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Party rejection of treaty ‘a mandate to support it’, says Gormley as EU Treaty divide firms up. January 20, 2008

Posted by franklittle in European Politics, European Union, Green Party, Greens, Irish Politics, Media and Journalism, Minor Left Parties, Sinn Féin, Socialist Workers' Party, The Left.
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It’s a great headline to the story that yesterday’s Green Party conference failed to agree a position of either opposing or supporting the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty. It is pretty clear that the majority of Green Party delegates decided to back the party leadership’s call for a Yes vote. Whether it was because they felt that as a party in government they had to do so, or because they had a road to Damascus conversion on the issue like the previously vehemently EU-critical Deirdre de Burca (She wasn’t a Senator then of course), or simply because that always substantial section of the party that supported both Nice referendums and was generally more in line with the European Green movement, now commands a majority.

The Greens are calling for plaudits for the fact that they had an open debate and reached a decision democratically. Leaving aside Gormley’s imaginative interpretation of that vote I suppose, grudgingly, one must acknowledge as much though frankly attempting to lecture other political parties for not doing the same kind of misses the point. No left-wing party would need to debate opposition to Lisbon any more than it would need to debate support for public services or opposition to privatisation. Basic left principles such as support for democracy, opposition to neo-liberalism, opposition to centralisation of unaccountable power and so on make opposing the Treaty a bit of a no-brainer.

It will be interesting to see the practical implications of this for the party though. Since the Green Party does not have a position, can Green Party staff issue press releases in support of the Treaty when they’re supposed to be working for a party that has no position on it? Can the Green Party TDs and Senators use Green Party premises to conduct their Yes campaigning? And as for the No campaign, what organisation or vehicle will they use to advance their arguments? A number are involved already on a personal level in the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, which I am told will be changing its name because the EU has decided to change the name of the document, does this mean they will now move into that structure or will they established a Greens Against Lisbon grouping of some sort?

There might be some suggestion that the Yes side has been undermined by the failure of the Green leadership to get two-third on Saturday, but I’m not so sure. It’s pretty clear that the Green leadership, for whatever reason, carried the bulk of their membership with them and are likely to carry the bulk of Green voters come the referendum. The loss of the Green Party’s organisational muscle is a negligible one. The Greens don’t have the money at the minute to run a major campaign and in both Nice referendums their work on the ground was pretty weak. Where they were key in previous referendums was that in Gormley especially, but also De Burca and McKenna, they had articulate, experienced and educated debaters to be rolled out on the media who could argue for a No vote without being republicans, socialists or working class and scaring middle Ireland too much.

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Meanwhile, among the anti-Treaty campaigns, there has been some frustration that the SWP has established another front entity to campaign against the Lisbon Treaty while aleady being affiliated to the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, established a couple of years ago when the EU Constitution was first being put forward. Happily, in a remarkable display of honesty for one of the most duplicitous political entities in Ireland, the SWP has altered the site since it was first put up to acknowledge that the people identified behind it, Kieran Allen and Sinead Kennedy, are both members of the Socialist Workers Party. Still, there is some ill-feeling that they went ahead off their own bat without consulting other people in the CAEUC.

Also of interest is that it is the SWP that has both established the website and it affiliated to the CAEUC. Firstly, the SWP’s affiliation to the CAEUC is quite a recent one, and as late as early last year a prominent member of the SWP told me they honestly didn’t see the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty issue as a priority. Certainly SWP activists were noticeable by their absence from early CAEUC meetings. Yet here we have them setting up a website, publishing a pamphlet outlining he reasons for a No vote, describing it as a key priority in their New Year’s message and affiliating to the CAEUC. Curiously, there is no reference to People Before Profit, their previous electoral front group. The PBP website has not been updated for several months and seems to have no position, good, bad or indifferent, on the Lisbon Treaty. Considering the use that could be made by the SWP out of Lisbon for attracting people to the organisation, it’s a slight surprise to me they’re being upfront about who they are in the campaign and not using the PBP brand.

But more frustrating than the SWP playing ‘silly buggers’ has been the annoyance felt by many, and ably pointed out by Daily Mail columnist Joe Higgins in last Thursday’s Irish Times, about the media’s appointment of Dermot Ganley as head of the anti-Treaty movement in Ireland. Ganley, and his Libertas movement, with no track record on Europe at all, has come from almost nowhere at the start of December to being seen as a key played in the Lisbon Treaty debate. Libertas certainly has money, but no actual organisation as such, though it’s clearly got some smart people doing the media. But Higgins rightly points out that the media, and the Irish Times in particular, has been doing what it can to portray the anti-Treaty campaigns and groups, predominantly left-wing or progressive in Ireland, as right-wing or even fascist. It’s what the media tried to do in both Nice referendums, successfully in the latter case.

But the reason for the Dermot Ganley love-fest has two other aspects. Firstly, if Ganley is the leader of the No campaign, then no other organisation or individual can be leader. With Sinn Féin the only substantial political party to be opposing the Treaty and, at this point in time, the only serious political organisation to be opposing it, the media would find it difficult to avoid handing the mantle of leadership of the No side to Sinn Féin if Ganley wasn’t there. Considering that party’s weakened position, the last thing the Irish media establishment wants to do is give it the shot in the arm of portraying it as leading anything. With Ganley on the chessboard, he can be appointed figurehead, sparing the need to pay attention to what the Shinners are doing.

Secondly, Ganley is a businessman, and a successful one. Most other opponents of the Treaty in Ireland are left-wing, they wear beards, many of them are in trade unions and some have stood on the side of the road holding placards. The Irish media worships business and successful businessmen. A successful businessperson can have his or her opinion taken seriously on any topic in Irish society, whether he or she knows anything about it or not and it’s clear Ganley has some understanding of the Treaty, simply by virtue of the fact that he or she has made a success at business. Ganley is credible in a way that people like Patricia McKenna or Mick O’Reilly, people with far vaster experience of anti-EU Treaty campaigns and a much better understanding of the Treaty than Ganley, can never be.

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Comments»

1. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

To be honest I’m not sure that a left position inevitably leads to antagonism to the Treaty. That certainly isn’t true of the majority of left parties in Europe. That’s not to say that there isn’t a valid critique – which you’ve made – of both the EU and the Treaty, but I think that this is an issue which people can genuinely take different viewpoints on…

I’m intrigued by your argument about Ganley, it’s certainly one I hadn’t thought about but it does make considerable sense… Mind you – am I being unfair if I suggest that there is a certain element of profile-raising entering into this picture as well?

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2. smiffy - January 20, 2008

I’d agree with WBS on the question of the left position on the Treaty. Certainly there are plenty of people (not least franklittle, it must be said) articulating a strong, convincing left-wing critique of the EU in general. However, the Treaty itself is a different issue, and I haven’t seen anything quite as convincing so far on whether the institutional changes proposed in the Treaty would actually make the current situation worse.

I’m not sure that I’d completely agree with the suggested motivation about why Ganley is touted as the leader of the anti-Treaty side. There seems to be something of a contradiction in suggesting that the establishment media have an interest in demonising the No to Lisbon proponents, while at the same time pointing to their worshipping at the feet of Ganley (you’re right on both points, though). If he’s such a credible figure (in their view; frankly, I think most of what he says about the Treaty is simply, factually incorrect) surely it would be in their interest to minimise his coverage. Of course, that would depend on their being a large, organised position within the media on this issue, which isn’t really the case. I’d imagine it’s more related to commentators staying within the limited framework of received wisdom and acceptable opinion, which excludes anything perceived as ‘extreme’.

There’s an additional, simpler, reason why Ganley. may be getting so much coverage. Libertas is a single issue organisation (the notion that’s it’s a ‘think thank’ is a nonsense) which has the time and resources to put out a lot of press releases and organise easy photo ops. While opposition to the Treaty is certainly important for other groups and parties, it’s not their raison d’etre so they’re not going to be in a position to put in the same kind of effort in advance of the real campaign actually starting.

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3. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

… what smiffy says (too!) ! :)

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4. chekov - January 20, 2008

As an astroturf outfit, libertas also have the benefit of not being troubled by any need for democratic input into their positions or, come to mention it, any scruples about honesty. This undoubtedly helps them to concentrate on achieving media coverage.

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5. CL - January 20, 2008

The basic inconsistency in Libertas’ position is that for the EU to implement an open market for goods, services, and labour, a democratic deficit and lack of accountability is precisely what is required.

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6. dilettante - January 20, 2008

Worldbystorm: “To be honest I’m not sure that a left position inevitably leads to antagonism to the Treaty. That certainly isn’t true of the majority of left parties in Europe.”

Outside social democracy (which is not entirely unanimous in support of the Treaty), I’m not entirely sure how you arrive at that conclusion. Looks to me as though the main left parties around Europe are opposed to the Treaty.
I’d be interested to know which left parties in EU member states support the Treaty?

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7. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

I tend to include social democracy within the left… I know, I know, it’s a thing I have… :)

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8. CL - January 20, 2008

Ganley through his company Rivada Networks is heavily involved in the U.S defense and anti-terrorism industries, -and these are not noted for commitment to the central Libertas’ value, ‘competition’. Rivada technology is also being used by the U.S. military (NorthCom) to protect the U.S. borders from illegals-hardly a libertatian position.

http://www.rivada.com/about/keypersonnel/declanjganley.htm

Ganley has written some blather for what is now basically a neo-con think tank,(more ‘con’ than ‘neo’) the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

http://www.danielpipes.org/article/978

It was at his outfit that John Lehman got his start. Lehman is a signatory to the Project for a New American Century and a mentor to Dean Godson.

Ganley dislikes ‘old Europe’ and its ‘statist’, maybe even social democrat, tendency. He prefers the ‘American way’,- neolib economic policy and a key role for the military. Hype and pseudo-history do not rhyme. ‘Libertas’ my ass.

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9. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

Yep, Ganley is another of our ‘thrusting’ young(ish) libertarian(ish) right up and comers. Yay!

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10. CL - January 21, 2008

Libertas has close connections with some right-wing think tanks, especially Paul McDonnell’s The Open Republic Institute.

He calls Gormley a hypocrite, but Ganley advocates ‘free competition’ while making money from the U.S. defence and anti-terror industries where is no competition. What a hypocrite!

http://www.anphoblacht.com/news/detail/15172

Libertas is also very much associated with Politics.ie

Should be interesting to see if the right and the left cooperate in the anti-Lisbon campaign.

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11. Wednesday - January 21, 2008

I knew someone was going to pick Frank up on that comment. If you follow the debate on the Treaty in the Irish Times letters page, the feeble responses to the left’s criticisms of the Treaty have been quite striking. To a comment in a Sinn Féin opinion piece that the Treaty would mandate member states to beef up their military capacity, we were told that no, it only requires states to “undertake” to do so. In response to the criticism that Ireland would lose its automatic right to an EU Commissioner, we were told that this wasn’t really a bad thing because the other member states would lose their automatic right, too. And then someone else pointed out that EU Commissioners aren’t allowed to represent the interest of the state that appointed them anyway, so hey, what does it matter if we have one or not? Every time I’ve read a reply to a left criticism of the Treaty, I’ve come away wondering if the respondent wasn’t secretly trying to solidify the opposition.

As for Libertas, I know of at least one occasion on which RTÉ declined an invitation to an SF media event on the Treaty on the grounds that they wouldn’t be covering the issue on that evening’s news. Of course they did and it was Ganley they interviewed to represent the “no” side.

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12. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

No time to address this now in detail, but Wednesday a small couple of thoughts. Again, can I point out that the ‘left’ doesn’t have an unvariegated view on these things. So either there are many ‘lefts’ or it doesn’t/can’t speak with one voice. Secondly, that’s the very point of EU Commissioners that they aren’t simple proxies of their nations. It’s not national representation, but a sort of technocratic process led approach. One may disagree with it, but it’s entirely in keeping with the history ethos and development of the EU and the point about not representing national interests has been true IIRC for multiple decades. Thirdly as regards defence I can’t see a mechanism where the ‘undertaking’ must be manifest… for example that an Irish govt would be coerced to upgrade it’s military – although frankly I think such an upgrade might be no harm at all in view of the fact we have no effective means of securing our borders, surely one of the primary attributes of a sovereign nation.

As for Libertas (what you said!)

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13. ejh - January 21, 2008

It’s a growing phenomenon in British politics too, probably taking its cue from the US: people with a lot of money establish some “campaign” or think-tank in the capital, issue a lot of press releases (called “reports”) which get reproduced more or less word-for-word in newspapers and internet news sources, and thereby establish themselves as some sort of relevant group despite the fact that they may only be a handful of people. No doubt they can afford to take journalists to expensive lunches too.

Something like the “Taxpayers’ Alliance” for instance – I keep seeing their press releases written up as stories despite the fact that they’re just a small group of people who were in Imperial College Conservative Association together.

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14. Jim Monaghan - January 21, 2008

There is a touch of the “What have the Romans ever done for us…” about the Europe debate on the Left. My caveat is mainly militarism, the sneaking in of a military dimension.I think we should be wary on military involvement. It will always be dressed up as humanitarian. The European powers are just as bad as the Americans. The French in particular were/are involved with some of the nastiest regimes in Africa.Allied to this is the Imperialist Foreign policy where Aid and a lot of other things are used to cow other poorer regions and peoples.See how Irish aid goes to in many cases corrupt elites. O’Shea is right on this but wrong on the military stuff. Bertie uses aid to back an essentilally pro Imperialist regimes or to help keep some of them in line. Add to this exteremely anti public enterprise policies. Example Dublin City Council cannot provide a WiFi broadband service because of EU rules. Roll on more profits for Eircom.. On a consumer level we cannot get Hong Kong DVD because we have to pay a higher price because we are Europeans.
I am for European Unity, A Socialist United States of Europe. I would like to see National self Determination rolled out so that the Basques etc can get freedom. In fact the weakening of the Great Powers would be a healthy thing. Now we see an alliance of France, Germany and sometimes Britain setting not just the agenda but the conclusion.
Better to let in Ukraine and open the way to Turkey with guarantees on democratic rights as part of the admission process.. It should be open to those who want tp join on a democratic basis.
Reform should be about democracy and building a non exploitative Europe. Not a Europe where elites and Imperialist attitudes flourish and trade with the poorer regions and aid is used to deepen exploitation.
Written in haste.
Jim Monaghan

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15. D_D - January 21, 2008

Besides militarisation, democracy and neo-liberalism are two other elements why the Left (or part of it, if you will) opposes the Treaty. It underpins the privatising and de-regulatory thrust from the top of the EU. I think Jim thinks himself through this in the course of his useful comment above.

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16. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

Bloody hell ejh. Imperial College Conservative Association. Four words that somehow say it all!

Jim, I agree with you in most of what you say. But how we get from here to there is the issue. I don’t see that a left that wounds European cooperation (and to be honest I think a federalised Europe is off the table, and curiously whereas once I’d have supported that now I don’t) is necessarily the best way forward. To combat neo-liberalism in Europe I think the various lefts have to start to work together across Europe. Consider this. The right has been very very effective at introducing Europe wide policies that assist their approach while ensuring by maintaining the pre-eminence of national voices no means of seriously combating them. You could say that beyond the rhetoric of Euro-scepticism (although in truth the European right is not synonymous with the British right) they’ve played Europe better than the left. And to my mind part of that has been a problematic approach to Europe by elements of the left. I can’t look at the Irish situation and not see a strong progressive element to the way in which involvement of the nation has assisted this state across the last thirty odd years. That was in no small part down to the abilities of socialists to express left values…

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17. CL - January 21, 2008

D_D, WBS-
The neo-liberal project, (-privatising and de-regulation from the top, creating a free market in goods services and labour) would seem to require a ‘democratic deficit’ and lack of accountability to be implemented. And this could certainly be the basis of a left opposition.
Yet Libertas is anti-Lisbon because of its supposed lack of accountability and the democratic deficit. But these latter advance the neo-liberal position re the left view. This raises the question are the right-wingers at Libertas acting in their own self-interest? Or is their some other agenda?
Ganley prattles on about the virtues of free competition yet his company is part of the U.S. war machine. Are these people dishonest or maybe just confused?

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18. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

CL – to answer the question you pose in your fifth line of the above paragraph. Yes. :(

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19. dilettante - January 21, 2008

WBS
The problem is that a large part of the success of the right has been in co-opting social democracy (or at least most of social democracy) into its project.
Certainly the EU has brought social advances to Ireland in past decades, but the impetus for that social reforming has been stopped dead in its tracks. There is little in the way of socially progressive legislation coming out of the EU at present. And rather than fighting for social progress, social democracy has put its faith in a European project which it can no longer contain or control.
When other forces on the left seek to resist the onslaught of neo-liberalism (privatisation, attacks on workers pay and conditions, etc.) social democracy runs into the arms of the neo-liberals, begs for a bit of social sounding rhetoric, and refuses to accept that the EU might be in any way to blame.
It claims that defeats for workers (such as the services directive) are in fact successes. It claims that an increase in working time is a victory. It champions employment legislation that undermines job security. It has bought into the whole “competiveness” agenda.
While what you say may have had a certain validity some years ago, social democracy now needs to re-evaluate the European project, enter into real dialogue with other progressive forces, and try to map out a better way forward for Europe.

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20. CL - January 21, 2008

WBS-So Libertas is acting to promote neo-liberalism by opposing Lisbon, But the left that opposes Lisbon is doing so on anti-neolib grounds.
Can both be right? Does Lisbon promote or curtail the ‘neo-lib solution’? It appears that the two factions that oppose Lisbon, one right-wing one left-wing, interpret the implications quite differently. If it is impossible to discern if this latest EU project promotes or curtails the triumphant neolib philosophy it would appear that political analysis is hopelessly incoherent. In any case strange bed-fellows.

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21. Wednesday - January 22, 2008

Again, can I point out that the ‘left’ doesn’t have an unvariegated view on these things.

Yes I realise this, but there are ‘left’ criticisms of the treaty and ‘right’ criticisms of the treaty, and I was referring to the ‘left’ ones.

the point about not representing national interests has been true IIRC for multiple decades

And it’s hardly something that you would think Europhiles would be in a hurry to point out if they’re trying to persuade people of the benefits of the union…. “The people you send to Brussels aren’t actually there to represent you anyway”. It’s a strange argument for them to make in favour of the Treaty.

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22. WorldbyStorm - January 22, 2008

I think the argument about not representing national interests is made in order to prevent the fear that individual nations would pursue their individual goals at the expense of the collective. That may be an idealised notion or not, and one can certainly point to how Commissions have assumed a character above and beyond their national composition, but it’s not an unworthy one in a situation where many nations come together to co-operate. The Parliament is meant to take up the ‘national’ slack.

CL and diletantte, I don’t disagree with what either of you say. Politically there are interesting fault lines on Europe on both left and right albeit for largely different reasons. As regards a truly social Europe, that’s what I want, but it’s not going to happen without engagement. It certainly won’t happen by indifference.

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23. CL - January 22, 2008

Certainly a case can be made that the left should support the EU. John Palmer (formerly of the IWG and IS) does it here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1494427,00.html

And Trotsky did favour a federal Europe.

But the big question is whether a ‘social Europe’ is possible in a globalizing, neo-liberal world. And how can this be resisted within or without the EU?

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24. WorldbyStorm - January 23, 2008

Another way of looking at it is that if it’s not possible to develop a social Europe then why is it thought possible to resist globalisation anywhere else? In other words only larger entities really have the power to resist, not smaller ones.

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25. D_D - January 23, 2008

In order to develop a social Europe it is necessary to opt for policies different from those written into the Lisbon Treaty. It is necessary to resist ‘globalisation’, that is neo-liberalism, WITHIN Europe, and indeed, within Ireland.

With John Palmer, always worth a read, the operative word is FORMERLY of the IWG and IS.

A small comment on the PBP part of the original post: the general point is well made though actually People Before Profit have about four public meetings planned on the Treaty, some, at least, with a wide range of speakers.

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26. The trouble with the two thirds majority in Irish politics and elsewhere… usually close but not close enough… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - January 24, 2008

[...] take a slightly more benign view of the weekends proceedings at the Green Party than franklittle – while very much appreciating his critique. 63% in favour is quite a turnaround in a party which [...]

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