Posted on behalf of Mark P
* * *
On the one hand on the other hand on the one hand on the other hand on the one hand on the other hand… this is one view, this is another view, this is another… some say this, but it could be said that…
Sorry, Henry, but you have to make some actual political judgments at some point.
Is the Socialist Party correct that, while various mistakes were no doubt made by all involved, the reality of an absence of significant ongoing struggle outside of one solitary campaign meant that the ULA was limited in its potential growth chiefly by objective circumstances rather than by some subjective lack of commitment or effort?
The answer to that question is yes. I suspect that when you are pushed on this issue you will agree. But what you won’t do is take this as your starting point and work out your political conclusions from it. You would prefer to spend most of your time dealing with this or that relative triviality, repeating all the usual old cant you get from anti-sectarian sectarians.
On the other points you raise:
1) There is no mystery why Clare Daly left the Socialist Party, no reasonable confusion. Clare left because she valued her political connection with Mick Wallace over her involvement in the Socialist Party. Since she left, others in the ULA have been unable to prevail upon her to change her attitude on that score either, as you are no doubt aware. Clare is a gifted debater, a tireless activist and a born fighter and I have no desire to disparage her, but she is completely unreasonable on this one issue.
2) There may be “arguments” between the Socialist Party and some people who insist on hearing only what they want to hear “on social media”, but this again does not mean that these arguments are reasonable. The Socialist Party explained over and over and over again that it saw the ULA as potentialy a new step towards a new party of the working class and were not interested in any way, shape or form in turning the ULA into an “integrated” little party of the existing left. That some people did have this as their project (or at least as an interim project) and absolutely refused to hear that this was never going to be on the agenda is regrettable but not the Socialist Party’s fault.
3) It is simply false to say that only “leadership members and party officials” from the Socialist Party were involved in ULA structures. In fact, that’s a straightforward insult to the various members of the SP who built most of the launch meetings around the country and who kept many (nearly empty) branches going for months on end before giving up. It is certainly true that later on there was very little enthusiasm amongst rank and file SP members for the ULA, but that was a direct result by and large of pouring large amounts of resources into it earlier with no response at all.
It is also entirely misleading of you to mention some minor SP and SWP meeting clashing with each other as if that’s remotely meaningful, or represented some significant factor at all. It’s just a way for you to get back to the usual moaning about the affiliates and, as usual, the stark facts about where the ULA’s resources came from aren’t mentioned. Let’s be clear about this. Since the ULA was founded, the SP has organised more ULA public meetings than SP public meetings. It provided the ULA with an office, and a full time worker. It organised most of the launch meetings and sustained many branches for a period (to no purpose it must be said). It used its public positions to heighten the ULA’s profile. It proposed the creation of the ULA. It then proposed that an individual membership be created. It then proposed a way to give those members representation on the leadership body. I have my criticisms of the SWP, but they also put substantial resources in at various points.
4) The notion that member of different organisations sharing branches together tends to notably erode “sectarian barriers” is all very nice, but it’s the same kind of magical thinking that thinks that “unity” in and of itself will lead to success. The problem in ongoing close collaboration on the existing left isn’t some irrational set of “sectarian barriers”, which would go away if only we all got to know each other better. The problem is different and incompatible political ideas and perspectives, which will exercise a centrifugal pressure on collaboration between leftist groups in an empty organisation. And indeed pushing people with very hardened political views on top of each other to argue the toss over and over again without any wider set of participants who can both adjudicate and offer their own alternative perspectives is likely to cause more ill will rather than ease it. It’s the tie cats in a sack version of building left wing cooperation, but some people just refuse to let it go..
I wish the small group of ULA “independents” luck. They are by and large a decent bunch, although I think that their desperation to have some kind of political home has led some of them to make certain serious mistakes. I’ve no doubt that most of them will end up in some kind of project aimed at moving towards working class political organisation and representation with us at some point in the future. Until then, the Socialist Party remains willing to cooperate with them and others on issues of shared concern.
In general I have no wish to point too many fingers at people who were involved in the ULA with us. I could go on about the unrealistic expectations of some independents, the SWP’s near constant attempts to set up rival bodies to the ULA or the behaviour of our other TDs at great length. And I think I’d be making fair points if I did so. But ultimately that would serve little purpose and would in its own way amount to the same kind of staring at a single tree to avoid seeing the woods that I believe you and soe of the other independents are engaged in. As I see it, the ULA was a reasonable attempt to test the water, to see if there were significant numbers of people willing to get involved in radical political activity. As it turned out, there were not. And that isn’t the SWP or Clare or the independents fault either.