s and the economic collapse is worse in Ireland than many other countries. Workers are facing extremely serious attacks on living standards and are getting no leadership from the Labour Party and the union bureaucracy which is closely tied to it. Sinn Fein has entered a period of political turmoil that has arisen from efforts to position itself as a potential coalition party with the Right.

Indications that a significant minority of workers are looking for a real alternatives is evident from the votes for Joe Higgins in the European election and the good showing of People Before Profit Alliance, the Socialist Party, the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group, the Workers Party and Left independents in the local elections.

A failure to build on these developments would be to miss an historic opportunity. In the rest of Europe, the economic crisis has led to a rise in support for the fascist right. Ireland has so far avoided this trend but there are undercurrents of racist and anti migrant sentiment under the surface. A failure to construct a radical alternative to Labour and Sinn Fein could have tragic consequences for the future.

This is the context in which the SWP is replying to a number of documents which have appeared from the Socialist Party on the subject of left unity in recent months. We are part of a wider People Before Profit Alliance and the views outlined below represent our distinct position and not those of others in the alliance. Up to now we have refrained from entering a debate on the subject of left unity because the tone of discussion was not particularly helpful for the wider project. However, in the interests of accuracy and in the spirit of encouraging genuine fraternal debate, we now wish to indicate our wider approach to left unity.

Broadly speaking, the SWP has advocated the formation of a radical left alliance for the past number of years.

Our proposal is:

* To create a broad alliance that brings different elements of the radical left together under one banner.
* To acknowledge that while there will be differences between organisations, particularly on tactical points, there is also considerable agreement. The radical left should not be afraid to recognise such differences and should seek to break from a style of sectarian argument that prevents a genuine interchange of views from which all can learn.
* The basis of such an alliance should be the minimum that revolutionary socialists can accept and the maximum that activists coming from a left reformist background can accept. Specifically, it should be built on a left programme which includes such demands as that the rich must be made to pay for the economic crisis; that Ireland’s natural resources must be nationalised; that there can be no coalition or alliance with right wing parties.
* That the currents within such an alliance have the right to express their own views within and independently of the alliance but are also bound by its framework while speaking on behalf of the alliance.
* That on the basis of working together as an alliance, the question of a new party and its structures can be discussed in the future.

There is much in the most recent Socialist Party response that comes close to many of the above points. Specifically:

* There is agreement that there should be no deals at national or local level with the parties of the Right.
* That decisions in a left alliance should be arrived at by consensus and agreement after open discussion.
* That electoral candidates should have a credible record of struggle

We also note a distinct change in tone as the SP now states that it ‘warmly welcomes’ the successes of other left groups including the People Before Profit Alliance. We equally have welcomed Joe Higgins success and, in fact, all the Dublin candidates of People Before Profit alliance openly called for a vote for Joe Higgins in their election literature – as proof of real commitment to left unity.

What then of the differences that persists between us on the question of left unity? We can analyse them under three headings

* The past record
* Timing
* The question of reformism.

Lessons from the past record:

The SP claim that they put forward ‘positive proposals’ for left unity before the last local election but that ‘they were disappointed that others on the left didn’t fully agree or respond favourably’. This, however, only begs the question: why did other left organisations not respond favourably if the SP’s were so positive?

The SP issued an invitation to discuss a left slate for the local elections in September 2008 and formal negotiations began shortly afterwards between a number of left organisations. The SP proposal for left unity was very limited: it was to be confined to the local elections in the South and did not extend to the Euro elections. If an SWP member Eamonn McCann ran for the Euro elections in the North, the SP indicated that they would not call for a vote for him. (Eamonn subsequently decided, for other reasons, not to run).

The main stumbling block, however, was a peculiar mechanism that was proposed for dealing with the issue of ‘credibility’ of candidates.

In general terms, the SWP had no difficulty on this score. As a part of the People Before Profit Alliance, we were already bound by a set of criteria to establish credibility. Any candidate selected to represent the alliance had to have a campaigning record, an ability to raise finance and a certain number of campaign activists willing to do electoral work.

However, we and the other main left organisations had a difficulty with the SP’s proposed method to establish credibility. The SP argued that the issue of credibility be decided by a joint committee where there had to be ‘unanimous agreement’ by all concerned on who was credible. Failing such agreement, left wing candidates could run under their own banner but would not be part of a left slate. A member of the SP leadership used the example of one of their ‘young candidates’ in Limerick, who it was implied, ran primarily as a party building strategy and was thus not deemed a credible candidate. Such an individual, it was argued, would run ‘off-slate’ as an individual SP candidate.

We found this proposal unworkable on two grounds:

1. The requirement for unanimity between left organisations represented on a joint committee was another way for each individual party to have a veto over the others' candidates. . The SWP was not interested in having a veto on SP candidates. We started from the fact that they could make their own electoral decisions and, we assumed, that broadly, they would present ‘credible’ candidates. But given the past record, we were also not interested in the SP having a veto on us – or anybody else.

2. We also expressed some sympathy for the model ‘young candidate from Limerick’ who is relegated to an ‘off slate stance’. No left organisation has such predictive powers that it can always state in advance who is and who is not likely to do well in votes. Individual candidates of both the SWP and the SP have suffered very small votes in the past. Setting up a system of off-slate candidates, however, was like issuing a health warning: This Candidate is Not Worth Voting For.

The mechanism was clearly unworkable because none of the other left groups agreed to it.

It is perfectly obvious that in a new left alliance formation, one component cannot simply have a veto over the others' candidates. The issue of credibility, therefore, needs to be solved through different methods, - probably though a little more trust and some left wing common sense.


This is a more serious issue because there is an ambiguity at the heart of the SP’s position.

In September 2008, the SP stated quite explicitly that they were ‘not in favour of a permanently structured left alliance or a new formation of the character that has been established in other countries because we don’t believe that it will at this stage attract significant numbers of new activists’

In line with this ‘premature’ thesis, the SP favoured a more limited approach where each organisation would campaign under their own name – but call for a vote for each other, share some platforms and explicitly describe themselves as part of a left alliance.

The SP argument that conditions are still ‘premature’ seems barely credible to most left activists. Not only is the current capitalist crisis very deep with little hope of recovery in the short term but it is already clear that the long term decline of FF has accelerated in dramatic ways as a result of the crisis. While Fine Gael has gained electorally, it does not have the same relationship with workers as Fianna Fail. Workers vote FG because they perceive it as a quick and short way to get rid of FF – and FG, have in turn, been forced at times to hide their real right wing agenda to garner votes. Fianna Fail, by contrast, sowed deep roots in Irish working class life by gaining the votes of nearly half of manual workers for considerable periods of time. Its decline (and the decline of the other great pillar of conservatism, the Catholic Church) therefore creates a new space for left politics.

But what about the workers movement? The SP argues that ‘until there is the emergence of new activists generally, building a new left is not really possible’. They claim that there hasn’t as yet been a dramatic shift and there is a ‘low level of political activity among working class people’. Given these conditions, the timing for a broader left alliance is not ripe.

The premature thesis may be answered in a number of ways.

First, the crisis at the top of society will have dramatic and unforeseen effects on the wider society. There are, for example, tens of thousands of working class people who now despise bankers, whereas previously demands for nationalisation of banks was deemed ‘unrealistic’. Consciousness does not change only because of movements from below – but also because of crises at the top of society. These crises create new conditions where people begin to see the world differently and enter struggle in new and unexpected ways. Who, for example, would have thought that a movement of the over 70s would be so militant that it was able to inflict a significant defeat on the government?

Second, there have been significant mobilisations of working class people. To date there have been three broad responses to the crisis. First, From October 2008 to March 2009, there has been a high level of street mobilisations starting with pensioners groups and culminating in a large union demonstration in February, where the slogan of a one day national strike was hugely popular. The union leaders, however, called off the March 30th stoppage and inflicted a massive blow on the movement. Second, this shifted the focus of anger from the streets to using the ballot box, in the local and Euro elections. Third, after June the political advances fed back into the industrial struggles, with small but significant strikes breaking out, including, most significantly a confident electricians struggle. Combined, these different forms of mobilisation represent a significant outpouring of working class anger that is crying out for some political expression. We expect more street mobilisations to develop in the coming months.

Third, it is the worst form of mechanical Marxism to argue that until the objective conditions are ripe, socialists must do little to advance strategic goals. It ignores how political intervention can itself become an important factor in shaping elements of the wider movement.

One of key ideological weapons of modern capitalist society is encouraging a sense of fatalism in working class people. The belief ‘that there is nothing that can be done’ or that ‘people will never stick together’ becomes a factor in weakening struggle itself. The union bureaucracy encourages this organised defeatism and then bolsters their own base by convincing militants that nothing can be done.

In this situation, the intervention of a united left alliance in political and economic struggles can become a major factor helping new activists to emerge and develop. The history of working class struggle is that a new generation of activists is often shaped though the medium of politics. In the past, Labour or Communist Parties throughout Europe provided a home where militants learnt both tactics and politics. The radical left have now a political responsibility to replace these forces and help create a new space where a new generation of activists can emerge.

While the combined forces of the radical left are still relatively small, they are no longer irrelevant. If they were to unite in an alliance type formation they would have a far bigger impact than the sum of their parts.

3. Reformism

The question of how to relate to reformist sentiments of workers in order to convince them to engage in a frontal challenge to capitalism is the big question. We can only touch on it briefly here as it requires further genuine debate on tactics.

But in order to disentangle some myths, let us clarify a number of issues.

First, it is nonsense to suggest that SWP is moving rightwards because it advocates different tactics to that of the SP. The SWP promotes the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and is opposed to any participation in a government led by, not just the right, but by the centre left. We openly state that the leadership of the Labour Party and Sinn Fein are tied to the management of capitalism – and that there is no prospect of ever changing these parties so that they can become instruments of workers' struggles. Our record on anti-imperialism stands in sharp contrast to the opposition of the SP to a boycott of Israeli goods and to the campaign mounted by some of its members against the appearance of a Hezbollah speaker on anti-war platforms. We only make these points to suggest that the discussion should not be conducted on the facile basis of who uses more left rhetoric than who.

Second, the mere fact that one acknowledges that a shift by workers from voting Fianna Fail to voting Labour is a left ward move does not imply that one has illusions in Labour. To repeat: the Labour leadership is wedded to the management of capitalism and will enter coalition with the right to manage it. But while the leadership is wedded to capitalism, reformist parties can at various time use left rhetoric to shore up their support base among workers. Or to put it differently, workers can at certain points try to express their class aspirations through Labour – even if that party will inevitably betray them. A failure to acknowledge how shifts in voting patterns indicate deeper shifts in political consciousness leads only to an ‘all cows in the night are black’ approach to politics.

The denunciation of the SWP for characterising the emergence of Labour in Dublin as a shift left in workers’ conscious stands in sharp contrast to the actual practice of the SP’s own elected representatives. Here, for example, is a report from the Fingal Independent on what transpired in the local council after the most recent elections:

The (Socialist) party voted with Labour to elect the new Mayor and Deputy Mayor but said it was not interested in holding the chains of office itself.

Cllr Higgins said: 'I want to stress that this is a vote for chair and vice chair - there will be no horse trading for mayoral chains and we will take a principled position on all issues as they arise.

'We are not interested in chains, it is the interests of the people of Fingal that concern us.' Explaining why the party had aligned itself with the Labour Party, he told the council chamber: 'We have many disagreements with the Labour Party on economic and political issues but what persuaded us to support the Labour Party on this occasion is that Fingal County Council is embarking on its development plan - a crucial exercise for our communities and for the future and for proper planning of communities.

'I went through the nightmare that was Dublin County Council in the early 90s when real greed and real corruption unfortunately dictated planning and misplanning and we are suffering the consequences ever since.

'The Labour Party is closest to us in trying to secure planning for people and not for property developers and it is on that basis they we have voted for their nominees today.'

If Labour were exactly the same as Fine Gael, then presumably the SP would not have voted for them to assume the position of Mayor, as both the SWP and SP agree that there should be no deals with right wing parties. But clearly the practice and aspirations of working class people indicated a different tactical approach to Labour in Fingal than to Fine Gael.

For the record, we think that the position articulated by Joe Higgins was 100 percent correct: namely that on occasions one should vote for Labour against the right wing parties; that this should not involve entering any alliance with them, and that taking a principled position in opposition to Labour will also inevitably be necessary.

At the heart of this discussion is a real difference between the SP and SWP on analysis of reformism. We do not consider this difference an obstacle to working together in an alliance formation and indeed believe that these differences can lead to a healthy debate on tactics. But let us try to it least locate what the essential parameters of the debate are.

The SP, argues that

‘Labour ceased to be a workers party in any meaningful way in the 1990s and it has moved even further to the right under successive new leaders, capitulating completely to the capitalist market’.

This is a puzzling statement because it implies that before the 1990s, that Labour was a ‘workers party’ in some sense. The problem, however, is that far from Labour ever having a golden age where it stood for workers interests, it has always been as pro-capitalist as it is today. Consider only how the first Labour leader, Tom Johnson denounced James Connolly’s legacy and to ‘preach the gospel of faithful service to the nation’. Or how Labour joined in many ‘anti-communist witchunts, denouncing and expelling Jim Larkin? Or how Labour voted against the Mother and Child scheme and helped scupper attempts to build an elementary welfare state in Ireland? And if there was such a golden age, did this also run through the National Labour Party in the early fifties when it openly proclaimed itself as a catholic sectarian party? This list of rhetorical questions is probably enough to suggest some problems with the argument of a qualitative change post 1990s.

Any serious examination of the history of Labour cannot sustain the proposition that it was more left wing before the 1990s or even that it had significantly deeper working class roots in the past. The plain fact is that Labour has always been a weak, reformist party that has ever been ready to join Fine Gael or Fianna Fail in Coalition. The SP’s characterisation of the shift in Labour reflects more its own experience where, as Militant, it originally engaged in a ‘deep entry’ tactic to win over the apparatus of the Labour Party to the left – and then, after their expulsion in the eighties, found left wing life could thrive outside the Labour Party. Up to their expulsion, it tended to denounce the rest of us as being ‘on the fringes of the labour movement’ because we rejected ‘entry work’ inside the Labour Party.

The SWP has traditionally had - and still has - a different approach. Broadly, speaking we think that Lenin’s original characterisation of the British Labour Party as a ‘bourgeois workers party’ is an important starting point for the analysis of formations like the Irish Labour Party. The formulation is deliberately contradictory – but so too is life.

Reformism will always seep out of the pores of capitalism society until the moment of revolution because it reflects the immediate aspiration of workers for a better life within the system. The focus of this reformist impetus is often the union bureaucracy and its political expression, the Labour Party – although, it should be noted, there are important differences between them. The leadership of Labour and the unions are totally wedded to capitalism and this gives rise to a contradictory phenomenon where the aspiration of workers inevitably clash with these leaders. As capitalism enters a long period of decline, the scope for significant reforms within the system diminish and the greater the conflict between the ‘reformist’ aspirations of workers and Labour leaderships who seek a voting base among workers.

These contradictions lead to a need for united front tactics as advocated by Trotsky in the early 1920s. The use of such tactics is not automatic but must flow from a desire to mobilise the largest numbers. The core of our politics is working class mobilisation, on the streets and in industrial struggles. Where united front tactics help develop these mobilisation, we adopt them. Our starting point, however, is that the mobilisation of large numbers of workers in struggle create far better conditions for people to examine the respective tactics and strategies offered by revolutionaries or reformists. The pre-condition for any united front tactic is therefore the maintenance of an independent revolutionary stance.

Our experience has been that such tactics have worked in developing a mass anti-war movement in the past. They have often worked at local level in developing the type of mobilisation that have popularised genuine left politics. Far from sowing illusions in Labour or Sinn Fein by pushing them on occasion to engage with us on limited struggle, our experience has been the opposite. A mobilised and politicised people is often more likely to move to the left of these parties. We think that, in no small measure, these tactics help to explain the rise in our voting base – and, more importantly, our membership.

There is clearly far more to discuss about the application of united front tactics – principally about when and where it is appropriate. However, it should be already evident that there is a long tradition in the revolutionary movement of discussions on this tactic. Engaging with that tradition and entering real discussions on tactics and strategy, therefore, offers a far more productive focus for discussion than denunciations whose main purpose is to erect the boundary lines between those who consider themselves of the one true faith and the rest of the radical left.

Related Link: http://www.swp.ie
author by fringe lonerpublication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 17:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In the group blog Dublin Opinion, Conor McCabe gives a long incomplete list of magazines, newsletters and papers put out by various Irish left groups between 1880 and 1985. You'd be amazed at the number of publications but at the same time would need to ask yourself: what did all these groups, many of whom spent their time backstabbing each other, actually achieve for Irish society?

Some left groups behave like marginal religious sects. Their dedicated members show zealotry, antagonism, doctrinal nitpicking, suspicion, heresy-hunting and furtive manoeuvering in closed rarefied social circles. They waste so much time, energy and emotion bickering among themselves that mainstream capitalist society can continue along its merry way without serious opposition. Left unity is as elusive as Jason's golden fleece.

Anyway, enjoy browsing through McCabe's fascinating list of publications:


author by Blacblocpublication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 17:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hi Fred
I find your post a bit cryptic - any chance you could explain who is doing what to whom in Galway?

Is the SWP playing both ends against the middle here? Labour has rejected any alliance with its nearest rivals - Sinn Fein. That in itself says screeds about its real intentions. Even when taken at face value, it's inexplicable that Labour does not do business with SF - the unemployed and disadvantaged victims of the crisis are clearly nowhere near the top of its agenda. If they were they would be doing EVERYTHING reasonable to build a serious challenge to the FF/FG hegemony at the centre of the political spectrum. But Labour knows it needs a broader base than its strategy leaves it with, and the local elections have yet again proved that working class FF voters didn't switch to them as they traditionally might have done at such a time. The OP rationalises working with the Labour Party and serves the interest of both the SWP and the LP in so doing, whatever historical and present distinctions it draws. There seems to be no talk about working equally pragmatically with SF.

author by Labour Voter.publication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 18:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"It's inexplicable that Labour does not do business with SF."

A reason:

A great many Labour voters regard SF as "Right Wing Nationalists".......with Left Wing pretensions.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 19:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This piece from the SWP is welcome at least in the limited sense that it represents quite possibly the first occasion on which they have made even a nominal attempt to engage with other people's views on this question. Their normal practice has been to issue repeated appeals for "unity" in the vaguest terms, without significantly addressing the views of those lucky souls they are supposedly appealling to.

Below I will address some of the points it raises, in no particular order. Please note that these are personal, off the cuff, responses and do not necessarily reflect whatever position the Socialist Party will take when and if it discusses this document.

1) On the key issue of the political basis of any possible alliance the document has very little to say. It provides a couple of bullet points ("the rich must pay for the crisis"), which are blandly unobjectionable to anyone on the left but which are inadequate as the basis for an ongoing political alliance. We are told that an alliance should be on what the revolutionary left would regard as a minimum programme, which is also too vague to tell us much. The key issues here are (a) whether an alliance would have a commitment to socialism and (b) whether it will explicitly be organised on the basis of class politics.

Neither of those points represent an insistence that an alliance adopt the Socialist Party's full Marxist programme or a revolutionary strategy or anyting similarly. In fact, even reformist parties have often managed to organise on a class basis and to maintain a (nominal) commitment to socialist change. It seems to me to be entirely unnecessary to abandon such basic political principles and start out to the right of the old reformist parties in their heyday. People Before Profit presents itself to the electorate as a non-socialist, non-class politics based organisation, with a main slogan, "A voice for people, community and environment", that the Green Party could cheerfully adopt. The Socialist Party is not particularly interested in going down such a road. We think that it's possible to earn support, both electorally and in other fields, on the basis of socialist politics and indeed our record electorally is rather better than that of People Before Profit despite the political concessions made by the latter.

So this is the first question I have for the SWP: Are they proposing an alliance on the basis of explicitly socialist and class based politics and if not why not?

2) You would never know from the SWP's article above, which deals with the last local elections in some detail, that the Socialist Party were the only organisation to put forward concrete proposals for an alliance of the left in those elections. The SWP turned down those proposals and did not put forward any concrete alternative set of proposals itself. Their alternative was to have no alliance, which is what in fact happened.

The article is predictably dishonest in the way it characterises the proposals put forward by the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party did not demand a veto on who People Before Profit could run as candidates or where they would run. It did however insist that it wouldn't be willing to endorse candidates who had no record of activism in their communities or workplaces, who had no base of support locally or who wouldn't sign up to basic principles of the alliance. Such people would still be able to run and anyone who wanted to would be able to endorse them, but we wouldn't accept them as part of a commonly endorsed slate. We also made it clear that we wouldn't be proposing any candidates of our own who didn't meet those criteria for a common slate.

It would be wonderful to think that such a mechanism would be unnecessary and that we could simply take everyone's bona fides on "trust" as the SWP suggest. Unfortunately that would be extremely naive, given two factors. Firstly, the SWP had a recent record of standing candidates with no record who then got dismal, embarrassing, votes. A candidate who got 9 (nine) votes in the previous local elections springs to mind as the most egregious example. In those local elections, the SWP had made a point of insisting that people who had played no role in the anti-bin tax campaign should be on an anti-bin tax slate, causing negotiations to break down. The Workers Party also seem to stand candidates anywhere they can find a live body. Secondly, if an alliance looked like taking off to the point where being part of it was an electoral advantage, it would certainly attract opportunists who had little or no intention of sticking by its political principles. Independent councillors for example with a recent record of coalition with the right wing parties and no clear principled opposition to forming such coalitions again.

The SWP is free to take responsibility for such people if it chooses, but we are equally free not to. If they had no intention of standing such candidates or endorsing opportunists then they should have said so rather than trying to turn their right to include such people on a common list into a point of principle. As I've already said, their alternative to our proposals seems to have been no alliance at all - certainly we never received a serious proposal from them and it seems that nobody else did either as no alliance was formed without us.

3) On the issue of timing, the SWP response is typically overheated.

They conflate the possibility of great eruptions of anger and political activity amongst working people in the future (which we agree exists) with the current situation. It is certainly true that some small but significant steps forward have been made on the industrial front and it is also true that some modest gains have been made electorally (and yes, they are modest, one MEP and less than two dozen councillors is not an earth-shaking electoral return, however it may feel to groups unused to even small scale electoral success).

It is a simple fact that there are not currently nearly enough people interested for the left to form a new mass party. Our organisations are all relatively small and there is not, unfortunately, a vast pool of independent activists out there at the moment. That doesn't rule out the possibility of some kind of intermediate formation, an alliance or similar, but there is no point in losing the run of ourselves and wildly over stating the possibilities open to us at the moment. A balanced assessment is necessary - we have made steps forward from a very weak starting point. More significant possibilities may open up in the near future and we should be prepared to change our approaches as they do.

4) Another central issue of disagreement is the question of the Labour Party. The SWP puts forward the claim that Labour is the same as it ever was, a reformist party. This is a profoundly mistaken idea and relies on people reading the document having no memory of that party as it once was.

If we go back to the 1970s and 1980s, the Labour Party genuinely was a reformist party. Class conscious workers looked to it to express their interests, and although its leadership would regularly betray such aspirations, its rank and file tended to have reformist and even socialist sentiments. In particular, the Labour left was a thriving body of thousands of people, with its own organisations, its own campaigns, its own ideas and programmes and its own leaders. That is all completely and utterly gone now.

There isn't one prospective leader of the Labour Party to the left of Gilmore or Quinn. There isn't one front bencher to their left. There isn't even one backbench TD who has carved out a profile to the left of the leadership. Not one. Every last TD is committed to continuing with capitalist orthodoxy. Party policy once was to seek reforms within the bounds of capitalism, now it's straightforward business as usual. A couple of decades ago, nearly half the party opposed coalition on principle. Now there is no current of opinion with that view in the party, the closest thing being debates over whether to cut coalition deals before or after any given election. That consensus stretches all the way from the top of the party to the bottom. There are no Labour left organisations, no separate campaigns, think tanks or publications. There isn't even the bewildered rump Labour left that the British Labour Party, itself a profoundly changed organisation, retains in places. There is nothing. It's a lost world.

Yet to the SWP there has been no change. It's a semi-religious attitude. The Labour Party was reformist in 1918 so it is reformist now, as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. This is a bizarre form of myopia, but it has real political consequences. If a left alliance were to gain political representation on Councils or in the Dail, would it seek to form governing coalitions with the likes of the Labour Party or not? The Socialist Party says absolutely no. The SWP seems to say yes. If this question isn't resolved it could tear any alliance apart as soon as the question is posed.

To use on the examples from abroad that the SWP likes to rely on, look at the Left Party there. The Left Party is, like People Before Profit, a reformist organisation. The single biggest debate within it is over local government coalitions, not with the Christian Democrats but with the SPD, an ex-reformist turned neo-liberal party much like a more successful Labour Party. The left of the party opposes such coalitions as they inevitably have resulted in the Left Party accomodating itself to the right wing policies of the SPD and implementing cuts and privatisations. The right wing of the party favours such coalitions. I see no reason not to make our positions similarly clear in Ireland.

Apologies for the length of this. I will comment further in a second post.

author by same olpublication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 19:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

as a SF voter, supporter and former member iam disapointed with the same old nonscence that sees a 'left wing allience' in the context of challangeing SF or labour. that seems to be the basis for which the swp start out as a reason to advotacte a left allience. just to remind you if SF were to disappear in the morning theres bigger trouble out there after us, there giving out pension levies creating a monster called nama and cutting benifits and public services, they call themselves....... the government!

fuck sake, seriously. tomas cook were all on the same side, dockers were all on the same side, lisbon we'll all be on the same side. with brains we could be dangerous. same old petty shit our people are going to be slamed against the wall.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 19:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Again, apologies for my longwindedness, but there is quite a lot to unpick here.

5) On the issue of whether the SWP is "moving to the right", not being able to see deep into the collective hearts of its membership I can only judge the organisation by its words and actions. And those words and actions clearly indicate a rightward moving organisation. I don't mean that as the generalised, all purpose slur that it can sometimes be used as on the left. I mean that the SWP's approach to a whole number of issues, most obviously electoral work but also work in the unions and elsewhere, has shifted in obvious, measurable, ways.

Take for example the issue of electoral work. Up until 1997 the SWP didn't stand in elections. This wasn't an issue of principle for them formally, but it was sometimes argued in those terms. They consistently denounced the Socialist Party as "electoralist" and claimed that electoral politics would inevitably cause us to soft pedal our ideas.

From 1997 onwards the SWP began standing in elections. It did so on an openly socialist and class based policy platform. Indeed arguably an ultra-left platform, with stuff in there about workers councils and the like. At this point it would still denounced the Socialist Party for our alleged "electoralism". To pull a quote from a document they handed out our conference about a decade ago called "An Open Letter to the Members of the Socialist Party", here's what they had to say about the Socialist Party:

"The internal party sectarians are told that revolution is the goal - but the electorate are given softer version (sic) of politics to garner votes." The document then goes on to say clearly that "If your focus is electoralism you ill duck the harder arguments and move to a more soft focus.". Much of the thrust of this document was to criticise the Socialist Party for allegedly moving away from revolutionary socialist electoral campaigns and looking to form alliances or new parties with forces to our right. The unkind might point out how closely People Before Profit fits the accusations then thrown against the Socialist Party by the SWP.

By 2001, they had moved a bit further and started calling for a broader Socialist Alliance or a "Socialist Block" rather than just standing on their own as a revolutionary organisation. They counterposed this approach to the Socialist Party's view that socialists should also support independent working class candidacies coming out of particular struggles. Here's what Richard Boyd Barrett had to say in the early part of this decade in a document called "An Open Letter to Socialists."

"The second objection follos from this - that it is necessary to support 'independent' working class candidates, such as hospital campaigners as a first step. However without any ties to an explicit, minimal socialist programme and block there is no guarantee how these candidates will vote on wider issues - such as racism, women's rights or sectarianism"

By the 2004 local elections however, the SWP had shifted further and were willing to countenance supporting candidates based on the anti-bin tax struggle rather than on their adherence to a socialist block. By 2006, the final shift had taken place. The anti-election stance had long been jetissoned, the stuff about revolution and workers councils was also long gone, and finally, possibly inevitably, the explicit commitment to socialism and to working class politics was abandoned. The "socialist block" idea was replaced by People Before Profit, a group modelled on Respect in Britain and with a policy platform consisting of quite supportable but modest reforms.

In what sense could this long evolution be considered anything but "a shift to the right"? At every turn the SWP seem to have done their best to live up to the dire warnings they used to issue to the Socialist Party about the corrosive effects on electoralism on political principle.

6) I think that the Socialist Party's opposition to the SWP's uncritical championing of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Sadrist movement needs little further defence. Having been at a truly stomach churning meeting of the Irish Anti-War Movement where leading SWP presented spokespersons for those organisations in an entirely positive light, didn't raise any political criticisms of those groups at all and indeed went ballistic when anyone did mention that they perhaps weren't the boy scouts they were being presented as, I have little or no time for the SWP's crass stupidity on the issue.

7) The SWP's letter makes a rather peculiar reference to their "rise in membership". Again, perhaps a history lesson is in order. Five years ago, the SWP claimed to have 500 members. Now that was even then a big exaggeration, but it is nonetheless perfectly obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the SWP are considerably smaller than they were then. Their student groups are almost entirely gone. Their visibility on street stalls, demonstrations and the like is much reduced. It's not a particularly important point and its truth or otherwise has little bearing on the political issues they discuss in their article, but why they would engage in petty boasting that so clearly isn't grounded in fact is a bit of a mystery to me.

Finally, I do believe that intermediary alliances between now and the creation of a new working class party could be useful and could help the process along. However, it's important that such alliances are on a useful and clear political and organisational basis. Just rushing into things half-cocked, on the basis of an exaggerated view of the political situation or on the basis of confused political compromises, can have the effect of making things worse rather than better. People probably don't remember the late unlamented Irish Socialist Alliance but the main reason why it didn't have a negative impact is that it didn't have an impact at all.

Our friends across the water in Britain haven't been so lucky. The experiences of the Socialist Labour Party, which was strangled by Scargill's control freakery, the Socialist Alliances, which were strangled by the SWP's control freakery, and perhaps worst of all the political mess that was Respect have had the effect of setting back the process of rebuilding working class organisation. The left here owes it to itself and to the working class more widely to get this right. Things like coalitions with Labour are not minor issues but are issues that will inevitably come up if a new left force makes any progress. The Socialist Party remains committed to helping into being a new mass party of the working class, but it will not happen overnight.

author by Stickypublication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 21:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The Workers Party also seem to stand candidates anywhere they can find a live body." What's the point of dragging the Workers Party into a debate between the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party Mark P? Mark P; I'm asking you to remove this sentence as it has no relevance to yet another SWP Versus SP spat. Otherwise I will ask the Indymedia Editors to remove it.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 23:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Reading back over that passage, the point I was making wasn't clear and the one sentence about the Workers Party seems out of place.

What I was trying to say is that the SWP aren't alone in standing as many candidates as they can conceivably muster. The Workers Party, as far as I can see and you can correct me if I'm wrong, stand wherever they can find a candidate and do so without paying much attention to whether or not they are standing in the same wards as other left candidates. Almost all of the clashes between left candidates from different groups in the last local elections involved Workers Party candidates. I think in total that there were seven wards with candidates from more than one leff organisations and six of them involved the WP. Given that the WP are also talking about left unity at the moment, an alliance collectively would presumably have to have some control over what candidates stand and where.

It was a minor aside in context though. I would edit it out to avoid confusion, but unfortunately you can't edit Indymedia posts. Hopefully this explanation will avoid confusion.

author by Stickypublication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 23:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the clarification Mark P. I had read your comment as meaning that the Workers Party just stuck candidates into an area who hadn't a track record of activism or who didn't live in the area (parachuting) whereas that wasn't what you meant. Whatever people may say or think about the WP all WP candidates are local with a proven track record in activism. Sorry for any misunderstanding. Personally speaking I agree it's pointless having multiple left wing candidates fighting for a certain pool of voters but unfortunately I don't call the shots in the WP. It's certainly an area that needs addressing before the next election whatever happens about a more formal closer left alliance which I would like to see at some stage when circumstances allow.

author by soundmigration - per cappublication date Tue Aug 25, 2009 14:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just wondering how the actions of the SWP at yesterdays Docker picket at the dock fit in with the expressed desire towards building left unity. Yesterday ALL political grouping present where asked by the striking workers themselves, NOT to bring party banners, flags etc on to the dock as we tresspassed in solidarity. Every single one of the groups and partys present respected this (even though some may have disagreed) with the exception of the SWP

This isnt to suggest that this was a deliberate strategy, but its hard for SWP to avoid creating/sustaining then impression that they disregarded this request, clearly made at the gates before the trepass. Why was this. Keiran Allen was present himself at the time, and given his standing in the organisation, im sure others would have followed his direction to cede to what the striking workers and strike committee asked for, and which every one else listened to. The question of why individual members disregarded the request, acting automonously without needing leadership to tell them to respect the request from the people they where expressing solidaorty with is one that only those present can answer

In the grand scheme of things is not such a biggie i guess, but in times where left unity should be something we all (an i include myself in that) should be genuinely trying to acheive in an open and honest way, such acts as yesterday do little to suggest the SWP has learnt as much as it could when taking part in shared actions of solidarity.

It could totally be the case that im missing something here in this case, and perhaps members of the SWP present could comment upon the somewhat embarrassing site of flagrantly disregarding the clear request made.

Its worth saying that it good so many SWP members turned out in support, but it really comes across as grasping and gives the impression (unintended or otherwise) that branding the tresspass was more important than the desires of the striking workers themselves

author by SWPpublication date Tue Aug 25, 2009 14:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Yesterday ALL political grouping present where asked by the striking workers themselves, NOT to bring party banners, flags etc on to the dock as we tresspassed in solidarity.'

Just for clarity, that statement isn't accurate. No such instruction was issued. Rather people were advised by Joe Mooney to leave banners and placards behind, if they so wished. This includes union as well as political banners. See this video some of what happened on the protest.

Let's keep this discussion on track and on topic.

author by DisillusionedLeftypublication date Tue Aug 25, 2009 18:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

all the Irish left seem to ever do is squabble amongst themselves. Its doing the right's work for it. It's almost as if they have been infiltrated by provocateurs which continually stir up the same old chestnuts whenever there is talk of unity , then they step back and watch the left do the rest themselves. Very sad for those of us who desperately need the help of the left against the capitalist agenda currently destroying the fabric of our society.

author by john throne - labors militant voicepublication date Tue Aug 25, 2009 19:24author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am glad to see that the SP appears to be taking a step forward in terms of trying to work with other left forces. It is the responsibility of the SP and the other left groups to genuinely seek to bring together all the forces on the left in campaigns of struggle. Out of these it should be possible to see what further united action could be taken. For a couple of years there I was abused by SP members for suggesting such action as they themselves are suggesting now. I hope I will not have to suffer such abuse this time. I also hope that left sectarianism which was a hallmark of the SP and so much of the left has been weakened and that the SP and all the left have drawn the full conclusions and learnt the full lessons of their past mistakes.

John Throne.

Related Link: http://www.weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com
author by jackpublication date Tue Aug 25, 2009 20:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Coal, gas, oil, and atomic energy is destroying the planets livability, and therefore the last forty-five years of eclogical green revolution has brought into being the hi and low tech tools to put in place wind, tidal, and solar power which transforms to electricity, and is more power than can be used by society. No more blackouts. This non-pollution solution is given freely in natures kinder laws and provides work for all and forever more. Viva socialist liberation. End pollution wars, not endless wars for more pollution.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Tue Aug 25, 2009 22:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don't think that's an entirely fair assessment of the SWP's article or of this discussion so far.

I can understand your frustration, but the groups on the left do actually disagree with each other about some pretty significant things. It would be very easy for the left to just "unite" temporarily, but if we don't discuss the areas where we disagree and how an alliance of any kind would handle those issues when they arose then the unity would end abruptly and unpleasantly as soon as a contentious issue reared its head. How would an alliance in the South work or not work in the North? What political basis should an alliance be on? Would an alliance sell itself to the capitalist Labour Party in local government? Things like this do actually matter, and the experience of other attempts at "left unity" abroad tends to reinforce this.

Political discussion shouldn't be seen as inherently damaging or divisive, as long as it's entered into in good faith. There's a great deal I disagree with in the SWP article that I completely disagree with, but I'm glad that they are starting to elaborate what they actually want rather than simply making vague to the point of meaningless calls for "unity". Hopefully some of their members will elaborate further and engage with other people's views.

author by Michael Gallagherpublication date Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:59author email libertypics at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

...now that you seem to have got your past misdemeanours off your chests and out in the open, why don't you have the rest of the debate in public....altogether in a room? Set a date for some time soon after the Lisbon referendum, put the past behind you, learn from mistakes, build on recent gains and for some sort of first step unity before the next general election, which is just around the corner.

The first step is the biggest.

author by villagerpublication date Wed Aug 26, 2009 14:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Here's a copy of an article that appeared in the second edition of tthe re-launched Village magazine, which deals with previous SWP - SP attempts at Unity.

'Talks held between the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit Alliance, the Socialist Workers Party and Seamus Healy’s South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group, with a view to forming a ‘Left Slate’ for the upcoming local elections have failed.

Last July, spurred on by calls from the Irish Socialist Network, left-wing groupings of all shades of red met to discuss the possibility of a united front.

Initial discussions involved all parties active on the left and Republican left, although Sinn Fein and the Labour Party were notable absentees. With the former implementing a policy of classroom cutbacks up North and the latter having advocated a ‘Yes’ vote to Lisbon, both were deemed to be the running dogs of the free market and, despite having many left-wing activists at grassroots level, neither party was invited to participate.

As talks were due to begin, the left was still sunning itself in the warm rays of post-Lisbon success, a campaign which saw the left unite for a common cause and help deliver a knockout blow to the political elite.

People Before Profit Alliance activist Richard Boyd Barrett saw that victory as the perfect opportunity for the left to seize momentum. Quoted in the Irish Times, Barrett said: “The Lisbon Treaty vote clearly demonstrates the need for a new left because the entire political establishment, including the official left in Ireland - the Labour Party - backed an agenda for Europe which was rejected by the majority of Irish people.”

But it wasn’t long before differences between Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party kingmakers became evident. In the same Irish Times article, former Socialist Party T.D. Joe Higgins sounded a more cautious note than his would be party comrade: “Unless the conditions are correct, it would be wrong to launch a new left party. We always co-operate in campaigns with groups from the left… In the run-up to the elections next summer, we will discuss the possibilities of co-operation.”

Talks have now ended and the status quo remains. It appears that the fundamental stumbling block to a new all-embracing party is the question of how it should come about; should it be a spontaneous call from the people or should it be a vanguard party?

Socialist Party councilor for Tallaght, Michael Murphy believes that call should be made by the demonstrators on the streets and not from the various parties’ committees. He does, however, concede that the local elections would have provided an ideal base from which the seeds of a new party could have grown.

Speaking to the Village, Boyd Barrett claimed the Socialist Party’s conditions didn’t go far enough. “The local election slate was too limited. In reality, all it was designed to do was for each party to call for votes for the other, which is a situation that already exists. What we need is not an election pact, but a new left movement that will offer a viable alternative to voters,” he said.

At this critical juncture, ‘unity’ has become a buzzword amongst those on the electoral left. Many see the current global economic crisis as the perfect opportunity to make inroads into the political establishment, as voters continue to lose confidence in mainstream parties and look for an alternative.

And with Local and European elections, the Lisbon Treaty rematch, at least two bi-elections and the possibility of a General Election, 2009 looks set to become the year of the ballot box.

Perhaps Irish socialists could look to their comrades in Germany for inspiration. The German party, Die Linke, which translates as ‘The Left’, has shown that the seemingly impossible is possible and has succeeded in uniting the left under one umbrella.

Die Linke, which incorporates the old Party of Democratic Socialism and Labour and Social Justice Electoral Alternative - was formed in 2007 after marathon negotiations, having initially made an electoral pact for the 2005 German federal elections and are now fully integrated into the one party, making electoral gains in west Germany whilst consolidating its support in the east.

But whether the Irish left can ever end decades of division and follow their German counterparts’ lead remains to be seen.'

author by Squirrelpublication date Wed Aug 26, 2009 17:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Lets be honest here. Most activists on the left have no problem working together on issues of common interest. Shell to sea, anti war etc...

Most problems arise when one group tries to manipulate the campaign for its own ends and acts dishonestly in so doing.

The motivations for these kind of dishonest actions usually stem from the fact that the desire to build the party out weighs the desire to have a successful campaign.

This becomes most pronounced when left unity for elections is proposed. The difficulty of carving up constituencies among the parties becomes palpable due to this "build the party" mentality.

Personally I'd have no problem working with SP, SF, even labour and the greens if they all signed up to the no coalition with right wing parties rule. I would however not work with swp as have seen them destroy or try to destroy too many campaigns to allow it to happen again. EG Another Europe is Possible or IAWM.

One question why did the swp members on the PBP ticket not declare their membership of SWP in any of their election literature?

author by MKMpublication date Wed Aug 26, 2009 18:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The following are extracts from a book written by Peter Taaffe (general secretary of the Socialist Party, England and Wales), called Socialism and left unity - a critique of the Socialist Workers Party, published in November 2008.

These extracts (from pages 81- 86) deal with the SWP in Germany and their approach within Die Linke where they are now in an alliance with the right wing leadership.

These extracts are appearing here for the first time on the internet.

Link with bureaucracy and coalition

Now, in Die Linke, they have gone further in linking up with the bureaucracy of the new party, with paid jobs as assistants to MPs, etc. There is nothing wrong in principle in Marxists taking positions like this so long as it does not politically tie one’s hands. But this is precisely what has happened with the SWP as they tone down or just do not mention criticism of Die Linke leaders and, in the process, effectively dissolving themselves as an organised force. The same tendencies are evident on the SWP’s approach to the key question of coalitions - both at a national and Lander (state) level - particularly as far as Die Linke is concerned. This issue has occupied an important position historically in the workers’ movement, not least in Germany itself. In those countries, where the electorial system is based on proportional representation and therefore can be multi-party in character, the question of coalitions assumes great importance.

Marxists are opposed in principle to the leaders of the workers’ parties serving with capitalist parties in what are essentially bourgeois coalitions. These are presented as ‘partnerships’ but if they are, then it is between a rider and the horse! It is a device to ensnare workers’ leaders into undertaking responsibility for attacks on the rights and conditions of the working class. Trotsky characterised Popular Front governments - bourgeois coalitions sometimes involving the leaders of workers’ parties - as “strike-breaking conspiracies”. In opposition to these coalitions, Marxists emphasise the political independence of the working class at all times.

.....The starting point for Marxists is clear: opposition to participation in bourgeois coalitions and of governments in which the workers’ parties are ‘represented’. We are opposed to blanket ‘support from the outside’, what are described in Germany as ‘toleration agreements’.

...The rise of Die Linke also witnessed the weakening of the SPD. This, in turn, has put the issue of coalitions back on the agenda, particularly at Lander level in the state of Hesse. The position of the SWP is support and toleration of a ‘red-green’ governmental coalition in this state.

...In all new mass formations of the working class, there will be a struggle between those who wish to concentrate on the parliamentary plane at the expense of involvement in the industrial and general social struggles of the working class. This is a dividing line between the leadership of Die Linke, which now includes the IST [the SWP], and the left that will coalesce amongst the active, fighting layers within the party.

...In the federal state of Hessen, on of the two party [Die Linke] chairpersons, Ulrike Eifler, and one state MP, Janine Wissle, are Marx21 supporters [SWP].....What is striking in the policy of the Marx21 [SWP] leaders in Hessen is how quickly they developed a form of ‘socialist Realpolitik’, not to say parliamentary cretenism. Janine Wissler was quoted in the Frankfurter Allgemaine Zeitung where she called herself “a socialist but not Trotskyist”. In another interview with HR online she said: “Just as red-green cannot get anyhting through without us, we cannot get anything though without red-green”. The SPD and Greens have proven many times that they have no problems in implemeting cuts together with the conservatives or liberals. This statement reveals the mainly opportunist parliamentarian outlook Wissler has adopted so quickly! Wissler’s preparedness for ‘pragmatic sooperation” has so impressed one Green MP that he stated in Der Spiegel: “I can imagine somebody like her also at a management consultancy”!

For socialists, particularly Marxists, the way to get “things through”, even in the parliamentary sphere, is not by unprincipled support for parliamentary combinations of capitalist parties but through mobilising the mass pressure of workers and young people.

author by Intrigued Socialist - Nonepublication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Like anyone who considers themselves a socialist or left wing in Ireland, I find this debate very intriguing. Petty sectarianism has always prevented me from joining any particular party in the past. However this time it is not that simple. In the context of this being the worst economic crisis in irish history, and the success of the left in the local and european elections, left unity and a strong left alternitive is vital. But to achieve any meaningful agreement or understanding, in a step towards unity, debate and discussion are essential. The SWP in the past have always been more reluctant to engage in debate. Hence Kieran Allen's reply to the SP is a very positive step forward and the SP should issue an official response.

So far, I personally am still on the fence. The SWP's response seems very positive. Although its slightly odd that the only SWP comment so far has been to post a video of a protest. Given that Mark P of the SP has made some very good points, on which I would like to hear the the response of SWP members.

author by unrepentant SWPer - SWP publication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

getting into a tit for tat on here but just wanted to point out that the SWP hasn't a group in Germany at the moment (check international links on the SWP UK page) so Peter Taafe's book is incorrect to ascribe to the SWP the policies above....and it's a bit mad that Taafe went and issued a book against the SWP in the middle of the greatest crisis since the 30s...

and all this talk of 'balanced' approaches from Mark P (are you the SPs nominated net man? christ you pop up everywhere!) sounds more like the union bureaucracy than the talk of a revolutionary... sure we take the 'facts into account' but we always understand how 'history is made by men though not in circumstances of their own choosing' i.e. although the subjective element is historically weak in comparison with the mass parties of the 30s etc the intervention of Socialists in recent struggles has made huge differences to the outcome of those struggles

The SPs points about the time being 'premature' seem to underestimate people, look at the Thomas Cook lock In and how quickly people were transformed (in the space of 4 days!)..i find it patronising to workers to constantly go on about the 'low level of political activity'.... there's a Dialectic of fear and anger out there, so much combustible material...as lenin says the objectivist can become an apologist for the 'facts'...

i love the points about the SWP dissappearing.. ha ha...anyone that's been on any strike in the last few weeks will know how utterly ludicrous that statement is...so we're weak on the campus.. yeah that's true but we're recruiting lots of shop stewards...and there's always fresher's week...

just answer me the follwing-

1. Why wouldnt you support Eamonn McCann? Is he not a 'legitimate' candidate with a history of campaigning behind him?

2. Are you unaware of the fact that the document above states that the Labour Party IS for managing Capitalism whereas we are for it's overthrow? you make it sound as if we stated the opposite!

3. Most of the major Unions are affiliated to the Labour Party (e.g. SIPTU with 200,000 members) how do YOU reckon we're going to win over workers who have faith in reformism? (notice the emphasis on how to we WIN OVER workers to REVOLUTION away from the Labour Party)...and workers who quit the reformist parties but still adhere to reformist ideology?

4. I notice that the first version of an article on your website on the election results stated clearly that the elections DID NOT represent a shift to the left and then lo and behold the article was changed a little later....so someone slap Kevin McLoughlin on the wrist? :-)

Left Unity should not be premised on the SPs desire for the SWP to RECANT and give up our so called sins of the past.. it should be premised on the role it would play in the nascent worker's movement.. the role it would essentially play in the recovery of strike figures.. and the role it would play in the vital effort to resist Bord Snip...

The evolutionary materialism of the 2nd international led nowhere... CREATE the facts!

Related Link: http://www.swp.ie
author by MKMpublication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 15:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Because McCann is a republican not a socialist. The swp’s position on the national question is a left republican position which the SP will never support. The SWP does exist in Germany you should find out more about your own international! They are working under the banner of Marx21 within Die Linke! The swp claim there are many activists just waiting to join a new political formation. If this is the reality as you claim then why have they not joined the PBPA!! The swp may have recruited some new members but the dogs on the street know that the swp is at its weakest in years, it is obvious by the people we see on your stalls on the demos and at the meetings. The swp banner was effectively dropped during your election campaign and months prior to it and everything was PBPA. Now you have parked the PBPA banner and are pushing the swp again. It’s a game you lot play!

author by MKMpublication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 15:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

And unrepentant swp you claim .....and it's a bit mad that Taafe went and issued a book against the SWP in the middle of the greatest crisis since the 30s...

That is a bizarre statement to make. Does this mean that when there is an economic crisis in capitalism or any form of crisis in capitalism that socialists should suspend their critique of theit opponents? Maybe you should do a superficial scan of history and you will discover that Marx, Engels, Lenin Trotsky, Connolly and every other leading Marxist wrote volumes, book after book, pamphlet after pamphlet, mountains of articles criticising others on the left who they thought were politically wrong during historical events of far more significance than now - like the Russian Revolution, or the Paris Commune of the 1930s, the Spanish Revolution, the First World War etc etc etc.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 16:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just to clarify two points, stemming from MKM's posts:

Firstly, it is not the position of the Socialist Party that McCann is "not a socialist" or that we would never consider voting for him. In 2004 for instance we did call for a vote for him, while also being clear that we have major disagreements with him about some of the arguments he has raised in the past. If he had stood in 2009, we would certainly have discussed supporting him. He did not stand however so the issue didn't arise.

Supporting him in an election isn't quite the same thing as putting together a formal alliance however. If an alliance was to be formed in the North it would require a great deal of discussion about the national question as well as about other political questions in advance. The SWP has, in recent years, adopted much of the Socialist Party's approach on the North. It now mostly calls for working class unity, for example, and doesn't call for a vote for Sinn Fein or offer "critical support" to republican paramilitaries as it did at some stages in the past. We should welcome that change, but before we would form an alliance in the North we would need to be very clear about your current politics there. If the SWP was serious about its own politics, it would be just as careful.

Debates on the left have to be carefully handled, because there can be a tendency to polarise arguments. MKM is wrong about the Socialist Party's attitude to McCann. We think that he, like the SWP as a whole, has a left republican history, but that doesn't mean that we would take an automatically hostile attitude to him. Particularly nowadays when his views have apparently moved closer to the views we have been putting forward for years. So please, everyone, if this conversation is going to be at all constructive, let's try not to misrepresent anybody.

Secondly, "unrepentant SWP" is correct that the SWP doesn't formally have a sister organisation in Germany. Its sister organisation Linksruck, having found a nice cosy place in the Left Party bureaucracy, dissolved itself. It replaced itself with a magazine and a network, Marx21, which is sympathetic to the British SWP but not actually affiliated with it.

author by unrepentant SWPer - SWP obviouslypublication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 16:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

eamonn mc cann is a left republican? not a socialist? so you couldnt offer your support...~(not that i believe eamonn is) but the SP seems to think that the united front and left unity only involves those who are already socialists...and even those that already are arent GOOD ENOUGH to work with them...and after we called for a vote for joe in the euro elections an everything! :-)
as for the inane analogies with the russian revolution and lenin's diatribe against the mensheviks...christ i dont want to even go into how stupid that is considering the mensheviks were advocating alliances with the liberal bourgeoisie and yet coalition with the right is something both SWP and SP agree on...

i can imagine members of the SP in the 1930s shouting at trotsky 'we cant be in an alliance with the SPD cos they killed rosa luxembourg' which undoubtedly is true but still trotsky would have slapped you round the head for your narrow vision..as lenin states over and over in Left Wing communism dont ascribe to the working class your doctrinaire approach, and inability to understand tactics....

the SP cant even work with US in the SWP never mind engage with broader layers of reformist workers....

has anybody else noticed this MADNESS!!!

author by SWP bloke again - SWP obviouslypublication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 16:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

replied before reading your reply....so wasnt replying to your last post just the one above...

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 17:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Firstly to answer the specific questions you ask:

1) As I've already explained, the Socialist Party did support McCann's campaign in 2004 and we called for a vote for him in our paper and elsewhere. If he had stood in 2009 we would have discussed the issue and probably done the same thing. We have many criticisms of the past record of McCann and of the SWP more generally, essentially focused around their long tendency to cuddle up to Republicanism. But in 2004 McCann was standing as a radical, left, alternative and we welcomed that.

That's not the same thing as forming a structured political alliance however. We would not agree to such a thing in a light minded, off the cuff manner. And if you were serious about your own politics, neither would you. Instead it would be necessary to discuss in detail the political basis of an alliance, it's attitude to the national question, its relationship with any structures in the South, whether it would be explicitly socialist. It would also be necessary to discuss what kind of local structures an alliance would have and a range of practical, tactical and strategic matters. The SWP has not approached us with serious proposals to do any of this.

2) I'm sorry but I can't get much sense from this question. Yes I'm aware that the SWP document says that Labour wants to manage capitalism. I'm also aware that the SWP says it wants to overthrow capitalism.

3) I think that you fundamentally misunderstand the appeal of something like People Before Profit to some workers. You aren't winning them away from reformism. You are offering them a new reformism in a period when the Labour Party has abandoned reformism. That's attractive to some people, but it doesn't in and of itself represent a move away from reformism. And the main reason why it works to some extent is that the Labour Party isn't reformist anymore.

4) You are imagining things.

Now getting back to the meat of your post, there is nothing wrong with political debate. And to have a debate you have to actually consider and weigh up the political views of others on the left. The fact that there is an economic crisis does not mean that political debate and discussion should be put aside. It means the exact opposite, that in rapidly changing circumstances, clear ideas, formed through discussion, are all the more important. To be frank the phillistinism of many SWP members on this subject never ceases to amaze me. "Shut up with your political discussion, there are leaflets to hand out!" seems to be their attitude and never has there been a clearer recipe for pointless, useless, ineffectual activism than that. How else are we supposed to come up with useful analyses, useful strategies, useful tactics if not through political discussion?

It's not a bad thing that Peter Taaffe wrote a short book critiquing your politics. You should be glad to have your ideas challenged in a serious way. It gives you an opportunity to see yourselves as others on the left see you and to evaluate your own politics from a different perspective. Similarly, it's not a bad thing that the SWP have actually engaged with someone else's views in the above article. If anything it's a rare treat.

The fact that you seem to think that it's "patronising" to workers to comment on the low level of political activity in Ireland over the last few years, really astonishes me. Assuming that you aren't just playing to the gallery here, but really believe it. It really would be patronising, to our own members, to other socialist activists, to left wing workers and to the working class as a whole to constantly talk everything up. The SWP has long had a habit of saying asinine things about it being "the best time in history to be a socialist", about the situation a few years ago being like "the 1930s in slow motion" and the like. At every meeting, every event is described in breathless terms as "exciting", "inspiring" and so on. That reflects either a hysterical lack of connection with reality or a really condescending attitude towards its own members critical faculties. Big struggles, changes in society, social convulsions, are not things that we can simply will into being. Socialists have to understand the situation as it actually is before we can work out what we can achieve in that context. Deluding ourselves is a recipe for frustration.

Take for instance some of the recent struggles in Ireland. It's a great thing that these struggles are taking place and a significant step forward from the last number of years when the dead hand of partnership succeeded in stifling pretty much everything. Workers aren't allowing themselves to simply be rolled over and we should do everything in our power to support them. But look at what these struggles actually are, before you get carried away. These are, with the solitary and magnificent exception of the electricians strike, defensive struggles. They represent workers desperately responding to attacks on their pay or jobs. Most of them are about levels of redundancy pay. Unless we understand that these are defensive struggles we will give bad advice and ineffectual assistance to the workers involved. And we will draw wrong conclusions ourselves about the way in which militancy is rising and what it means. The Socialist Party has written at some length about how we expect working class struggle to rise and rise during the next few years of the crisis. There will be major confrontations over job losses, over cuts in services, over water taxes and so on. But we are at the early stages of that process and there is absolutly no benefit to deluding ourselves that we are further along that road than we are.

Analysis matters. Mindless optimism is not an analysis.

I note in your comments that you keep throwing out the ridiculous claim that the Socialist Party isn't interested in working with "reformist workers". This is complete and utter nonsense. The Socialist Party has an unrivalled record of working with workers of a range of different political stripes in campaigns ranging from the anti-bin tax and anti-water struggles, through industrial disputes and on to a whole range of other community campaigns. Where we differ from you is that we don't confuse having illusions in the Labour Party, a small neo-liberal party of less than 5,000 members, with "reformism". Reformism is a much bigger issue than that. There is a difference between working with people with reformist views and trying to win them away from such views on the one hand (the Socialist Party's approach) and pandering to those views and pretending to share them (the People Before Profit Alliance approach).

Finally, I didn't say that the SWP had disappeared. I said that the boasting about claimed growth in the original SWP article was both inappropriate and silly given that the SWP was (falsely) claiming to have 500 members just 5 years ago. The SWP is clearly, visibly, smaller than it was a few years ago.

author by Diarmuid Breatnach - personal capacitypublication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 19:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have read the article above and scanned the previous ones referred to. It is interesting that this debate is happening at all and perhaps it will result in some progress -- let's hope so. Squirrel is right, the biggest obstacle to left unity has been the desire to build "the party" at the expense of the movement (the particular movent at the time or the broader one for socialism). The other problem has been the debate over what is reformism and what is not.

I am not nor have I been a member of either of the SP or the SWP but I have been around the Left here and in London for some time and have quite some experience of them (as well as of other parties, now defunct). On broad left or grassroots unity in trade unions for some time, the SWP and the SP have been dancing around each other without actually getting into a clinch. Each has treated the other contemptuously when it could get away with it and both have usually treated the smaller groups and independent activists with total contempt.

As an independent I have been excluded (by failutre to notify me) by each of these groups last year from meetings around grassroots alliance and left unity on the issues of attacks on the HSE (services and staff) and on the struggle for the percentage national pay rise. In Dublin, the Trades Council was the only organisation that attempted to coordinate non-party-sectarian organisation to support the Health Service march while the SP or the SWP gave out their own leaflets with their own analyses and contributed practically nothing to that non-party campaign. Some humility by these groups is called for.

What is needed is unity in action but for that some basic theoretical agreement is necessary. However, whether the SP was right on this issue or the SWP was right instead is not a debate that should be be carried out in the context of a call for unity -- only whether that position meets the necessary basis for unity.

The SP position on the Israeli Goods etc. Boycott, which I deeply disagree with (their position), should not be raised by WSPers in the context of left unity at this point (though it may be relevant to do so later). If I wanted to, I could raise the issue of the failure of either of these parties to give solidarity to the Basque struggle as a reason for not joining with them but I'm not doing so (although I reserve the right to raise it from time to time). These parties and their supporters need to stop throwing stones over the dividing wall and move forward on what they have agreed on.

The SP demand to have a say in the selection of candidates of other parties in a broad front was unrealistic at best and became unworkable when the others would not agree to it -- so they should drop that demand.

Determined efforts to create left caucuses in the unions should be begun, with a programme of fighting for resistance, solidarity, democratisation and involvement of membership.

I am not, nor havie I been, a Republican, but Éirigí is not an organisation to be left out of the equation, with a track record of activity on Left issues.

The issue of SF is a more complex one. Its leadership is in Government in the 6 Counties and set on the parliamentary road in the 26 and seeking alliances from the middle to the right. But many of its members, particularly in some areas, do fight on Left issues and wish to join with others in doing so and, in some areas, have significant support. I am not clear as yet on how to resolve this contradiction.

Finally, however, the issue of a mass party is a long way off. Let's see how we get on in building unity in action and in joint left organisation first.

author by MKMpublication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 22:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mark P, I would agree with the majority of your comments on this thread although not all, but most differences would be on the basis of emphasis and political accuracy, nothing fundamental. However I do think that your comments on Eamonn McCann are not accurate. Here is an extract from an article on the European Elections in 2004 written by Peter Hadden.

Socialist Voice May 2004
Northern Ireland’s European elections 2004 A sectarian yawn! By Peter Hadden it said:
“The only other candidate of note is Eamonn McCann, who is running on a Socialist Environmental Alliance ticket. Eamonn McCann is undoubtedly the most radical of the candidates standing and, on that basis, the Socialist Party will be advocating a vote for him - on the one proviso, that he maintains a non sectarian position throughout the campaign.

We say this because McCann himself and, more particularly, the Socialist Workers Party of which he is a member, have in the past put forward views that, to say the least, are one-sided in the Northern Ireland context. They are still generally seen as having left republican leanings.

We do not see the SEA as a serious step in the direction of a new working class party. It is dominated by the Socialist Workers Party and its policies echo the move to the right, away from socialist ideas, which the SWP are now taking.

McCann's election slogan, "For a social Europe" rather than a socialist Europe, is every bit as empty and meaningless as that of John Gilliland.

The June poll will almost certainly confirm and reinforce the sectarian political polarisation, deepen the impasse and pose more starkly the need for a genuine socialist alternative.”

The SP’s view of the SWP as having left republican leanings would still hold true today as well as the belief, re-enforced by five more years of experiences that they are moving to the right. You said that if McCann had stood in the European elections in 2009 we would certainly have discussed supporting him. That is correct we would have discussed it, but by no means would it have been certain that the outcome of that discussion would have resulted in us supporting him. What is certain is that we would not have entered an electoral alliance with the SWP involving Joe Higgins and McCann in the European elections.

Your points on Germany have enlightened me if what you mean is that Linksruck have completely liquidated themselves and are no longer a cohesive political force. That being the case then the SWP have lost a section due to their own mistaken political strategy of accommodating themselves to reformism for the sake of unity at all costs!

unrepentant SWPer describing Lenin’s writings about the politics of the Mensheviks as a diatribe is bad enough and by the way as your comrades in Britain who have engaged in an unholy alliance with political forces in Respect who were members of the liberal bourgeoisie and your now apparently ex-members in Germany did the exact same thing then I would suggest it is you who needs to read Lenin and maybe learn from it this time! But abusing the message of Left Wing Communism an Infantile Disorder by trying to apply its message as a weapon against the SP is too much, that brilliant pamphlet was written precisely about political groups such as the SWP.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 22:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The article you quote from says that in 2004 the Socialist Party called for a vote for McCann but was still critical of him and of the SWP's approach. Whether we'd have taken the same approach in 2009 would have had to be discussed, but if he had stood on similar basis to 2004 the outcome would have been much the same as in 2004.

As for the SWP's views still being "left republican", it isn't a binary choice. There are degrees of everything. Actually read their recent general material on the North. The broad outlines of the arguments they make are quite similar to the arguments the Socialist Party and its predecessors have made for many years. For instance, at certain other points in their history they have called for electoral support for Sinn Fein and "critical" support of the IRA campaign. They don't do anything like that now. Instead their main theme is the need for unity between Catholic and Protestant workers around class issues. The views they put forward have changed, on this as on many other things. If you are going to criticise their current approach, you should try to familiarise yourself with the changes before putting the boot in.

Seriously, I think you are taking a rather unhelpful approach to this discussion. There are ways of making criticisms of other groups or currents on the left without coming across as unreasonably doctrinaire. If a discussion ends up with you telling someone to "read Lenin and maybe learn from it this time", you have reached a point where you are just engaged in useless bickering. The point of having a discussion is to engage with other people's views and encourage them to engage with yours after all. Hammering home a list of the SWP's crimes as you seem intent on doing just encourages a ritualised exchange of insults.

Political disagreements matter. As I've been saying to people with a "why can't we all just get together and who cares about the political basis" kind of atitude. But that also means that it's worth expressing your political disagreements in a way which might actually convince people.

author by MKMpublication date Thu Aug 27, 2009 23:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mark P if you back track you will find that it was unrepentant SWP who was trying to use Lenin's writings to criticise the SP I was just responding to this and I made legitimate criticisms his/her remarks. As to whether the SWP have moved away from their left republicanism, we will have to agree to disagree. I believe they haven't and as to how discussions and debates should be held, this is not a forum for serious debate.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 01:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"This is not a forum for serious debate"

Then feel free not to participate.

author by john throne - labors militant voice publication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 03:09author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was for many years a member of the Militant which evolved into the SP. I was the first full timer for the Militant in Ireland and recruited people like Joe Higgins to socialism and to that organization. I did not join the SWP because I did not agree with a number of its policies, including its position on the national question and also how it saw its work in the mass workers organizations. I am making this point because I wish to comment on some issues which are critical of the SP and do not want to it to be thought that I am speaking as an SWP member or supporter.

The main point I want to make is this. I think that left unity if this means the left groups all joining into one left group is just about ruled out this side of a mass workers movement. However I believe that much more steps forward can be made towards working together in united fronts of struggle and unified electoral pacts and building a mass workers party. But I believe that any successful movement forwards on any of these fronts will be very very difficult without an honest self criticism, an honest appraisal by the left of our own mistakes. I would like to start with myself on this.

In one of the posts above an SP person severely criticizes the SWP for being too optimistic about the workers struggles in Ireland. Asinine is one of the words this SP person uses to describe the SWP position which he or she says was too optimistic in the past and in general. SP Comrade, I do not know how long you have been in the SP. But I was in the CWI, the SP's international body, from it was formed in 1974, to when I was expelled in 1996 and just about every international meeting opened with the person who was giving the introduction on behalf of the International Secretariat announcing that we had now "reached a new turn in the situation." There were few organizations as over optimistic as the CWI and the Militant and the SP. And I was a part of this. Before criticizing the SWP for being too optimistic you should point out the mistakes of the CWI and the SP in this same regard.

While I was in Ireland as the full timer , that is from the early 1970's to 1983, I wrote the Southern perspectives documents. These were accepted by the organization. I cannot remember any votes against. This type of unanimity was the norm for the CWI and the Militant and the SP. I have to say that I am embarrassed when I read these documents today. Like the rest of the CWI and the left we never imagined the celtic tiger, on an international stage we as with the rest of the left and the CWI never imagined the reintroduction of capitalism into the stalinist world and we never imagined the boom of the 1990's internationally. We were fundamentally wrong on these extremely important issues. And these mistakes led to us being far too optimistic also in terms of the workers movement and consciousness.

Why am I making these points? I am doing so because working together with other forces on the left will be much easier if we are honest about our own mistakes. Instead of confining our remarks on being too optimistic as the SP person does here in relation to the SWP this person and the SP as a whole should start by honestly and self critically bringing up their own, and what was mine also, mistakes in this regard. This would be the non sectarian way to discuss this issue. Not trying to score points of the other group and hiding our own similar mistakes but trying to honestly discuss mistakes whoever made them. This is also our responsibility to the working class, to honestly discuss our mistakes and to honestly discuss why we made them, what methodical mistake lay behind these.

If moves toward any kind of left unity or working together in a more sustained manner are to make progress then activists and workers and youth initially not involved in any group will be crucial. Such people will give a basis for a more non sectarian development. However such people will see that the main actors in the movement they are observing and considering being part of will probably be the different left groups which in the main will claim to be socialist and marxist. They will have questions about these different left groups. Some of these will be about their general political positions. But not exclusively. Some of them will also relate to the internal life of these groups and why practically all of these left groups which claim to be marxist or trotskyist developed an overly centralized, top down, and to be honest not too democratic internal life. In my own case my experience is with the SP from which I was expelled, slandered, lied about and refused my right to appeal against my expulsion.

Any success towards any kind of left unity or sustained working together will inevitably bring up these questions. There also has to be an honest open self critical appraisal by all the left groups of their own internal life. They have to set an example to workers and youth that revolutionary socialist groups can be built without developing an unhealthy, undemocratic, internal life. They have to show workers that if they join they will have the full right and opportunity to express themselves. This demands a serious discussion about how left groups have intrepreted the Bolshevik experience. In many cases what they are claiming as Bolshevism is one or another variant of stalinism or Bolshevism after being severely damaged by stalinism, or Bolshevism after being severely damaged by civil war, or Bolshevism after being isolated from the mass workers movement.

It is good that this debate is taking place. I probably agree with the SP statement on the issue under discussion more than the SWP statement. The SP's position is close to one I have been advocating the SP should take for some time now. The SP heaped abuse on me for doing so. But I was personalizing the situation here in my own mind and thinking what if? What if I lived in Ireland now? As I say I am probably more in agreement with the SP statement than the SWP statement. The logic of this is that I would join the SP. But of course the SP would not have me because it would have to face up to its own past corrupt maneuvers and undemocratic actions in relation to myself and it has learnt that if I see something I think is wrong I will not be quiet about it, I would not be shut up. Not being shut up or intimidated is how a good member of a revolutionary organization should act but this is not what the SP thinks. So if I was in Ireland now I would probably join the PBP and make my views, criticisms and agreements openly known.

One SP member or supporter speaks correctly about the great electricians strike. One of the longest serving, if not the longest serving activist in the electricians union was a founding member of the SP in the early 1970's. This Comrade has for decades played a leading role in this union. But i would ask the SP members and supporters why was there no place for this Comrade in the SP? He was driven out a couple of years ago.

I believe that it is damaging to the working class that there are so many left groups who have such difficulty working together. I believe that the left sectarianism which is such a big factor in this should be openly identified and challenged and fought just as reformism is fought. However to do this then the left groups have to be honest about their own mistakes and self-critical. If they are not they will have no chance of overcoming the divisions that are between them.

John throne

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 04:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I can't comment on conference documents written by you or anyone else in that period, John, because I hadn't been born yet (or for the later ones was a small child) and have never read them. If you want to send me copies of them I'll happily read them and tell you what I think of them with the benefit of hindsight.

I can however comment with some knowledge on the over optimistic perspectives of the Socialist Party when I did join, in the late 1990s. We absolutely did have an overoptimistic view of the possibilities open to us as an organisation in the years after the anti-water tax campaign. This was a combination of thinking that the community activism which had been so successful when we were leading that campaign would be easier to replicate in a significant way than it was and a misunderstanding of the length and depth of the boom and its effects on Irish society. This is not some kind of secret. It took experience, discussion and detailed debate before we reached a more realistic understanding of the period we were in. As I've heard said before, only people who do nothing make no mistakes.

You go on to say that you have advocated that the Socialist Party take the approach it is currently arguing for over the last couple of years. You should therefore be aware that the reason why the Socialist Party was not in favour of alliances or new formations up until relatively recently was never that we were opposed to them in principle. We always grounded our arguments by referring to the importance of timing and the futility of taking premature initiatives. The situation, as our SWP friends are keen to note in an extremely exaggerated way, has changed, or more accurately begun to change. It was our clearly expressed view all along that, depending on changes in the political situation, a rising tide of struggle and so on that we would reassess what initiatives might or might not be useful. The reason why this exchange of articles is happening at all is that the political situation is opening up and we confidently expect that there will be much more social struggle in Irish society in the next period.

Finally, it's rather unfair of you to make vague claims that somebody was "driven out of the Socialist Party" in a manner which can only be answered by talking about an individual who hasn't contributed to this discussion and who hasn't to my knowledge ever claimed what you are claiming on his behalf in any public forum. I'm not going to do that, so I'm not going to answer you on that issue beyond saying that the person you are talking about was in no way, shape or form "driven from the SP". Let's try to stick to the subject at hand. What are your views on the possibility of an alliance and on the politics it should be based on?

author by NMG - swppublication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 09:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Diarmuid- you say regarding the Trades Council Health Campaign that "the SP or the SWP gave out their own leaflets with their own analyses and contributed practically nothing to that non-party campaign."
As someone who is a member of the swp and who attended all of the organising meetings for the big march organised by the DCTU on health, as did members of the sp, I think the above remark is highly inaccurate. My swp branch and many others worked extremely hard to promote and build this campaign. Let's be accurate.

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 15:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As expected John Throne has chosen again to post a comment on Indymedia about 'left unity'. I do not have a problem with John contributing to any discussion on left politics - however it is unfortunate that he continues to do so in the form of a veiled attack on the CWI. I am not going to go into the minute detail of every issue raised by John in this contribution and want to address the more substantive issue of the thread - but I will comment briefly on a couple of the points John Throne raises about the CWI.

By the way - this is not the first time that I have gone over these exact same points with John Throne.

Whenever John begins to comment on the CWI he always prefaces his comments by stating that he "recruited people like Joe Higgins to socialism and to that organization". To be honest this is nothing more than blowing your own trumpet. As I have pointed out in the past when I joined in the early 1980's you were also responsible for recruiting an individual who was shortly afterwards convicted as a drug dealer. It was John Throne's job to recruit people to the CWI - just as it is the responsibility of every single member of the CWI. It is part and parcel of being a member of a revolutionary organisation. Dropping the name of Joe Higgins does nothing to change this except an attempt by John to portray himself as somehow directly and solely responsible for the building of the CWI in Ireland and elsewhere.

Socialists by their nature are optimistic people. Having to go through the daily slog of assisting workers and communities in struggle, talking to potential recruits, selling papers, attending meetings etc. can be very wearing and without the optimism that at some point the working class will draw revolutionary conclusions it would be very difficult to keep going. And this is partly the reason why revolutionary organisations have a certain turnover of membership.

Unlike Mark, I have been around long enough to have been in the CWI when John Throne wrote some of his perspectives documents. I particularly remember that 'Socialism or Catastrophe' was published around the time I joined. Despite his claims that there was 'unanimity' in relation to these documents this was not the case. As I have previously pointed out when discussing this - I had serious questions about the thrust of the document and I raised the problems I had within the organisation - and I was not the only one. John states "I am embarrassed when I read these documents today". I would suggest that a more appropriate response, rather than embarrassment, might be to analyse the documents and work out the mistakes you made in your analysis when you were writing them. In my experience over the past 25+ years the CWI has come a long way in adopting a more sober analysis of the processes that have been underway over the past 30 years (and noticeably in Ireland since John Throne left to engage in other work within the CWI).

The Boom
No matter how adept any Marxist is - it would have been well nigh impossible to predict the boom since the beginning of the 1990's. The problem is not that Marxists make mistakes in analysis but that these mistakes review, analysed and Manrxists understand why they were made. And this is a process that the CWI constantly undergoes. As for the restoration of Capitalism in Eastern Europe, while capitalist restoration was not the most likely perspective in the 1980's, John is well aware that the issue of the restoration of capitalism was one of the fundamental issues that caused the split in the CWI with the faction around Ted Grant.

As for the International Secretariat and what they stated during the 1990's. The IS was not and is not infallible. But the implication of John Throne's comments is that comments by the IS are taken as gospel by every section or member of the CWI. Not the case. For example at the World Congress in 1998 (another gathering that himself and John Reinman turned up to hand out leaflets at) - the IS argued that the Euro would never be introduced - a position that was roundly criticised by a substantial section of the delegates at the conference.

I am not going to go into the expulsion of John Throne again - I have done so on numerous occasions before. John Throne was expelled from the US Section of the CWI for refusing to accept the democratic decisions of the membership of the CWI in the USA and for actively working to undermine and subvert these democratic decisions. Again I will challenge John Throne to publish all the documents (the mountain that exists) relating to his actions and expulsion and let people read through them and decide for themselves.

Finally, before I go onto the more substantive point, the issue John Throne raises about a prominent member of the electricians union. I have known and been a friend of this individual since I joined the CWI – he is a man I have the utmost respect for. However John fails to outline that this person is a long-time close personal friend of his. John Throne’s expulsion from the US section of the CWI caused personal conflict for this individual and I discussed it with him on numerous occasions. Despite this he maintained his membership of the CWI for well over 10 years after John Throne’s expulsion. John Throne has previously argued that if the internal life of the Socialist Party/CWI was perfect no one would ever leave. Even a cursory consideration of this view would show that it is nonsense. The CWI is far from perfect – people join and people leave. This person that John Throne refers to was not ‘driven out’ of the Socialist Party. He could no longer accept that the Socialist Party was his political home and he left. As for John Throne himself, he is correct, he would never be invited to join the Socialist Party or the CWI. He has a history of going against the democratic decisions of the CWI and has spent the last 10+ years (to use his own words) slandering and lying about the CWI.

Left Unity
Contrary to what John Throne has said, the Socialist Party has not moved to his position. The Socialist Party acknowledges the necessity to build a new mass left party. That is not at issue – what is at issue is how and when it can be built. John Throne’s position has had far more in common with the SWP than the Socialist Party over the past few of years. Contrary to John Throne’s claim that the CWI is over-optimistic about potential developments – the Socialist Party/CWI has been extremely cautious about the possibility of launching a new left formation. It has adopted this position because of the experience of previous attempts both here and abroad. This relates to both the objective situation and the forces that exist on the left.

The SWP have demonstrated on several occasions that they will jump into new formations without any consideration of the consequences or who they were hopping into bed with. The SWP took over the Socialist Alliance in England and promptly drove everyone else out of the organisation before mothballing it. They then set up RESPECT and got cosy with some quite questionable characters. In Germany they have ingratiated themselves with the bureaucracy within Die Linke and supported the expulsion of Marxists from the party. The also have a history in Ireland – in the late 1970’s they were part of the Socialist Labour Party with Noel Browne and Matt Merrigan and covered themselves in little glory while it existed.

As Mark has said – the politics of the SWP is important – more because the politics keep changing than anything else. Are the SWP moving to the right? Having looked at them for over 25 years I believe so. The platform they out forward within PBPA is further to the right of the Labour Party (not the leadership but the rank and file) in the 1980’s. In any discussions with the SWP others on the left (not just the Socialist Party) would need to know that if the SWP agreed a position they wouldn’t go chopping and changing their position as they have in the past. Despite the protestations by the SWP they do not appear to have confidence that working class people can draw socialist conclusions and feel the need to dumb down the political content. The Socialist Party disagrees with this view. For example in the PBPA’s ‘An Alternative Economic Agenda’ there is no mention of nationalising the banks – the only company the document calls to nationalise is Eircom. And the word ‘socialism’ does not get a single mention.

With regards to candidates, Mark has again outlined the position. Any party to an electoral agreement should not give carte blanche to any individual group within that alliance to run whatever candidates they want. In the past the Socialist Party has run candidates for tactical reasons that it wouldn’t dream of asking others to endorse as part of an electoral alliance. In 2004 I know two individuals who wanted to run as independent candidates in the local elections. They could get enough people to sign their nomination papers so they phoned the SWP and asked the SWP to nominate them as party candidates. The SWP agreed. The two candidates got 15 votes and 6 votes respectively. Such an action makes a mockery of the idea of building a serious left alliance.

At the end of the day the key question is whether the objective situation has matured to such a degree that working class activists will see the necessity to build such a party – or whether we are still waiting for these conclusions to be drawn? The situation is changing – that is plain for everyone to see. However, the main focus of the current battles still appears to be fighting for better redundancy payments. We have yet to see these workers and their families and friends drawing the conclusion that it is necessary to now move to build a new left organisation. Any new left formation will only be successful if it draws in substantial new layers into struggle. Timing will be crucial – launching such a group prematurely could see it stillborn and create greater difficulties for the future.

author by john throne - labors militant voice publication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 18:09author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Jolly red giant. You do not seem too jolly too me. You seem a particularly humorless correspondent. And nasty. You have thrown out this accusation before. The one where I am supposed to have recruited somebody who became a drug dealer. This is very possible. There were about 500 members in the Militant when I left Ireland so I doubt very much that not a single one of them might have fallen into negative ways. But bringing this up, whether true or made up, is not the issue, the issue is that this is typical CWI. Smearing me with drug dealing. They do not actually say i was ever a drug dealer. They do not say i recruited a drug dealer. None of these would stand up. But they do want to smear me with drug dealing. So the slander and smear is that I recruited somebody who went on to become a drug dealer. What a dirty method. Well if i wanted to act in the same way i could name the person, and a leading person too, of the CWI who recruited somebody who ended up a member of the Shankhill Butchers. So Jolly Red Giant you would be better to stay out of the gutter.

If i remember correctly Socialism or catastrophe was a propaganda pamphlet not a persepctive document. Trotsky used the term socialism of barbarism. It was along these lines this slogan was used. But this does not take away from the fact that all the material the CWI put out and this includes what i wrote myself in relation to perspectives was far too optimistic. Jolly Red Giant you do not mention at all the point i make that it would be better when correctly criticizing the SWP for being over optimistic that the SP should mention that it was far too optimistic also. If this is not done then it inevitably is seen as, and is, sectarian.

About the Comrade who was driven out of the CWI and you claim as a personal friend. Well state it here for all to see. Are you saying that this Comrade voluntarily left the SP, that he contacted the SP leadership and said he was leaving. You know that this never happened. But you try and imply this to cover up the undemocratic, even more, the corrupt nature, of the internal life of the CWI.

By the way Jolly Red Giant, why do you not identify yourself/? Then we could have a better discussion, then you might be more restrained in your false allegations and smears because then you would have to take responsibility for them. I have not much confidence that you will state who you are. You have been churning out your distortions, and smears and lies now for years while hiding under Jolly Red Giant. This is contemptible behaviour. You are not prepared to take responsibility for your own accusations and smears and slanders.

And why should I not say i recruited Joe Higgins to socialism and the Militant? The SP and the CWI are never done boasting that Joe is a member of their organization and never done trying to erase my role in building the Militant/SP. Well would Joe Higgins be a member if I had not recruited him and fought for his right to have space to develop in the leadership of the Militant and resigned from my position on the Labour party Administrative Council and proposed and successfully fought for Joe take my place?

Jolly Red Giant your contributions are all the same, abuse, distortions, cover ups for the false methods of the CWI. It almost seems more than political, seems a desperate personal need for the god not to fail. Jolly Red Giant there is life outside the CWI. And there is revolutionary struggle outside the CWI. Not only that. But to go further. When an organization cannot tolerate a healthy internal democratic life then it is the responsibility of all members to face up to this and stand up against this. This is what faces the members of the CWI at present. If this is not done then the CWI can never become a mass revolutionary organization, the bigger it gets the more differences there will be and the less it will be able to handle these differences. Jolly Red Giant you are damaging the CWI and the SP because you are not prepared to take up the struggle to change its internal life. Maybe you have a glimpse of this and this is why your contributions and attacks on me are so vitriolic.

John Throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by booglapublication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 20:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bourgeois idealism is faulty mostly because it consists of personal inuendos and feudal idealist struggles against individuals. That is because the present bourgeois ruling classes consist mainly of the overthrown former enslavers, feudalists, and Bourgeois mentalists with superiority complexes, that don't have their origin in the proletarian working class relations, both industrial, peasant, and student. This new working class is non-antagonistic to each other and contains the future relations based on unitiy and stuggle based on the societies needs for a harmonious future which is the socialist society free of harmful agressive wars, and pollution, poverty, unemployment, and gender discrimination and even a shorter work week. Everyone knows that if everyone works, poverty ends. Discussion now should expose the present ruling class for causing crisis, depression and then bailing out themselves who are responsible for the crisis in the first place. That is because they are not working class of which is the true majority in each and every society. The workers state is needed, or else the bosses state will take the taxpayers money and squander it on the wars, pollution, and gender discrimination which is all their fault, because of their narrow minded policies and prejudice against the matriarchy and the entire working class in society. Too much arguing amongst yourselves already shows the spying hand of the enemies of the workers. It results in impotence and defeat of the entire class. The struggle should focus on the need to unite to restore the matriarchy (William Morris), and end pollution of the air, land, and water which is the result of failed indeology, and technology of the twentieth century. There can be discussion of these points as to tactics and strategy but not interminable arguments that lead nowhere. Full employment and womenment is necessary to bring the harmonius society into being yet. That was destroyed by the Roman Slaveholders society around 42 AD , and neirther the full working class returned nor the matriarchy which was decimated then for purposes of enslavment and shows that there has been far to much arguing since, and very little social progress amongst the class relations needed to end exploitation in all forms possible. The agressive wars are against the workers of the world uniting in a correct way, and cannot be solved till the war machine and its manufactury is dismantled using every means to do so. Get intelligent and kind. That is what is missing and needs to be re-established so the species very life is no longer threatened with global extinction. The Vietnamese Revolution has shown the world that both peaceful methods and the armed revoluton for liberation working side by side, are necessary to overthrow foreign imperialist agression. Don't fall short and start saying its only one or the other till all revolutions vitality is gone. End pollution wars, not endless wars for more pollutiion. Viva socialist liberation.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 20:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

John, you have now had two polite and detailed replies. Neither JRG nor myself have been remotely "abusive" to you. We simply don't agree with your views or your claims. I have no interest in turning this thread into yet another episode of "The John Throne Story", something which has happened to any number of Indymedia discussions before. And I can only assume that you will do your best to ensure that many more in the future go down the same road. That's your right, but I've no desire to help you. You will no doubt decide that this is "abuse" and produce another lengthy screed repeating much the same arguments (you do at least serve the purpose of making sure that I am only the second longest winded person who uses this site). I'll leave you to it.

Personally, I'm more interested in the discussion this thread is actually supposed to be about: The SWP's attitude towards left alliances in Ireland. Does anyone actually have anything to say about it? It seems to me that the last contribution to actually significantly and primarily address the supposed subject of the discussion was Diarmuid's one some way up the page. Do any of the SWP members who have commented on this thread (there have been at least three) have anything to say on the subject? How about independent leftists?

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party/CWIpublication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 20:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Clearly John I have hit a raw nerve. The comments I have made are not ‘nasty’ or ‘abusive’ – they are fact or comment based on your post.

You preface every post you make about the Socialist Party/CWI by stating you recruited Joe Higgins to the CWI. I can see no other purpose other than to give yourself some credibility in the later comments you make. I am sure that you recruited many people during your time as a member of the CWI – I was pointing out that some of those you recruited do not carry the same standing as Joe Higgins. I never accused you of drug dealing or even suggested that you had any knowledge of this individual’s activities. Indeed it was some months later that I first had my own suspicions about him (we were in the same branch at the time). Now if you consistently preface your comments by claiming credit for recruiting Joe Higgins to the CWI then you also have to accept that you recruited the odd dodgy character as well.

Socialism or Catastrophe was based on a Southern Perspectives document as was written by your good self. Given the fact that you previously said you were embarrassed by some of the stuff you wrote – are you now saying that this document is one you are embarrassed about or not – and what exactly were the issues that caused your embarrassment.

Your friend that left the CWI was struggling with his political commitment to the CWI for some time. I was surprised that he remained within the CWI for as long as he did after your expulsion, particularly given the fact that he was a close personal friend of yours and he accepted your version of events at the time. We repeatedly discussed the situation in the years that followed. As I said I have the utmost respect for the man – but his decision to leave the CWI was more a parting of the ways than anyone being driven out. For you to try and whip it up into something else does him a disservice more than anyone else.

I have no intention of posting under my own name – you can trawl back through all the posts I have made here in the past and anything you feel is inaccurate you can question and I will respond – my identity is not the issue – I would suggest your obsession with taking swipes at the CWI a decade and a half after we went our separate ways is and I have suggested in the past that it is time for you to move on from it – the CWI most certainly has.

The nonsense about Joe Higgins and the Labour Party Administrative Council is just that – nonsense. And it is also not the first time you have trotted out this one either. The position on the LP AC was not your personal property and not yours to bequeath to anyone else. The decision on who stands as a representative of the CWI rests with it’s National Committee and not any individual.

Finally – you know nothing about me or my activity within the Militant/Socialist Party over the past 25+ years. You were gone from the work in Ireland shortly after I joined and your understanding of the internal nature of the Socialist Party is based more on your own personal feelings towards the Socialist Party than any understanding of how it actually operates. The fact that the membership of the Socialist Party rejected all advances from you after your expulsion should demonstrate that it was not willing to engage with your own personal witchhunt. Indeed it actually demonstrates an element of a healthy internal political life within the Socialist Party because the membership were not willing to put up with your efforts to use the Irish Section to attack the US Section and the International Secretariat. I actually find it mildly amusing that you are so worried about a revolutionary organisation that you regard as bureaucratic, corrupt and malicious in their dealings with you. One would have thought that you would be more interested in ensuring it’s demise rather than offering advice on how we should operate.

Get over it John – time has passed - no one (particularly members of the CWI) gives two fiddlers about a small internal dispute within the CWI that took place 15 years ago. Get a life – we have much more important things to be doing than taking notice of this nonsense.

author by john throne - labors militant voice publication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 22:18author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

The SP members say these issues such as internal life are not relevant to a discussion on left unity? How another organization works internally is very relevant to such a discussion. The SP members deny this because they do not want to have any light shed on their own internal life. Given their internal life this is not surprising.

The claim is made that I have had two reasonable replies from SP members. Dragging in dope dealing and linking this to me, this is a healthy reasonable democratic way to debate? No this is the method of an organization that has an undemocratic corrupt internal life. The fact that the SP members can claim this is acceptable shows how low their standards are.

I see that the two SP members cannot bring themselves to be precise on what happened with the Comrade who is no longer in the SP. No wonder. They know this Comrade would have preferred to stay in the SP and is only out of the SP because of the actions of the SP leadership against him and the internal culture which intimidates members from speaking up against repressive action against independent minded members by the leadership.

The SP and the CWI have all sorts of ways of getting people out. A couple of the ways used in relation to me was refusing to give me copies of the paper to sell, moving the branch meetings to the house of a Comrade with small children and refusing to let me in, I could not make a struggle there with the small children present, bringing people from other countries (In my case Ireland to where i then lived to lie about me without telling me that this was going on and giving me a chance to have my say) spreading the rumour that I had aids, (It is a sign of the thinking on this that they saw this as a way to attack me), to get their majority they recruited another group which advertised prostitution in their paper and justified this by saying well that is California. When they use all these dirty actions and others against the member they want out they usually refuse to say they expelled him or her. They say the member placed themselves outside the organization. What an undemocratic corrupt method.

Jolly Red Giant will not say who he or she is. Incredible. This is another sign of an unhealthy regime and also a cowardly person. It is not as if there are any security issues that would justify this person using a false name. No this person just wants to slander and lie and abuse and not take responsibility for his actions.

Get over it I am advised for the enth time. I will not get over Comrades. Only if there is an internal struggle in the CWI against its unhealthy corrupt internal life can the positive elements of that organization gain strength and be built on and the CWI develop into a mass revolutionary organization. This is why I insist in bringing up the issues. I want at least some of what I helped build to be able to play a positive role in the future. The CWI Comrades should be used to this by this time. They are going to keep hearing from me.

However leaving aside this political reason the CWI's actions show a fundamental weakness in understanding people and struggle. After giving most of my adult life to building the CWI to then be expelled and slandered and lied about and then denied my right to appeal against my expulsion what did you think was going to happen? That I would go away and hide and nurse my sorrows? It was never going to happen. I was going to stand up for myself and fight. You made a serious miscalculation. It does not bode well for your ability to calculate and judge the issues of much greater importance.

John Throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Sat Aug 29, 2009 03:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well that vicious, dishonest and malevolent rant certainly drove the point home that I made a mistake by engaging with John in the first place.

It won't happen again.

author by Kevin Higginspublication date Sat Aug 29, 2009 16:37author email kphiggins at hotmail dot comauthor address 3 Carbry Road, Newcastle, Galwayauthor phone 087-6431748Report this post to the editors

I don't expect the Socialist Party members posting here to agree with everything John Throne says. But I do think that he should be shown some respect: he was the founder of the organisation in Ireland and has 'kept the faith' with socialism in a way that many - including possibly myself - have found themselves unable to do.

The points he makes here:

"Like the rest of the CWI and the left we never imagined the celtic tiger, on an international stage we as with the rest of the left and the CWI never imagined the reintroduction of capitalism into the stalinist world and we never imagined the boom of the 1990's internationally. We were fundamentally wrong on these extremely important issues.";


"activists and workers and youth initially not involved in any [united left] group will be crucial. Such people will give a basis for a more non sectarian development…They will have questions about these different left groups. Some of these will be about their general political positions. But not exclusively. Some of them will also relate to the internal life of these groups and why practically all of these left groups which claim to be marxist or trotskyist developed an overly centralized, top down, and to be honest not too democratic internal life."

and here:

"many cases what they are claiming as Bolshevism is one or another variant of stalinism or Bolshevism after being severely damaged by Stalinism, or Bolshevism after being severely damaged by civil war, or Bolshevism after being isolated from the mass workers movement."

are all very valid. It is refreshing to see that he is prepared to criticise the role he played himself in the past, the positions he took etc.

My post here is not intended as an attack on the Socialist Party. Indeed, my most recent experience of the flaws of the far left has been having to deal with the fruits of SWP opportunism in Galway, in particular with their alliance with former Labour Councillor Catherine Connolly. Her politically motivated interventions in the area of Galway City Council's arts policy - it may be a poriferal area for many, but is crucial for some of us here - have been nothing short of disastrous and have had to be countered.

More broadly, we have also seen the mess that was RESPECT in the UK.

In this context, people should at least pause to ponder some of the points John Throne is making, which as I say doesn't mean you have to agree with what he's saying.

author by Former Militant Memberpublication date Sat Aug 29, 2009 17:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'd like to agree with the points that Kevin Higgins makes above. There is a strange and disheartening tendency on the far left, not least amongst SP members, to either write people out of history once they have disagreed with the established line, or just denounce them in the most awful and personal manner. One example. The CWI website has a long recent article by Peter Taaffe on the role of Trotskyism in the second world war. This article manages the remarkable feat of tracing the SP's origins to the Workers International League inb the 1930s, and discussing its position in the war, without once mentioning the name Ted Grant. This is an airbburshing of hostory that would have made Stalin proud.

I will comment on one other matter, though briefly, since I know the SP will not deal with it. That is on this issue of John throne's expulsion for 'refusing accept the democratic decisions of the CWI.' I and others have repeatedly asked precisely what this refusal consisted of. Did JT threaten to expose the CWI on the front page of the New York Times? Did he hurl hand grenades into its conferences? Did he scream abuse when present at CWI meetings? Or - did this 'refusal' simply consist of maintaining views he held strongly? Now, the anything but Jolly Red Giant always ignores this question, and instead urges those asking it to insist that JT to publish the 'thousands' of documents that deal with his disputes with the CWI. Isn't it obvious that this is just evasion? I am not asking about the origins and development of opposed political lines - I am asking what an important former did that merited expulsion. I woudl like to be assured that an organisation seeking state power has some small measure of tolerance for disagreement. A one para. answer would resolve the matter. But of course this is not forthcoming. Those who would like to know can just bugger off.

Does it matter? Here we have a discussion on left alliances. I, and many others, rather suspect that if the SP, or the SWP for that matter, cannot contain a semblance of civilised disagreement within their own ranks they will be pretty poor at former alliances with others. An openness to different opinions seems to me quite important, after a century in which socialism failed to make much positive headway, and in a new century already characterised by crisis and the quest for a new direction. Unless some signs emerge that lessons have been learned from Stalinism, sectism and elitism - it is hard to imagine that such organisations will play a role in the future which is more substantial than their poor record thus far.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Sat Aug 29, 2009 19:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Kevin, there is nobody in the Socialist Party who denies that John Throne played a very important in the predecessor to our organisation in a period starting from the early 1970s and ending about 25 years ago. Although most of this took place before I was born and all of it took place before most of the Socialist Party members who use this site was born, the mere fact that anyone from the Socialist Party is willing to answer him at all, under any circumstances, is out of respect for the role he played all those years ago.

But having played a role 35 or 25 years ago does not entitle someone to limitless credit. My first hand experience of John is of a rather peculiar man flying across the Atlantic to hand out 30 page leaflets outside Socialist Party meetings about a minor dispute in our American sister organisation 15 years ago and demanding that we follow strategies he dreamed up on the far side of the world which had no relevance to the actual political situation here. Having taken the time to speak to him on such occasions, he proceeded to serve up spittle-flecked rants intererspersed with poisonous and personalised gossip about various people I do actually know, gossip of an "x only argued z because he was sleeping with y" sort. I was genuinely shocked to be told by older Socialist Party members that this individual had once been a respected leader of our organisation. My main ongoing contact with him is through this website, where he will turn up on almost any discussion where the Socialist Party is mentioned and immediately start posting lengthy screeds about how hard done by he is and denouncing us in the most bile filled manner.

If he didn't have a record in our ranks or in the ranks of the broader workers movement, he'd be treated like the kind of eccentric who turns up and rants at public meetings about subjects barely connected or not connected at all to the subject of the meeting, ie he'd be greeted with a slightly embarrassed silence and then people would go back to whatever it is they were previously talking about. It is only because he earned respect in a previous political life that occasionally people like myself or JRG will make the mistake of actually answering his posts - and if you look at our first responses to him in this thread you will find that we were polite and engaged with his arguments, even though we disagree with him entirely. The reason why engaging with him is a mistake is that it only encourages him to serve up more and more vicious rants in return, and encourages him to continue to make himself the topic of conversation.

Look at this discussion above for instance. This is nominally a thread to discuss the SWP's arguments about left unity. To begin with most of the responses addressed that subject. After John's arrival and in particular his second comment, 12 of the last 15 comments have primarily been about him and his obsessions. This is what he seeks to accomplish in every Indymedia thread. And it's why I'll be doing my best not to make the mistake of engaging politely with him on this site again even though this post is absolutely guaranteed to result in further "Infamy, infamy they've all got in infamy" rants from John about how he is being "abused". You will note however that this is the first post in this discussion in which I have addressed my person experience of him at all. I prefer not to engage in that kind of discussion, but if he is going to trade off his personal record then it is necessary to point out that anyone who has dealt with him in the last decade and a half in this country would have a rather different impression of his record. You will note also that "abuse" is apparently a one way street for John. He can say anything he likes about anyone he likes (including one of the most sickening lies I've seen posted on this site in his last post), but if anyone responds in harsh terms he is being "abused". It's wretched stuff.

author by Former Militant Memberpublication date Sun Aug 30, 2009 08:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mark - it pains me to say it, but your tone (ostensibly wreitten to show that you have shownb respect to a former activist in Militant) is anything but respectful, and is replete with personal insults - spittle flecked; eccentric etc. What is wholly absent is any attempt to engage with the issues. I think that JT, whom many people on the Irish left continue to respect, is quite simple. There must be a room within left organisations for people who mount a serious challenge to the policies of its leaders. In theory, you agree. However, when you write as you have done here I - and others - have some doubts. In particular, I posed - for the nth time - a very simple question just above your last post. You ignore it. Again, I find that significant. I think that an organisation claiming the leadershp of the working class which persistently refuses to say anything meaningful about why it expelled one of its most prominent dissidents isn't serious about having genuinely internal democratic norms. It is no answer to say 'publish thousands of documents', when you could quite easily just explain what this person did that merited his expulsion. But anyway - you will never answer, so enough of that. People have drawn and will continue to draw conclusions from this that are frankly harmful to the SP.

More substantively, fron the standpoint of this thread, a unity of the left presupposes that either joint action or even God forbid a united party would be composed of people who not only disagree on some points, but would disagree on major points - for example, the character of the Soviet Union in the past. Full agreement only exists in a cemetary. I honestly don't see anything in either your approach or that of the SWP which shows any real recognition of this. If you are incapable of coherence when the name John Throne is raised, i hope that you might be able to address this kind of issue with some more restraint and focus.

author by Sparrowhawkpublication date Sun Aug 30, 2009 13:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Kevin Higgins, John Throne wasn't the founder of Militant in Ireland, he wasn't even the first member in Ireland. He was one of the earliest members and he was involved in forming the Irish section.

Another person claims that many people on the Irish left continue to respect John Throne. Once again this is an absurd claim as most people on the Irish left have never heard of John Throne. A very small group of people who are no longer active in politics and who view the past through rose tinted glasses respect John Throne, an aging and irrelevant fan club.

The absurdity continues in your claim that "People have drawn and will continue to draw conclusions from this that are frankly harmful to the SP". Utter tripe! Throne's false and hysterical claims have no impact on the SP whatsoever as seen by our recent election results, 99.99999% of Irish people have never heard of and or are not interested in his nonsense and will continue to judge the SP on its campaigns, struggles, ideas, programme etc, not on the rantings of an enemy and a has been.

And reflecting that you and others who have posted here are out of touch with political reality (because you are not active in politics and for some you no longer even consider yourselves to be socialists) the idea that the SP is holding back from engaging in a political alliance with the SWP because of their position on the USSR is also absurd.

The only thing of real interest and that has any real bearing on the discussion around left unity is what Kevin Higgins said about Catherine Connolly. Tells us more Kevin about what she has been doing as this is one of the central issues of contention, as the SWP wanted people like Catherine Connolly to be in an electoral alliance with the rest of the left and they also want people like her to play a major role in a new political formation.

author by john throne - labours Militant Voicepublication date Sun Aug 30, 2009 15:17author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

More SP members have come on this thread. And like Mark P and Jolly Red Giant they refuse to say who they are. Anonymous Socialist party slanderers. Some of the new abuse against me to add to the I recruited a drug dealer smear is that i spit on somebody or at somebody and i said that somebody had a poltical view only because of who they were sleeping with. These are all either outright lies or slanders based on distortions. This is the CWI method. No wonder the SP members will not say who they are. Contemptible.

I would like to ask the SP and CWI people again to answer the issue raised by the former Militant member on this thread. how could they write and publish a document on the work of its organization in World War 2 and not mention Ted Grant. This is a stalinist method. Write people out of history. Dermot Connolly and how he was treated has been written out of the SP history. The same would happen to me if I let it. i will not.

John throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by Sascha Funkepublication date Sun Aug 30, 2009 15:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A new left/environmental alliance, led by Richard Boyd Barrett of the People Before Profit Alliance, is planning to run in several constituencies at the next general election.

The movement is hoping to capitalise on what it claims is the “political vacuum” left by the Green party since it entered coalition with Fianna Fail.

It has already attracted experienced political figures such as Declan Bree, a former Labour party TD; Chris O’Leary and Betty Doran, former Green party councillors; and Seamus Healy, a former independent TD.

Full article: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/ireland/art...9.ece

author by trotsky - nonepublication date Sun Aug 30, 2009 20:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

yeah we all know catherine connolly has serious flaws..but point out a reformist who doesnt?

isnt the whole point of the united front to win people AWAY from reformists? and how can we do that if we dont engage with these rotten reformists in the first place?

the question was never are the SPD decent reformists..the question was..is it necessary to work with the SPD even though they murdered rosa luxembourg because they influence the majority of the working class?

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 00:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Sunday Times article is an odd piece. This must be the fourth or so time that the mainstream media has reported that there is nearly, almost, soon, at some point, an alliance in place between the SWP and the WUAG and some independent, ex-Labour or ex-Green councillors. That's not counting the joint press conferences before the last local elections, which on close inspection weren't so much announcing something as announcing that at some point something might be announced.

Anyway, there are quotes from Richard Boyd Barrett of the SWP and Chris O'Leary a councillor who left the Green Party before the last local elections. And this gives us something of a flavour of the politics this new alliance is to have. As of course does the mere fact that discussions are ongoing to form an alliance even broader than People Before Profit rather than discussions about these councillors joining PBPA. It seems that even the watery fare of PBPA's programme is too meaty a stew for some and that something even less radical is being proposed.

There is absolutely no talk in the quotes in the article about a commitment to socialism or class politics. In fact, the clearest description of the proposed new alliance is from Cllr O'Leary who, quite reasonably from his point of view, describes it as a "movement to fill the political vacuum left by the Greens" after the Greens abandoned what used to be their "core policies". Similarly, Patricia McKenna tells us that she's been approached to join, although she has made no commitment as of yet, and talks about replacing the old "political platform of the Greens".

This puts a rather different gloss on the SWP article which started this discussion. It seems that they are not looking towards an alliance based on socialist politics or explicitly class politics at all. The original article left the political basis of their proposed alliance deliberately unspoken. Now, judging by who they are trying to hook up with and what they have to say, we can fill in those blanks. It looks to me, on the limited like yet another staging post in the SWP's long march towards reformism, from the ultra-leftism of the 1990s to the watery politics of People Before Profit and now beyond.

Given the Socialist Party's clearly expressed views on the kind of alliance it would be interested, it would seem that the SWP and their hangers on in the PBPA aren't really interested in a socialist alliance, or an alliance involving the SP at all. The kind of talk in this document is more about reassuring their own members that they aren't going soft than it is designed to further a real dialogue. After all, while they are putting out vague and wordy documents, they are in the process of putting together a new alliance with very different forces on a non-socialist, non-class politics basis, aimed at filling the gap left by the Greens. I would welcome contributions from the SWP members and other supporters of the PBPA who are reading this discussion (and there are a number of them despite their quietness) on this.

FInally, to whoever commented above me as "Trotsky", the difference between the SPD in Germany in the 1930s and Catherine Connolly today, is that millions of German workers then looked to the Social Democrats, a mass party, to achieve their aspirations. Catherine is, or so I've heard, a nice woman but I don't think even her biggest fan would claim that millions of workers across this island, or even thousands look to her for leadership and can't be engaged with without engaging with her. You might want to get a sense of perspective.

author by United Frontpublication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 01:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with the general tenor of what Mark P is saying. In answer to 'Trotsky' it's clear that what is being proposed by the SWP is not a united front, with the aim precisely of winning people away from reformism, but a popular front in which the SWP will opportunistically pander to rather than challenge people like Declan Bree, Chris O'Leary and Catherine Connolly.

For the record, each of these failed to take a principled position of oppostion for coalition with Fianna Fail and/or Fine Gael.

Bree supported both the 1992-94 Fianna Fail-Labour coalition and the 1994-97 Fine Gael-Labour-Democratic Left coalition. He voted for the (second) tax amnesty for wealthy tax dodgers which Bertie Ahern introduced when he was Finance minister.

Catherine Connolly did not oppose Labour's Mullingar accord coalition arrangement with Fine Gael in the lead up to the 2007 General Election and from 2004-2009 was in alliance with Fine Gael on Galway City Council. She was elected Mayor in 2004 courtesy of the votes of three Fine Gael councillors and according to Labour Party sources - quoted in the media - was "at the table" with the five Labour councillors when they attempted (unsuccessfully) to put together a governing arrangement on Galway City Council first with the three ex-PD independents and then with Fine Gael. That isn't ancient history. It happened this year.

Similarly Chris O'Leary did not vote against the Green's going into coalition with Fianna Fail in 2007.

What the SWP are doing is attempting to create is an Irish version of RESPECT which ended in a disastrous split.

author by ChrisMcHughpublication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 01:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When Sinn Féin called for a unity of the left during the European Elections did no other party call for the same and ask their voters to give preference to SF?? SF called for a unity of the left, and suggested other partys to give preference to (In the Free State) and no other party gave back. It seems that people only want their version of "Left wingism", but choose to ignore the Republic left wing

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 01:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would be a bit wary of being too ready to denounce people based on their past record alone, United Front, at least until we know what they are now saying. People can change, moving to the left as well as the right. It's not inconveivable that some or all of the councillors you mention now recognise that coalitions with the right wing parties are wrong in principle and oppose them noth locally and nationally despite their previous actions and views. At this point we just don't know.

Their past records raise certain suspicions on the issue, certainly. But it would be a small but welcome step if Bree, Connolly et al came out against local and national coalitions. Let's wait until we know rather than just getting our denunciations in first.

author by United Frontpublication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 01:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I take what you say. People change their positions. But the SWP were a lynchpin of Catherine Connolly's local election campaign this year and AFTER that she was involved in negotiations with the ex-PD councillors and then Fine Gael. This is less a condemnation of Catherine Connolly than it is of the failure of the SWP to even raise these issues. They feel that association with her gives them a credibility they wouldn't otherwise have and opens up the possibility of recruiting people not to some broad left united front type party - the idea of which they don't really give a hoot for - but to the SWP and only the SWP. It is opportunism at its very worst.

author by Diarmuid Breatnach - Personal capacitypublication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 03:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The vast majority of the contributions to this discussion are depressing from the point of view of Left Unity and would drive most interested left activists away, not to mentiona progressive workers, I'd imagine.

If we are really discussing a project for Left Unity, I repeat that it has to be unity in action. Of course there needs to be some relevant theoretical unity but that should be from the point at which we embark on that project forward. What this party or that representative said in the past or how they treated some of their members, with respect, is NOT RELEVANT AT THE POINT OF STARTING OFF ON THE PROJECT.

Sectarianism, raking up the past, personal criticisms etc. are not helpful and do not contribute to the project. Past sectarian or undemocratic behaviour may of course cast shadows and may even be predictors of future behaviour but once the agreement on the minimum basis for unity, both in theoretical position and on practice are agreed, everyone should start with a clean slate.

A comrade (NWG) criticised my previous posting regarding the Trades Council Health Campaign that "the SP or the SWP gave out their own leaflets with their own analyses and contributed practically nothing to that non-party campaign."

I made that point in calling for some humility on the part of the bigger (relatively speaking) parties. I stand by my observation and know for a fact that once it came to the actual leaflet and postering mobilisation the DCTU were left with a few independents socialists (I was one) and community activists (including their children!), while the SP and SWP mobilised separately for the march using their own leaflets and posters and promoting their own organisations. If it is thought that this is what was needed, then I state my disagreement and leave it at that.

To talk of a mass party at this point is clearly premature as is to talk of a mass movement. What we need is to be able to form working alliances in the resistance that is now urgently called for against the increasing attacks of the capitalists and the state on the workers as they strive to ensure that we pay for the crisis that the capitalists have created. United we stand, divided the resistance movement falls!

author by james - SWP personal commentspublication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the People Before Profit alliance has as one of its principles 'no coalition with the right' which the SP agree with and which is clearly stated in the article above.

Can the SP members on this thread tell me which 'good' reformists should be part of a united front?

So basically the SP is not willing to engage with anyone to their immediate right?

Your position seems to be that any move to engage with these people is a move to the right and yet, as the SWP website shows (as the SWP website and NOT the PBPA website is obviously the place to get the views of the SWP) we are fighting for (as the document states clearly) the revolutionary overthrow of Capitalism.

author by Sparrowhawkpublication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

James you asked two specific questions

So basically the SP is not willing to engage with anyone to their immediate right?
We are prepared as was shown by our proposal to have a local election slate that would have involved PBPA an alliance whose politics is to the right of the SP. But the most pertinent issue regarding who we are prepared to engage with is not existing parties, groups, alliances, defecting councillors from other forces etc but the working class. The Socialist Party wants to be involved in building a new mass working class party committed to a socialist programme with working class activists, trade unionists, community campaigners a majority of whom hopefully will not be involved in any group or party.

Can the SP members on this thread tell me which 'good' reformists should be part of a united front?
James this question and the contributions of others who seem to be SWP members reflects I believe a naivety about this discussion.
The SP has no interest at all in becoming involved in a small political alliance with others on the left and ex members of the Greens and Labour a majority of whom we do not believe are genuinely on the left and or who can not be trusted on the issue of coalitionism.

The example given already on this thread about the recent track record of Catherine Connolly who it seems attempted in the last few months to make a deal with PDs sums the issue up. The SWP and PBPA, supported Catherine Connolly in the local elections without any comment and still there is a deafening silence even after she has apparently tried to do deals with right wingers.

Mark P has already dealt well with the Sunday Times article. If this article is accurate and we have to allow for a lot of inaccuracy as it is the Sunday Times, then the SP will not be getting involved in an alliance of this character. This type of an alliance will not be a step forward for the working class in terms of trying to build a new political force. It would be a step backwards as it will be based on the politics of the lowest common denominator in the alliance. As has been already outlined in the SWP document, your party is prepared to engage in a new political alliance the politics of which will be decided by the criteria of maintaining unity, of accommodating all views within a very broad political spectrum, in order to do this it will have to have a weak programme that accommodates people who are in reality not left wing. Our starting point is that we want to be involved in the creation of a new political force with the starting point being it should have a socialist programme. Not a programme which is slightly to the left of Labour and the Greens!

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 12:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As James' comments are divided into short questions or comments I will address each in turn.

James says:
"the People Before Profit alliance has as one of its principles 'no coalition with the right' which the SP agree with and which is clearly stated in the article above."

Actually James, it's not at all clear that the People Before Profit Alliance agrees with the Socialist Party about this. The PBPA seems to think that the Labour Party are part of "the left" and it doesn't seem to have any problem with the idea of coalition with it, something which we think would be a big mistake for any new left force. What's more, we are talking here not so much about the PBPA as about this broader alliance which Boyd Barrett, O'Leary and others are quoted talking about in the Sunday Times.

As I understand it, some of the people the PBPA is negotiating with have recent records of supporting coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, either at a local level or at a national level. You don't dispute that, do you James? For instance, is it true (as has been claimed here repeatedly) that Catherine Connolly entered into negotiations with the PDs after the recent local elections about forming a local government coalition? Are all of the Councillors you are trying to form an alliance with now opponents of coalitions on principle? I would appreciate a straightforward answer to this as in the absence of a clear statement all we are left to go on is the past records of some of the Councillors concerned.

Can the SP members on this thread tell me which 'good' reformists should be part of a united front?

In the absence of a mass reformist party in this country, the foundation of a broad alliance isn't necessarily contingent on making a formal pact with major reformist leaders because there aren't any of note - as the SWP seems to realise empirically, otherwise it wouldn't be scrabbling around trying to dig up a few scattered councillors to claim as allies. Still the Socialist Party would not be opposed in principle to an alliance including reformist organisations or elected representatives, like the PBPA itself for instance or any councillor who was willing to sign up to an explicitly socialist and class politics based programme. The political basis on an alliance is of vital importance, although it's something the SWP seems extremely reluctant to discuss.

More importantly, we would be interested in aiming an alliance or intermediary formation at the ranks of the wider working class rather than primarily at the odd independent Councillor or small far left group.

So basically the SP is not willing to engage with anyone to their immediate right?

Groups like the PBPA are "to our right", although "immediate" might be being a bit overly generous, and we are willing to engage with you. More generally, we are absolutely willing to engage with workers who have reformist ideas or even groups or representatives well to the right of the PBPA, but you see the problem here is that you are using the term "engage" to mean something rather idiosyncratic.

"Engaging" with some group, some public representative or some current of ideas doesn't mean simply adapting to their current outlook and trying to form a lowest common denominator alliance with them. You sling around terms like "united front" rather incongruously, not just because that term stems from the idea of alliances between mass revolutionary and mass reformist parties rather than between a small rightward moving "revolutionary" group and the odd scattered councillor, but more importantly because a "united front" isn't supposed to be on the basis of a fudged acceptance of your allies current politics. Instead it's an alliance for common goals while continuing to subject each other to criticism where disagreements exist. You seem to think that "engaging with reformism" means finding scraping up some reformist and then forming a common organisation with them on the basis of their existing politics and then you refuse to criticise their mistaken ideas openly at all. That's a very narrow and self-serving definition of engagement and it is a perversion of the idea of a "united front".

Do you think for instance that it's impossible to attract reformist inclined workers towards an alliance which is explicitly committed to socialism and class politics? That's not the view of the Socialist Party (and I certainly don't think that the 50,000 plus first preferences received by the SP in the European elections were all votes from revolutionary Marxists). It wasn't your view up until recently, as although I realise the SWP aren't big on remembering inconvenient details you will find that in recent years you used to insist that any alliance on the left should have at a minimum a commitment to a basic socialist programme. You have only abandoned that as part of your ongoing shift to the right in search of electoral shortcuts - exactly the sort of thing you used to claim the Socialist Party would inevitably end up doing.

Your position seems to be that any move to engage with these people is a move to the right and yet, as the SWP website shows (as the SWP website and NOT the PBPA website is obviously the place to get the views of the SWP) we are fighting for (as the document states clearly) the revolutionary overthrow of Capitalism.

No James. This is dishonest of you and doesn't engage at all with the arguments I've already expressed right at the start of the discussion.

My problem is not with you "engaging" with forces to your right, it's with you confusing "engaging" with them with adapting your own politics to them. It is possible to "engage" with people to your right without making quite unnecessary political concessions, abandoning for instance a clear commitment to socialism and class politics in your electoral work.

If I recall correctly (and I do, you can find some of the quotes in my second comment at the start of this thread), the SWP used to argue vehemently that the Socialist Party's alleged "electoral focus" would lead to us softening our politics and presenting ourselves to the electorate in a more and more reformist manner. This, as it transpires was untrue however the SWP now seems absolutely determined to live up to its own prior warnings. Earlier in this discussion I traced carefully, step by step, the increasingly reformist, increasingly rightward moving, history of the SWP's electoral work. You went from opposing elections, to running in elections as a revolutionary organisation, to seeking a "socialist bloc" on a minimum programme, to the watery non-socialist politics of the PBPA and now it seems that you are going for something "broader" and more watery still.

You aren't moving to the right because you "engage" with the odd reformist, you are moving to the right because you are adapting your own politics to those reformists and dropping even basic socialist politics in your electoral work in an attempt to get some extra votes. This is an almost perfect example of the pull of electoralism. And it has a knock on effect on you other work. Your chief public representatives, because they appear in public as representatives of the non-socialist PBPA, restrict themselves in interviews and the like to making non-socialist arguments. It's a slippery slope and you've already slid much of the way down it.

author by ex young SP memberpublication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 12:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its actually quite strange how people speaking through the socialist party are afraid to use their real names. I suppose its easier to abuse that way. And another thing, I see the SP have imfamously curbed the questions. You have answered no questions and simply moved onto other points? Too difficult to answer? Writing people out of history? (cough 1984 cough).

Party politics are dead! The PBPA will move here, there and everywhere, and change to suit anyones needs (I know this because I appraoched different members of the PBPA who 'sold me' extreemly different versions of the PBPA, one very radical and one very watered down, depending on my attitude) it was very embarrsing.

As for the SP, your doing great ''as seen by our recent election results'' - you've got the same number of cllrs? Not much change there trots!

I was turned off parties when they constantly tried to pursuade me to 'make friends' with youth wing, and when I say make friends, they ment lose the old ones, they made that VERY clear.

The cult of leadership and living a 'fake' life to act like a socialist was scary and put me off parties forever.

-there are three classes, the upper, middle and lower. The middle uses the lower to topple the upper. The middle takes over as the upper, the upper disappears, or becomes the middle, with a few of the lower, but the lower stays preety much the same.-

To be honest, id rather have FG/FF/LAB any day over some top-heavy socialists. You could say goodbye to any freedom.

Libertarianism can be the only way, or.... nothing! But I ddont see that happpening either, so enjoy wasting your lives

author by john throne - labors militant voice. publication date Mon Aug 31, 2009 16:13author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

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united front of struggle
by john throne - labors militant voice Mon 31 Aug 2009 04:09:13 PM CDT loughfinn at aol dot com
Is this discussion being made more difficult by imprecise formulations. I think i might be guilty of this. Left unity has tended to mean uniting the left groups and forces into one. I think this is ruled out at the moment and for the immediate future. Building a mass workers party within which the different left forces can have rights while working together can I think come earlier and should be fought for. But what can be done at the moment.

I feel that we should be struggling for a united front of struggle, or as it is also called a united front of action, between the different left forces and individuals and activists. How should we determine who would be in this and who would not.

I tend to agree with the Socialist Party that we should try to build a democratic socialist united front. There seems to be the basis for steps forward in this regard. But to me this should not be the decisive question. If the SP can convince the left movement to have such a front then this would be good but as I say i do not think this should be made the decisive question. It is more what this front would do and how it would operate in relation to the class struggle.

We are faced with a massive offensive of capitalism against the working class. The first criteria for being part of the united front of struggle should be to openly identify this capitalist offensive, using this term and explaining that we are dealing with capitalism. Flowing from this the front should commit itself to absolute opposition to this offensive. And this means opposition on the economic and political fronts. This front should openly commit itself to absolute opposition and not only on the large fronts but also locally where workers are attacked on the small issues in their day to day lives.

This means taking up and opposing the attacks on the working class that flow from this capitalist offensive. But I think the front should go further. It should also commit itself to no negotiations or any concessions, no lobbying of bourgeois politicians and parties, no coalition with any bourgeois party or any parties or individuals who are not totally committed to absolute opposition to the capitalist offensive. Then, and of central importance, from this commit the front to the methods of direct action fight to win tactics. That is the front would mobilize forces to confront the bourgeois in the streets, the workplaces and also that the front would take up locally the attacks flowing from the offensive and confront its local representatives in the streets, the workplaces, their homes, their churches, and bring back the strike and the boycott as tactics. Victories can be won with direct action fight to win tactics even in this difficult period. This is what the front must explain and aim for.

This approach will separate the people and parties and groups who should be in the united front of struggle and those who should not. Yes let the left try and build a united front of struggle around this approach and these tactics, let the left try and build this on a democratic socialist alternative to capitalism, hopefully this will be possible, However if this is not possible then groups like the Socialist Party in my opinion should continue to state that their preference is a united front of struggle on a democratic socialist basis but be prepared to participate in a united front of struggle as long as that front is committed to direct action fight to win methods and no collaboration with any forces who are not prepared to openly identify and oppose the capitalist offensive. I do believe that a united front which does not commit itself to the methods of direct action fight to win and to open identification of and opposition to the capitalist offensive would not be acceptable and would justify refusing to work together with other groups.

Yes preferably a united front of struggle committed to direct action fight to win methods and to a democratic socialist alternative. But if this is not possible then for a united front of struggle against the capitalist offensive and committed to direct action fight to win methods. But no participation in a united front of parties and forces and individuals who are not prepared to identify the capitalist offensive, oppose this offensive with direct action fight to win methods and mobilize a movement in this fashion.

John throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by Marcaspublication date Tue Sep 01, 2009 14:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Its actually quite strange how people speaking through the socialist party are afraid to use their real names." Writes EX-YOUNG SP MEMBER!!!

author by Franpublication date Tue Sep 01, 2009 16:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Left Unity is as elusive as Russian Democracy. Or Ian Paisley shaking hands with the Pope.

author by t g macamhloaibhpublication date Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Tis the same old shite. People snipeing at each other's parties. The notion of 'one true' socialist/progressive path. Trying to shout (metaphorically) each other down.

The same raving nonsense of yesteryear brought forward several decades.

Socialism/progressivism, broadly speaking as evidenced by this thread, once again adopts a doctrine of exclusion, naivity, and pettiness within its own broad family.

Socialists/Progressives needs to come up with some common core prinicples and concrete policies which the voting populace can identify with and believe are workable given their present views and circumtances.

The left has to learn to live with itself before it can attract those not so given to political introspection .

The left has to realise that there are differing views and opinions within the broader progressive family. Each party has the right to communicate its ideas and then let the electorate decide.

For the first time in a generation we have the means to affect change upon a system throughly steeped in sectional self-interest and the desire to maintain and consolidate this self interest on a national and continental wide scale.

We might do well to create some common and core messages based upon present problems along with workable and popular solutions. I assume we want the greatest number of people to benefit from wealth creation and realise we need to create policies and conditions which not only speak about fairness and equality but can also embed these concepts in spirit and practice.

Unity of ideas, let alone differing methods, is a fleeting mistress at best. Better we create a unity of purpose based on an outline of foundational beliefs and messages based on practical economic policies which deliever a better quality of life and opportunity for all workers. A start is half the job.

It's about time we reverse the one step forward, two step backwards policy of bitter infighting. Any advancement in leftist practices, by any party, should be welcomed.

author by Sinn Feinpublication date Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Another Sinn Féin councillor has resigned from the party because of political differences.

Domhnall O'Cobhthaigh, a councillor in Fermanagh, is to join Joe Higgins' Socialist Party.

It is understood he is leaving Sinn Féin, on good terms, because he believes the party is losing its left-wing credibility.

The Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew, said she disagreed with his reasons and was disappointed but thanked him for his work in the past.

The party will be seeking a co-option to his council seat

Related Link: http://www.breakingnews.ie/archives/2009/0904/ireland/eycwojausnsn/
author by Not Lenin - 6th Internationalpublication date Fri Sep 04, 2009 14:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"To carry on a war for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie, a war which is a hundred times more difficult, protracted and complex than the most stubborn of ordinary wars between states, and to renounce in advance any change of tack, or any utilisation of a conflict of interests (even if temporary) among one’s enemies, or any conciliation or compromise with possible allies (even if they are temporary, unstable, vacillating or conditional allies)—is that not ridiculous in the extreme? Is it not like making a difficult ascent of an unexplored and hitherto inaccessible mountain and refusing in advance ever to move in zigzags, ever to retrace one’s steps, or ever to abandon a course once selected, and to try others? " V I LENIN

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Sun Sep 06, 2009 17:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

that no one has commented on Richard Boyd-Barrett's comments on Today FM


Maybe members of the SWP could explain the contradictory statements they have made here or is RBB on a solo run?

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Sun Sep 06, 2009 21:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What exactly did Boyd Barrett say on that radio programme of relevance to this discussion? I'm curious, but not so curious that I would listen to Lucinda Creighton to find out.

author by Walter Mittypublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 00:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Unity is not a luxury. It is a necessity. If we do not stand together we will pay the price for a crisis we did not cause."
Took this down from a Left Welsh site and it makes sense, given the situation we face in Ireland. In Britain, it's the BNP that's the big threat in many ways, arguably because the government has proven itself untrustworthy. Here, we have NAMA, an agreed bail-out for the banks and through them, the developers. Already at least one of them has signed away a couple of properties in his wife's name. The Left groups should stop looking at their various differences and look at what they have in common. Labour you can forget about. Some unions - SIPTU noticeably - you can also avoid. Surely there has never been a better time to pool our resources and create an effective front against bank-run parties such as Fianna Fáil and against the trades' unions who have abandoned their roots and their ideologies and want to shove us all into voting Yes for Lisbon 2 in rejection of our democratic rights.

author by Rationalpublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 09:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Walter you along with some others are proposing a false premise for this debate. You say that left unity is essential. The SWP have started this debate on the basis of an argument in favour of left unity. This debate should not be about left unity it should be about how to build a major socialist alternative that involves thousands of ordinary people not just those who are politically active. You say that we should forget about Labour, I agree but the swp don't agree with you. That is just one example of why we all can't just say okay lets get together, unite form a new alliance or party and get on with it because there are major disagreements on what the alliance or party should be, on what programme it should have, and its relationship with Labour.

author by Marcaspublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 13:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mark, RBB said that the left needed to wake up and get together to provide the electorate with an alternative to the Status Quo. He goes on to say that this unity should include Labour and Sinn Fein.

author by Rationalpublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 13:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Walter I would suggest you listen to the podcast above. In it Richard Boyd Barrett of the SWP/PBPA talks about the combined support for the left in Ireland being the independent Left, the Labour Party and Sinn Fein and that he would like to see that sort of an alternative.

This is not an unimportant difference. This is not something that anyone could try to claim is abstract. This is central to the discussion on the way forward for the left.

Labour and Sinn Fein are not left wing parties. Labour and Sinn Fein are both committed to being in coalition governments with Fianna Fail and or Fine Gael.

100 miles up the road Sinn Fein are in government implementing attacks on the working class and public services. Labour will most likely be in government with Fine Gael after the next election and will implement anti-working class policies. Yet Richard Boyd Barrett is arguing for unity with these parties!

author by Hearing Aid - -publication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 16:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think if you listen you'll hear that he actually says that there is a potential large left vote out there if you were to put the vote of sp, pbpa, sinn fein , labour etc together.
He does not call for unity between sinn fein labour etc.
Please be accurate

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 16:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A repeated point on this thread has been that the SWP would or might go into coalition with Labour. This is in face of the clear statement in the SWP's original document that, "The SWP promotes the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and is opposed to any participation in a government led by, not just the right, but by the centre left."

It is also in face of the actual support offered to Labour by the Socialist Party in the recent election of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Fingal County Council. When similarly approached by Labour In South Dublin County Council, Gino Kenny of the People Before Profit Alliance (and the SWP) did not vote for the Labour candidate. It is not clear if Gino was in line with the SWP on this as they say that "on ocassions" it is 100% correct to vote for Labour against the Right. Gino did the right thing, anyway.

A coalition government including the Labour Party is not exactly the same as a left alliance outside of the Dáil including the Labour Party. Though one could be seen as just waiting, or working, to become the other. If Richard advocated this on the radio he was on a solo run or was getting a little carried away. It happens on live radio and complete clarity cannot be expected. It is not the policy of the People Before Profit Alliance. Though something similar has been said more than once by the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group, which is close to the PBPA. Or, at least, by Seamis Healy. But again it is not clear whether it is thought out policy or off the cuff politics.

It is disapointing that when the SWP finally broke their relative silence on recent left unity initiatives, and in a relatively conciliatory manner, they were instantly met by a rehearsal of the DIFFERENCES with them and, more seriously, by a response in a hostile and contemptuous tone. It is not too late to go out and come in again.

author by Marcaspublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 16:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

He refers to the Labour/SF vote as a left vote just after he calls for left unity. Will the real SWP please stand up?

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 17:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It isn't remotely relevant if the SWP describe themselves as a "revolutionary socialist organisation" or for that matter as an organisation of astronauts. What I'm interested in is the politics of the kind of alliance they are proposing.

They go to great lengths in their statement to avoid opposing the formation of local government coalitions with Labour or Sinn Fein. You are reading into their self-description as revolutionaries an opposition to such coalitions but they don't actually say that.

The Socialist Party is opposed to such coalitions, whether in national or in local government (and no, it is not in a coalition with Labour in Fingal. It voted for a Labour candidate as a one off for local tactical reasons and did not agree to any further arrangement). This is not a nit-picking issue, Stabillo. The left does have councillors. It may soon have TDs. These questions will inevitably arise and will lead to very destructive rows if everyone isn't clear from the start about what any prospective alliance's attitude towards forming coalitions with Labour or SF is.

If, as you seem to imply, the SWP is in fact against forming local or national coalitions with Labour or SF, you will have to explain why they don't come out and explicitly say so. As far as I can tell, they don't say so because (a) they are not in fact against such coalitions as Boyd Barrett's interview suggests or (b) because they are desperate to form an alliance with people who are in favour of such coaitions (ie various ex-Labour or ex-Green councillors or the Healy organisation) and therefore regard the principle as expendable. If this is really not an issue of difference between us, well and good - but why isn't your organisation actually saying that?

Believe it or not, Stabillo, the differences between various left organisations do actually matter. The political basis of an alliance does actually matter. The organisational basis of an alliance does actually matter. Simply churning out vague calls for "unity" doesn't help anybody. Actual political discussion of significant political differences at this stage is important because otherwise those differences will bite us all in the arse in a unified organisation. I responded in some detail to the SWP's statement early on in this discussion - I've yet to get one single, solitary, serious response from a supporter of the SWP or of the PBPA.

The Socialist Party is in favour of an alliance that is explicitly socialist and explicitly working class in its politics. The SWP say nothing about that either way - they simply don't engage with the issue openly but instead give us their answer by their actions. So we have the PBPA, which isn't explicitly socialist or committed to class politics, in negotiations with a few random independent councillors about some broader alliance that seems likely to have even more watery politics. Why don't you actually engage with the politics of what we are saying rather than bemoaning the fact that everyone isn't just pretending to agree with each other?

Do you think that an alliance should be explicitly socialist?
Do you think that it should be committed to class politics?
Do you think that it should rule out coalitions, locally or nationally, with Labour?

These are simply questions, yet they are ones that the SWP/PBPA are strangely reluctant to address. Why don't you address them yourself?

author by swp memberpublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 18:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The SWP is not in favour of going into coalition with Labour or Sinn Fein. Either at local or national level. The SWP is however prepared to work with sections of either party in united campaigns, and in certain circumstances, vote for Labour in order to keep the right out, as Joe Higgins did.

Essentially the SWP want to relate to those reformist workers, who look to these parties as vehicles of change. We have no allusions in the Labour party at all. It will sell out workers as it always has. The SWP wants to work within the spirit of the united front; the Socialist Party prefers sideline sectarianism.

It is reminiscent of the Position taken by Communists in Ireland in the 1930's. They refused to speak on platforms with Labour party speakers and denounced them from the sidelines, the end result was that they didn’t put their politics and programme to those workers who looked to the Labour party.

To repeat, the SWP is not in favour of coalition with the centre left. Our strategy is informed by our desire to win people from these formations,

author by Kevin Higginspublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 18:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Point 1: Given that the issue here is left unity, the example of what happened over the water to RESPECT has to be relevant. The SWP are the major player in People Before Profit. They were accused by others on the left of pandering to George Galloway, not raising issues, in the interests of a kind of opportunistic unity. And then the whole thing ended in a messy divorce. It has to raise issues about the way the SWP operates and the likely end result, if they continue to use the same shallow political methods.

Point 2: In relation to Galloway himself. Here is a quote from a recent article on the Permanent Revolution site in the UK - I hold no brief for that organisation, but the article is relevant. It is about a demo which took place at Downing Street in relation to what has been going on in Iran:

"A HOPI [Hands off the People of Iran] leaflet produced for the demo reiterated the campaign's opposition to both a military attack on Iran and the current UN-backed sanctions against Tehran, while also stressing opposition to the reactionary, mullah-dominated state, which has made being gay a crime punishable by death. The HOPI leaflet made some sharp criticisms of MP George Galloway for his de facto apology for the Iranian regime's brutal homophobia on the Channel 5 programme, the Wright Stuff, and his scurrilous attack on Peter Tatchell, suggesting that Tatchell had become the leader of 'the pink contingent in the khaki war machine'."

The full article can be read here, though as I said I am not a member of that organisation

In this case Galloway was clearly supporting the oppressors against the oppressed. HOPI and Permanent Revolution were right to criticise him on this issue; it is something the Liam ógs of this world would never do.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Tue Sep 08, 2009 01:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SWP member:

Your comparisons with Communists in the 1930s and the like are simply silly and bear no relationship with the actual situation in Ireland today. The Socialist Party has no problem working in campaigns with individual members of the Labour Party, we do it reasonably regularly as you really should know. The issue of joint campaigning with the Labour Party leadership simply doesn't arise as there are no circumstances under which they will get involved in supporting working people's struggles - they are a right wing party after all and their leadership or public representatives simply don't get involved in such things.

Really that sort of stuff is a nonsense. SWP activists seem to think that all they have to do is shout that "we are trying to build a united front, you are sectarians" and somehow that ends an argument. You have to do better than that.

Now getting back to the issue of whether the SWP are in favour of local coalitions with Labour. You say that they are opposed to them. Well and good, hopefully some of your public representatives will take that to heart and will stop making rather ambiguous statements about the issue. And hopefully you are making this point vigorously in your apparently ongoing negotiations with the three or four independents you are talking to. If the SWP are willing to make it clear that they oppose in principle local government coalitions with Labour and Sinn Fein, then that's a potential obstacle to an alliance out of the way.

Other potential problems still exist though. Can you tell me for instance if you, as an SWP member, agree that an alliance should be explicitly committed to at least a minimal socialist platform and to class politics? Again this is something that the SWP seems very reluctant to discuss and of course it is currently the main force in People Before Profit which has a rather more watery political approach than the Socialist Party thinks is necessary, even in an alliance.

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Fri Sep 11, 2009 02:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mark P says, “It isn't remotely relevant if the SWP describe themselves as a "revolutionary socialist organisation" or for that matter as an organisation of astronauts. What I'm interested in is the politics of the kind of alliance they are proposing”. We might be closing the gap here. It is the essential politics of the alliance which an organisation proposes that counts and not the use of particular terminology by the proposing organisation, even about itself.

But then the opening of the comment is eclipsed by its closing, where Mark P says, “The Socialist Party is in favour of an alliance that is explicitly socialist and explicitly working class in its politics”. If that means that the SP is ruling out a coalition that is not EXPLICITLY socialist then their criteria is NOT the content and practice of the politics of the coalition but it’s self-description by the use of certain key words. If the coalition calls itself socialist it is socialist. Though of course Mark P would naturally not agree with such political gullibility. For “it is not REMOTELY relevant if the SWP describe themselves as ‘a revolutionary socialist organisation’” (my emphasis). [The tone of his reference to astronauts indicates a level of respect that can encourage no optimism about ANY comradely or even working relationship with the organisation referred to.]

Three questions from me too:

Is a party, formation or alliance socialist because it says it is socialist?
Can an organisation be socialist and working-class without explicitly referring to itself as such?
Must all political or electoral alliances in which socialists participate self-describe themselves as socialist?

Mark P and I would surely agree that ‘no’ is the answer to the first question.

To the second question. There are circumstances when the use of terminology is limited for tactical or legitimate propaganda purposes. In France for example ‘socialist’ would in casual parlance be associated with the French Socialist Party and would for many mean ‘social democratic’. Radical left organisations use the word ‘socialism’ about themselves, of course, in technical discussion, but the word does not in itself denote any deep change in France. Other terms need to be employed: anti-capitalist, revolutionary communist, Marxist, etc. Even ‘Communist’ is weak in France.

The Irish Socialist Party would sensibly not demand that even a Marxist organisation call itself ‘communist’, because ‘communist’ (the mark of Marx) has absorbed popularly misunderstandable connotations. The language of the left is historically conditioned like all language. Who asks now for a single in a chipper? Marx used communism as the first stage, and socialism as the ultimate stage, in the 1844 Manuscripts, before reversing the use of these words later. The Bolsheviks ditched the long-established and universal term for Marxist socialism, ‘Social Democracy’, when the Second International broke up over the Great War. In a complete change of use ‘social democracy’ became the instantly recognized words for reformism, Labour Parties and even the social conscience of Fine Gael. There is no organisation more familiar with the social and tactical redundancy of language than the Socialist Party, which quite sensibly abandoned its brand name of ‘Militant’ because media persecution had been so successful that the name was a hindrance. Without a doubt a drawback in the working class for the always sane and reasonable WSM is their insistence on, or principled attachment to, the term ‘anarchist’. It is just very difficult to get over the popular misunderstanding of the word.

As it happens, I do not think ‘socialism’ is too difficult or off-putting a word in contemporary Ireland. On the contrary I think the word should be promoted, even at a slight risk of misunderstanding, to put forward the notion that a complete alternative to capitalism is available and that this alternative has a long, experienced and definite tradition. (We are fortunate in Ireland to have a socialist icon, if that is not a contradiction in terms, readily accessible and respectable to ordinary people: James Connolly. Though even he has some new cultural barriers to get over. Che Guevara is perhaps hipper now. They should make that Connolly movie soon.)

However, can an organisation, party or alliance be socialist and working-class in effect without explicitly calling itself by the word 'socialist'? For the sake of this discussion we are talking about socialism in a broad sense, not marxist or revolutionary socialism, as we are discussing broad alliances in which marxist socialists would join or ally with others. Let us take as an example – the People Before Profit Alliance. Mark P's erudition will allow him to be familiar with the PBPA's Alternative Economic Agenda. The final section reads:


A new left political alternative is more urgent as every day passes. The People Before Profit Alliance is aiming to build that alternative and also to reach out to others on the left. Those on the radical left and independent activists need to put aside their differences and come together in campaigns, electoral alliances and a new political movement.

The crisis is by no means confined to Ireland despite the home focus of the media. The crisis is the result of an economic system which is based on a great contradiction. There is huge dependence of people on each other across the world, through the global system of production, for the goods needed to maintain our livelihoods.

Yet control lies in the hands of privileged groups who compete, speculate, gamble with funny money and exploit the rest of us. There is only one answer to that: to struggle to take control of the means of creating wealth into the hands of all the people, so that cooperation to produce things we need replaces competition for profit.

Only then can consumption and investment be kept in line with each other so as to stop crises of overproduction. Only then will we end the absurdity of poverty in the midst of plenty, of people having to consume less because too much is produced. Only then can we put democratic planning in the place of frenzied gambling with people's houses, jobs and debts.” End of quote.

What is this but marxist political economy; pure, unadulterated red revolutionary class conscious rabble rousing socialism?!! I shall let the reader judge. The PBPA has produced a leaflet on the cuts proposed by An Bórd Snip. Here are some extracts:

“What is now required is a full break from these policies by developing popular support for a series of anti-capitalist economic measures which can alleviate social suffering. The alternative to Bord Snip must therefore start from the fact that private capitalism has failed and is unlikely to create significant numbers of jobs in the future. Instead of cuts we need a decisive extension of the public sector to protect the living standard of the majority.”

“Develop a planned economy built on public enterprise that can re-build Ireland’s manufacturing base after the failure of private capitalism.” End of quote.

This is left social democratic socialism at the very least (and even the SP’s projected mass workers’ party will not be required to be explicitly revolutionary to begin with.)

It is simply untrue and unfair to maintain that PBP is a milk and water, talking-not-walking outfit. Let the general reader make up their own mind by a perusal of its policies and a review of its actions and activities, for all their shortcomings. As for the working class orientation and militancy of the PBPA I will refer to only one more example: the film of Councillor Bríd Smith addressing the mass trespass at MTL (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJzKLp2YlQM ; there, now she's got an injunction). Bríd Smith is a PBP Councillor, not an SWP Councillor as such. Here are the SIMILARITIES with the Socialist Party and other left groups, which persist beside the undoubted and, at this time, arguably INESSENTIAL differences.

Can socialists participate in parties and political alliances that are not explicitly 'socialist'?

The Socialist Party’s sister party in England and Wales is a fully committed component of ‘No2EU - Yes to Democracy’, a “coalition of trade unionists, political parties and campaigning groups” which stood candidates in the recent European election. I would not demand that they withdraw from this electoral alliance (which appears to have stayed together after the election as a more permanent body), but it does not describe itself explicitly as socialist. Actually its statement on the economic crisis includes the following: “Nation states with the right to self-determination and their governments are the only institutions that can control the movement of big capital and clip the wings of the trans-national corporations and banks” (http://www.no2eu.com/economiccrisis.html ). Its ‘about us’ statement says, incidentally, “We will not sit in the European parliament in the event of winning any seats. Our candidates will only nominally hold the title MEP and will not board the notorious EU gravy train”. This is presumably a case of socialists entering a wider alliance for the good of progressing the overall movement even though they might not agree with all the policies and positions of the alliance itself. Some Irish socialists have adopted a similar course of action in relation to the PBPA and any wider alliance that might ensue. There is already an example, within the SP’s own International, of socialists in Britain doing it, an example for the SP to follow here. The British example has been very innovative indeed as ‘No2EU – Yes to Democracy’ included a Councillor from the small Liberal Party, Steve Radford, on the North West England slate. Catherine Connolly and Declan Bree might have a problem with such a slate, unless they could drop insignificant imperfections for the sake of building a significant left alternative.

It is interesting that the CWI group (corresponding to the Socialist Party here) in Germany is for participation in Die Linke, to the extent of battling their way in against apparent exclusion. So there is no opposition in principle to participation in a broad party (Die Linke) which even the SWP would characterise as left reformist. But of course, entry into even a right reformist party (the Labour Party prior to expulsion) is not a problem in principle. And the creation of a mass, and presumably broadbased, workers' party is stated SP policy. So the argument about unity and organisational collaboration cannot be in principle about who you associate with in a left party, or even the nature of the policies of the party (whether revolutionary or reformist, socialist or social democratic), but, presumably, a tactical one about the timing for a new left party or alliance and the likelyhood of the support it would attract at this or that time.

On Die Linke, the following extract from an article by the guardian of IST (SWP International) doctrine, Alex Collinicos, in Issue 122, March 2009, of the SWP journal 'International Socialism', might offer a different slant on positions adopted in the German party.

"Similarly it [an explicitly anti-capitalist party ] is not on the agenda in Germany today. Does that mean that our comrades in Marx21 are wrong to throw themselves enthusiastically into building Die Linke? Again, absolutely not. They are right to seek to try to develop Die Linke in the most militant and dynamic way possible. ... Our comrades take a principled position of opposition to participation in centre-left governments. But what they refused to do, before the formation of Die Linke, was to allow the wrong policy of the PDS in participating in social-liberal state governments in Berlin and elsewhere to be used as a pretext, as it was, for example, by the local Committee for a Workers’ International group, [the SP affiliate in Germany] for attempting to prevent the creation of the new party. Were they wrong about that? Would it have been better if ... ‘a step forward’ hadn’t taken place? Once again the question answers itself." End quote.

Readers might allow a substantial quotation from the declaration of the Campaign for a New Workers Party (supported by the Socialist Party in England and Wales) to illustrate how unity can be forged on broad and open but vital grounds without prior agreement on all matters:

“We believe it would be wrong, at this early stage, to attempt to predetermine the structure or every aspect of a new party. That can only be decided on the basis of democratic debate leading to agreement amongst the forces involved.
However, if it is to be successful, it is crucial that a new party, and any pre-party formations, be open, democratic and welcoming to all those who want to work together against the neo-liberal onslaught on the working class. This means that all groups and individuals, provided they are in agreement with the basic aims of the party, should have the right to democratically organise and argue for their point of view.
This approach will help to ensure that the new formation is attractive to trade unionists, community and environmental campaigners, and anti-war activists. Most importantly it will assist in reaching out to workers and to young people who are not yet active in struggle. In this way we can unite the strongest possible forces to build a powerful working-class party that is capably of effectively opposing the anti-union laws, cuts, privatisation, environmental degradation and war.
We believe that such a party would represent a fundamental break with the big business parties which currently dominate politics, giving workers the opportunity to resist the neo-liberal agenda and fight for a socialist programme.”

End of quote, and very well said.

Mark P says:

“They [the SWP] go to great lengths in their statement to avoid opposing the formation of local government coalitions with Labour or Sinn Fein. You are reading into their self-description as revolutionaries an opposition to such coalitions but they don't actually say that.”

When it is pointed out that some SP writers on this thread have not read the SWP document they are commenting on where it says that the SWP is against a coalition with the centre left (Labour and Sinn Féin) there is no acknowledgment of the mistake they have continually made, but instead a new problem is introduced, a refinement of the old: that the SWP are not opposed to the formation of LOCAL government coalitions with Labour or Sinn Féin! Or rather that the SWP “go to great lengths in their statement to avoid opposing the formation of local government coalitions with Labour or Sinn Fein”. Surely the reason that the formation of local government coalitions does not figure in the SWP statement is that the question did not even arise, no more than the SWP’s position on climate change or corporal punishment in school arose in that particular document. There is no evidence of any lengths, great or small, in their statement to keep out this matter out. There is a strong impression from introducing this new matter of shifting the goalposts and of having the goalposts perpetually shifted by an adversary that will not concede or even engage meaningfully no matter what. And, again, the irony is that while the SWP are damned for not explicitly opposing a local coalition, it is the SP who actually voted for a Labour Party (capitalist party) Mayor of Fingal (for tactical reasons!), while the SWP member on South Dublin County Council refused to do the same!

One can hear, as they are created, the fashioning of new rationalizations for avoiding a left alliance that includes the great rival left current. We do not hear so much now of the absence of the objective conditions for a new broad left formation, for the objective conditions have changed beyond all recognition over the past year and the yawning maw that is the need for a new and substantial lead from a combined left is undeniable. Yet without this ‘timing’ factor what ‘subjective’ factors blocking alliances with less than angels can there be that have not been overcome by comrades elsewhere?

Of course the differences between organisations matter. Some socialists, organised or otherwise, are no more going to join the SWP than they are going to join the SP. It is the similarities that are more important at this time. And it is those parties which facilitate, however temporarily or conditionally, the possibility of unity in diversity, without loss of principle, that will gather to them, however cautiously, those who want a broad gathering of numbers large enough to begin to make a real difference.

Without doubt there are members of the Socialist Party who would be favourable to the thrust of the SWP’s statement. It would be good to hear from them, even under a pseudonym.

The call for unity in the SWP’s statement is not vague. There are nine bullet points around which they propose they can ally with the SP.

If after I engaged with, and even offered a factual correction to, this discussion and Mark P maintains nevertheless that he has “yet to get one single, solitary, serious response from a supporter of the SWP or of the PBPA” I despair of my giddyness or, perhaps, that there is any dialogue going on at all here.

The PBPA is in negotiation with a little more than “a few random independent councillors”.

Demanding direct personal answers, with a pointed finger, of your opponent is not a style of political discussion that I wish to indulge. Especially as I suspect that no possible answer would be satisfactory. But for the record:

"Do you think that an alliance should be explicitly socialist?"

Yes, I do. If the alliance refused to use the word ‘socialist’ about itself, that would not in itself be sufficient to send me out.

"Do you think that it should be committed to class politics?"

Yes, and I think in that regard the policies of the PBPA can stand beside the policies in, say, the declaration of the Socialist Party (England and Wales) sponsored Campaign For A New Workers Party. I invite fair minded readers to compare them at http://www.people-before-profit.org/node/2 and http://www.cnwp.org.uk/Declaration.htm .

"Do you think that it should rule out coalitions, locally or nationally, with Labour?"

Yes, I do. And I think, unlike the SP and the SWP, that there is no valid argument (this side of the unanticipated reemergence of an organised Labour left) for supporting Labour Party candidates for official political positions in local or national government.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Sep 11, 2009 07:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A remarkably wordy reply, Stabillo, even by my standards, but for all the verbiage you don't actually appear to be saying much.

Yes, of course, most of what we are discussing are tactical issues, rather than issues of principle. Tactical issues however can be very important. In this case, the politics and organisational of any alliance, who it orients to, what purpose it is to serve, are all tactical issues but they are tactical issues that matter. Left alliances themselves are purely tactical and in no way a principled imperative.

So of course, I don't think it's unprincipled to form an alliance on a low political level. I think it's an unnecessary concession. People Before Profit, for instance, avoids any mention of socialism or class politics for what are presumably tactical (or opportunistic) reasons. Its programme, such as it is, is a list of not particularly coherent reforms and its self-presentation is as a sort of leftish liberal community group (see for instance the liberal main slogan "A voice for people, community and environment"). If that was all that was possible in current circumstances and there was some good reason for doing so, then I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with it at least in principle.

Take No2EU for example. That organisation had a name and a programme that the Socialist Party would never have dreamed of putting forward itself. The Socialist Party nevertheless participated in it, because it involved a major national trade union taking the first steps towards reestablishing working class political representation. Without the RMT's involvement, the Socialist Party likely wouldn't have been involved either. As you point out, it's a tactical issue. The Left Party in Germany, is a mass class-based party involving substantial parts of the workers movement. Despite its frankly dire politics it is worth engaging with because of the forces it involves. I do not accept that some equally significant tactical imperative exists in Ireland at the moment to form an alliance which isn't socialist and isn't based firmly and clearly on class politics. We can set our political sights higher.

People Before Profit, as I understand it consists almost entirely of people who would consider themselves to be socialists. Even the people they are trying to form an even broader alliance with probably mostly consider themselves to be the same (Declan Bree for example). What real forces within PBPA necessitate ditching both explicit references to socialism and class politics, and indeed much of the content of those terms? As Joe Higgins' European election results demonstrate it is possible for socialist electoral campaigns to have a real impact at the moment. We don't need to pretend to be something else, and indeed pretending to be something else is counterproductive in that it removes much of the point of standing in elections - popularising socialist arguments.

Unfortunately the small forces assembled in the PBPA seem to want it both ways. You want to present yourselves to the electorate in a non-threatening, non-socialist, non-class based way but you simultaneously object strongly to being described as such by others on the left. I'm afraid that others will judge you on your actions rather than your preferences. If PBPA is, as you insist, really underneath the disguise socialist and devoted to class politics then why would you have any problem acceding to the Socialist Party's proposals that any wider alliance be so? Wouldn't the PBPA response be simply "Yes of course we want a Socialist alliance, yes of course we want it to have a working class orientation and we have no problem making that explicit?" The reason they don't do that, in my view, is that much of the PBPA's current role is as a disguise, allowing the SWP and its close allies to stand candidates on a sub-reformist programme without what they see as the burden of scary words like socialist or class. The Socialist Party isn't interested in doing that.

The Socialist Party is not raising issues of programme, of politics, of organisation because it enables us to avoid having an alliance. We don't have to do that - if we weren't interested in an alliance we would simply say so as we have done at other stages in the past when we didn't think having one would serve any purpose. We proposed an alliance before the local elections because we thought it could be useful - although we were of course turned down by the very people who had been waffling vaguely about "unity" beforehand, people who incidentally made no proposals of their own. We are talking about an alliance now, because although we think it would only be a starting point on the way to a more significant new party, we do think it could serve a useful role in current circumstances. But it will only serve a useful role if the politics, the organisational approach and the orientation are right.

Unity at any cost, on any basis, is not worthwhile and in my experience will generally do more damage than good. If you - meaning both you personally and the wider SWP and PBPA - are really interested in an alliance you should regard serious discussion about programme and organisation as a welcome opportunity and not as an irritation or a delaying tactic. Politics do actually matter. Organisational structures do actually matter. If we aren't clear about our political perspective, about our principles and about our tactical outlook, then we are storing up trouble down the line. What happens when some councillor wants to negotiate a deal with Fine Gael or Labour for instance? What about the North? How do we make decisions? Is the alliance to be socialist in its politics? These things all matter and will need to be discussed in detail if an alliance is to be worth having. Unfortunately the SWP document has almost nothing to say about the politics of any new alliance. About two sentences in fact.

author by pbpa supporter - pbpapublication date Fri Sep 11, 2009 09:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Stabillo- well written piece.
I'm afraid though that as you prob expected Mark P (SP) will never be satisfied with any answer he gets. I think Stabillo made a clear argument above.
Take Mark P's comment: "Unfortunately the small forces assembled in the PBPA seem to want it both ways. You want to present yourselves to the electorate in a non-threatening, non-socialist, non-class based way but you simultaneously object strongly to being described as such by others on the left. I'm afraid that others will judge you on your actions rather than your preferences"

I'm afraid Mark P never answered any of the 3 questions Stabillo posed and that in fact for Mark P, being Socialist in name proves you are socialist in reality. Should anyone read the SP election material- apart from Socialist Party in the title- there is little difference in the content -with PBPA literature- both saying essentially the same thing (BOTH calling for a vote for Joe Higgins infact!).
It appears from Mark's finger wagging responses that unless you have the WORDS socialist and class politics and working class splashed all over your literature then you ain't socialist.
Please mark show me where sp election literature differs significantly to pbpa literature?

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Please mark show me where sp election literature differs significantly to pbpa literature?"

No to the capitalist market that promotes greed over public need. For socialism, where the natural resources, the banks and key sectors of the economy are taken into democratic working class ownership and control. For a democratic socialist plan to provide for the needs of the majority and create a society based on co-operation not competition.

Maybe you can outline a similar statement on PBP material.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

PBPA supporter:

Let's leave the Socialist Party out of this for a moment. Directly comparing our two organisations at this point in the discussion is almost guaranteed to produce more heat than light. Compare PBP with the SWP instead. Do you remember the election literature the SWP used to put out? Now compare it to the literature put out by the PBPA. I'm sure you can see the difference for yourself. Now ask yourself what those changes signify.

I am well aware that not every organisation which describes itself as "socialist" is in fact socialist. I think though that when an organisation goes to such lengths to avoid describing themselves as socialist we can reasonably come to the conclusion that they are not laying claim to the concept. To give another example, replacing workers or working class with "people", as in "a voice for people, community and environment" is actually a change in content and not simply in nomenclature - the two terms mean different things.

It really is amusing to encounter this argument from SWP or PBP supporters. On the one hand you change your approach quite drastically, watering down both your language and your demands. This didn't happen by accident. The SWP didn't just collectively wake up one morning and find that someone had deleted all the references to socialism and many of their "harder" political demands from their election leaflets. They made a conscious, political, decision to change their approach. To then get on your high horse and start claiming that nothing has changed when someone criticises you is hilariously dishonest. The PBPA's politics are, in the SWP's own words, what they believe to be "the minimum revolutionary socialists can accept". Think about what that necessarily means. They clearly understand the PBPA's politics to be different, weaker, more watered down than their own and it seems to be alright for them to say it. But if someone on the outside says it critically? Outrage.

One of the side effects of this is that SWP or PBP supporters in this discussion tend to be less than clear in their arguments in favour of PBP. They find themselves simultaneously trying to justify changes in politics and denying that those changes mean anything. You can have one, but not both.

But all of this is rather off the point, unless you are arrogant enough to think that a new alliance would simply be an expanded PBP. We don't have to agree with the politics and approach of the PBP or of the SWP to be interested in an alliance - we didn't agree with PBP's electoral approach before the locals but we still made serious proposals to it for an alliance. What we do have to be able to do is to discuss areas of political agreement and disagreement. It is actually common ground between the SWP and the Socialist Party that the PBP's politics are weaker than those of a Marxist organisation, that political concessions have been made in other words. A key issue for discussion if we are all serious about an alliance is whether all of those concessions are necessary. The Socialist Party doesn't think that they are.

In my view this discussion would be more productive if SWP or PBP supporters explained why they think they are necessary rather than doing a bit of that and then trying to deny that political concessions have been made in the first place.

author by Anonymouspublication date Fri Sep 11, 2009 11:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wish the SWP would spend less time conversing with the SP, and more time encouraging their members to get involved in campaigns like Shell to Sea, Anti-Racism etc. alongside their SWP meetings, public meetings, and stalls. If you are a revolutionary socialist, why are you so wrapped up in politics? You should be out there on the streets where the revolution is going to happen, with the ordinary people that will MAKE it happen. These are the things that SHOULD be important to a revolutionary party.. not issues such as 'should we support Labour candidates or not', I mean, PLEASE.

I'll just say one thing, Labour (Eamon Gilmore) backed the education cuts. The answer is clear, now move on and help the people that need it the most right now to get this revolution started.

author by Michael Gallagherpublication date Mon Sep 14, 2009 09:58author email libertypics at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have read and re-read all the posts on here and have to say that this thread is a well worth the exercise and should continue.

From my persperctive as an ex-member of the both the SWP (SWM at the time) and the SP, I saw faults in both parties, the major one being a lack of a certain amount of inner democracy. I don't know if that has changed.

Back in the early nineties, having observed both Militant and the SWM and seeing them at the same demos, strikes etc, I couldn't fail to notice how very similar they were. So I decided to join one of them and asked a senior member of the SWP (who shall remain nameless) why they were not one organisation and what were the differences? He 'advised' me that on a picket line for instance, that Militant would rant and rave about the issues, but the SWM would talk to people and try and educate them on how to win disputes.
I found the ranting and raving to be true in both groups/parties, but I put that down to over enthusiasm and ignorance of young individual members. Having said that, the SWM member was a bit disingenuous, but as I say, that was in the early nineties.
One of the reasons I left the SWP was that after doing some ok work in the North Inner City, (like getting people interested in joining, selling the paper etc), one person who trusted me with her personal details wasn't very happy (to say the least) when she was getting phone calls to her workplace about "joining the movement". A senior member of the party was responsible for that, no brownie points there. I don't know if that has changed, but my naivety has.
The practice of asking people to sign petitions and for personal details irritates me and is also disingenuous. People sign petitions on the understanding that they are being put to use for some cause, not for party political reasons. Done in the right way, petitions have their uses and can be effective. For instance, the No Lisbon petitions doing the rounds at the moment could be used as part of a survey of NO voters in this referendum, very useful PR.
So maybe some of the above are reasons why both parties have/had a large turnover of memberships, in particular the SWP?

Regarding coalitions/alliances etc, at the moment there are many people from some parties and none doing very effective work for the VOTE NO campaign as they have on this and other issues in the past -no civil wars yet. The only reason I would not work with anyone in the Labour Party or Sinn Féin is if they try to exploit or undermine the campaigns. So for tactical reasons, voting for a Labour lord mayor (depending on the situation) wouldnt be the crime of the century if it meant keeping out FF or FG etc. If you are going to tell us why each of you did this or that, we need some more information before we can make a judgement, but I hope the petty sniping can be buried.
Wasn't Connolly biting the ears off Pearse on the benefits of socialism up to the day of the rising? And Pearse was no dyed in the wool socialist. If their was a chance of swaying any left leaning politician to the cause, wouldnt any genuine socialist work with them?
From what I have read here, the biggest obstacles seems to be trust and tactics, in the meantime a lot of babies have been thrown out with the bathwater, but we all make mistakes, if we don't we don't learn.

Just one question for the main spokespeople of the SWP and SP here, are you consulting with anyone in your parties about this thread? I would love to hear what the opinons are of Joe Higgins, Richard Boyd Barrett, Joan Collins etc.
Joe's, 'the time is not right' for unity seems a bit vague for such an important issue as this.

On the future, have you even considered setting up a steering group including individuals to co-ordinate future activities? There is an election just around the corner.

We don't own socialism, we are just minding it.

Photos essays etc on workers rights etc @ http://www.myspace.com/libertypix

author by Karl Marx thought outside the boxpublication date Tue Sep 15, 2009 14:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I just read the main 2 articles this is about. It's worth working to build a left alliance - it hands choice back to people and would offer an alternative to the mostly right-wing crap on offer. It might take hard work - or maybe not! But get it together and I'll be able to put my vote to use.

author by Michael Gallagher - Not Votes Alone....publication date Tue Sep 15, 2009 17:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's more than votes that are needed, people need to get involved. A community group, a trade union, a political party even? Educate and activate, neighbours, friends, even enemies.

author by Fred Johnstonpublication date Wed Sep 16, 2009 16:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I believe that if there had been more agreement amongst the various components of the Left in this country a solid front could have been established against Lisbon which - one lives in hope! - would have dragged the power-conscious Labour Party into an accomodation with those elements of socialism they have so readily abandoned. Well, it's an idea. Though I won't personally vote Labour again.

author by peter - nonepublication date Thu Sep 17, 2009 14:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

From the argument above it seems that 1. The SWP are looking for an alliance but they seem to think the SP are not interested for sectional reasons. That is they want to grow their own party instead of a class based party.
And 2. The SP say they are for an alliance but the SWP are calling for a non-socialist RESPECT type lliance.

The answer is simple to me. Th SWP should call for a SOCIALIST ALLIANCE along the lines of what the SP said they are for.
IF the SP refuse to come on board then we know it is pure sectarianism. The swp are socialist anyway sowhy don't yo give it a try?


author by Peterpublication date Thu Sep 17, 2009 15:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would join such an alliance tomorrow, I'm not interested in either the SP or SWP top down politics, but I think the two factions in a party willbalance each other out and give room for ideas from bottom up.

author by Carlos - Rifondazione Comunista Italiapublication date Thu Sep 17, 2009 16:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Communism is the son of socialism which is the son of republicanism.

Sinn Fein is the revolutionary party. There might be others but everybody has to converge to Sinn Fein.

As a member of Rifondazione Comunista i had the honor and the privilege to campaign with my comrades of Sinn Fein. The best people i have ever met. Their policy is the one every single left party should follow.

Every time i think to freedom i remember there is still a chance because Sinn Fein and all the people like them who fight when others want to achieve a bribe , job or a career.

There are three stages resistance, liberation and revolution.

Don’t claim to be socialist if you don’t fight for your country!

As Che Guevara said: The only justice is the revolutionary one!

Respect to IRSP and Eirigi! And of course for The IRA, INLA!

author by Michael Gallagherpublication date Thu Sep 17, 2009 17:13author email libertypics at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Labour Party showed their true credentials for genuine socialists when they 'removed' Militant (now SP) from the party. Some of that 'old guard' are still in the Labour Party with many new recruits, but it's a Long Playing record and time will tell.

You don't have to blow up a child just because her father is an enemy policeman for an enemy statelet. You don't have to kneecap some misguided youth just to get your point across and get another young suicide as a result. May they rest in peace.

With the right people, in the right places and during the right circumstances, genuine socialism can be achieved peacefully.

No to Lisbon, No to NAMA and No to political hypocrites, the worst kind of 'socialists'.

Photo essays etc on workers rights etc @ http://myspace.com/libertypix

Thanks for looking.

author by northernerpublication date Fri Sep 18, 2009 16:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

no sign of socialism at all!

author by CyberTrotpublication date Fri Sep 18, 2009 19:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If Carlos were representative of members of PRC, I think that would explain the collapse of Rifondazione in and of itself. If Sinn Fein are his idea of what a left party should be, I don't see what they have to offer Italian workers.

author by Michael Gallagherpublication date Sat Sep 19, 2009 10:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

....now there's a word. Carlos, you are wrong about Sinn Fein. Check out the SP website for their latest high profile recruit, if you have already, look again.

author by Carlos - Rifondazione Comunista publication date Sun Sep 20, 2009 08:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The error that the italian Comunist ans Socialist party has made is abandoning every attempt of revolution. If you don´t trust Sinn Fein get organized as you wan´t but remeber there is only a way and it is not working only trough the parliament. Besides, in some cases you can youse the parliament to aquire a kind of legitibility. Nevertheless, you need more levels of actions like movements, campaigns, unions and a military organization of course. On the whole, the final traget for socialism and comunism is a revolution or you´ll end up doing like rifondazione.


author by Michael Gallagherpublication date Sun Sep 20, 2009 09:03author email libertypics at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

...to just say WOW? If so, well then WOW to the last Carlos comments.

Carlos, will you clarify (explain) your last comment please, do you mean the Italian Socialist Party or the Irish Socialist Party?

The SP and the SWP have gone very quiet. Can you give us an update on your latest views (without giving away any 'delicate negotiating' positions).

We are hearing of more spanners in works re a Lisbon group...over to you SWP.....true or false?

Yesterday was a brilliant NO to NAMA march -and great speeches by all-, new photo essay up soon .

author by FrustratedLeftiepublication date Sun Sep 20, 2009 10:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

as you niggle about things and split hairs here, the lisbon yes contingent in the polls is rising and nama is being passed. By the time you are through arguing and realise that you have pressing common goals and that once lisbon and nama are passed, life will not be the same for socialists of any title in ireland afterwards, it will be too late. there is reason enough for a temporary unified front to try and stop this legislation. you can continue your hair splitting afterwards.

The Irish people need left unity right now. Do you just want to ignore that pressing need and continue to squabble? If so, what real meaning have your high socialist principles in practice, in the face of our real class enemies as they lock us securely into the iron maiden of nama and lisbon?

author by Michael Gallagher - Photographer publication date Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:19author email libertypics at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone 00353 (0) 86 4048249Report this post to the editors

....ponder these thoughts? Will we put it in our minds to make a committment to prepare for a public conference in a very large hall somewhere in Dublin? Will we put it in our minds to have an open meeting on where we go from here?

There are thousands who wish to aspire to and be part of a genuine socialist unified movement. Thousands inside and outside of 'socialist' political parties, (whatever name they give themselves) who would like to attend and join that movement, maybe not the first public meeting, but over a period.

The No to NAMA rally was a very good indicator of the simmering anger that is rising as every day passes. People are looking for leadership and unity. Put an end to this petty bickering and walking away from the propects of that unity.
Will we all admit to our mistakes, learn from them, put them in the dustbin, leave that dustbin of mistakes at the rubbish dump and make a committment to take that next vital step towards the unity of genuine socialists?

At least three or four weeks after the referendum should be amble time for recharging our batteries and make preparations for the first meeting, the first step. It's just a meeting, not a committment to unity. Invite the public and let the public, -voters and potential socialist revolutionaries- hear what has to be said and let the people have their have their say at all of the meetings. It's time to test the waters.

As was said by someone else in an earlier post, "a bottom up approach is needed", guiding the ship of socialism, with an honest steering wheel of democratic leadership, a leadership of integrity and committment to the cause and goal.
The working class people of this island know we have been sold a dud by Bertie Ahern, Albert Reynolds, Dick Spring, John Bruton, Brian Cowan, Mary Harney, John Gormley, Michael McDowell, Enda Kenny, Eamonn Gilmore, Gerry Adams, John Hume, Ian Paisley, David Trimble and Bill Clinton etc etc. We appreciate the relatively quiet period we now call peace, but it's a sectarian peace, a peace at a price, a peace achieved by the the people of this island who are paying the price for this quiet period that is labelled 'peace'.

We need to organise for socialist unity now, so as to build on this quiet period to achieve our ultimate goal of unity.
A peaceful genuine Socialist Ireland, achieved in a peaceful way, with social, economic, political justice and liberty for all who want to be part of that genuinely Socialist Ireland, which will be owned by the people of Ireland
They said it all in one line...... "......cherish all the children of the nation equallly....".

Take that step towards socialist unity. It can be done.

This photo is copyleft, ie: free for good use. Commercial users © Michael Gallagher 2009
This photo is copyleft, ie: free for good use. Commercial users © Michael Gallagher 2009

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Mon Sep 21, 2009 15:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Michael, I second that.

They are doing exactly what you propose in...wait for it.... Britain, the home and main source of our fractious left sectarianism. Look at this link: http://www.conventionoftheleft.org/home.htm

The Convention of the Left is bringing together all the main groups, including some trade union bodies and campaigns, and including the SWP and the SP, in a Conference on 'Capitalism in Crisis: The Left’s Response' in Brighton on 26th September. Yes we can.

author by CSI Dub stylepublication date Mon Sep 21, 2009 23:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Stabillo Boss as usual the with the SWP what you have claimed is not quite the whole truth! This is a one day gathering of sections of the left and not so left. It is not a convention to form a new alliance or a new party. And if you look at the sponsors list you will see a few glaring absences, such as the Socialist Party and the RMT.

This is an article from The Socialist, the paper of the Socialist Party in England and Wales. It outlines moves towards standing candidates in the next general election that involves potentially three trade unions.

The Socialist 16 September 2009

Discussing an election coalition

In an interview in the Saturday Times, Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT transport workers' union, announced that he has had informal talks with pensioners' groups, students' organisations, green campaigners, socialists and other union representatives to draw up a joint manifesto for a 'workers' alliance' to contest some seats in the forthcoming general election.

Speaking on the eve of the annual TUC, in Liverpool, he said that working-class voters had been abandoned by all the main political parties and as a result some were turning to the BNP. "We would be putting up policies that we believe people want. What our members vote for is their democratic right but we certainly can't just sit back and say 'vote Labour'."

On 12 September a meeting, sponsored by Camden 3 RMT Branch, was held on the future of political representation for the working class. Representatives from London RMT branches, the RMT presidential candidate and member of the Council of Executives Alex Gordon, along with the RMT Regional Organiser London Transport, Steve Hedley attended.

It was agreed that a campaign for an election coalition be taken to branches through a draft resolution. We need to get the democratic involvement of the rank and file in our union and in other unions. It was reported that as well as the RMT, the Prison Officers Association (POA) may be involved.

RMT activists from the Socialist Party pointed out that the Socialist Party would normally stand candidates in the general election but would fully support a democratic coalition of trade union, community groups, left Greens and Socialist candidates standing on an agreed minimum programme. No one group should dominate such a coalition and each group should be allowed to produce its own material as well as distributing the agreed manifesto and material.

The meeting felt that we are not strong enough to stand everywhere, as only the RMT is involved at the moment and maybe the POA (although there are moves within the Communications Workers' Union, especially in the London region). But some electoral challenge needs to be made.

A representative conference has been called by the RMT on Saturday 7 November in Camden, central London to discuss political representation. The meeting agreed to build support for this amongst activists in the RMT and in other unions.
John Reid, RMT, personal capacity

author by Waynepublication date Tue Sep 22, 2009 00:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Get out and campaign on the Lisbon Treaty and stop wasting time bogged down in stuff while the yes side is constantly getting more coverage. We must beat them so to all you armchair revolutionaries just do the country some service and help get a second no vote.

author by Michael Gallagher - Armchair Revolutionary and Street Empowermenterspublication date Tue Sep 22, 2009 09:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

CSI - Dub style. I haven't had time to check that link or read all your response, just a quick reply here before I run out the door with my work and some VOTE NO leaflets stashed in my pocket.

I had an idea he was from the SWP, they are still playing silly games it seems. Which cap fits, does either of their caps fit? Either? How many caps have they got?
I had a problem at the No to NAMA rally on Saturday, yes there was a member of the SWP about, but I don't know if she behaved that way with her SWP cap on or her PBP cap on, maybe we might get some straight and honest answers later when I fill you in?

Regarding Wayne, what can I say? if you refer yourself to the title of the organisation at the top of my comment? Can you think of a better name?
I can't think of anyone that would spend their whole time on indymedia (except the editors of course) and maybe some members of the SWP/PBP/-/-/? Looks like rain, now where's me cap........

I hope this gets past the editors.

author by Stabillo Bosspublication date Wed Sep 23, 2009 00:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

He is not a member of the SWP. Faulty forensics.

It is not quite true that the SP is not involved with the Convention of the Left Conference. If you follow the link you will see that the poster/flyer for the Conference on the first page contains the name, in very small type, of the Campaign for a New Workers' Party, which has roughly the same relationship to the Socialist Party in England as the People Before Profit Alliance has to the SWP here. Also in that list is Solidarity in Scotland, in which the Socialist Party is a component.

No one claimed the Convention of the Left Conference was about establishing an alliance or a party. The claim was that it was doing what Michael was calling for here, having an open gathering of the left to discuss where we go from here, and that the SP was participating. Michael's proposal should be taken seriously.

After viciousness we have another attempt to shut discussion up: the assertion that we should be all out campaigning against Lisbon and not bothering about things like left unity or a new left alternative. Keep running around while the Central Committees do the thinking for you, if you like, but no amount of directionless freneticism is going to stop Lisbon being accepted at this stage. Though that grim certainty is not stopping contributors here from actively campaigning for the best 'no' vote possible in the referendum, OR from finding the time to think about and discuss what we do in the longer term, after the latest campaign has ended.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just to clarify something:

The Socialist Party in Britain's attitude towards the "Convention of the Left" is essentially one of complete indifference. If other people in organisations the Socialist Party supports (like Solidarity or the Campaign for a New Workers Party) want to be involved in the "Convention", the Socialist Party certainly isn't going to bother arguing against them or trying to talk them out of it, but it isn't itself interested in it one way or the other.

The "Convention of the Left" is a talking shop, in which members and ex-members of different left groups speechify at each other. It makes no decisions and comes to no conclusions and encourages a certain type of inward-looking windbaggery people who've been around the left for a while will recognise instantly. The Socialist Party isn't opposed to it - it just doesn't care about it one way or the other. If small left groups want to spend a day boring each other that is their right and their business.

Having been to a previous incarnation of the Convention I can safely say that it was one of the least productive and interesting days I've spent in quite a while. The format, with no motions and little focus seemed almost designed to encourage endless waffling. Here's a safe prediction for you: The Brighton CotL will be small and nothing of significance will come out of it.

author by eh man - -publication date Thu Sep 24, 2009 15:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mark P said "The Brighton CotL will be small and nothing of significance will come out of it." Both the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party were involved in the organising og the Anti-NAMA march in Dublin on the 19th of this month and were unable to bring more than 1500 people onto the streets between them, despite the undoubted anger that exists against NAMA, never mind the fear that people are experiencing.
To read the contributions from members of both parties on this thread, you'd imagine they were something to aspire to.
Get over yourselves, both of you and either organise a joint approach to overcoming the attacks from big business or get out of the way and stop clogging Indymedia up with your crap!

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Sep 24, 2009 17:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What a charming response from our anonymous friend.

If you were so unimpressed by the NAMA march last weekend, and indeed if you are so unimpressed by the existing left organisations, no doubt you will be organising a better march and creating better, more significant organisations any moment now, right? It seems a little strange that here you are still reading at comment number 108 in a discussion about the Socialist Party and SWP when you clearly have more important things to be spending your time on.

author by eh man - -publication date Thu Sep 24, 2009 18:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Actually, Mark, I attended a demo in Letterkenny the week prior to the march in Dublin and there were 50 - 60 people at that. Do the maths. I'm sure the people who organised that (not members of SP or SWP as far as I know) were disappointed at the turnout.
Letterkenny has a population of around 18,000 and, if the numbers could be multiplied to reflect the population of Dublin, there would have been more in Letterkenny per head of population.
The point I'm trying to make is that, without the "vanguard parties", people can do all right.
Yet, to read the thread above (and I did read them), you would think that the SP and SWP were something special and had some impact on the working class. Last week's march showed that this is not true. I believe you are stuck in a rut of your own making, unable to talk meaningfully with anyone, especially workers without lecturing and referring back to episodes in the distant past that have no relevance to the sort of people who want to resist the bosses and the government.
Is it not time that you (the SP) and the SWP looked at the ineffective way that the Left, in their tiny feifdoms, have reacted to a global failure of capitalism and re-assessed, on a basic level, how to go forward and meet the challenge?
Cos we collectively aren't cutting the mustard.
I respect the work both organisations have done in the past but you are being left behind because of a mummified ideology.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Sep 24, 2009 19:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Let me get this straight: your example of real relevance and "being able to talk to people especially workers" is a demonstration of 50 people? That's almost beyond parody.

author by eh man - -publication date Thu Sep 24, 2009 21:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mark, you're not getting this at all, are you? I wasn't using the protest against NAMA as an example of real relevance. In fact, if you read the piece I wrote, you will notice that I thought the organisers were probably disappointed. The problem is still there. It won't go away no matter how much you ignore it. With all the so-called organisational ability of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, People Before Profit and a handful of Trade Unions in the capital city in a time of huge popular anger, you were only able to bring out 1500 (if that) people. I was on the march and I was hugely let down.
I also said that "we" didn't cut the mustard. That means I am willing to take my share of the blame for not organising well enough.
It's a pity the rest of ye can't even do that without becoming glib.

author by Yeah man!publication date Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A hundred thousand blessings on you, eh man. A bit of humility on everyone's part would go a long way. Sometimes listening to these guys, you'd think they'd actually led a revolution, not got a few councillors elected and led a few important but not earth-shattering strikes and campaigns. And it doesn't say much that Mark P's only response is to take something you said out of context and distort it so he can feel pleased with himself.

author by SLHpublication date Fri Sep 25, 2009 15:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I thought the number who attended last Saturdays march was about 5,000. The figure of 1,500 is closer to the amount of people who stayed for the first few speeches.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Sep 25, 2009 16:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Believe me, I don't need to take something some anonymous person on this site said out of context to feel pleased with myself. That comes naturally to me.

Neither "Yeah Man" nor "Eh man" have said anything of substance, so it's hard to engage with the substance of their arguments. The Socialist Party is well aware that our achievements have been modest in the greater scheme of things. You don't need to point that out to us. But at the same time, we are also aware that our achievements in getting a few tens of thousands of votes, or leading a few community campaigns or strikes are rather more significant than those of most of our critics. We take our politics, our programme and our activity seriously - and we take discussions about a way forward for the left and for the working class seriously.

If either of you have anything of interest to say beyond "you think you're so great and you're not", feel free to share it with us. Perhaps you can give examples of the obviously far superior methods and approaches which you yourself have employed and of the great achievements that approach has led to.

author by Setantapublication date Mon Sep 28, 2009 22:17author email silverarmnuada at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have been reading all this and that from the left in this country and yet I see them going nowhere! This is not what I want. I want a complete change in the political structure in Ireland. The message is not getting through to the people that matter - the working class!

A programme of what is expected of our leaders should be drawn up.

For a start wages from the top down should be capped.

Cowen should be on 100,000 a year tops. From there work down the list until we come to the TD's.
They should not be getting attendence money for turning up at Lienster House. That is their job. They should not get an open ended travelling expenses money box. If they have to stay in Dublin for the night they should stay in a B&B or cheaper hotel. When travelling abroad they should fly economy like the rest of us. The cheapest fight possible. No more than two on trips. Any expenses run up after the working day while abroad is down to themselves.

That would be a start! Think how many millions alone this would save the taxpayers in Ireland!

author by eh man - -publication date Tue Sep 29, 2009 12:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Setanta said “This is not what I want. I want a complete change in the political structure in Ireland. The message is not getting through to the people that matter - the working class!” and I couldn’t agree more. Mark P has avoided any criticism of the basic tenets of the Socialist Party by descending into sarcasm, arrogance and glib nit-picking, even where there isn’t a nit to pick.
The fact is that there are many thousands of people who consider themselves on the left, yet they count for nothing to the SP. At least PBPA address the fact that people who are not Marxist, Leninist and Trotskyist have something to contribute to the overthrow of the capitalist system. I think they resemble fundamentalist Christians in that they glorify books written a long time ago and insist on making today’s conditions fit into their pre-conceived formula for revolution. The famous scientist Stephen Jay Gould, who challenged the scientific accepted views of palaeontology, called this practice “shoe-horning” and it’s very evident in the politics of small fundamentalist political groups like the SP and theSWP.
This is how they justify ignoring working class anger and refusing to enter into a broad alliance to oppose cuts, NAMA, Lisbon and to go on the attack against bankers, developers and the political élite.
The only way to Paradise seems to be through Mark P and his comrades.
But then, what do I know? I’m only a working class man who is angry, not only at the outrages that are being carried out against my class, but at the failure of the Left (and AGAIN I include myself in this criticism) to properly stand up for the class interests of workers when such action is desperately needed.
Sorry I can’t come up with anything of substance, Mark. I’m obviously intellectually incapable of sharing your political space.
We have to be thankful for small mercies!

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Tue Sep 29, 2009 13:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I note that the Brighton Convention of the Left has been and gone since you first started complaining bitterly about my lack of interest in it. It attracted a small crowd of long term activists and made no decisions to do anything much in particular. Some people, when the person they are criticising has been proven right by events would stop digging. Mere facts don't seem to have that much currency with you however.

Your last comment is as devoid of content as your previous posts, unfortunately. The Socialist Party is out on the streets, knocking on doors, leafleting, holding meetings, campaigning on just the issues you mention - cuts, Nama, Lisbon. And indeed Joe Higgins, our main public representative, has been the most prominent and eloquent left wing voice on these issues in the media. There is no failure on our part to campaign on any of these issues. Although we are small and have limited resources, we punch well above our weight precisely because we are well organised and dedicated.

As far as people who aren't Marxists are concerned, we work with such people all the time in a huge range of campaigns. We would never have been able to have the successes we had in campaigns like that against the water tax or for the GAMA workers otherwise. We also argue for a new working class political party, which would in all probablility not be Marxist in its outlook although we would argue within it for a revolutionary socialist point of view.

If you don't think that any of the above is good enough, that's your right. But it's your responsibility to point the way to something better, to create something to your own taste, not ours.

author by eh man - nonepublication date Thu Oct 15, 2009 14:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I find the arrogance of Mark P staggering. “If you don't think that any of the above is good enough, that's your right. But it's your responsibility to point the way to something better, to create something to your own taste, not ours.”
Mark, we have moved on from the standpoint of micro-Left groups. What is demanded by workers is a unified response to the attacks on us, not a “our approach is better than yours” one that you seem to be advocating.
You say in one of your responses that my posts are devoid of content and then say in another one that you want me to provide you with “examples of the obviously far superior methods and approaches which you yourself have employed and of the great achievements that approach has led to.”
Well, much as I don’t want to go into my own personal contribution to the struggle over the years, I won’t be spoken to like that.
Since the 1980s, I have been involved in organising marches and rallies for workers rights, against cuts in public services, in the campaign against Shell in Rossport, in the Tara / M3 saga, against uranium mining and incinerators in the North West. I have also been an active trade unionist and was a Branch Secretary for a number of years.
My point throughout these posts is that we haven’t achieved what was needed. I have accepted that the answer to the problem that the Left faces does not lie in one simple response, which is what you require from me.
That is impossible. However, if the Left could come together in a comradely way and address the problem, I am confident that we could come up with something a lot better than the prevarication of the Socialist Party.
By the way, I never mentioned Brighton and know nothing about it

author by left unitypublication date Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The swp cannot even unite themselves at the minute. The swp in England are tearing themselves to pieces in a faction fight that may lead to a split. The Irish SWP has seen its last few members in Belfast either leaving or expelled. So the swp have no branch or presence in Belfast. Ok the last few years they have not been about much but before that they had branches in different parts of the city and where behind most of the major mobilisations. So what happened? Then we had Respect and the numerous fronts so what chance of unity.

author by John Mayfieldpublication date Fri Oct 30, 2009 13:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

More splits is the last thing the left in Ireland needs right now. And it's particularly discomforting if the SWP are simultaneously beating the left unity drum and kicking out malcontents. Can anyone enlighten us as to what is happening?

author by Michael Walshpublication date Fri Oct 30, 2009 17:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The SWP have expelled most of the membership in Belfast. Apparently it is over whether or not Sean Mitchell should stand as a People Before Profit candidate for West Belfast in the Westminster elections next year. There appears to be no political reasons given. Eamonn McCann is said to have voted against the decision to expel the mostly South Belfast based membership. A real blow to the SWP in the North. Since there is no People Before Profit organisation in Belfast, it raises questions about how the SWP behaves within People Before Profit and the selection of candidates.

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Fri Oct 30, 2009 19:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is the following firmer piece of news, gathered from the People Before Profit Alliance website, that I thought might revive this thread:

"The Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Group have agreed to affiliate to PBP at a meeting to take place this month. This is a huge step forward. PBP will move from six to thirteen to fourteen Cllrs."

If Michael Walsh has a source for his report on the Belfast expulsions it would be helpful to let it be known. "Apparently" it is over whether one of their members should stand as a PBP candidate in Belfast. If it is, it is a bit premature as the decision to run a candidate in Belfast at all would be made initially by the People Before Profit Alliance nationally. Besides, there is no PBP Branch in Belfast nor has any prospect of one been reported inside the PBPA.

"Apparently" these kind of expulsions are not a thing of the past in the SWP then? Tell you this, the first piece of news above will only strengthen the resolve within the PBPA that the second piece of news, if it is true, will have no echo in the internal structures of the PBPA.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Oct 30, 2009 20:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Interesting news there Stabillo, although as the STWUAG has been closely allied with the PBPA for some time it doesn't come as a big surprise. Will the Workers and Unemployed Action Group now be using the PBPA name in election campaigns and the like? Or will it continue much as it has before, with the affiliation being more of a technical thing?

(I'm not too sure about the numeracy of whoever put out the statement by the way.)

As for the alleged SWP split in Belfast, I know nothing about it. Presumably if it isn't true, some SWP member will be along soon to tell us that there have been no expulsions, suspensions, resignations or whatever. If it is true, sooner or later the expelled will presumably have their say. Or more detailed information will leak out - in the internet age such things don't remain secret for long.

In the absence of any more solid information, I'll just point out that your remark that the PBPA committee rather than the SWP would decide whether or not to stand in Belfast is pretty naive. With the best will in the world, given that there is no PBPA branch in the city and given that the only people who support the PBPA who were organised there were the SWP, it would seem obvious that in practice the SWP would make that decision. Would the PBPA committee (including a substantial number of SWP members) really try to overrule them?

author by Belfast activistpublication date Fri Oct 30, 2009 22:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I can confirm that the bulk of the members of the Belfast SWP are no longer in the SWP. I had it confirmed from one of the few members they have left, but I don't know if they were actually expelled or they resigned en masse. Maybe someone from the SWP could inform us.

author by John Mayfieldpublication date Fri Oct 30, 2009 23:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Not wanting to sound sceptical or anything Belfast Acivist, but how do you know someone wasn't pulling your leg?

Did someone just walk straight up to you and inform of you of this?

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