Ireland: Socialist Workers Party calls for a `broad radical left party'
By the Socialist Workers Party (Ireland)
June 11, 2009 -- The election of Joe Higgins as MEP and the defeat of Fianna Fail in Dublin indicates that the political landscape is changing. The recent elections represent a seismic shift in Irish politics. Ever since 1927, Fianna Fail has dominated the working-class vote but this has now changed -- most probably forever.
Even before the current economic crisis, the Fianna Fail vote had entered a long slow decline. At the height of the Celtic Tiger, for example, Bertie Ahern scored less votes than Charlie Haughey. When the crash hit, Fianna Fail dropped all pretence of populism and launched an aggressive attack on working-class conditions.They have now paid dearly for this.
The electoral base of the Greens has also been decimated. The Greens claimed that they are in government to help save the planet from environmental decay. But they have stood over decisions which have cut the public bus service. They have also voted for cuts in education spending, even while defending the absurd bail out of the banks. Their removal from local authority councils is therefore well deserved.
The major immediate beneficiary is Fine Gael which has been re-furbished through a huge influx of funds from business. At its core, are a new generation of hard-right young politicians such as Varadkar and Creighton who want to intensify attacks on the public sector. On the doorstep, however, Fine Gael played up the populist card, denouncing the 'bail-outs' of the banks.
Fine Gael is seen by many workers as a vehicle for getting rid of Fianna Fail.
The most serious long-term shift in Irish politics is the swing to the Labour Party. It is the strongest party in Dublin and has gained from its verbal shift to the left. It has opposed the bail out of the banks and has distanced itself from Fine Gael. Its growth is part of a greater class consciousness among urban workers.
But Labour can face in one of two ways. It can talk left for a while -- in order to gain greater leverage in a future coalition with Fine Gael or even Fianna Fail. It did this in the late sixties when it went through a ``socialist'' phase and after the Spring tide of 1992. Significantly, Eamon Gilmore has refused to rule out coalition with Fine Gael.
A more ambitious perspective would be to form ``an alliance of the left'', which is advocated by both the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union's Jack O Connor and Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. This would see Labour and Sinn Fein -- and possibly even a reformed and repentant Green Party come together to offer a ``third option'' in Irish politics.
While this might be welcomed as a shift to the left, it still contains severe limitations.
First, both Labour and Sinn Fein are committed to the management of Irish capitalism. Both advocate ``temporary'' nationalisations of the banks; both want more support for business; and both only advocate more public spending rather than the re-organisation of an economy on socialist lines.
Second, both parties define politics primarily in terms of electoral activity rather than popular mobilisation. The Labour Party, for example, opposed a national strike on March 30 and its leader Eamon Gilmore told an IMPACT conference that industrial action in the public sector was a thing of the past. Both will verbally oppose water charges but will advise against a non-payment campaign.
In this context, the vote of the radical left offers some real hope for the future. Today the People Before Profit Alliance, the Socialist Party, the Workers and Unemployed Action Group have all individually more councillors than the Greens. Collectively they could be within striking distance of Sinn Fein. Joe Higgins' magnificent victory in the Euro election in Dublin, replacing SF's Mary Lou McDonald, is another indication of the same tendency. Voting patterns in Dublin indicate many are already wary of Sinn Fein's zig-zagging between left and right.
The vote for the radical left is all the more significant because it grew alongside the swing towards the reformist left -- and before Labour or a Labour-Sinn Fein Alliance had been tested in office.
The radical left must now enter discussions to form either an alliance or broad radical left party, where different tendencies can co-exist. Previous arguments that such a development might be ``premature'' make little sense today.
The Socialist Workers Party is already working productively within the People Before Profit Alliance, promoting its own distinctively revolutionary socialist views while working with others on the 90 per cent we also agree on. There is absolutely no reason why an alliance of this sort cannot be expanded.
We are only at the start of a deep economic crisis -- where even more wage cuts, water charges and redundancies will be imposed on workers. There is now a responsibility on the left to offer serious policies which assume the possibility of an end to capitalism.
[The Socialist Workers Party (Ireland) has a website at http://www.swp.ie/.]
Sunday, 6 September 2009
Via the Socialist Party (Ireland)'s website:
Sinn Fein councillor Domhnall O Cobhthaigh today announced his resignation from the party at a press conference in order to join the Socialist Party to “build a cross-community opposition to the right-wing economic policies of the Assembly Executive”.
Cllr Domhnall O Cobhthaigh who has served on Fermanagh District Council
for the past two years claimed he could no longer remain in Sinn Fein
as it was now part of an Assembly Executive which is “implementing
cuts, job losses and privatising public services”.
Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin welcomed Mr O Cobhthaigh’s decision to join the Socialist Party today in Belfast
“The Socialist Party seeks to build a movement of working and unemployed people in Northern Ireland in Protestant and Catholic communities against the attacks on jobs, wages and services which are being pursued by big business and the parties in the Assembly. We warmly welcome Domhnall as a valuable member of the Socialist Party and look forward to building a genuine socialist alternative in Fermanagh for working people and youth.”
Jim Barbour of the Fire Brigades’ Union welcoming Mr O Coghthaigh’s decision claimed
“There is an urgent need to develop a cross-community anti-sectarian political alternative for workers who are facing massive job losses and attacks on wages, terms and conditions. It is nothing short of a disgrace that while the banks are bailed out to the tune of billions, ordinary working people are paying the price for their crisis. Domhnall’s decision today is a welcome development in building a socialist voice for workers. We are also working closely alongside our colleagues in Britain campaigning for a new mass party to represent working class people who have been long abandoned by New Labour.”
Mr O Cobhthaigh also stated that he has resigned his council seat.
my happy experience in working with the communities of Erne West and
Enniskillen in demanding improvements, I feel it would be indefensible
to retain a council seat to which I have not been elected (I was
co-opted to the seat in 2007). Therefore, I have decided to resign from
my seat on Fermanagh District Council.
Why I have resigned from Sinn Fein to join the Socialist Party
Councillor Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh resigns from Sinn Féin and Fermanagh District Council
3rd September 2009
“I have decided to resign from Sinn Fein after a period of careful reflection. Over the past twelve years I have worked tirelessly to develop Sinn Féin as an engine of change. Leaving is a very difficult decision given the many friends I am leaving behind in the party.
“I consider that the current economic crisis has brought to antagonism the contradiction between the nationalist and socialist agendas within Sinn Féin. I have struggled for many years to promote the agenda of community empowerment and opposition to neo-liberal economics but realise that I cannot now usefully continue that within Sinn Féin. As a result I have decided to resign my party membership.
“Despite my happy experience in working with the communities of Erne West and Enniskillen in demanding improvements, I feel it would be indefensible to retain a council seat to which I have not been elected (I was co-opted to the seat in 2007). Therefore, I have decided to resign from my seat on Fermanagh District Council.
“Over the past year, I have come to understand that the Assembly system itself only reinforces the sectarian divisions within our society. All five mainstream parties are doing little more than overseeing the long-term administration of senior civil servants and their right-wing agenda. While I still have the greatest of respect for many of my former colleagues within Sinn Féin, I cannot see how they will change this significantly in the context of the current framework of governance.
“I welcome the fact that we now live largely free from violence. I believe that working class people played a key role in what became known as the peace process through their opposition to sectarian violence. Today however deep sectarian divisions remain and low level sectarian violence continues. The main Assembly parties have a shared right-wing economic agenda. Their policies of cuts and privatisation only cement sectarian division.
“I also want to use this opportunity to unambiguously reaffirm my opposition to all groups who would wish to take us backwards to conflict or who would further increase divisions between sections of the working-class.
Looking forward for change
wish to play my part in building a cross-community working-class
platform to oppose the cutbacks which are being forced on working
people to pay for the bailouts for the super-rich and which leave
Fermanagh communities suffering from second-class provision right
across the board.
“Over the past two years I have learnt that there are very many people who share my commitment to fundamental change. I know that the effects of the current downturn are impacting on all but I am aware of their particular impact on young people who are leaving education only to struggle to find employment. The mainstream parties do not deliver and cannot deliver for working class and young people. As a result, there is a growing gap between all the mainstream parties and the majority of people, particularly the working class.
“I am convinced
that change can only come about if working, unemployed and young people
themselves organise to challenge the status quo. We have seen the power
of effective local campaigns in fighting against health cutbacks and
against the imposition of water charges. The sad truth is if we are
waiting for change to come at the hands of any of the mainstream
parties, then we will wait a long time indeed. Working people must
organise themselves against cuts and to defend jobs.
“Having looked around I am convinced that the Socialist Party offers a platform from which to build such campaigns and is determined to achieve fundamental change in the way society is organised. I am now committed to working alongside party members in building the party in Fermanagh to struggle alongside workers and our communities at every possibility.”
“As a first step in building this, I will be organising an open night in Enniskillen Library to discuss the reasons for my leaving Sinn Féin and the way forward for resisting the Assembly’s agenda of austerity.”